We’ve an interesting trail ride through local history, amigos and amigo-ettes.
Hold firm on those reins and hide the baby’s eyes. We’ve got giant naked men ransacking houses. There’s train wrecks, bear wrecks, the famous “Cuddling Trial” and the burning of the Newhall Train Depot.
Well. For me, it’s left hand delicately on the reins and right hand firmly holding the daughter. C’mon. Let’s take to moseying…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
IF IT’S UP FOR SALE AGAIN, I’D BUY IT AT THAT PRICE — The Newhall family got their toehold in the valley on Jan. 15, 1875. That’s when tycoon Henry Mayo Newhall purchased most of the valley in a sheriff’s sale for a little less than $2 an acre.
MOVING DAY — Same day, three years later in 1876, the original town of Newhall — which was founded where the Saugus Cafe sits today — moved lock, stock, barrel and nail to around where San Fernando Road and 6th Street intersect. There were many reasons long after the fact that history has offered, from not enough water to too much wind to the train depot was too far from the tunnel.
MASS EXODUS — On Jan. 17, 1915, the Catholic Parish Mission Church was dedicated at Walnut and Lyons. They used to hold mass in the old Newhall Train Depot before that, and, long before that, it was at the original sub-mission San Francisco in Castaic.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR FRIEND — On Jan. 20, 1914, little Scott Newhall was born in San Francisco. He would later become owner of this newspaper and a legend in 20th century American journalism.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAUGUS CAFÉ!!! — It’s still open for business today. Back on Jan. 18th, 1899, Martin and Richard Wood purchased the old Tolefree’s Eating House. They renamed it, “The Saugus Cafe.”
THE BIG CATS. NOT THE SAUCY MIDDLE-AGED WANTON DIVORCEES — This is both local and a bit beyond. But, it’s interesting. From 1907 to 1933, there were 6,700 mountain lions shot and brought in for bounty. That’s just the ones reported. During that period, the bounty was $25 a head. Later, it would be increased, with the larger money going for female cougars.
JANUARY 21, 1923
YOU COULD BUY EVERY HOUSE IN THE SCV FOR THE PRICE OF JUST ONE TODAY — It was a seemingly innocent event but a landmark one nonetheless. On this date, local businessmen Albert Swall and Fred Lampkin bought 124 acres from The Newhall Land and Farming Co. They announced their intention to subdivide their land into sub-acre parcels, put in roads and water pipes and build the valley’s first subdivision. Back then, you could buy an already-built home on a decent-sized lot for $600. That’s not the down payment. That’s the total. The Signal noted: “Land values are increasing so rapidly that property purchased in this tract should prove a good investment.” Wonder what the folks of 1923 Newhall would think of the $722,000 median home price a century later?
LAND OF A BILLION HIGHWAYS — The Signal’s editorial, by the way, was about a lack of highways in the valley.
I THOUGHT TRAINS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE SAFE… !! — You heard the old adage about “…the wheels coming off.” Well. That’s exactly what happened up at the old Lang train station. An engine somehow managed to throw four giant wheels and flip over. No one was seriously hurt, but the train was delayed seven hours and passengers were transported by both “automobiles” and horse-drawn wagons to the Saugus Station. The wreck drew a lot of looky-loos, too. It took a day to right the wreck.
MOVING? DON’T FORGET TO TAKE THE HOUSE — We complain about packing boxes when we move today. Back when, folks used to literally take their houses with them. In 1922, the big Pacific Borax Mine shut down. Workers de-boarded their homes and carted them off to their new digs. At the end of 1922, the mine reopened, but there were hardly any lodgings for the workers.
HARDY CAMPERS — Hard to believe: forest ranger Thornton Doelle (and future Signal editor) reported that despite the below-freezing temps in Bouquet Canyon, the place was filled with campers.
PURRUCKER? — On this date, Newhall’s little William J. Purrucker Jr., 3, took top honors in California. He won first prize in the Better Baby Picture Contest, sponsored by the California Farmer Organization. Billy — or at least his parents — pocketed $20 cash money and lots of free photos. Interesting name, Purrucker…
JANUARY 21, 1933
TEACHER SHORTAGE — Times were tough. During the Depression, Newhall Elementary had eight teachers on the payroll, including a part-time substitute for all grades. Because enrollment and funding both dropped severely, they had to fire her.
OLD-TIMER NO MORE — Joe Youngblood passed away 90 years ago. He had been a pioneer of this valley, ranching in the Soledad Canyon area for over a half-century.
CALL IT EL NINO. CALL IT WINTER. — A big storm passed through, dumping 4.6 inches of rain in two days. Upper Bouquet had a yard of snow on the ground.
HUMAN SEASON — Tom Williams of Bouquet Canyon had been in several scrapes with the law. He went out to do a little shooting — his neighbor, Earl Cook, being the target. Williams had earlier been arrested for turkey theft, but was released for lack of evidence. It was a different story this time. Neighbor Cook was filled plumb full of shot.
JANUARY 21, 1943
LOUSY GOUGERS — The War Price Law was passed shortly after the beginning of World War II to prevent price gouging. Merchants in town were required, by law, to prominently post their “Ceiling Prices.” That’s the price they charged for an item in March 1942. They could not sell it for higher than that price. Wonder if that law is still in effect? We could make a killing when we ride back into 2023, saddlepals.
JANUARY 21, 1953
HUGGING WHILE BEHIND THE WHEEL — Here’s a landmark case. On this date, the Right to Cuddle was upheld. Fred J. Friedmeyer had been driving the speed limit and doing everything on the up-&-up when he was pulled over by a local California Highway Patrol officer. The CHiP ticketed him for unsafe driving because he observed Friedmeyer with his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulder. Friedmeyer plead not guilty and demanded a trial by jury. The 12 local men and women found him not guilty. Friedmeyer won over the hearts of the jurors when he explained that the woman in question wasn’t his girlfriend, but his wife of 11 years.
OUR NEW NEIGHBOR, THE SINGING COWBOY — On this date, a half-century back, film and Western singing star, Gene Autry, purchased Placeritos Ranch, aka, Slippery Gulch, aka, Monogram Pictures Ranch. The shooting lot was originally up the canyon in 1930 on the Sir Kegian acreage. It was moved in 1936 to its present location and improved and enlarged over the years, primarily by Ernie Hickson, who wandered the West, hunting Western memorabilia for it. Hickson even had some old-fashioned 19th century “one-armed bandits” with spinning wheels, lights and whistles he snatched from a saloon in Virginia City. Autry bought the place and had plans to eventually turn it into the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum. The place burned in the 1960s and Autry’s wife wanted a more black-tie location so, eventually, the GAWHM was built in Glendale. As for the Placeritos Ranch? It’s called Melody Ranch today. Interesting note. The day the ranch was sold to Autry, another contemporary, Hopalong Cassidy, was there, shooting an oater.
JANUARY 21, 1963
WHEN DOWNTOWN NEWHALL ALMOST BURNED DOWN — Weather-wise, it was one of the worst nights in the history of the valley to fight a fire. Forty years back, the old Southern Pacific train depot burned to the ground. Sitting where the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station is today, it had been abandoned in 1933 by SP and used as a potato packing shed after that. The ancient structure was literally standing kindling and had been condemned for years. The thermometer dipped down to 8 degrees — you time riders in the back, did you catch that? EIGHT DEGREES!?!?!?! — this night and hobos broke into the place to find shelter. They also lit a fire and instantly, the rotted wood exploded. Firefighters rushing to the blaze found they couldn’t get any water out of the hydrants and that their hoses froze. The 40 mph wind didn’t help, either. Fortunately, the old courthouse building across the street didn’t burn.
SHOULD’VE BUILT IT ON ROLLER SKATES — By the way. That Newhall Train Station was built in 1876 — in Saugus. The whole town of Newhall was founded in 1876 — where Saugus sits today. About a year later, because of lack of water, they just moved everything — including the train depot — into Newhall. There were only two train station managers for the Newhall Depot — John Gifford and his wife, Sarah, and following them, Pay Coyle. That’s it.
JANUARY 21, 1973
GOTTA WATCH OUT FOR THEM GOLFERS — On this date, Bill Sickler filed a criminal complaint, saying he was attacked at the old Hasley Canyon Golf Course. His assailant was described as a 4-foot-10, 225-pound woman.
CRIME WAVE CONTINUES — A complaint was filed against an 84-year-old Canyon Country man for scratching “You Are A Rat” on his neighbor’s door. Our friend Tom Frew says he has an alibi.
BEARS REPEATING — Mama Bear and Baby Bear were an inch away from execution. They had been transferred here from the wilds of San Bernardino for their love of garbage. Instead of blending in inconspicuously with the local flora and fauna of Castaic, they started raiding trash cans in campgrounds again.
AND NO GUY NAMED GUS IN SAUGUS & NO GAL NAMED VAL IN VALENCIA — KHJ TV did an investigative report on development in the SCV. Valencia got high marks. The Kaufman and Broad “cheapies” were considered a rape of the environment. Signal gossip columnist Ruth Newhall noted that there are no pines in Pinetree and no timber in Timberlane.
OK. SO WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO WALK, AGAIN, FROM DEATH VALLEY TO NEWHALL? — Two Placerville men, Leroy Johnson and Richard Bush, started an epic journey. The men hiked from Death Valley to Newhall, retracing the 270-mile journey of Manly and Rogers in 1849 when they sought help for their stranded wagon train. There is still much debate exactly which route Manly and Rogers took. But Johnson and Bush, experienced outdoorsmen, didn’t duplicate the deprivations from the original trek. Manly and Rogers only had some dried ox meat, a tin pot and half a blanket. Johnson and Bush had modern camping equipment and food brought to them by a support party.
THOSE MOOCHES AT NEWHALL LAND — They were sued on this date by railroad giant — sing it with me — The Atcheson, Topeka and The Santa Fe — railroad company. ATSF claimed NL ran up $421 in feed bills while shipping cattle four years earlier. That $421? Geez. That’s just one lunch from Gary Cusumano’s expense account. (Kidding & luvs ya’, GC…)
THE LOWLY HUMAN CONDITION — It makes you scratch your head, how low some people can stoop. A partial invalid barely escaped from his house as it caught on fire in Saugus. Neighbors rushed in to remove valuables. One of them rifled through the man’s desk, stealing $400 he had in a check book.
JANUARY 21, 1983
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD — College of the Canyons’ football stadium had been eerily quiet since they had canceled football the year before. A promoter, Carra-Bea Enterprises, wanted to use the stadium for weekly rock concerts to fill the 6,000-seat venue with 20,000 fans. It did not come to pass.
HOPE IT WASN’T THE ELUSIVE ‘GUS’ FROM ‘SAUGUS’ — Here’s something you don’t hear on the police scanner that often: “Naked Giant Man Dumping Refrigerator Contents.” Seems a young Saugus fellow, high on PCP and stark-raving nude, wandered into a neighbor’s home and just started trashing the place — in front of a terrified babysitter and three small children. The giant was arrested at Henry Mayo when he showed up — naked — to have a cut treated. Kids, I’m telling you…
• • •
From the flickering lights ahead, I can see we’ve reached our time portal. Alas, back to the present with all its humdrummia for us. Not to worry, saddlepals. We shall plan another leisurely escape for next Saturday. Until the next trail ride through SCV history then, vayan con Dios, amigos!
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