The Time Ranger | ​​​Zoot Suit Riots & Happy Father’s Day!

The Time Ranger

I’m in the midst of an interesting life and I’ve set some world records that may never be broken. For a couple of things, honest to goodness, I’ve never fallen off a horse or motorcycle. I am the first Hart High School coach (“B” Basketball, 1971, I blame the earthquake) to lose to Canyon in ANY SPORT.  

The best darn thing I’ve done with my flea-bitten life? I’m a dad. A seeming 20 minutes ago, I was holding some interstellar soul no bigger than a breadbox, singing her songs and telling her about this strange and delightful stuff called rain. That first Father’s Day was 20 years ago this weekend, and now my girl’s a junior in college, a mischief-maker, a world-beater. 

I just love this dad thing. 

Wanted to make sure before we climb into our saddles to thank all of you guys out there for giving some small, helpless people a chance at an amazing opportunity — Life. 

Happy Father’s Day, compadres. 

We’ve an excellent adventure ahead. There’s an amazingly interesting tidbit about how a former historian’s eyesight was restored after getting conked on the head. We’ve got Westerns, war games, Zoot Suit Riots, and a sad fable of a lost little mare. 

You can do well to not lose your mount by keeping he, she, it or pronoun of its choice firmly underneath you and exactly between your legs. Otherwise, the old timers on the ride will give you that cold, silent look of, “You’re ridin’ askew…” 

Shall we mosey into the mystic, amigos y amoebas? 


AS THE TALKING HEADS USED TO SING, ‘WE’RE ON THE ROAD, TO NOWHERE…’ — June 15, 1915. That was the beginning of the end of our isolation in the Santa Clarita Valley. That’s the day construction started on the original Ridge Route, the precursor to Interstate 5. To a few locals, it was like a science fiction movie. The road crews brought with them giant dump trucks and something called a steam shovel. The mechanical beast had actually been around since 1796, but few in the SCV had seen one … 

JUNE 17, 1923  

ADIOS, MARTHA. WE’D RAISE A TOAST TO YOU BUT IT WOULDN’T SEEM APPROPRIATE — Martha Barnett died. She was the sister to Henry Clay Needham, Newhall’s only legitimate presidential candidate. Henry was a top Prohibitionist in America and led a movement to turn the SCV into a completely dry (no alcohol whatsoever) community. To this day, it never quite took … 

YEAH GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, BLANCHY — On this date, Signal Editor Blanche Brown wrote an editorial entitled “Outlaw War.” The widow Brown (her husband, Ed, died a year after starting The Signal in 1919; some felt he succumbed to mustard gas fighting in World War I) felt that by eliminating the causes of war, such as poverty and ignorance, we could rid the planet of serious conflict in approximately 100 years. If Mrs. Brown’s math is correct, our orb should be a peaceful place in about 20 minutes from now and would be yet another shining example of The Signal’s far-thinking editorial policy. 

YOUSE A PEACH!! — It was the peach-picking season in Castaic and farmer D.A. Densmore had a bumper crop. Densmore built a small tent city, complete with stoves, ice boxes and showers, to accommodate the dozens of temporary farm workers needed to harvest the peaches. 

HOW MANY TIMES DO ME UND SMOKEY THE BEAR HAVE TO TELL YOU GUYS? — A tossed cigarette (lit) started a 1,000-acre blaze in the mountains above Castaic. The fire raged for three days before being contained. 

HE ALWAYS GAVE A HOOT — Our own celluloid cowboy, Ed “Hoot” Gibson, released another silent movie. On this date, his flick, “The Gentleman from America,” debuted. Darn thing? It’s NOT a Western. In this silent comedy, Hoot plays a soldier in Spain who meets a beautiful señorita and becomes the leader of a country. He then gets picked up for being AWOL. The film was produced by Carl Laemmle, whose cousin would start the theater chain of the same name. Carl was the boss of my father-in-law, Ed Muhl, who was with Carl in the early days of Universal Pictures and Ed ended up running the studio. One more bit of trivia? Boris Karloff had an uncredited part in “Gentleman.” The man who played Frankenstein’s monster would make a few movies out here in Santa Clarita, and, of course, Hoot would own what would become today’s Saugus Speedway — soon to be another tedious condo project. 

JUNE 17, 1933  

AS THE ROLLING STONES WOULD LATER SING, ‘IT’S A GAS-GAS-GAS!!!’ — The local Newhall Refinery introduced its own brand of gas on this date. The high-octane bouquet was named: “Nu-Haul.” Gasoline, by the by, back then went for about 18 cents a gallon. That works out to about a smidge over four bucks comparing it to 2023 prices. 

DON’T DAWDLE ON THE TRACKS — Newhall’s Fourth of July Committee, as they called themselves then, was planning for just their second-annual Independence Day celebration. Back then, the parade started on Pine Canyon, behind the Hart Mansion. Then, THE ENTIRE PARADE crossed the railroad tracks to get the festivities going. Can you imagine? The hair-pulling going today if that idea was even suggested? 

OUCH! — Mrs. Al Culver pulled a Joe-You-Know-Who to the 57th Nth degree. She fell down the stairs of her Saugus home and broke her leg at the ankle. It got worse. The momentum rolled her into a big metal boot scraper at the side of the steps and she tore a huge gash in her other leg. Dr. Sarah Peters treated her but Mrs. C was out of commission for months. 

DON’T FINE ME FOR THIS, GUYS, AND, IF YOU DO, I AIN’T PAYIN’ — The first-ever Kiwanis meeting in Newhall history was held on this date. Interestingly, that dinner was held at the Masonic Lodge. 

JUNE 17, 1943  

IT WAS ALMOST RAINING COWBOYS — The busiest street in town this week was at Monogram Studios (today, that’s Melody Ranch in Placerita Canyon). They were filming a big-budget ($20,000) Western: “Frontier Bad Men.” In town for the filming were such stars as Noah Berry Jr., Lon Chaney Jr., Leo Carrillo and Andy Devine (who owned part of the Newhall Airport). Local Hall of Fame cowboy, Andy Jauregui, supplied a herd of cattle and several horses for the shoot. After the shoot, the ranch was turned over to the Army for their movie — with live-ammo maneuvers that would be used for recruiting. After the Army moved out for their weekend shoot, Monogram went back to making Westerns. Johnny Mack Brown filmed a quick oater entitled, “Outlaws of the Stampede.” 

MORE F.B.N.’s — An interesting sidebar to the filming of “Frontier Bad Men”: Our own superstar, Harry Carey, heard about the filming in Placerita (and Pico Canyon, by the way) and moseyed out to say hello to some old friends. Carey made the mistake of getting too close to the shooting and was immediately drafted. I don’t think “Frontier Bad Men” is included in his lengthy 100-film biography, but, if you look closely, you can see Carey in some of the background scenes — as an extra. Carey even pocketed the $12 for his day’s work. 

A HORSE TALE MOST POIGNANT — While out riding his trusty mount, Pal, Newhall Sheriff’s Capt. E.C. Marty stumbled upon a pitiful sight in the wilds of our local hills. A pinto mare, all bones and gaunt, was on death’s door. The mom was standing over her dead colt, which had somehow been kicked in the head. Marty had no idea how many days, or weeks, the mare had been standing vigil by her dead offspring. 

A PRO ZOOT SUIT SIGNAL EDITORIAL — Over the mountain range, the Zoot Suit Riots were going on in Los Angeles. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood saw the Hispanics as garishly dressed outlaws but disapproved of the military’s stance to not accept them into America’s fighting forces. “The zoot suiters want to fight,” wrote Trueblood. “Let the services give them a chance to fight for their nation instead of against it.” 

JUNE 17, 1953  

THE SLIPPERY MONUMENT — The old Pico No. 4 oil well was dedicated as a California historical monument. Besides being the first commercial oil well in the state, No. 4 was still pumping out crude when the monument was erected. It started sputtering in 1876 to a rate of about 30 barrels a day. Later in the same year, the well was deepened and production increased fivefold to 155 barrels per day. It pumped for more than a century. Around 200 old-time oil workers, including Mentryville manager Walton Young, showed up for the dedication.   

MIGHT HAVE TO TRY THAT MYSELF — Here’s a rather amazing story that concerns our former valley historian, A.B. Perkins. A shopping center on Bouquet Canyon Road, next door to THE International House of Pancakes (isn’t that a sad way to relate to a historical treasure?), used to be the campus of Saugus Elementary. In 1909, when Saugus Elementary was rebuilt and expanded, a new school bell from Ohio was hung in the tower until the school was demolished in 1936 and a new campus was built. Perkins bought the bell from the school board and maybe it carried with it a curse and a blessing. 

When Perk was taking down the bell, the belfry collapsed and the big percussion instrument landed on his head, nearly killing ol’ A.B.  

Mr. Perkins was rushed to the hospital and then bedridden in recovery for quite some time. When he went back to his regular routine, Perk noticed that for the first time in his adult life, he didn’t need to wear glasses. His eyesight had been amazingly healed by the ringer dinger. That bell? It currently rests in the belfry of the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station on Railroad Avenue in Newhall. 

JUNE 17, 1963  

THE RARE MONSOON — It’s more than unusual, but we do get rain in June. On this date, a storm swept through, dumping a half-inch on the valley floor (although San Francisquito Canyon boasted of an inch). 

JUNE 17, 1973  

LIKE RODNEY DANGERFIELD, WE JOURNALISTS NEVER GET ANY RESPECT — What a legacy. Ten years earlier, diseased Signal Editor Fred Trueblood’s memory was honored with the county’s first public rest stop. On this date, an investigation of the Castaic rest area showed the place was a health nightmare. Weeds and rubbish were everywhere and the restrooms were a fly-filled stench of Hades. Eventually, the place was bulldozed. 

THERE’S A KURT BREWER JOKE AMIDST THIS SOMEWHERE, BUT I’M GOING TO AVOID IT CUZ I DON’T WANT TO GET BEAT UP — Here’s some extreme SCV trivia for you. The very first shoplifter at Kmart was an 18-year-old boy who stole a $20 Instamatic camera. 

EVERYBODY’S A LAND BARON — A deluxe condo with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and a two-car garage sold for $24,950. Thirty years later, the price for that same model increased tenfold. And from that approximate $25,000 price in 1973, the median price for a three-bedroom home in Santa Clarita has jumped about 30 times in value. 

JUNE 17, 1983  

DUMBER AND DUMBER — An investigation into the ability of local high school students to read provided some abysmal results. According to the report, several hundred kids in the ninth-12th-grade range had difficulty reading either a novel or a newspaper. But, 40 years later, all the kids know how to make pouty lips and take a cellphone selfie. 

AXMAN, SPARE THAT TREE. NOT. — On this date, Scott Newhall lamented in a front-page editorial the axing of those ancient eucalyptus trees along Highway 126. “We pray that those nice Caltrans people in Sacramento will not destroy our environmental heritage and decapitate those noble trees that have survived as sentinels along the banks of the Santa Clara River,” wrote Scotty. The state originally planted about 500 trees to commemorate the memories of the approximately 500 people who lost their lives in the great 1928 St. Francis Dam Disaster. 

•     •     • 

Before we head out to celebrate El Day do los Dads, got a small bit of housekeeping. Last week, my fingers, which oft have a mind of their own, inadvertently typed “The Record” instead of “The Sentinel” as the paper Art Evans owned. I’ve had a good talking to with those digits and docked them each a day’s pay. That aside, see you dear amigos and neighbors next week back here at The Mighty Signal hitching post for 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 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… 

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