No need to be sad or depressed, saddlepals. This is the absolute very last Time Ranger trail ride for 2022. On the bright side, we are in the business of traveling through time, so what does something as capricious as moving clock hands or silent digital ticking mean to grizzled, vortex-jumping veterans we?
This fine last weekend of 2022, we’ll be moseying back through the decades to simpler times. Watch that slack in the reins. There’s pet-eating mountain lions, moonshiners and Confederate-flag stealing thieves.
Bundle up, amigos and amigo-ettes. It’s still December and a bit brisk on the time trail…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
SEARCHING FOR SAN FRANCISCO —It was a heck of a way to spend New Year’s Day. On Jan. 1, 1850, Manley & Rogers arrived at the Rancho del Valle. They had walked all the way from Death Valley, seeking help for their stranded wagon train party. Crazy thing? They had set out for San Francisco, California, but ended up at Rancho San Francisco, or what the Santa Clarita Valley was called back then. Cripes. It’s a hard enough drive without air conditioning (or a heater, in January)…
HARD-CORE SIGNAL TRIVIA — When Ed Brown founded The Mighty Signal in 1919, he used a Challenge-Gordon snapper press, which printed one page at a time. It was considered agent in 1919. There were 250 subscribers then — not bad when there were only about 500 people in the whole valley. If you extrapolated the math to present day, our circulation rate should be around a billion. Back then, besides the $1-a-year subscription, some folks paid in barter — mostly fruits, vegetables or poultry. One senior citizen, however, traded a car battery for a year’s subscription.
MORE LOCAL NEWSPAPER LORE — There have been many pretenders to the throne of Santa Clarita publishing over the years. Back in the 1920s, an upstart publication, The Saugus Enterprise, started up. The Enterprise was started by forest ranger, the SCV’s first cowboy poet, thespian and publisher, Thornton Doelle, who would later become editor of The Signal. The Enterprise (newspaper, not the starship) printed only five editions. We used to have five copies in our files, but those, I believe, were thrown away when we moved to the “old” new building. If any of you old-timers out there have any copies of the Saugus Enterprise, I’d sure be grateful to see them and maybe make a copy. The Enterprise, by the way, was enfolded into The Signal and has been part of our legal title — The Newhall Signal & Saugus Enterprise — for years.
DECEMBER 31, 1922
THEY DIDN’T HAVE BEEF STEW BACK THEN, EITHER — On this date, across the street from where our beloved Way Station sits today, The San Fernando Grain & Supply Store opened. They were eventually going to build a 24-hour grain mill there, but never got around to it.
THE TOMSTER WAS IN TOWN — Tom Mix was at the old LaSalle Ranch, filming a Western on this date.
WORKS FOR ME EVERY TIME… — Here’s a great legal defense strategy. On this date, Ed Escabosa was arrested for bootlegging. The local dry squad found several moonshine jugs in the back of his car. Escabosa’s plea? He was too drunk to remember what happened.
GUESS WHAT SOME FOLKS WERE GETTING FOR PRESENTS — Same post-Christmas week, the dry squad found 35 gallons of moonshine on the abandoned Shannon Ranch.
DECEMBER 31, 1932
NOT A GREAT WAY TO START THE NEW YEAR — Some holdup artists were busy over the holidays. A pair of bandits held up two local gas stations, kidnapping a worker from each. The attendants were driven several miles from their employ and told to “March home and never look back.” The bandits netted about $70 in the two robberies. That was a pretty big chunk of change during the hardscrabble Depression.
ONE OF THE DARN STRANGEST ACCIDENTS IN SCV HISTORY — On this date, three local Newhall men were at work over the hill in San Fernando. A motorist failed to see the construction signs, ran right through them and, as The Signal noted then, “…more or less seriously injured” the trio. Two of the men were struck by the car. The third was in a manhole, doing repairs, when one of them was bowled into the hole, landing on top of his head.
A BRIDGE NOT TOO FAR — The old bridge on the Ridge Route above Castaic was dismantled on this date. Steel girders from the huge structure, which was 21 feet across, were then taken all the way over to Violin Canyon where they were used to build a bigger bridge there.
SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE EVERY DAY. OR CENTURY. — Even though we were surrounded by wilderness back then, locals were still pretty amazed at the sight in the middle of State Highway 6 (Sierra Highway today). A mountain lion was dining on a sheep off the side of the road.
DECEMBER 31, 1942
VALLEY’S CLOSED. COME BACK SOON. — With gas, oil and rubber rationing during World War II, the centrally located travel oasis of the Santa Clarita Valley was especially hit hard. Many garages and gas stations from Newhall to Castaic were closed by the end of 1942. The Motor Stage Cafe and bus stop closed, as did the historic Woods Garage in Saugus (it would reopen later). Even the Saugus Cafe would be hit, closing for nearly 18 months.
DECEMBER 31, 1952
IS THIS THE PARTY TO WHOM I’M SPEAKING? — We got our phone books for 1953. They had 700 more numbers than the previous year for a grand total of — ching-ching-ching — 4,400 listings. By the way. That included Palmdale. We shared our white and yellow pages with our good neighbors from the Antelope Valley.
EXTREMELY BAD CHRISTMAS KARMA — Tom Davies didn’t have a white Christmas, but he did have a red one. His house took about 15 minutes to burn down Christmas day. No one was hurt.
JUST DRIVING ACROSS THE VALLEY COULD BE AN ADVENTURE — Same week, we had a motorist hit a steer in the middle of Bouquet Canyon Road and a Greyhound bus on the other side of the valley hit a horse. Alas, both critters went to Barnyard Heaven.
DECEMBER 31, 1962
EVER HEAR OF FRIENDSHIP VALLEY — Pleistocene-sized earthmovers were zigzagging their way off Sierra Highway, breaking ground for a new, $40 million, 480-acre gated senior citizen community. The original plans called for 3,000 “oldster” units, a golf course, community hall and shopping center. Many of you will jump the gun and confidently state: “I know where you’re going on that one, Time Ranger. This is Friendly Valley.” Nope. The place was originally called, “Friendship Valley.” About a year later, they would change the handle to its current incarnation.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. AND THE SENIOR HOUSING. — Here’s some trivia for you. Do you know who originally owned that 480-acre tract? Comedian Bob Hope.
BLOW THE MAN, AND THE WOMAN, DOWN — We were punished by the Santa Anas. Wind gusts up to 65 mph tore down trees and lifted roofs.
DECEMBER 31, 1972
DIDN’T I JUST WRITE A MR. SCV COLUMN ABOUT SNOWSHOES? —Newhall sheriff’s deputy John Silves landed one of the most sought-after plum jobs in the county. He was transferred to the resident deputy position at the Gorman cabin where he would be the sole representative of the county Sheriff’s Department in a 450-square mile territory. Friends were watching as Silves loaded up his pickup for the new job. One of the standard items he had to pack? Snowshoes.
THE LORD OF STEALTHY MURDER, AS TED ROOSEVELT CALLED HIM — Seems like mountain lion attacks happened in decade increments. Marsha Tichenor of Lost Canyon had her pet dog attacked by a cougar on this date. Up until the 1960s, we had an average of one mountain lion per canyon. That’s a darn lot of cougars…
MORE PHONES — We kept growing, at least according to Pacific Bell. The new phone books came out and we went up from 72 pages of residential listings to 80. Another new twist – on this date, you had to dial a “1” before calling any number that didn’t begin with “25.”
CONTROLLING THE WEATHER THROUGH THE OP-ED PAGE — The Signal’s editorial on this date attacked a wide variety of deities — especially the one in charge of local rain. “Anybody with half a mind can see that there has been a serious dereliction of Olympian duty as far as Valencia Valley’s rainfall quota is concerned. And this carelessness has got to stop. We must have rain — and soon. All good, law-abiding, God-fearing citizens are hungry for it. The Signal demands it.” And you know, soon, it rained…
DECEMBER 31, 1982
LOOK AWAY. LOOK AWAY. LOOK AWAY, DIXIELAND — On this date, thieves made off with the giant Confederate flag flying over the Dixie Diesel service station in Castaic. Measuring 20 by 30 feet, the Stars-And-Bars was valued at $700. Geez. How do you hide a gigantic flag, be it Confederate, Polish or Knights of Columbus?
THE ONGOING AND PROFOUND DISINTEREST IN ADULTHOOD — An immensely tepid response greeted the Santa Clarita City Formation Committee. They held a meeting where only two of the eight board members showed up and four interested from the public at large — including one Signal reporter. And somehow, still, the city of Santa Clarita would be formed five years later.
• • •
Well this is the part of the trail ride where I reach deep into the saddlebags and pull out the ancient joke that I won’t be seeing you dear souls until next year. Get it? Next year? Sadness? Next year’s tomorrow? Eeeeesh. You folks be good and do be careful out there driving this weekend. You don’t want to see yourself listed in a Time Ranger decade down the line where you’re the star of your own tragic accident. Until (here we go again!) next year, vayan con Dios, amigos!
Need a post-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!