What the darn heck about this? Our very first trail ride through SCV history in the year of a few somebody’s Lord 2022. Nice to see you after so long. Seems like — wait for it, the corny, albeit obligatory, New Year’s joke — a year since we’ve seen each other last.
We’ve many interesting vistas ahead today, dear saddlepals. We’ll play one of my favorite games from childhood in Newhall — Hobo Golf. We’ve got cowboys, the world’s strongest boy, Astroturf, and spankings.
Astroturf and Spankings.
Sounds like Rick Patterson’s new law partners.
There are the usual self-inflicted gunshot wounds, floating cars, and the quietest New Year’s Eve in the entire civilized history of this valley.
Swing up on those saddles, take a sip of latté from your canteens and point the nose of your pony toward yonder time vortex…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
NOT EXACTLY CELEBRATED WITH NOISE MAKERS AND FLOATING BALLOONS — On New Year’s Day, 1850, the überhikers Manly & Rogers arrived at the Rancho San Francisco, seeking help for a stranded wagon train of settlers in Death Valley. The boys were actually looking for San Francisco in Northern California. A posse of vaqueros left from the Newhall ranch to rescue the original yuppies. Death Valley got its name from one woman in a Conestoga looking back at the desolate wastes and saying, “Goodbye, Death Valley.” Many from this wagon train would end up settling in the Santa Clarita Valley.
NOT ONLY THAT, IGGY WAS PRESIDENT OF HIS VERY OWN PERSONAL HOA — New Year’s Day, 1842, Ignacio del Valle claimed the Rancho Camulos as his.
BETCHA I COULD BEAT RANDY WRAGE — Didn’t know exactly where to shoehorn this in, but former Signal managing editor and fabled gossip columnist Mimi, Ruth Newhall, once told me a story about an unusual golf threesome from the 1930s. Seems William S. Hart, comedian W.C. Fields , and one of the most famous entertainers of his day, Charlie Mack, used to go golfing together in Newhall. (Mack was the vaudeville star famous for the blackface act, The Black Crows, and built those amazing rock houses still here on 8th Street in Newhall.) There wasn’t any course in town then, but the trio would take a bottle of whiskey, a few clubs, and a bag of golf balls. They would wander up and down the hills of Newhall, using distant tree stumps and fence posts for “holes.” We used to call that Hobo Golf when I was growing up here and there were more than enough open fields as pretend golf courses…
JANUARY 1, 1922
STOP THE PRESSES!!! — We were such a small town a century ago (it simply doesn’t feel that long ago!) that it made front-page news who bought a new car. The Irwin brothers purchased a new Ford and Fred Lamkin balanced the scales by buying a new Chevy.
TRYING WRITING THAT OFF ON YOUR EXPENSE REPORT — Back in the early 20th century, San Francisquito Canyon Road could be a real nightmare for travelers. For one thing, you had to keep crisscrossing the creek to make it up or down the canyon. F.J. Campbell of the Edison Co. tried to navigate across the stream and didn’t figure on the water being so deep. His car didn’t so much get stuck — it floated away. Campbell managed to swim to a safe bank — minus the company car.
JANUARY 1, 1932
WHEN WE WERE OUR OWN PACIFIC SOUTHWEST NATIONAL PARK — A steady rain over Christmas dumped about 3 inches of rain through the valley. Old-timers noted it had been a while since every stream in the Little Santa Clara River Valley was a bubbling brook.
ANOTHER FATAL ABSENTEE FROM THE GUN SAFETY LECTURE — Ed Moore went out for some target practice by Beale’s Cut and ended up being the target. Moore had hiked to a lonely spot with his friend, Herb Murray. Moore was standing on a 20-foot precipice and, as the story goes, his friend ended up accidentally shooting him in the chest. Moore never got to see 1932.
ALOHA! — While this was not exactly a local story, EVERYONE in town was talking about it. On this date, 90 years ago, the first public phone call from California to Hawaii was made.
‘BOY OF CHARACTER:’ GOOD BAND NAME — The Signal ran an editorial entitled, “Dangerous Knowledge.” It questioned the wisdom of teaching everyone chemistry because the evil of the world might use it to make bombs and poisons. “Our scientists teach everything they know, to the boy of character and to the criminal alike.” The Signal also noted that it was probably too late to do anything about it.
JANUARY 1, 1942
THE MOST SOMBER NEW YEAR’S EVE IN HISTORY — Literally. We were still in shock from the attack on Pearl Harbor a few weeks earlier. This was the quietest, most fear-filled, and eeriest New Year’s Eve ever recorded — either before or after 1941. Suspiciously missing from the sheriff’s office were all the drunks and brawlers that came with the changing of the old year to the new. The only call, in fact, on New Year’s Eve, was to quiet a quarreling couple in a Soledad trailer park.
TWO-GUN BILL PLAYS WAITER —The silent film superstar William S. Hart broke his own rule of public appearances when he hosted a dinner for officers and enlisted men stationed in Newhall. Hart personally served about 100 men a turkey dinner, then regaled them with stories about the old West.
WHAT’S GREAT ABOUT THE SCV & AMERICA? WE NEVER LOSE OUR SENSE OF HUMOR — Signal columnist Solemint Mike recalled a conversation with a Sand Canyon mother. The mom had bid farewell to her daughter, who was heading out for a New Year’s Eve party. Said the mother: “Be careful and have a good time.” The daughter replied: “Mom. You’re going to have to make up your mind.”
JANUARY 1, 1952
ELECTRIFYING — The parents of Cpl. Stan Cook got a rather —shocking — letter from their son. Stationed at a lonely intelligence station in the Swiss Alps, Cook was sent to repair a radar tower in a blizzard. He accidentally grabbed the wrong wire. Stan was knocked out and fortunately found before he could freeze to death. Isn’t that something? You get assigned to the most peaceful spot on the planet and almost get killed.
WILE E. COYOTE LODGED A PROTEST — Burdett Houser, local government hunter, went out to his pickup truck and found someone swiped 32 of his coyote traps. Value? About 48 bucks. Which was pretty darn good money back then. I’m still amazed at the braindead relationship amongst ranchers, farmers, hunters and the government. The unforeseen consequence of killing off so many coyotes was a skyrocketing jump in vermin — rats, mice, skunks, rabbits, etc. For the price of a few yearlings and chickens, locals, and not-so-locals, paid a fortune repairing everything from roads to backyards from damage caused by the burrowing and incurred a huge loss in ag harvests and grains.
JANUARY 1, 1962
THE GHOST OF 1922 — Odd coincidence? From back on our time traveling trail in 1922 you’ll recall Ed Moore was killed in a tragic target shooting accident. Same day in 1961, a teen was killed during a target shooting outing in Canyon Country when a .22 caliber rifle, leaning against the car’s back seat, went off. The bullet went through the rear window and hit young Elmer Betts in the skull. It killed Elmer instantly.
NO JOKES OR WE’LL GET PROTESTED — We’ve touched on this before. Words had different meanings years ago. A Signal headline proclaimed: “New Year Welcomed With Many Gay Parties.” Safe money is, “Gay” meant, “Happy.”
JANUARY 1, 1972
AKA, YUPPIE GRASS — Today, we have beautiful medians, courtesy of local builders and the city. Fifty years back, county road crews brought in Astroturf to replace street planters along Valencia Boulevard. Astroturf. Very classy.
WOW. ‘REASONABLE SPANKINGS.’ ANOTHER GREAT BAND NAME — A Signal investigative report noted that local school districts were, by law, able to administer “reasonable spankings.” That’s a relief. “Unreasonable spankings” seems to cross into a whole different prairie. Another relief was to learn teachers could not punch students in the nose. Most principals noted they wouldn’t use spanking, even as a last resort.
ALMOST MORE THAN CAMERON SMYTH CAN LIFT — Newhall’s Greg Hollman, American record holder, broke the world powerlifting record in his division in Germany. His three lifts totaled 960 pounds. Not darn bad for a 15-year-old boy. When Hollman got there, the hosts tried to psyche him out, promising that a German would win the contest. Hollman afterward winked and said: “They didn’t know I was German.”
JANUARY 1, 1982
NOT EXACTLY WHAT YOU’D CALL … WHAT’S THE WORD I’M LOOKING FOR? CHRISTIAN? — Carlos Villa, half-Apache, got an unwelcome present from the evangelical Church of the Canyons. He had lived in an old construction trailer in the back of the Sand Canyon church property and was the handyman for the congregation. On New Year’s, the still somewhat small town found out that, the day before Christmas, the church evicted him.
BET HIS ARM GOT TIRED WAVING — Our own cowboy star, Montie Montana, set an amazing record. He rode in his 50th Rose Bowl parade. Accompanying him was his 6-year-old wonder horse, Rex. Oh. And his wife, Elly. Sorry about giving Rex top billing. Back to Rex, it wasn’t hard for the Agua Dulce cowboy to remember all his horses’ names over the years. Montie named all his parade horses, “Rex.” Montana was more famous for his traveling cowboy show than his movie roles. He had entertained presidents and the Queen of England with his rope tricks.
How about that. Made it back from a century-plus of riding and didn’t lose a single Time Ranger saddlepal. Again. Think we should be presented with some sort of thick and official Safety Award from the Fire Department, city, or dog pound. Double ditto from the veterinarians for the horses. Nice to see you dear neighbors and friends. Starting another year — sneaking up on the … you know. I’m going to have to look up when we started these trail rides. Anywho. Good luck with all your New Year’s Resolutions. I’ll try to pretend to carry a concerned citizen’s body language and facial expressions when you start sharing how you sort of missed on the diet or saying “yes” when you mean “no.” Fond of all y’all and see you in seven. — ¡vayan con Dios, amigos!”
John Boston’s Time Ranger column appears Saturdays.