The Time Ranger | Dirigibles, Dirt Bags, Dynamite & Death by Towing

The Timer Ranger
Time Ranger

Well, you’re never going to hear me confide that this promises to be one eye-wateringly boring trailride into the yesteryear of SCV history. 

Tain’t. Gonna. Happen. 

We’ve got a pretty amazing trek into the back canyons of Santa Clarita history. 

And bonus? 

With the miracle of time travel, we’ll be back to catch all the NFL games, some errands and even a little bit of harmless shopping. 


Let’s mosey into the mystic, amigos… 


AMAZING COCKTAIL PARTY TRIVIA JUST FOR VOUS — Many of you varsity SCV lore buffs will remember Pat Lizza, head of Bermite during World War II and into the 1960s. Bermite was one of America’s foremost munitions factories during wartime. But prior to 1942, it was a fireworks factory. In fact, the Lizza family went back four generations as fireworks manufacturers in Italy. Here’s the irony. You know where the Lizzas lived in Italy? In a village at the foot of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius. Talk about a big fireworks display… 

BERMITE, PART II — Originally, Bermite was a TNT factory at the turn of the 20th century. It was owned by Jim Corbett and his dad. Corbett is better known from his nickname, “Gentleman” Jim, and used to train out here. He was the heavyweight champion of the world. 

BERMITE, PART III — Hope you don’t mind me drumming this in, but Lizza came up with the name of Bermite by taking the syllable of the first name of his friend and foreman, “Bernie” and adding it the last syllable of “Dynamite.” Ber. Mite. Get it?  

A MURDER MYSTERY TO SOLVE — Pico Canyon oil field manager Alec Mentry of Mentryville fame died on Oct. 4, 1900. But — how? First story, from historian Jerry Reynolds, was that it was from a bee sting. Another autopsy guess was that Alec was in failing health and died after multiple bites on the lips from a love bug. Not the Disney Volkswagen. Latest and best story comes from Carol Lagasse. Alec most likely died from the bite of something called the cone nose or assassin bug, which bit him on the lips many times while he was sleeping. Anyway. His death certificate listed the cause as kidney failure. Alas and alack, some 121 years later, Alec is still dead. 

YIPPEE. AND, COYOTE — On Oct. 8, 1858, the first Butterfield stage coach passed through Newhall. It was greeted by a 100-gun (approximation) salute by local yahoos. We put in “approximation” because one would be hard-pressed to find 100 local yokels to fire off 100 guns. Or even 50 yokels firing guns in both hands… 

OCTOBER 9, 1921  

MAYBE WE USED TO BE CALLED ‘BIG SAUGUS’ OR ‘BIG SAUGUS BEAR’ AND JUST FORGOT — On this date, a century ago, a giant hydrogen-filled dirigible landed on the Union Ranch in Saugus. Captain C.P. Clark and crew stopped over for refreshments and to get their bearings. They were a bit lost. The huge airship started in Arcadia and was headed to Big Bear. Just a pinch south of here… 

ANY TEACHERS COMPLAINING OF CLASS SIZE? — Take heart. On this date, Miss Daugherty of Newhall Elementary had to teach 60 students in her room. Local mucky-mucks got together to discuss the possibility of hiring a second teacher. 

BUNCOMBE? — Signal Editor Blanche Brown penned an editorial attacking a movement in England that tried to ban athletics for girls. Some of the Brits felt exercise was bad for the fairer gender because it led to child-birthing problems later in life. Blanche called this notion, “Buncombe.”  

MORE BUNCOMBE — Interestingly, the word ‘buncombe’ is the root of the word “bunk.” I’ll save you a trip to the dictionary. “Buncombe” is talk that is empty, insincere or merely for effect. It’s also a county in the south. And THAT’s the root of the word. A congressman back in the 1830s (representing Buncombe County) was giving a long-winded diatribe. Scribes of the day started calling — ahem, “bovine flatulence” — after his home seat. 

DIZZYING INFLATION — A new house in Saugus cost around $600. That’s full price for a house AND the standard lot. A new Ford Sedan at Cliff Tucker Automotive in neighboring San Fernando cost $660. I sure wouldn’t mind if new cars and houses cost that today. 

OCTOBER 9, 1931  

TOWED TO DEATH — Two Los Angeles young men were killed in an odd accident. The teens were in a race car, being towed on a rope 12 feet behind another car. The car went around a corner too fast and the towed race car swung out like a water skier in front of a huge double-rig truck. According to witnesses, the sports car and its occupants were, “…crushed steamroller fashion, apparently after every wheel going over them.” 

DON’T THINK DAD WOULD RECOGNIZE THE SOUL OF THE SCV TODAY — Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher wondered, in his column, the Jin Jer Jar, about the future of Christianity. Thatcher pondered that if Christianity failed, “…it will be on the account of the practices of Christians, rather than the teachings of Christianity.” 

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, HE DIDN’T BUMP INTO BIGFOOT — George Roberts had himself one swell long hike with a gun. The hunter got lost in the wilds of Sawmill Mountain (northeast of Castaic) for four days. He stumbled onto a forest ranger station and was he hungry, dehydrated and thirsty. 

OCTOBER 9, 1941  

THOSE DARN HEAVY NEWHALL FOGS — John E. Dalton had just opened up a law office in Newhall a few months earlier and he didn’t start off by making too many friends. Dalton was arrested for drunk driving. He pleaded not guilty and defended himself in front of a local jury trial. There, he accused three separate local sheriff’s deputies of framing him and claimed that the district attorney prosecuting him was doing so only out of political motives. Dalton even accused the judge of being against him. Story goes, Dalton was observed by two local gendarmes unsuccessfully trying to park his car on Spruce Street (today, Newhall Avenue). Twice Dalton gunned his car up on the curb. He backed up, knocking over a motorcycle a half-block away. On the third try, he ended up on the lawn of the Newhall Hospital. The officers gave him several sobriety tests, including having him try walking a straight line, which Dalton couldn’t do if he had held onto it. During the trial, Dalton said he had trouble parking because “… of the unusually heavy fog.” A local jury found him guilty. He was given a $75 fine and had his license suspended. Part of the problem of getting a trial in a small town was the jury was familiar with other times Dalton had been found imbibing. 

YUP. GENE’S DAD — Same day in court, Delbert Autry paid a $5 fine for not having a rear-view mirror. Delbert was dressed in the finest baby blue fringed cowboy garb you can imagine. Del was Gene’s dad (you know — the world-famous “Singing Cowboy?”) and unlike lawyer Dalton, the elder Autry was most polite. 

THERE’S BIG MONEY IN HORSE, er, ACHOO!! MANURE —Local sheriff’s deputies arrested a farm hand for trying to bilk a fertilizer company. He was caught taking a big load of horsey poopies in a dump truck. Back then, they just weighed the load and paid people for the rose food. Turned out the farm hand was weighing down the manure with a lot of rocks. And usually horses — the non-crazy ones — don’t eat rocks. 

RE: THE ABOVE — If during this trail ride you find your mount is consuming rocks, please bring him up to the front for an exchange. As we are time traveling, the switch can be made in less than a second. 

GARAGE DOORS, FRONT & BACK — A Mrs. Jugers hit the accelerator instead of the brake and ran completely through her Sand Canyon garage. Her rancher husband had the structure rebuilt — in stone. I imagine he must have had a small, cat-like grin every day of their marriage walking out to the garage… 

OCTOBER 9, 1951 

CALL IT FATE. OR… — Call it being a cheapskate. On this date, Raymond Augustus Little drove out to Paradise Ranch and attempted to take his own life. Little ran a hose from his exhaust pipe to the interior of his car. He rolled up the windows and stuffed any holes to stop ventilation. Little did everything right in his suicide attempt except for one small thing. Shortly after he passed out, his big Buick ran out of gas.  

OCTOBER 9, 1961 

YAHOO HUNTERS — On this date, a year-old deer wandered into the garage next to Tip’s. It walked up to attendant Terry Vance and allowed itself to be petted. Soon, a small crowd had gathered and were feeding it salad. Hate to think what happened to the friendly little wide-eyed creature. Next day, the pound came and picked it up. 

OCTOBER 9, 1971 

WONDER IF A CONSULTANT COMMITTING SUICIDE IS A TAX DEDUCTION — On this date, it was disclosed that former consultant turned attempted murderer, Chester Furgeson, had tried to kill Hart school Superintendent Dave Baker. The report released noted that five bullets had been fired into Baker’s district office and someone had tried to run him off the freeway the day before. Furgeson had been arrested for trying to kill another superintendent, this one from Torrance. While on bail during his trial, Furgeson committed suicide in a Fresno motel. Left a mess of empty junk food bags and containers. 

AND NARY A SINGLE SOCIALIST — Figures were in. Registered Republicans led their Democrat counterparts, 3,053 to 2,410. 

OUR OWN VERSION OF KING KONG — Pico, a 20-pound monkey, had bitten some people in Canyon Country then scampered up a roof. He was shot by one man then clubbed to death by another. 

OCTOBER 9, 1981 

A DARN GOOD GUY — Forty years ago this week, our dear, dear saddlepal and former mayor, George Pederson, started his command as captain of Wayside Honor Rancho. George came full circle. He started in 1954 at Wayside. That would be as a fledgling sheriff’s deputy, not a con. Good Sir George passed away in 2015. He was 90. 

A BIG HONOR. UH, KINDA — On this date in history, country music station KLAC honored part of the SCV by dedicating 24 hours of broadcasting as “The City of Canyon Country Music Day.” They also tried honoring “Bud Brown, Mayor of Canyon Country City.” The jocks were a bit embarrassed to learn that Canyon Country wasn’t a city and that their own future Country Music Hall of Famer, Cliffie Stone — not the good Bud Brown — was the honorary mayor of CC. 

Oh, just darn it. Yonder swirling vortex? That’s our destination to our SCV of the here and now. Funny when you think about it. When future time rider saddle pals read the 22nd century version of this column, I’m guessing they’ll think times were more tepid back in October 2021. And that’s fine. You good souls take care and see you in seven back here at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post and until then — ¡Viaja con Dios queridos amigos y vecinos! 

Got the web site — — 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 or you liked the book, would you mind leaving a kind 5-star review…? 

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