A warm — no. Make that more appropriately a HOT & Western welcome to you dear SClaritiatonians. Hope all’s well and you’re stocked up on at least a few 55-gallon drums of sunblock.
On a pleasant note, you, me and the neighbor’s dog are going to hop on board our own fine horse and head back into yesteryear, where the daytime high is 62 degrees with a wind chill of 61.
We’ve a most interesting trek waiting ahead, with giant grizzly bears, things patriotic and things not so patriotic. C’mon. Let’s go mosey into the mystic and stick our noses into where they don’t particularly belong.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
IT ‘BEARS’ REPEATING — The creature stood more than 10 feet tall on its hind legs, weighed as much as a dozen-plus people and could run almost twice as fast as the planet’s fastest human. On July 7, 1873, John Lang shot what was debatably the world’s largest grizzly bear in Santa Clarita’s backyard of Soledad Canyon. For years, accounts in books and newspapers put the beast’s weight at 2,350 pounds. A recent discovery of a letter from John Lang himself in a Los Angeles newspaper of the day corrected the weight to about 1,600 pounds. Before dinner. There were stories that Lang’s bear killed and ate seven men and hundreds of head of cattle.
Shortly, I’m coming out with a series of Santa Clarita history books. The first of a three-part series is “Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America.” We’ll go into great detail over the century-plus-long controversy. On your mark. Get set. Go. Everyone at the Ladies’ Auxiliary may now start gossiping.
SHOULDA NAMED IT ‘MENTRYTONBERG.’ OR, GOOP TOWN. — This week in 1876, D.G. Scofield formed the California Star Oil Works and hired Frenchman “Alex” Mentry to run his company. They would eventually name the western portion of Pico Canyon after the oilman — Mentryville.
JULY 10, 1921
WHEN WE WERE ALMOST HOLLYWOOD PARK — Cowboy Bob Anderson, who unsuccessfully tried to build Southern California’s first major thoroughbred race track in Saugus, was also an accomplished rider himself. At the big Burbank rodeo, he and his horses took eight awards. Bob would later build his own rodeo arena at the present-day Saugus Speedway site. CBA also used to play polo out here in the SCV with celebs, including William S. Hart. The organization was called The Newhall Rodeo Club.
WHEN BAILES WAS A BOY — During the Fourth of July celebration in town, little Bailey Haskell took second place in the Boys’ Foot Race. My pal Bailes won five boxes of Cracker Jack. Hate to say it, his son and my friend, Chuck Haskell, recently passed.
A NEWSPAPERMAN OF GREAT NOTE — Charlie Taylor, one of Judge John Powell’s best friends, passed away on this date. He had been editor of The Boston Globe for nearly a half-century. Powell was one of the SCV’s first judges, serving for nearly 40 years during the roughest, toughest times in our history. He was a famed big-game hunter and, pre-Civil War, freed 705 Africans bound for the slave trading block. His accomplice? Fabled adventurer Dr. Stanley Livingston.
SO, WHO GUARDS THE MEN WHO GUARD THE MOUNTAINS? — Speaking of editors, Thornton Doelle would later become editor of The Mighty Signal. But, on this date, he penned his first column — “With The Men Who Guard Our Mountains.”
JULY 10, 1931
GUESS WHAT? NOT THE FIRST TIME SUMMER’S BEEN HOT — The heat wave continued. For the third week, the mercury topped the 110 mark in the shade, hotter in some spots up to a reported 118. Celebration of Independence Day was rather subdued. Reports were, those who could, disappeared to the beach. Mrs. Lucien Rowan wasn’t so lucky. The 52-year-old woman died from heat exhaustion.
A PATRIOTIC FIRST IN THE SCV — Folks at the Newhall Fourth of July celebration did something for the first time — they sang the national anthem. The “Star-Spangled Banner,” by act of Congress, was designated as America’s national anthem on March 3, 1931.
SHOULDA HANGED HIM — Trinidad Gonzales was sent to jail by Judge Jones on this date for cruelty to animals. He was found guilty of dragging a dog tied to his bumper north of Castaic.
SHE WAS, AHEM, A SHARP SHOT — Newhall telephone operator Mrs. Margaret Sharp had an alter-ego. She was also owner of a gold mine. When she took some vacation time to work her Castaic claim, she found some claim jumpers were camping out in her cabin and helping themselves to her ore. Mrs. Sharp drove them off with a trusty revolver.
JULY 10, 1941
DRINKING CAN KILL YOU, VOLUME ONE-MILLION-SIX — Cowboy Bill Van Hoesen celebrated his last Fourth of July on the Williams Ranch in Canyon Country. Van Hoesen had reportedly been drinking, got into an altercation with two visiting cowhands and had to be subdued. He broke free, ran to the bunkhouse and came back with a big Winchester .25-35. The other cowboys got into another wrestling match with Van Hoesen and the gun went off, killing Billy quite dead.
AND DRINKING CAN FILL THE LOCAL COFFERS — The Newhall Court system was $540 richer after the Fourth of July. Fourteen men were arrested and fined $10 each for being drunk and disorderly. Four men arrested at a craps game in Val Verde paid $100 each.
THE LAST TIME THE KKK WAS THE HERO OF A MOVIE — We’ve long been a haven for movie people. Melder Briggs, of Sand Canyon, had worked in the motion picture business since the days of the silents. He worked as a scene shifter — a kind euphemism for someone who helped move those enormously heavy sets. Briggs liked moving things in the modern 1940s much better, with all the machines to help. He recalled working on “Birth of a Nation,” in which primarily muscle was used to lug those heavy sets. Briggs said his co-workers came up with their own name for the flick — “Girth of a Nation.”
THAT’S NOTHING. I’VE GOT A/C IN MY 4-BY-4 PRIUS — On this date, the brand-new American Theatre added a newfangled contraption to their roof just in time for the Newhall summer movie rush — an air conditioner.
JULY 10, 1951
SOMEBODY’S LYON — Despite local roars of protest, Los Angeles County bullheaded its way into Newhall, changing the name of Pico Canyon from Highway 99 to the Newhall Avenue intersection to Lyons Avenue. Citizens of the SCV cried foul and that if L.A. was going to change the street name, they should at least spell it correctly — “Lyon” Avenue, not “Lyons.” No “s.” The street was actually named after twin 19th-century pioneers, Sanford and Cyrus Lyon. (Sanford was the businessman, Cyrus was the deadly gunfighter and lawman.) It’s one of the valley’s longest typographical errors. Perhaps the oldest is Bouquet Canyon Road. Mapmakers in 1850 incorrectly deciphered the big ranch there called Rancho del Buque. The cartographers thought it was Spanish, for bouquet, as in the wildflowers there. The place was owned by former French sailor, Fran Chari. “Buque” means “ship.” Not flower.
JULY 10, 1961
SCV WALL STREET BIZ PARK? — On this date, Wall Street’s famed Lehman Brothers bought part of the Golden Valley Triangle Industrial Park (where Home Depot is today) from Bernie Swartz. They had plans to build a monumental business park, but even in the 21st century, that dream has yet to be completely realized.
GETTING P.O.’d — The U.S. Postal Service bought the corner lot at 8th and Walnut. They would soon build a new, modern post office there (that today has been abandoned for decades). Old-timers lamented the movement of the old post office, noting how it was a nice way to break up the morning by showing up between 9 and 10 and seeing your friends and neighbors. The P.O. had a few homes over the years in Newhall. Some of the locales for the old P.O. were: Campton’s General Store (George Campton opened the Newhall Post Office in his general store on Jan. 16, 1877, and stored the mail in a box under the front counter); The Mighty Signal (when it was on today’s Main Street); and, my good pal, Dr. Mikey Corbin’s office (back when it was Dr. Scown’s old digs on Main). Got my first pair of glasses at Scown’s when I was in eighth grade.
JULY 10, 1971
DOG vs. RABBIT, MAN vs. DOG — This almost could be one of those John Updike “Run Rabbit Run” stories. A Bouquet Canyon man found his neighbor’s dog had killed two of his pet rabbits. The man produced a .38 revolver and began chasing the dog around his backyard, firing shots. He missed. He cornered the dog and fired again, twice, hitting it. The dog shooter’s wife, awakened by the gunfire and shouts, ran out, begging her husband not to kill the dog in front of their four children. Despite the two bullet wounds, the dog didn’t die. No charges were filed.
JULY 10, 1981
BY NOW, I THINK THERE’S BEEN MORE ‘RAIDERS’ SEQUELS THAN SUPER BOWLS — “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was one of the biggest movies of all time. But in Saugus, it came up a bit short — 13 minutes, to be exact. Owners of the Mustang Drive-In were rather embarrassed when folks started honking. Seems the film copy the Mustang received had a Nixonian section cut out right in the middle.
THE MONEY MUST’VE GONE TO ONE OF THOSE BULLET TRAIN BOONDOGGLES — This one still makes me scratch my head, saddlepals. On this date, Downtown Newhall was given a $420,000 federal grant to spruce the place up. There were a couple of paver crosswalks put in, and a weekend project of a couple of concrete “Welcome to Newhall” signs installed. And some flowers. If that’s where ALL the $420,000 went, we’re into some serious armed forces $800 toilet seats territory.
AHHHHH! THAT’S A BUNCHA GARBAGE!! — We have had much monkey business over the years in Santa Clarita over the topic of garbage, garbage companies and garbage dumps. On this date, the Save-On Disposal Co. opened its doors. Briefly. Save-On was advertising they’d pick up trash for $3 a month — with no starter fee. A few folks called to ask questions, and the dispatcher was rather surly, noting she didn’t have to answer any “!¡#%*!! questions” if she didn’t want to. Those few who did order the service noted they got a rather old garbage can, freshly painted. Underneath many was the logo of Blue Barrel. Seems one of the owners of Save-On happened to be the collections manager of Blue Barrel at the time — AND — general manager of Chiquita Landfill. Other disposal companies around the valley were rather curious how Save-On could charge just $3 a month when the lowest rate in town was $6. The D.A. was called in to investigate if Blue Barrel was running Save-On as a scam or for “predatory pricing” to drive the other haulers in the valley out of business.
Well. Hate to see you dear saddlepals go. But, yonder is our return portal to the here and now of our Santa Clarita lives. You folks be kind to one another. Say please. Stay hydrated. Buy low and sell high when you can. See you back here at The Mighty Signal hitching post next weekend with another exciting 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.