A happy Late July/Hotter Than Hades morn to you, saddlepals. Best we climb out of those bunks and hop into our saddles (taking the all-important middle step of putting on pants and tops so we won’t get arrested or, worse, laughed at).
We’ve a most interesting trek into the back trails of SCV history.
We can say howdy to the world’s best hiker and we’ll take a look at all manner of endangered species, from deer to Democrats.
There’s critters, fires, knife throwers, oddball accidents and oddball weather.
What say we mosey back to simpler times?
It’ll be hot. So don’t forget to take a wet bandana (as opposed to a wet banana)…
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
CHUGGA-CHUGGA CHOO-CHOO — Back on July 27, 1876, the old Soledad Canyon train tunnel was completed, helping to link the Santa Clarita (or Rancho San Francisco then) with the Antelope Valley via rail.
WHEN SIERRA WAS A BABY — On July 28, 1938, the old Newhall road tunnel (by Beale’s Cut) was filled in and replaced by a brand new Sierra Highway. That narrow hole in the mountain had been a source of many major traffic jams, even in the teens and ’20s, especially when the big rodeos were in town.
A BIT OF A SHAKY GREETING TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — July 28, 1769, at 1 p.m., on their way to the Santa Clarita, the Gaspar de Portola expedition was greeted by a major earthquake along the San Andreas fault. The gang was camped out north of Orange County but felt aftershocks all the way up to early August when they entered the SCV. Interesting note — Portola’s group measured the length of the tremors by the number of Hail Marys they could utter. Geologists later measured that the earthquake was more than a 7.3 on the Richter Scale and lifted parts of the Orange County shoreline 11 feet. That would make it eight times more powerful than the 1994 Northridge Quake and would also rank it as the biggest in modern Southern California history.
JULY 29, 1923
GOING OUT FOR A WALK, WON’T BE RIGHT BACK — I’m betting Jack Richard’s legs were a might tired. The Newhall boy returned home after an epic hike that went from here to San Diego, east to Georgia, up the coast to New York, up to Maine, west across Canada, and back down to L.A. The amazing part of this story is that Richards was a World War I vet who was gassed and suffered shell shock. He made himself start walking and that led to a circumnavigation of a pretty good-sized chunk of North America.
REMI-NISCENCING — Remi Nadeau was one of the most powerful men in Southern California and ran a string of mines. It was his dream to make a major trade route from the Mojave to the Pacific Ocean and turn the Ventura/Oxnard area into SoCal’s biggest port and city. One of the oddball things about his legacy was that there were 3.5 tons of future male relatives who ALSO were Remi Nadeaus. Remi I owned great tracts of real estate, including a large ranch in Canyon Country, and that was handed down to another Remi Nadeau. Much of that ranch, centered near today’s Sierra Highway/Soledad Canyon intersection (Solemint Junction), was devoted to housing the most diverse deer population on Earth. Tourists by the thousands would motor up here to picnic at the oak tree-lined park and dine with deer local and exotic. Most of them died in the early 20th century from a deer plague. Nadeau, on this date, started another hoofed undertaking. He opened a working dairy.
JULY 29, 1933
FROM THE ‘TREE FIGHTS BACK’ DEPT. — U.S. Army officer Major French, in charge of building a California Conservation Corps camp, was severely injured in a bizarre accident. Rookie road crew workers pulled a Wile E. Coyote, using several sticks of dynamite to blow up a stump (when just half of a stick would do). French broke a leg, arm and three ribs. The odd thing was he was hit by debris, despite being, get this — MORE THAN A QUARTER MILE AWAY. Crazy thing? Workers much closer to the stump weren’t touched.
THE ZIPPER-TUMMIED COWBOY — Silent film star Bill Hart went under the knife in Los Angeles, operated on for an abdominal ailment.
I THINK THERE’S MORE THAN ONE H.O.A. RULE AGAINST THIS TODAY — On his way to work one early morning, Deputy S. McDaniels had but one shell in his rifle. He spotted a lynx stalking a house cat, pulled off the road, and plugged the wildcat dead.
ONE DARN WEIRD WEATHER DAY — So 90 years ago, the July day started out hot and climbed to 110. A front raced through, pelting the valley with cold weather dipping to the low 50s along with thunderstorms. Then, the mercury soared, making it a hot, muggy night. Yick.
SOMETHING’S ROTTEN NOT SO MUCH IN DENMARK BUT IN NEWHALL — This time of year, the skunks seem to be most active. It wasn’t any different 70 years ago. A Placerita Canyon prospector, living outside with just a piece of canvas for a tent and a crate for a table, had a surprise visitor to his outdoor home. Señor Skunk kept walking across the miner’s narrow property lines. The poor man thought about throwing a rock to make the varmint scatter but thought better of it. The skunk was within easy spraying distance. The miner’s camp was such poor pickings, even the skunk sauntered off for better grub.
JULY 29, 1943
GLOBAL WARMING? OR, JUST ANOTHER SUMMER? — The valley was pummeled by a serious heat wave. Several workers at the famous World War II Bermite munitions plant on Soledad had to be treated for heat exhaustion. Locals noted it was so hot that an historic first occurred: Judge Art Miller conducted court — without his usual tie.
PICKED THE WRONG DARN FENCE TO CLIMB — Speaking of Bermite, two escaped juvenile delinquents unfamiliar with the terrain had escaped from a local minimum-security work camp. Trying to take a shortcut to the San Fernando Valley, the boys cut across Bermite, not knowing it had armed military guards crawling all over the place. The lads were quickly named and taken back to juvie.
A CLASSIC VISITS OUR LOCAL MOVIE HOUSE — I’m not sure if locals realized it at the time, but they were seeing a classic. On this date, the Humphrey Bogart movie, “Casablanca,” was playing at The American Theatre. Allan Ladd was in the second part of the double bill, “Lucky Jordan.” The old American building is still here today. It’s right across the street from the Newhall Library parking lot and is home to the American Legion Hall.
JULY 29, 1953
TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES — You don’t see these much in San Francisquito Canyon anymore. On this date, the Army (ours) brought in several new M4 tanks and armor for maneuvers in the riverbed. Locals watched from the road as the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment went through their dusty exercises. I think if the Army tried that today, it would take them 15 years of filling out environmental impact reports.
THE HEAT’S TOUGH ON THE FAUNA — Besides the tanks scaring the wildlife, a hot dry summer caused watering holes to dry up in the distant canyons. Famished deer wandered down from the backcountry into the valley floor, invading alfalfa fields and lawns. Several of the creatures were hit by cars and trucks, including a good-sized buck at Newhall Avenue and 15th Street.
REALLY? 27 BUCKS AN ACRE? I’LL TAKE THREE, PLEASE — This old Signal ad from 70 years ago literally makes me sick: “1,840 acres. Scenic, spring-watered mountain range land. Large stone and wood lodge, slate roof, big porch on 3 sides, rock fireplace. PLUS 4 new 2-room cabins, 2 with kitchenettes. 2 NEW stock corrals, new loading chute, barn, concrete storage house, other buildings. Six new watering tanks, pump and gravity water system. 12,000-gallon water tank. Beautifully landscaped grounds, fountains, rose garden, fish pond, profusion of shade trees and flowers. Panorama of oak studded valley. Telephone and electric generating plant.” Asking price? Dear me, it makes me want to cry — $50,000.
I’M SORRY. I THINK I’M NOT COMING BACK — I’ve never done this in the entire history of Time Rangering. But I’ve just got to rein the old mount in a 180 and just sit on the hill, overlooking that 1,840-acre scenic ranch again. Dear me and ouch. Fifty thousand? For 18,000-plus acres? I just may stay back in 1953, thank you. You saddlepals can join me, too, because I’m going to need someone to water the roses. Remember? The place has four two-room cabins.
JULY 29, 1963
AND IT WAS ALL DOWNHILL FOR GALLION AFTER THAT — On this date, my good, good buddy, Steve Gallion, pitched a no-hitter for the Wm. S. Hart Boys Baseball All-Stars. The 12-year-old Gallion didn’t allow a ball to be hit out of the infield. I’m going to have to ask Steve if life got any better for him that day. Cripes what a day for the guy. Steve also hit a home run.
YA THINK!? — I just love this quote from this front-page Signal story. It was about the upcoming ribbon cutting for the Antelope Valley Freeway, at Sand Canyon: “It was originally planned to use a jet plane to cut the ribbon. However, due to possible danger, it was decided to use a helicopter instead.”
HASKELL ABLAZE — More than 250 men battled a big brush fire up Haskell Canyon. It ended up burning nearly 300 acres. Children, playing with matches, were blamed for the blaze.
JULY 29, 1973
BRUCE BECOMES A WEALTHY COUGAR — On this date, my saddlepal Bruce Fortine took a big-money job with College of the Canyons. The Hart High grad was appointed COC’s public relations man at a salary of $16,000. That’s a year. Not monthly. Still. Bruce was so rolling in the dough, he considered changing his name to Fivetine. Bruce resigned from the COC board of trustees to take the post.
PLAY THROUGH!! — Vista Valencia Golf Course had an extra hazard on this date three decades back. A brush fire next to the 3-par closed the south part of the course down for the afternoon while firefighters battled the blaze.
JULY 29, 1983
I KEEP SAYIN’ AND NO ONE’S LISTENING TO ME: BRING BACK HANGING — Valencia was created to be a pleasant community but an increasing plague of vandalism darkened that image. More and more, idiots were defacing walls and paseos with graffiti. Plants were being torn out and street lights were busted.
UNKNOWN PREDATOR — For years, regal white reindeer graced the hillside at Hart Park. A mystery animal burrowed under the fence on this date, killing all five of the small herd.
DEMS ON THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST? — Here’s a telling anniversary. On this date, the valley’s major political clubs shrunk by half. Both the Democratic Club United of the SCV and the Democratic Club of the SCV disappeared without a trace. The Santa Clarita Republican Women’s Club and SCV Republican Assembly were still around.
50 SHADES OF GREY — Grey Otter appeared at Jo Anne Darcy’s 49er Saloon on this date to perform his precision knife and tomahawk-throwing act. I heard dear Jo Anne/Former Santa Clarita Mayor-ette used to serve tough steaks back in the day, but the flying hatchet thing is a smidge extreme …
• • •
Whelp. Looks like that spinning time vortex/interdimensional portal has our name on it. Let’s mosey back to the stables, lead your non-proverbial horse to the non-proverbial water and let him hydrate. You follow suit, amigos and amigo-ettes. See you back here at The Mighty Signal hitching post next Saturday 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…