The Time Ranger | ​​​Tiburcio & the Time Ranger Share Birthdays?

The Time Ranger

After months of just darn cold and unusual weather, it looks like Spring has made an appearance. What better morning to pick to do a little snooping around in the back canyons of yesteryear? 

On this leisurely horseback ride through SCV history, we’ll be investigating wife murderers, pretend bears in train tunnels and a mine worker who had himself a Wile E. Coyote moment. 

There’s the usual outrage of over-taxation, yet another tragic human torch story, a visit from a president, a visit from O.J. Simpson, and, of course, Tales o’ Cattle. 

Shall we mosey into the mystic, amigos y amigas? 


HERE COMES THE PRESIDENT!! THERE GOES THE PRESIDENT!! — Back on April 25, 1891, President Benjamin Harrison stopped briefly at the Saugus Train Depot. Some say he didn’t get off the train. Some say he did. Some accounts claim his presidential train just blew through Saugus, blowing dust on a small brass band of SCV musicians and dignitaries, there to greet him. Some say he ate at the little eatery called The Saugus Cafe, which was then inside the station. Some say he didn’t. 

COCKTAIL PARTY TRIVIA ALERT!!! — Dubbed “Little Ben” by the press, at 5-foot-6, Harrison was the second-shortest U.S. president, 2 inches taller than James Madison. 

A SHORT BUT FATEFUL NIGHT ON A BOAT — The night of April 26, 1863, the tender (that’s a smaller cargo ship used to transport cargo and people from larger ships to shore, and vice versa) of colorful Southern California teamster Phineas Banning blew the holy heck up in San Pedro Harbor. The explosion aboard the S.S. Ada Hancock took the lives of 26 souls, including Banning’s brother-in-law, W.T. Sanford, who was Los Angeles’ second postmaster at the time, and as a younger man had helped dig that first road through the Newhall Pass in the 1850s. The S.S. Hancock was named after a real person, Ada Hancock, the daughter of a Banning friend. Tough legacy to go through life with, and tougher on the 26 people who died and others who were injured. Banning was on board and was slightly injured. Both living and dead were launched into the air and ocean from the blast. Phineas Banning, who drove the first stagecoach across Beale’s Cut (and wrecked it!), was injured in the blast, which is still one of the worst accidents in California history. 

MORE ABOUT THE ADA — Edward Carlson was a soldier who had planned to board the ship, but decided not to go simply because it was too cold. His memory of standing on the wharf, watching the ship in the harbor, is beyond haunting: 

“The next moment all was still; but in that short moment more than twenty human beings had been hurled into eternity. But an instant before they were full of life, each one with some expectations from his contemplated voyage, each one with some cherished hope for the future, and no thought of death; and there I stood alive and well, who, but for a little chilly wind, would have been among them.” 

ME & TIBBY? WE’RE PLAIN NO GOOD … —  Just noticed in Leon Worden’s exhaustive and authoritative Timetables of SCV History that fabled bandido Tiburcio Vasquez was born on April 7, 1839. Various accounts, and multiplied about the Internet, had placed Baby Tibby entering this vale of tears anywhere from April 10, 11, or 12 to all the way into August. Leon swears he’s seen the birth certificate. Hope TV’s bad genes aren’t a by-product of astrology. My birthday’s April 7. Then, so’s James Garner’s and Jackie Chan’s. And, I hate to say, former California governor, Jerry Brown. 

ONE MORE ON THE TIBSTER — According to W. Wolfenstein (great monster name!!!), who worked in the office of The Clerk of the Southern District of California in 1874, the confusion about Tiburcio Vasquez’s date of birth was that he was born on April 7. Vasquez was BAPTIZED on April 10, 1839, (hence the confusion) and celebrated his birthday in August for his patron saint. We all gotta go, sometime, and Vasquez was hanged in San Jose on March 19, 1875. While Vasquez and I share that same birthday of April 7, I’m hoping when my time comes, I won’t be hanged… 

WORLD’S BEST MIXOLOGIST — Some of you old-timers remember Bobby Batugo. He was voted as World’s Best Bartender in mixology competitions several times. Batugo was born in the Philippines on April 26, 1906. He was one of the friendliest souls and worked behind the bar at the world-famous Tip’s restaurant here in Newhall (on Pico Canyon; today, it’s IHOP.) Bobby created these giant and sinful sugary rum concoctions. A funny fact? In the din of this popular watering hole where people from all over the Southland visited, except for those close to him, few realized Bobby never really learned English. He picked up just a handful of phrases that he’d just bounce back at all the sots. 

I WOULD ABSOLUTE K-I-L-L (WITH MY BARE HANDS) FOR THE EMBROIDERED  CHURCH SOFTBALL TEAM SWEATSHIRT HOODIE — On April 28, 1888, the Union Religious & Moral Society of Acton held their first meeting. They would later become the Acton Community Presbyterian Church. 

APRIL 29, 1923  

DEAR PRUDENCE — GREET THE BRAND-NEW DAY … — Here’s a great name for you — Prudence Penny. She was the women’s advice columnist for the now-defunct Los Angeles Examiner. She motored all the way up here to the boonies to lecture the local Newhall Woman’s Club (again, it’s officially “Woman’s,” not “Women’s”) on things woman-like.  

DANCING FOR YOUR LIFE — We were a fairly rough-&-tumble area, as witnessed by the following disclaimer for the local “Jazz-Pep” dance at the Hap-a-Lan Hall in Newhall. “Get your tickets early and avoid gun-play,” read the flyer. The Newhall Drama Club, which sponsored the event, also offered: “Dancing lessons free to all gentlemen wearing no larger than a No. 5 shoe.” 

BLANCHE WOULD BE TURNING OVER IN HER GRAVE — On this date, a darn century ago, The Mighty Signal was worried about where federal taxation was going. “Why do we pay for the privilege of owning our own home and business?” Another thought: “Interest-oppressed humanity will, in time, have these burdens lifted.” Wonder what Signal Editor Blanche Brown would think living in 2023 America? 

NONE OF DAN CAME HOME FOR DINNER — Dan Leary, who worked at the Pacific Coast Mine in Sterling (between Canyon Country and Agua Dulce) “blowed” himself up real good. Leary was not leery enough. He was setting a charge of TNT and the fuse was both short and unforgiving. 

APRIL 29, 1933  

GREAT BAND NAME — Here’s a good day in journalism. The Mighty Signal got to use the phrase, “Freak Chickens,” in their front story’s lead headline. The tale is about R.C. Gibson, ruler of Eggland, the giant chicken farm that sprawled over much of current-day Happy Valley. On this date 4,680 weeks ago, two three-legged chickens were born to different mothers. They were normal in every way, except for having a third functioning leg complete with a claw where the tail normally goes. Hope you people today in Happy Valley use bottled water… 

BEER? 6 A.M.? SIGN ME UP — Prohibition just ended and for the first time in years, you could legally buy alcohol. I got a kick out of this classified ad in TMS and thought you might, too: “REAL BEER: as long as it lasts. St. Lorraine’s Lunch, Newhall, starting Thursday morning, open 6 a.m. HAPPY DAYS are here again!” I’m sorry. Six in the morning no matter how long you’ve waited is a might early for me to start slugging brewskis … 

APRIL 29, 1943  

A TARGET-RICH RODEO — One of the world’s biggest rodeos closed. For 18 straight years, the Newhall-Saugus Rodeo was one of cowboydom’s biggest events. But, because of World War II, the event was canceled and instead of rodeo stock, beef cattle grazed where the Saugus Speedway sits today. The rodeo would continue after the war ended. WHY did it close? Authorities were worried that a crowd of 20,000-plus people on the grounds would attract Japanese bombers. 

MOO — Speaking of cattle, Hall of Fame cowboy Andy Jauregui added 160 head of Mexican stock to his herd. From across the valley, friend and world-famous movie star, Harry Carey, rode all the way from San Francisquito to Placerita on horseback to help with the branding. Andy’s brand, by the way, was the famed J with a spear mark. 

APRIL 29, 1953  

SING IT WITH ME: ‘THE ADAMS FAM-A-LEEEE’ — He would become one of the valley’s most influential men and eventually a judge. On this date, the young attorney Adrian Adams moved to Newhall and bought the old law offices of George Kuittinen. Adams had worked briefly for the FBI and for the L.A. überfirm of O’Melveny and Myers. 

A BIZARRE AND TRAGIC PARENTHESIS IN HISTORY —The fifth death-by-being-burned-alive in 1953 occurred when we lost our spindly little telephone operator, Mary Howlett Bright. She was coming from the San Fernando Valley when her ancient subcompact Crosley car broke off a front-wheel spindle. The spindle hit the fuel line, a spark ignited and Mary was trapped inside. By the time she broke through the door, she was literally a human torch and ran down Sierra Highway, screaming. Mary was mainly known in the valley by her maiden name of Holly Hubbard. 

APRIL 29, 1963  

THE HOBO’S LIFE IS A ROUGH ONE — Oklahoma transient Lee Car, 53, was tossed off a freight train by some fellow riders in a freight car while going through the Newhall Tunnel. Injured, Car managed to crawl off the tracks and cover himself with a blanket. Train after train passed him. One finally saw the moving blanket and thought it was an injured bear. A team of sheriff’s deputies ventured into the tunnel, armed with rifles. Car saw their flashlights and tried to hide at first, thinking it was the bums coming back to finish him off. After being treated for a while at Newhall Hospital, the poor guy just walked away to continue his hard-scrabble life on the road. 

APRIL 29, 1973  

SENTIMENTAL GUY — Richard Tefft, mental patient and murderer, was arrested in Pennsylvania en route to his wife’s funeral there. Tefft had bludgeoned his estranged wife to death in Valencia, disappeared, and was then captured on the eve of his spouse’s burial. Ironically, before he was extradited back to the SCV for trial, he was temporarily incarcerated in the Fayette County Prison. His cell overlooked the cemetery where the woman he had once loved would sleep forever. 

WHAT’S IN A NAME? FOR US, A TON OF LETTERS. — In a motion by county Supervisor Baxter Ward, the old handle of Newhall-Saugus-Valencia-Canyon Country was given the boot. By a 5-0 vote, this area henceforth would be called the Santa Clarita Valley. The Valencia Civic Center also had a name change: Santa Clarita Civic Center. 

AND IT’S ONLY GETTING, IF NOT WORSE, THEN COZIER — There were about 55,000 people in the valley here 40 years back. My own guestimation is that the population, for the greater valley (not just the city, 2021 population 224,593) has grown at least — at least — tenfold … The 2021 city population was 224,593.  

APRIL 29, 1983  

TODAY, THEY’D BE LEADING A NURSERY SCHOOL READING HOUR AT THE LIBRARY — Local sheriff’s deputies ran on a call of a burglary in Canyon Country. When the cops entered the house, guns drawn, they witnessed two kids, barely teenagers, stark raving naked and committing the love that knows no name. While they didn’t put this in their official report, I would have lobbied for the notation: “’Tweren’t Realtors …”  

A BIG HAM AT THE BIG HAM — On this date, years before he the brutal murder of his wife and Ron Goldman, O.J. Simpson was at the grand opening ceremonies of Honey Baked Hams in Valencia. The Juice was the national spokesman for the chain. He spent the afternoon, smiling, signing autographs, and didn’t stab a single person.  

•     •     • 

Wasn’t this trek just an absolute hoot? Thanks once again for the companionship, dear saddlepals. Sure like sharing these weekends with you. You take good care of one another and I’ll see you next Saturday at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post. Until next week, I wish you a heartfelt — ¡vayan con Dios, amigos! 

Like SCV History? Visit 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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