Good morning dear saddlepals. Hope everyone’s head is on tightly after a Friday night of carousing, dressing up and dancing in vole costumes and latté drinking or whatever you new breed of Santa Claritans do in your off-hours.
We’ve a most excellent ride through the back trails of local history ahead. There’s flashers, slashers, speeders and readers.
We’ve got deer trying to break into Newhall Elementary and fire-setting snakes.
C’mon, amigos. You know the drill. Sit tall in the saddle and let’s all at least pretend we know what we’re doing…
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
SIMPLER TIMES — There were nights when it was mighty darn quiet and you could see a billion stars.
LESS TAXING TIMES — For centuries, the tax deadline of April 15 meant nothing. In fact, in most of prerecorded SCV history, there was no such thing as an April 15.
APRIL 15, 1923
AH, THE BUSINESS MIND. — In operation (again) for just a couple of meetings, the newly formed (again) Chamber of Commerce got together. First thing they decided was to remove several huge shade trees on the main drag (Railroad Avenue today). Forward-thinking because if there’s anything we have too much of decades later are huge shade trees. The chamber also agreed to welcome a goat milk factory on Arcadia Street. Wouldn’t drink goats’ milk on a bet or to pledge a sorority…
RAMPANT CRIME WAVE — Misdemeanors and felonies to rival a Donald Trump trial for Newhall consisted of just four cases this week in history. One was for vagrancy. The other three were for speeding. (Yes. We WERE a speed trap, when we could catch them.) Lloyd Elder fared the worst of the bunch. He got a 180-day jail sentence for speeding through downtown Newhall on a motorcycle.
GOT OFF CLEAN — Hm. Wonder just how clean they could get their washing that close to the soot of the trains? The ad in The Mighty Signal read thusly: “THE Newhall Laundry, just south of railroad near oil tanks, washing and ironing done reasonable.”
JUST SO’S YOU KNOW, NO. 52 IS BATH PRODUCTS — Ever heard of the Elkins Ranch in Fillmore? It was named after Judge Elkins’ family. On this date, the judge and his wife, who had family in Newhall, celebrated their 52nd anniversary in Placerita Canyon with several hundred friends and relatives. I’m guessing good Judge Elkins and his bride are not around today for their 142nd…
MAYBE SOMEONE SHOULD’VE GIVEN JUDGE ELKINS A HALF-TON OF ASPHALT — Speaking of the above, the good judge wondered why the county didn’t keep up on repairing the roads in Placerita Canyon. The highway, although in a beautiful location, was filled with potholes.
APRIL 15, 1933
ELIZABETH PACKED QUITE THE KICK — On this date, Elizabeth died. Elizabeth was 40 and star of several silent movies in her day. Those who knew her said she always acted like a lady, although she was known to offer a swift and hearty double rear-limbed blow to those who offended her. Elizabeth was silent film star William S. Hart’s mule.
SPEAKING OF OL’ TWO-GUN BILL — While he had written a few non-fiction books prior, he published his first novel on this date. “Hoofbeats” was a shoot-em-up set in the pioneer days of Wyoming. Dial was the publisher.
JUST ONE WOULD MAKE A DOZEN — Back when we were a farming community, things like this were the talk of the town. On this date, egg rancher Mrs. Markley went out to visit the hens and discovered a monster egg measuring 10 inches around on the long end and 8 inches in circumference around the short end. It weighed 7 ounces. (A standard extra-large egg is about 2 ounces.) After close questioning, none of the hens volunteered who was the passer. Maybe an ostrich was passing through Newhall…
BIG SAFETY TIP? DON’T DO THAT. — One kinda wonders what officer O.E. Smith was looking for. While on patrol, he accidentally stuck his finger in the spokes of his moving motorcycle and lost his pinkie finger.
SPRINGTIME AND BEER — Prohibition was dead but a week and we were already noticing the difference in the Santa Clarita. It was a beautiful spring day and locals noticed that the influx of weekend picnickers were all drinking beer. There was some worry about the newfound freedom. Politicians wanted to tax the brew and worries were the cliché of “Buck-a-Beer” would become a reality. That, and that excess taxation during the Depression would once again send alcohol back to the speakeasy and in control of the underworld.
APRIL 15, 1943
LOCAL HOUSING STARTS JUMP LIKE A BILLION PERCENT — On this date, a contingent of congressmen gave the go-ahead to build between 50 and 75 houses in the valley. Because of World War II, there was a moratorium on large housing projects. But, here in the SCV, we were home to Bermite, one of the biggest producers of ordnance in the country. There were a couple thousand factory workers employed here with no place for anyone to live. Eventually, these “Bermite Houses” would be constructed in Newhall, along the Chestnut and Walnut streets area.
BERMITE TRIVIA — Since around 1900, the site of this munitions plant has always had something to do with producing stuff that blows up. Heavyweight champ Gentleman Jim Corbett and his father had a dynamite factory there. In 1937, Pat Lizza, a fourth-generation Italian fireworks manufacturer, bought the grounds and buildings to make — what else — fireworks. He also produced TNT. Searching for what to call his new factory, Lizza (pronounced “Lisa”) took the first three letters of his close friend and foreman, “Bernie,” and added it to the last four letters of “dynamite.” Hence, “Bermite.” When World War II started Dec. 7, 1941, Lizza immediately hopped on a plane for Washington, D.C., and procured a fat defense contract to produce explosives. Bermite would employ up to around 2,000 during the war. After? It immediately downsized to a dozen-plus employees.
YES. WE HAVE NO LIVESTOCK… — Ranchers Art Brown and Heinie Rademacher placed ads to sell, respectively, some horses and cows. They sold their stock the day the advertisement hit the street. Problem was, neither gentleman enjoyed talking that much and people kept calling up, wanting to buy horses and cattle they had already sold. I’ve said it so many times: It pays to advertise with The Mighty Signal. (259-1234!)
A DARN WONDERFUL PROGRAM — A new federal program kicked in at the local elementary schools. For a dime, kids could get lunch and a milk. Alas, sometimes even a dime was hard to come by if you were poor in the 1940s.
DAD’S MILK & COOKIES — Gosh. I remember my dad Walt sharing a little anecdote that breaks my heart to this day. Fridays in his second-grade class were chocolate milk and cookies day. For 2 cents, you got a big glass of chocolate milk and three big cookies. Walt would spend the afternoon break at his desk, with his head resting on his forearms because he didn’t have two lousy pennies and couldn’t bear to see the other kids gorging themselves and laughing. Plus, dear Pops got teased for being so dirt poor. Years later, I commissioned an artist to create a simple painting of a glass of chocolate milk and a plate of cookies. Still have it hanging in my office…
APRIL 15, 1953
DEER ME! — Back when we used to have an abundance of deer in these parts, the creatures could be seen frequently in residential and business districts around town. One person strolling down old Spruce Street by the Newhall Hospital at 6th Street thought he saw a new lawn ornament. But then, it moved. The hoofed ruminant bolted, running down Main Street and ending up all the way at Newhall Elementary, where it tried to jump through a window. Local sheriff’s deputies succeeded in shooing the lost animal back to the nearby ag fields.
A VERY LONG DRIVE TO PICK UP A LOAF OF BREAD — Ben Sciarra’s grocery burned to the ground on this date. An overheated butane bathroom heater was the culprit. The blaze caused considerable hardship for Agua Dulcians. Ben’s place was the only grocery store around for miles.
APRIL 15, 1963
CRIPES AMEN BOY HOWDY YEE-OUCH THAT’S GONNA LEAVE A MARK AND THEN SOME. — Here’s another page from the saga of the self-inflicted gunshot wound. Bob Swanson was practicing his fast draw in a lonely canyon. He failed to get the order right of ready, steady, draw, aim and fire by putting the “fire” at the head of the list. Bob blew a hole through his thigh and kneecap.
CAN HARDLY BUY A DOORKNOB AT HOME DEPOT FOR $12,000 TODAY — The county Building & Safety Office noted that permits had been issued to build 110 new homes in North Oaks. Per-unit cost to build them was about $12,000. (Oh. To save Home Depot a pearl-clutching letter to the editor, we are confident the hardware box chain DOES offer sub-$12,000 doorknobs…)
APRIL 15, 1973
VIC LIVED. THE BEAR DIDN’T. — Victor Trejo was coming down Interstate 5 when he hit a 350-pound jaywalking bruin head-on. It wrecked the car and pretty much ruined the bruin’s day. Said unnamed black bear did not survive the wreck. A few miles down from the spot, a week earlier, a mountain lion was killed on the relatively brand new freeway.
AND NO. THE TRAPS WERE NOT MADE AND SOLD BY THE ACME CO. — Speaking of wildlife, state conservationists tried to introduce a “Tender Trap” for coyotes. While traditional traps broke bones and ensnared the wily predators, the Double-T used a heavily padded box with weather stripping from which Señor Coyote couldn’t pry free.
IT’S A CONDO NOW. — On this date, the local U.S. Forest Service building on today’s Newhall Avenue, near Green Thumb, was razed. It hadn’t been used for years and was getting just plain old. I used to live across the street from it years back.
NOT A PLACE DEEP ENOUGH IN HELL — Clovis Scott made himself a serious and sick enemy. When he returned home to his one-room cottage in Agua Dulce, he found someone had ransacked the place. In the middle of his home was an overturned kerosene lantern with five burnt matches. Someone had tried to burn his place to the ground. Worse, when he went outside, the sicko had burned his live rooster and chickens to death. A few were still alive, twitching in their death throes. His dog and eight German shepherd puppies had all been murdered with a bloody shovel.
R.I.P., VALENCIA VALLEY — On this date, for the first time we can remember, Signal Editor Scott Newhall surrendered. Unsuccessfully, for years, Scott used this paper to lead an effort to call our area the Valencia Valley. After numerous objections from the community, and, the recent vote by the Canyon Country Chamber of Commerce to call ourselves the Santa Clarita Valley, Scott threw in the towel.
In a front-page editorial, he noted that it was important for all of us to win the “war” of coming up with a unifying title for ourselves. “We have had our misgivings about the name, ‘Santa Clarita Valley.’ But from this day forward, in concert with every resident, merchant, businessman, farmer and rancher — with every doctor, lawyer, butcher, baker and dune-buggy maker — The Signal shall labor in full measure to make the Santa Clarita Valley the finest place the world has ever known.”
Of course, right underneath Scotty’s editorial, in another story, were the words, “Valencia Valley…”
RE: THE ABOVE? A LITTLE VALENCIA TRIVIA — Perhaps the main reason why Signal Editor Scott Newhall championed the name was because the ancestor of valley founder Henry Mayo Newall came up with the name of “Valencia” for the big beige housing project. Errrrrr, we meant, “…planned urban community.”
SHOULD’VE FIRED LANIER RIGHT THERE ON THE SPOT — I’m also too embarrassed to share this one. On this date, The Signal film critic panned “The Godfather.” Not only that, Phil, a vociferous fan of ladies’ breasts and, in many cases, the nude female figure, complained that the wedding night scene where Michael Corleone’s bride disrobes was gratuitous nudity. Now there’s a phrase you never heard slip from our Signal movie critic’s lips. The reviewer was, and is lo these many decades later, my best friend and he and I have been Best Man at all our weddings, Phil Lanier.
APRIL 15, 1983
IF SHE WERE AROUND TODAY, SHE’D BE PASSING AROUND ABOUT ANOTHER 800 PETITIONS — Ah, those go-go, permissive ’80s. A Canyon Country mother started a petition on this date. It was to ban cigarette smoking on the three local high school campuses (Hart, Saugus and Canyon). Yup. Back then, all three schools had designated smoking areas on campus. The good old days, when the inmates ran the asylum…
NO BUTTS ABOUT IT — On this date, one of the clerks of the court got an eyeful. A man appeared before her with a speeding ticket and started blurting out about how he didn’t deserve it because he was rushing from the hospital after an operation. The guy, thinking the clerk was the judge, proceeded to pull down his trousers and underwear and show the clerk his boo-boo. She shrieked and a deputy ran to the rescue before the speeding ticket could, ahem — rise — to indecent exposure.
FROM THE ‘SNAKES (not so much) ALIVE!!!’ DEPT. — A pair of pythons were blamed for starting a fire in a Valencia home. One of the two huge snakes knocked over a heat lamp in their cage, which caught the Astroturf matting on fire. The family lost their garage and suffered smoke damage to the rest of their house, but escaped to safety when alarms went off. The snakes? Fricasseed and then some…
• • •
From the gently waving vortex up ahead, it looks like we’re back to the here-and-now of 2023 Santa Clarita. Sure appreciate the time ride through yesteryears, dear saddlepals. Sigh. I’ll miss you, darn fun riding with you. Looking forward to seeing you next weekend back here at The Mighty Signal with a brand new Time Ranger adventure, and, until then — ¡vayan con Dios y Feliz Dia del Impuesto Sobre la Renta, amigos! (Ride with God and Happy Income Tax Day!)
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…