Don’t be alarmed. It’s me. I was just holding this aluminum foil reflecting screen under my chin to catch a little sun where extraterrestrial bodies nary shine. Summer, you know. Sun tans?
And for those of you with fair skin or who take issue with Vitamin D, please feel free to hop up in the saddle, dressed either like a Bedouin, nun or astronaut in a bad SciFi movie. We won’t make fun of you.
Interesting trail ride ahead, saddlepals. Got all sorts of gee-whiz trivia, crimes, alas, some tragedies and an interesting mini-vacation back into the way we used to be.
You fetching nuns?
You can ride up front with me.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU TOO? — Just in Southern California for a few weeks and headed for the SCV, Gaspar de Portola and his posse felt a pretty good series of earthquakes. A big tremblor hit the explorer and first white man to set foot in the valley that years later would be known as Santa Clarita. It was at 1 p.m. on July 28, 1769. Isn’t that something? I mean, they zeroed it down to an hour after lunch. Amazing that scientists can figure these things so exactly. This was also the first recorded quake in California history.
BUT YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE! — A monster gold strike was discovered in July 1854 on the Kern River in future Kern County. (Our neighbor up north wasn’t officially founded until April 2, 1866.) Businessmen in fairly brand-new Los Angeles were frothing at the mouth, trying to figure out how to get everything from prostitutes to shovels up to Central California to the miners who had poured into the region. Big problem? No quick way to get there. That started an accelerated movement to put a road linking L.A. to the San Joaquin Valley — right through good ol’ Santa Clarita. That’s why Beale’s Cut, the infamous steep and narrow road (and today, a state historic marker on Sierra Highway) was built.
IT ALL STARTED IN FRANCE — At the tender age of 15, Jean Joseph Reynier hopped on a schooner in France and arrived in Sand Canyon on July 24, 1864. Eventually, young Jean homesteaded 1,200 acres in Sand and Placerita Canyons. He would become the patriarch of the Walker/Reynier dynasty that still has descendants in the area, including my bud, Walt Fisher. Walt moved out of the SCV more than a little while ago, but still comes back to check people’s sofas for loose change…
CHOO-CHOO! — Back on July 27, 1876, magnate Charles Crocker announced the completion of the last railroad tunnel connecting the north and south lines of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The historic Soledad Tunnel No. 19 was 223 feet long and connected Los Angeles to San Francisco via rail. Ol’ No. 19 was featured in Steven Spielberg’s first movie, “Duel.”
HOPE THE HUNTING GROUNDS ARE HAPPY — We’ll probably never know the born-with name of the last Tataviam Indian, Juan Jose Fustero. He was given the name in a Ventura County real estate court hearing as his Indian name was unpronounceable by the court clerk. I forgot to mention this a couple weeks ago, but Mr. Fustero, maker of saddle frames, died on July 1, 1921, in nearby Piru.
JULY 24, 1921
A JAYWALKING TRAGEDY — Two little Mexican girls, darting across San Fernando Road, caused a serious bus accident. The first girl sprinted across the main drag safely, but her little sister tripped and fell in the middle of the road. A “yellow stage” swerved to miss the second child but ended up running over her. The bus crossed the center line then hit a large truck head-on before flipping. Several people were injured. The little girl was rushed to a Downtown L.A. hospital, but I’ve yet to find a record if she pulled through.
HAY ARSON? — Authorities were looking for a possible fire bug who set fire to a huge stack of new hay delivered to rancher Ed Hart (no relation to Bill). Sixty bales went up in flames.
A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD IN 1921 — The Mighty Signal used to print church service times on the front page of their weekly Friday paper.
HATS OFF TO A SAFE ANNIVERSARY — On July 24, 1921, L.A. County began issuing fire permits. A big ad in The Signal noted that there would be severe fines if you had anything even approaching a backyard campfire without the proper paperwork. Bright side? The permits were free and issued by local constable George Hitchcock (no relation to Alfred…).
JULY 24, 1931
THE DEVIL’S ANVIL — Summers here can be brutal. Old-timer Lucien Rowan collapsed from the triple-digit heat and never woke up. He had moved here to Newhall at the end of the 19th century.
ANOTHER TRAGIC LOSS OF A CHILD — Carl Steen of Los Angeles was speeding through Newhall and tried a stupid maneuver: passing into oncoming traffic. He clipped a car driven by local Clarence Clough. It flipped several times. Clough, his wife and young daughter escaped injury. Little 4-year-old Bobbie was thrown from the vehicle and died.
NEXT TIME YOU’RE AT THE SAUGUS CAFÉ, ASK IF THEY’LL CUT THEIR MENU PRICES BACK 90 YEARS — The Great Depression was felt out here. Our Saugus Café cut their menu prices. Lunch was slashed from 60 cents to a half-buck and dinner fell from $1 to 85 cents — and that was for a five-course meal WITH beverage.
SPEAKING OF EATING OUT — Paul Lewis and Al Mahayig were arrested for dining and dashing.
RE: THE ABOVE — Today, that felony is now called “Randy-Wraging…”
JULY 24, 1941
THIS WOULD HAVE MY PERSONAL FRIEND NRA PRESIDENT CAROLYN D. MEADOWS SHAKING HER HEAD — On this date, 17-year-old Fritz Rodley shot the tip of his right index finger clean off. He said he had dropped the gun, some dirt got in the barrel and he was trying to get it out when the darn thing discharged, leaving him hard to fit for gloves.
PLAGUE-INFECTED SQUIRRELS: GOOD NAME FOR A BAD BUT ANGRY GARAGE BAND? — Or the new Hart mascot? A special County Health squad discovered ground squirrels were decimated by plague-carrying fleas in a campground dump north of Castaic. The entire dump was put to the torch and squirrels shot and poisoned by the hundreds.
JIM VENTRESS STILL REMEMBERS THAT DAY — It had rained once in July back in 1884 (0.02 inch) and again in 1913 (a little heavier with 0.11 inch). For the third time in that period, it rained in July in Newhall. There wasn’t any to measure. But it rained on a cold, cloudy, overcast day on July 24, 1941. I remember a few years back, when we started the Fourth of July parade, we had a nice little misting that was rather refreshing. Sure beats riding when it’s 1,142 degrees Fahrenheit.
FRANCE SALUTES YOU, SAND CANYON LADIES!! — Ecology is certainly nothing new. The Sand Canyon Ladies Aid Society, on this date, held an outing where they gathered frogs and pollywogs from the quickly drying creeks and took them up to the east fork where water was more plentiful
YAY! MOVIE TRIVIA!! — Here’s some cocktail party trivia for you. The first-ever midnight movie in the SCV was held on Friday, July 26, 1941. It was Bela Lugosi’s, “The Devil Bat.” American Theatre manager Hal Hall (that really was his name) also helped the town free itself of litter. Every kid who brought an old discarded tire to George Bjornstad’s Union Oil station got a free ticket to a Saturday afternoon matinee.
JULY 24, 1951
DOUBLE-D, OUR LOCAL HERO! — Duncan Daries, son of the local fire chief Pierre, was promoted to Air Force major after a spectacular combat mission in which he fought off several Chinese aircraft and strafed 17 North Korean military targets.
SPIDER ART? REALLY? — Horace Woodard, Newhall boy turned internationally famous wildlife photographer, was back in town to make a movie. The subject matter gave many of the locals the willies. Woodard’s documentary was on black widow spiders and he was using his parents’ garage as part of his set. According to Woodard, black widow venom, drop for drop, is the most poisonous of any creature on the planet.
AS CRIME SPREES GO, THIS WAS PATHETIC. AND, ANNOYING — Three Newhall youths (and local G-man Pat Comey was not one of them as Pat was a pasty newly born) were arrested for stealing 20 gas tank caps from various vehicles along San Fernando Road.
NOW THIS IS WHAT YOU CALL MOVIES — How’s THIS for a double John Wayne bill at the American Theatre big screen — “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” and “Fort Apache.” I’ve gotta tell you saddlepals. A tear trickles down my cheek as I recall when Henry Fonda tells the three sergeants they have to destroy a couple of 55-gallon barrels of cheap whiskey. Oscar-winning actor Victor Andrew de Bier Everleigh McLaglan solemnly raises a tiny tin cup and announces: “Well, boys, we’ve a man’s work ahead of us this day…”
JULY 24, 1961
HONOR FOR JOURNALISTS IS OFTEN SHORT-LIVED — Signal Editor Fred Trueblood, who had recently died, had a roadside park named after him in Castaic. A scant couple years later, the park was torn down when Highway 99 was widened. Today? It’s a Caltrans storage yard, right by the Parker Road overpass.
WISH ALL CONFRONTATIONS ENDED THIS WAY — Two bank robbers, who had escaped with $24,000 in cash in a blazing gun battle in Fresno, were captured by two local highway patrolmen. Despite the fact the bad guys had a car full of loot and ordinance, including two sawed-off shotguns, they gave up without incident in Canyon Country.
HIS SON, THE DREADED FRED TRUEBLOOD III, TAKES AFTER HIS DAD — In his Signal Tower column, Editor Fred Trueblood II recalled being a boy and going to a local park concert with friends. The lads brought a bag of lemons with them and sat themselves in front of the trombone player and sucked on those lemons until the musician could play no more. Gotta remember that for the Concerts in the Park series…
BACK WHEN THERE WERE MORE COWBOYS THAN BAPTISTS — The old Happy Jack Ranch in Placerita Canyon was undergoing a drastic change. The Los Angeles Baptist College was getting their new campus ready for their first fall semester. Tuition was $180 per semester for those first 100 students, with housing $280. Medical and activities fees were just $30. Forty percent of the students were married, too. John Dunkin Sr. was the first dean. (His son, John Jr., was my best friend in 9th grade; and, John’s nephew would one day be Mike Penberthy, of the L.A. Lakers.) Today, LABC is called The Master’s College.
JULY 24, 1971
BACK WHEN POLLS MEANT SOMETHING — A survey at Hart High, taken of 338 students, showed the ASB overwhelmingly approved a dress code that would allow see-through blouses and no brassieres for the girls. Footnote. Most of the girls said they wanted the right to NOT wear bras but wouldn’t necessarily do so. Most of the boys said they wanted to wear beards to school. Well. Them what could grow ’em.
HAPPY HALF-CENTURY, VGP — Fifty years ago this week, Valencia Glen Park opened. Seems like yesterday.
AND, BY CENTURY’S END, IT’LL COST A BILLION DOLLARS A MONTH TO LIVE HERE — Almost darn overnight, house rentals in the SCV went from about $90 a month to about $250.
JULY 24, 1981
LOCAL HART BOY MAKES GOOD. BUT… — alas, it was out of state. Jim Lewis, class of 1961, was elected to the Washington state House of Representatives.
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT DAYS OF DISCO — At the old Saugus nightspot, the Genesis Club, management put in one of those automated bull bucking machines. This was when the nation’s and the SCV’s yuppies were going through the pretend-cowboy phase…
YUP. SHE SANG ‘COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER’ — Loretta Lynn held a concert at Magic Mountain. They packed the place with about 50,000 folks. Loretta caused quite the traffic jam, with freeway traffic backed up for miles.
That was plain fun and then some, but drat. Why is it we always have to come back to the hummdrummia of the here-&-now? Well. You philosophers and brain scientists in the pack go figure it out and come back in seven days with an answer. Appreciate you, dear friends and neighbors. 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 books at bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, wouldn’t mind at all if you left a kind 5-star review.