We add a new and dear friend this week, riding up front. Pat Arman magically became history. We’ve been friends for more than half a century and I shall continue to enjoy hearing his wonderful stories, history and lore. The guy is — not was — simply Good Darn Medicine. I’ve decided to keep him.
Don’t be fooled by Pat’s infectious smile. His understanding of the Second Amendment is most panoramic, so don’t get too close.
Well. C’mon. Mount up. We’ve some absolutely wonderful SCV stories to investigate.
Shall we mosey into the mystic?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
NOT THAT KIND OF SPIT — Happy Birthday to our pals in Saugus. The town was founded on Sept. 1, 1887. Same day the Castaic Train Depot was dedicated, too. Local Saugusians named their village and surrounding ranchland after Saugus, Massachusetts — birthplace of mover, shaker and owner of most of the SCV, Henry Mayo Newhall. Saugus back east was settled way, way back in 1629 and founded as a town in 1815. The word, “Saugus,” comes from the Algonquin word to describe a wide plain, beach or sandy spit, as the one north of Boston. “Saugus” in Algonquin also carries the simple meaning of “great.”
MISSION, IMPOSSIBLE — On Sept. 3, 1798, Father Vincente de Santa Maria issued a recommendation to Holy Mother Church. It was basically a coin flip between the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys, which would get their own mission. The SFV won and Padre Vince recommended the SFV over us. We’d end up being a satellite of the SF mission, but had our own asistencia, a sort of junior varsity mission.
THE LODGE GUY — On Sept. 4, 1867, little did Harald Sandberg realize that he would be building a future historic inn and hunting lodge. Why? Because Harald was at the moment being born in Norway. High up in the Tehachapis, Sandberg’s resort would become famous all over the west and home to all manner of adventures, from the capture of our only known serial killer (Richard John Jensen) to a secret gambling resort.
GOLD ON THE RAILS — On Sept. 5, 1876, millionaire banker Charles Crocker hit an allegedly solid silver hammer into an allegedly solid gold spike at the dedication linking Northern and Southern California together at Lang Station in upper Canyon Country. No need to look. They pried the gold spike out and replaced it with one of those ugly ones.
AND AN ALL-AROUND GOOD COWBOY — Beloved character actor and award-winning performer Richard Farnsworth was born Sept. 1, 1920, in Los Angeles. He’s enshrined in the Newhall Walk of Western Stars and filmed many movies and Westerns here. Farnsworth worked for 30 years as a stuntman. He started quite late in life acting and won Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for “Comes a Horseman” (one of my all-time favorites!). Despite being a rootin’ tootin’ cowpoke all his life, he was conservative and didn’t like swearing. In fact, when asked by Roger Ebert what was his proudest accomplishment in Hollywood, Richard answered that in more than 60 films, he never uttered a cuss word. Suffering with extreme pain from terminal cancer, he took his own life via a handgun on Oct. 6, 2000, in New Mexico. He was enshrined on the Newhall Walk of Western Stars in 2000.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1921
THE SUMMER OF FIRES — The year 1921 wreaked a tortuous and hot havoc on the SCV. A passing tourist was seen flicking a match from a moving car roaring through Placerita Canyon, near the Walker Ranch. It started a 500-acre blaze, one of many a century ago.
NARY A HORSE OR COW AROUND — William S. Hart was one of the most famous people on the entire planet, known for his Shakespearean and realistic cowboy roles. But in “The Whistle,” Hart plays a blue-collar worker, bent on revenge against a complicated factory owner whose lax safety standards cause Hart’s son to die in an industrial accident. It was one of the few times Hart was in a movie with nary a horse and one of the rare films he’s in street clothes. Our Newhall star earned critical reviews for his performance in “The Whistle.” While it was released in April 1921, it opened at the Cody Theatre in San Fernando on this date, a century ago. While there’s no longer a Cody over the hill, you can catch the entire film on YouTube. It was directed by Hart’s friend and his frequent director, Lambert Hillyer. Hillyer was supposed to direct Hart’s only “talkie” in 1929. The movie was to be shot in Hart’s boyhood home of Montana, but, the film was never made. Hillyer came within a pinch of immortality. Shooting a staggering 106 feature Westerns in his life, he was the second all-time most prolific Western director. The all-time most prolific oater filmmaker was Lesley Selander. He shot 107 Westerns….
SEPTEMBER 4, 1931
TEN YEARS LATER, MORE FIRES — The Newhall Land & Farming Co. lost 7 acres of shrubbery to a brush fire. It had just dropped a record August rain of nearly 3 inches the day before, too.
FIFTY TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE? — Yup. Prices kept falling locally during the Great Depression. The Newhall Bakery lowered their asking price for bread — two 24-ounce loaves for just 15 cents.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1941
GETTING READY FOR THE BIG WAR — World War II was in full bloom in Europe and the Pacific. America’s involvement was right around the corner. On this date, the Civilian Air Defense formed a mounted posse unit in the Santa Clarita Valley. Their first job was to look for suspicious airplanes.
YUP. MORE HUNTING ACCIDENTS —Ruby Boncquet had to have several shotgun pellets removed from her legs and, ahem, turn the children riders away for a moment — derrière. Ms. Boncquet’s companion was cleaning his not-so empty gun when it went off and hit his loved one in the south side. Same day, Fred Tellerbach shot off his index and middle fingers. How DO these people manage to wrap their hands around the business end of rifles?
I’M LOBBYING FOR A COMMONSENSE TEST FOR VOTING AND HUNTING — Dove hunting season arrived and some bird hunters were blamed for poor aim. They blew out a glass telephone line insulator on which some winged faunas were perched. We lost national phone service for a while.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1951
LIPS THAT TOUCH PIG LIVER SHALL NOT TOUCH MINE — This could be used to quell some of those riots at Peter Pitchess Maximum Security prison (called Wayside Honor Rancho in ’51). Trying to find tasty but really cheap meals sometimes presented a problem for the chefs at Wayside. On this date, 40 of the 700 inmates became sick after eating pig liver. The Sheriff’s Department had purchased 3,000 pounds of the stuff to feed to the inmates. Talk about crime deterrents. All the inmates went on a short-lived hunger strike to protest the 1.5 tons of roast Porky Pig. As a sign of good will, the sheriffs cooked a gourmet meal of roast leg of spring lamb and had the inmates bury the remaining tonnage of liver somewhere on the rancho. How’d you like the remnants of THAT swimming in your ground water?
ADIOS, DEAR WILBUR — Wilbur Hawley died on this date. He was famous for opening the Hawley Drug Store on the corner of Market and San Fernando Road in the 1920s. He sold his business in 1940 to the Smidts (it would later become the Newhall Pharmacy) and retired to his Placerita Canyon ranch.
SPOILED. GUESS IT’S NOTHING NEW. — The American Theatre was showing the first-run oater, “Cattle Drive,” on this date. It starred Joel McCrea, who, by the way, was William S. Hart’s paperboy when Hart lived in L.A. The movie’s about McCrea rescuing the son of a wealthy railroad owner in the wilderness, then teaching the brat character (played by young actor Dean Stockwell) along a cattle drive. This was Stockwell’s last film as a child star and he wouldn’t act again for another five years.
AS, IDEALLY, IT SHOULD BE — The 1951 want ads of The Mighty Signal had more classifieds for weapons and livestock than it did for cars.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1961
CAMPTON’S HISTORIC STORE BURNS — We had not had a fire in Downtown Newhall since 1927 when the old Chaix grocery store burned down at 8th and San Fernando Road. On this date, the old building that used to house the famous Campton general store burned to the ground. Campton’s had originally been built in Saugus in 1876 and was called Campton’s Market. Two years later it moved into Newhall and held the big bold logo of just, “George Campton,” after the owner. Campton’s faced Railroad Avenue (or Main Street, the main drag through Newhall, at 8th Street.). In 1914, it was moved back to face Spruce Street (today, Newhall Avenue and a new face was put on it. After George C. got out of the general store and post office business, several other establishments used his building. They were: Bricker’s Radio Shop, McIntyre Gift Shop, The People’s Market; M&N Market, a butcher shop, then, finally, Hilburn’s Funeral Parlor. Campton’s old wooden building sat between Newhall Liquor & Deli and the John & Leon Meat Market, where the fire had started. A lot of businesses around town have that famous picture of Campton’s in their establishments today.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1971
“HEY! IT’S FOR YOU!” “ME?” “NO. THE OTHER YOU!!” — Progress outstripped people in the new Venture Homes tract. Folks moved into their brand-new homes, then discovered there wasn’t any telephone wiring. Many of the new residents had to wait three months before getting connected. Get this. Trying to help the frustrating comedy, Pacific Bell installed a pay phone in the middle of the housing tract that had to be shared by all the neighbors.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1981
WHEN NATURE CALLS, NATURE CALLS — Alejandra Villafana stopped north of Castaic to relieve herself in the shrubbery off Interstate 5. For some reason, she brought along a .22 caliber revolver. Ms. Villafana began a single deep knee bend behind some highway flora and lowered her britches. That is when, of course, the revolver was no longer secured by the miracle of the elastic waistband. The gun hit the ground. It discharged, sending a bullet into her, ahem, most upper thigh. She finished her business, then drove herself to the hospital.
Well. That spinning bright vortex a smidge beyond yonder? That’s our exit to present-day Santa Clarita. Check your pockets and saddlebags, especially if you were riding next to Arman. See you in seven back here at the hitching post of The Mighty Signal for another exciting ride into SCV history. Until then — vayan con Dios amigos!
Shooting for a Sept. 15 launch of John Boston’s very own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first is a three-volume set, “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…?