Happy first weekend in March, dear saddlepals. Someone needs to leave a Post-it on the barn door to put the brakes on 2022. Time sure seems to be rollicking at breakneck speeds.
We’ve a most-interesting trail ride ahead into the back canyons of Santa Clarita history, lore and legend. C’mon. What say we climb aboard these several thousand fine horses The Mighty Signal provides each weekend, kick it into time traveling moseying speed and see where all the dirt used to be?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
TOM FREW STILL HAS AN OVERDUE BOOK — On March 1, 1916, the Newhall County Library was established in the back of Woodard’s Ice Cream Parlor. The first SCV librarian was Christine Woodard. She would later be replaced by Blanche Brown, who was also editor of The Mighty Signal.
WELCOME, PEDRO — On March 6, 1772, a few years before America was founded, Spanish explorer Pedro Fages arrived from San Diego. He and his men camped out in the Santa Clarita — in Agua Dulce, Castaic and points north. Pedro would later become governor of California.
WE COULD SURELY USE THEM TODAY — Owner of most of Santa Clarita, Ignacio del Valle was also mayor of Los Angeles. In 1843, he formed the California Rangers, a rough-and-tumble, shoot-first, might-think-of-a-question later version of the Texas Rangers. Their top ranks were formed of SCV boys and their mission was to shoot, stab, hang, beat up and discourage anyone from crime in L.A. They stopped a hemorrhaging crime problem in El Pueblo and were so good at their job, they cleaned up the city within a year. One L.A. newspaper of the day commented on the crime problem back then by posting a headline: “No One Killed Today.”
MARCH 5, 1922
NEVER DRIVE WITH A PILL SALESMAN FROM BAKERSFIELD — If this wasn’t the oddest traffic accident in the history of the valley, it sure rates up there at the top. Late at night, a Bakersfield traveling drug salesman was drunk behind the wheel and racing down Mint Canyon about 60 mph. That’s a ton of speed in one of those old Model Ts. The salesman smashed into W.B. Baugher’s car so hard, all four wheels flew off the Newhall man’s car. The salesman totaled his car, but wasn’t hurt as badly as Mr. Baugher. A Mint Canyon resident witnessed the crash and drove the men to the Dodderell garage. On the way, his lights went out and he crashed smack dab into an oak tree. Adding to his head wounds, the salesman now had lacerations on his face. A bit later, the ambulance arrived and proceeded to rush the men to the hospital in Los Angeles. Yup. It crashed on the way. Three accidents in one day for the hapless Bakersfield pill pusher.
HOPE JOE HAD A LONG-ENOUGH EXTENSION CHORD — Joe Furnivall was the talk of the town. Joe owned a dairy farm 4 miles east of Saugus and on this date, he bought a $1,000 milking machine. The high-tech instrument could milk a cow in about 30 seconds. Then, with a flick of a button, the milk is strained, pre-cooled and put into steel 5-gallon cans, ready for delivery. With 26 cows, Joe was saving himself a couple of hours a day in labor.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, FOR SOME DAY YOU SURELY MAY GET IT — A Signal editorial on this date demanded that the Board of Supervisors provide the area with a large trash dump.
MARCH 1, 1926
DROPLETS OF DOOM — The first water from the Owens Valley began trickling into one of California’s most ambitious projects — the St. Francis Dam and reservoir in upper San Francisquito Canyon. Two years later, just after it had filled, a nearly 200-foot wall of water burst through the dam, creating one of the worst man-made disasters in American history. The epic flood would cost millions and take the lives of around 500 souls.
MARCH 5, 1932
WE COULD USE A FUNCTIONING BODY TODAY — The Taxpayers’ Protective League met on this date at Honby School. Guess they didn’t do such a good job of protecting…
SNAKE SEASON — The first rattler of the season came out to sun himself on Haskell Canyon Road. The serpent got run over. It was a big one, too, with nine rattles.
MARCH 5, 1942
A LONG-FORGOTTEN CITIZEN — On this date, the ancient remains of what was believed to be a Native American was discovered across the street from the Mint Canyon Fire Station. James Selvidge was shoveling away dirt for the foundation of his new gas station when he came upon the skeleton. The fellow had been buried in a fetal position, facing up. He had a large stone on his chest with two smaller ones covering his eyes. Wonder what the guy’s name was, back in the day…
PUT UP YOUR DUKES —There rarely is a good reason for a fight, but these two cowboys took it to the extreme. Arthur Icardo was slashed in a knife fight by Joe Allen at a Val Verde ranch. Reason for the disagreement? Who had legal rights to the spare parts to an abandoned auto rusting in the middle of someone else’s field. Allen had been loading the parts into his truck when Icardo pulled up, took them out of Allen’s truck and started loading them in his vehicle. Unkind words were exchanged. Allen cut Icardo with a knife and Icardo smacked Allen in the head with a generator. Icardo was taken to the hospital by friends. Allen was later discovered by lawmen, hiding under some shrubbery.
BOMBS OVER SCLARITA — On this date, we started our first community wartime kabuki theater. Around 1,000 locals took part in a full-dress mock battle scenario. Just in the early days of World War II, we were concerned about a follow-up attack from Japan after Pearl Harbor. Again, the SCV had been listed as one of the most prominent military targets on the planet (because it connected Southern and Central/Northern California by both road and railroad). In the pretend scenarios, five bombs took out a house on Chestnut and Kansas; a half-ton bomb hit the American Theatre dead center, leaving an 18-foot-deep crater; two Axis bombers crashed in Placerita Canyon; a huge bomb took out a bunch of track near the Saugus Depot, demolishing the train station; and, someone on Chestnut Street refused to turn out their lights during blackout. The town worked out solutions to fix all these scenarios. Boy Scout Tom Frew worked as a courier during these SCV war games.
MARCH 5, 1952
CAREFUL WITH YOUR SYNTAX —Read this item from a front-page Signal story a half-century back: “The officers carefully picked up the live puppy and took it home with them for a meal.” Actually, the local deputies had found a puppy abandoned inside a dilapidated bus left by the side of the road. The puppy apparently hadn’t eaten in days and the good-hearted cops took the pup home for a lot of TLC.
MARCH 5, 1962
HONBY’S ALMOST BOWLING ALLEY — They dragged out just about every gray beard and mucky-muck for the ribbon cutting of a new bowling alley in Honby (that forgotten community that surrounds Home Depot today). Golden Triangle Lanes broke ground on this date and was supposed to open in July 1962 with 24 lanes, a fine restaurant, bar and banquet facilities. It never got past the first shovel of dirt. Many years later, though, Santa Clarita Lanes would open on the same spot. Interestingly, the same day, Paul Palmer Properties announced that they would build a brand new ultra-modern 24-lane bowling alley on Lyons Avenue. Back then, Lyons was mostly the road that ran through the potato fields. Newhall Bowl, as it was called, DID get built and on time.
A HORRIFIC LAST GOODBYE — It was one of the strangest airplane accidents we have ever recorded locally. On this date, San Francisquito Canyon rancher Andy Jepson looked up into the sky. His attention had been attracted by the sputtering sounds of an aircraft’s failing engine. The vintage World War II craft, a Vultee BT-13, finally crashed into some Edison high-tension wires. When Jepson rushed over to help, the plane was in flames and its occupant, dead. Jepson was horrified to learn the pilot was his best friend, Jack Lewis, of Burbank. Lewis was just doing some leisure flying and Jepson had no idea his amigo was even in the area.
MARCH 5, 1972
CAN SOME OF YOU GUYS GIVE US A HAND PUSHING THIS BACK TO COLORADO? — On this date, an entourage from Antonio, Colorado, population 1,512, came to Newhall to claim their train. Narrow-gauge locomotive No. 463, which had been in service since the turn of the century, had been resting at Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch for years. Autry had donated the train. Although there were pleas for some charity from the Southern Pacific Railroad, the old Espee refused to cut any sort of deal and it cost the small town about $4,000 in freight fees alone to move the steam engine atop a flatbed car from Saugus to Colorado. Several trucking companies had volunteered to carry the engine for free, but there was the problem with weight limits. The little engine weighed 60 tons. Old 463 was one of the few narrow-gauge locomotives to come equipped with a snow plow. The choo-choo’s trip to Colorado was delayed for weeks, however. Southern Pacific provided the wrong flatcar.
NO LONGER THE GENTLEMEN’S COUNTRY CLUB — Members of the Association of Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs were blocked from viewing the new “Big Max” prison in the SCV. Sheriff Sherman Block condemned the request as a “publicity stunt.” Deputies were concerned because they said the prison was understaffed and that 134 officers were forced to work 3,000 hours a month in overtime. “Big Max,” by the way, was what the former Wayside Honor Rancho minimum security facility was called by locals after it went to a maximum-security prison. Today, Wayside is called by another name: Peter Pitchess Detention Center. Or, as some of the guards call it: “Gladiator School” for the amount of fighting going on among prisoners.
FOND FAREWELL TO A FIREFIGHTER — Several hundred L.A. City firefighters attended a service for one of their brethren at the Presbyterian Church in Newhall. Paul Widrig, 24, died fighting an arson-started blaze in Watts.
WE’LL HANG YOU LATER — Here’s some small trivia for you. The first case ever to be held at the new Valencia Courthouse involved a traffic ticket. An unnamed motorist was given a stay of execution for being accused of speeding at 85. Judge Adrian Adams postponed the man’s day in court so the new building could be dedicated.
MARCH 5, 1982
MARC OF SUCCESS EN ESPAÑOL — Newhall Elementary Principal Larry Heath declared the school’s bilingual education program was a “smashing success.” Newhall placed at least in the top 15% of students in the state. Some young fellow named Marc Winger was running the bilingual program. Later, Winger ended up being the superintendent of the district. Muy bien, Señor Winger.
Looks like that’s our time vortex spinning ahead. Best we mosey through and get back to modern times. As usual, surely appreciate the company, saddlepals. What say we ride together next Sunday? Until then, ¡vayan con Dios, amigos!”
Check out John Boston’s new SCV history book — Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America at http://johnbostonbooks.com/.