Brings a smile to my face, seeing so many familiar faces, friends, neighbors, people I’ve grown up with. It’s also a treat to see the freshly scrubbed and eager countenances of those new to the Santa Clarita.
There’s coffee waiting and cowboy doughnuts. All horses are trained to seek out their pre-ordained riders. For you newcomers, make sure to ride behind Tom Frew. He still has every single dollar he’s ever made and hides them under his saddle blanket. Sometimes, they spill out.
We’ve a most interesting trail ride ahead through the back trails of SCV history. Shall we mosey into the mystic?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
AS NEIL YOUNG USED TO SING, ‘SOUTHERN, MAN’ … One of SCV history’s biggest headlines is oft overlooked. On Oct. 23, 1888, the epic five-star Southern Hotel burned to the ground. It sat pretty much in the intersection of today’s Market and Main. The luxury retreat was one of the finest hotels on the entire American West Coast and was built to attract a who’s who of cattlemen, oil barons, heads of state and business robber barons. Had not its builder, Henry Mayo Newhall, died young six years earlier and had not the hotel incinerated, Newhall and the surrounding SCV might have enjoyed a more continental opulence instead of its century-long horned toad preserve look.
ANOTHER NOT-SO OLD-TIMER PASSES — Henry Clay Wiley was both a Los Angeles businessman and mover/shaker in the SCV. He died Oct. 25, 1898, in L.A. He was just 69 but considered an old-time Angeleno. Wiley is associated with the Wiley Windlass, a complicated and Rube Goldberg contraption that raised and lowered everything from sheep to stage coaches up from the San Fernando Valley into the Santa Clarita. This was before Beale’s Cut and the convoluted and primitive elevator system was how things bigger than a spider made it from one valley to the other. An asterisk in the SCV Historical Society’s web page notes: “We have yet to discover a primary source document naming Wiley in connection with a windlass. While we don’t necessarily doubt his involvement, neither can we confirm it. The search continues.”
SWINDLERS GALORE — This month back in 1834, a young Mexican Lt. Antonio del Valle arrived at the neighboring Mission San Fernando. His purpose? To dismantle all the Catholic church’s holdings and see that they ended up in the hands of the local Native Americans. It’s a complicated and long story, but Holy Mother Church had only kept all the lands and their wealth in sort of an escrow account. The landed gentry of the day actually approved of the dismantling. Why? They could easily usurp the vast acreage from the Indians. ‘Tweren’t so easy to swindle it from the Vatican. Del Valle spent much of his time, riding around the SCV and falling in love with the place. He’d end up getting the entire shooting match from a California governor in lieu of back Army wages.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE, NOT SO MUCH — In October 1861, del Valle’s son, Ignacio, arrived at the Rancho Camulos (the state historical landmark off Highway 126 today). He was in the midst of a big move from downtown L.A. to take up permanent residence and expand his ranch and holdings — which were pretty much the entire SCV. Iggy was a pretty good soul…
I DON’T THINK WE’LL SEE REAL ESTATE PRICES LIKE THIS EVER AGAIN — On Oct. 20, 1873, a pair of Santa Barbara lawyers bought the entire SCV — then called Rancho San Francisco — at a sheriff’s auction in Ventura. Barristers Jarrett Richards and Charles Fernald bought the entire shooting match for $33,000 — about 75¢ an acre. Just a couple years later, San Francisco multi-millionaire businessman Henry Mayo Newhall would buy 46,460 acres for a pinch less than $2 an acre. In 1876, the town of Newhall — named after Newhall — would be founded.
WHEN NEWHALL WAS SAUGUS — On Oct. 18, 1876, Southern Pacific Railroad began subdividing the brand-new town of Newhall. Of course, back then, Newhall was ORIGINALLY founded smack dab in the middle of future Saugus — where the Saugus Café is today.
OCTOBER 23, 1921
THE NOT-SO-MYSTERIOUS NEWHALL TRIANGLE — On this date, Charlie Moore came back to town to build a $12,000 garage and gas station on the south end of town. Moore had taken off for South America for several years. Moore was credited with having the first-ever garage in Newhall back in 1908 (where the S.P. Moore pool hall used to stand). That would predate the Jesse Doty Ford Garage by six years. Moore’s new place was called The Triangle Garage.
PREHISTORIC GRIDIRON TALES — A century ago, the handful of SCV high school-aged kids attended San Fernando High. Newhall lad Donald Frew scored the only TD of the game when SFH edged Lancaster High, 6-0. Eeesh. Sounds like an AYSO score…
MIXING IT UP — Local cowboy star Tom Mix starred in an oater down at the Cody Theatre. It was called, “After Your Own Heart.” The Western shared billing with an odd-titled comedy called: “White & Unmarried.”
OCTOBER 23, 1931
GOING DARK FOR TOM — Nearly 100 homes and businesses in the SCV turned off their lights at 7 p.m. for a minute. They joined the nation to honor the passing of one of the most amazing figures in American history — inventor Thomas Alva Edison.
A PERFECTLY SWANK NAME — Saugus Union School District Superintendent Gene Cagney was entertained on this date by the singing of a group called “The Club of Five Jolly Girls.”
OCTOBER 23, 1941
ALMOST HAD TO CALL NOAH — Eighty years ago, we got an inch of rain for the week. Wouldn’t mind an inch of rain THIS week…
WARTIME BEEF — The farmers and ranchers of the SCV were put on notice by the Department of Agriculture. The U.S. wanted more beef, pork, chicken and dairy products. Letters to the Chamber of Commerce urged the locals to produce as much as possible for a possible U.S. involvement in a world war.
WHEN THE DUCKS, DUCK — Arthur Miller (Nope. Not the playwright who married Marilyn Monroe — the local attorney) got back from a duck hunting vacation and was soundly kidded by friends and neighbors. Miller returned with not even one bird. One pal noted: “With more hunters like Art, there would be no necessity for game laws or limits.”
WHEN THE SKIES TURNED BLACK — A huge sulfur gas fire at the Barnes oil well in Val Verde was finally put out. Oilmen pumped several tons of cement into the 7,000-foot-deep hole.
OCTOBER 19, 1945
FROM THE ‘YOU CAN’T TRUST A FRIEND’ DEPT. — Acton Hotel owner Sam Schoor just came back from fighting in World War II. Schoor had given $1,000 to his good friend, Clarence Rush, to watch over the hotel while he was defending America. Rush was supposed to use the money only on the hotel, but actually, he spent it on his own place (including digging a well for his home). Not only that, Rush — who was also the postmaster of Acton and a prominent businessman — had absconded with all the receipts for several years. Schoor told Rush he had better come up with the missing money, pronto. Rush threatened Schoor that he’d burn the historic hotel (where several presidents and dignitaries had stayed over the years) to the ground if Schoor pushed the matter. Not the master criminal, Rush even said so in a letter: “Pay me $720 or I’ll torch the place.” Odd figure to ask for — $720. Anyway. Sam pushed. Clarence torched the place. He was arrested for grand theft, larceny and arson. All that was left of the grand hotel were the custom bricks forged on the premises. Over the years, locals would drop by the rubble, helping themselves to those really nifty bricks and in about 10 years, the last brick was liberated from the premises.
OCTOBER 23, 1951
NOT A RECORD YOU WANT TO BREAK — Little Dave Van Acker had the dubious distinction of being the second small child to be bitten by a rattler within a month. He was playing at his home in Sand Canyon, reached into some weeds and was nipped by a 3-foot-long snake. He fortunately recovered.
I’M TELLING YA. WE’RE DUE — Just like this week in 1941, the SCV was blessed with an unexpected inch of rain.
YOUNG SAMARITAN SAVES NEWHALL! — An unidentified youth was a hailed as a quick-thinking hero. The boy spotted a fire in a barrel of oily waste in the alley behind a San Fernando Road business. He ran to the sheriff’s station and he and the deputies quickly put out the fire before it would have possibly ignited a good section of Newhall’s business district.
INSTEAD OF THE OLD WATERING HOLE, RANCHERS WERE USING ATOMIZERS — A new kind of designer cattle ranch was taking hold in the SCV. Some gentlemen farmers were starting to raise Texas Longhorns, purebred Brahmas and a Brahma-shorthorn cross. One rancher quipped: “It was so dry in Texas that when the cattle come up here to Newhall all it takes is a whiff of fog and they put on weight.”
OCTOBER 23, 1961
GLADYS & ARMANTHA, IN HEAVEN TOGETHER — One of the valley’s great ladies, Armantha Thibadeau, passed to her reward 40 years back. Settling in the SCV in 1895, Mrs. T had helped found the Newhall PTA, was a Presbyterian church stalwart, chairwoman of the local Red Cross and had a community volunteer record as long as here to Oregon. She was 91. She was Gladys Laney’s mom and we are most thankful to Armantha for that. My dear pal Gladys passed away back in 2014. She was 104 years young.
LAZY & BRAINDEAD. IT’S NOTHING NEW. — School supporters lamented the pitifully small turnout, which resulted in the defeat of a local school bond measure. About 25% of the registered voters in the Newhall School District showed up to vote. And, as this newspaper has done, over and over and over again, The Signal wrote an editorial, lamenting the lack of voter turnout and lack of involvement in our most precious commodity, our own children.
OCTOBER 23, 1971
THE BE-BOP MAN PASSES — They buried famed rock ’n’ roll legend Gene Vincent at Eternal Valley on this date. Vincent was noted for his gold records: “Wear My Ring,” “Lot of Lovin’” and “Be Bop A Lula.” He made 25 recording albums. Interestingly, Vincent’s burial was controversial because it was hosted by the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation in Canyon Country, which had a reputation for being a cult. The Alamos had been under constant litigation and police charges for their policies of taking people’s savings and also busing down dozens of kids into Hollywood to beg for the church. The Alamos toured the valley in a big limo. Vincent was known as a “subdued version of Elvis.” He died at the age of 36 of bleeding ulcer. Vincent’s band name was “The Blue Caps” and they appeared in the Jayne Mansfield movie, “The Girl Can’t Help It.” His last words were: “Mother, pray for me.”
THE SCV’S HEIDI MOMENT — Boy, howdy, were the baseball fans in Canyon Country mad. The cable went out right after the singer hit, “Oh say can you see…” during the World Series. And it did not come back on. High winds were blamed. Locals were drawing unkind comparisons to the time NBC interrupted the American Football Conference championship game between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders to broadcast Shirley Temple’s old “Heidi” movie.
GET YOUR BLANKETY-BLANK HANDS OFF ME, YOU FILTHY APE! — On this date, the original “Planet of the Apes” was playing at the Plaza Theater. Part of the classic flick was shot out here.
OCTOBER 23, 1981
BRRRR. BRRR. BRRRRRR. AND BRRRRRRRR. — The mercury dipped to below freezing this week, 40 years back. Odd. A week earlier, it had been over 100 in town.
ONE OF THE ODDEST ROBBERIES ON RECORD — On this date, two men, wearing Halloween masks, jumped two custodians at Saugus High. They tied them up with extension cords and stole $10 in cash. Then, they fled. The custodians were unbruised but of all people to hit up for a robbery…
As we say south of the border, juevos rancheros de los pals de los saddles. Well. I’m confident someone down Mexico way must have said it at least once over the centuries. We’re home. Back in the cozy confines of Santa Clarita. I’ll catch up with you dear friends, compadres and compadre-ettes back here at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post in just seven days for another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, — ¡obtener una suscripción y
viaja con Dios queridos amigos y vecinos!
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…?