Can’t seem to recall starting off our weekly time travel ride into SCV history with the promise, “This morning’s going to be a tepid and boring trek. Best you just stay home and watch TV.”
We’ve many exciting adventures ahead, amigos and amigo-ettes. We’ve got light thieves and big game hunters and world-famous cowboys. We’ll ride past (but don’t look!) when swinging developers attempted to turn Agua Dulce into a sex resort. At the other end of the spectrum, we’ll say howdy to a nice Newhall gossip columnist who was secretly President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s best friend and one of Earth’s great poets, Rudyard Kipling.
Guaranteed? I’m betting most of you will end this adventure with a wide smile.
Shall we mosey into the mystic?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAUGUS & CASTAIC — Back on Sept. 1, 1887, both railroad depots at Saugus and Castaic were dedicated. The town of Saugus was dedicated, too. It was named after the boyhood home in Massachusetts of Henry Mayo Newhall. I’m guessing it must have been a grueling day for some. A hot September and mucky mucks had to travel by buckboard and horseback, from Saugus to Castaic, to make both shindigs… SORRY! — I always have to apologize for this one because it’s so darn confusing. So, here I go again. But, on Sept. 6, 1876, the town of Newhall was dedicated, as was the Newhall Train Depot. That original site for town and depot was where the Saugus Cafe sits today. About a year later, because of lack of water, the whole town and the Newhall Train Depot were moved to where downtown Newhall is today. Then, about a decade later, they would build the new Saugus Train Depot smack dab on the old foundation of the ORIGINAL Newhall Train Depot. Got that?
SEPTEMBER 03, 1922
THIEF OF LIGHT — For the third time in as many weeks, a lantern burglar was nabbed, arrested, jailed and fined. The old Ridge Route used to have these pretty red lanterns that lighted the roadway. They were more than pretty. They were most functional because there were stretches of the old road where cliffs plunged 500 feet and more to certain rocky death. A motorist spotted “a stranger” liberating a red lantern and called ahead to Sheriff Ed Brown. Brown waited for the rascal and apprehended him without a struggle. The man was charged $40 for the theft and he didn’t even get to keep the lantern. Forty bucks back then was about four months’ of mortgage payments.
TWO CLASSY POLITICIANS (WE COULD USE MORE LIKE MILLER & THIBAUDEAU) — Port C. Miller was elected judge of the Soledad Township, that area which encompassed the great territory from here to Palmdale and included the long-forgotten mining town of Sterling. Miller garnered 267 votes, compared to 121 votes for Gibson and 65 for Thibaudeau. Alexander G. Thibaudeau was a classy fellow. Even though he lost, he was one of the few candidates in the history of any elections then and since to write a letter to the editor, thanking everyone for voting for him and hoping he could be of any community service.
ANOTHER CLASSY GUY — Famed big game hunter, Civil War hero, and Newhall jurist, Judge John Powell, was still on the bench for a few more weeks. He had a doozy of a week in court, trying several bootlegging cases in the SCV area. Two moonshiners were given the choice of a $100 fine or 100 days in jail. They must have been pretty good gangsters because they paid in cash. Another rum runner wasn’t so lucky. Not only was he arrested, but the Saugus man’s wife busted up his still with an ax.
THORNTON DESERVES A BRONZE SADDLE ON OUR WALK OF WESTERN STARS! — On this date, 100 years back, one of the most colorful writers in the history of The Mighty Signal began his career. Thornton Doelle, poet, lawman and forest ranger, penned his second column on this date. It was entitled “Soledad Snapshots.” Off and on, Thornton would later be the editor of this paper. He’d founded the SCV’s first community theater and was the SCV’s first cowboy poet.
AND YET, ANOTHER CLASSY WESTERNER — He hadn’t moved in yet, but he would soon be Newhall’s most famous citizen. Silent film superstar William S. Hart showed up in person at the Hap-a-Lan Hall in downtown Newhall to personally greet everyone going to see his flick, “The Return of Draw Egan.” Hart would of course move in a few addresses down and build his famed mansion on Babcock Smith’s Horseshoe Ranch. Admission was a quarter for adults, 15 cents for kids.
SEPTEMBER 03, 1932
YUP. HIS FIRST NAME WAS ‘ORE…’ — Many of you have seen the old photographs of his store. On Sept. 1, 1932, pioneer Saugus merchant and local mover & shaker, Ore W. Bercaw, died. He had opened the Surrey Inn in 1911 and that whole Surrey/Saugus debate is still a head-scratcher. You see, Henry Gregory Newhall, then just 34, was president of The Newhall Land & Farming Co. He named the community “Saugus,” after the name of his father’s (Henry Mayo Newhall) boyhood home in Massachusetts. It’s a Narragansut Indian tribal name describing a sandy spit of land. Bercaw was one of Saugus’ leading citizens.
JUST SOME OF OUR WORLD-FAMOUS COWPOKES — One of America’s biggest rodeos was on Labor Day at the old Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles. Local cowboys Andy Jauregui, Tex Palmer, Charles Kingsbury, Leo Logan, Herb Ball, C.V. Bussey, Hank Steelman and the Ruff brothers competed. “Cowboy” Bob Anderson, who started the world-famous Newhall Rodeo (sometimes called the Newhall-Saugus Rodeo, depending on the year and even some years, called both) at the present-day Saugus Speedway site, also ran the L.A. rodeo.
SEPTEMBER 03, 1942
IN THE DAYS BEFORE EMOJIS — I wonder how this would fly today? The telephone company (and wasn’t it great when there was basically just one?) was notifying phone users to “be brief” when calling, especially long distance. The phone system was close to being overridden and they needed lines open for national defense during World War II.
FREE PARKING & AN OIL CHANGE — On this date, Jack Sales opened up the Union Oil station at the present-day corner of Lyons and present-day Railroad Avenue. Jack had a special — you could get a lube, oil change and car wash for two bucks — AND — you could use his station lot to park free at the American Theatre.
SEPTEMBER 03, 1952
DO YOU ENJOY KIPLING? WE DON’T KNOW. HOW DO YOU KIPLE? — There’s hardly a trace of Ravenna anymore. It used to be a wild mining town, smack dab between Acton and Agua Dulce. One thing history doesn’t always record is nicknames. Ravenna used to also be called Hang Town, in honor of a giant, gnarled oak on the old Platz Ranch from whence they lynched outlaws. Maybe it was karma for being the instrument of so many deaths. More likely, it was old age and that damned Christmas fungus — mistletoe. The tree fell in early September 1952. Story goes that Rudyard Kipling passed through in the mid-19th century, stayed at the Acton Hotel, was inspired, and wrote about our oak. You might know his poem, “The Tree That Grew Back to Earth.”
SEPTEMBER 03, 1962
IKE’S PAL — Mrs. Welcome May Taylor, the quiet elderly columnist who wrote under the byline of “Granny,” passed away. She was 81. While she wrote of children’s cute sayings and the happiness and sorrows of Happy Valley, few people knew of her friendship with the former president of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower. Both had been born and raised in Abilene and Dwight had been a frequent visitor to her 640-acre farm there. I have heard stories of their friendship continuing over the years with stories of “Ike” stopping in with a couple of Secret Service agents to pay unpublicized “tea visits” to Welcome in her Newhall home. On Sept. 6, 1962, her daughter finished the last Happy Valley Happenings with a tearful opening, “Mr. Editor, have you heard? Our Granny is gone. Sunday morning, Sept. 2, at 10:25, God called her…”
TO START, NO MORE RAIN DANCES — Hydrologists from the county flood control office rushed out to the SCV to try and figure out how to save much of the valley from flood ravages following the 17,000-acre Placerita and Hasley canyons fires the week before.
LITTLE DID ANY OF US KNOW — Some actor fella announced he’d be speaking at HM Newhall Memorial Auditorium on the Hart Campus. The local Republican Women’s Club announced he’d confirmed an afternoon talk. The actor? Future California governor and president, Ronald Reagan. Funny trivia? Ron spoke in Newhall three times as a representative for General Electric. It was such a small deal, twice The Signal buried his appearance deep inside a small newspaper. Oh. Little trivia? That big red brick auditorium on the Hart campus is actually called the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Auditorium. Over the years, despite a brass plaque STILL right by the front entrance, people just call it the Hart Auditorium.
SEPTEMBER 03, 1972
IT’S A SPORT. WITH CHANTING. — On this date, the Canyon High cheerleaders took top honors for the second year in a row at the National Cheerleading Association championships. Goooo, Cowgirls!
IT’S NOT GOSSIPING IF YOU PUT “BLESS THEIR HEARTS” AT THE END — On Wednesday, Aug. 30, 1972, the very first “THE GOSSIP — by Mimi” column appeared. Mimi, of course, was managing editor Ruth Newhall. The name, “Mimi” came from Ruth’s mother, Mimi Waldo. It first appeared on page 4, but would later be the mainstay of A2. Ruth’s paragraphs may have been small, but they were powerful. A couple of sentences could make people chuckle or cause heads to roll. THE GOSSIP was often the very first thing locals would rush to read in this paper.
AGUA DULCE, SWINGERS’ PARADISE — At times, the SCV community to our east has been the target of so many off-the-wall projects, from hideous low-income government-sponsored ghettos to massive underground tunnels, from end-of-the-world cult headquarters to Hell’s Angels retreats. On this date, the Hollywood-based Xanadu Tribe of the Island Nation filed a request with Regional Planning to build a 16-acre “pleasure dome” on the land that used to hide Tiburcio Vasquez. Dr. Mason Rose, the founder of Xanadu, wanted to build a compound where, for $2,500 membership, people could come to avoid “…the pressure cooker of the technomass establishment” in a “…stimulating and permissive community.” Call me rural, but that sure sounds like a fancy phrase for whorehouse.
SEPTEMBER 03, 1982
MONKEY INTEREST RATES — Well. On the bright side, Newhall Land didn’t sell to monkeys. Forty years back, one of us — The Mighty Signal or Newhall Land or heck, both — had a subtle typo in a Valencia Co. ad. The display read: “At Last! A Human Interest Rate!!” I’m betting we meant, “Humane…”
THE COWS WERE HAVING THEIR REVENGE — About three years earlier, most of the pipes at Saugus High School had to be replaced. Despite being warned many times by farmers and ranchers, the folks at the William S. Hart Union High School District who built the Saugus campus apparently STILL didn’t realize the soil was so acid-rich it was destroying just about anything plopped into it. Including pipes, wood and wire. The district had insisted on building Saugus High atop an old dairy farm. Besides being warned by the blue overalls set, in 1982, Wiley Canyon Elementary had to go through the same replumbing. They too had built on pasture land. Yuppie administrators. What a concept.
• • •
Well that was a fun ride, wasn’t it? Sure appreciate the company, saddlepals. What say we gather here at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post next week for another exciting Time Ranger adventure? Laugh a little? Be humbled by the scenery and folly. Mosey away from trouble and care? See you in seven, fellow Santa Claritans. Until then — vayan con Dios, amigos!
John Boston’s brand-new book, “The 25 World’s Most Terribly Inappropriate Dog Breeds,” was released earlier this week. Funniest darn book on dogs ever written. Check for status updates at johnbostonbooks.com.