The Time Ranger | Studying Witchcraft at Canyon High

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

A glorious Sunday morning in October, isn’t it, saddlepals? I’d say a perfect morning to climb upon a fine, tall horse and do a little historical sightseeing. 

This trail ride, we’ll be inspecting one of my favorite topics — monkeys. We’ve got local killer insects, the REAL James Bond, Castaic Lake when it was real stinky and even some devil worshippers. Not at Hart High, but, of course, at Canyon High. Not sayin’ nothin’. Just smirkin’… 

Foof. I don’t know if we should be heavily armed or wearing garlic around our neck for this morning’s time trek … 


OUR LONG-LOST 5-STAR HOTEL — It was rated as one of the best hotels not just in Southern California, but in the entire West. On Sunday, Oct. 1, 1888, after being in operation for 10 years, it burned to the ground. One of the reasons it was built was to attract rich oilmen to the area. It rested just about smack dab in the middle of what would be today’s intersection of Market and Main in Downtown Newhall. 

ONIONS TO GOLD — Francisco Lopez was already comfortably well off when he discovered gold while digging for wild onions in 1842. Because he turned over his small findings to the governor, Don Francisco was granted the huge Rancho Los Alamos as a reward. That, and about 50 bucks. 

BLOOD-SUCKING CONE NOSE (GOOD BAND NAME!) — Back on Oct. 4, 1900, oil man Alex Mentry died from an insect bite. The local petroleum giant had an unfortunate allergy to certain insect bites and over the years, when bit, he would get sicker and sicker. Finally, one night, while sleeping, he was bit on the lips by something from the tratoma genus called The Assassin Bug, or, the Kissing Bug, aka tratoma genus. It also goes by the moniker of “Bloodsucking Cone Nose.” It’s not quite an inch long, has this big sucking mechanism coming out of its puss, and, worse, it attacks people at night when they sleep. 

Cue the cheap Canyon Theatre Guild Dracula organ music, please. 

They sometimes are found in bathtub or sink drains (or Mentry’s bed sheets) and can inflict a painful bite. Or, in Alex’s case, a deadly one. 

According to the prestigious Ohio State Entomology Department, usually, these bugs are found outdoors (where, when you think about it, most bugs are found). They frequent hollowed-out trees, possum and raccoon dens and are usually near wood rat nests. “Indoors,” the report went on, Kissing Bugs “are found in bedding, floor and wall cracks, under furniture, etc.” 

Well that’s hunky dory. The Buckeye Bug Department just described my rural Santa Clarita home and everything around it. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR OWN BLACK GOLD — On Oct. 4, 1906, the Standard Oil Co. of California was founded, with local boy Demetrius Scofield as president. 

OCTOBER 7, 1923  

007? — While we were a small village, we did have our very own federal Prohibition agent — James Bond. Nope. No double-oughts to go with his title. Bond, James Bond, arrested Pete Fochin on this date for occupying a house where spirits were kept. 

MORE BOOZE CRIME — In another arrest, W.L. Underwood of Saugus was sent to the pokey and fined $100 for possession of a bottle of booze and another $50 for knocking the bottle out of the hand of Constable Jack Pilcher. 

A CHICKEN-BLANK NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER? — I’m sure one can make a connection between The Circle of Life chicken by-products and the newspaper business. In this case, it’s true. A.B. “Dad” Thatcher had served in the Nebraska state legislature before moving to Newhall in 1923. The move was actually his wife’s idea. She loved the climate and the village. Before buying The Mighty Signal in 1925, Dad bought himself a chicken ranch in Newhall’s oak-lined Happy Valley. Thatcher would be an active part of the paper and community for four decades and would become one of the oldest newspaper columnists in America. 

OCTOBER 7, 1933  

BOLT DOWN THE COFFEE CUPS! — Nerves were still jittery from the big March earthquake in Long Beach. Another temblor hit, strong enough to rattle dishes here. 

MADE A LOT OF RATS & SQUIRRELS REAL HAPPY — Charlie Kellogg’s unattended team bolted all the way from Mint Canyon to the Hoot Gibson Ranch (the Saugus Speedway today), pulling his feed wagon. That’s a heck of a bolt — several miles in fact. By the time they stopped, the wagon tongue had busted and several tons of corn feed was scattered along the road. 

OCTOBER 7, 1943  

MISS YOU, MISS MARY — Eighty years ago, Mary Hart, beloved sister of the famed William S., died. She was born 64 years earlier in Aurora, Illinois, and spent her life tending to her family. She suffered a crippling accident in 1917. While on location during one of her brother’s silent films, the car she was driving in hit a dip in the Mojave Desert. She was violently thrown up against the roof, fracturing several vertebrae. It left her partially paralyzed. In her final years, she published her first book, a collection of short stories. 

OCTOBER 7, 1953  

MAYBE THE DISTRICT CAN CHANGE THE HART HIGH MASCOT TO THE SHEEP — This used to be a frequent sight on the upper fields of Hart High. Basque shepherds used to bring their flocks in to graze. Sometimes 1,000 sheep or more would nibble at the wild grass above the student parking lot. 

NO HORSIES. NO GOLFIES. — There have always been big plans for the Circle J Ranch in Newhall. Today, the area is studded with homes, but a few decades back, it was supposed to be a major equestrian planned community, with shared stables and riding trails. That idea died. Seventy years back, local multimillionaire and state mucky muck Big Bill Bonelli broke ground to build something called the Circle J Country Club and Championship Golf Course. That, too, did not get built. 

NO SHIRT. NO SHOES. NO MONKEYS. — On this date, a monkey escaped from his cage and was running through the old Tip’s Cafe at Castaic Junction. The simian was chased outside and treed. From there, it threw twigs and — ahem — other material at the earth-bound humans. The humans responded by throwing rocks at the monkey. It scampered down and returned to its cage. Bad monkey. BAD monkey … 

OCTOBER 7, 1963  

WE COULD’VE BEEN OAKVILLE — A meeting designed to inform local citizens about incorporating into a city was, according to The Mighty Signal, “… marred by rudeness, cuteness and in some cases, belligerence.” Guess it must have been a pretty bad meeting. We wouldn’t form a city for another 24 years. 

OCTOBER 2, 1972  

LITTLE SANTA CLARA — While we had sometimes called ourselves the Little Santa Clara River Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley as early as the 1930s, the title became official on this date. 

OCTOBER 7, 1973  

ALPHIZOMENEO, NOT A LOCAL MAFIA HITMAN — The final score was Metropolitan Water District 1 GAZILLION, Alphizomeneo, 0. Alphizomeneo is the name of the microscopic plant in Castaic Lake that caused the water to stink. Actually Alphizomeneo scored a moral victory in the loss. When it dies, it secretes an oily substance. The water is no longer poisoned, but, it surely does stink. 

DEVIL WORSHIP, 101 — Ah, higher education. On this date, there was a bit of a hubbub at Canyon High around the showing of an edited version of “Rosemary’s Baby,” the horror flick about devil worshippers. Seems 10 sets of parents complained about the film, noting it was disturbing and dealt with witchcraft. The students in the class were given a choice: go to the library for free study, or, watch the movie. Gosh. We hope our tax dollars aren’t being spent in modern times with our kids watching movies for a better part of their school day … 

OCTOBER 7, 1983  

WILL THE PERVERTS ALWAYS BE WITH US? — Despite all the positives of local life, there was and is a mean element that makes life miserable for many. On this date, College of the Canyons was forced to beef up its campus security. After an earlier rape of a student in the parking lot and several other acts, dangerous to lewd, more guards were added. 

BISON JAMES? — On this date, Jim Yaple petitioned the county to change the name of San Fernando Road to Wm. S. Hart Boulevard. Still seems like a good idea two decades later. A footnote: Yaple’s nickname? Buffalo Jim. 

RE: THE ABOVE BISON BIZ — It just hit me that the city of Santa Clarita should adopt one day of the year where everyone in town refers to everybody else by adding the prefix of “Buffalo” to their first name. Buffalo Betty. Buffalo Bob. Buffalo Rahim. Buffalo Tiffany-Marie. And so on. And so on … 

•     •     • 

Sure appreciate sharing this early Autumn trail ride with you saddlepals. Looking forward to seeing you all again back here at The Mighty Signal hitching post (that’d be 259-1000 for subscriptions) with another exciting Time Ranger adventure, and, 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 fall reads. Leave a kindly review … 

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