Hasn’t this 2023 winter/spring just been something? I think I can count on one hand the number of days we’ve had where it’s hit the low 70s for a high. Not complaining. Before you know, it’ll be August and 213 degrees.
As a fetching Signal intern/D-biker-movie actress once said years ago: “It’s bikini weather…”
We’ve a most interesting trek into the back trails of Santa Clarita. Awaiting us are movie stars, epic blazes, mad dogs, knucklehead drug dealers and some really bad advertising.
Face the left side of your horse. Put your right foot in the stirrup and swing your leg over the saddle horn. Grab the tail and say, “Follow that taxi!”
OK. Fine. As we say out West, “April Fool’s.” No matter which way you’re facing, hopefully, that creaking you’re hearing is from the leather, not arthritis…
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
IGGY REST IN PEACE — One of the state’s first major players, former mayor of Los Angeles and owner of the Rancho San Francisco (today, the Santa Clarita Valley) was Ignacio del Valle. He died on March 30, 1880. He managed to live 60 lifetimes all squeezed into one.
EARLY SHOW BIZ — One of the most influential novels in American history was “Ramona,” the romantic tale of a Scottish-Native American orphan girl. For decades, there were literally TENS OF THOUSANDS of Ramona reading clubs across America. The book was set against the real-life Camulos Ranch (today, a state historical landmark on Highway 126). Descriptions of folks taking naps in orange orchards — IN JANUARY — helped launch a westward migration to Southern California. On this date in 1905, legendary director D.W. Griffith began shooting the film version, with Mary Pickford in the title role.
MAIL? WHAT’S THAT? — On April 3, 1917, the Castaic Post Office opened in Sam Parson’s General Store, taking up a solitary shelf of space. The P.O. would close a few years later due to lack of interest. Seems no one was mailing anything FROM Castaic and no one was mailing anything TO Castaic…
TIGER, TIGER, BURNING BRIGHT — “The Tiger Man” was released on this date in 1918. It starred and was directed by our own Newhall superstar, William S. Hart. The silent Western was about how anti-hero Hart (playing Hawk Parsons) escapes from prison and comes across a band of lost missionaries. Hart falls for the padre’s wife and agrees to lead them to safety. Ol’ Two-Gun Bill plots to “have his way with her” but her decency touches his soul. Plus, she attempted suicide. Hart has a change of, ahem, heart. He takes her back, despite the fact that it means his being sent back to jail. The actress was Jane Novak, who would later be engaged to Hart (until that bothersome detail of Hart having an affair with a teenage actress while Jane was wedding dress shopping). For the life of me, couldn’t find why the title is “The Tiger Man.” No tigers in the flick…
APRIL 1, 1923
PERK: DON’T PLAY WITH MATCHES — Wildwood Canyon burned. The fire was accidentally started by town historian, A.B. Perkins. Perk was burning piles of brush when a wind kicked up. Embers quickly licked up the hillsides and spread, burning over 1,500 acres.
POACHERS, A CENTURY AGO — The Mighty Signal used to run a column in the 1970s called Demon Rum. It listed all the people arrested for drunk driving. Back in the 1920s, we ran a column along the same lines, but this one listed those arrested for Fish & Game offenses. A $250 fine for poaching was the equivalent to the cost of buying half a house in Saugus.
APRIL 1, 1933
IRS & BLOOD FROM A STONE — The Internal Revenue Service extended the deadline for filing taxes to March 31. Back then, anyone making over $5,000 had to file a report. Interestingly, there were a whole passel of people in this valley, and in this country, who didn’t make $5,000 a year.
THE OLD DETOUR PLOY — Truck driver Dave Hoffman was tooling down the Ridge Route when he braked for a man standing in the middle of the narrow road. “Detour!!” the fellow cried. As he walked toward the teamster, the alleged road crew worker pulled out a large revolver and liberated Hoffman of $55 in cash and his gold watch. Times, and people, were tough back then.
FEAR OF NAKED SHAKING — They were still feeling aftershocks from the big Long Beach Earthquake of 1933. The quake was even felt up here in Newhall. While there was not much damage, it sure scared the heck out of one visitor at the Newhall Hotel. James Donnelly, who resided at the resort, was taking a bath the night of the quake. He kept trying to climb out of the tub and kept getting knocked back down. “This is what I get for trying to take a bath on a Friday night,” he told friends. Donnelly also confessed his big fear was that the side of the building would collapse and he’d be sitting there, stark naked, for if not the world to see, at least everyone in Newhall.
SWING & A MISS ON OUR OPED PAGE — Here’s another Mighty Signal editorial gone terribly awry. On this date, Signal Editor A.B. Thatcher pontificated on the self-appointment of Adolf Hitler as dictator of Germany. Check out this quote from Dad’s editorial: “It is very doubtful, however, whether he (Hitler) will get as far as Mussolini, for the reason that the Germans will hardly stand for it as did the Italians.”
APRIL 1, 1943
RABIES HIT THE SCV — After six dogs were found carrying the deadly rabies plague, a rigid quarantine was slapped on the entire SCV. Thirteen locals had been bitten and were undergoing the painful Pasteur treatment in which the patients had to endure steel needles being stuck in their stomachs. Meanwhile, all — ALL — dogs in the SCV were quarantined to their yards for a three-month period.
PLANT A GARDEN BUT DON’T WATER IT — We had one of those inter-government Catch 22s going on 80 years back. During World War II, there was a shortage of fruits and vegetables and the federal government urged everyone to plant Victory Gardens. The problem here in Santa Clarita? We had an acute water shortage. Newhall Water Co., the purveyor of most water in town, noted that their one tank, which held 397,000 gallons, wasn’t big enough to accommodate anything but normal, residential usage. Because the water company relied on a fairly old-fashioned gravity-based system, if one person had a Victory Garden north of Pico Canyon, it might mean someone at a higher elevation, say at the top of Market, would have a dry faucet. Most farmers around town used their own well water.
APRIL 1, 1953
TIMELESS? — This is hardly news but was such a clever observation, I had to share it. Wrote Carol G., gossip columnist for the Hart High Smoke Signal: “It takes three girls to make a conversation — two to talk and one to talk about.”
ADVERTISING PAYS AND SOMETIMES IT DON’T — Signal Editor Fred Trueblood had his own tongue-in-cheek observation, this one at the expense of a neighbor in Fillmore. Seems the fellow placed an ad in the Fillmore Herald for a night watchman for his business and got immediate results. He was robbed that night.
BOMBING SANTA CLARITA — Since World War II, we’ve been doing these epic, community Kabuki theater productions, preparing ourselves for disaster. During the Cold War, and on this date, the valley held a civil defense drill involving hundreds of citizens. The scenario was that Los Angeles was hit by two atomic bombs and 5,000 transients fled the city and San Fernando Valley to the safety of Newhall. A 3-ton bomb landed unexploded in the middle of Sierra Highway and an enemy bomber crashed in Mint Canyon with six crew members escaping alive. We had 3,000 casualties with room for 1,650. Just to make this all perfectly clear, this was just a Cold War DRILL. It didn’t really happen…
APRIL 1, 1963
A LIFE UNLIVED — She was married just 10 weeks, young at 19 and pretty. Sandra Jean Smith was hiking with friends in upper Sand Canyon when she lost her footing, fell off a 90-foot cliff and died.
APRIL 1, 1973
TAKING THE 5TH? — Some old Signalites thought they were in major trouble 50 years back. The Los Angeles Grand Jury showed up at The Signal’s backshop building on 6th Street. Seems they were supposed to have a meeting at the sheriff’s station and no one told them the cops moved to the new digs in Valencia.
IT AIN’T HAY — This hardly bothers anyone nowadays, seeing that horses are getting rarer and rarer in these parts. But alfalfa shot up through the roof, going up from $4 a bail to nearly $5 almost overnight. If I recall correctly, I do believe it’s about $21 a bail in the here-&-now…
SLOW IS NOT NECESSARILY A VIRTUE — Being careful cost Hazel Benoit her life. The 62-year-old woman was driving 15 mph in her pickup truck down the brand-new Interstate 5 and was rear-ended by a big rig truck. She died instantly.
THE ONION FIELDS — Some of you old-timers will remember the halcyon days of Santa Clarita when the onion fields would send their eye-watering and distinct aroma across the valley. While most of the regular SCV residents tolerated and were even amused by the unique scent, the newcomers of Valencia were up in arms. “Everything smells like onions,” said one Valencia housewife. “My drapes, my rug, my sheets, my whole house!” The odor was especially strong 50 years back because farmers had to plow under a bumper crop. Add a case of the Santa Ana winds and you had a passel of sobbing SClaritans.
APRIL 1, 1983
AGAIN — It was big news 40 years back. Rosedell Elementary bought something called, “computers.” Seven of them. For the students. The purchase cost $18,000, for the black-and-white units with screens the size of doilies.
TALK ABOUT DRIVING WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE — Two L.A. men were pulled over for driving erratically through Newhall. They were carrying over $1 million in the drug, PCP.
THEY TAKE THE CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE SERIOUSLY IN BURBANK — Speaking of a million bucks, that’s the figure Newhall woman Sharen Weitz sought from the Burbank Police Department. Sharen sued BPD for strip-searching her after arresting her on an outstanding traffic ticket. Not only that, they went to her job in Burbank, arrested her, handcuffed her and carted her off to the pokey.
‘SINKING’ TO NEW LOWS — You’ve heard the old phrase, “They took everything but the kitchen sink.” On this date, burglars broke into the CBS RealCorp Building on Lyons. The only thing stolen — you guessed it — was the kitchen sink.
• • •
Sigh. Looks like from those blinking vortex lights, the cheesy 1950s science fiction movie music, and the “Welcome to the Dimension of Santa Clarita,” looks like we’re back to the here-&-now. You folks have yourselves just the best of weeks and take good care of one another. I’ll see you in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure, and, until then, 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…