Before we enjoy the companionship and metaphorical fresh air of this weekend’s trail ride through Santa Clarita history, a small favor. Each, in their own way, take a minute. Let’s put aside politics and strong opinions, resentment and sentimentality. It’s Memorial Day weekend. For those so moved, each, in their own way, take a moment to reflect.
For me, it’s a prayer. Simply, I’m grateful. Tens of thousands of people whose names I’ll never know stood tall, on guard. In unforgiving desert heat, in snow, in faraway jungles, men and women served in ordinariness and in bravery. Those times when they questioned their own motives, loyalties and, what on earth brought them to these causes, sometimes noble, sometimes questionably insane, they suited up. They showed up. They put life, limb, future — all they are and all they might be — on the line.
Each generation has its wars and conflicts. But our soldiers gave a holy oath: They will be strong enough to protect us and the ideals that built what I feel is a sacred civilization.
Truly. I so appreciate your service and devotion.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PRESBIES!! — Back on May 31, 1891, the First Presbyterian Church in Newhall was founded by the Rev. F.D. Seward. As the old joke goes, the church did so well, they haven’t had to form a Second Presbyterian Church.
STIMULUS MONEY? — Back on May 31, 1854, Congress approved another $40,000 to be spent, investigating the routes for a transcontinental railroad. Later, in 1876, muckety mucks would drive the Golden Spike here in Lang (Canyon Country), linking Los Angeles with the East Coast and San Francisco.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LYDIA!! — One of the SCV’s last Tataviam Indians, Lydia Victoria Manriquez, later, Lydia Cooke, was born in Castaic on May 31, 1905. She was a dear and worked tirelessly for the community. She passed on Feb. 25, 2003 — at the age of 97.
SENSELESS TOM FREW BASHING — This week — roughly — in 450 A.D., noonish, a band of Shoshone Indians migrated from the Midwest. They stopped at Tom Frew’s home for lunch. And yes. He charged them for the meal.
MAY 29, 1921
WE DON’T INVENT THE NEWS. WE JUST REPORT IT. — Remember watching Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show”? He used to share oddball wedding announcements from America’s newspapers linking two strange names of the betrothed. We’ve got a couple for you from the front page of The Mighty Signal, a century ago. A simple, big, bold Signal headline announced the union of “QUEAR-PEER.” That’d be Ed Quear of Indiana hooking up with the popular and diminutive Saugus Elementary teacher Vivian Peer.
GOOD NEWS. BAD NEWS. — Funny how your name ends up in the paper and sometimes it’s good news and sometimes it’s bad. On this date, Gus LeBrun won the local pool shooting tournament at Moore’s parlor. He took home a $15 silk shirt as first prize. A few years later, LeBrun would make the headlines by murdering the sheriff, Ed Brown. LeBrun, I believe, is still buried at the Mitchell cemetery. Well. At least a good part of him. The sheriff’s deputy and friend, Jack Pilcher, shot LeBrun 18 times after he killed Ed Brown.
FISTS & THUNDER — Our local cowboy celluloid hero (and former rodeo star) Buck Jones debuted his latest movie, “Get Your Man,” at the Cody Theatre in San Fernando. Locals motored down to watch the silent flick, famous in its time for having a fight scene filmed in an actual thunder storm.
HAVE FAITH. DROUGHTS DON’T LAST. — We had a big rain on this date, rather hefty and late for nearly being June. The farmers were grateful.
MAY 29, 1931
SIGNAGE BLIGHT — Charles Harbey, in charge of highway maintenance for this area, was busying himself removing hundreds of eyesore signs and billboards in the valley. Guess they must’ve popped back up like weeds.
STARVED FOR NEWS — This story, verbatim, appeared in the May 21 issue of The Mighty Signal: “Miss Gwen McAllister went swimming at Power Plant No. 2 one evening last week.” That’s the story. The whole darn story. Stop the presses. Hm. How long would it take Signal Editor Tim Whyte to edit that one?
MAY 23, 1941
TWO OF MY FAVORITE ALL-TIME MOVIES — The American Theatre (currently, the American Legion Hall on Spruce behind the Newhall Library) held its grand opening 80 years back. Silent screen superstar William S. Hart, who donated the land and money to build the movie house, was at the dedication. Interestingly, there were Army servicemen in the crowd. Hart thanked them for their loyalty to his country, then learned several were full-blooded Sioux. Hart, who had grown up with the Native Americans, spoke at length to a soldier in Sioux. Hart’s epic flick, “Tumbleweeds,” was the first movie ever shown at the American, followed by “Here Comes Happiness” and “The Earl of Puddleston.”
MAY 29, 1941
BAD MOVIES, PART II — So the SECOND week the American Theatre was open, it continued the trend of forgettable flicks. Lucille Ball starred in “A Girl, A Guy & A Gob.” I had to look up “Gob.” It’s a clot of a slimy substance. Also on the bill was “She Couldn’t Say No” and two oaters, “Three From Texas” and “Round-up.” The latter would be the organizing of steers, not the bug spray.
CAR SHOPPING, THE HARD WAY — Helm Schmidt Jr. got himself a brand new 1941 Oldsmobile. He flew to Detroit to get it and drove it back.
WAR ON THE HORIZON — Santa Clarita was quietly preparing for World War II. The Forest Service, county fire department, American Legion and Boy Scouts created 162 strategic staging points in the national forests around here to fight arson by foreign agents.
UH, YA GOT SOMETHING WITH A LITTLE BIT MORE WALK TO IT? — Jack Orsburn moseyed over to the Foley Ranch to see about buying a horse. He rode the steed around a bit. The steed did not take to Jack and ran him into a tree. Jack suffered a busted chest and, yes, he didn’t buy the horse.
MAY 29, 1951
WE WENT POSTAL — The Mighty Signal moved its offices from San Fernando Road to the little redwood enclave on 6th Street. The new post office would take over the old Signal building. We’d stay in those 6th Street offices until our move to Creekside Road on Sept. 8, 1986.
REHEARING HISTORY — Hattie Madden celebrated her 90th birthday and what was the one thing she remembered most in life? Being a little girl and hearing a pistol shot. Holding her mother’s hand and running from the theater. Scared, crying, watching soldiers frantically searching for an actor named John Wilkes Booth. Hattie, 4, had been at Ford’s Theater the night Abraham Lincoln was shot.
BIG BUZZARDS — On this date, the secretary of the Interior set aside 35,200 acres in the mountains beyond Fillmore as a condor refuge. The land was withdrawn from national mining designation. There were an estimated 100 of the giant buzzards in 1951 in Ventura County. I haven’t been up there in a couple years, but I used to see a congress of condors up at Bear Divide above Sand Canyon. About a dozen would fly up there, inspecting the valley.
MAY 29, 1961
HIZZONER JUDGE MAC — C.M. MacDougall had been serving ably as our justice of the peace for years. But a new state law passed, stating that all judges must have passed the state bar exam. Bless his heart, Big Mac had tried — and failed — a half-dozen times. He finally passed the bar on this date.
NOT SO FUNNY NOW — We make fun of Palmdale on occasion, but 60 years ago, they had the last laugh. The Falcons knocked Hart’s baseball squad out of the CIF quarterfinals, 6-5 in extra innings.
DISASTER SCARE — A bombing of wireless communication facilities in Utah and Nevada caused local law enforcement to quietly scramble. The quiet SCV has been deemed one of the most strategic points in America due to it being the hub of important power and communication infrastructures.
LONG WAY IN THE MAKING — Efforts to form a city (and even a county) began in the 1920s. On this date, the local Chamber of Commerce formed a study committee to form the city of Newhall-Saugus. There would be a local election, but it was unofficial and we wouldn’t become the city of Santa Clarita until 1987.
MAY 29, 1971
SPEAKING OF CITIES — We almost had a brand-new municipality to the north. It was to be called Granada — a 525-acre planned city built by Occidental Oil & Land just below Vasquez Rocks. It was actually a fancy name for a giant mobile home park with a population of about 4,000 for moderate income families. Occidental had hoped to attract cheap manufacturing businesses to relocate to Agua Dulce. Interesting concept, building the work camp first and then trying to go find a business for the workers to work at. It was never built.
COLD BLOODED KILLERS — The Compton Four were convicted on this date and got off easy. The four young men confessed they had driven from their home in Compton a year earlier for the expressed purpose of murdering white people. They succeeded, assassinating two Canyon Country youths and scrawling “PIG” on the dead boys’ car. The first trial resulted in a hung jury along racial lines. Judge George M. Dell oversaw the retrial — without a jury. He gave two of the four second-degree murder verdicts and two others from Compton accessory to murder.
THANK YOU, PROFOUNDLY, FOR YOUR SERVICE — Santa Clarita and much of the nation had been unofficially celebrating Memorial Day for a decade. On this date, the holiday formerly known as Decoration Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAPPY HUMP!! — Hard to believe, but it was a half-century back this week when the mega-amusement park and answer to Disneyland — Magic Mountain — opened. Adult admission was $5 and kids were admitted for $3.50. The sky was gloomy, by the way.
MAY 29, 1981
ANY ECON MAJORS OUT THERE? — The value of retail goods that were sold in the SCV doubled from the same date five years earlier. We sold $326.6 million worth of goodies in 1980 — up from $167.8 million in 1975.
ASK HIM TO PLAY ‘FAR, FAR AWAY’ — My dear, dear buddy, Sand Canyon local Curtis “Foonman” Stone, was named Bass Player of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. The Highway 101 star would later win two Grammys for his guitar playing. Hi, Fooney!
As always, you dear Santa Clarita people (and those beyond our endless boundaries) are good medicine and an absolute hoot. Thanks for the company. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. I vote that we meet up here at the hitching posts of The Mighty Signal a week from now and take another trail ride. What say you in the plural? Until seven days —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.