That handsome gent on my right in the dashing hat and silver buckle with all the proper Western accoutrements, as always, is my dear pops, Walt Cieplik. While he is riding in not just the distant canyons of the Santa Clarita of yesterday, he’s galloping through the cosmos, happy as can be. Best darn dad on the planet. Cripes. What pressure. I wish him a special Happy Father’s Day. We sure have logged a few million miles of wilderness trekking over the years, haven’t we, Dad?
This weekend, we’re giving a special tribute to all the fathers out there, true-hearted locals or those just visiting the valley this weekend. This morning, all dads get to ride up front. Moms, girlfriends, children and addendum friends and relatives have to ride in back and eat star trail dust, which, by the way, is curiously tasty.
We’ve got a rather nifty ride through time ahead, saddlepals. There’s a rather amazing feud with Newhall Water over a billing disagreement. We’ve got some gee-whiz stuff on the Ridge Route and tales of murderers, pests and movie stars.
C’mon you dads. Extra servings of coffee and hot cinnamon buns await you in the next dimension.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
IF YOU DON’T MIND, A SLIGHT DETOUR — Let’s start out with a few interesting historical tidbits about our dads. The first known tribute to a pop was written by Elmesu of Babylon about 4,000 years ago. Elmesu implored the gods to grant his dad “… good health and enduring days.”
HEARD THEY EVEN MADE A COMMANDMENT ABOUT IT — In some pre-Christian tribes, it was considered a crime, punishable by death, to disagree with one’s father.
DON’T LET A CERTAIN DAUGHTER OF MINE READ THIS — Even in some cultures today, the father is in charge of arranging marriages for his offspring. The kids have no say in the matter. But, in India (and, I’m guessing Palmdale) the daughter can get her revenge. If a father went too deeply into debt for the ceremony, the daughter could sell him into slavery.
SWITCHING FROM INDIA TO GORMAN — The state began construction on the historic “New” Ridge Route in June of 1912, linking Castaic with the San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Originally, of course, the road had been a gaming trail and it wasn’t until 1855 you could take a wagon across. The first white person we know to have traversed it was Don Pedro Fages, who hiked it in 1772. Today, it’s a 90-minute romp up Interstate 5 to Bakersfield, but back then it was a two- to three-day ride on horseback (less for us grizzled time travelers) and don’t even think about crossing it during the winter. The road had 3,500 curves in it from Castaic to the Grapevine and cost a whopping $3 million to build. It opened in July of 1915 and was christened State Highway 4.
JUNE 19, 1921
THE FIRST PARADE MONEY MAN — H.W. Bricker was appointed treasurer of the first-ever Newhall Fourth of July celebration. They planned a picnic and an Independence Day party filled with lots of races — horse races, car races, kid races, married couple races, single people races, three-legged races, toddler races, a balloon race and a “driving race for women.”
OILS WELL THAT ENDS — ahem — YOU KNOW — The oil business picked up with two companies starting the same week. The Placerita Petroleum Co. was started with $500,000 capital by retired Canadian banker C.C. Dickson. Across the valley, 3 miles west of Newhall in Moore Canyon (on the old Sanborn Ranch), the Half Moon Oil Co. started digging on 263 acres. The first well was sunk just 500 yards from the first oil well in Southern California.
JUNE 19, 1931
GOT GAS? — The Southern California Gas Co. began linking a massive pipe through Newhall. The 26-inch line went through the Newhall Ranch, along the Edison power lines, then through to Glendale.
NOT LIKE DROUGHTS ARE ANYTHING NEW — The Newhall Land & Farming Co. planted no alfalfa. We had little rain in 1930 and ’31 (although we did have a late, heavy whomping that ruined many crops). The water table was so blankety-blank low, it was fiscally unsound to use the energy to pump it up to the surface for the water-hungry crop. Instead, NL&F planted beans and potatoes. Or, as the old farmer joke goes: “Dried beans and potatoes.”
BEFORE HART HIGH — There were 103 graduates from San Fernando High this June. Of that figure, 18 were from the SCV. We bused them over the hill back then, having no high school yet.
OUR RARE FLOWER — June is when the rare century plant blooms in the SCV. It takes years for the flower to finally blossom, if it can make it through drought, fire or flood. The century is also known as American aloe and is related to the iris and daffodil. It kind of looks like the yucca, or “keyote” as the Indians called it, or Spanish dagger. But the century plant is not related to the yucca, botanists tell us. Some may never live long enough to see one bloom. But, on this date, two were spotted on a ranch in Lang.
JUNE 19, 1941
A HOLLYWOOD WHO’S WHO OF PARTIES — Harry Carey threw an epic bash for 400 guests at his 1,000-acre ranch in San Francisquito Canyon. It was to celebrate his 33rd year in show business. Carey had started in the silents in 1908, with his soon-to-be wife, Olive Golden. They homesteaded out here shortly thereafter. Tons of movie stars, old and new, attended the bash, including John Wayne, Mary Pickford, William Desmond, Douglas Fairbanks, and hundreds of others.
A GOOD ONE STRAIGHT OUT OF MARK TWAIN — Pat Coyle bought a new car, but the thing was so huge, he had to expand his old garage, which meant knocking out concrete and digging a lot of dirt. Coyle mentioned around lunch one day that he found four pieces of eight — the old Spanish coins — while he was excavating. Word got out and Pat soon had all the help he could use, and then some, with his excavations. While one friend was shoveling, he eagerly mentioned the possibility of buried treasure. One of Coyle’s other workers noted, “Yeah. Pat found four pennies the other day.”
MOOLAH MOGUL VISITS THE SCV — A.P. Giannini paid a visit to Newhall yesterday, to check on one of his businesses. Giannini was the founder of Bank of America.
JUNE 19, 1951
REMEMBER THE OLD HERALD EXAMINER NEWSPAPER? — It folded decades back, but, in 1951, their deliveryman for the SCV was a Paul Dyck. In his pre-dawn rounds, he spotted a car on fire on the tracks by San Fernando Road. Dyck raced up Pine Street to flag down a freight coming out of the Newhall Tunnel. With a flashlight, he stopped the mammoth line of cars, possibly saving a massive train wreck and derailment.
ADIOS TO ANOTHER SPECIES — It was estimated we had about 2,500 elm trees in the valley and all were threatened by the dreaded European elm scale. It’s a microscopic insect that lays its eggs in the bark of these trees. The pest had been introduced in Glendale, near the airport, about 20 years earlier.
JUNE 19, 1961
HEAT WAVES AREN’T EXACTLY NEW HERE — Yee and ouch and ouch again. Old Sol burned the SCV, with temperatures hitting the 110-degree mark.
ADDING FRICASSEED INSULT TO INJURY — To go along with those scorching temps, a windstorm with gusts of up to 50 mph helped fan a huge 7,000-acre brush fire in Mint Canyon.
I KNOW FOLKS WITH MONTHLY HOUSE PAYMENTS LIKE THIS — Same weekend, a new subdivision opened in Canyon Country. The homes started at around $14,000 and you could buy one for $495 down. That probably wouldn’t pay for the month’s SoCal Edison bill for the all-electric houses today.
JUNE 19, 1971
KILL TO SEE THE OFFICIAL NARC BADGE FOR THE HART LETTERMAN’S JACKET — Here is a dark first in local history. The Sheriff’s Department placed two youthful-looking undercover narcotics officers at Hart High. Their three-month investigation netted four arrests.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE & WAY TO GO, BILL!! — Bill Park, a Newhall County Water District customer, was fighting a $3.50 charge on his water bill and refused to pay it. So, Newhall Water came out, shut off his water and put a padlock on it. Park, an electrical engineer, took an acetylene torch to the lock, turned his water back on and put on his OWN padlock. Next day, NCWD workers came out, hacksawed off Park’s lock, turned the water back off and cut out an 11-inch gap in the pipe. Park came home. He reconnected some new pipe and turned his water back on. Next day, Newhall Water brought out the heavy artillery — a jackhammer and backhoe. Park was ready with his own, “heavy artillery.” He slapped the watermen with an injunction from a federal court. Park said the workers, “… looked a little disgruntled when they left.” All over a $3.50 bill. Who said there is no such thing as principle.
A POX UPON THE COUNTY OAK & BAMBOO KILLERS — Two historical sites were razed by the county for the widening of Lyons Avenue. First went the Bamboo Cafe, near San Fernando Road, then went the home of the town historian and founder of Newhall Water — A. B. Perkins. The project was stranded for months, with all eyes on the epic oak tree near the Catholic Church. Despite angry protests, the ancient oak would be later axed. County officials lied about the 500-year-old tree being diseased and a public danger. Politicians lying. Who woulda thunk?
MAYBE IT WAS THE GIANT INFLUX OF YUPPIES THAT CAUSED IT — Or maybe it was drugs. Or rock ’n’ roll or who knows. We may be one of the safest cities in America today, but such wasn’t the case the first couple of years of the 1970s. They were perhaps the most violent in SCV history. Dozens of heinous crimes — from rapes and kidnaps to grisly homicides — blemished the SCV. Sand Canyon’s Ben McDonald Jr. added his name to the list by murdering his father at their home on this date. Ben shot his dad in the head with a shotgun after a heated argument. On Father’s Day.
JUNE 19, 1981
THE AGE-OLD SICKNESS — Arsonists attacked the Santa Clarita, setting more than a dozen brush fires, scorching hundreds of acres.
LAZY ASTERISKS DOWNTOWN NEWHALL MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION — And across town, trees were being killed by another kind of culprit — the downtown Newhall merchants. Not all of them, but most, refused to walk the 10 feet outside with a bucket to water the new shade trees.
ALWAYS CHARITABLE — Larry and Charlie Rasmussen (brothers, not husband and wife) were the big spenders in the 10th annual Boys & Girls Club Auction, popping down $10,000 for everything from a rabbit-skin coat to a wine party for 16. Well. We won’t go there. Ten seemed to be the magic number. The auction netted $100,000.
Thanks so much for riding with me, dear friends and neighbors. You take care. Be most excellent to one another. Looking forward to seeing all y’all right back here in seven, at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post. 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 on Amazon.com or https://www.amazon.com/John-Boston/e/B000APA0H8?ref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share. If you liked the book, would you mind leaving a kind 5-star review…?