A warm and Western howdy to you, dear saddlepals. Good to see you all again. Looks like we’ve a most action-packed time ride through SCV history ahead.
There’s new gold information to sift through, the other and first Castaic Dam and we’ll take a look at how one of our historic fathers started a race riot.
We’ve got maniacs, movie stars and, well, get in the saddle and see for yourself, amigos. We’re burning daylight!
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
FOND MEMORIES OF 19th-CENTURY SCV LIFE — One of our columnists who penned the Mint Canyon Juleps column for many years recalled her days as a young girl in pre-Canyon Country. She had gone to a party at a friend’s ranch and her family didn’t get home until 5 the next morning. Besides getting to dance an Irish jig that, from her account, “nearly wrecked the house,” the highlight of the evening was being attacked by their own mare. When they moseyed through their home gate, the elderly horse who had been pulling them became irate and literally kicked their buggy into kindling. “We escaped damage, but if there is any horse heaven, I’ll bet that old gray kicking machine isn’t there.”
HAPPY P.O. BIRTHDAY — Back on June 12, 1868, the valley’s first post office was established in Ravenna (for you newcomers, that was the wild mining boom town between present-day Acton and Agua Dulce). For a while after statehood, Acton was briefly considered as a location for the new state capitol, not Sacramento.
FORGOTTEN GOLD DISCOVERERS — Francisco Lopez was credited with the first discovery of gold in the valley. But old Spanish records indicate he was joined by two friends in the discovery — Manuel Cota and Domingo Bermudez. While they were on the original petition to the governor of California, Lopez and a fourth gentleman (sorry, can’t find his name yet!) were on the grant, but not Cota and Bermudez, who were the forgotten prospectors of SCV history.
LOCAL STARTS FIRST L.A. RACE RIOTS — Old W.W. Jenkins (the two W’s stand for William Willoby, but he was known by both Bill and Wert) was a famous lawman in Southern California. He was a captain in the shoot-first-ask-questions-later California Rangers. Jenkins earned a reputation for being quite the pistol fighter. He carried several bullet holes in him, including one from an arrest of a Mexican in early Los Angeles. Jenkins shot back, killing the man, and had the dubious honor of starting one of L.A.’s first race riots.
SERIOUS BLING — Back in 1854, Francisco Garcia had a pretty good year gold mining. He took out about $65,000 in gold dust from the San Feliciana area of Castaic. A couple of years later, Jose Espinosa found a huge gold nugget, over 6 pounds, worth $1,900 then.
A CENTURY BEFORE THE OTHER CASTAIC DAM — Long before there was a Castaic Lake and Dam, there was a Castaic Lake and Dam. W.W. Jenkins, aka, The Baron of Castaic, had a large contingent of Chinese workers who built a large, earthen structure to hold back water for both agriculture and gold mining. I’ve yet to find an accurate date for this dam, but it seems to be between 1870 and 1880. Jenkins owned a huge chunk of property — nearly 10,000 acres. He was also one of the major participants in the Castaic Range War at the turn of the century.
JUNE 11, 1922
FIREFIGHTERS BY LAW — We are currently suffering through a drought with brush fires always lingering on the horizon. A century ago, because of extreme fire danger, all farmers were required, by law, to carry two large chemical extinguishers on their bailers, harvesters, threshers and tractors at all times.
WRETCHED DOG KILLER — The Mighty Signal put the town on the alert — a heinous dog poisoner was at work, murdering family pets. We noted we’d find the culprit and that “The offense is punishable by a term in the penitentiary.” We offered a $50 reward for the capture of the sicko.
DON’T THINK HISTORY WILL BE CIRCULAR IN 2022 — A Signal editorial that ran on this exact date in 1922 could be plucked and glued onto a modern newspaper. It read: “Good Citizens Are Not Slackers at the Polls.”
THAT’S JUST 16.5¢ TO HIT THE BEACH ONE WAY — Long before Metrolink, there was the Southern Pacific passenger train. Back in 1922, they made regular runs to Oxnard and Ventura so folks could cool off. These special “Beach Runs” cost just 33 cents round-trip. It’d be great if Metrolink could run them again to the Pacific. Problem is, the train might get tangled up around the Magic Mountain Parkway, San Fernando Road intersection. The tracks appear a bit sparse of late.
PROMOTING SHOP LOCAL, A CENTURY AGO —The Signal came up with the community slogan: “Pennies Planted in Newhall Will Grow Dollars.”
HOPE IT WASN’T ONE OF THOSE ‘CAN’T TAKE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER’ DEALS — Here’s an interesting ad from way back. A farmer up in Saugus was selling his 22-acre duck ranch. And, a piano…
JUNE 11, 1932
WATCH THINE SELVES — In its day, the French Village meandered up and down San Fernando Road. On this date, P.L. Bachman of Los Angeles bought the popular dance hall and eatery. The place had earned a reputation of sometimes being a rough-&-tumble dive. Mr. Bachman promised he would have “…only one rule — absolute good order. And careful attention to the comfort of the guests, with the best of music.” We know. That’s actually three rules…
MANIAC vs. NON-MANIAC — This was a good day for journalism because The Signal got to use, “Shot By Maniac,” in a headline, and not such a good day for the Zahniser family. Newhall mover and shaker, Clyde Zahniser, had his brother shot by said maniac. The maniac, J.F. White, was in turn, shot and killed by non-maniac and patrolman, Harold Davis.
OUR HAPPY FIRST 4TH — Newhall’s inaugural Fourth of July parade and celebration was started, of all odd things, because of hard times. In the midst of the Great Depression, locals realized it would cost as much as $2 per head for families to go elsewhere to celebrate Independence Day. Fielding Wood was in charge of the first-ever parade and Gladys Laney’s mom, Mrs. A.G. Thibadeau, was in charge of The Reception of the Elder Residents. The reception was free and saving a couple of bucks was a real big deal in 1932. Imagine if we were to tell our pals in 1932 that 90 years later, it could cost upwards of $100 (1/6th cost of a 1932 new house!!) to take the family to the movies…
BENEATH THE PLANET OF GOLD FEVER — Prospecting enjoyed a rebirth due to the Depression. Up Seco Canyon there used to sit a series of mines, including a loosely organized tent city called the 49 Gold Camp. A group of about 50 families settled that area, building a tent city. They hunted for gold during the day and, at night, cooked over campfires under the stars. (Stars, by the way, are those twinkly little lights in the heavens that we can’t see anymore because of all the street lights. By cracky.)
THAT’S ACTUALLY A STAGGERING INCREASE — Must be something about this time of year. Twenty years ago, we enjoyed a postal hike of 37¢ for a first-class letter. It’s 58¢ today. Back on this date in 1932, residents were grumbling about a rate increase. Mailing a letter went up from 2 cents to 3.
THAT AIN’T ‘ZION.’ IT’S ‘Z.N.’ — I am including this letter from former Texan Z.N. Brown, who had just moved to Newhall on this date with his family. My only justification is that Z.N.’s writing tickles me pink: “Folks have asked me here, how I like Newhall. Well, rather good, even more than that. The folks here have stuck out their hands real glad like, and said, ‘Welcome stranger,’ and that makes a fellow feel like he hasn’t strayed into a strange pasture where the grass is all took up. To sum it all up, we are all just one big family after all and it don’t make any difference where we hail from, we are all just folks, living our lives the best we know how, and when the Big Roundup takes place, I reckon we will all get herded together under the same brand. So, I say, I am right glad to meet you.”
JUNE 11, 1942
OFF TO FIGHT THE SOCIALISTS — In the early months of World War II, The Signal went to war — literally. Young Fred Trueblood II, who ran the print and the composing portion of the paper, took his physical for the Army. Fighting against the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis) Fred would later meet his war bride, Bobbie, in England and bring the lovely lass home. Fred’s dad re-signed with the Navy, where he was assigned to work at Bermite (our local munitions factory) 40-60 hours a week. That left the society editor to run the paper.
SO THE MOVIES WERE SO BAD, HAL’D PAY YOU TO SEE IT? — Hal Hall, manager of The American Theatre, did his best to help local morale. He issued free passes to the movie house.
BANKERS BATTLE — A few blocks over, R.R. Riedel, manager of the local branch of Bank of America (at the east side of 8th and San Fernando Road then), unfurled a war service flag with the number 1,255 on it. That’s how many Bank of America men enlisted in the Army.
JUNE 11, 1952
DEAR LEE’S DEAR DAD — My good pal George Harris was principal of Hart back in 1952. Back then, graduation ceremonies were pretty much a breeze — there were only 76 seniors. George passed away in 2006 at 95. His son, Lee, died this year, just a kid at 65.
OH GOLLY GEEZ. TO BE ABLE TO TAKE BACK SOME REAL ESTATE INTO THE FUTURE — Today, $49,000 wouldn’t buy you a tool shed in the SCV. But a half-century back, you could get a 30-acre farm, on level land, with three houses, barns, a swimming pool and fruit orchard for that price. Close to town, too. A new little two-bedroom home, on Wayman Street, was yours for just $3,900. That’s total, not monthly payments.
JUNE 11, 1962
SIGH. REMEMBERING OUR OLD BELOVED STOMPING GROUNDS — The Big Oaks Lodge, up Bouquet Canyon, had new owners. Al Perlinski, Leslie Kazarian and Perry Minetti bought the place from George and Armen Logian, who had run the Big Oaks for 12 years. The place sold for $71,000, including the liquor license. The Lodge, besides being a great restaurant, has been a favored training camp for some of the world’s most famous boxers, including heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry. The Lodge burned to the ground in 2018, making national headlines.
“I KNOW HOW I’D VOTE…” HE SANG IN A SING-SONGY VOICE — Fred Trueblood II wrote an editorial 40 years back, entitled: “Progress, Or A Monster?” I’ll just let you read for yourself:
“In the past several decades, we have seen the coming of the so-called megalopolis. For one reason or another, a few cities throughout the United States started to grow. The growth seemed to feed on itself. These vast sprawling cities spread in all directions like wildfire. Hills, fields and woodlands feel to the bulldozers. Orchards and farms disappeared in the dust of tract and shopping center builders. Freeways plowed through urban areas like a stream of lava.
“The megalopolis was born.
“Are they good or are they bad?
“It may take another 50 years to tell for certain, but at the moment, all portents for the megalopolis seem doubtful. They are almost impossible to govern equitably. Their insatiable thirst for water, for power and electricity and for services far outruns their ability to supply the same, and their efforts to do so cause serious dislocations and problems for many miles beyond their immediate perimeter.
“In smite of all the glowing accounts of urban progress in all parts of the metropolitan press, the megalopolis is not a happy place in which to live. This is evidenced by the stream of city residents that pour out of the city at any opportunity it can get.
“The greatest evil of the megalopolis is the simple statement you hear so often from so many of its residents: ‘I hate the damn place but it’s the only place I can make a living.’
“The great metropolitan centers, like a magnet, are drawing the wealth into a few concentrated points, and people will naturally follow where that wealth goes.
“What about the other 99 percent of the nation? It is in this area and this diversification that our great strength as a Republic lies. Bleed it all into a few central locations and you are asking for long-range trouble.”
A HALF-CENTURY LATER, POLITICIANS ARE STILL DEBATING MEDICARE — For those of you who purposefully ditch church, I apologize upfront for hitting you over the head with two consecutive editorials. But this was too good to pass up. Same issue, Fred Trueblood II railed against Medicare. Relax. I’m just going to give you the first paragraph: “It is more than a crime that medical care for our older folks was tossed into the arena of political football playing. The administration’s so-called Medicare proposal is a completely inadequate, misrepresented, cynical fraud that in no manner provides a solution for this touchy problem. The American Medical Association for all its stubborn and justified opposition has offered very little as a counter proposal.”
JUNE 11, 1972
METHOD ACTING — Up in Agua Dulce, only a few friends were left to celebrate the birthday of cowboy actor and stuntman, Fred LaVere. Fred, who turned 80, had started working in the movies in 1912. He had been a stunt rider for Will Rogers, Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson and other film stars. One of his film highlights was being the bodyguard to King Saul in the silent film, “The Life of Christ.” LaVere got a little carried away, smacking an actor who was sneaking up on his “king.” LaVere smacked the assassin over the head with a sword, knocking him unconscious. The part Seminole Indian was riding every day at 80.
JUNE 11, 1982
FORD, THE SUPER CLASS MODEL — One of the greatest athletes in this valley’s history was picked to The Signal’s All SCV diamond squad as a freshman. She was the pitching phenom, Samantha Ford.
OH! THAT LUKE!! — On this date, Luke Perry ran for the local judgeship. Nope. Not the same 47-year-old playing a 17-year-old Luke Perry on “Beverly Hills 90210.” Local Luke didn’t win.
You guys are good medicine for me. Love the company and sharing the story of Santa Clarita with you. We’re back to the here-&-now. Time to get back to our present-day lives. See you back at The Mighty Signal hitching post 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.