Being the sympathetic soul I am, I know some of you are still suffering from New Year’s Eve hangovers from a week ago. So. I’m going to be 21st-century sensitive and not even whisper my morning’s greeting for our first trek of 2023. I’m going to communicate it telepathically. And, well. Through reading and writing.
This first adventure of the New Year is a doozy. We’ve got frat boys turned murderers. We’ve got whale trains to Vegas, gunfights, bad guys, good guys and the kidnapping of a local judge.
Wait. I’m sending another telepathic message: Get on your darn pony and let’s drift into the mystic…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
WE’RE NUMBER TWO!! — This should start a good feud locally. History books have touted that the Sulphur Springs Union School District is the second oldest in the county (right after L.A. Unified). Sulphur Springs S.D. was found in 1879. Newhall School District was organized a year earlier and possibly two (there are stories that its first year was in a bunk house near Walmart). The trump card, however, is played by Agua Dulce school district. You see, the Soledad School District was unified in 1869. It merged with the Agua Dulce in 1947. That would make Agua Dulce the second oldest school district — wouldn’t it?
GOLDEN GAGE — On Jan. 5, 1899, Acton gold mine owner and Republican Henry T. Gage became governor of California. The “T?” Stands for “Tifft.” Ain’t making it up. There’s some gee-whiz trivia surrounding Hank. He was born on Christmas Day, for one thing, back in 1852. He had the Midas touch, first becoming a wealthy sheep farmer in Southern California, then a connected business attorney and politician. He owned the highly profitable Governor Mine and Red Rover Mine in Acton. Essentially a mouthpiece for the Southern Pacific Railroad, Gage was über pro-business. His administration was blamed for bringing the third wave of the bubonic plague to San Francisco. Worse, he actively worked to stifle quarantine efforts or even mention of the dreaded “B” word in newspapers. Adding to Hank’s woes, San Francisco was crippled by street violence and dock strikes. On the bright side, Gage was born in Geneva, New York, where my daughter attends college. Shameful way to sneak that in, wasn’t it?
JANUARY 7, 1923
EVERYONE IN THE VALLEY AT THE SAME TABLE? — You can’t even remotely imagine doing this today. A century back, it was the Automobile Club of Southern California that was responsible for registering cars and drivers. The Department of Motor Vehicles had yet to be born. Here, in the SCV, if you wanted to get your new 1923 plates, you had to show up at Doty’s Garage on Main Street in Newhall and talk with Mr. L.E. Mock of AAA between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. — that’s for just one day only.
VANDALISM IS HARDLY NEW — The new rural mailman, Burt Tysall, issued a public warning to young yahoos: “Hunting season on post office boxes is now and forever closed.” Burt would run the back canyons for decades, delivering the mail in one of the longest routes in America. His most unusual delivery? A cow, C.O.D.
AH, THOSE GOOD OLD PRICES OF YESTERYEAR — Local businessman Port C. Miller just finished building his brand new “modern” home in Newhall and immediately rented it out. Price? Just 20 bucks a month for the four-room home, which included a screened-in “sleeping porch.” Remember those contraptions on the front of houses? Porches?
THE NIGHT LIFE, AIN’T NO GOOD LIFE, BUT . . . — Don’t let some of the old-timers kid you. We weren’t completely in the boonies. The metropolis of Newhall opened a new restaurant that was open from 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. only. It was for the night traffic. Back then, what is today Newhall Avenue and Main Street was the main state highway.
JANUARY 7, 1933
GUESS WE’D SURE HEAR ABOUT IT IN THE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR SECTION TODAY — Society — and certainly journalism — was much different in 1933. The Signal’s lead headline on this date was: “NEGRO KILLED IN FIERCE BATTLE — Kidnapped Officer Hurt in Fight.” Story reported was that Julius Green, aka, Jack Boswell, had a “furious gun fight” with local sheriff’s deputies. A reported 20 shots were exchanged, with a bullet finally hitting Green right between the eyes. Green had escaped in Mojave from a prison train bound for Folsom. He managed to break free of his leg irons and steal a handgun from a bag an escorting deputy had. Green kidnapped his escorting deputy, stole a car and was stopped in Newhall by Capt. Stewart and Deputy Carter. Green reportedly shot through the glass at the local officers, who returned fire. They missed Green and, as the Folsom guard called it: “You’ve shot the wrong man! You’ve shot me!” The gun battle royale ensued. Stewart, a noted local sharpshooter, calmly waited for Green to pop up again, then fatally shot him. The guard, it turned out, suffered the most superficial of flesh wounds. It seems one of the bullets ricocheted inside the metal car and hit him in the back. When he was taken to Newhall Hospital, the doctor was able to pull the bullet out by using just her thumb and forefinger. (Yes. Our resident doctor back then, Dr. Peters, was a woman.)
STILL MAKES SENSE 90 YEARS LATER — Here’s some sound wisdom that bears repeating. It’s from an ad in your Mighty Signal: “Your Best New Year Resolution: ‘I will advertise my business every week in The Signal and Enterprise, and thus help myself, the town, and the newspaper.’” Almost brings a tear to my eye…
ONE NEAT COWBOY, EVEN AS A BOY — This tidbit means very little to most of you, but brought a fond smile to me. In The Signal’s society column, they noted that Mr. and Mrs. Wayman and their young son, Walter, were up from Los Angeles, visiting their ranch. Walt was my ex-father-in-law. Neat cowboy. The Wayman Ranch, up until the 1980s, used to be on both sides of today’s Newhall Avenue, across from Green Thumb Nursery. It’s all condos today…
JANUARY 7, 1943
SWIFT JUSTICE — Judge Art Miller — the local lawyer who took over for the previous judge William Kennedy when he dropped dead in front of Miller — had his first day in court 80 years back this week. Miller tried four cases in 15 minutes. For you extreme trivia/legal eagle buffs, his very first case was a 1735 — drunk and disorderly. Albert Purcell paid a $15 fine. That’s like the price of one small margarita today.
ALL POINTS BULLETIN!! JUDGE KIDNAPPED!!! — Two hours prior to hearing his first case, Judge Miller was kidnapped by two giant CHP officers and Highway Patrol Capt. Don Kennedy (no relation to the judge who dropped dead in front of Miller a couple of weeks earlier). In the little Newhall courthouse, a jury of 12 was already convened, including Miller’s wife. A kangaroo court was held and the new judge was found guilty of “…wearing a 5-gallon hat with malice aforethought.” The jury found Miller guilty and ordered him to kiss everyone on the panel, including his wife. Miller good-naturedly filled out his sentence.
ONE, BOFFO, HUGE, GINORMOUS, GIGANTIC SURPRISE GIFT — It was on this date that silent film screen legend William S. Hart left the St. Vincent Hospital after a successful eye operation. Same day, he announced that when he finally passed, he was going to donate his ranch to the community.
BRING A FORK, PLATE, SPOON & NAPKIN TO THE ACCIDENT SITE — There were sheepish grins and watering mouths all over the valley. During World War II, the country was under strict rationing. Even in a farm and ranch community like Santa Clarita, things like beef, pork, bacon, butter and eggs were at a premium. On this date, a huge semi-truck carrying the precious foods flipped over and caught fire in Mint Canyon. The prevailing winds carried a tortuous cloud of heavenly breakfast smells across the valley.
JANUARY 7, 1953
ANOTHER DANGER OF DRIVING THROUGH THE SCV — Modern and pastoral life clashed again. As usual, pastoral life lost. For the second week in a row, another riderless horse was hit and killed by a motorist on Highway 99.
ANOTHER DANGER OF FLYING THROUGH THE SCV — You could blame SoCal Edison or the Schultz family or both. There used to be an air field on the old 6S (stands for six Schultzes) in Honby (North Oaks today). Bordering the airfield were some high-tension wires. For the umpeenth time, a pilot failed to see the wires and clipped them making his approach. He had a rough but safe landing.
JANUARY 7, 1963
THE WACKY EXTREMES OF SCV WINTER WEATHER — The mercury dipped into the low 20s to high teens in some higher canyons. Residents were greeted with surreal visions of oak trees with icicles — some of them more than a yard long — about the valley. On New Year’s Day, we even had a 30-acre brush fire up Bouquet Canyon. Ask some expert in Global Warming how one can possibly burn icicles…
BIG DARN ASTERISK KABLOOEY — A hiker found a large cache of stolen explosives while walking through Weldon Canyon. The ordnance, valued at $6,000 and weighing a ton, had been swiped from the Hercules Powder Magazine, about 5 miles south of Newhall. In the Extreme You Get A Double A On The Final Department, the first explosion to go off to build the Newhall Train Tunnel in 1875 was from a Hercules dynamite charge…
JANUARY 7, 1973
THE TIMELESS STUPIDITY OF COLLEGE STUDENTS — This has been a tradition for maybe a half century, but this time, a trip to the boondocks ended in death. Frat boys from Pierce College dumped off one of their brothers off Templin Highway, at night, in the dead of winter. Fred Bronner wandered off the edge of the road and fell 1,500 feet to his death. The prank became a homicide. When asked for a reason for abandoning the college student, in gym clothes in freezing temperature, one of his fraternity brethren said Fred was “…obnoxious and needed to be taught a lesson.”
THE TIMELESS VULGARITY AND EVIL OF HUMANITY — A Newhall couple who lost a child had a tradition of bringing a small Christmas tree and placing it on their daughter’s grave at Eternal Valley. Thieves made off with the small tree.
JANUARY 7, 1983
OUR FORGOTTEN 250 MPH TRAIN TO VEGAS — There have been many high-falutin’ ideas to cross the SCV drawing board over the years: an underground tunnel from here to Bakersfield; a giant perpetual motion time machine; a couple of nuclear power plants — built atop an active earthquake fault; local campaign finance reform. Add to the list the Mag Lev Train. (It stands for Magnetic Levitation.) Mike Daly, a Las Vegas developer, wanted to build a station in Newhall that would whisk gamblers from here to Vegas via a high-speed train. The bullet train would hit speeds of 250 mph and SCV high rollers could be in the City of Sin in less than an hour.
MORE HIJINX FROM THE KOOKY COUNTY AGENCY — Hats off again to the Northwestern Los Angeles Resource Conservation District. The little agency (which no one ever really knew what they did) had been embroiled in controversy for years. The board members had tried to buy new Mustangs AND bicycles for themselves. Fistfights constantly erupted at meetings — between the board members. One member was even a certifiable mental patient who would sign himself out of the sanitarium to attend meetings. On this date, Steve Fox, one of the district’s elected officials, donated a plan to end traffic congestion in Los Angeles County. That wasn’t exactly the NWLARCD’s jurisdiction. Steve Fox’s plan was to simply make it a law to create so much extra space between cars. Fox added, at the meeting, that he was giving his idea free of charge because he might not be long for this world. Fox claimed he was a target of KGB agents and feared assassination. Sigh. Don’t we all. Don’t we all…
• • •
Whelp. If you’ve accidentally picked up a KGB agent, give a whole-hearted “achoo!” and leave him in the 34th century, B.C., Santa Clarita. Don’t want any Russian agents turning the here-&-now socialist. Phew! Sure was a fun ride this morning. See you back here at The Mighty Signal hitching post seven days hence with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. And, until then — vayan con Dios, amigos!
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