The Time Ranger | The 1970 CHP’s Day of Tragedy

The Timer Ranger
Time Ranger

Have to confess. Had an absolute blast last weekend at Rancho Camulos at that little chat at their historic schoolhouse. Didn’t know grown-ups could have so much fun. ALL the cool kids were there.  

This morn? We’ve an interesting trail ride ahead. We’ll sadly inspect as some bulldozers knock over the home of Tiburcio Vasquez’s brother and on the other end of our happy meter, check out some of the best writing to ever appear in The Mighty Signal. 

We’ve got a rogue gynecologist, some old-fashioned jingoism, and an ill-fated search to find a slogan for the Santa Clarita Valley (How about: “Quit Cutting Down the Big Trees?”) 

Tighten the lids to your latté Thermoses and swing those rear ends into the saddle. We’re headed into the adventures of yesteryear… 


ADIOS, IGGY — Ignacio del Valle, once mayor of Los Angeles and owner of the vast Rancho San Francisco (which contained most of the boundaries of the SCV) died on March 30, 1880. He was 71. To say relationships were a smidge different back then would be an understatement. Ignacio, or, often spelt Ygnacio, was 44 when he married Ysabel in 1852. She was 15. A little trivia? Iggy’s Rancho Camulos was the first ranch in Ventura County (it’s just over the county borderline) to commercially grow oranges. Drat if that Highway 126 corridor didn’t yank most of ’em out years ago. 

MORE DEL VALLE TRIVIA — Del Valle’s teen bride provided him with a dozen children (more, counting all the orphans she adopted). Seven would never live to adulthood. At 28, his son, Renaldo, would end up being the youngest-ever president of the California Senate. Renaldo would be responsible for preserving the San Fernando Mission and the installation of bells along Highway 101, El Camino Real. 

AT LEAST THEY WEREN’T GOIN’ POSTAL — After years of having the Castaic Post Office boarded up, it reopened on April 3, 1917, in Sam Parson’s General Store. It had been closed since the 1890s. Seems no one was sending messages out of Castaic and they sure weren’t getting them. 

THE MANLY MAN — One of the most famous non-fiction books (besides “Ramona”) on the SCV was “Death Valley in ’49.” That’d be 1849. It was the detailed account of Manly and John Roger’s hike from Death Valley to Santa Clarita. The pair were part of the Bennett-Arcane wagon train that was stranded in one of the most inhospitable spots on Earth. The two young men started out hiking to San Francisco and got lost. They ended up walking more than 200 miles and ended up in San Francisco all right, but it was RANCHO San Francisco (the huge cattle ranch and farm owned by Ignacio del Valle in what is now called the SCV). Ignacio sent out a fully equipped rescue party to save the wagon train. Interestingly, a woman who would later plant down roots in the SCV solemnly looked out the back of her wagon at the desolate landscape and said: “Goodbye, Death Valley…” That’s how the place got its name. 

RE: THE ABOVE? — Usually, it’s cool to link history with some date. Let’s keep that trend going. We mentioned Manly because he was born April 6, 1820, all the way back in St. Albans, Vermont. 

HISTORY’S ONLY HONEST PROSPECTORS? — A month earlier, on March 9, 1842, Francisco Lopez and three partners made the first official gold discovery in California in our own Placerita Canyon. The next day, he rode into L.A. to make the state’s first gold claim. And on April 4, 1842, Gov. Alvarado gave Lopez and his partners the first official rights to a gold mine in California history. Interestingly, it was one of the last things he did as governor. Juan Batista Alvarado (after whom Alvarado Street is named) was California’s eighth governor (before U.S. statehood) and that gold claim was one of his last official acts as governor. Juan’s grandfather was on that original expedition with Gaspar de Portola and was one of the first Europeans to see the SCV in 1769. 

SHAKE, RATTLE, ROLL & QUIT DRILLING!!! — On April 4, 1893, a major earthquake hit Stevenson Ranch, up Pico Canyon. A parade of angry Newhall townspeople rode up to the big oil fields of Mentryville, demanding they stop production because they felt the earthquake was caused by drilling. Can’t say if any protestors carried signs noting the Earth was going to end by 1903. For the sake of the final, due note, it didn’t… 

TIGER, TIGER, BURNING BRIGHT? — Nope. Not the famous William Blake AND perhaps the most famous opening line in English poetry. On April Fool’s Day, 1918, Paramount Pictures released the action-packed Western, “The Tiger Man.” Our own icon William S. Hart both starred and directed it. Hart played another Shakespearean anti-hero, Hawk Parsons, trying mightily to do the right thing. Though saved by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the film was butchered by censors of the day. One scene was cut where Hart backed a crooked sheriff and deputies into a jail cell.  

APRIL 2, 1922  

AS MY DEAR DAD USED TO SAY: ‘SON. AT LEAST IT’S NOT SICKENING…’ — Be careful what you ask for. The Mighty Signal launched a campaign to bring more people to the valley. We suggested what the village needed was a slogan and a contest was launched to find one. Not one single person entered the contest. 

BETTER THAN SHIRTLESS STEVE — One of our advertisers had a mercantile shop where he sold mostly shirts. His name? A. Korn. No fooling. On the bright side, at least he didn’t sell shoes… 

APRIL 2, 1932  

I’LL DRINK TO THAT. WHOOPS. SORRY. DIDN’T MEAN IT. —  On this date, 47 men and women from California were named to the Prohibitionist Party delegation. They immediately started passing around a petition, seeking the signatures of 761 other Prohibitionist Party members to nominate Newhall rancher Henry Clay Needham for president of the United States. That figure of 761 was the minimum of one-half of 1% of the Prohibitionists registered to vote in the state. 

AND IN A FEW SPOTS, IT STILL LOOKS THAT WAY — Every once in a while, I like to include some simple great writing from yesteryear. One of our long-gone paragraphists, who penned the Mint Canyon Juleps column, wrote this wonderful description of the SCV in spring, and, counting your blessings during tough economic times: “If unhappy friend, and something is too hard to bear presses down on you, get up and go visit the everlasting hills. The buckhorn is in bloom, the whole valley and the world is gladly singing its praise to God, a carpet of purple filaree and Indian paint brush, and the snow-white greasewood, and thousands of beautiful things will cause you to forget — and remember.” 

APRIL 2, 1942  

NOT OUR BEST EDITORIAL — Prior to our entry into World War II at the end of 1941, we were on the brink of getting our own high school and high school district. Something rarely talked about as a reason for breaking away from L.A. Unified and San Fernando High campus was jingoism. Many locals didn’t like their kids going to a predominantly Mexican campus. In a front-page op/ed piece, The Signal noted: “One of the reasons why people of this valley will never rest until they have their own high school is the way in which student discipline is maintained at San Fernando, where the general tone of the high school seems to be set by a big mass of unassimilated Mexicans.” Ouch. 

EVEN BACK THEN THE SCHOOLS HAD THEIR SECRETS — Wonder if a San Fernando bus driver was trying to get back at us for those remarks. Several Newhall kids lodged a formal complaint that a bus driver stopped right on some railroad tracks — with a train approaching — on the way to school. Some of the kids were chided by the administration for snitching. 

APRIL 2, 1952  

I’M GUESSING CRICK DIDN’T LEARN HIS LESSON, EVEN AFTER TIME IN THE POKEY — Cowboy Robert Jesse Crick was arrested for wife-beating. Thrice. Crick was enraged that his wife was leaving him. He attacked her. She escaped and called the cops. Local deputies showed up to guard her while she pulled her things out of her Newhall home to stay with friends. Crick had to be pulled off her again. He was taken to the pokey where he went berserk, attacked a couple of deputies and then tried to commit suicide by drinking gasoline. After spending the night in jail, next morning, he attacked his wife again. This time, he spent a year in jail. 

THAT’S WHAT MAKES US A GREAT TOWN — George and Norma Anderson’s home burned to the ground, taking all their earthly possessions. With the ashes still smoking the next morning, a cartel of local SCV churches and charities announced they would raise enough money and supplies to build it back up. A steady parade of neighbors also brought over clothes and hot meals. 

APRIL 2, 1962  

YUP. NEWHALL WAS BUILT ON A FOUNDATION OF ORGANIZED CRIME — On this date, the bulldozer of a Mr. Story knocked down the old Jack Sanderson house on the 24000 block of old Spruce Street. It was one of the oldest homes in the Santa Clarita Valley and prior to the Sanderson family owning it, the place belonged to one of the brothers of legendary road agent, womanizer and pistol fighter, Tiburcio Vasquez. In fact, Tiburcio’s brother was one of the first property owners in downtown Newhall. 

HAVE WE USED THE PHRASE, ‘HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF’ BEFORE? — A Signal editorial noted that youth baseball season was starting. “A passel of kids of all ages have the time of their life in it. Except for an occasional outburst of youthful temper and disappointment they are good soldiers and good sportsmen. Alas, we cannot say so much for some of their elders. It is a problem that apparently afflicts all kids leagues everywhere. Some of the adult spectators go just a bit beyond the limit of good taste and good sportsmanship in their driving interest to have the little ones win, win, win instead of just play, play, play…” 

APRIL 5, 1970 

ONE OF THE MOST HORRENDOUS DAYS IN OUR HISTORY — Four Highway Patrol officers were gunned down April 5, 1970, in that department’s worst tragedy. Dubbed The Newhall Massacre or Newhall Incident, the events started earlier near Gorman after two men were reported waving guns and threatening motorists. It ended up with officers Walter Frago, Roger Gore, James Pence and George Alleyn losing their lives within five minutes in a shootout across the street from where Wendy’s is today on The Old Road near Magic Mountain Parkway. It was the deadliest incident in CHP history.  

CHP, PART II — One of the murderers took a hostage in a home above Denny’s on Pico Canyon. Surrounded by law enforcement, he finally took his own life the next morning. The other killer was taken prisoner, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He committed suicide in 2009 in Kern Valley State Prison. The event resulted in all manner of safety changes for law enforcement and CHP afterwards.   

APRIL 2, 1972  

WHERE’S THE BEEF? — ’Tweren’t in Val Verde. A burglar broke into the home of Maxine Edwards and stole a beef roast, four steaks, six Cornish hens and three rainbow trout from the freezer. You know. Somebody was asking me why I’m constantly picking on my pal, Tom Frew, and demanding alibis for these crimes. I’m going to grow up and stop doing that. Well. For a while. In the meantime, does Don Monteleone have witnesses in good standing who can vouch where he was 50 years ago this week? 

A TERRIBLE ACCIDENT — Lockheed Shipbuilding & Construction was hit with an 80-count indictment on this date for gross negligence in the death of 17 workers on June 23 of the previous year. They were digging a water tunnel connecting the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys when an explosion ripped through their diggings. 

APRIL 2, 1982  

WONDER IF GAS’LL HIT $145 BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR? — Gasoline for regular unleaded was $1.14 a gallon in town. People were pretty much upset. 

ONLY SCOTTY COULD GET AWAY WITH THIS — Our legendary editorialist, Scott Newhall, penned one of his famous front-page, above-the-fold editorials. It was about stories of the LAPD taking off early to have sex in public parks with teenage prostitutes. Title of the think piece? “Bareass in the Park.” It’s a good day in journalism when you can squeeze — ahem, “bare-asterisks” — into a headline. 

If I could have a vote, and, it meant something, I’d vote we stretch late winter out another couple years and never break out of the mid-60s. But drat. Can’t. In fact, that’s our time portal up ahead to present-day Santa Clarita. Hope you folks have a wonderful and peaceful weekend. Be nice to one another and I’ll see you in seven. Vayan con Dios, amigos! 

Check out John Boston’s new SCV history books — “Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America, Volumes 1 AND 2” at 

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