Hey you saddlepals you. As often is the case, winter was a gentle achoo and we’re in the midst of our 20-minute-long spring. We’ve a most interesting trail ride ahead, filled with gee-whiz lore, some tragedy now nearly a half-century ago. We’ve got characters, rascals, crooks, adventures and an entire passel of SCV history and trivia.
Passel. It’s a 19th-century cowboy term that originates to 14th-century Europe and is a variant of parcel, or, a great number o’ things.
Let us daintily guide our passel of noble steeds toward yonder spinning SCV time vortex and explore what used to be.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
THAT MUST’VE BEEN ONE GOOEY MOVE — This week back in 1874, the oil refining operation at the old Lyon Station near Eternal Valley moved to Pine Street. The new digs became a California historic landmark and home to the first commercial oil refinery in the state.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRANCISCO! — One of the most robust figures to ever pass through the SCV was born on April 12, 1738. Catholic priest Francisco Garces was part of a Spanish expedition that passed through here in 1775-76. Instead of following the main safari, which hugged the coast, Garces branched off BY HIMSELF to explore Central and Northern California. Father Garces said he’d just catch up with the rest of Portola’s scouting party nearly a year later — back in San Diego. Imagine. Just taking off — walking — in a robe and sandals, with just a rosary, some seeds, and a Bible, through uncharted lands filled with hostile Indians and man-eating grizzlies. Garces was searching for a shorter route from Sonora, Mexico, to Monterey, California. While in Santa Clarita, he settled a war between local Tataviam and Coastal Chumash. In 1781, he would be clubbed to death by Indians in what would become Arizona.
TIBBY’S AN ARIES — One of the West’s most famous bandits called the SCV home (along with a few other places). They named a famed rock monument (Vasquez Rocks, 1871) after his hideout. Tiburcio Vasquez was born April 10, 1835, in Monterey, California. He was subject to the largest manhunt in California history — but not as a baby.
LOW–SPEED COLLISION — Famed local oil magnate Wallace L. Hardison was killed on April 10, 1909. He started a modest oil production company here in Newhall in the 19th century but it didn’t do very well. Hardison and his partner moved the company to Santa Paula where it did a wee bit better and soon became Standard Oil of California. He would lose much of his fortune buying The Los Angeles Herald newspaper. Hardison made a fortune in oil and citrus. He was driving about 15 mph when he veered across the railroad tracks and was hit by a train doing 20 mph.
APRIL 10, 1921
A THREE YIPPEE COYOTE HUMAN BEING — One of the SCV’s most delightful souls, Jack Williams, was born on April 15, 1921, in Butte, Montana. I always accused him of adding the “e.” He was just a delightful soul — actor, Agua Dulce rancher, polo star, Realtor, intellectual, friend to so many, cowboy, World War II vet, a person with an infectious smile like someone who should have never been issued a driver’s license and bona fide, delightfully loony, Put Up Your Dukes, you dear S.O.B. Williams had his first stunt role at the age of 4 in 1926 when his uncle and dad were stuntmen in the film, “The Flaming Forest.” The toddler was tossed from a burning wagon (by his uncle, in a woman’s dress) into the arms of a cowboy (his dad) in full gallop in the film and no. Jack’s mom did not know about it at the time. His mom? World-champion rodeo star and trick rider, Paris Williams. I wish he were still around so I could offer the former stuntman horseback riding lessons so he could stay in the saddle for periods of time longer than 6 seconds. He died April 10, 2007. Still smile fondly thinking of that Jack…
THE RESORT THAT WASN’T — Famed auto race driver Cliff Durant and wealthy rancher F.J. O’Brien announced they would build a huge luxury resort in the hills above Castaic. They never did, but their plan was a doozy. It was to be above the old lake, with 84 suites and 24 mountain bungalows, a massive dining room, ballroom and other addendum buildings. Also planned was a golf course, swimming pool and tennis courts. Charles Cooke, former manager of the Fairmont in San Francisco and Hotel Hollywood, was scheduled to manage the resort that never was.
A LIVE, CUSTOM HOME — Walt Butterfield and his bride started building a large, adobe home on their homestead up Live Canyon. He brought in two fellows from Mexico to build the palace, which included three large rooms and a screened-in sleeping porch. Back before air conditioning, folks used to sleep on their porches when the summers were unbearable. The laborers also built an adobe chicken coop, garage and “bee house.” Hope the “bee house” wasn’t too close to the “regular house.”
HERE TO PUMP YOU UP — Local mover and shaker Albert Swall unveiled his latest tourist attraction: a miniature pumping oil well in front of his real estate office. The miniature derrick was an exact replica. Locals kidded Al about if he was going to issue any shares in his new imaginary black gold business.
OUR FIRST GIANT RODEO — Cowboy Bob Anderson announced he would put on Newhall’s first big rodeo for May 1. Actually, we had several, private “ranch” rodeos prior to 1921 going back almost a century. But this was the first at the grounds that would later be the Saugus Speedway.
APRIL 10, 1931
WHAT ABOUT BOB? — Ten years earlier, “Cowboy” Bob Anderson started the first big SCV rodeo. It was called, “The Newhall Rodeo.” On this date, Western movie star Hoot Gibson, who owned what would be the Saugus Speedway, announced there was going to be yet another rodeo, but this time, it would be called “Hoot Gibson’s Golden State” rodeo. Hoot offered a $700 cash prize to the winning rider of the wild bronc event. Sweetening the prize, Hoot offered a custom silver saddle, made up in Pendleton, Oregon.
A DAY THAT BRINGS A SONG TO MY HEART — On this date, the Newhall Gun Club received its official charter from the National Rifle Association.
APRIL 10, 1941
AND THE RODEO GETS EVEN BIGGER — Our now world-famous Wild West show drew some pretty big names promised for the 16th Annual Newhall-Saugus Rodeo. The Duke Himself — John Wayne — would show up, along with his close friend, Harry Carey. Also at the fest were Preston Foster, Andy Devine, “wild” Bill Elliot and Jerry Colonna. The new seats at the rodeo grounds (Saugus Speedway) were to hold 25,000.
WETTER AND WETTER AND WETTER — The rains of 1941 kept falling. We continued to add to the then-record with another inch-plus, bringing the total to 43.82. “It’s news around here when it DOESN’T rain,” said one local.
GOING OUT ON AN EDITORIAL LIMB — We ran another editorial on Easter. Yup. Like most of The Mighty Signal think pieces on the subject, we were pro.
I THINK THAT’S WHAT’S CALLED “IRONY” IN SOME LITERARY CIRCLES — Homer Bronsberry, of Sand Canyon, employed in downtown L.A. as a writer for a greeting card company, filed for divorce from his better half. Some of Bronsberry’s prose: “The joys of my life, are due to my wife.” Uh-huh. Can’t imagine being able to keep a home anywhere on the salary of a greeting card writer.
APRIL 10, 1951
YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE SUSPICIOUS OF A CHURCH WITH AN “INC.” AT THE END OF IT — The not-so-good Rev. Jerry E. Hauff of the Full Gospel Assemblies in Christ Inc. was arrested for defrauding eight elderly citizens of all their possessions. Hauff had created “Eden City” on a ranch in Agua Dulce. He had convinced the eight that the world was coming to an end soon but they’d be safe if they sold their homes and turned over all their money and possessions to him in exchange for “free” room and board at the ranch. The eight were also given “chores,” which amounted to hard labor and ranch work of 60-80 hours a week. Their home? It was a series of holes dug out in the hillside.
APRIL 10, 1961
YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO BE CLOSE BY AND TAKING A DEEP BREATH — The skies were black and ’t’weren’t from storm clouds. Two 1,000-barrel holding tanks at the oil refinery in San Martinez Canyon (near the Ventura County line) blew up.
APRIL 5-6, 1970
ONE OF OUR DARKEST DAYS — It’s called the Newhall Incident and four California Highway Patrol officers lost their lives in a shootout with two pond scum whose names never need be uttered again. In less than five minutes, patrolmen George Alleyn, Walt Frago, Roger Gore and Jim Pence — all 23 and 24 years old — were gunned down by the two perps at the Jay’s Coffee Shop parking lot at the intersection of Magic Mountain Parkway and The Old Road. The “Newhall Incident” left four young widows and nine little children. More than 5,000 letters flooded the CHP office and $100,000 in donations to the families. The worst incident in CHP history also led to drastic changes in how the vaunted police force addressed potentially dangerous situations.
APRIL 10, 1971
CRIPES! WHO WAS HEAD OF THE HOSPITAL? SATAN? — Jose and Maria Garcia would eventually bring a baby girl into the world, but it would be a nightmare. They went to the now-defunct Inter-Valley Hospital in Saugus prior to birth and were told that it would cost them $250 to deliver the baby. The Garcias spoke no English. They ended up with a $1,200 bill and threat that the hospital would keep the baby if Jose didn’t come up with the rest of the money — in cash — in the form of $20 bills. Jose borrowed the money from another friend (who could ill-afford the loan) and paid for the “release” of his child. I’m thinking at least someone at the hospital should have been horsewhipped.
SPEAKING OF BIRTHDAYS — On this date, the Hart District voted to approve a new junior high for the valley — La Mesa. I’m confident no one at the Hart District then threatened to keep the children.
APRIL 10, 1981
STILL MISS THAT MOVIE HOUSE — The Mann 10 Valencia opened with six — count them — six screens. It was our first multi-plex. Local Saugus child actor, Ronnie Scribner, was at the ribbon-cutting 40 years ago. He was co-starring in the Disney flick airing that night, “Amy.”
SOCAL GAS? CALL INTER-VALLEY HOSPITAL — Lola James of Canyon Country got a big shock when she opened her gas bill. Her eyes were riveted on the amount due — $3,049.51 — quite steep for a humble SCV abode. When she called Southern California Gas to get it straightened out, your friendly neighborhood representative said her computer was correct, yet, did not have a snappy comeback as to why Ms. James’ bill was just about exactly $3,000 higher than her normal monthly average. After eight more calls to the company, they finally agreed to cut it down to $149 — three times higher than normal.
Heavens. That was both an interesting, emotional and touching trail ride, amigos. You be good to one another and I’ll see you in seven. Until then, big tip of the O’Farrell and a hearty —vayan con Dios amigos!
Boston has launched his own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first is a three-volume set is “Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America.” That’d be us. In the meantime, you can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other of his books at bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, wouldn’t mind at all if you left a kind 5-star review.