The Time Ranger | Bears, Terrorists & Forgotten Lake Vasquez

The Time Ranger

Gotta say. This has been the consistently coldest winter I can remember in my lifetime. It’s hardly broken into the 70s since 2022 and I’ve worn a serious winter coat. 

That aside, greetings and salutations, fellow carbon-based lifeform saddlepals. Hope all’s well and you’re rested and ready for a trail ride through SCV history this fine Saturday morn.  

We’ve some interesting vistas ahead. There’s the secret well at Vasquez Rocks, Scottish grizzly bears and Buffalo Bill. 

We’ll even take a peek at when terrorists attacked the Santa Clarita, blowing up several electric power lines, and mosey through yet another blizzard. 

You’d think we’re way overdue for snow around here. Oh well. If there’s none this spring or winter, let’s ride back into the past to find some…  


OH NO. STUCK IN LONE PINE, AGAIN. . . — As an earthquake, it was on a par with the 1906 San Francisco Quake, measuring as powerful as 7.9. It struck on March 26, 1872, and ended up killing 27 of Lone Pine’s approximately 250 people and injured 56. One reporter noted every building in Inyo County was knocked over. It was felt here in Santa Clarita, knocking over a few of the buildings and a few adobe walls. One hunter up in Frazier Park said he was asleep when it hit. The earth opened up and swallowed his mule. Hate when that happens… 

CIVILIZATION, WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT. — Back on March 22, 1875, with a blast of Hercules-brand dynamite, work began on one of the longest train tunnels in the world. A few miles south, they call it the San Fernando Train Tunnel. Here, in God’s country, it’s the Newhall Train Tunnel. Amazing trivia? When the two sides connected, they were off by only an inch. 

SANTA CLARITA, MEXICO — Most folks know we used to be part of Mexico. On March 26, 1821, we officially became a territory of Mexico during their war with Spain. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CASTAICIANITES! — The Castaic School District was founded, on March 25, 1889. Jump up and down and sniff some mimeograph paper. 

LAKE VASQUEZ ROCKS? — Henry Krieg homesteaded some of the best lands in the valley. His home was Vasquez Rocks, that otherworldly landscape where so many films have been made over the decades. Old Hank took years to build himself not just a well, but an impressive reservoir system. Using pick, shovel, wheelbarrow and TNT, Krieg burrowed 285 feet into the mountain, creating a reservoir from an underground stream and concrete wall 30 feet from the opening around it. 

ADIOS, RANGER! — In 1855, the California Rangers disbanded after nearly two years. Most of the brass (and the roughhousers) had Santa Clarita roots. They were formed by local rancher, politician, and L.A. Mayor Ignacio del Valle and were famous for cleaning up Downtown Los Angeles in a relative blink by shooting, stabbing, lynching, beating the holy tar out of, or hurting the feelings of L.A.’s huge criminal class. No reading of rights. No mother may I. Wonder if we could use a return of the august bunch of pistol fighters in 2023? 

MARCH 25, 1923  

THE NEW, & IMPROVED CHAMBER OF COMMERCE — Well stop the darn presses. The lead story in The Mighty Signal 100 years back was how immediately successful the “new” Chamber of Commerce was. Check out the headline: “Chamber of Commerce Getting Results — Now We Are To Have a Goat Milk Factory For Newhall.” Details were that W.H. McManus was putting up one on his 10-acre farm, which was on Arcadia Street. Wouldn’t swear, but I think there’s zoning against that now. 

I’D KILL TO DRAG SOMEONE FROM 1923 TO PRESENT DAY AND SHOW THEM A GASOLINE PRICE SIGN — Today, for what it takes to fill up some gas tanks, back in 1923, was two-weeks’ wages. Local representatives from the newly formed Newhall Chamber were at a meeting of other Southern California chambers. Topic of discussion? Finding a way to maintain all the new roads being built in the Southland. One rep came up with the idea for a gas tax… 

GOLD UP THEM THAR CANYONS — Another big gold strike was struck. This time it was in Texas Canyon. Miners were pulling out about $100 in gold for every ton of quartz. 

MARCH 25, 1933  

THE ANCIENT FRIEND, THE ANCIENT ENEMY — On this date, the old Biddison Ranch up Bouquet Canyon burned to the ground. Mrs. B was giving a bath to her toddler. She stepped out of the bathroom and saw flames in the kitchen. Quickly grabbing the children, she ran outside and watched as her homestead burned to the ground along with several irreplaceable historical artifacts.  

MARCH 25, 1943  

TALK ABOUT A HIGH-IMPACT LIFE — During the week, Mr. and Mrs. Ken Williams worked at Bermite, making ordnance for the war effort. On the weekends, they were professional rodeoers. O-ers… o-ers… o-ers… The couple competed at the Hoot Gibson Rodeo — this one being held at the L.A. Coliseum. 

ALL THE FARM HANDS ARE CARRYING RIFLES — With America at war with the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, thousands of farm workers left the fields to enlist in the armed forces. That left quite a void in this country’s — and this valley’s — bread basket. A federal program called the U.S. Farm Corps was created to move city people into rural areas like the Santa Clarita Valley to seed, water, fertilize and harvest our crops. 

MARCH 25, 1953  

OUR UNDERPAID PROFESSORS — Turns out teachers and staff in the William S. Hart Union High School District were far below the state average for schools their size. So, the trustees voted all teachers a $500 a year across-the-board pay raise. Joke back then was now they were getting $600 a year… 

TERRORISM GAG? — The AFL Electrical Workers Union went on strike. Pickets paced in front of the Edison yard on Lyons Avenue for the second week. At first, the work protest was peaceful. It escalated when someone dynamited two huge towers off San Francisquito Canyon. SoCal Edison put up a $35,000 reward for the arrest of the saboteurs. Later, the macro-pranksters incapacitated two more big towers and it was surprisingly easy. The terrorists just threw a long length of steel chain over two wires, frying the circuits. Each tower carried 220,000 volts of juice. The FBI rushed to the SCV to investigate and the results were happenstancely humorous. At the same time the towers blew, the Newhall Civil Air Defense was putting on their annual full battle dress drill for an atom bomb attack. Just about everyone in town was involved in the kabuki theater. Meanwhile, while people are being fake bandaged and bulldozers unloaded and sirens blaring, real FBI agents were wandering around, trying to get info on the towers. Everyone thought the G-men were part of a gag and kept pointing them to pals as suspects. 

MARCH 25, 1963  

WHADYA SNOW? — A late-season snow hit the higher elevations, icing up old Highway 99 and the Ridge Route. There were 22 accidents with 23 injuries. One woman slid off an embankment on the narrow road and plunged 100 feet over a cliff. Seven campers who were stranded off Pine Canyon on the Sawmill Road had to be evacuated by helicopter.  

SEVEN CHANNELS. THAT’S IT. JUST SEVEN CHANNELS. — Today, almost everyone in the country can name their cable providers and is inundated with the hundreds of packages available, from porn to sports to foreign languages. We had cable in 1963, but it wasn’t a household name. A local provider, Phil Antoine over at the shack with the catchy name, Pacific Master System Co., ran an ad in The Mighty Signal. While most of us spend easily over a C-note per month on entertainment hookups, cable from PMS was $17.50 for connection and just $5 a month. If you wanted another cable connection in your home or office, it was just an extra buck. 

HI HONEY! HI HONEY!! — Long before the days of smartphone calendars, Wayside Honor Rancho prisoner Sam Santos had one of those non-conjugal phone meetings through the plastic glass with his wife, Mrs. Santos. Small problem arose. During the phone call, ANOTHER Mrs. Santos showed up to chat. Turns out one was the actual wife and the other was the actual mistress. Big. Giant. Hair-pulling. Wife-Lover Brouhaha. There was so much rolling around, guards could not determine which of the Mrs. Santoses won… 

MARCH 25, 1973  

BUFFALO BILL SAW BETTER DAYS — The second reincarnation of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show passed away peacefully at a sheriff’s bankruptcy auction in Newhall. Up on the block were buffalo hides, a Civil War cannon, 10 wagons, 17 buggies, tack, 30 quarter horses, and all manner of Western memorabilia. 

STAY ON THE ROAD. STAY ON THE ROAD. STAY ON THE ROAD. — On this date, we got a new kind of sign in Castaic. It was a blinking mini-billboard that, for the first time, warned motorists heading up the Grapevine of wind and snow problems. 


ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DATES IN SCV HISTORY — This doesn’t naturally fall into our 10-year calendars, and it is most subtle. But it is also one of those benchmarks of local history. On this date, Video Magic opened up on Lyons Avenue. It was the first all-movie video rental outlet in the SCV. 

MARCH 25, 1983  

A BEAR OF A PROBLEM — Andy and Maggie Robin had an unusual pet — Hercules, the 1,000-pound Scottish grizzly bear. Herc had various jobs in the movies but was having trouble finding a place to live. His owners bought a half-acre lot in a quiet part of Newhall that they wanted to live on with Hercules. When the Robbinses found out neither they nor the bear could reside on the property, the couple hit Merrill Lynch Realty with a $30 million lawsuit. 

SO WHAT ARE MY LUCKY LOTTO NUMBERS — Futurist and author, Dr. Bernard Kirsch, spoke to students at Sierra Vista Junior High School about, well, what do you think? The future. Dr. Kirsch was one of four panelists at this early Career Day speaking about what the workplace would look like 20 years from then — or, in 2003. Dr. Kirsch noted in 1983 that we were already going through a massive change in the workforce where only 13% of our jobs involved manufacturing. Pretty much, all four of the panelists predicted that young people had to become well-versed in computers. One thing that hasn’t necessarily come true was the prediction that in 2003, everyone would be working fewer hours due, of course, to all the labor-saving computers. 

•     •     • 

Beautiful darn weekend awaiting us in the Santa Clarita here-&-now, dear saddlepals. Could just sit back on a rock and watch the clouds go by. Catch up with all of you next week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure, and, until then, vayan con Dios, amigos! 

Visit 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… 

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