As we’ve been sometimes accused of providing imaginary horses for an imaginary trail ride, please let me share an imaginary letter to The Time Ranger from one long-time Newhall resident, Chris P. Bacon.
Dear Mr. Ranger:
How long does it take you to saddle up tens of thousands of horses each weekend for The Mighty Signal’s history trek? And what does a guy have to do to get a subscription, gift or otherwise, around here?
Chris (a guy and long-time TR fan!)
Well, Chris. First, just click on this link: https://signalscv.com/subscribe/.
To your first query, all the horses are on the honor system and saddle themselves. Sans opposable thumbs, we’re currently ironing out the kinks in trying to teach them how to brush and comb themselves. As for getting them to wait patiently in parade formation while sleepy yuppies and hungover grizzled old-timers stumble down from condos and hay lofts, it’s all done by good old-fashioned cowboy eye contact and eyebrow wiggle.
Shall we? Mosey into the mystic?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
YOUR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT FOR THIS WEEK — The Tataviams had an interesting way to tell in September if a wet winter was coming. They monitored the smaller burrowing creatures and rodents. If they dug their dens higher, rain was coming.
OIL PERT NEAR FOREVER — Just a couple of weeks before the founding of the town of Newhall, oil erupted up Pico Canyon in future Mentryville. On Sept. 26, Pico No. 4 exploded with petroleum, becoming the first commercially productive oil well west of the Mississippi. It would steadily pump black gold for more than a century. With gas prices skyrocketing, wouldn’t be surprised if they opened it up again someday…
PRE-NEWHALL NEWHALL — Back on Sept. 24, 1855, twin brothers from Maine, Sanford and his gunfighting brother Cyrus, bought the old Wiley stagecoach station near where present-day Eternal Valley sits today. That little corner was the first unofficial spot of “Newhall” before there was a “Newhall,” which was founded in 1878. Right around that time, the few buildings around that original depot just up and moved into — well — Newhall…
HAPPY DARN BIRTHDAY, ORVON! — On Sept. 29, 1907, Orvon Grover Autry was born in the 1.2-square-mile town of Tioga, Texas. From humble beginnings as a Methodist minister’s son and cowboy, Orvon got a job working in a telegraph office in Oklahoma. To pass the long hours, he’d sing and play guitar. A customer came in and suggested Orvon find a wider audience. The customer? Will Rogers. Orvon would go on to make nearly 100 movies from 1934 to 1954, have his own TV show, become one of the most famous people on the planet, be Barry Goldwater’s co-pilot in World War II, own the Angels Major League Baseball team, Melody Ranch and become a billionaire. You saddlepals can call him, “Gene.”
GENE, II — I’m just throwing this in because it’s so strange that it’s eerie when I think about it, but, by happenstance, I’ve met both Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and had the absolute nicest conversations with them.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1921
DAS SCHMUCK RUN AMUCK — A prison gang of highway workers had camped out here, concreting a few patches of roads that used to be dirt. Leader of the gang? A county manager named A.W. Schmuck. Ain’t kiddin’…
PICO CANYON DOUGHNUT KING — Anthony C. Cochem died at his home in West Newhall. He was noted for starting the Mentryville Bakery. You can still see a sign (or re-creation?) up at the park at the end of Pico Canyon. The bakery did a booming business for a while, but competition from bread makers in Newhall and Saugus forced Cochem to find another line of work. He went from flour to oil, working for Standard.
ASK FOR ONE AT SUPERCUTS & YOU MIGHT GET ARRESTED — Or slapped. The Newhall Barber Shop, besides shaves and haircuts, offered hot baths. Bonus? Fresh water for each customer.
CRIPES THERE’S A PUNCHLINE & WE’RE GONNA AVOID IT — Over the hill at Cody’s Theatre in San Fernando, Mabel Normand was playing in “Tillie’s Punctured Romance.”
SEPTEMBER 25, 1931
20TH CENTURY FOX — Art Schleicher bought the Wildwood Fox Farm (up Wildwood Canyon) on this date from W.S. Lockwood. Schleicher brought in about 100 foxes to breed, adding to Lockwood’s total. Schleicher made coats of the little critters.
IT’S A GAS GAS GAS — Gasoline in the SCV was just 11 cents a gallon in 1931. If I took my truck instead of my horse through the time portal, I could have filled it up for less than three bucks…
NOPE. DIDN’T RIDE CROWS. RODE HORSES. — Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Randall opened up the Black Crow riding academy on this date.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1941
GRACIAS, BILL — Silent film star William S. Hart added The American Theater to his many gifts. Besides donating the land and construction cost, he added a big marquee sign and a parking lot.
SHAKE & BAKE — On a fairly hot day, we had a pretty good little earthquake rattle the Santa Clarita. Windows rattled and things fell off shelves. Two workers who were having lunch in their car thought the wind was blowing until they noticed the trees and car were shaking, not waving.
UH, ONLY IN AUDIO — Locals were glued to their radio sets. Former Highway Patrol officer turned actor Thornton Edwards was doing a re-creation of the St. Francis Dam Disaster on the program, “I Was There.” Edwards was the motorcycle officer who warned residents of Fillmore and Santa Paula of the impending wall of water coming at them in 1928 from the breaking of the St. Francis Dam.
THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME — Forestry agent Harmon Schwoob was murdered on this date. He had tried to arrest a fleeing hunter who shot a doe in the neighboring mountains. Howard McMillen, a Long Beach oil worker, when cornered, turned his rifle on Schwoob, killing him instantly. McMillen was then shot dead by another agent.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1951
AND, IF YOU’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE, WE MAKE A GREAT UNDERARM DEODORANT — Fred Trueblood wrote a delightful column 50 years back in his Signal Tower space on the front page. Trueblood waxed poetic about all the multiple uses of The Mighty Signal. Besides all the wonderful news, advertisements and opinions, Trueblood noted that your hometown paper was also great for, “…stuffing ratholes, …disciplining dogs, …starting fires, …spanking children, …making party hats and kites, (and) temporary floors for chicken coops.” You know, folks, it’s still a bargain…
WONDER WHO’D WIN IN A FIGHT? — The American Theater had an interesting double bill — “The Hometown Story” and, “The Hollywood Story.”
SEPTEMBER 25, 1961
THAT’S NOT EXACTLY A PASEO — For some odd reason, Salvatore van Bustos was walking down the middle of old Highway 99 at 1 in the morning. He was hit by a Peterbilt doing about 70 and there wasn’t much of poor Sal left to bury.
SORRY. YOU CAN’T PASS. — Hart High’s Dave Holden’s fall plans were interrupted. The Indians’ JV football coach was called up by the Air Force (ours) and had to serve with the 146th Air Transport Wing.
LUNDY THE LUTH — Local Lutherans were building the valley’s first Lutheran Church up Saugus way and welcomed their first pastor, Clarence Lund. Eeesh. I used to date his daughter, Carol. Peach of a gal.
THERE’S A SPANISH INQUISITION JOKE HERE, BUT WE’LL AVOID IT. — The 16th annual Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Barbecue went off perfectly. About 2,700 souls, many not Catholics, attended the festivities at shady Saxonia Park in Placerita Canyon. Saxonia used to be THE German-American gathering place prior to World War II, with thousands attending various beer fests here in Newhall.
SEPTEMBER 22, 1969
LEE SMELSER STARTED COACHING THERE WHEN HE WAS 6— If you see a Cougar — not the mountain lion or sexually aggressive middle-aged female vixen — wish him or her a happy anniversary. On this date, College of the Canyons was founded.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1971
WOULDN’T MIND IT BEING IN THE 70s UNTIL THE 23rd CENTURY — Locals were literally on their knees, thanking various deities for a break in the heat wave that had punished the valley for weeks. All of a sudden, a cold front moved in, dropping the temperatures from a high of 116 in Canyon Country to a rather comfortable 76 — a staggering 40-degree drop in two days.
THOSE POOR, MISUNDERSTOOD PANTHERS — Warren Dorn, our 5th District county supervisor, revealed he and his family had been the target of a kidnapping scheme. Police investigators reported that members of the Black Panthers had plotted to kidnap Dorn and his family so they could swap them for the release of militant and former UCLA philosophy professor, Angela Davis.
MALE. FEMALE. THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT’S STILL GONNA COST YOU AN EXTRA $1,100 — Here’s a first for you. Sandy was hired as the valley’s first woman car salesma… er, saleswoman. She worked for Canyon Ford (which would later become Magic Ford). “I don’t know much about cars,” said Sandy. “I’m learning. But no one seems to care, anyway.”
I SHALL AVOID ANY ‘WHERE’S CHESTER FURGESON WHEN YOU NEED HIM’ REFERENCES — The trial of former William S. Hart Unon High School District consultant Chester Furgeson began. He had been arrested for soliciting the murder of the superintendent of the Torrance school district. Furgeson was consulting for Torrance at the same time he was advising Hart. Seems Furgeson believed in aggressive management. He offered a hit man $5,000 to slit the throat of the Torrance super “…and bring me his head in a hat box.”
SEPTEMBER 25, 1981
YUPPIE WILDLIFE CORRIDOR — The controversy over turning the Calgrove/Valley Street route into a major highway is nothing new. On this date, 40 years back, about 100 residents of Happy Valley appeared at a special local meeting held by the county Planning Commission. Los Angeles County initially wanted to cut down 26 heritage oaks for the project and widen Valley to four lanes. Local PAC member, Andy Martin, voted to remove Valley from the master plan as a highway alternative and shortcut for yuppies — no offense to you yuppies who are currently atop a high mount joining us this morning.
Well saddlepals. From the looks of yon glowing light spectrum gate (the vortex is at the blacksmith’s, getting fixed) that’s our stop ahead. Santa Clarita Present. Thanks for the good company, the smiles and laughter. What say we meet back here at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure? Until then — vayan con Dios amigos!
Got the web site — johnbostonbooks.com — up and running. It’s still under construction, but we’re getting closer to Official Launch. First new offering 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…?