We’ve added a permanent trail rider to this weekend’s posse. Let’s all tip our Stetsons to a dear pal, Adele “More Than Swell” Macpherson. She made her transition this week. Adele had that patented English accent that never seemed to get watered down. I remember interviewing her on the radio years ago when she worked for the city. We were talking about a growing problem of graffiti and she shared about how the city dealt with “tigers.”
I was stunned and confessed in all my years exploring the canyons, I had never seen the striped lord vicious man-eater of India. We spent the next 10 minutes trying to teach her that the word, “taggers” did not have a lower-case “I” in it. Cripes Adele was, or rather still is, just a peach of a soul. She made the SCV just plain kinder and special.
If you’re the strong, silent type and hate friendship, humor and conversation, don’t ride next to Adele. She’ll grow on you.
Hope your collective backsides are all cured and comfy from last week’s trail ride through time.
This week, we’ll be lending a hand to silent film superstar, Bill Hart. Poor cowpoke got knocked clean unconscious — and not in the movies, either.
We’ll shake our heads tsk-tsk style at two of the most dang dumbest and willful firebugs in history. And there’s your usual plate of varmints, brigands, crooks, sickos and politicians to visit.
Well. Time to head out. If you’re confused about your gender, pick from either “cowboy up” or “cowgirl up” and hop in the saddle. That’s our vortex trail ahead…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
A BIG DAY IN OIL HISTORY — Back on Aug. 14, 1875, Charles Mentry of later Mentryville fame began drilling for oil in Pico Canyon. He’d hit it big time, creating one of the most successful oil fields in all of California and America.
SERIOUS BLING — The biggest recorded gold nugget ever found in this area was plucked from Santa Feliciana Canyon on Aug. 15, 1849. It weighed 8 pounds. That’d make a heck of a paperweight or hood ornament. Sadly, we’re just a bunch of mere pikers when it comes to the world’s biggest gold nugget. It was taken from the Sierra Pelada (Naked Mountain, snicker…) in Brazil’s state of Para. Sitting down? That single nugget weighed a staggering 134 pounds, about 115 pounds of that pure gold.
AUGUST 21, 1921
WAREHOUSE? THERE HOUSE. — On this date, Fred Lamkin finished his big warehouse on Railroad Avenue. It would hold everything from oil to furniture. The feds used it as a storage unit for holding evidence of all the moonshine and stills they busted in the area. Constable Jack Pilcher once was disposing of evidence — some chemicals to make sour mash — and got the harsh stuff all over his thick rubber boots. The goop ate through the boots and into Jack’s flesh. He was laid up for nearly a half-year recuperating.
AUGUST 21, 1931
BAD LUCK FOLLOWED THOSE PILCHER MEN —Jack Pilcher, nationally renowned Newhall lawman, was accidentally shot between the eyes by his partner in 1925. Darn freak accident. Pilcher and his partner were up Bouquet Canyon in a cabin, following up on a robbery call. From opposite sides, they both looked under a bed at the same time. A small-caliber pistol fell from the partner’s SHIRT pocket, went off and killed poor Jack instantly. A year later, Jack’s son died in a freak accident up Pico Canyon when he fell off a large wooden ladder leaning against a flagpole. The pole cracked. Jack Jr. fell and was impaled on the jagged flagpole stake. Jack’s brother, Marvin? He died 90 years ago on this date of tuberculosis.
AUGUST 21, 1941
HART ATTACK — On this date, retired silent film star William S. Hart was knocked clean out — by his dogs. Hart owned a pair of huge Harlequin Great Danes. The pair playfully both jumped up on the elderly man, knocking him down. Hart landed on his head and was unconscious for a while. Except for a few scrapes, he recovered with a headache.
CONNECTED FIRE BUGS — Two women — Mrs. Florence Herzig and Mrs. Mary Miller, motored out to the Lake Hughes area for a little picnicking and ended up in jail. The pair were caught on the side of the road, lighting firecrackers and throwing them into the summer dry grass near several buildings. After they refused to show up at court, a warrant was issued. The women pleaded poverty to $50 fines. The fines were lowered to $10 and the women said they still couldn’t pay them and took the five days in jail instead. The story hit all the Los Angeles papers when a wealthy matron showed up at the local courthouse, calling the judge every name in the book and accusing the jurist of violating their constitutional rights. She paid the two firebugs’ bail. Local law enforcement, forest service and fire officials were rather livid and felt the two women (who were described as “rather good-looking”) ought to at least hang for purposefully trying to start a forest fire in one of the driest regions of Los Angeles County.
JUSTICE IS BLIND. AND STUPID. — You can understand how our civil servants would have been upset with letting the firebugs go with a slap on the wrist. Get this. Two hunters were arrested by game wardens during the first week of deer season. They had each shot fawns and were fined $150 each.
PANTS. RIFLE. WHO CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE DARK? — Antonio Brutti was well-armed and ready for deer season. All he got was a hole in his hand. Brutti was camping in upper Saugus and, early next morning, reached for what he thought were his pants. He somehow managed to grab his loaded rifle by the barrel instead, somehow managed to pull the trigger and ended up aerating his mitt, big time. Hmmm. Think ol’ Antonio could have used some flash cards on the difference between a cold, skinny, metal rifle barrel and a pair of dungarees…
AUGUST 16, 1947
YOU KNOW WHAT I MISS SAYING? — Happy darn birthday to our pals at Newhall Hardware in old Downtown Newhall. This week would have marked their 74th anniversary — had they not gone out of business. If you ever needed ANYTHING, it was hiding in one of those ancient bins there. It closed its doors for the last time on March 16, 2008. Same week I left The Signal for the umpteenth time…
AUGUST 21, 1951
DODGING A KITCHEN DEATH — Here’s an odd kitchen accident for you. Mrs. Jeanette Wood was cooking dinner when she pulled down two cans of freshly packed tomatoes. The preserves had gotten too hot and exploded. Shards of glass were embedded everywhere. Mrs. Wood got off with minor burns and cuts and considered herself lucky. When she came home, there were several chunks of glass stuck an inch deep in the wood ceiling.
FUNNY HOW LIVES CHANGE DRASTICALLY — Only after death did the community learn about the early years of one of their town characters, a recluse named “Mac” McMasters, who lived in a self-made lean-to cabin near Forrest Park. The area was called Troutmen’s Tract back then. His last 20 years, McMasters was known as a friendly but tight-lipped hermit, who eked out a meager living. Authorities going through his papers after his last and final visitor — death — found that Mac had graduated from Yale, did post-graduate work at Stanford, was a hero during World War I, and married a French girl. What led him to his final 32 years as a hermit was anyone’s guess…
RE: FORREST PARK — Is another one of our ancient typos. The place was originally called For Rest Park. But a sign painter in the 1930s didn’t read his instructions carefully and accidentally painted the big WELCOME TO sign to Forest Park. Cartographers tried to help by changing it to FORREST PARK. Still. An error’s an error…
A TOUGH OLD TRAIN TRAVELER — A hobo approaching middle age (I say that cuz we’re the same age) fell off a freight train north of Lang in upper Canyon Country. A jolt of the train braking sent Grant Gobler, 71, under the wheels of the flatbed and cut his hand off at the wrist. Gobler was able to walk a half-mile with a severed limb to get help.
AUGUST 21, 1961
UH, I’M SORRY. BUT MAY I SEE THE VEGAN MENU PLEASE? — Bill Gulley, a beloved long-time resident and community supporter, passed away on this date, 60 years back. Bill was the head chef at Wayside Honor Rancho for many a year. He was on duty when Wayside accidentally served some poisoned pig livers to several inmates, sending about 40 of them to the infirmary. What a way to make the nation’s papers…
AUGUST 21, 1971
LOW-LIFE SLIME BUCKET — A ghoul wandered through the Ruby Creek campground and slaughtered the sleeping pet of two teenage boys. A man described as about 30 snuck into the tented area and shot a dog sleeping outside their tent. One of his bullets ricocheted into the sleeping bag, hitting a 13-year-old in the leg. Fish & Game officers noted that such human vermin would wander the local woods, looking for coyotes, raccoons, skunks or possums and that this person might have mistaken the dog for a coyote. The dog, a Doberman, had to suffer for nearly an hour before authorities could be summoned. In a similar incident about 30 years earlier, two other boys were out camping with their dog. Someone shot the dog and a boy, but in that previous case, the boy died.
OLD TESTAMENT FLOODS NO MORE — On this date, the Army Corps of Engineers came up with a master plan to protect the valley from El Niño flooding. The Engineers’ epic plan consisted of a series of channels — some cement, some earthen — that would channel previously crippling floodwaters through the Santa Clara River and out to sea.
AUGUST 21, 1981
LONG LIVE OUR COWBOY HEROES — On this date, some local community activists — Jo Anne Darcy, Cliffie Stone, Judi Martin, Jay Miller and Milt “Uncle Miltie” Diamond — announced that Downtown Newhall would have its own cowboy version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Originally called the “Cowboy Celebrity Stampede,” the group planned to enshrine historic Western figures via bronze saddles in the sidewalks of San Fernando Road’s business district. Who were the first three to be honored? Tom Mix, Bill Hart and Gene Autry. Today, that area is dubbed Newhall’s Walk of Western Stars. I sure hope and pray that before the event finally closes, the city enshrines the one person who so deserves being on the Walk of Western Stars. That would be the area’s first real cowboy poet, lawman, forest ranger, Signal editor, stage impresario and creator of the SCV’s first community theater — Thornton Doelle. They say we never truly die until the last person forgets our name. Doelle was one of the most interesting, humble, creative and important souls to ever live here.
You darn lovely people. Thanks mucho. Appreciate the company. As you may note by the subtle twitching of your ponies’ ears, the impossible brightness of yon spinning vortex letting us re-enter 2021, August-ish, and the big, sucking vortex sounds, we’re back home. Make of that what you will. See you in seven, dear, friends 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…?