A happy and spring-like February morning to you, saddlepals. Hasn’t this just been the most gorgeous week? Fill your lungs up with air because it sure is free. We’ve a most interesting time ride ahead through local history.
We’ll be chewing the fat with a runner who laughs at puny marathons and chatting with an elderly bootlegger.
I’ve also got a really neat piece of extreme Newhall trivia for you about the Hart Auditorium. We’ll even visit with a little Santa Clarita Valley girl who made Time Magazine.
Shall we mosey our mounts through the time portal and rest in simpler times?
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
WHEN HERE IS THERE AND SAUGUS IS NEWHALL AND BACK AGAIN. GOT IT? — This always confounds the neophytes. The town of Newhall was actually founded where Saugus sits today. Founded on Sept. 6, 1876, the entire village of Newhall — lock, stock, boards, dogs and barrel — uprooted from around where San Fernando Road and Magic Mountain Parkway is today and moved down the road to where 6th and Railroad is. The reason? After less than two years, the residents realized there wasn’t any water. The move took place on Feb. 15, 1878. Last I looked, except for earthquakes, Newhall hasn’t moved since.
YOU’RE GONNA BE CATHOLIC, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT! — Way back on Feb. 19, 1803, families of Tataviam were taken from their home in their Caamulos (Camulos) Village, in Piru, to the San Fernando Mission and baptized. The youngest was Olegaria at 1. She would only live to 16. The oldest was a woman named Rufina at 90. In the previous weeks, dozens of local Indians from Castaic, Piru and the SCV were escorted to San Fernando for baptism. A classic pattern, exhibited here in Santa Clarita, was that Indians were told the virtues of Christianity, but then exposed to the hellish behavior of thug Spanish soldiers. The two did not line up and even the priests complained to church and state about the hypocrisy.
ROAD CLOSURE — County road crews worked feverishly to repair flood damage to the future Beale’s Cut. It had just been finished when epic rains wiped out much of the work. They rebuilt a cement retaining wall on the south side, starting on Feb. 18, 1862, and work on the north side a week later.
ROAD OPENING — Soledad Canyon used to be a private toll road up until Feb. 15, 1870. Seems people good and bad didn’t particularly like paying to ride on a road in the middle of nowhere. The county supes declared it free and public on this day.
FEBRUARY 18, 1923
THAT’S SOME WORK ETHIC — Local mucky mucks were starting up a chamber of commerce and, to that end, they did a little research. Pointing out that the SCV was one of the more strategic junctions on the West Coast, the committee hired someone to sit and count how many cars drove through Downtown Newhall (then the main state highway). The poor guy who did the survey sat out in the rain for 24 hours and counted 2,200 vehicles.
A HEFTY CHECK WAITING FOR MIKE? — Our congressman of 1923, W.F. Lineberger, announced he would reintroduce the Bursum-Fuller bill. It had been vetoed the year before by the president. The legislation called for an increase in pension benefits to Civil War veterans. There’s a Congressman Mike Garcia joke in there somewhere and we’re walking way around it.
FEBRUARY 14, 1933
SCHOOL’S CLOSED. IT BURNED DOWN. — On Valentine’s Day, Newhall Elementary School burned to the ground. Again. The poor little wooden structure burned to the ground three times. Luckily, no one was hurt in the blazes. The first two fires, the campus was near today’s corner of Newhall & 9th. This time, it was at the “new” campus where the school is today. Over coffee a bunch of years ago, a friend of mine, Gus Trueblood, laughingly shared how he got a whipping because of the disaster. Gus’s dad was Fred I — then owner and editor of The Mighty Signal. The day after the blaze, Fred sees the front page of the Los Angeles Times. A photographer talked little Gus into pretending he was dancing in front of the burnt-down campus. Gus got thrown over his dad’s knee and given a few half-hearted smacks. Fred told his son that he wasn’t being punished for his revelry, but for being on the front page of the Times.
FEBRUARY 18, 1933
BLACK GOLD. TEXAS TEA. — It was a scene right out of “Giant” or “The Beverly Hillbillies.” On this date, a huge gusher of an oil well suddenly blew its cork in Dry Canyon. Without warning, an explosion of gas erupted with a roar, sending mud, rocks, water then oil high into the air. The oilmen working around the derrick sprinted for cover. The gusher soon drew a crowd of local looky-loos.
FIXED INCOME — A.C. Klaprith was arrested for moonshining. With the repeal of the 18th Amendment, it was now legal to drink alcohol — BUT — you had to have a license to make and sell the stuff. Old A.C. didn’t. He told the judge he didn’t have any other way to make a living. A.C. was 75 years old. Judge Jones gave him 90 days and suspended the sentence. Just so you know, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th.
WONDER WHAT HE DID WITH ALL THOSE OFFICE CLOWN PICTURES? — For a while, the SCV was dentist-less. Dr. W.A. Whalen moved out of town to L.A. Guess we were all just brushing and flossing too well for him.
FEBRUARY 18, 1943
AH, THE BIRTH OF THE USELESS AND FACELESS BUREAUCRAT — With World War II came rationing. For the folks at home in Santa Clarita, that meant registering for the second-issue ration coupon books. We had to fill out complicated forms listing how many ounces of coffee we had at home, “…minus 1 pound for each family member over 14 years of age.” Everyone also had to list, in painful detail, how many bottles of ketchup, olives, spaghetti, sugar, etc., etc.
AT LEAST THE GOVERNMENT DIDN’T REQUIRE ALL PAIRS HAVE THEIR OWN FIRST AND LAST NAMES — Even shoes were affected. The war effort commandeered shoe factories to make combat boots. The effect locally? Shoe repairman L.B. Dull (great name for a shoe-shiner!!) had 75 pairs of shoes on hand to repair.
TIME MAGAZINE REPORTS ON CASTAIC GIRL HERO — You’ll remember me talking last week about how a military transport plane crashed in the hills above Castaic. Time Magazine picked up on a human-interest angle. Seems little Marylynn Winkler of the Hathaway Ranch spotted the plane going into a tailspin. She ran out to the crash site and found two survivors, an injured Army sergeant and private. Marylynn built a fire to keep the men warm, then stood by them for five hours until help arrived. The Time Magazine story was entitled: “She Couldn’t Leave Them.”
TAKING THE CANOE TO WORK — Folks were joking about the epic rains that continued to hit the valley. Noted Signal Editor Fred Trueblood: “We are glad to report that Sam Rowland and his men have dredged all of the dangerous sand bars from the streets of Newhall, and navigation is now open.”
FEBRUARY 18, 1953
A MORE HALCYON HOMETOWN — I’m placing a safe bet that the folks of 1953 Newhall would be shaking their heads and grinning sheepishly in amazement if they could compare their gripe about a price increase. Folks were grumbling about a 2-cent hike to already high prices. Regular gas was 27.9 cents a gallon and ethyl was a whopping 29.9 cents. I’d love to bring one of those gripers back to the future with us and have him take a peek at gasoline going for nearly $5 a gallon.
GAS, PART II — Here’s an interesting side note about gasoline prices. In America, including that temporary spike of 1953, gas prices rose only 20% since 1925. Not only that, but the more efficient fuels of 1953 did twice the work of 1925 gasoline.
AND BETCHA YOU CAN’T SPELL IT — Here’s some extreme trivia for you. Want to know what was the first play performed in the Hart High Auditorium? It was the children’s play, “Rumpelstiltskin,” produced by the Thompson Marionette Company. Admission was 25 cents.
OUCH IT HURTS TO BE A RANCHER — For those of you saddlepals with an agrarian background, fat steers that topped the market price of 38 cents a pound in 1951 were now selling for just 23 cents a pound. Add to that, a local drought and big hike in feed.
FEBRUARY 18, 1963
HEARTBREAKING — It was the worst thing a mother and father could imagine. The parents of 18-month-old Danny Rose left him with friends. They took the boy on errands and got into an accident on the rain-slick Ridge Route. The car spun, hit a telephone pole and little Danny Rose was no more.
THE ANTI-JFK OPED — Nine months before he would be assassinated, President John F. Kennedy was the target of a Signal editorial. Editor Fred Trueblood compared JFK rather unfavorably to Abraham Lincoln, calling Kennedy youthful, cocky and arrogant. Kennedy would soon share at least one similarity with Lincoln.
FEBRUARY 18, 1973
MEASURING THE WEEK’S RAIN, BY FEET! — Funny the time lines of some of these storms. In 2003, two decades back, we had a pretty good dumping of rain on our unprotected heads, almost a foot in some nearby canyons. Exactly 50 years ago, another big storm hit the valley, pelting us with a half-foot of rain. For the week. Many were stranded and a few had to be airlifted by helicopter.
SPORTY LITTLE CAR? OR CITY MOVEMENT? — CIVIC held a meeting three decades back. Nope. It wasn’t a Honda fan club get-together. CIVIC stands for Committee of Interested Volunteers Incorporating a City. Carl Boyer was president of the group and Carl would later become mayor of the very city he created.
FEBRUARY 18, 1983
HEY BOB! DID YOU GET YOUR STEPS IN TODAY? — Robert Sweetgall ran through town on this date. Literally. The Delaware man was touring America, lecturing daily at schools. His journey — all on foot — covered 10,000 miles in nine months, or, about 40 miles a day. He’d stop along the way to give a speech and on this date, was at Saugus High. He spoke on the benefits of exercise. If I was on the podium after him, I’d be speaking on the benefits of a car. Or at least a fine, tall horse.
• • •
Drat. That was simply too short. That yonder spinning vortex up ahead is our metaphorical stage stop to the here-&-now. Sure appreciate the company, dear saddlepals. See all y’all in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, you be good to one another and vayan con Dios, amigos…!
Visit johnbostonbooks.com. Like SCV History? Order John Boston’s terribly exciting Volumes I & II on “SCV Monsters, Ghouls, Ghosts, Bigfoot” & all our local paranormal stories. Great as gifts. Leave a kindly review…