Howdy, Pilgrims. I only get to say that once a year, around Thanksgiving, so as Jack Lemmon once said in “The Great Race,” “Pardon me mistuh pahdnuh…”
We’ve got a rather entertaining trail ride ahead, saddlepals. This morning in Santa Clarita history, we’ll be going back to take a peek at a local bisected outlaw and a Canyon Country rancher you might have heard of — Cecille B. DeMille. We’ve got burro-eating cowpokes (Sounds like the lyrics to a country/western tune, doesn’t it?) UFOs and a Thanksgiving Day murder mystery.
We even have a little Dean Herrington football gambling story.
Well saddlepals. Let’s mount up. You expert riders are permitted to climb up with your lattés in hand. Those of you who are tenderfoots, get in the saddle and THEN we’ll hand you your lattés…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
‘KILL EVERY WHITE PERSON IN CALIFORNIA’? MISSED A COUPLA — He used to live in a variety of spots here in the Santa Clarita Valley, from downtown Newhall to Vasquez Rocks. On Nov. 25, 1875, Cleovaro Chavez was blown nearly completely in half by a pair of bounty hunters, using shotguns at close range. The bold-face on his life’s resume was that he was the second-in-command to our legendary pistol fighter, Tiburcio Vasquez.
After Tibby was captured in Los Angeles, Chavez took to the hills and vowed to “kill every white person in California” unless his friend was released. Well. Authorities didn’t exactly release Vasquez, but they did hang him pretty good. And best as I can count, Chavez fell far short of his quota on ridding the state of your basic Anglo-Saxon/Caucasian types.
Chavez high-tailed it out of California and was working on a horse ranch in the Arizona Territories when the bounty hunters caught up with him. As the story goes, they walked up to the stockade where he was working, held up a scratchy artist’s rendition on the wanted poster next to his face and asked him if he was Señor Double-C.
Chavez said no and the manhunters shot him point blank in the arena, nearly bisecting him to the point where he had a split personality.
NOVEMBER 26, 1922
OUR FIRST HOSPITAL — On this date, Dr. R.J. Sewall opened up an emergency hospital on Main Street in the old Skelton house. He was an army doctor who did a few terms as camp doctor in the mines of Minnesota. Sewall immediately planned to build a permanent hospital — at 6th and San Fernando Road.
YUP. CECILLE B. DeMILLE. HIMSELF. — Silent film legend Cecille B. DeMille and his partners bought a ranch up Soledad Canyon, near Ravenna. DeMille brought up his string of thoroughbred horses from Mexico and planned to build a race track there.
NOVEMBER 26, 1932
KILLER FLU — We had the most serious outbreak of flu since the outbreak during World War I. It hit the children the hardest, with many of the schools so decimated by absenteeism, several nearly closed. Several local children died in the epidemic.
WHEN GOLD WAS GOOD BUSINESS — The Ethel Mining Co. moved its location in Haskell Canyon and was reporting to be a booming business in gold mining. Locally, merchants were buying gold at $18 an ounce and freelance miners and panners could make between $1 and $6 a day taking the gleaming ore from the earth.
MORE GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS — Gold enjoyed a renaissance locally during the Great Depression. A new 2,600-acre mine was doing well up Soledad Canyon and another new operation opened up Violin Canyon. The manager of that last mine was Burt Reynolds. No relation, I’m guessing.
NOVEMBER 26, 1942
WHEN THE WAR CLOSED DOWN THE SAUGUS CAFE — Despite being surrounded by cattle, the SCV was in the midst of a meat shortage. Because of government meat rationing for the war effort, this area was ironically suffering through a lack of beef. The local Civil Air Defense chairman, Bill Putnam, even protested to the governor. The lack of meat was one of the reasons why the Saugus Cafe was forced to shut down for nearly two years. Locals were engaging in some dark humor, wondering if it was time to start cooking up the horses. One cowpoke noted that “…the dirtiest horse is cleaner than the cleanest cow.” Still. He said he’d rather eat squirrel or burro first. Guess the guy never heard of soy, fruits or vegetables.
DO THE FATES HAVE OUR LIVES SPUN OUT ON A HUGE WEAVE? — Life is a crazy old duck, Randy Wicks dear friend of mine used to say. On this date, Navy gunner George Salmund was wounded but survived the hellacious Battle of Guadalcanal. The same day, Lt. Marvin Westerfield fell asleep at the wheel and died in a head-on in Saugus.
NOVEMBER 26, 1952
A HORRIFIC THANKSGIVING TRAGEDY — It wasn’t a very pleasant Thanksgiving for Ruth Coleman. She thought she was headed on a trip to Arizona to meet with her family. Her husband, Sylvester, had been drinking. He pulled off onto a lonely Agua Dulce road and announced the trip to Arizona was a ruse and that he was going to kill her and their three children, ages 7, 17 months and 3 months. He punched Ruth, beat her with a sock filled with rocks and tried to pull her out of the car. She managed to escape and ran for help from a passing motorist. The driver hid his face when she ran up to him, then he sped away. She managed to flee her drunken husband and get to police. Later that evening, they found the family Oldsmobile abandoned on the Ridge Route with no sign of her husband or three children.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE THANKSGIVING PARTY IN SCV HISTORY? — Tevis F. Morrow, who ran several oil wells here (along with several hundred others all over the country) threw a pretty big Thanksgiving bash for his friends at a Sunset Strip nightclub. The tab for 400 was around $30,000. You could easily buy two — TWO — median-priced homes for $30,000 in 1952. If oilman Tevis threw his party in 2022, the dinner tab would be about $336,000. Imagine being the waiter today and getting tipped a conservative $67,000…
NOT SO UFOish — Had another UFO sighting in the SCV. Folks called to excitedly note they saw a silvery object fall from the skies near the A & A Hog Feeding Ranch in Saugus. Turned out to be a floating military target with the number, “55” stenciled on the side. A rescue team from George Air Force Base in Victorville hurriedly claimed their package.
NOVEMBER 26, 1962
READ THE SIGNAL. STAY MARRIED. — On this date, Mr. and Mrs. Turney of Newhall celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. I don’t know if this was the key of success to their relationship, but they said that they, “…enjoy reading the Bible, the newspaper and watching wrestling on television.” The Signal must have been the paper they were crediting…
A BOY COMES HOME WITHOUT HIS FRIENDS — A San Fernando 14-year-old boy stole a car and went joyriding with three friends his age. Piecing together the accident, John Padden was going an excessive amount of speed in Castaic when he lost control, locked the brakes and hit the center concrete road divider. He left skid marks 50 yards long. All four boys were flung from the car and rolled over 100 feet. Three died, one was cut in half. Padden survived to face manslaughter charges.
CABLE!!?? FOR $4.25 A MONTH!!!!!????? — On this date, the first local TV cable company opened. The Central Cable Co. provided this new service for only the Solemint Junction, Forrest Park and Shadeland Homes (in Newhall) areas. It cost $17.50 for the installation charge and $4.25 for the monthly service fee.
NOVEMBER 26, 1972
REAGAN’S SON BECOMES BOATING CHAMP — On this date, California Gov. Ronald Reagan’s son, Mike, was at Tip’s, planning for the world outboard speedboat championships at Lake Havasu. Mike’s team won, too.
HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU — OK. Forgive me for this one because it isn’t local, but it is terribly interesting. Mike Reagan’s sister, Maureen, was once married to a Marine. The Marine lost his eye and had it replaced with a glass one. Instead of a regular pupil it had the Marine emblem floating atop a tiny American flag.
NOVEMBER 26, 1982
THE BIG NET — Here’s an interesting if not chilling stat. Approximately one out of every 33 people in the Santa Clarita Valley — or, about 2,400 souls — relied on some form of county welfare. That broke down to people on food stamps, Medi-Cal, refugee resettlement, support service for the aged, blind or disabled and general relief.
THE KID FOOTBALL PROPHET — That Dean Herrington. He knows his football. Before he was one of the übercoaches for the superpower Hart High Indians (12 straight league championships, 58 straight league wins, yada yada) followed by a coaching stint at College of the Canyons, Herrington was the Hart Indians’ star quarterback in 1982. Dean had quite a streak going with The Mighty Signal’s Football Fever contest (where you pick the winners from the weekend pigskin contests). In a two-week period, the kid took a third and a first, beating out around 500 competitors and earning himself $35 in prize money — which, with today’s inflation, would be about $6.3 million. Or, maybe a pinch less…
• • •
I’m headed back to throw some more logs on the fire outside, snuggle up with some cocoa and pick a star up in the heavens and wonder what, if anything or anyone, is doing up there so far, far away. Wish you the most peaceful Thanksgiving weekend. May you not hear the whoosh of a single internal combustion engine. Electric, neither. See you back here at The Mighty Signal hitching post seven days hence. Until then, vayan con Dios, amigos!
Don’t forget to 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!