OK. OK. Hold it. I know the demographics point to the fact that most Santa Claritanites are newcomers. But that doesn’t mean you get to bounce about on a horse in your Ralph Lauren Might Pass As Pajamas & Not 100-% Cotton Underwear. Get back into your condo. Come out wearing jeans. And boots. And no tricks like taking a Marks-A-Lot and painting boots on your bare feet.
I dedicate this week’s time ride to Signal Editor Tim Whyte, who I KNOW had to look up the proper spelling and hyphenation of — Marks-A-Lot. Not too many editors these days would do that…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
HELLO. MAY I PUT YOU ON HOLD, PLEASE? — On July 12, 1900, the little village of Newhall had its first-ever telephone installed. It would be a decade later until somebody ordered the SCV’s second phone and that was kind of an asterisk thing. Ralph Carr, in 1910, became the first private resident to get a phone, but he worked for the phone company. I’m guessing it’s hard to get excited when the phone rings and the only person it could be is your boss. Six months later, Ralph disconnected his phone so the SCV went back to having just the one (at Campton’s General Store). The Newhall Land & Farming Co. had a phone installed in 1900, but their HQ was considered Castaic, not the SCV proper. Here’s a breakdown on total phones in service for the early 20th century for our valley: 1912 — three telephones; 1913-15 — it dropped back to two telephones; 1915-16 — three; 1917 — five; 1918 — 18; 1919 — 13; 1920 — 15; 1921 — 27; 1922 — 31; 1923 — 42; 1924 — 48; 1925 — 57. Talk about a minimalist phone book . . .
HOWDY. MIGHT YOU BE CANTONESE OR MANDARIN? — On July 14, 1876, a Chinese rail worker in an all-rubber suit struck his pick through a wall. What did he see? Another Chinese rail worker in an all-rubber suit. Thus, the Newhall-San Fernando Rail Tunnel, one of the longest in the world at about a mile in length, was connected.
AND NO. MY COLUMN DIDN’T RUN BACK THEN — And on this date, Rudolph Nickel beat The Mighty Signal to the punch by nearly 30 years. He published the SECOND regular newspaper in the SCV on July 15, 1891 — The Acton Rooster. Off and on over the years, it would die off, disappear, then restart again under new owners. The FIRST SCV newspaper? I’d KILL to get a copy of that. No one, no periodical, seems to know the name. It was a two-page broadsheet, PRINTED IN LONG HAND by the Coast Oil bookkeeper, Billy Carlson. He wrote out 10 copies every week in the early 1880s and I’m guessing back then hoped there’d be no population spurt.
JULY 17, 1921
“HOW CONVENIENT! I CAN QUOTE MYSELF ON FIRE CONTAINMENT!!” — The U.S. Army, L.A. County Fire Department, and Signal columnist (plus sometimes editor and forest ranger) Thornton Doelle all joined forces to battle a huge brush fire in Bouquet Canyon. Several of the firefighters suffered from an unscheduled visit with some heavy poison oak shrubbery.
‘FORM A COMMITTEE.’ SOUNDS HAUNTINGLY FAMILIAR — All these thousands of editorials The Mighty Signal has penned and they never seem to influence anyone. On this date, this newspaper came out strongly against people speeding in the valley. “Speeding is a disease – one which cannot be cured by persuasion.” The Signal noted that tourists fly through downtown Newhall. “Forty to 50 miles an hour is by no means uncommon.” The Signal urged the formation of a local vigilance committee to deal with the matter.
THINKING ABOUT STOCKING UP ON SOME MYSELF — Ed Abbott, who ran the local hardware store, had a new shipment of rifle ammo. He advertised it would be sold, “…at big city prices!”
JULY 17, 1931
HOLD THAT TIGER! er, PUMA — Gene Holder had himself a Daniel Boone moment. Holder, working on a federal biological survey in Arizona, did more than survey. He went mountain lion hunting. Treeing a big cat, Holder took aim, slipped, fired and wounded the puma. It pounced from the tree and landed right on top of the Saugus biologist. He and the cougar had a terrific bar fight and Holder ended up killing the cat with his hunting knife. Then, Holder had to ride, on horseback, for three days to Flagstaff to get medical treatment for his 10,000 bites, cuts, gouges, scratches and missing skin.
HOT DIGGITY DARN THAT WAS STUPID. SQUARED. — The Jones ranch house burned to the ground on this date. The expensive Mint Canyon home, valued at $32,000 (a lot of money back during the Depression) was razed to the ground after Mr. Jones accidentally started a fire while cleaning his kitchen floor — with gasoline.
HOW PROFOUNDLY NEIGHBORLY — Just over the hill from the Jones spread, same darn summer week, the Smith ranch burned to the ground. The Smiths lived in less-tony digs. Their damage was estimated at $5,000. Everything they owned — from piano to clothes — was lost in the blaze. Locals passed the hat to try to get the Smiths back on their feet.
IF THAT HAPPENED IN SAN FRANCISCO TODAY, THE CROOKS WOULD’VE EARNED A MEDAL — Burglars took $20 in cash and a few cartons of cigarettes from the Safeway on San Fernando Road (Main Street today). They caused about 50 times that in the damage they caused, breaking in through the roof and destroying the cash register.
JULY 17, 1941
I THINK RICK PATTERSON SHOULD GO BACK IN TIME & HIRE SAM RUMMEL — Both the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and local Newhall officer Charles Rittenhouse were on the hot seat. Rittenhouse had discovered hundreds of incidences of LASD corruption and had gone to the grand jury. Shortly thereafter, Rittenhouse was written up on 60 different charges, from taking bribes to protecting gamblers. On this date, Rittenhouse’s attorney, Sam Rummel, found a “bug” in his L.A. office. Rummel traced the wire, went upstairs to the next floor, and tossed a large chair through a glass door. There, he found three sheriff’s detectives with eavesdropping equipment.
BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU TAKE MOM FOR A DRIVE — We’ve had many a strange auto accident over the last two centuries. This was one of the oddest. Mrs. Rose Bender had been despondent and had talked of taking her own life. To give her a change of mind, her son, Victor, took his mom on a scenic drive along the old Ridge Route. Victor also brought along his girlfriend, Beatrice Hill, 21. Both women had fallen asleep well into the drive. Victor was starting to pass a slow-moving truck carrying pipe when his mother, in the passenger seat, woke with a start. She grabbed the wheel and swerved it into the truck. A section of pipe went through the windshield. It struck Victor’s fiancé in the face, killing her instantly. Son, and suicidal mother, were unhurt.
DOGS & CATS TOGETHER. MAN DANCES WITH WIFE. — Add to strange pairings, the CHP used to share offices with the L.A. Sheriff’s while the CHiPsters new digs were being built. On this date, the new Highway Patrol HQ held its grand opening on San Fernando Road, just south of Newhall. The lot was donated to the state by William S. Hart and local businessmen. The CHP headquarters were started in October 1940 under a Roosevelt WPA grant.
QUICK!! SOMEONE CALL TOM LEE! — Mid-July, 1941, was the deadline for dog tags. Cost? A buck a mutt. Even at 1941 prices, Tom’d be out 64 bucks today . . .
NOPE. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK — A Signal entertainment story carried the headline: “Gay Comedy Is Scheduled.” “Gay” meant something entirely else back in 1941. In this case, it was the Merle Oberon movie, “Affectionately Yours.”
MAS WOMEN — More than 1,000 women from the Women’s Reserve Corps were camping out up Bouquet Canyon on maneuvers.
JULY 17, 1951
CATCH THE PERPS AND SEND THEM TO HADES. WITHOUT WATER. — The mercury topped the 110 mark in some spots and, adding insult to injury, some rogues managed to steal 40,000 gallons of precious water from the Val Verde hillside storage tank that fills the park pool and services the community. The water was only valued at $15.60, but was viewed as precious. Irrigation had been temporarily banned in the water-starved community. How do you steal 40,000 gallons of anything?
A SMALL SUMMER BLESSING — The drought of ’51 and its heat punished the SCV, whose economy was then based on agriculture. Farmers were hastily digging their wells deeper. A chance thunderstorm in July dropped a scant amount of rain on the valley, serving only to keep fire danger down for a day or two at most.
A RARE BUT BRUTAL MURDER — It was one of the most heinous homicides of the 1950s in Newhall. The remains of Betty Jean Hanson, a beautiful auburn-haired 20-year-old, were discovered in Beale’s Cut. She had been there for as long as a week. The murderer? Her stepfather, 48-year-old ex-con, Frank Kristy. Police pretty much got the clue to that with the footprints around the corpse and the fact that Frank left his autographed cigarette lighter at the scene. Kristy was later apprehended in Sterling, Colorado, where he was arrested while painting a house. What gave the murderer away was his distinctive tattoos on both forearms — as described in a national all-points bulletin. He confessed he murdered his stepdaughter after an argument. They were supposedly going to run away from his wife and her mother and start a life together.
TOO MUCH TORMENT — The Hanson murder was also the source of temporary, but excruciating torment for local businessman Dennis Hill. Hill’s wife had left him two days before the Hanson corpse was discovered. When the body was found, the description perfectly matched Hill’s wife. In fact, Hill was taken to the scene to identify the body and broke down in tears several times before being able to recognize it was not his wife, or, still sadly, ex-wife.
AN ODD COINCIDENCE — That Hanson murder? The body was found by a tourist family — named Hill.
JULY 17, 1961
‘SEA CHANTEYS’ REALLY? — Long before the city of Santa Clarita held its beloved Concerts in the Park series, there was the Summer Music Series at Newhall Park. On this date, the San Fernando Men’s Chorus sang a selection of, “… show tunes, sea chanteys, classics, folk songs, hymns, spirituals and most every type of song that appeals to the heart and fancy,” or so the program said.
JULY 17, 1971
I’M RUNNING OUT OF MEDIEVAL TORTURE CHAMBERS IN WHICH TO PLACE THESE PEOPLE — A man, posing first as an immigration officer, then, as a doctor, forced his way into the home of an unidentified Hispanic woman and began groping her before she ran away.
THUMBS UP. THUMBS DOWN. — This is not a specific note or event, just a general observation. We had many more hitchhikers in the SCV 30 years back than we do today. One of the busiest spots was the Lyons Avenue offramp. Perhaps because it was the ’70s, you’d see folks of all ages thumbing rides. We had more rapes and murders of hitchhikers, too. Pass that on to the kids…
THE CON GAMES JUST KEEP COMING — Some consumers were crying fraud over a drawing at a local Saugus store. Various big prizes, from TV sets to vacuums to $100 dining certificates, were used to draw folks into the establishment. Problem was, when folks opened the envelope, the dining tickets were 2-for-1 dinners in such faraway places as San Diego and Stanton. Stanton’s down in west Orange County. Had to look that one up.
MAN BITES DOG. WOMAN BITES MARSHAL. — Two of the more succinct headlines in journalism history. In the latter, Marshal Walt Shiller had a human lamprey scar on his upper inner thigh. Shiller had shown up at the home of Betty Taylor to evict the woman for non-payment of rent. She started throwing furniture around the room (none of it was hers). A la Keystone Cops, Walt and his partner chased Betty around her loaner house for about 16 bars of piano music. When they tried leading her outside, Betty bit Walt. So darn hard, her teeth tore through his britches and into his skin, drawing blood. And who said cops are thick-skinned…
JULY 17, 1981
THE ENDANGERED AGRARIAN SPECIES — The Signal penned a front-page feature. It was about our dwindling agricultural lands and how more and more local farms were going out of business. The story was rather prophetic. Lombardi’s up Bouquet Canyon is long gone. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other full-time, working, non-designer farms left in the SCV…
See that silvery spinning vortex yonder up ahead? I think, as the Time Ranger and Mr. SCV, I will take this opportunity to officially name it: “Yonder Spinning Vortex Canyon.” It is such. See you excellent souls (and some of you teetering on the cusp) back here at The Mighty Signal, seven days hence. Be good to one another 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.