We’ve got such an epic trail ride through SCV history ahead, I think perhaps we should pack a lunch. Well. Maybe more than one. There’s tens of thousands of us riding together. Who knows. With the Internet? Maybe millions.
Perhaps it would be a whole lot easier just to kidnap some caterers. And some food.
C’mon. Bounce up into those saddles. Head due east where the time vortex entrance is and let us all mosey into the mystic.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
COYOTE FOOD FOR A GAZILLION YEARS — This is so far back, that it deserves about 62 “Way-Ways” in front. Our common SCV bunny rabbit is one of the oldest mammals on the North American continent.
SPEAKING OF A LONG TIME ON THE JOB — At the time, it was one of the modern engineering wonders of the world. On July 14, 1876, construction was completed on one of the planet’s longest tunnels. That would be the 6,940-foot long Newhall train tunnel, which is still in use today last I looked. Originally, we had 11 tunnels in the SCV. Correct me if my counting’s off, I think we have three. The railroad was a big business boom to small town Newhall. There was a payroll of around 350 white workers and 500 Chinese at the start of construction. Newhall’s first citizen, John Gifford, was the accountant for the project. Eventually, that payroll would grow to 1,500. It was extremely dangerous work. The ground was saturated with oil and water and it kept caving in and killing folks. Hauling out the muck was more difficult than boring through granite. A good day was 4 feet of progress. On July 14, 1876, a Chinese laborer in a rubber suit stuck his pick through a wall. What did he see? Another Chinese laborer. They shook hands and the first air was exchanged between the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys — underground. By the way. Working from both sides of the mountain, the tunnel was only off by a half-inch. How’s that for old-time math?
THE MIGHTY ROOSTER & WE DON’T MEAN COGBURN — Rudolph Nickel established the Santa Clarita Valley’s second — not first — newspaper on July 15, 1891. The Acton Rooster’s first edition was published on this date and off and on over the centuries (2) it drifted in and out of business. Acton was a thriving community back in the late 19th century and had more people living there than in the rest of the SCV combined. And then some.
THE LOST NEWSPAPER — I mentioned the old Acton Rooster. It was founded by Acton community leader Rudolph Nickel. The first newspaper in the valley was created by a fellow named Billy Carlson, a bookkeeper for the Coast Oil Co . Carlson published his paper weekly in Newhall, one sheet of big paper printed on both sides, each copy written in longhand. His circulation? Ten copies. (Folks sort of read it and passed it to the next…) Thank goodness for Billy he wasn’t The New York Times. He must not have had a grueling regular job. Carlson would venture into the farming business, buying 50 goats. After several months, Bill was wondering why his herd was not being fruitful and multiplying. Turned out Billy had inadvertently bought ALL Billie goats. Carlson would later become a millionaire, making a fortune in real estate and then promptly losing it. The name of the paper? I’ve asked a lot of old-timers. No one can remember the name and no one has a copy.
JULY 16, 1922
LIGHT THIEF — June had been a pretty busy month at the local courthouse. Judge John Powell collected a record $360 in fines. One fellow was tagged with a $30 penalty for stealing a red lantern from a public highway. That’d be the Ridge Route. Considering how dangerous that old road was, it was a pretty serious offense. Pretty serious fine, too. Thirty bucks was about 5% of the cost of a new house in Saugus.
HELLO, GUV — William D. Stephens stopped off for breakfast at the Russell Cafe in Newhall. That is of big note because Bill was the governor of California. He gave a short speech to some local mucky-mucks, including Gladys Laney’s poppa, A.G. Thibaudeau. This one will get Signal Editor Tim Whyte rolling his eyes. The Signal misspelled our own Gov. Stephens’ name as “Stevens.” Hate to see what Editor Blanche Brown would have done with “Schwarzenegger…”
NOT A GREAT DAY FOR DAVE — Cars and horses sometimes didn’t mix so well back in the early 1920s. Poor Dave Smith’s horse spooked and bolted and he was dragged in front of a speeding car in Saugus and killed.
CAN YOU IMAGINE? A CALIFORNIA ROADTRIP IN 1922? — Mr. and Mrs. R. Henry got into their new Chevrolet “automobile car” and went on an epic adventure of 1,000 miles, touring central California. They went through Santa Barbara, then headed north and then east to Yosemite. On the way home through the San Joaquin’s old road (Highway 99 or 5 weren’t invented then), Mrs. Henry noted that it was very warm (no car air conditioners then, either!). “Going at an even speed of 25 miles an hour which is easily kept because of the level country, we had no car trouble,” Mrs. Henry noted in her travel diary. “But frequently some car that had gone tearing past us would afterwards be seen beside the road and its driver out in the broiling sun doing repair work.”
JULY 16, 1932
FINANCES, LIKE YOUR UNCLE, ARE RELATIVE — On July 8, 1932, a house up Mint Canyon way burnt completely to the ground. The owner estimated the loss at $100. That’s not a typo. In today’s market, 100 bucks wouldn’t buy you the front doorknob…
NOW THAT’S HOW YOU WRITE UP A HOMICIDE — This one little news story from The Signal 90 years ago is so amazingly too-too, I’m just going to let you folks read it in its entirety: “Out in Saugus, they do things a bit differently. One J.F. White tried to collect a bill. Being unsuccessful, Mr. White put four bullets into the non-payer. Then, he took a rifle, and, with a revolver, barricaded himself into his own house. After an officer entered the argument with another gun, White was killed. Other than that, a general good time was had by all.”
GOIN’ POSTAL — Condit Haskell was living proof of the “Busman’s Holiday.” Mr. Haskell just returned from the Rural Letter Carriers’ Convention in Riverside. I’ll let you think about that one for a bit…
JULY 16, 1942
YOU SAY ‘PO-TAY-TO,’ I SAY PO-TAW-TO’ — We had an average potato crop this year — about 10,000 tons grown on about 680 acres by the usual eight local farmers. Because of the war, the farmers switched to a new cotton sack instead of the old jute, which was being commandeered for World War II. ’Taters went for about $280 a ton back then. Oh. If you’d like to compare this year’s SCV potato crop to the 1942 one, it’s quite a difference. In 2022, we grew zilch/nada potatoes.
SORRY ABOUT THE LIFE-CHANGING MINOR MISUNDERSTANDING — I heard a great tale the other day about a local school principal who was drafted for the war in early 1942. Because he was a school head, the Army gave him until the end of the school year before he had to show up for induction. So, the guy gives notice. The school hires a new principal for 1942-43. The old principal also resigns his post as head of Kiwanis, scoutmaster of the local Boy Scout troop, and a few addenda other community positions. He shows up for his physical, bringing along an extra pair of his special shoes. Seems the administrator had one foot two sizes larger than the other. Instead of simply giving the guy one size 12 and one size 10, the medic noted that “the Army doesn’t issue two pairs of shoes to anybody, for any reason” and stamped the local educator 4-F — physically unfit for service. The poor guy complained vehemently. Not only did he want to serve his country, but he had to go back to Newhall after they had given him all these tearful farewell parties. There was also the fact he didn’t have a job…
FRED vs. THE WITNESSES — Signal Editor Fred Trueblood continued his war against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Trueblood had been instrumental in fanning local resentment against the group. They had come up to Newhall to protest America’s entrance into World War II shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. After a front-page Signal editorial urging they be driven from the community, the protesters were set upon by local cowboys. Some were beaten up a few weeks earlier. In a front-page editorial 60 years back, Trueblood called them “Jehovah’s Termites” and went after L.A. District Attorney John Dockweiler for making sure they could legally protest in Newhall. “Newhall was one of the few towns that patriotically resented the invasion of religious termites peddling disloyalty and sedition on the streets. Newhall was one of the few communities with the guts to drive them out,” wrote Trueblood. This latest editorial was written after the Witnesses appeared in Newhall to protest the war again, along with “spotters” from the ACLU.
IT’S A GAS — Most of you yuppie commuters would have exploded from frustration if you had to drive in 1942. There was a new, federal speed limit law enforced on Highway 99. It was illegal to go over 40 mph. The purpose was to save fuel for the war effort.
JULY 16, 1952
TODAY, COULD THE SCV USHER IN A HUGE DIP IN OIL PRICES? — Pop Morgan was an old-time oilman out here. Pop swore that despite all the zillions of gallons of oil pumped out of the Santa Clarita, the riggers had missed, “…the mother of all oil fields.” Pop thought that the valley sat upon a great oil lake that had never been tapped.
DEAR POOR SOUL FERNANDO — One of the most horrendous farming accidents ever occurred on this date. Tractor operator Fernando Diaz was harvesting hay when his 9-year-old daughter came running out to greet him. She was decapitated by the 7-foot-long sickle on the tractor, right in front of her horrified father. He wrapped his daughter’s body and her head in a blanket and rushed to the old Newhall Community Hospital and waited hopelessly for a miracle that would never arrive.
JUST WHAT THE SCV NEEDS, 2,000 SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS — The Navy was busy, secretly building an über air raid siren up Pico Canyon. The siren sat on a pole about 100 feet high. When kicked in, the warning system was touted as being “…louder than 2,000 symphony orchestras.”
THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE, DENNIS — Pfc. Dennis Williams was given the Purple Heart on this date. He was wounded in Korea.
JULY 16, 1962
MIKE. JOSE. WHATEVER IT TAKES. — On this date, Café Jose started staying open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Castaic truck stop was a favored eating spot for decades. When it was later sold, the family wanted to change the name, but didn’t want to spend all the money to completely change their neon sign. So, they kept the four letters and changed, “JOSE” to “MIKE,” after their small son. Mike became an instructor at College of the Canyons and his parents bought the old Paradise Ranch. By the way. GREAT grub at Café Mike today…
JULY 16, 1972
AH. THE FEMALE FORM. — On this date, merry pranksters broke into the Cablevision headquarters and taped two, stark-raving nude Playboy magazine centerfolds over the community service calendar. The slave camera showed the bare-naked ladies for a full day before anyone called in to complain. Sunday morning, a Cablevision employee happened to turn on his set and spotted the nudie cuties where the local temperature and humidity report was supposed to be.
BUT NOT THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE — Walter Coblenz just got back into town after a nationwide publicity tour. The Canyon Country man was just touting his new movie, “The Candidate.” It was about a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful. Some young actor pup named Bob Redford played the lead.
THAT DARN BILL — On this date, Bill White was arrested — again. White was serving time at Wayside Honor Rancho when he attacked and bit two guards. How it pains us to say this, but it was a different Bill White than the former Canyon High principal and local sight-challenged college basketball official.
WE DECLARE THIS HIGHWAY 14 OPEN — (But give us a couple of seconds to get off the road!) On July 19, 1972, the 5-mile stretch of Highway 14, linking Newhall to Sand Canyon, held its grand opening. Mucky mucks real and imagined were there for the ceremonies. I remember sitting on a metal chair at the ribbon-cutting, in the third lane. It’s the last time I sat in the middle of the 14 or, for that matter, care to.
JULY 16, 1982
SPARE THE ROD. SPOIL THE DEMON. — Here’s a Signal headline you don’t see every day in your Mighty Hometown Newspaper: “MOTHER EXORCISES SATANIC DAUGHTER.” Seems Mary Pedraza was arrested for beating her 20-year-old daughter senseless. Mrs. Pedraza told deputies: “I tried to beat the devil out of her. Satan had taken her and I had to do something.” The daughter was taken to Henry Mayo to treat her injuries. The mother was taken to Olive View psychiatric to treat hers.
DICEY JUXTAPOSITIONING — Ironically, on the front page, right next to the “Satan’s Daughter” story, was a feature entitled: “Battered Wives Forum in Spanish.” It noted an unattributed statistic that half of all married women in California will be assaulted by their husbands some time in their marriage.
WOO-HOO! — It was as if Magic Mountain had designed Interstate 5. Seems a large bump appeared in the middle of the new I-5, about a mile south of Templin Highway. Shifting ground caused this small mound to emerge and motorists rolling downhill at 70 mph-plus would hit and sometimes go airborne.
LOCAL 1,000-POUND CELEB — One of the big movies of 1982 was “The Black Stallion.” The title role was played by three different horses, including Corky Randall’s Diamond Night. Gossip columnist Ruth Newhall noted of the local horse: “With Diamond Night, they had to be careful with the camera angles; he’s a gelding.” The old cowboy Corky ended up giving — as a gift — Diamond Night to my dear pal and riding buddy, Kristy Parks. A few times, I was lucky enough to ride that amazing horse. Smiling just thinking about it…
I don’t know to whom I should apply. But it would seem more fitting that we should have some sort of Zorro/Batman cave, hidden by shrubbery and a mighty waterfall to duck under whilst heading back to 2022 instead of this spinning lights vortex gateway. Just seems less science-fictiony and more of a proper entrance and not so much a cheesy Jaycee carney production. If any of you dear saddlepals know of a proper bureaucrat to whom we should apply, holler. See all y’all in seven. Until then — vayan con Dios, amigos!
John Boston’s brand-new book — “The 37 World’s Most Terribly Inappropriate Dog Breeds” is nearly out. Funniest dog book ever written. Check for status updates at johnbostonbooks.com.