A top of a fine Saturday morning to you, dear saddlepals. We have a most excellent adventure ahead on the back trails of Santa Clarita history.
There’s monkey lovers, blizzards, wind storms and an interesting tale of how a local judge dropped dead in front of an attorney.
We’ve got missing bobcats, terrorists and a local basketball game that was snowed out.
Shall we take a moment from the frenzy and sneak off into yesteryear?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
WHEN AUTO CLUB RULED THE HIGHWAYS. — Well. More like dirt roads than highways. But back on Dec. 13, 1900, the Automobile Club of Southern California was founded. Long before there was a state-run Department of Motor Vehicles, this private corporation was responsible for all sorts of things-highway-ish, from making and putting up road and speed signs to licensing drivers and registering cars.
DECEMBER 17, 1922
NO BUSINESS LIKE PLOW BUSINESS — Jess Doty was the local Ford agent for Newhall. He made almost as much money selling tractors as he did selling cars. A brand new Fordson plower went for just $395.
NO GOOD LOUSY L.A. CHRISTMAS THIEVES — Speaking of farmers, many of them were complaining about folks from Los Angeles motoring up here and liberating tons of holly around the holidays. The farmers didn’t particularly like the trespassing. They made money selling the plant.
‘NO HUNTING’ AT THE MIGHTY SIGNAL — Long before there were super stores like Office Max or Staples, The Mighty Signal offered school supplies. We used to sell writing tablets and pencils for the few students in town. We also used to sell “No Hunting” signs. Haven’t had much call for those around town lately…
DECEMBER 17, 1932
OUTRAGE! THREE PENNIES TO MAIL A LETTER!! — It was the Great Depression and locals were complaining about the high cost of mailing a letter: 3 cents. One Signal columnist noted that since they raised it from 1 cent, fewer people were sending letters and the Post Office had failed to raise their needed revenue. Today? First-class postage went up to 60 cents in April 2022 and it’s going up another 3 cents in January.
THE SANTA CLARITA BLIZZARD OF 1932 — Winds gusting to 70 mph blew in and the freezing rain quickly turned to snow — 2 feet deep in spots. The damage was crippling to the valley’s citrus and vegetable crops.
COWBOY BOB MOVES ON — On this date, famed rodeo impresario “Cowboy” Bob Anderson and his family moved out of town to their ranch by the Kern River. The Andersons lived in Placerita Canyon and Anderson ran what would later become the Saugus Speedway, holding some of the world’s biggest rodeos there.
THE FORGOTTEN DANGER OF BEING A FARMER — Speaking of world-famous cowboys, Andy Jauregui’s garage burned down on his Placerita ranch. Andy and family were just sitting down to dinner when they heard a barrage of gun shots. That would be the ammo in the garage exploding. Andy also lost his car in the blaze. The two cowboys who bedded down in the bunk above lost their home. Interesting tidbit here. In the 1930s, there was a farm fire on average of every 15 minutes. Every year, $200 million in losses went up in those farm blazes and most, like Andy, didn’t have insurance. Also, about 3,500 people died every year in farm or ranch fires.
DECEMBER 17, 1942
CHRISTMAS GOOD WILL. AND THEN, NOT… — Nerves were jittery during the early days of World War II. A transient of Japanese descent had stopped by a ranch, asking for food and something warm to wear. He was given the charity and went on his way. By the time the story reached into downtown Newhall, the homeless fellow turned into a Japanese guerilla, armed to the teeth and cutting a swath of destruction. That poor fellow must have been the loneliest guy in the valley back then.
WHEN LAWYERS SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER — On this date, Judge William Kennedy passed away. He came to Newhall in 1919 and opened up the Standard Oil Distributing Station. In 1934, he was appointed justice of the peace of the Soledad Township here. Later, he was elected twice to the same office. William S. Hart was one of his pall bearers. Interestingly, Kennedy was talking to attorney Arthur Miller when he keeled over and died. Miller would immediately take his place as judge. It was just a coincidence, folks… By the way. Miller was part of the old “Stanford Mafia” that has had a hand in running the Santa Clarita Valley for much of the 20th century. He lived in the Sand Canyon area.
DECEMBER 17, 1952
THE UTILITIES THAT STOLE CHRISTMAS — Just two weeks before Christmas, all the utility companies announced their rate increases for 1953. The Gas Co. upped their fees a smidgen, between 9 to 48 cents. Southern California Edison raised theirs to about a quarter per household but it was Pacific Telephone that wanted the most money. PacT warned the basic cost of using a phone would go up a buck a month.
‘TIL DEATH TO US PART? — You saddlepals will remember a trail ride around Thanksgiving time when we reported about how a young woman was nearly murdered by her husband and escaped bloody and half-dead after being beaten by her man with a sockful of rocks. The local sheriff’s deputies followed up on the case. A few weeks later, the husband returned. The terrified wife refused to press charges.
DECEMBER 17, 1962
BOBCAT JAY — A big ol’ 30-pound bobcat named Jay escaped from its trainer during filming of a wildlife episode at the Disney ranch in Placerita Canyon. The handler worried that the creature was so tame, it might not be able to fend for itself in the wilds of Placerita. The owner placed an ad in The Mighty Signal, describing the predator and offering a reward for its safe — and the operative word here is SAFE — return. Ten days later, a couple of miles from the Disney ranch, Jay was treed by the dogs at the Ritter Davis ranch. Mrs. Davis said she recalled seeing the unusual ad in The Signal’s classifieds and had her husband spare the cat’s life. See? It pays to advertise in The Signal.
LESS THAN A DOLLAR A DAY — In 1962, the average monthly mobile home rental space was $25 in the SCV.
AND NOWHERE WAS CAM SMYTH TO BE SEEN — To give you how starved for news The Mighty Signal was 60 years back, check out this society tidbit in its entirety: “Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Smyth and family enjoyed dinner at the Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon on Friday evening.” All the news that’s fit to print and then some … Oh. For you newcomers, the dear, dear Clyde would later become William S. Hart Union High School District superintendent and Santa Clarita mayor. He and Sue would later have a son, Cameron, who would also be our mayor…
DECEMBER 17, 1972
EVEN THE GRINCH WOULDN’T STOOP THIS LOW — On this date, thieves made off with the 2-foot-tall figures of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus from the front lawn of Duane Gartner’s Christmas display on Arcadia Street. I’m thinking I wouldn’t want that kind of karma…
CANYON COUNTRY CHRISTMAS CHRYSLER BOMBING — Here’s a story we don’t get much. On this date, two Canyon Country men firebombed a parked Chrysler in Saugus, just for the heck of it. They were arrested. Alas, there is no death penalty for being stupid.
A BASKETBALL GAME? SNOWED OUT!?!?! — Here’s another story we don’t see much. Canyon High had to cancel its basketball game with Antelope Valley. The reason? The Cowboys couldn’t get through because of snow. Get this. The old time and temperature tower on the Valley Federal building in Newhall registered 17 one morning. Some thermometers dipped to near zero in some of the canyons. (I remember the pool freezing over; the water was so thick, you couldn’t break it with an ax.) All over the valley, water pipes burst. With a daytime high not getting out of the 30s, people at the Saugus Swap Meet couldn’t stand the cold and fled their Christmas shopping early. Normal for this time of year is around 65 for the daytime and 33 for the night.
CEMENT THE SANTA CLARA — We had approximately 4,000 mature oaks in the SCV in 1972. The concern was that many of them might be lost if we went ahead with a massive flood control project. Local citizens, various government agencies and the Army Corps of Engineers were studying how to save the SCV from epic floods, like the one in 1969. We had nearly $4 million in damage from that one. The heated debate was whether to completely cement the Santa Clara River, Placerita Creek and many local tributaries.
DECEMBER 17, 1982
ANOTHER EPIC SCV DECEMBER WINDSTORM — More than 2,000 homes were without power when 70-mph gale-force winds whipped through the Santa Clarita. Trees and freeway signs were blown away, roofs came off and that which was in Person A’s yard was now in Person Z’s yard.
DENNIS DIDN’T GET TO SEE CHRISTMAS — Dennis Francoeur, 23-year-old Wayside prisoner and mental patient, died of a heart attack after an altercation with guards. An autopsy showed that the real cause of the young man’s death could be traced back to the reason why he was incarcerated in the first place. A year earlier, Francoeur broke into a Newhall home and was stabbed in the chest by the owner.
NOW THIS IS JOURNALISM — One of my all-time favorite headlines appeared 40 years back: “MONKEY LOVER RECEIVES A STAY.” The “Monkey Lover” turned out to be wildlife sanctuary owner Tim Kimber, who was given a zoning extension for his Agua Dulce monkeytorium.
OUR NEW NAME FOR AGUA DULCE — You know, saddlepals, that rolls off the tongue so sweetly, we’re just going to say it one more time — out loud, together and con gusto — before we head home. Ready? Agua Dulce — Monkeytorium…
DECEMBER 15, 1987
HAPPY. DARN. BIRTHDAY. DEAR. SANTA. CLARITA. YIPPEE. AND COYOTE. — This is one of my favorite dates in all of local history. On this date, our little municipality was incorporated. It has been a most noble experiment in democracy. Kudos to all of those involved, from all the employees to all those city founders who volunteered so much of their time to help create one of the best cities on the planet.
• • •
I know time’s relative, but it’s just a week until Christmas Eve. Wishing all you dear saddlepals joy and peace, not just for the Christmas holiday, but stretching into 2023 and beyond. Holiday hug. We’re at our time portal and see you next weekend with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, vayan con Dios, amigos!
Need a Christmas present? 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!