How did we get so lucky? Another grand and glorious Santa Clarita morning awaits, saddlepals.
On this time ride through our cherished local history, we’ll be inspecting three of the most bizarre happenstances in local cattle lore. And if that isn’t enough to make you want to hop in that saddle, we’ll inspect Oingo Boingo and track the valley’s last full-blooded Indian to search for his treasure.
We’ve got a slapstick fire drill, amazing school stats and how this paper endorsed Tailgunner Joe McCarthy.
Shall we mosey into the mystic?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
ONE OF CALIFORNIA’S DARKEST DAYS — For its short life, Fort Tejon was the small fortress that was both a beacon of civilization and, if not actual protection, the hope of protection against road agents and brigands. It was also the launching center for raids on local Indian tribes. In one such assault, 150 Native American men, women and children were purposefully drowned by members of the United States Army stationed there. On Sept. 11, 1864, Fort Tejon was abandoned.
OUR FIRST BACK TO SCHOOL WITHOUT THE “BACK” — Back on Sept. 16, 1872, local kids in the Canyon Country area were dismayed. The Lang and Mitchell families built what would be the second oldest school district in L.A. County — Sulphur Springs.
WALMART ELEMENTARY — There’s some debate about the exact date. Some say that on Sept. 17, 1879, the first Newhall Elementary School opened its doors. Some old-timers recall that Newhall Elementary actually started a year earlier, in a ranch bunkhouse near where present-day Walmart is.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1922
YOUNG NO LONGER — Ernest Young, our local pharmacist, passed away on this date. Odd that he chose a career in healing potions. He finally succumbed to the effects of a poison gas attack he suffered in World War I in France. Young had bought the Newhall Pharmacy just a year earlier with his bride, Julia Hagg.
THE LOST OLD PROSPECTOR — A Miss Siskorn of Pasadena finally found her father. Edward Siskorn, an elderly soldier who fought in the Civil War, had walked out of his nursing home in Los Angeles. Edward hiked all the way to Piru to hunt for gold. His skeleton was found by hunters and a local tracker, Spike Moody, brought the dear elderly adventurer’s remains back to civilization.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1932
THE AIRPORT BRIDGE — Today, it’s part of the lonely hiker/bike path of the South Fork Trail over Wiley Creek. Back in 1932, it was where Newhall Avenue turned into a bridge and headed to Newhall International Airport. On this date, county crews began improving the rickety structure.
CATTLE TRUCK TRIPLE MYSTERY — The odds were so astronomical as to be suspicious. On the same day, 90 years back, THREE cattle trucks in THREE separate incidents in THREE different parts of the valley were all wrecked in traffic accidents. One teamster, Ed Ritter, died in the crash up Mint Canyon. Even stranger? The cattle trucks were all owned by the same company.
HI, TOM — Tom Mix was in town, making a Western at the LaSalle Ranch.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1942
ANNA’S GETTING UP THERE — On this date, Anna Smith (no relation to the buxom and cartoonish media figure Anna Nicole Smith) was presented with a free lunch and rose at Sardi’s restaurant in Beverly Hills. It was to celebrate her 96th birthday. She was the oldest resident in the SCV then and recalled, in a live radio broadcast, her most interesting life. Mrs. Smith claimed to have used a broom to chase a Comanche chief out of her sod house in the prairies back in the 19th century. We won’t even go into why.
LOS SHIRKERS — Today we lament that some of the extra protective measures since Sept. 11 have become more of an annoyance than actual security. Back in 1942 on this date, a Signal editorial said pretty much the same thing about a newly formed agency called the California Guard. While it was supposed to be a state version of the National Guard, The Mighty Signal found it to be a useless organization, “…filled with draft dodgers and goldbrickers.”
MAYHEM AT THE SCHUYLER RANCH — A fire broke out in the Castaic bunkhouse around siesta time. One cowboy tried to climb on the roof to extinguish the blaze (started by faulty wiring) and fell about 20 feet backward. Seemed the cowpoke grabbed a live electrical wire. Another cowboy fell off the ladder. Another was knocked out by three other ranch hands sprinting to put out the blaze then the lady of the house fainted from the commotion.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1952
HOW WE’VE GROWN — For the fall enrollment for ALL the schools in the SCV, from Castaic to Mint Canyon, there were a total of 1,535 children attending. That included the 367 students at Hart High and the 240 at Hart Junior High (if you note on the plaque on the wall at Hart, it started out as both a Jr. AND Sr. high school). The overall student population jumped by 42 students from a year before when there were 1,492 kids in the Hart, Saugus (Elementary), Castaic and Sulphur Springs schools. We’re marching toward 100,000 kids crammed onto the various public and private campuses.
ANOTHER HORRIFIC ACCIDENT — I suppose there are few really great ways to step out of this parenthesis. Poor Irene Mason of Los Angeles picked one of the worst. She and some friends flew over the edge of one of the most dangerous roads in the world, the Ridge Route, plunging some 500 feet. Mrs. Mason and her two girl friends were pinned under the wreckage for 18 hours before they were found. The friends survived. Mrs. Mason didn’t. She died at the hospital.
A DIFFERENT ERA. A DIFFERENT JOE. — We’ve recounted how your Mighty Signal has taken some interesting editorial stands in its day. A former editor in the 1920s once shot a bank robber, wrote an editorial against crime, then served on the jury that convicted said bank robber. The Signal back then came out for the KKK and against Gandhi, Jehovah’s Witnesses and wondered if Jews in Germany prior to World War II did something to egg on the Nazis. On this date, add another to the column of questionable opinions. The Signal endorsed Sen. Joe McCarthy’s re-election bid for Wisconsin senator.
THE WATERY MEMORIAL — On this date, voters in Ventura County were getting ready to pass an $18 million bond issue to build the huge San Feliciano Dam, lake and reservoir in San Feliciano canyon. (The dam would later be called the Piru Dam). The site would give Juan Jose Fustero, the valley’s last surviving full-blooded Tataviam, literally a watery grave. The last of the Tataviam married twice and was rumored to have holed away several bags of gold dust in the hills of Piru and Castaic. There were stories that some locals tried tracking Juan to find out where his stash lay, but he always eluded them. There is another story that Mr. Fustero found the lost treasure of road agent Joaquin Murietta, who was killed near Newhall in the late 19th century. This was fueled by the Tataviam showing up in Newhall taverns from time to time with old gold coins. He’d plop a $20 gold piece on the bar and said just keep filling up his glass until he ran out of money. Story goes, locals would follow Juan for years, trying to find where he was getting his cash. Fustero lived in Piru Canyon for years, until he was pushed out by famed Chicago religious publisher and millionaire, David C. Cook, in the 1880s. Cook founded a ranch and settlement, calling it, “The Garden of Eden.” Cook’s place later became the Lisk Ranch.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1962
COWS TIMES THREE — At the old Burbank Creamery in Placerita Canyon, a cow simply known as No. 850 gave birth to triplets. Rarer still, they were all healthy and lived. In maybe a century of ranching, local old-timers cannot remember another such birth. Pity the poor mom. The combined weight of the two heifers and one bull calf was 150 pounds.
MORE KID STATS — Newhall Elementary boosted its enrollment by 14% over the previous year, admitting 1,083 kids. That’s up from 950 the year before.
REAGAN IN NEWHALL — Little did they know. On this date, locals Bob Jorden, Anna Rinehart and Mrs. Leland Bowman all posed with an unemployed actor who had just finished speaking at the Hart Auditorium. His 45-minute topic? “Americanism.” The photo didn’t even warrant page 1 and, in fact, was buried on page 5 of your Mighty Signal. The actor? Future president, Ronald Reagan.
MINT CONDITION — On Sept. 10, they held the groundbreaking ceremony for Mint Canyon School.
NOT MUCH HELP — The county engineer said there were no immediate plans to help flood-prone residents in Placerita Canyon with any dikes, berms or channels. One official for the county had two words of advice for the next big floods: “Sand bags.”
SEPTEMBER 17, 1972
HANK’S HOSPITAL — Happy birthday to Henry “Hold The” Mayo Newhall Hospital. They held their groundbreaking for the original 150-bed facility in 1972.
FOUR DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM JFK — Space Ordnance Systems worker Bob Schmidt died in a factory fire and explosion. His family retained the services of famed San Francisco lawyer, Melvin Belli, to sue. Belli was the attorney who defended Jack Ruby, the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of president John F. Kennedy.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1982
AND MORE SCHOOL STATS — School started the same day for all grades, all schools. On this date, approximately 17,000 kids, from grades K-12, made it to their first day of school.
SMALL RAIN, BIG WRECKS — We had a spritzing of rain 40 years back. It was just enough to cause several accidents, including a multiple fatality involving a Greyhound bus and a van. Another 25 people were injured in that wreck.
DON’T BE…AFRAID — Oingo Boingo cancelled their rock concert at College of the Canyons. The band was famous for the single, “Dead Man’s Party.” There was no party. Oingo Boingo didn’t get the right permits to hold the rock fest. Hmm. Funny tidbit. My childhood pal Curtis Stone and his band co-starred with Oingo Boingo in the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield movie, “Back to School.”
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Well, saddlepals. Some of you younger ones might want to start the time vortex decompression process as we head back into the 21st century. Get out your cell phones. Place the screens about an inch in front of your nose. Take a sip of pretend latte. Say, in a disinterested fashion: “Huh…?” I kid you cuz I love you. Hey. Wishing you all good adventures as we sneak up on October. See you in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure and, until then, — vayan con Dios, amigos!
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