Here we are, smack dab in the midst of the dog days. I can think of no better way to escape the Planet Mercury-like temperatures than a leisurely mosey through the cooler climes of Santa Clarita yesteryear.
C’mon. I’ve set aside several thousand tried and tested mounts, especially matched in temperament for each of you. As my dopey sister-like substance Leslie Ann’s kids liked to dryly say — “Hey Mom. Show us where the dirt used to be…”
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
THE VALLEY WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME — Gaspar de Portola was the first recorded white person to enter the Santa Clarita Valley and the Spaniard (from Valencia, Spain!) entered the SCV through the Newhall Pass on Aug. 8, 1769. Portola was with a large expedition of soldiers, padres and support staff. He’d camp out at present-day Castaic for several days en route to map locations for future Spanish/Catholic missions.
THE GUY WAS A SMIDGE LAND HUNGRY — Abraham Lincoln refused to ratify Edward Fitzgerald Beale as the country’s surveyor general, noting, the general “… tends to become master of all he surveys.” On Aug. 8, 1855, Beale purchased the huge Rancho La Liebre just north of here for a few pennies an acre.
OH, CLARE! — Ever wondered where our name of Santa Clarita came from? On Aug. 10, 1769, while camped out in Castaic with explorer Gaspar de Portola, Father Juan Crespi named the major river running through this valley the St. Clare after the feast day for that saint.
MEANS “BADGER” — Fort Tejon was established on Aug. 10, 1854.
YOU COULDN’T AFFORD IT TODAY — The Del Valle family ended their long stay on their beautiful rancho. On Aug. 10, 1924, Reginald del Valle sold the Rancho Camulos.
TIBBY WAS A ONE-MAN E-HARMONY — Happy birthday to our famed outlaw, Tiburcio Vasquez. He was born on Aug. 11, 1835, in Monterey. (His house is still there, too!) The womanizing bandit was a Leo, a birth sign known as wanting to be the center of attention and dominant. They hate being ignored and want to lead as opposed to follow. That’s our Tibby.
ANOTHER BIRTHDAY — Aug. 12, 1871, the Elizabeth Lake School District was formed.
AND ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY — Same day, five years later in 1876, the first train ever roared through the brand-new Newhall Train Tunnel — one of the longest in the world.
AUGUST 14, 1921
THE PADRES, HARD AT WORK — Signal Editor Thornton Doelle noted that there used to be a private dance hall up near Beale’s Cut — built, paid for, and run by the local padres from the local Estancia de San Francisco Xavier, the outpost for the San Fernando Mission here in Santa Clarita. The illegal Catholic-run night club was up at what was then called, “The Narrows.”
KING’S BIG BUS — King Collins sold his Newhall Bus service on this date. King became a local sheriff and Henry Mangold took on the livery business. The crown jewel in the taxi service was a nine-passenger Packard.
AUGUST 14, 1931
FIRE & FLOOD, THE SAME DARN WEEK — A large brush fire burned 2,500 acres in the Bouquet and Spunky canyons area. A few days later, a rare early August thunderstorm dumped several inches of rain, flooding San Francisquito Canyon.
THOSE LITTLE MODERN MIRACLES WE TAKE FOR GRANTED — Southern California Gas Co. was touting something not exactly new, but new to Newhall. SoCal Gas was pushing a new line of hot water heaters, the miracle of which was that “heated water comes right out of your faucet. There is nothing to light, nothing to wait for, nothing to watch. Hot water is ready, waiting, any time you want it.”
AUGUST 14, 1941
AS ZZ TOP ALWAYS SEZ: ’CAUSE EVERY GIRL CRAZY ’BOUT A SHARP-DRESSED MAN — Newhall Land & Farming heir Peter McBean was voted one of the 10 best dressed men in San Francisco on this date. They would later name McBean Parkway after his dad, the SCV’s most influential person in our history, Atholl McBean.
THAT’S A SERIOUS BUNCH O’ VENISON — Deer season opened on this date, 80 years back. Some 3,900 registered hunters reported taking 228 bucks the first weekend. The hills were alive with gunfire and dead with deer. Frank Vasquez of Val Verde had the biggest buck, tipping the scales at 215 pounds.
ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE HORROR STORIES — The two young sons of Helsie Melter got a whipping for their enterprise. Mrs. Melter’s sons had been warned about chewing gum and getting it stuck on things. So, Mrs. M cut off their supply. The owner of a local Canyon Country cafe called the Sand Canyon mother and said he had captured the lads in the act of stealing gum and chewing it — from the bottom of the coffee shop stools. I mean, yick.
I’M PRETTY SURE WE DON’T SELL THESE AT THE FRONT DESK ANYMORE — Eighty years back, The Mighty Signal earned a small but comfortable and regular stipend, selling “NO HUNTING” signs. I guess there’s no need to post those on the townhouses and condos. Probably against some HOA rule, I’m guessing…
AUGUST 14, 1951
ELBOW TO ELBOW WITH AMMO — Dawn was greeted by gunfire from some 17,000 hunters on opening day of deer season in the SCV. First weekend, the hunters managed to down 168 bucks. Fish & Game also released the hunter mortality stats from 1950 the same week. Year before, 19 men were killed in hunting accidents, with 54 seriously injured.
OUR FIRST SKYSCRAPER — Folks were shaking their heads in wonder at the construction on Newhall Avenue. The epic foundation and framework for the new Henry Mayo Newhall Auditorium (today, wrongly called the Hart High Auditorium) was growing skyward. The great brick theater would be the cultural center for the entire SCV for decades.
THE FATAL SPORT — The Mighty Signal released its death causes for the previous year of 1950. A total of just 19 people died in the SCV in 1950. Gun accidents topped the list with eight killed and 54 seriously wounded.
AUGUST 14, 1961
A LITTLE CATHOLIC HISTORY — On this Sunday, 60 years back, Our Lady of Perpetual Help held their first services in the new parish and church on Lyons Avenue. For those of you Catholics who are reading this column and are not presently nor have been in church this morning, that’ll be three Our Fathers, 10 Hail Marys and a whole lot of push-ups. By the way. Our Lady Of Perpetual Help parish was founded on Jan. 17, 1915. Priests from Mission San Fernando would come up to hold services — some of them in the old Saugus train depot.
THE STORMS OF SUMMER — A lightning storm struck the SCV, knocking out 15 SoCal Edison transformers and damaging lots of phone equipment. According to one customer, his phone rang every time lightning flickered.
SHOULDA BEEN NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR — “Snow White & The Three Stooges” was the premier flick at the American Theater. Woob-woob. Woob-woob-woob-woob…
AUGUST 14, 1971
DOG WALKS WOMAN. FATALLY. — It was one of the strangest highway fatalities on record, certainly the strangest one involving a dog. Jan Schurr of North Hollywood had pulled off Sierra Highway. A good Samaritan had noticed her erratic driving and pulled in behind her to offer assistance. When asked if she was having trouble, Mrs. Schurr told the unidentified motorist, “Yes. I’m drunk.” She had a full-grown Great Dane with her and excused herself to crawl down an embankment to relieve herself. Her leashed dog helped her climb back up the incline, then continued to cross the road, dragging her behind him. She was hit by a semi doing about 50 mph and was killed instantly. The dog survived without injuries.
ONE LAST SHOVEL — On this date, the very last load of fill dirt was added to the top of the dam of Southern California’s largest man-made lake — Castaic. Ruben Schwab was the driver of the mega dump truck. Engineers and dignitaries added nickels, dimes and quarters to the load and the press snapped pictures. The throwing of money onto the dam was the idea of engineer, Ake Jaskar, who explained it was a custom in dam building in Asia. That last trip was the culmination of more than one million dump truck loads that raised the dam to its 425-foot height. Eventually, Castaic would have 34 miles of shoreline and would suck in water from the Feather River about 550 miles away.
CANYON COUNTRY’S SISTER CITY: THE MOON — Here’s some extreme trivia for you. The moon (ours) may have come from Canyon Country. Visiting scientists noted that the Soledad Canyon area was rich in the rare mineral, anorthosite, which is also found on the moon. The mineral — called “Genesis Rock” because it formed part of the Earth’s and moon’s ancient crusts — was discovered in near 100% purity near present day Sand Canyon and Highway 14. Anorthosite is more commonly known as plagioclase, a snow-white mineral that almost glows in daylight. It was a stretch, but the visiting rock doctors from UCLA thought there was a halfway decent chance that 4.6 billion years ago, when the moon broke away from the Earth, it came from the northern part of the SCV. How about that for ancient history?
AUGUST 14, 1981
WORLD RECORD BREAKERS — Two local men — Geoff Bertoldo of Newhall and Kent Tarver of Canyon Country — made the Guinness Book of World Records. The pair circumnavigated part of the perimeter of America, starting in Boston and landing in the little San Fernando Airport. They logged about 5,000 miles in 14 days. They flew a single-prop Cessna. What made it worthy of GBWR is the pair set a record for flying the greatest distance while pulling a 200-foot-long banner. The banner was so huge, the boys had to use a second plane and an elaborate hook set-up where they flew low and yanked the banner off the ground. They beat the old record of 800 miles. You’re probably wondering what exactly was ON the banner — it was a promotion for the film, “Beatlemania.” FYI, the flight wasn’t continuous. The boys barn-hopped along America.
STATE CAN DO IT. YOU CAN’T. — Local authorities rained on Bob Morris’ parade. Well. Actually, his house. Morris’ modest Canyon Country abode had been on the market for over a year. No takers. So, Morris came up with the idea of raffling off his home. Morris tried to print 1,250 tickets and sell them at $100 per. Winner gets his house. Problem was, the law said Morris was holding an illegal raffle and would be arrested if he went through with his idea. Couldn’t tell you if Bob has sold his house yet…
TOO GOUGY — At these prices, who could afford a car? Tom Carrell Chevrolet was offering “SPECIAL!” 13.8% GMAC financing. Ouch.
Well. Up yonder, that glowing and spinning vortex? That’s our offramp to the here and now of present-day Santa Clarita. Sure appreciate the company, dear Time Ranger saddlepals. See you back here in seven at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post 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 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…?