Howdy, dear saddlepals. Hope you’re all doing well and rested for our trail ride through Santa Clarita history.
This morning, we’ve a most interesting trek ahead. There are bird attacks, movie stars and missing missions. We’ve got turkey killers, idyllic lives, attacks on nature, and the Ronald Reagan-Adolf Hitler connection.
Saddle up, amigos. Inhale all the air and look as much as you want. They’re both free…
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
NOW THESE WERE THE GOOD OLD DAYS — There weren’t any watches. You ate when you were hungry and rested when you were tired.
MAY 20, 1923
AND THEY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THOSE OLD-FASHIONED STORAGE GLASS JARS WITH THE BRASS LIDS — The local chapter of the Masons held their annual picnic on this date. It was in Castaic and it would be kind of hard to visit the picnic area today. It’s under the lake.
THEM DARN FRENCH! — A century ago, Signal Editor Blanche B. Brown took France to task. It seems the Widow Brown objected to that country’s maintaining a standing army of 33,000 men. A lot of good it did 17 years later when World War II struck.
HEY! WHO’S BEEN SMOKING IN HERE!? — A fire broke out in the basement of the Saugus Hotel. There wasn’t much damage, except for the loss of several mattresses stored there and the place smelling like the bottom of an ashtray.
THAT’S LIKE $50 BILLION TODAY — On this date, The Newhall Land & Farming Co. donated $500 toward the construction of the new Presbyterian Church.
WHAT A SURPRISE. A BRUSH FIRE IN THE SCV — Speaking of NL&F, they suffered a big brush fire on this date. Around 2,500 acres of grassland burned near Pico Canyon.
GIVING A HOOT — Our pal and movie star, Hoot Gibson, released a new pix on this date. “Single Handed,” the oater was called. Hoot, the future owner of the Saugus Speedway, played a terrible poker player who was an even worse fiddle player.
MAY 20, 1933
MEMO TO SELF: STAY ON THE TALL PART OF THE CLIFF — Clyde Ely, 16, didn’t have much fun on Mother’s Day. While at a party in upper Soledad, he fell 75 feet down a cliff, breaking ribs and suffering internal injuries.
YEAH. AND THROW IN A STEAK AND COLD BEER. — We were just chatting about our Saugus world-famous movie star, Edmund Richard Gibson. (He got the nickname “Hoot” because he worked at an Owl Drug Store.) Gibson had a rather strange request 10 years later. A cowboy sent the movie star and owner of the Saugus Speedway (then called The Hoot Gibson Stadium) a letter, requesting that Hoot send a prized horse and expensive saddle to be exhibited in a rodeo via rail in the Midwest. The cowboy sweetened the deal, saying he’d pay the $60 C.O.D. for horse and tack. Hoot, having never heard of the cowboy or the rodeo he represented, politely refused the oddball offer.
I CAN DIG IT. YOU CAN DIG IT. HE, SHE, IT CAN DIG IT. — R.F. Van Valkenborg was digging around the valley. That’s OK. The guy was an archeologist from the Los Angeles Museum. Along with local historian, a young A.B. Perkins, Valkenborg rediscovered the old Mission San Francisco granary. (And no, it wasn’t where Granary Square is, it’s closer to Magic Mountain.)
The team found the original walls from 1804 and a portion of the tile floor. The dimensions of the original building were 107 feet, 4 inches by 22 feet, 8 inches. The building rested on a double foundation 20 inches deep and had walls 2 feet thick. Atop of this wall an adobe brick wall began, made of bricks 10 by 21 and 3 inches thick.
A Spanish silver coin was found in the rubble, along with the shards of an English pot and bits of the collapsed tile roof. Over the years, vandals would visit the site, on Newhall Land property, and removed the tile floor and adobe roof remnants. The dissolving granary would later be bulldozed to make way for new cattle feed pens.
FINAL SCORE: TURKEYS, 41 ZEROES, DOG, 1 ZERO — Rancher E.W. Huyler up Elizabeth Lake way grew tired of his neighbor Louis Kline’s dog growing fat on a steady diet of his fowl. After catching the large mutt in a post-dinner torpor amidst the carcasses of three dead turkeys, Huyler sent the dog to puppy heaven with a single rifle shot. The dog had eaten 41 of Huyler’s turkeys.
MR. EVANS, 0, MRS. EVANS, 0 — Mr. and Mrs. Jack Evans came up to Newhall for a party and ended up pretty much worse for the wear. The couple got drunk. Jack punched his wife, knocking out two teeth. She got up, pretty much cleaned Jack’s clock, and stripped nearly naked during the beating.
AFTERSHOCKS — A post-quake shock from the big Long Beach earthquake of ’33 was blamed for knocking down the giant Kirk Ranch water tower.
ANOTHER FORGOTTEN SCV RODEO LOCATION — The San Fernando Valley Democratic Club staged a huge rodeo in Elsmere Canyon at the Mitchell Rodeo Grounds on this date.
MAY 20, 1943
OFF TO FIGHT THE AXIS — On this date, 42 more men from the greater SCV area were called up by the draft to fight in World War II.
THIS GUY WAS DESTINED TO BE THE LONELY LONE RANGER — A young Newhall lass got this letter from her boyfriend, fighting in the Pacific. I’m not sure if the fellow was in more hot water in battle or from the ire of his sweetie. Here’s the letter to the girl: “Dearest (name withheld) — You will probably be shocked at my forwardness but I have tried time and again to bring up the subject but somehow never could. Since it has been several months, I have decided to tell you about it now.
“As you know, when I first began to know you, my feeling was friendly and nothing more. But as weeks and months have passed by that feeling has grown into care. I have never known such a problem could enter my life, especially between us and at such an early age. I don’t know whether it is proper, or even fair, to ask this question. Whatever your answer maybe you are fine enough never to mention the matter to anyone.
“You are the only person I would dare of it. Now lay off all thoughts of friendship and honestly and tell me:
“DO YOU THINK THE LONE RANGER SHOULD GET A NEW HORSE OR JOIN THE MERCHANT MARINES?”
Hope this armed forces lad made it home safely.
WEDDING BELLS — On this date, Al Taylor and Cappy Carey were engaged. Cappy was the daughter of movie stars Harry and Olive Carey of San Francisquito Canyon. Her brother, Harry Carey Jr., aka Dobe, couldn’t make the party. He was recuperating from an illness in an Idaho military hospital.
MAY 20, 1953
SHOULDN’T’VE LEFT THOSE TINY TIRE TRACKS —Add Chris Willy, 42, to the long list of SCV Dumb Criminals. Newhall sheriff’s deputies answered a call about a cabin burglary in Lake Elizabeth. When they got up there, neighbors complained that they, too, had been burgled. Crack detective work by Deputy H.J. Smith began when he noticed a single small tire track leading from a broken rear window. Smith followed the tracks down the road to another cabin and discovered the tire belonged to a wheelbarrow leaning against the wall of a small house where Willy lived. Inside his place was all the stolen loot.
MAY 20, 1963
TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES — On this date, a Newhall landmark was doomed. The old redwood and steel water tank on Railroad Canyon (Pine Street today) was condemned. The Newhall County Water District tank was originally built in 1914 by presidential candidate Henry Clay Needham. It sat on Maple Street and was moved in 1931 to the Railroad Canyon site by A.B. Perkins, historian, and owner of the Newhall Water Co. The removal of the tank was simple: it leaked. Actually, that’s a kind term. Water erupted from the sides to the tune of 35,000 gallons a day. A new 750,000-gallon tank replaced the old one.
THE HALCYON DAYS OF NO TRAFFIC — One of my students once asked if I objected to all the development and did I miss the Santa Clarita Valley of yesteryear. I think I have an answer for him. Ray Brooks was the brand-new editor/owner of The Signal and he lived in the San Fernando Valley, commuting up here to work via Sierra Highway. Here’s a description of his morning drive:
“I’ve fallen in love with the Valley of the Santa Clarita already. Each morning, with the sun at my back, as I leave the San Fernando floor and approach the hills, now spread with a velvety, green carpet, I am charged with a special thrill.
“And as I top the rise and scoot down the slope to the stop sign and left turn opposite the cemetery, I anticipate the next 2 miles into Newhall because I believe that 2 miles is about as pretty and interesting an approach as any town in California can boast of.
“To the left are green pastures, heavy with a record growth, with sleek horses grazing knee-deep, against the lush hillside dotted with live oaks, lupine and wild mustard.
“On the right are other horse corrals. Two mares graze contentedly as their frisky colts romp around in full abandon.”
To my student who asked that question, the difference between then and now is we’ve misplaced our poetry. No offense to anyone, but it’s hard to fall in love with concrete and CC&Rs.
HATS OFF TO HENRY! — Sand Canyon attorney Paul Palmer held a boffo barbecue at his big ranch. One of the guests was Sylmar resident Henry Stetson, of the Stetson Hat family. I’m wearing one of Hank’s brands right now…
MAY 20, 1973
WHEN MR. — YES, MISTER — TAYLOR WAS NAMED MOTHER OF THE YEAR — On this date, Saugus resident Lewis Taylor was named “Mother of the Year” by Empire Savings. Lewis, yes, a guy, a bona fide male guy, had been raising his 11-year-old son Greg and three other sons for the past year. Greg turned in an essay to the bank’s contest, explaining why his dad should be given the Mother of the Year award. Greg received a savings account with $20 in it for first prize.
OAKLESS VISTA ESTATES — On this date, “Oak Plain Drive in Friendly Valley became Oak-less Plain Drive.” A Signal reporter who came up with that dandy lead also wrote: “Woodsmen spared no trees in clearing spaces for 47 new homes.” The developer had promised residents the trees would be spared. Gosh. That’s a new one.
A DELIGHTFUL GOSSIP GROANER — From Signal columnist Mimi, aka, Ruth Newhall: “Magic Mountain’s search for a couple to have their wedding at the top of the Needle was quickly ended last week by a local pair. West Easley, who works at the Mountain, will wed Marianne Taylor on July 14 (Bastille Day). The height might make some people nervous, but not the groom. He will West Easley.” Pun? Get it? “Rest Easy…?”
ONE OF OUR MOST HEINOUS CRIMES IN SCV HISTORY — On this date, the prosecution rested in the brutal triple homicide of a Valencia housewife and two toddlers. The defense attorney for Robert Grigsby, Maxwell Keith, asked the judge to throw the case out because there was no scientific evidence linking his client to the murders. Despite having a knife cut on his hand when he was arrested, there was none of Grigsby’s blood or fingerprints in the Valencia house.
However, the wallet of victim Linda Greenwood was found thrown in a neighbor’s backyard. It was covered with Grigsby’s prints. Keith objected to admitting Grigsby’s clothes as evidence because he felt they were the result of an illegal search and seizure.
It was later determined that Grigsby, after repeatedly stabbing the mother and two baby boys, washed his clothes when he went home a few blocks away from the Greenwood home. When Grigsby testified, he was unemotional, even when gazing upon the photos of the children whose throats he had slit.
STARLIGHT COUGAR MEMORIES — College of the Canyons hosted its first ever on-campus dance on this date. Theme? Indian Summer Festival. My ex-brother-in-law, Tony Muhl, was the leader of the band that played that first gig.
KA-BOOM AND THEN SOME — We had a spectacular display of weather on this date. The darkened day skies were lit by a lightning storm and fierce thunder.
MAY 20, 1983
REAGAN, MANCINI, AND ADOLF HITLER — CalArts was already famous for its wild graduation ceremonies. This one was a bit more subdued, but it was still entertaining. While president Bob Fitzpatrick was speaking, four limousines pulled up and out stepped President Ronald Reagan. Well. Someone wearing a Ronald Reagan mask surrounded by pretend Secret Service agents carrying a rather large nuclear weapon. The presidential pretender pulled off his mask to reveal a second mask — this one of Adolf Hitler. I’m guessing the student must have been a Democrat. Composer Henry Mancini was there to receive an honorary degree.
‘THE BIRDS,’ SANTA CLARITA STYLE — While this tidbit isn’t exactly local, it’s close. In Santa Paula. John Melton and his wife came home from a meeting to discover over 2,000 small birds had taken up residence in their home. When the Meltons turned the lights on, the swifts panicked and started flying around the house, knocking into everything. Despite opening all the windows and doors, the birds wouldn’t leave and the Meltons had to throw towels on all 2,500 of them, one at a time, and escort them outside. That pretty much took all night. Exhausted, the Meltons went to sleep and awoke a few minutes later. At dawn, there was a terrible rustling in the ceiling. Several hundred of the birds were still stuck up there. And a few miles away, up Soledad Canyon, lived Tippi Hedren, star of the Alfred Hitchcock horror classic, “The Birds.”
• • •
Well. That about wraps up another time ride through local history. I’ve got to de-saddle and put on a clean shirt. My daughter Indiana is commencing to come home for the summer from college. I’ll see you saddlepals next week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then — ¡vayan con Dios, amigos!
If you enjoy the Time Ranger, you’re going to love his local history volumes. Visit johnbostonbooks.com. Order John Boston’s terribly exciting Volumes I & II on “SCV Monsters, Ghouls, Ghosts, Bigfoot” & all our local paranormal stories. Great summer reads. Leave a kindly review…