You’ll pardon me if I sort of bite my lip and not say anything about those of you who are just now getting started on their income tax filings.
I’m not going to do anything as gauche as go, “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” while my horse shakes its head in the background.
One of the benefits of time travel is that we can go visit quieter climes and be home before we even left. Time, after all, is but a concept.
This morning, we’ll be moseying through the portals of yesteryear to inspect missing time capsules, the first Ford in the valley, attack dogs, and attack buffalo.
Well. Actually, attack bison.
Come on. Throw those shapely fannies up in the saddle, touch the business end of those spurs gently on their ribs while resisting the temptation to make a counterculture dating metaphor and let’s see what used to be…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
POSTMODERN LIFE — There were no smartphones. No e-mails. No wristwatches. No frozen yogurt. And certainly not much noise. On the flip side, there weren’t any what you’d call decent-looking, non-midget horses, either.
APRIL 16, 1922
ROADSIDE BIZ — Local groceryman A.H. Skyler decided to take advantage of the tourists passing through the SCV. He ordered an ice cream cart and set it along the Ridge Route with a hired vendor. Back in 1922, cars didn’t have as much oomph as they do today. In fact, some could only make the grade at about 3 mph so it wasn’t like they had to lock up the brakes to stop and buy a soda pop or ice cream cone from Skyler.
FEUD’S OVER — R. W. Stevens, oil speculator here and in South America, purchased the Chormicle Ranch that bordered Castaic. The old owner, Bill Chormicle, was one of the patriarchs in the great Castaic Range War that lasted over three decades and took as many as 27 lives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. President Teddy Roosevelt even sent a special agent out here to quell the violence. But, by the time the ranger got here, the feud had essentially ended.
AND FURTHERMORE I SAY UNTO BLAH-BUH-BLAH — Those few souls in the Little Santa Clara River Valley listened to the very first radio-broadcasted political message. A Mr. Luther Brown spoke against the evils of a proposed water-and-power act.
GLADDIE’S DAD — A.G. Thibadeau was the first owner in the history of the SCV of a Ford Sedan. Mr. T had never driven a car before and had to take along an experienced chauffeur for on-the-road lessons going back home. The A.G. stood for Alexander Gilbert although everyone called him Bert. He was also famous for being the father of one of this valley’s reigning beauties of the 20th century and my pal, Ms. Gladys Laney. She lived just about all her life on Market Street and would work for years across the street at the Senior Center. Gladys attended Newhall Elementary in the 1920s, was my ex-father-in-law Walt Wayman’s babysitter when he was an infant, and wished you could have all met her. She passed back in 2014 at 104.
INFLATION — To give you an idea of the relative cost of things, the same week Mr. Thibadeau bought his new car, there appeared a classified ad in The Mighty Signal. It read: “Wanted: Will sell or trade 2.5 acres close-in property for 1922 Ford Sedan. Inquire at this office.” Using VERY flattering figures of, say, $100,000 per acre near downtown Newhall today, you’d be trading your acreage toward a $250,000 Ford.
LIFE WITHOUT CELL PHONES — One of the regular columns this august newspaper ran in 1924 was called, “Mint Canyon Juleps.” The author noted that in a few days, the desolate area would be getting “free mail delivery” for the first time in history. The author then wondered about the vast area, “Why not add a telephone?” She went on, “It only takes the perseverance of an enterprising community to obtain any public service of this kind.” It’s rather comic, looking back from 2022 with all our cell phones, e-mails and faxes. She further noted, “When we get those telephones in our houses, we will say, ‘How did we ever get along without it?’”
APRIL 16, 1932
MILK FOR THE MASSES — Here’s some trivia for you. On this date, there were nine working commercial dairies in the SCV. Most of their milk ended up in Los Angeles.
1932 HOUSING SHORTAGE — And here’s some more trivia for you. Talk about a housing shortage, on this date, it was reported that EVERY house in town was occupied and that there were zero homes for rent in the entire valley.
OK. LAST TRIVIA — In 1932, California had more cars per capita than any other state — almost twice the national average. We had one motor vehicle per 2.8 persons compared to the rest of the country’s 4.75 rate.
HOW ABOUT A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS? — In the depths of the Depression, Signal Publisher A.B. “Dad” Thatcher penned a front-page column wondering which economic road the country should take: “It’s a queer situation we have now. Everybody says we must quit spending so much money or we’ll go broke. Then, suddenly, we hear it from everywhere that if we don’t spend the money, we’ll all go broke. And after listening to both sides, I’ll be doggoned if I know what to do with my 30 cents.”
AGRARIAN HUMOR. KNOW IT WELL. — We’re going through a local drought right now but we’re not dependent on agriculture. Back on this date, we still had no rain whatsoever in March or April. Farmers were darkly joking that they were going into the dried fruit business.
APRIL 16, 1942
THAT’S OUR BOY! — Yet more cool cocktail party trivia for you. Want to spend a guess on who was one of the directors of the Newhall Rodeo Association? John Wayne.
HARD, HARD TIMES — William Buck took his life and the life of his dog on this date. The elder gentleman had fallen upon hard times, both financially and physically. He left a suicide note under a tree by his Bouquet Canyon cabin, then torched his home with him and his dog sitting in the center. His note: “Having been followed by misfortune in recent years by being run over by automobiles a number of times yet not having been fortunate enough to be killed…” Poor old Buck had declining hearing, eyesight and all those broken bones, and no means to support himself. Even his final wish, of being buried with his dog in his field under the massive oak, was not granted.
PUT ME DOWN FOR THREE — How’d you like to take this place back with you to the future? The Rancho Bonito, or Mackey Ranch, was up for sale. Asking price? Just $7,250 and that was for a custom two-story house on 12 acres, with a separate caretaker’s house, barns, orchards, and thickly populated with oak trees. Not much around here anymore thickly lined with oak trees…
APRIL 16, 1952
THE PUBLIC. YUCK. — Longtime Newhall matriarch Pearl Russell (to whom in a roundabout way I’m related) was the only registrar of voters for this area. On the last day of registration, seems around 8 p.m., a whole passel of folks donning puppy faces showed up on her front lawn, begging to sign up so they could vote in the upcoming election. Pearl stood on her front porch and gave an Old Testament hellfire and brimstone speech. In part, “I have seen the whole lot of you folks walking past the window of my downtown desk, week after week, while the books were open,” she said. “And you never even LOOKED in, much less came in while there was plenty of time and nobody waiting, and you could have got registered quickly. So now you can just wait until I get a slug of coffee and a little rest.” After a nap while everyone waited in the yard, Pearl got out the books and registered everyone. She was up way past midnight.
APRIL 16, 1962
STAMP OF APPROVAL — The new Acton Post Office issued an announcement that they’d be celebrating the grand opening of the new building by issuing a special envelope. The envelope, stamped May 5, 1962, commemorated the continuous postal service in that community since 1887.
NO SHORTAGE OF IMBECILES — Railroad detectives were scouring the hills, looking for clues. Seems like some bozo had tried to derail a passenger train by dragging a couple of huge beams onto the tracks.
GETTING BUFFALOED — Walt Disney Himself showed up for the official dedication of his gift to Hart Park. Walt had given a herd of bison to the compound. Prior to ribbon-cutting time, things hadn’t exactly gone smoothly. For one thing, some of the 1,100-pound beasts didn’t want to go quietly into the horse trailers to be transported from the Disney Ranch to the Horseshoe Ranch. The buffs had to be tranquilized, then whipped, lion-tamer style, to get out of the rigs and into the pens at Hart Park. A couple of beasts got loose and were wandering around the non-enclosed part of the park.
WHELP. DON’T HAVE TO FEED THE DOGS TONIGHT — Speaking of ill-tempered creatures, William Foster apparently didn’t read or thought the warning wasn’t for him. His car had broken down on the old Ridge Route and he hiked to Jack Spry’s ranch. The one with the big sign on the gate warning, “Beware of Dogs!” coupled with the artist’s rendition of a savage, drooling mutt. Foster hopped the fence and started walking toward the ranch house. That’s when two German Shepherds pretty much had him for lunch. Adding insult to non-hospitality, Spry showed up, pulled the dogs off, then gave Foster a lecture for ignoring the signs.
APRIL 16, 1972
THE TREASURE IS STILL BURIED TODAY — On April 15, 1972, a group of community leaders took shovel to ground and buried a time capsule in the front yard to commemorate the grand opening of Empire Savings on Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. Another famous Scott Newhall editorial on the front page, entitled: “2000 A.D. Will The French Fries Be Gone?” noted of the day, “The beautiful desert hills around us are still almost untouched. But in the valley floor, in the canyons, and on the lower slopes, man has started his inevitable assault.” About 50 mucky-mucks showed up to bury a time capsule including memorabilia of the day, and, a batch of letters that were supposed to be unearthed in the year 2000 and mailed. (I wonder if the grave diggers looked into the future and foresaw the increase in postage!) Supervisor Warren Dorn, up for re-election, flew in by helicopter for the event and when asked what he wanted buried in the plot, he exuberantly noted, “Baxter Ward!!” (Baxter was running against him.) Over the years, Empire was bought out by Allstate, which was bought out by Sears, and eventually, the present-day Citibank IS there. A local resident who was present at that 1972 ceremony walked the Citibank grounds with a metal detector, trying to find the original cache. Alas, there was no plaque or marker and that time capsule still rests on Citibank property. One of the citizens who buried letters to be mailed 28 years later was Dolly Reynolds. She died in 1994. She had addressed some letters to her then-unborn grandchildren. Today, they have no idea those buried letters from their dearly departed grandmother rest there in a cold, suburban banker’s grave. One last note. Scotty wrote, “We are also fighting to save this great Valley from the horrors of ‘slurbanization,’ which have laid San Fernando Valley by the heels.” Wonder what Scotty would have thought of the SCV in 2022?
APRIL 10, 1981
AN UNFORGOTTEN HISTORICAL TIDBIT — In an odd way, this was one of the benchmarks in SCV history. On this date, the Mann 6 Valencia opened its doors and at that moment, we were truly suburban. Oddly, it opened on Cinema Drive and years later, would shut down and turn into a church. Today, there’s no cinema on Cinema Drive, and one wonders, post-COVID, how the SCV’s theaters will survive.
APRIL 16, 1982
CULT LEADER DIES — Forty years back, Susan Alamo died. She was the wife of the controversial evangelical leader, Tony Alamo. The couple ran what some felt was a rescue mission for wayward youths and what others felt was a brainwashing cult on a 200-acre compound up Mint Canyon/Sierra Highway. The Alamos had been country/western singers who had become born-again Christians. One of their students noted how the couple had gotten hundreds of troubled, drug-addicted youths off the streets of Hollywood. Neighbors noted how the Alamos collected the money their converts collected and spent it on mink coats and a limousine. One of their converts made legal history by being the first person in California history to be removed from a church and returned to her parents. Mrs. Alamo finally succumbed to cancer at 56.
DID THE CULPRIT RETURN TO HIS, AHEM, MOUSE PAD? — The aged computer at Placerita Canyon Nature Center turned up missing. The tank-sized tool broke down after a mouse ate through the wires to, no fooling, the mouse.
• • •
Drat if there aren’t days where I just don’t feel like coming back to the Here-&-Now. Wish I could mosey around when there just was much to see and not much to bump into. What say we get back together in seven, go back in time and see something we’ve never seen? Until then, dear saddlepals — 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 http://johnbostonbooks.com/.