I can’t recall, in all these decades of organizing these horse rides into yesteryear, where I’ve said: “Ahhh, just sleep in. It’s going to be a boring trailride.”
Keeping with tradition, we are going to kick butt, take names later and see some pretty amazing vistas in today’s trek into SCV history.
We’ve got — heavens. Why am I bothering to tell you when you’re about to see it firsthand? Hop up in those saddles. Heels down in the stirrups. Firm but not tight grip on the reins because you don’t want to give your horse the idea you’re neurotic.
It’s an absolutely beautiful day in the mystic…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
WELCOME, MITCH! — On May 24, 1860, Col. Thomas F. Mitchell arrived in Soledad Canyon. He came there to get away from it all and lived for a short time in an abandoned miner’s shack. Alas, love struck the poor colonel. He met and married a gal named Martha and the two of them became one of the SCV’s premier couples during the 19th century, leaving a legacy we still see today. The Mitchells helped create the Sulphur Springs School District (and the elementary campus of the same name) — the second oldest district in Los Angeles County.
AS MY MOM USED TO SAY: “YOU HAVE A LOT OF BRASS.” — Way back when, Sierra Highway, going into the San Fernando Valley, was called Fremont Pass. We understand that around the turn of the century, there used to be a small statue of the rough-fighting explorer and soldier near Beale’s Cut. Whether the state or county took it down or it fell victim to thieves, can’t say. We do know that all over California, and, sadly, America, memorials have been stolen to sell as antiques or, in the case of the heavy bronze plaques at Beale’s Cut over the years, melted for scrap metal.
MAY 28, 1922
NO BOOZE HANK — Henry Clay Needham was famous for running several times for president on the Prohibitionist ticket. He never did very well (never once carrying his own home town of Santa Clarita in elections). On this date, he had something to be proud of. His son, Henry Parke Needham, graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, with honors.
MAYBE THEY SHOULD SWITCH FROM EAGLES TO BUCKAROOS — Before Newhall Elementary sat where it does today on Newhall Avenue, it was the site of our first major rodeo. They still had a huge platform up there for the western event from a couple of months earlier. On this date, the Hayward Jazz band performed during a rather zesty live “Open Air Dance.” Guess they beat the Concerts in the Park series by about 70-plus years. Admission was just a nickel.
HONORING THE VETS — This being Memorial Day weekend in 1922, there were other dances and parties around town, from the old Honby Hall to the Hap-a-Land Hall (where the old courthouse building is today on Market). Besides the festivities, moments were taken to honor veterans, living and dead — from World War I all the way back to the Civil War. In fact, for years, Civil War vets would march next to one another in our Fourth of July parades.
MAY 28, 1932
ALERT THE HOAs!! — This would mean absolutely diddly-squat to most of the residents of Santa Clarita today. But 90 years back, local farmers were rather worried about a huge infestation of alfalfa weevils in the neighboring San Joaquin Valley.
ATTENTION ALL YOU WILLIE WONKAS — Some of you time pals with a sweet tooth might want to load up your saddlebags. Safeway was hosting a sale on candy bars — three for a nickel. Of course, when you got the chocolate back into the here and now, it would be 90 years past its pull-date (like there’s ever an expiration date on chocolate!).
MAY 23, 1941
STARVED FOR ENTERTAINMENT — On this date, the valley’s first permanent movie house, The American Theater, held its grand opening. Bill Hart gave a stirring speech and introduced his silent epic, “Tumbleweeds” to a standing ovation. They played the same pix a year later, at the one-year anniversary of the American, too.
MAY 28, 1942
SHORTLY BEFORE HIS DEATH — On this date, Jess Kell’s midget burro, Shafter, was found dead. The diminutive donkey drowned in a mud bog. A taller burro would have survived.
THE MINI BUT MIGHTY SIGNAL — Times were tough for pretty much everybody in Santa Clarita and America during World War II. Just about everything, including water, was being rationed. The Signal shrunk to just four pages on this date, 80 years ago.
RE: THE ABOVE? — Things were so tight, The Signal had only one digit for its telephone number — 8.
HISTORY REPEATS — Currently, the world watches in horror at the carnage, rape, murder and atrocity of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Signal’s editorial commented on the Nazi-socialist atrocities in Europe, which seem frighteningly familiar to today’s headlines. Here’s our lead graf: “The process by which Germany is trying to hold the pop valve down on the European boiler is one of such unmitigated barbarity that the World will freeze with horror when its full extent is revealed.”
MAY 28, 1952
WHY IT PAYS TO NOT ONLY CHECK YOUR OIL BUT CHANGE IT — Guy Hadsell never checked his engine. The pilot’s old World War II P-38 fighter plane crashed in Sand Canyon, killing Hadsell. Investigators noted the motor was one of the dirtiest they had ever encountered and was completely gummed up. It gave out and poor Hadsell never had a chance.
HELPS TO LEAVE A NAME & ADDRESS — Signal Editor Fred Trueblood ran this front-page plea: “Will the person who paid his year’s subscription to our high school office boy please contact The Signal? We would like to know who he was, as the boy did not get a name.”
THINK THE DMV & CHP WERE A LITTLE PUSHY? — Our various agencies went Bad Cop/Bad Cop. They issued notices that anyone caught running around with a 1951 license plate would be immediately arrested, jailed and face prosecution.
MAY 28, 1962
NOW THAT’S AN OLD-TIMER — Sixty years and a day ago, Mabel Taylor passed away. She was the daughter of Newhall’s first citizens, John and Sarah Gifford, and was born on Nov. 3, 1875, about a year before Newhall became a town. Her dad was the paymaster on the railroad here. She lived on the second story of the Newhall train depot (on the site of the Jan Heidt Metrolink station today). She was a girl of 5 when Newhall had just 61 citizens in 1880.
GROUND ZERO FOR THE POPULATION EXPLOSION — Another old-timer passed away. Jim Hedrick might be the culprit for today’s population explosion. A few months shy of 98 when he passed, Hedrick was the valley’s oldest citizen. He had over 110 descendants.
HEAVENLY HERE — Odd how the weather changes. Remember? In 1952? A decade earlier? Locals were suffering under a triple-digit heat wave. In 1962, the high on this day was just 64 degrees. I’ll take a high of 64 for every… darn… day…of…SUMMER!
MAY 28, 1972
MAYBE IT WAS A RELATIONSHIP IN PROGRESS — I guess Mother’s Day wasn’t a special holiday for Al Carrizosa. Way back on May 17, 1972, Al rammed his wife’s car with his own while repeatedly shouting, “I’m going to kill you.”
MUSTANG BUT NO SALLY — Nowhere to go on a late spring or summer night? The Mustang Drive-in was the answer to your prayers. With it getting dark long after 8, the car theater on Soledad offered triple features. Those who were entertainment-starved could lounge until after 2 a.m. in their autos. I make a part of my living in nostalgia, but cripes folks. That place had the worst dang popcorn and pizza that could have doubled as roof shingles.
MY MAN TRICKY DICK — This was the first time 18-year-olds could vote in a presidential election. In a mock primary at Canyon High, the senior class re-elected Richard M. Nixon by a 2-1 landslide.
HEY! IS THAT GUY SOMEHOW RELATED TO JOHN BOSTON? — Some skinny basketball coach named Walt Cieplik led all scorers in the Hart-Canyon faculty basketball game.
THE GUY MARRIED 42 RUNGS ABOVE HIM — A much better athlete, Steve Staats, was named Outstanding College Athlete of the Year at Gonzaga U. The former Hart horse hider had been a three-year shortstop up there and had a .459 batting average his senior year and, Jiminy Christmas, that wasn’t batting from a tee. He ended up marrying the near-sighted beauty, Genene Doty…
MAY 28, 1982
HOME IS WHERE THE NUMBERS IS (ARE?) — Here’s some interesting progress stats. There were less than 5,000 homes in the SCV in 1960. By 1970, that number had just about tripled to around 15,000. By 1980, there were 27,738 homes in the valley. Today? I’m just guessing, but it feels like a billion-six houses…
MUST’VE NOT BRIBED THE RIGHT GUY AT THE COUNTY LEVEL — You can still see the remnants of Rivendale. It’s at the entrance of the Ed Davis/Towsley Canyon park on The Old Road. On this date, the Regional Planning Commission effectively put the stake in the center’s heart. Rivendale wanted to become a tony outdoor concert, rodeo and equestrian center. RPC denied them permits to hold concerts and Rivendale had to cancel 10 of them for the summer. From that point on, Rivendale basically dried up and blew away.
Darn it. Hate to let you dear friends go. Think we’d be missed if we just sort of wandered around halcyon times for a few eternities? So much to see, so many uncluttered hills on which to camp, build bonfires, tell stories and sing songs. Oh well. Guess we must step back into the time portal of present day and worship the Demanding god of Chores. In my absence, you saddlepals be kind to one another. See you in seven, and, until then, — vayan con Dios, amigos!
Check out John Boston’s new SCV history books — Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America, Volumes One AND Two. Get ’em BOTH at johnbostonbooks.com.