Well bless your hearts, all you dear friends, neighbors, saddlepals and saddlepal-ettes. Thanks so much for braving the devil’s anvil of a Santa Clarita August and joining me. We’ve a most interesting trek ahead of us along the back trails of SCV history.
There’s a plethora of cowboy stars and a ton of anniversaries, including the first house sold in some new community called “Valencia.” We’ll also be looking across the country where both my uncle and cowboy star Buck Jones died in the Cocoanut Grove Fire.
If there’s one thing you take from this morning’s history ride, it’s the story of Dick Lindsay, the long-forgotten Bird Man of Newhall. Still brings a tear to my eye and makes me want to be a better man.
Shall we mosey, in a non-stampede fashion, into the Mystic…?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
OIL’S WELL THAT ENDS … HECK. YOU FILL IN THE BLANK… — On Aug. 14, 1875, Charles Mentry began drilling for oil in the mineral-rich Pico Canyon, starting an oil industry that is still going on today.
SERIOUS SANTA CLARITA BLING — This sure would look good as a bolo tie but I’m not sure my neck muscles could take it for long stretches. On Aug. 15, 1849, an 8-pound gold nugget (actually, I guess we should call that an 8-pound gold mini-boulder) was dug out of Santa Feliciana Canyon. An 8-pound solid nugget. How much do you think that would be worth today?
AUGUST 20, 1922
ALAS, POOR TOMMY — The town was stunned at the passing of a handsome young cowpoke. Tommy Patrick worked for “Cowboy” Bob Anderson at his Saugus ranch. (Anderson would later start what would be the Saugus Speedway and began the tradition of world-famous rodeos here in the SCV.) Tommy was riding a horse when he got thrown, killing the expert rider. Today, mourners lay flowers along the sides of local roads to remember the deaths of everyone from motorcycle riders to pedestrians killed on our local highways. The Newhall Rodeo Association a century ago placed a wreath on Soledad Canyon Road, in tribute to Tommy Patrick’s memory.
IT’D BE FUNNY IF IT WEREN’T SO SAD — The Signal’s editorial on this date was entitled, “Predatory Interests Have Strangle Hold on Congress.” This paper notes how our elected officials in Washington had unholy relationships with big business. From the paragraphs of The Signal’s editorial writer, Blanche Brown seemed more than outraged. How things don’t change.
LOCAL BOY MAKES A MOVIE — This week an entire CENTURY ago, the silent movie, “Man to Man” was playing at the Hap-a-Lan Hall in downtown Newhall, near today’s Market & Main. Star of the film? A local fella named Harry Carey. His noble adobe ranch house in San Francisquito Canyon still sits there today; now it’s a park. Carey was one of the few superstars to successfully transition from silent films to the “talkies.” He made many a film with John Wayne.
AND ANOTHER LOCAL BOY MAKES A MOVIE — Newhall cowboy Buck Jones had a movie debuting on this date. BJ starred in a Western called, “To the Finish.” Along with one of my uncles, Buck would later perish in one of America’s worst entertainment disasters, the Cocoanut Grove Fire in Boston. The 1942 blaze killed 492 people. The owner, Barnet Welansky, reputed to have mob and crooked politician ties, boarded or bricked up most of the exits to stop people from ditching without paying. Welansky was later convicted of nearly 500 manslaughter charges and given a 12-year prison sentence. Welansky was pardoned by the governor after three years and died months later from cancer.
AUGUST 20, 1932
CIVILIZATION WILL ONCE AGAIN BE CANCELLED DUE TO A LACK OF INTEREST — It’s a story as old as the civilized valley itself. On this date, they held a candidates forum for Fifth District county supervisor at the Newhall Auditorium. Except for the speakers and the principal, absolutely nobody — not one, single soul — showed up. Seems there was a local baseball game going on in town. And, it was hot. And — pick the excuse…
HOT SHOT — Jim Frew, eldest son of Tom M. Frew, advanced in the Olympic tryouts in shooting. He scored a 97 out of 100 in the skeet trials. Rumor was that Jim could shoot the center out of penny at 4,000 paces, but, his cheapskate Scotsman grand-nephew Tom No. 4 Frew would have had a tiny heart attack over wasting the money…
AUGUST 20, 1942
ANOTHER VICTIM OF THE COLD, GIANT WATERS — Fourteen years after the St. Francis Dam disaster, they were still finding victims. At least that was the coroner’s guess. A prospector digging for gold found half a human skeleton sticking up out of the San Francisquito Creek. It was just bones (and, the lower half). There was no other ID except that the remains were estimated at being attached to something more corporeal about 15 years earlier.
AUGUST 16, 1947
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE NUTS & BOLTS GANG — Happy birthday to what used to be one of the SCV’s oldest businesses. Newhall Hardware was founded on this date. It closed on March 16, 2008 — same date as one of my last days at a certain local newspaper. Newhall Hardware was THE place where all the ranchers, prospectors, oil workers and, essential manly men who worked with their hands congregated to pick up anything from a left-handed washer to ammo.
BLACK PANTHERS — Figured while we’re off trail in 1947, might as well sneak up on some cougars. The big cats. Not the lusty middle-aged divorcees. Folks in the Sand Canyon area reported seeing two huge, completely black mountain lions, roaming about. A group of children reported being stalked by the cats while walking to Sulphur Springs Elementary one morning and several adults also reported seeing the rare black pumas. They were never captured. That warms my heart.
AUGUST 20, 1952
SPEAKING OF MOUNTAIN LIONS — You know me. I’m always waxing poetic about lost halcyon days and worse, how cheap things were. On this date, Johnny Haddix of Soledad Canyon pulled into town in his pickup. Besides his wife, Rubine (quite alive) Johnny had a 6-foot-long mountain puma in the back that was, if not quite dead, not moving.
OUR LONG-FORGOTTEN BIRDMAN OF NEWHALL — There used to be this huge tree in front of Hart Park, in that little triangle of county land by Newhall Avenue and Main Street where the wagon wheel “Welcome to Newhall” sign sits. Prior to that, a giant deodar tree rested there. In its shade was a bird bath. It’s a most interesting tale.
Dick Lindsay was a dangerous-looking, rough-hewn bachelor who kept to himself. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood called him “…as forbidding an individual as you would ever see. He had a heavy, stocky frame and a face that looked as though it had been hacked out of granite. Dick always looked as though he was ready to bite nails in two. So grim and severe was his aspect that folks were scared of him and gave him a wide berth when they passed by. Lindsay was born during the Civil War. He lived by himself in the old Cozy Court trailer park on San Fernando Road. Few realized that this part-time janitor at the sheriff’s station had a huge heart for animals. He kept a small monkey (who died from overeating) and a puppy.” The puppy grew and was his constant companion. When the dog died, Lindsay broke up pretty bad. An old-timer now, he turned his attention to the birds at Hart Park. Lindsay would spend hours feeding and watering the little flying critters.
A beautiful young nurse at the old Newhall hospital, Mrs. Ruth Christian, adopted Lindsay, watching over him, feeding him and, finally, caring for him through his long and final illness. After he met his reward, Ruth used her small savings. She planted that young deodar tree and installed a bird bath with the simple brass plaque:
“He Loved the Birds”
The years went by. The tree got pulled out and the simple little bird bath from a rare kind soul is now buried yards deep in a landfill. There is no memory of Dick Lindsay.
There’s big plans upcoming for the transfer of Hart Park from L.A. County to the city of Santa Clarita. Is there a place in the hearts of the five good city councilfolk to bring back Dick’s small birdbath and humble brass plaque?
CRAZY BULL — Alpha Hartman was hunting quail in upper Placerita when something started hunting him. A pain-crazed young Brahma bull attacked him, nearly killing the L.A. County sheriff’s sergeant. Somehow, the bull had lost a horn and the core had been infected with screw flies. The bull burst out of the underbrush, hit Hartman full in the ribs and sent him airborne. The bull followed up by goring and dragging the good lawman into unconsciousness. Sgt. Hartman estimated he was out an hour or so. When he came to, the bull was still nearby, eyeballing him. Hartman managed to crawl to the other side of an oak and climb up as the bull charged again, barely missing him. He was “treed” for about three hours. Hartman was a calm hombre. With a concussion, three broken ribs and not much skin left, he sat in the bow and took time to smoke his pipe. As the sun went down, he slowly climbed out of the tree, then crawled from tree to tree for protection until he finally made it back to his car. Alpha drove himself to the hospital. The bull? After being captured by Hall of Fame cowboy Andy Jauregui, the critter’s wounds were tended and he went back to being a bull.
AUGUST 20, 1962
AN AD YOU JUST DON’T SEE ANY MORE — Haskell’s, a hunting supply shop in San Fernando, was advertising up here. Sept. 1 was just around the corner and that was dove season in Newhall. Haskell’s was running a special on shotgun shells.
AUGUST 20, 1967
A VALENCIA HOUSE FOR 25 GRAND? — Another round of happy birthday drinks must be hoisted. On this date, the community of Valencia was dedicated in the former ag fields of The Newhall Land & Farming Co. A new house sold for just $25,000. Today, those first homes have increased in value 12-fold. Ouch.
AUGUST 20, 1972
CATCH & RELEASE — Local sheriff’s deputies saved a Saugus woman from death and possibly worse. They came upon a parked car in Placerita Canyon. Inside was a naked woman and half-naked man, David Mark Jackson. The woman mouthed the word, “help.” The quick-thinking first deputy pretended to walk away from the car and the distraction allowed the woman to vault from the man’s vehicle. Both officers then drew weapons and ordered the half-naked kidnapper and would-be rapist to get out pronto. Another thing helped tip off the lawman that something other than romance was afoot. The dangerous-looking pervert had a large tattoo on his back that read, “Sex and Death.” Here’s a kicker. When they ran Jackson for warrants, it turned out he was out on $2,500 bail for another kidnap-rape charge on a San Fernando Valley woman. Ah, the judicial system.
I’M TELLING YOU, THIS IS GOING TO BE THE YEAR! — This weather phenomenon is actually rarer than snow. It’s raining in August. The valley wasn’t actually soaked, but it was moistened. A tropical storm passed through, leaving behind 0.10 inch of rain. Down Los Angeles way, they set a record for this date with 0.33 inch of precipitation. I’m telling you. It’s going to rain this August 2022…
AUGUST 20, 1982
ONE DARN SPEEDY SENIOR — Valencia’s Evelyn Breaux came back from the U.S.-Russia swimming championships with gold medals in the 50-meter freestyles and backstrokes. Evelyn was 71. It was the first-ever international senior Olympics between the two countries.
• • •
Well drat. If we’re not approaching the interdimensional offramp of our Santa Clarita here-&-now. Appreciate the company and a small favor? How about all of us, in some small way, be inspired by the story of our Bird Man of Newhall, Dick Lindsay, and the pretty young nurse who later cared for him. Do something dear and special for someone who could use a hand this week. It makes the world go round. What do you think? See all y’all in seven and we’ll do this again? Until then — vayan con Dios, amigos!
John Boston’s brand new book — “The 25 World’s Most Terribly Inappropriate Dog Breeds” will be released next week. Funniest dog book ever written. Check for status updates at johnbostonbooks.com.