Summer is just four days old. Well. That’d be the season. Not my former next-door neighbor, the cute and fetching little cowgirl, Summer Mendell. Cripes. Dear Summer’s all grown up now.
We’ve a most interesting ride this morning through the back trails of SCV history. We’ll have you talking like an old-timer by giving you the old, old OLD name of the Santa Clara River. We’ve got something I personally dread: hay fires. There’s mad bulls and a local who personally witnessed the Lincoln assassination.
I’ve saddled up several thousand mounts. Shall we mosey back into the calming days of yesteryear?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
A SAD DAY IN TOWN — A respectful tip of the O’Farrell toward the mansion on the hill. On June 23, 1946, famed silent movie star and one of the 20th century’s most influential people, William S. Hart, died. “Two-Gun” Bill left most of his fortune and estate to Los Angeles County — and one lousy buck to anyone who would contest his will.
NOT A GREAT WEEK FOR SCV GIANTS — Antonio del Valle, who was deeded the entire valley in lieu of back military wages, died on June 21, 1841, less than two years after being deeded all that land.
ANYONE BELONG TO THE UTH-AM HOA? — Before it was the Santa Clara River, the Chumash called that on-again, off-again body of water, the mighty “Uth Am.” You might also see it spelled, “Utom.” It originated in the Aliso Canyon area, southeast of Acton and ends 84 miles later in the Pacific Ocean. Wish I could tell you what “Uth Am” means. My Chumash is terribly rusty…
JUNE 25, 1922
POSTAL TRIVIA — The new rural route had been open for a week now. Deliveryman Leslie Wright had quite an excursion, starting from downtown Saugus, up Soledad, through Mint Canyon and up to Acton. Then, Les retraced his route back to Downtown Saugus, all couple buildings of it. Here’s some trivia for you. How many letters did Mr. Wright deliver his first day? Just 13.
COOL NEW CHURCH — The Presbyterians unveiled drawings and plans for a brand-new house of worship on Newhall Avenue. That original church cost about $12,000 to build. Locals kicked in $4,000 and the rest was provided by a no-interest loan. It had seating capacity in the church for 305.
JUNE 25, 1932
THAT WAS JUST CHUMP CHANGE FOR OL’ TWO-GUN — Silent film legend William S. Hart bought the old Cooper tract on the west side of his property, adding the three houses and land to his spread.
SO WHO NEEDS A SHORTCUT TO BAKERSFIELD? — Road crews were feverishly working on finishing Highway 99, the successor to the Ridge Route as the main route to Central California and the precursor to Interstate 5. One interesting tidbit — 4 miles from Castaic Junction, the biggest landfill in the history of the world was created to build the road. At the time, that would be 250,000 cubic yards of earth. Engineers noted that with all the earth, the hill next to it was moving at an inch a month. Of note at the time was that there were more machines used than mules. Only eight of the critters were used in construction. Highway 99 would eventually cut the trip from downtown L.A. to Bakersfield by a whopping two hours.
ROSES BE RED, VIOLETS CHARTREUSE — Signal Editor & Publisher A.B. “Dad” Thatcher wrote a front-page column that was a poem. First stanza? “They drive when they’re drunk and if you are near — They get you ker-plunk, in front or in rear — In traffic our out, the drunks run amuck — And Lord help us all, if one drives a truck.” Think ol’ Dad should pay all his subscribers after that and not the other way around…
JUNE 25, 1942
ANOTHER WEEK. ANOTHER HAY FIRE. —This time, 40 tons of alfalfa, the barn and a mower were the victims of spontaneous combustion at the Harry Carey Ranch in San Francisquito Canyon. Harry was out of town, in Florida, filming “Air Force.” It was directed by Howard Hawks. The blaze was put out quickly by ranch hands and the Fire Department.
RUBBERY LEGS — The population of the SCV 80 years ago was about 5,000 (and that included up to the Palmdale city limits, up to Frazier Park, and over to Chatsworth). For the war effort, we had already collected 20 tons of rubber. Most unusual donation? Peter Cooper, not quite 2, donated a couple of pairs of rubber diaper cover panties. Even with Master Pete’s kind offering, we were still 10 tons short of our goal.
MORE COPS. MORE HORSES. — Our local Sheriff’s Auxiliary Mounted Posse added 70 more volunteer deputies. These horse-riding lawmen patrolled the Santa Clarita backcountry, looking for arsonists, spies and suspicious folk.
JUNE 25, 1952
AND MORE FIRES STILL — Some rogue trash collectors from the San Fernando Valley turned a scenic canyon in the SCV into a landfill. The illegal dump caught on fire near Placerita Canyon.
LEARNING COWBOYING, THE HARD WAY — Deputy Sheriff Bert Shirley was called on a rare complaint: Brahma bull loose near Highway 99. When Bert rolled up, sure enough, there was a ton-plus of male beef outside the LaSalle Ranch. Bert apparently couldn’t tell the difference between a gentle moo cow and an angry alpha male. His plan was to just open the LaSalle gate and sort of shoo the critter in. The bull had other ideas and charged poor Bert, chasing him around the patrol car. The bull then wandered onto Highway 99, where it challenged some other vehicles before it went back through the original gate — of his own free will.
A DEAR PIONEER PASSES — One of the valley’s most beloved and respected citizens died on this date. Hattie Madden just turned 91. She was born Harriet Whittemore and became a seamstress and sewing machine inventor, creating costumes and machines for P.T. Barnum. She and her husband homesteaded a ranch in Castaic in 1911 and she worked as a professional seamstress up until her 75th birthday. Perhaps the biggest event in her life occurred when she was a young girl. She had gone to watch a play and instead, heard a muffled shot. She witnessed John Wilkes Booth jumping from the president’s box at Ford Theater after assassinating Abraham Lincoln, April 14, 1865.
JUNE 25, 1962
NOT A GOOD DAY FOR MEN WORKING WITH BOULDERS — Hank Garza, working at the old Jones Rock Quarry up Bouquet Canyon, made a fatal mistake with his bulldozer. He accidentally lifted his full bucket too high while going downhill. It flipped the behemoth, crushing him underneath. A few miles away, same day, David Kenison was working at the Darkenwald Morrison-Knudsen gold mine. A boulder dislodged on the hillside where he was working, plummeted down, and landed on his head, killing him instantly.
WONDER WHAT THE COUNTRY OF 1962 WOULD THINK TODAY? — Signal Publisher Fred Trueblood wrote an editorial questioning the wisdom of the Supreme Court ruling. The justices declared it unconstitutional to have prayer in schools. Trueblood’s words: “If we trust the forming of our children’s minds to their (the teacher’s) care then we can also trust them to conduct a simple little prayer, as a short supplication to God at the beginning of each day. It is a great way to bring stillness and order and it will be the only religious experience many of their students will ever have. This mighty land was not filled by generations of foreigners who came here NOT to pray.”
JUNE 25, 1972
THINK WE COULD ADD A FEW MORE PRESIDENTS TO THIS CATEGORY SINCE 1972 — Political satirist Arthur Hoppe penned a regular column in The Signal. The title of his piece 30 years ago was, “Strange Sex Acts in the White House?” No. The humorist wasn’t offering predictions about Bill Clinton. He was writing about Richard M. Nixon.
WHEN HORSES ARE OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE HORSES — More than 250 local equestrians stormed the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission meeting. Seems the braindead planners wanted to enact a new edict, outlawing anyone from owning a “large pet” in Santa Clarita. When confronted with how stupid an idea that was, the planning commishes cleared their throats and tabled the plan for “future study.”
JUNE 25, 1982
FIGHT OF THE CHOO-CHOOS — Southern Pacific was fighting spike and rail to keep passenger trains off its tracks. The Espee (as we called it way back when) went all the way to the California State Supreme Court. Caltrans was running a feasibility study to run a passenger commuter train from Saugus to L.A. SoPacific didn’t want it. They had concerns about losing freight business and didn’t want to get stuck with building passenger stations.
LOCAL MOTHER M.A.D.D. — Acton’s Ola Brissinger was speaking to a local church group about the death of her son three years earlier. She teared up during her speech, recounting how her son, Anthony, had been killed by a drunk driver. This caused Mrs. Brissinger to become one of the founders of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
WEARING THE BLACK HAT — Montie Montana Jr., son of the Western cowboy legend Montie Montana, was arrested on 28 counts of fraud. The son had tried to build a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Acton.
ASSASSIN RELEASED — The front page of The Mighty Signal noted that John Hinkley Jr. was found guilty of attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinkley was sentenced to a minimum-security mental institution and TMS didn’t like that one bit. This paper’s editorial suggested Hinkley should have met his demise “…at the end of a good, stout manila rope.” And: “If this deed occurred a few centuries ago in even the most enlightened Western society, such an improvident assassin would have been hurled to the ground and torn limb from limb by the crowd.” Our op-ed suggested a fair hearing, then having Hinkley “…shot, beheaded or hung from the gallows.” The Signal noted that in today’s society, Reagan’s attempted murderer “…is treated as if he had been caught stealing coins from a candy bar vending machine.” Hinkley, by the way, was recently paroled, 40 years later.
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Sure appreciate, as always, the company, amigos and amigo-ettes. Check the trail. Make sure you didn’t leave any Gatorade or plastic water bottles. Wouldn’t want to change history and somehow accidentally let ourselves be turned into Van Nuys or something. You folks are good company and I surely appreciate you. See you in seven. Until then, as I never get tired of wishing — 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.