Saddlepals! Account for yourselves! How the heck was your week and the weeks of yourn? Details, if you’d be so kind? Through the miracle of SCV time-traveling, you can actually all talk at the same time and it’s just like I’m hearing just one and paying rapt attention.
It’s a beautiful day to go wandering through the quiet, pristine canyons. About the only thing to worry about (and it’s yet to happen) is if a Time Ranger from a parallel dimension happens to be exploring with tens of thousands of identical Santa Claritanites. This would certainly overstep both tense and cliché of, “Small worlds, aren’t they …”
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
ROOSEVELT VISITS ACTON — This week in 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt stayed at the Acton Hotel for a rest, which, to Teddy, was a small safari with his friend, Rosey Melrose. Earlier, Rosey had shot and killed the mayor of Acton in a gunfight on the main street of the little mining and vacation town.
CRONY CAPITALISM — On May 3, 1842, California’s first mining district was established by the stroke of the pen of the governor. Our own Ignacio del Valle was chairman of the district and filed his own holdings as that first official mining claim.
JUDGE NOT, LEST YE BE — WELL. YOU KNOW. — There’s been some controversy over this. Some history books note that John Powell was the first judge of the Santa Clarita Valley with his appointment by the Board of Supervisors on May 8, 1875. If he wasn’t exactly the first, Johnny was at least second or third. And, he served for 40 years on the bench. When his offices were moved into downtown Newhall, next to his home, Powell would sometimes hold court in the hot summer months outside, under the shade of a great oak tree, which also served as the jail. Bad guys were simply chained up to the grand oak until they could be, no pun intended, railroaded into L.A. Powell led troops (for the North) in seven major battles during the Civil War. Prior to the 1860 War between the States, Powell freed 705 Africans in a slave camp in the jungles of the dark continent. On his deathbed, he said it was the best thing he had ever done with his life.
MAY 8, 1921
OUR LONG TRADITION OF RODEOING — Long before they built the old Baker Rodeo Grounds in 1928, locals were having rodeos in the SCV. On this date, north of where the American Theater sits today and east of the Newhall Elementary, between 7,000 and 8,000 fans jammed into the ranch there to watch cowboys and cowgirls from all over America compete. There was no fence, no grandstands. Six local residents who came up with the idea stood in a field with satchels of change and collected admission. Included in the price of admission was a “free” barbecue for the first 5,000 attendees. The Rodeo of ’21 lasted all day and had everything from thoroughbred handicapping to chuckwagon racing and all the other venues in between. At the end of the event, “Cowboy” Bob Anderson, a local movie producer and his five entrepreneur friends went to the bank, sat on the floor and spent all night counting mostly coins. But when it was all over, each had made a profit of about $1,000. The next year, the five (minus Bob) expanded the rodeo, moving it to where Circle J is today and changed the date to the Fourth of July. The rodeo went bust and all five lost money. Then, in 1923, the rodeo moved to the Baker Arena (Saugus Speedway) and the date was moved back to the end of April. They made money.
THE FIRE SEASON BEGINS — We had two brush fires in a couple of the upper canyons. One burned 300 acres in upper Soledad and cost the Forest Service a whopping $275 to fight in parts and labor. Another brush fire burned 40 acres up Bouquet when rancher J. Nimmo lost control of a small shrub-clearing effort. The county charged him $50 to assist in putting out the fire.
MAY 8, 1931
OUR OWN BIG FAT LITTLE CHICKADEE — This week 90 years ago, comedian W.C. Fields moved to Newhall to live in one of the Charlie Mack rock houses on 8th Street. Fields hadn’t yet reached cult status. In 1931, he was more famous for his vaudeville act of Weber & Fields (note the second billing) than his screen career, which had yet to blossom.
THE SCV’S EPIC MEDICAL CENTER — Well. If, in the spirit of modern socio-political and phantasmagorical nomenclature, it was “epic” in a minimalist fashion. On this date, the SCV’s only hospital moved from over around 2nd Street and Newhall Avenue to 6th & Main Streets, where a small clinic sits today. It also had a new name: Newhall Community Hospital and was run by Dr. Sarah Peters. Yup. A woman doctor AND chief administrator. Sarah also invented and held patents on all sorts of cool medical devices, including a table on wheels that could be wheeled to feed patients.
MAY 8, 1941
SPEAKING OF FIRST WITHIN THE WHITE LAB COAT SET — The SCV welcomed our first optometrist. Dr. John F. Gregson opened up an office in the new Newhall Community Hospital building. With the SCV only harboring about 5,000 souls, Gregson only offered services on Mondays.
AN OLD TRADITION — A lot of old-timers — about 250 of them — helped out at the annual Nadeau-Mitchell family cattle roundup in upper Placerita Canyon. Reuben Harris, local sheriff’s captain, got thrown while trying to pen a recalcitrant steer. Rube was OK, though. Later, the community event was just called the Mitchel family roundup and it went on, if memory serves, until the early 1970s at the Sand Canyon ranch.
DON’T GET THE LATEST BUZZ — The rains of 1941 had another offshoot — bees. Millions of ’em. With all the flowers of spring, an inordinate number of the little honey makers were zigzagging around, swarming in people’s barns and attics. Even silent screen star Bill Hart had to call in bee man Will Ervin to get the pollinators out of his mansion.
CHEAP TRICKS — Forger-ette and waitress Ruby Johnson, aka, Lola Callahan, alias Zola Garrahan, was arrested here. The lower-case con woman had opened a savings account in a bank in Long Beach with a dollar. Then, she took her savings book to a bank in Ventura, where she added a 4, a comma and 3 zeroes to her balance and transferred the $14,000. Feigning embarrassment, she said she forgot to take some cash with her and could she be given a paltry $10 against her $14,000 until the transfer was complete? Sure, sez the Ventura bank. She was finally captured in Newhall, trying to pull the same stunt.
A MOLE IN THE CHURCH OR A CHURCH ON THE MOLE? — The Rev. Bradbury of the Mole Hill Baptist Church in the Sand Canyon neighborhood had a surprise pastor give his sermon this Sunday, 80 years back. It was his dad. The senior Bradbury called for more old-time religion and devotion, and lamented modern distractions like golf courses, movies and ball games. The elder pastor came up with the idea that they ought to give out tickets in church every Sunday and that if you wanted to go to a movie, ball game or golf course, you had to present the church ticket before they could let you in. Wonder if that would apply to purchasing a nutritious peach margarita?
NOTHING LOWER THAN A BELL THIEF — Farmer Seth Bluhlich decided to move his cattle away from the main highway where they were spring grazing. Farmer Seth noted he had lost 20 cowbells due to tourists stopping, hopping the fence, and liberating said bells from said cows.
MAY 8, 1951
WHO THE HECK NAMES THEIR KID, ‘BIRDENA?’ — Hart High held their spring play, “King Ko-Ko.” It starred Birdena Throttlewaite. This has no historical significance whatsoever. I just like seeing “Birdena Throttlewaite” in print. Better? The Signal copy desk has no idea whatsoever if “Birdena Throttlewaite” is spelt correctly.
MAY 8, 1961
A WRETCHED AND SENSELESS DOUBLE TRAGEDY — There were lots of terrible accidents on this date, 40 years back, none more tragic than the death of a young Newhall girl when her car flipped over in Placerita Canyon. Her boyfriend, a teen Air Force recruit, returned to town for the funeral. Grief-stricken, he went to the site of the crash, placed a revolver to his head, and committed suicide.
MAY 8, 1971
LYONS AVENUE DRAWS AN UNASKED-FOR NICKNAME —With the announcement that Shell would build a gas station on the major artery, Lyons was now called, “Gasoline Alley” by some residents. Shell would be the 12th filling station on Lyons. If I’m counting right, there are only 10 there today.
WE GOT TROUBLE! RIGHT HERE IN SCLARITA CITY!! — The kids at Hart had a right to be nervous. The theater group was putting on the award-winning “Music Man.” And who was sitting in the audience this night to watch? None other than the play’s original and Oscar-winning creator, Meredith Willson. Willson began his career as a flutist with John Phillip Sousa’s marching band. And “yup” again. Willson somehow went around in life with the extra lower-case ‘l’ in his last name.
MAY 8, 1981
FELTON SCHOOL. HOME OF THE WORLD’S SMALLEST YEARBOOKS — The Pacific Telephone book for Santa Clarita was released and Helen Mace Burson was featured on the cover. She was the last teacher at the old Felton School in Mentryville. Helen was 86 back in 1981.
ONE OF OUR MORE INFAMOUS SEMI-LOCALS — The Mighty Signal used to hold all manner of entertaining reader competitions. We ran our famous “WHO AM I?” contest in which every week, they disguised the photo of someone famous and asked Signal readers to identify the star. The person from this week, 40 years back? It was O.J. Simpson. The “Juice” was actually a local businessman. No. 32 owned Honeybaked Ham on McBean in Valencia.
WARNING. DUBIOUS MULTI-LAYERED PUN/HUMOR AHEAD — We were in the process of trying to create a new city in this valley and Carl Boyer, who would one day be mayor, had a list of names for the proposed municipality. No. 3 on Boyer’s list was, “La Mancha.” One Spanish-speaking person pointed out that while the handle had a rich literary tradition (as in “The Man of…”) it also meant, “blemish” or “scar.” Hmmm. That would’ve gotten my vote. We could have compromised and called ourselves — wait for it — “Santa Scar–ita.”
Cripes amen boy howdy, what a safety record The Mighty Signal has compiled over the decades. All these travels back through time, all the giant grizzly bears, mountain lions, serial killers, plain, old, ordinary murderers and pistol shooters, blizzards, buzzards, heat waves, floods and we’ve never lost a single rider. Not even one darn paper cut! That’s at least 12 times better than Wells Fargo. You folks take good care of yourselves. I’ll meet you back here at TMS’s hitching post next week with a brand-new Time Ranger adventure and, until then —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.