Despite its overwhelmingly beigeness, you sure can’t complain about autumn weather in Santa Clarita. It’s another beautiful day, saddlepals, and we’ve an epic trail ride through SCV history ahead.
There are stampeding politicians, bear poachers, orange rivers and range wars. Atop that, there’s gunfighters and houses being sold for a dime on the dollar. Best of all, there’s the simple pleasure of putting our cares away for a small moment and riding lazily back into yesteryear.
C’mon. Left foot in the stirrup, bounce up into the saddle with a minimum of groans and grunting, and let us mosey into the mystic…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
WORTH A PLUG NICKEL — Rudolph Eugene Nickel originally hailed from Kansas and on Oct. 11, 1887, he settled in Acton, becoming one of the valley’s most influential people. Nickel would eventually start the Acton Rooster newspaper a few years later and the world-famous Acton Hotel, where several presidents stayed. Nickel would also be an eyewitness — and an uncomfortably close one at that — at one of the West’s last “Meet You In The Center Of Town At Main Street In Front Of The Saloon” duels in which mayor John Broom got aerated by Kentucky gunfighter and GOP mucky-muck, Rosy Melrose.
GET OUT YOUR POINTY BIRTHDAY HATS!! — All you folks in Newhall may take a moment and sing a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday. The little railroad station, named after magnate Henry Mayo Newhall, was founded on Oct. 13, 1876. Of course, the whistlestop was originally located in Saugus at Bouquet Junction and moved about a year later into present-day Newhall. Various theories about why — drought; wind; too far from the St. John’s Tract of Prohibitionists…
AND HOW ABOUT THAT? HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO SAUGUS! — We’ve gone into this before in painful detail, so I’ll just give you the Reader’s Digest version. On Oct. 12, 1915, Saugus, as far as the eyes of the U.S. Postal Service were concerned, officially became Saugus. Again. For many years, there was a small feud as to just what to call the community. It was literally divided by a crack in the Saugus, with half of the people hailing from Saugus, and the other half from Surrey.
OUR QUIRKY AND DEADLY VALLEY “JUDGE” — One of the valley’s most controversial characters, W.W. “Wert” Jenkins, aka “The Baron of Castaic,” aka “The Baron of Alcatraz,” was born on Oct. 12, 1833, in Ohio. He would later homestead a small empire in the Castaic/Piru area, be one of the major combatants in one of the West’s longest and bloodiest range wars, and, he was a colorful self-made jurist a la Judge Roy Bean. For being such a crusty and ugly fellow who looked like Gabby Hayes, Wert also had a robo-babe of a young wife. Happy birthday, Wert!
OCTOBER 15, 1922
NO HUNTING INSIDE THE HOA’s? — Ah, the good old days. You used to be able to buy “No Hunting” and/or “No Shooting” signs at The Mighty Signal. Personally, I think we ought to bring that tradition back…
PIPE BUSTED — The two huge power plants in San Francisquito Canyon nearly shut down on this date. Two breaks in the California Aqueduct, one at the Haiwee Reservoir and another at the Fairmont reservoir, caused water from the Owens Valley to flow to a near-trickle. The Fairmont Reservoir was temporarily shut down due to an unscheduled cloudburst, which caused the water pipes to clog. The two breaks meant a loss of about 12% in annual aqueduct-powered electricity.
OCTOBER 15, 1932
DEATH & WATER — Speaking of the aqueduct, it’s eerie how sometimes these items fall in 10-year-increments. A major accident on the Owens Valley pipeline that runs through the SCV injured 14 men and claimed two. They were working on a huge pipe. One man fell in, dragging 13 behind him.
HOPE THOSE DEPRESSION-ERA NUMBERS AREN’T COMING BACK — Here’s a Signal ad from the Great Depression that will make all you saddlepal/Realtors just cringe: “Nice Country Homes For Ten Cents On The Dollar Of Actual Cost. See Mrs. Sackrider.” I’ve mentioned that Jessie Sackrider’s lineage goes back (and then some) to the Salem Witch Trials. A distant relative was pressed to death after accusations she was a witch.
BUY HIGH. SELL LOW. — The Depression didn’t hit the SCV as hard as other places because we were mostly farmers and could always have beef and oranges. Still. The hay king Bill Mayhue lost a fortune in the early 1930s. It cost him more to grow his crop than what he made on it and worse, there weren’t any buyers. He still had the 1931 crop in storage.
OCTOBER 15, 1942
DRESSING TIP? PANTS POCKETS GO ON THE INSIDE… —Leonard Hamblitzel was hitchhiking out of Castaic and thumbed the wrong ride. A Highway Patrol cruiser pulled over to pick up Leonard. Seems the road cops were suspicious. Hamblitzel was wearing his jeans inside out so the stripes wouldn’t show. He had just walked away from the Wayside Honor Rancho (Pitchess Detention Center today) “…in search of more suitable surroundings.”
MAY I HAVE A GLASS OF WATER? — NOOOOOOO!!!! Must be something in the Castaic water that makes cowboys fight over grazing rights. We had the epic Castaic Range War at the turn of the 20th century in which as many as 40 men lost their lives. On this date, there was a milder, one-sided altercation between two cowpokes about on which side of the fence some cattle should be dining. Bud Sloan up Sloan Canyon way landed a right cross onto the cheek of Danny Troncale to temporarily settle the issue. The grazing rights were later decided in court. Cowboys — use your words now…
OCTOBER 15, 1952
A FORGOTTEN VET — One of the many sad things about the bulldozing of this valley is how many small landmarks disappear. A cross was rediscovered a decade after it had been planted in East Canyon, with the 121st Psalm: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” The cross was put there by Fay Willett, before he went to fight in World War II. He died in battle and never made it back to see his own unintentional memorial.
WONDER HOW MANY ACTUALLY ‘REHABBED?’ On this date a half-century back, they broke ground for the drug and alcohol rehab jail up Bouquet Canyon. The 581-acre site was bought from the Bonelli family. At the groundbreaking ceremony, L.A. Police Chief Bill Parker found the local soil so unforgiving, he couldn’t break it with a shovel. So, a bulldozer was brought in to loosen up the soil so the mucky mucks could scoop their shovels full. As much as the city fathers protested, the place was called “The Wino Farm” for years.
OCTOBER 15, 1962
A FLEET OF AMBULANCES — There was only one fatality, but it was still one of the worst traffic accidents in SCV history. A speeding Greyhound bus plowed into the back of a slow-moving truck loaded with barley just north of Castaic. An armada of emergency medical emergency vehicles carried off 22 seriously injured passengers. One woman near the front of the bus died.
THE SANTA CLARITA. UFO CAPITAL OF THE WORLD — We had another flying saucer sighting in Newhall. Locals reported seeing the alien space craft, complete with exhaust ports. Turns out they were Plexiglas domes used in the filming of the movie, “Underwater City,” at the Juniper Tree Rifle Range.
IF FRED WERE HERE TODAY — Shortly before selling this newspaper, Fred Trueblood II penned a Signal editorial, congratulating the look of progress in the Santa Clarita Valley. FT2 proudly noted, “These houses are for the most part good houses, individually designed and constructed far and above the level of originality and quality found in mass tract homes.” Wonder how Fred would grade today’s endless urban sea of cookie-cutter houses, apartments and condos?
OCTOBER 15, 1972
LOCAL CONVICTS VOTE — On this date, certain inmates at Wayside Honor Rancho were allowed to register to vote, via volunteer registrars visiting the prison. About 50 men signed up. Although hardened felons were not given the same opportunity, they were allowed to file various forms to get registered via the mail.
ANOTHER SMALL PLANE ACCIDENT — Four men were killed when their plane crashed into the wall of an Agua Dulce home. Thick fog was blamed.
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS — The new county civic center in Valencia was already beginning to lose some of its luster. Small problems began surfacing: there were no closets in the judges’ chambers or any place to hang their robes, there were no janitors’ closets and, some offices didn’t have any phone jacks.
THOSE HAPPY-GO-LUCKY DEMOCRATS, BUSY AT WORK — On this date, someone planted a lighted Molotov cocktail by the front door of the Nixon for President headquarters in Newhall. The bomb didn’t go off.
MIXED NIXON MESSAGING — One local, Dr. Gerald Feigen, was at a $1,000-a-plate dinner for the re-election of Mr. Nixon. Quoth Dr. Feigen, “All that fellow has done for four years is rearrange the furniture on the Titanic.” Wonder why the good Dr. popped for a grand when he felt that way?
THE SCV’s ORANGE RIVER — The Yuroseks sent a work crew downstream to clean up the Santa Clara River. The boys had run Bunny Luv, one of the state’s biggest carrot operations, for years. Somehow, thousands of stray carrots would escape from the packing plants and float downstream, rot and turn the banks of the mighty Santa Clara orange.
HORNY HORSIES — John Sutorius picked the wrong darn pony to ride in the Frontier Days parade. Sutorius was running against Newt Russell for the local state Assembly seat and was mounted on a fine, tall (17.5 hands) and horny Morgan stallion. Sutorius was placed right behind 20 Girl Scouts — all riding mares. The boy horsey freaked out, bucked and led his own personal one-horse stampede, nearly trampling dozens of frightened parade onlookers. Sutorius noted he was “between two bands, drummers ahead and Jesus freaks behind.” Hm. Wonder if there was a Russell supporter who penciled in the parade lineup…
OCTOBER 15, 1982
BEAR NECESSITIES — Local state Fish & Game officers arrested a small gang of poachers. They were caught selling rugs made of bear pelts out of the back of their truck.
TRAIN WRECK AT HART PARK — It looked like someone attacked us from space. On this date, a long train pulling empty flatbed cars derailed by Hart Park. The landscape was littered with heavy train parts. No one was injured.
NOW I’M CRAVING LEMON MERINGUE — Sure wish my favorite pie shop was still around. Marie Callender’s held their grand opening. It’s long gone now at the corner of Magic Mountain Parkway and The Old Road. Today, it’s a Shell station, McDonald’s and designer coffee shop for travelers…
• • •
I see the glimmering vista of modern Santa Clarita ahead. That’s our time portal back to the here-&-now. What say we put it on the calendar to get back together next weekend for another exciting Time Ranger adventure, fresh trail coffee, and some gossip and giggles? Until then, vayan con Dios, amigos!
Go buy Boston’s newest book, “The 25 Most Inappropriate Dog Breeds,” at johnbostonbooks.com. Sombrero in hand, we note a 5-star rating on Amazon would be grandly appreciated!