Absolute Christmas to see you, dear neighbors, saddlepals, newcomers and my treasured Worthless Sons & Daughters of the Wealthy Landowners, Santa Clarita Chapter. We’ve a most interesting trail ride through Santa Clarita Valley history ahead. I’ll share a little-known tale on how our triple beloved and former Signal cartoonist — excuse me, former AWARD-WINNING, One Of The Best Political Cartoonists Ever Who Worked For Us At The Mighty Signal — Randy Wicks, spent the night in the pokey.
We’ve also got miniature pumpkins, prison breaks, X-rated movies on Soledad Canyon Road, rats and a tiddlywinks club.
Shall we mosey into more interesting times?
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
WHEN IT TOOK LESS THAN A BLINK TO GET FROM NEWHALL TO SAUGUS AND VICE VERSA — Back on Oct. 28, 1876, the Newhall Train Station was dedicated. Sorry about the confusing nature of this, but the Newhall Train Station was first built in Saugus, across the street from the present-day Saugus Cafe. It moved, along with the rest of the town, a little over a year later due to lack of water. Do you suppose it would be a violation of some time traveling ethic for all of us to tell the pioneers of Newhall to build the train station at Market and Railroad in the first place and save themselves a lot of sweat and grief?
OINK? — In the 1920s and 1930s, there were more hogs than people in the SCV. Former garbage mogul, banker and hog farmer Aggie Agajanian Sr. had a 200-acre ranch then. He alone had 2,500 hogs. Up until the 1950s, we had more hogs than people here.
OCTOBER 28, 1923
BREASTING THE STORM — On this date, the Newhall Woman’s Club (yes, Woman’s with an “A”) held a special Pioneers’ Day. At their meeting, several prominent old-timers spoke, including Judge John Powell, who recalled he rode through Fremont Pass (aka Newhall Pass) for the first time on June 24, 1869. Henry Clay Needham, the valley’s only legitimate presidential candidate, also took the podium. He had a grand definition of a pioneer: “One who leads out into unknown fields and is the one who does to most. (He) is the one willing to breast the storm and break the paths for others.”
NEVER TOO LATE — OK. I can’t even remotely link this to Santa Clarita Valley history, but it’s so darn interesting I thought I’d share this. On this date, the infant state of Arizona petitioned the federal government to buy 9,500 square miles of land from Mexico, which would give Arizona a seaport via access to the Gulf of Mexico. I haven’t been in Arizona in a couple of years, but last I recall, the deal didn’t go through. Too bad.
OCTOBER 29, 1932
WHERE WELDON CANYON GOT ITS NAME — On this date, they officially opened the brand-new Highway 99 section through Weldon Canyon. Locals came out to grin, stand in the middle of the road and point at something brand new: the double yellow no passing line. Most didn’t know what it meant. Another interesting tidbit: Weldon Canyon was named after pioneer railroad man Arthur Weldon. (Art died peacefully in his sleep in 1942 at 89.) Art helped build the Santa Fe Railroad through the Southwest, then came to work on the Newhall Tunnel in 1875. He retired in 1922 after helping complete the Hasson Tunnel in Chatsworth. Art was one of the founders of the local Masons Club. When Arthur settled here in the 1800s, he planted a Eucalyptus sapling near his home. When Mr. Weldon died, the tree was 125 feet tall and 14 feet in circumference. Anyway. That’s where “Weldon Canyon,” aka old Highway 99, aka The Old Road got its name — from Arthur …
OCTOBER 28, 1933
MAY WE HAVE A HEARTY ‘AMEN’ & ‘BOY HOWDY!!!???’ — The Lady Evangelists weren’t a rock band. They were, well, lady evangelists. Misses Nora Jordan and Beatrice Spies brought their gospel in a tent show to the SCV this week, entertaining hundreds with music and fiery sermons.
WHEN THE BUSES DISAPPEARED — One of my all-time favorite Mr. SCV columns was years ago and about the local city transit wanting to buy more buses. I suggested no and the drivers just needed to go faster. Anywho. The Greyhound Bus Co. discontinued service here right before Halloween. No buses stopped in the SCV. Artie Goodnow, who ran the Motor Stage Cafe and bus stop in Newhall, raised high holy heck and single-handedly brought the bus back to Newhall.
OCTOBER 28, 1943
THE TAX MAN COMETH — Times were tough during the war. For some of you who missed most of U.S. History, that’d be No. 2. In the greater Soledad Township (an area of about 1,000 square miles stretching to Fort Tejon, Palmdale and Chatsworth), there were 1,600 properties on the auction block for delinquent taxes. Here’s the amazing thing: the TOTAL value for the properties was just $414,370 and they could have been ALL purchased for just $159,000. Well. If no one topped the opening bid.
THE SAD & TRAGIC BACK STORY OF DEMON RUM — On this date, sheriff’s deputy Charles Rittenhouse was savagely bitten on the arm by an infuriated woman during a domestic dispute up Castaic way. I guess when you think about it, he probably would not have been savagely bitten by a calm woman, would he? It was actually a sad tale. The couple had been drinking heavily and were fighting in front of their two small children. After a few days to sober up, they were given the choice of paying a hefty fine, spending six months in jail or leaving the county for at least a year. They picked No. 3.
OCTOBER 28, 1953
MILK BOTTLE MAN MOVES TO SAUGUS — We had some huge news delivered on this date. The Bonelli family reported selling 17 acres of Bonelli Cattle Co. ranch land off of then San Fernando Road (Railroad Avenue today) between Saugus and Newhall. The buyer was the Thatcher Glass Co. from back east. They immediately announced they would build a $750,000 factory — a single house today but a fortune back then. It would become the biggest employer in the valley. Trivia: Hervey (yup; it’s “Hervey,” not “Harvey”) Thatcher invented the glass milk bottle about 75 years earlier.
SMALL-TOWN JUSTICE — Irving Brooks proved you can fight city hall, or, if not city hall, then the Highway Patrol. Brooks, a bus driver for the Saugus School District, lost his job after he was ticketed for not properly stopping before crossing the railroad tracks. Two witnesses showed up to testify, along with Brooks, that the way the road and tracks were set up, Brooks would have had to block both lanes on San Fernando Road to comply and that no one was in any danger. Judge MacDougal ruled in favor of Brooks and he was rehired immediately.
REAL ESTATE HAR-DEE-HAR-HAR’s — Here’s a laugher for you. The Signal noted the population boom of 1953 by pointing out that 18 houses were being constructed and that would add to the valley’s steady growing population.
OCTOBER 28, 1963
FUN WITH NUMBERS. AND PEOPLE. — An interesting statistic was released. The population of Los Angeles County jumps by the size of the entire SCV every six weeks. Every month and a half, 191,000 new folks moved into L.A. County. To save you taking off your boots and socks to count, that means the population of the SCV was 32,000.
LITTLE DO WE KNOW — On this date, Charles Dillenbeck bought that little corner market at the Soledad/Sierra Highway intersection from his friend, Sam Zietz. Dillenbeck had operated the meat market for several years before buying the entire store and calling it, “Dillenbeck’s.” A few years later, Charlie would be killed in a terrible car accident when he was rammed by a CHP officer doing over 100 mph. The lawman was chasing a stolen car.
TIDDLYWINKS — On this date, two SCV college students, Larry Lipsher and Art Kahn, started the SFVSCTS. That stands for the San Fernando Valley State College Tiddlywinks Club. The founders stated their goal was to meet Michigan State in the national finals, then go on to play Cambridge.
TIDDLYWINKS, PART TIDDLYTWO — The origin of the word, “tiddlywinks,” comes from 19th-century England. Tiddly became slang for an alcoholic beverage, usually beer. Now — kiddlywinks — was slang for cider. The previous term later became the name of a game where you attempt to flip a domino into a glass. There’s a City Hall staff joke somewhere, but I’m going to avoid it …
OCTOBER 28, 1973
SHE TWEREN’T CALLED ‘FARMER SUE’ FOR NOTHING — The Feed Bin handed out packets of pumpkin seeds for their contest earlier in the spring. The Signal’s own Farmer Sue, aka, Susan Reed, took top honors for growing a 45-pounder. Roscoe Fulks also won a prize and probably a longer-lasting memorial: His pumpkin, after months in the ground, grew to only a quarter of a pound. “Crop wasn’t very good,” deadpanned the farmer.
LEARNING THE OLDEST PROFESSION. AT HART HIGH — Signal gossip columnist Ruth Newhall recalled how a teacher at Hart High caught a female student secretly reading “The Happy Hooker” in history class. Asked if she confiscated the pornography, the teacher said no. Further pressed, the teacher was asked: “Why didn’t you confiscate the material?” Quoth the instructor: “The girl was acting entirely according to district policy. It is considered desirable for students to graduate with a salable skill.”
AS HUCKLEBERRY HOUND’S PAL, MR. JINKS, USED TO SAY — “I hate meeces to pieces!” Much of Valencia was built atop agricultural fields. When they put in houses and businesses, the developers forgot to tell the mice. Hundreds of the little vermin invaded the new civic center when it opened in February 1972. Almost two years later, they were still all over the place, leaving, ahem — presents — everywhere.
RE: THE ABOVE — And yes. “Who said ‘I hate meeces to pieces’” WILL be on the final…
MY PORN-WATCHING BUDDY — Kudos to my best friend and former Signal film critic, Phil Lanier. Phil, who panned everything from “The Godfather” to “Citizen Kane,” went above and beyond the call of duty when he sat through a triple X-rated bill at the old Mustang Drive-In on Soledad. I believe this was the first time the Mustang hosted X-rated films. The bill was a German-made double-header of “The School Girls” and “The School Girls Growing Up.” The third film was “Swinging Wives.” Phil pointed out that an enterprising underwear magnate could travel to Germany and make a fortune, selling bras and panties to the natives.
PORN-WATCHING MOTORISTS — I always like to remind — for a while when The Mustang showed X-rated movies, there were several accidents on the westbound side of Soledad. Seems rubber-necking drivers were distracted with 60-foot-tall naked people really really really really liking each other on the big screen.
OCTOBER 28, 1983
OUR NO-GOOD NEIGHBORS — Wayside started as a country club detention center and ended up housing some of Southern California’s most desperate individuals. On this date, two escapees slashed through a long night of mayhem before finally being captured the next morning. Richard Gutierrez and Michael Armentia were charged with a long list of crimes, including attempted murder. The criminals had kidnapped and stabbed a Valencia man who resisted their attempts to steal his car.
THE LIFE OF PIE — On this date, my two good pals, Bob Giblin and Jim Tanner (Nebraska native), were clobbered by dozens of cream pies by their students at Placerita Junior High. It wasn’t any kid of revolt (although with those two at the helm, one could appreciate it — just kidding, pals). The Placerita kids raised over $28,000 in magazine subscriptions and for their reward, as promised the kids got to splatter the administrators with whipped cream pies. What they paid teachers back then, I’m sure the duo appreciated the caloric intake …
I ALWAYS WARNED YOU GUYS. THAT RANDY WICKS WAS NOOOOOO GOOD — This brings a smile to my face and heart. On this date, 40 years ago, my dear pal Randy Wicks was arrested and jailed. Randy had twice failed to register his oil-burner. The third time he was pulled over, it was in Glendale. Randy was put behind bars overnight where the portly Iowan was propositioned — “… fittingly, by the guys,” I seem to recall commenting — and watched fellow inmates exchange PCP. Randy was finally bailed out. After the hat was passed around the newsroom, the $321 bail money was met. Randy went IMMEDIATELY to the DMV to register his car.
ANOTHER SIGNAL-ITE GONE BAD — I believe Randy joined another former Signal employee — Dwight Jurgens — to be the only folks from editorial to spend time in the pokey. Of course, Dwight beat Randy all to heck in the Time Served Department. Jurgens was incarcerated in the Kansas big house for human trafficking and a host of other charges. He died in 2021.
• • •
Drat and doggone it, from the familiar Santa Clarita time vortex just up yonder, looks like we’ve come full circle. Time to surrender to the not-so-romantic Here And Now. See you back here at The Mighty Signal (259-1000 for subscriptions!) hitching post next week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, dear friends— ¡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 …