Sure has been perfect weather this month. A little sun. A little rain. A little snow. Not too hot. Not too cold and all the air’s free to breathe.
We’ve got all manner of interesting tidbits and vistas ahead, saddlepals.
There’s — well.
You know what? Enough jawing. Let’s point our noble steeds toward the time portal ahead and mosey into the Santa Clarita yesteryears…
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAUGUS CAFÉ!!! — On April 18, 1899, brothers Richard and Martin Wood started the Saugus Cafe inside the Saugus Train Depot. They had signed papers, taking over the little eatery in the northeast corner of the depot earlier in January but apparently served the first meal under the new title on the April 18 date. (I’d just KILL to know what that first meal was and who ate it!) The restaurant actually was opened on Sept. 1, 1887, under the ownership of James Herbert Tolfree. Interesting name for a business in a train depot.
THE SPELLING OF ‘NARRAGASUT’ WILL BE ON THE FINAL — Here’s a little cocktail party trivia for you. Saugus was named after the birthplace of town founder Henry Mayo Newhall. Our sometimes-forgotten little Massachusetts sister city is still around today. The word, “Saugus?” It comes from the Narragasut Indian word meaning “sandy spit of land.” They got the spit right. Just kidding, saddlepals. Just kidding.
DOUBLE EXTREME JOHN FREMONT TRIVIA!! — Speaking of Saugus, we just got our mitts on obscure correspondence from 1923, noting that John Fremont used to run a trading post in this area in the mid-1800s where he “… used to intercede for the Red Man and interpret the White, or vice versa.”
APRIL 22, 1923
I THINK WE ALL COULD USE OUR OWN, PERSONAL LITTLE LOG CABIN IN THE MOUNTAINS — Signal columnist, the SCV’s first cowboy poet and future editor, Thornton Doelle, composed a rhyme on this date entitled “The Homesick Ranger.” For eight lines, Thornton longed for his little log cabin in the mountains “… away from the city’s pretensions and strife, Far from the turmoil, the grief, the unrest and the nerve-racking clamor and scramble for life.” We hope Thornton was talking about how congested and noisy Newhall was. There were only 500 folks back then.
AHEM!! NOTE TO SIGNAL AD STAFF! CALL THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FIRST THING MONDAY MORNING! — One of the biggest advertisers in The Mighty Signal 100 years ago was the federal government. We did a healthy business printing Department of the Interior homestead notices. On this date, there was a half-page of records — not bad in a 10-page paper. Wouldn’t it be something if all you had to do is file a claim in 2023 and get yourself 160 free acres?
ONE MOUNTAIN AND NOW THERE’S TWO — We had our very own mini Mt. St. Helens moment on this date. Hundreds of folks went up Haskell Canyon to see the rare and natural phenomenon when a mountain split in two. A section about 200 yards long slid 60 feet, leaving a chasm of 40 feet. It formed a partial dam across the creek. There were several amateur explanations: 1) earthquake; 2) landslide from the recent rains; and 3) gas accumulations from underground oil.
APRIL 20, 1928
NEVER BEEN A BETTER SOUL — Happy birthday to that delightful woman, grandma to many, my second mother and dearest friend, JoAnn Peters. She was the wonderful forever Newhall gal who has fixed me so many high-cholesterol-laden meals, listened to my woes, and laughed with me more times than I can count. She is also the one who inks out all the nice adjectives on my birthday cards and who happens to share the same birthday as Adolf Hitler. This weekend, we’re having a huge memorial for JoAnn in Ventura for a few close friends and family. She passed away four years ago, a scant few days before her 91st birthday.
APRIL 22, 1933
NOW CRIPES HOW HARD IS THAT TO REMEMBER? — The telephone number for Newhall Bakery was 25. The telephone company’s number was 10. Newhall Hardware was 434. The Mighty Signal was 8 and Newhall Lumber had the easiest to remember: it was 1. Fits nicely on a business card with lots of room to spare …
APRIL 22, 1943
THE PATRIOTS AT BERMITE — Pat Lizza, owner of Bermite, barely got the approval for raises for his munitions workers under the wire. With the rest of America, the Santa Clarita was smack dab in the middle of the brutal World War II. Washington had frozen all raises involving defense spending. The overworked and underpaid Bermite gang all got retroactive raises in the form of checks ranging from $40 to $550. This gesture of sacrifice will bring a tear to some of your eyes. Many of the workers used the much-needed money to buy war bonds.
ON THE EXACT OPPOSITE END OF SACRIFICE — While many of the SCV’s finest were fighting for their country during World War II, the California Highway Patrol nabbed four youthful punks after a short-lived crime spree. The quartet was sticking up folks on the old Grapevine. Their week-long spree included eight hold-ups and five car thefts. The boys used baseball bats and meat cleavers as weapons.
IMMORTALIZED IN A CASTAIC CANYON — Newhall patriarch Robert J. Sloan passed on to his reward on this date. Robert and his wife Bertha of 52 years first homestead here in 1927 and would have 11 children. The Sloans were famous for taking in orphans and lost souls, sometimes opening their meager home to dozens of strangers. At one time, besides their own 11 kids, the Sloans somehow managed to clothe, feed and sleep another 36 orphans. Sloan Canyon is still named after Robert and Bertha.
APRIL 22, 1953
DIGGER — Local mortician Ed Hilburn opened his brand-new mortuary on this date on the corner of 8th and Walnut in Downtown Newhall. Needless to say, the grand opening ceremony was very quiet with just about nobody in attendance. Friends of Ed gave him the unasked-for nickname of “Digger.” Yes. As in “grave …”
THIS, LADIES & GENTLEMEN, BOYS & GIRLS, WAS A NEWSPAPER EDITOR’S DREAM — On this date, John H. Pistol of Newhall was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. The Signal headline? “Loaded Pistol,” of course.
FIRE, THE CURSE OF PLACERITA — Just a scant few weeks before, a woman and two boys were burned alive in a cozy Placerita Canyon cabin. This week 70 years ago, Leon Foote, an aged pensioner, suffered the same fate in his trailer. The little mobile home was parked under an oak and was so charred, firefighters could not tell the cause of the blaze. Foote apparently died in his bed.
TIME FLIES. MAKE IT STOP. — This small item brought a smile to my heart. The Signal headline read: “Gayle Johnson Has Second Birthday.” Her mom, Barbara Johnson, threw the party. Gayle, my friend for so many years, turned 2. OK. You guys do the math but don’t tell anybody. Next month, Gayle is celebrating her 20th anniversary with another dear and lifelong pal, Bob Becker.
A SUSPICIOUS MARQUEE — The American Theatre had a triple bill on this date: “The Lawless Breed” (starring Rock Hudson); “All Ashore” (a Navy costume musical); and, “Prince of Pirates.” I’m not even going to say — nothin’. Double negative intentional …
APRIL 22, 1963
OILY OILY OXEN FREE-EEEE — Since the 1800s, oil had been a foundational pillar of the local economy. In 1963, there were 50 oil companies working in the SCV, not including the big Newhall Oil Refinery, and three gasoline plants. Their yearly combined revenue was about $5 million and they paid $1.8 million a year in salaries for some 300 employees. The mineral tax they paid contributed $990,000 to local schools. (Wonder if we’re still getting paid from a mineral tax?) Further stats: California’s daily production of oil was 815,000 barrels. Daily, here in Santa Clarita, we pumped out a robust 30.4 barrels. Supposedly, one of the main reasons the William S. Hart Union High School District was able to be formed in 1945 was because of our oil wealth.
SNEAKING IN A 1949 STATISTIC INTO 1963, A FELONY IN SOME EASTERN STATES — Thanks to a local con man who accidentally discovered a monster oil underground sea, we produced SO MUCH oil in 1949-1952, it disrupted world oil prices.
FURNISHINGS FROM THE GOOD OLD DAYS — On this date, lawyer Adrian Adams had his old office torn down and replaced with a brand new modern one. Too bad. The old place had wood-paneled walls and old comfy leather chairs.
STOMPERS — Local musicians Russ Magowan, Jim Miller, John Scammon, Renaud Veluzat, and band leader David Weston wowed dancers at the old Pacific Ocean Park with their “stomp” band. Actually, Dave wasn’t technically the band leader. But he lives nearby, and we didn’t want him backing into our fence. Oh. By the way. I do believe Dave is STILL playing at the American Legion Lodge, behind the Newhall Library. Give them a jingle at 259-7507 for dates and times …
APRIL 22, 1973
MONSTERS FROM 50 YEARS AGO — Dear sweet Mary and Joseph, how would you like to live next to these kids? You’ll remember on a recent trail ride, we covered this horrific slaughter of animals at a small cabin in Agua Dulce. Clovis Scott returned home one day to find someone had broken into his place and brutally mutilated and murdered most of his animals. The monsters had doused live chickens with kerosene and then set them on fire. They also choked nine 3-week-old German shepherd puppies to death and beat the mother to death with a shovel. Deputies discovered that the inhumane brutality came from the hands of two neighbor boys, formerly from the California Youth Authority, living at a nearby foster home. One of the teens calmly confessed, “There’s no use lying about it. We did it.” Evil lives to be evil …
THERE WAS SOMETHING PATENTLY WRONG WITH THAT DECADE — I’ve often said that some part of the 1970s was simply plain evil. We had so many horrific crimes and murders in the SCV during the early ’70s. While puppies were being strangled, across the valley in Valencia, Nancy Lee Tefft was brutally murdered by her husband, Richard. The couple was estranged. When Richard went to his home to take a few things, he went with friends. They arrived in a separate vehicle and found the doors locked. They heard a sound they described as hammering from inside. It was actually Richard shooting his wife in the head at close range with a Derringer.
FROM SHOOTING THE WIFE TO SHOOTING THE TREES — Besides developers, our valley’s oak had another enemy — target shooters. Several stately oaks, some of them centuries old, were dying after target shooters riddled them with bullets. The bark came off and the sap, the life’s blood of the trees, just leaked out and the trees were no more.
APRIL 22, 1983
THIS ITEM JUST FLOORED ME — The Rotarians donated time, muscle and materials on this date. They put in the floor to the Saugus Train Station after it was moved to Hart Park from its previous home across the street from the Saugus Café.
BOMBERS AND BEER THIEVES — From the Beer & Bombs Department, we had our very own backwoods would-be terrorist arrested 40 years back. A Newhall youth was arrested for stealing two cases of beer from the Elks Lodge in Canyon Country. Sheriff’s deputies also discovered the lad had built his own homemade mortar in the back of his pickup. Officials were confident the makeshift explosive device wasn’t built to harm anyone, just fire wooden projectiles into parts unknown. Stealing beer from the Elks, however …
SHERRY OH BABY OH BABY — Former Hart High graduate and most sultry hubba-hubba model Sherry Ann Dill made national attention on this date. She was named “Cosmo Girl” for her feline-like sensuality and won the national competition search. It was interesting that Sherry was able to pull off such an amazing bikini figure. While not modeling, she worked in her parents’ Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in Canyon Country. I think I spent several hundred thousand dollars there on ice cream that just melted…
• • •
We’re home. Drat. I’ll miss you. It’s been an absolute Christmas treat on a Fourth of July, sharing these weekend morning trail rides through history with you, dear saddlepals. Tip of the brim. See you in seven back here at Your Mighty Signal, and, until then, ¡vayan con Dios, amigos!
Like SCV History? Visit johnbostonbooks.com. 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…