Top of another hot August morn to you, dear saddlepals. We’ve a most interesting trail ride through Santa Clarita history ahead. We’ve got
unlucky CHP officers, movie stars, moonshiners, plane wrecks, and an entire passel of cowboy tales, including a tribute to an old pal of mine, Andy Jauregui. We’ll also tip our hats in respect to the holiest day of obligation for our valley’s yuppies.
Settle back. Heels down in the stirrups (and the heels should be pointed in the same direction as your horsey’s tale, by the by). Weight even. Don’t yank on the reins and don’t let them dangle. At least pretend to your horse that you’re the boss. Shall we mosey?
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
YEAH. BUT IT’D ALSO BE A LOT OF PVC PIPE TO WATER THE PLACE — Back on this very day of Aug. 24 in 1853, Don Antonio del Valle sort of willed half of his Rancho San Francisco to his son, Ignacio. Actually, what Tony did in his final days was promised his all-growed-up boy that if he married, settled down and produced heirs, Iggy’d get a chunk of the Santa Clarita and part of Santa Barbara with all the goodies within. Can you imagine that kind of inheritance today? It would be worth billions.
MANY OF YOU SADDLEPALS LIVE IN SHIP CANYON AND DON’T EVEN KNOW IT — Back in 1845, around Aug. 25, the governor of California deeded a huge spread to a former French sailor who jumped ship years earlier off of the Ventura coastline. Francisco Chari became a cowboy in the area and worked in the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys before making his fortune. He called his new spread the Rancho del Buque — French, for “Ship Ranch.” In 1850, when American cartographers came to redraw the new California maps, they saw all the wildflowers up the canyon and thought that “Buque” was Spanish for “Bouquet.” It’s the longest-standing typographical error in the valley.
AUGUST 26, 1923
ANOTHER MOVIE RANCH TURNED MILLIONAIRE COMPOUND — On this date, noted film producer Jacques Jaccard entered into a partnership with rancher Frank Lasalle. It was a pretty simple arrangement. Jacques would supply the movies and Lasalle would supply his Newhall ranch. They made dozens and dozens of silent movies, mostly Westerns, on the Lasalle property. Today, the place is a gated community of million-dollar homes just off the Interstate 5/Calgrove offramp.
BOB KELLAR STILL HAS HIS EMBROIDERED HOODIE — I don’t think we have too many of these club members around. Except for our former mayor, Bob Kellar. (Kidding. Luvs ya, Bobsie!) On this date, the Newhall branch of the Lodge of Modern Woodsmen held a carnival dance. Kellar is still nursing a sore ankle …
GOOD BAND NAME (YAHOO HUNTERS) — It was a problem in this area for years — yahoo hunters invading the Santa Clarita Valley. The bozos would come in, trample over farms and ranchland, then shoot everything from water towers to livestock. On this date, one local woman had to jam on the brakes of her Model T Ford and hit the floor with her baby because of hunters firing at her. As Signal editor Blanche Brown noted: “The ‘moonshiner’ is a lawless person and should be apprehended and punished; but with all his poison ‘hooch’ he is far less dangerous in any community than is the reckless, lawless hunter, and it might be well for our officers to turn their attention to the latter for a while.” Amen, sister …
SPEAKING OF ILLEGAL WHISKEY — local lawman Ed Brown (no relation to Blanche and it wasn’t her husband of the same name, who died in 1920) and a contingent of federal Dry Squad officers found a moonshine operation in upper Canyon Country. The lawmen discovered a big well with a ladder leading down it. They climbed down and found a big tunnel that led to a room filled with bootlegging equipment and 50 gallons of rotgut.
AUGUST 26, 1933
OLD PEOPLE SHENANIGANS — Our dear historian, A.B. Perkins, was a young man in 1933 and quite the kidder. We had a noted anthropologist here, studying the recently extinct Tataviam Indians. Perkins sent Mr. R.W. Van Valkenburg over to The Signal, to check up on editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher. It was Perkins’ claim that Thatcher was a bona fide fossil.
TODAY’S CARTOONS WOULD MAKE DAD BLUSH — Thatcher, on this date, led a campaign to clean up the film business. He took Douglas Fairbanks to task for leaving his wife, Mary Pickford. “Dad” Thatcher also urged parents not to let their kids see those gangster flicks of the early 1930s.
SCARED O’ BEARS? — Vernon Walk used to have a ranch and gas station near Beale’s Cut and was constantly trying to come up with ways to attract motorists. Walk lured into his possession two black bears, Maggie and Jiggs, and kept them in cages out in front of his service station. Maggie bit him pretty good on the hand one day. Vernon used to play piano in a San Fernando honkeytonk/brothel. His great-grandson, Vernon IV — aka Bob — went to Hart and later pitched in the World Series.
FOOTHILL BLVD. IN SANTA CLARITA — Highway 99 opened up in the early 1930s and, originally, it was supposed to carry the name of Foothill Boulevard, all the way from Newhall into Pasadena. That stretch of road in the Santa Clarita would be soon renamed Weldon Canyon, after the retired railroad worker who lived there.
HANG ME, DANG ME — Little Newhall International Airport had a surprise dignitary. California Gov. James “Sunny Jim” Rolph made an unscheduled landing. He was headed for Glendale, but the main airport there was fogged in. So, Sunny Jim landed here and made the trek to Glendale by car. The Republican would only serve one term, dying in office the next year. A few months later in November, he attracted controversy from Democrats for praising the San Jose lynch mob that hanged the confessed murderers-kidnappers of a local department store heir. Sunny Jim promised to pardon any in the hanging posse, earning him the new nickname of “Governor Lynch.” I’d vote for the guy today …
AUGUST 26, 1943
STILL BRINGS A TEAR TO MY EYE — Signal Editor Fred Trueblood penned a short but telling description about youth lost and war. In his front-page column, Trueblood wrote: “Once they were little kids playing in sand piles. Their eyes were bright and dancing — and they laughed — when they were not crying. They came home from school like a gust of wind. The house rang with joyous shouts. From time to time, those kids come back again from some far shore, or camp where men do battle or prepare for battle. They have taken on a dreadful maturity. They are men now, grim with purpose. In repose their eyes are somber, their faces haunted. Someone is going to pay for their lost laughter.”
NOT QUITE 1,200 BUCKS, FOR THE DECADE — The prevailing wage for farm labor was set at 60 cents an hour by the War Food Administration.
AUGUST 26, 1953
INSTEAD, IT BECAME AN ENTIRE PASSEL OF APARTMENTS — On this date, Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish bought a 600-by-300-foot lot on Newhall Avenue, between 8th and 9th Streets. They were originally going to build their parochial school there. Eventually, though, they would sell the property and build the school next to the church on Lyons.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VAL VERDE BUSINESS! — The year 1953 was a busy one in Val Verde. They formed the Val Verde Chamber of Commerce 70 years back. Same week, Sam Phillips was installed as the predominantly African-American community’s first honorary mayor.
AUGUST 26, 1963
HOTTER THAN HADES — Nearly 1,000 men fought two brush fires totaling 2,700 acres. Fires roared through Bouquet and Placerita canyons. Sure wasn’t any great place to be, for flora, fauna, or firefighters, in the 100-degree-plus weather. And that feels much hotter when you’re battling flames a few feet away.
HATE TO BE THE PARAMEDICS WHO HAD TO PICK UP THE PIECES — A young Long Beach man apparently chose a horrific way to end his life. He lay prone across the tracks across from the Saugus Cafe late at night. The San Francisco-bound Owl train ran over him.
AUGUST 20, 1967
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO YOU, LOS YUPPIES — This is Santa Clarita’s absolute most high holy days of the yuppie religion. On this date, the community of Valencia was founded.
AUGUST 26, 1973
JUST DOESN’T SEEM RIGHT — Word is that our historic Saugus Speedway and Saugus Rodeo Grounds will soon be turned into another yuppie concentration camp of condos and stores. A half-century ago, and I tip my O’Farrell in respect, 3,000 roller derby fans watched the Newhall T-Birds clobber the Tough Texas Outlaws. I know some diehard skating fans will object, claiming that it’s the Los Angeles T-Birds. Nonsense …
WELL. COULDN’T HAVE PICKED A BETTER PLACE TO CRASH & BURN — A Long Beach pilot chose to wreck his plane in a wrecking yard. Russell Allen lost control of his small twin-engine over Honby (where Home Depot is today off Soledad) and crashed into the West End Auto Wrecking Yard. Frances Tracy was working in the office when she heard the loud noise of a plane sputtering, looked out the window, and saw the small craft headed right at her. She screamed, turned to run, and didn’t get very far. The plane crashed into her building, pinning her against the back wall. Bob Hawkins, Tracy’s son-in-law, ran to her rescue. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. A fire captain noted it was a heck of an emergency landing. And they certainly didn’t have to go far to tow the wrecked plane.
THROW THE BUMS OUT — Five decades back, Saugus Union School District trustees Dan Spangle and Everett “Lefty” Norris were the targets of a recall over a teacher’s pay raise dispute.
ANDY WAS THE BEST OF THE BEST — On this date, my pal Andy Jauregui took home another cowboying honor. At 70, he was named the nation’s leading Old-Time Rodeo Cowboy at the Rodeo Cowboy Convention in Pueblo, Colorado. Andy moved to Newhall in 1924 to manage a stable of movie ponies for a Hollywood film studio. He earned a comfortable wage as a stunt man and extra, appearing with Western stars like Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson and Warner Baxter. He was also friends with a who’s who of Hollywood, from Will Rogers to Clark Gable.
In fact, the lanky Basque hombre once almost closed down Newhall. In the 1930s, he was giving roping lessons to Gable, with actress Carole Lombard sitting on Andy’s Placerita Canyon fence. When word got out that the two superstars were there, half the town rushed over, carrying hastily baked pies, cakes, cookies, and sacks of potatoes, to pay a visit. Andy was the national steer-roping champion in 1931 and the top team roper in 1934 in America. Winning money sometimes wasn’t much. Andy would win top honors and take home 15 bucks.
Interestingly, he was next-door neighbor and friend with one of the country’s top rodeo stock producers, “Cowboy” Bob Anderson. Anderson’s San Francisquito spread produced Tumbleweed, Madame Hurry, and Man O’ War — the three top broncs in America during the Depression. Andy rode all three for a time. He later became one of the country’s premier rodeo stock providers for the world’s biggest events.
Andy passed away, gosh, more than a few years back. Besides being immortalized as one of America’s top cowboys of the 20th century, he was enshrined in the Cowboy Hall of Fame and in our own Newhall Walk of Western Stars. He and his wife, Noreen, also had three absolute movie star gorgeous daughters, and, alas, they’re gone too. Miss them …
AUGUST 26, 1983
A HAUNTED CORNER — The darkest day in California Highway Patrol history was April 5, 1970, when four highway patrolmen were killed in a shootout at Magic Mountain Parkway and The Old Road, where Tip’s used to sit. Thirteen years later, on Aug. 17, 1983, in the exact same spot, CHP officer Edwin Kopping was seriously injured after giving chase to a white Mercury.
They hit speeds over 100 mph when the perp slammed on the brakes, pulled a 180, and then rammed Kopping’s patrol car. Kopping had the wind knocked out of him, but managed to crawl out of his vehicle only to see the maniac bearing down on him in the car. Kopping emptied his revolver into the car, knocking out the windshield, then dove out of the way.
Castaic resident Dan Bolton, 20, was eventually caught several miles away when a sheriff’s helicopter spotted him running in the wash. It wasn’t a good week for the CHP. A week later, two more officers were injured after chasing a drunk driver. This time, the boozer made a left turn smack dab into two patrolmen — on The Old Road …
WALK OF WESTERN COWPERSONS? — Here’s a little trivia for you. The original Walk of Western Stars on San Fernando Road (now Main Street) was called the Western Walk of Fame. Later, Hollywood would threaten to sue, claiming we were infringing on their name. Anywho, the original bronze saddles of Newhall superstar cowboys Tom Mix, Bill Hart and Gene Autry were the first enshrined — and the first dug up. Seems the artist who designed the original plaques wasn’t paid, so he sued. Worse, the original saddles weren’t tightly encased in the sidewalk and came loose. The chamber of commerce had the saddles dug out of the sidewalk. They were later redesigned by another artist and the new ones were installed.
• • •
Thanks again for the company, dear Santa Clarita friends. Look forward to seeing you all next weekend back here at The Mighty and Rather Quite Long Signal hitching post with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, say your prayers, eat well-balanced meals and be nice to one another. It’s still a small town and it gets back to me when someone steps out of line or is malnourished. 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…