A warm & Western howdy to you grizzled back-canyon Santa Clarita old-timers, you bunk-hugging newbies just stumbling out of your yuppie concentration camp condos, my 3.5 personal friends, and even the Irish.
We’ve a most interesting trek into the yesteryear of Santa Clarita Valley history. While we have post office tales galore, don’t let that stop you from putting left foot in stirrup and hoisting yourself in the saddle. We’ve got perps and melees, and possibly Ruth Newhall’s only known typo. (Take off the Stetson and offer a respectful amen/boy howdy sigh…) There’s Newhall Land’s birthday, our first doctor (a lady!) and an atomic bomb explosion felt here in our valley.
Hate to share this, but cellphone cameras (nor regular ones) don’t work in the pleasant climes of the mystic. You’ll just have to use your noodle and remember…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
WELCOME, PRESBIES — Here’s something for all you SCV Presbyterians and fans of things Presbyterian. On May 31, 1891, Rev. F.D. Seward, along with a group of local mucky-mucks, formed the First Presbyterian Church in Newhall.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NEWLANDIANS!! — I don’t know what one gives for a 139th birthday party (skateboarding lessons? skydiving certificate?), but June 1 marks the anniversary of Newhall Land. On that date in 1883, they were founded by the widow of Henry Mayo Newhall and his five sons.
GOING POSTAL — I got sticker-shocked. Just paid my post office box rent for $138. That’s for six months. Back in 1868, the very first post office in the SCV was in a long-forgotten community called Ravenna (between Acton and Agua Dulce). George Gleason was postmaster for a while. Seems he didn’t like the pay. After working for five months, all he received in remuneration from the federal government was 57 cents — a penny less than the cost of a first-class postage stamp today.
MORE GOING POSTAL — In 1874, two years before Newhall was founded, the post office was at the old Lyons Station, near where Eternal Valley is today. Here’s some major cool trivia: That post office was called Petroliopolis, in honor of the Star Oil Co. a few yards away.
WHEN WILL IT END? MORE POSTAL! — The first Newhall post office was established on Jan. 16, 1877, at the Campton General Store. Campton lost his job as postmaster when Grover Cleveland was elected president (the position was a political appointment back then). George Larkey, Democrat, took George’s post.
OK. LAST POSTAL. PROMISE —We’ve oft spoke of Surrey, the turn-of-the-century community that literally shared the same sidewalk with Saugus. According to historian A.B. Perkins, one reason why the mail went to Surrey instead of Saugus was due to penmanship. Evidently, a postal executive demanded that Saugus come up with a new name. Why? A lot of mail intended for Sanger, California, was mistakenly delivered to Saugus and vice versa. If you write out the two towns’ names in longhand, you’ll see why…
JUNE 4, 1922
STILL WAITING FOR ‘BURN ‘EM UP BARNES, II — Before we had a regular theater here, locals would enjoy the occasional film at the Newhall Opera House. On this date, the silent flick, “Burn ‘Em Up Barnes” played.
HELP THY NEIGHBOR OR GET THROWN IN THE POKEY — Back in the 1920s, it wasn’t merely neighborly to help pitch in during a brush fire. It was the law. A state ordinance mandated that citizens help douse blazes when ordered by a county or state fire warden. Fire season in the SCV was long, running from May 1 to Jan. 1.
BETCHA IT DIDN’T COST A FRIGGIN’ $256 A YEAR FOR A BOX — Albert Swall remodeled the local post office on this date, moving the phone booth and adding 40 boxes.
CONDOITA — Be careful what you wish for. A Signal editorial a century ago today noted we needed many new houses in the valley. And so, it came to pass and then some…
YUP. WE HAD SMASH-&-GRABBERS EVEN A CENTURY AGO — Excitement ran high in the long-forgotten community of Sterling, near Agua Dulce. Some big-city jewel robbers had been hiding out there after a big diamond heist.
JUNE 1, 1932
RUMOR WAS SHE CHARGED A QUARTER FOR COOTIE SHOTS — On this date, Dr. Peters opened the first, regular doctor’s office in the SCV, at the present-day corner of 6th and San Fernando Road (now known as Railroad Avenue, and across from our pal, Dr. Stowitts). The location would later become Newhall Community Hospital. Dr. Peters, by the way, was a rarity. She was a woman, and her first name was Sarah. She tended and mended the sick and stoved-up for years.
JUNE 4, 1932
LIVING THE GOOD LIFE DURING THE DEPRESSION — Hall of Fame cowboy Andy Jauregui took a first and second at the big Salinas Rodeo and brought home $365 in cash. That’s about three months’ good wages in hard-times Depression-era money.
WHAT IF YOU HAD NEITHER? GUESSED YOU WATCHED —William Mayhue was known as the Alfalfa King of the SCV. He both made and lost several huge fortunes in agriculture. Mayhue announced that he would help launch Newhall’s inaugural Fourth of July 1932 parade by supplying saddles for people who owned horses but no saddles and for people who owned saddles but no horses.
JUNE 4, 1942
MASKING UP BEFORE COVID — The tensions of the early days of World War II increased. Local sheriff’s deputies and highway patrolmen now carried gas masks in their prowl vehicles, just in case of a chemical attack from Japan.
BOMBS NOT AWAY — The Andy Jauregui ranch in Placerita Canyon was the site of graduation ceremonies for the local air wardens, auxiliary police, and Mounted Posse. The Hall of Fame cowboy trained the horsemen at his spread for everything from patrolling the national forests to spotting giant, bomb-carrying dirigibles. I imagine the dirigible spotting was probably a slam dunk course.
JUNE 4, 1952
SADLY, WE NO LONGER HANGED THE PERPS — Back in the 19th century, cattle rustling was a huge growth industry in Newhall and L.A. County. It seemed like the calendar was spun back a century. On this date, the Sheriff’s Department reinstated the long-moribund Livestock Detail. Up until only a couple of decades back, Newhall had a specially assigned deputy who worked full-time investigating livestock thefts and rustling.
RE THE ABOVE — Got a dear pal in law enforcement who once launched deportation proceedings on a career criminal and illegal alien. The perp was convicted of Grand Theft Avocado. Seriously.
OK. THIS TIME? BOMBS AWAY — Seventy years back, the United States tested an atomic bomb in Nevada. It took the shock waves about a half hour to reach Newhall, waking several residents at around 4:55 a.m.
JUNE 4, 1962
HE’S ACTUALLY LOOKING PRETTY GOOD IN COMPARISON — We had our June primary. Pat Brown took the Democratic side and some fellow with a 5-o’clock shadow took the GOP primary. Think the fella’s name was Nixon…
GREAT COWBOY NAME — Cattle baron Fawley Duntley died on this date. While he lived for 44 years on his 9,000-acre ranch in the Antelope Valley, Fawley was the chief chef at our annual OLPH Catholic Barbecue. He used to run cattle from AV, through Newhall, and into downtown Los Angeles. The drive took three days.
I’LL TAKE AN ENTIRE SUMMER OF 72’s — June can be a crazy month. It went from a high of 96 one day to a high of 72 the next.
JUNE 3, 1971
DAM! — Before people were greatly using sunblock, Castaic Lake opened to the public.
JUNE 4, 1972
HUMAN BEINGS. WOW. — Weekend revelers didn’t exactly leave the SCV better than when they found it. There was a melee in Lake Hughes between bikers and campers that left three people with injuries after the Memorial Day weekend. Signs all over the valley bore new bullet holes and Bouquet Canyon was littered with debris, everything from hundreds of beer cans to discarded diapers. Humanity. What a spectrum, from saints to imbeciles to monsters.
SENORA SENIOR SENIOR PARK? — On this date, former Newhall lad and 5th District Supervisor Warren Dorn made things right by Ms. Laura Senior. The 80-year-old widow had been ignored by the county for years as she tried to get her Val Verde land returned to her. Nearly a half-century earlier, when Val Verde was still sometimes called Eureka Villa or Ramona Hills, she had donated land to the county to make a park for Southern California African-Americans. (Ms. Senior was white and felt that the Southern California Black population deserved a picnic area where they wouldn’t be shot at by whites. Much of her land would later become Val Verde Park.) There was the caveat, however, that if the park were to stop using any portion of the land for park use, it would be returned to her. There had been one 2.5-acre parcel that hadn’t been used for anything in decades. After being stonewalled by the county, Ms. Senior finally got to see Dorn and he made sure she got her 2.5 acres of land back.
JUNE 4, 1982
AIN’T MAKING IT UP. NO GIGGLING IN THE BACK OF THE, AHEM, POSSE — A candidate for the local bench drew media attention when he started a bonfire in front of the old Newhall Post Office. The judge hopeful had purchased all the sexually explicit newspapers being sold at local newsstands — that would be $60 worth back then — and was burning them as a protest against local pornography. The candidate did not live in the SCV, but was running for the vacancy made by retiring Jack Clark. The candidate’s name? Uh, let me sort of remove my mile-wide smirk first —Ansley Q. Hyman.
SOMETIMES, PIT BULLS GET A GOOD NAME — Here is a most excellent tale. You know how pit bulls are always getting a bad name for attacking people? On this date, a 5-year-old pit bull — named Girl — helped save a toddler’s life. A father had left his 3-year-old in the station wagon while sprinting into Newhall Jewelers for a quick drop-off. Repeat after me: “YOU CAN’T LEAVE KIDS ALONE IN CARS!” Thank you. Anyway. Gone for just a couple of minutes, the toddler, who was deaf, crawled out the car window and was walking in the middle of San Fernando Road — into the path of an approaching big rig. The truck slammed on the brakes and, simultaneously, Girl latched onto the butt of the little boy’s britches and dragged him backward to the curb. Witnesses explained the deed to the crestfallen father who noted, “It was the first time I ever left him alone in the car and it was the last time.”
HUMAN SIT-DOWN BAIT — Here is a major historical first. On this date, sushi first entered the SCV. A tip of the Stetson to Bonsai Gardens, the first Japanese restaurant to open in the valley.
SOMEONE WIPE THAT, ahem, SMURK OFF MY FACE — In my heart, a thousand flowers bloom. Forty years back, Signal gossip columnist and editor Ruth Newhall misquoted someone AND misspelled a word. “MIMI” (Ruth’s pen name) inadvertently dropped the letter “r” out of the word, “decreased.” She was quoting Dr. Alan Barbakow when he noted the population of the SCV “deceased” after the 1971 earthquake. Ruth now trails this miscreant excuse for a columnist 32,434,006-1 in this valley’s ongoing Typo Competition…
Hate to let you go, back to the rigors of 2022 humdrummia. Alas, we’re back. Thanks for the company, dear ones. 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.