Drat if there isn’t exactly a month until Christmas. I haven’t even remotely begun to think about shopping. If I can steal an old vaudeville line, let me just break off a sprig of flora and offer everyone — a laurel and hearty handshake.
Sure is a wonderful morning for a trail ride through local history, crisp and inviting. We’ve a full plate of road agents with whom to cross paths — the Ice Cream Bandit, The Hamburger Bandits, and our old pal, Cleovaro Chavez, who was the Bisected Bandit.
Lots of interesting vistas, from comedy to crime. And, we’ll have a moment of reflection about the passing of John F. Kennedy and how this valley handled it 60 years ago …
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
NOT EXACTLY A PLEASANT THANKSGIVING DAY FOR OL’ CLEO — Cleovaro Chavez had been the right-hand man for legendary road agent, Tiburcio Vasquez. When our very own Tibsmeister was arrested in Los Angeles earlier, Cleo vowed to kill every white person in California unless his friend was released. Chavez fell more than a little short of his goal and authorities hung Vasquez up in Northern California for his part in taking over the town of Tres Piños and murdering one of the citizens. Chavez retired from his life of banditry to break horses in Arizona. On Nov. 25, 1876, two bounty hunters walked up to a corral where Chavez was working, held up a wanted poster next to Chavez’s face and asked if he were, indeed, Cleovaro Chavez. Cleo said no. The bounty hunters didn’t believe him. Worse? The gunslingers nearly blew Chavez in half at point blank range with a pair of shotguns, collecting a rather sizable reward for his remains.
MUY SYMPATICO — There was another side to Chavez and he earned the nickname of “The Sympathetic Bandit.” In May 1875, Chavez and a few men held up the newly formed Willow Springs Station. It was about halfway between the Mojave River and Panamint. Operating on a rumor that a wealthy man would be carrying $15,000 on a stage run, Chavez and company held up the wagon and tied up the station manager, a Mr. Riley. Bound, Riley asked Chavez to not take the horses, as they weren’t good for much, anyway. Tiburcio’s former No. 2 replied, “Si, señor! They’re your horses. I’m Chavez, I not take all from poor man. Rich man — ¡carnjo!***” With elan, the huge bandit then doffed his hat chivalrously and left without the horses. Chavez and crew took $127 from the stage driver, but gave him back $7.50 for food money. They also netted $80 in gold, a rifle and a shotgun.
***??? — Chavez’s word choice of “carnjo” sent me searching. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m somewhat familiar with naughty Spanish idioms and couldn’t find a word to match “carnjo.” There’s all sorts of words — close to — “carnjo.” They range from an affectionate term for a friend to someone who lives next to a dogwood tree to a not-so-affectionate term for a chap’s reproductive regions.
FINALLY, MAYBE CLEOVARO WASN’T SO BAD, AFTER ALL, PART DOS — According to the Mohahve Historical Society (and yes, dear saddlepals; the MHS spells “Mojave” that way), Chavez was quite the gentleman. While he was offering rebates for his stage line robbery, he demanded to pay stationmaster Riley’s wife full price for the meal she cooked up for the gang after the holdup.
NOVEMBER 25, 1923
PART-TIME PORT — Our local judge, Port C. Miller, had earlier just tendered his resignation to the Board of Supervisors. Folks in Newhall would have none of it. They sent a petition signed by just about every non-criminal adult in the valley for the supes to NOT accept his retirement. Seems the out-of-touch supervisors (how times don’t change) felt old Port had himself a cushy part-time job and paid him just $70 a month — about $17.50 a week. Even for a small town like Newhall, comparative salaries for judges were nearly twice that. Judge Miller surely did bring in the revenue for this court, especially with all the moonshiners dragged before his bench. Just that week alone, a century ago, Miller levied nearly $2,000 on folks for breaking the nation’s liquor prohibition laws. Funny thing? All these years, I don’t know if “Port” was short for something (Portland? Portimer?) and don’t know what the “C.” stands for …
AND 100 YEARS LATER, NOTHING’S CHANGED — My Bible reading is more than rusty, but I seem to recall a passage about how we will always have the poor among us. On this date, poet, forest ranger and columnist Thornton Doelle was promoted to associate editor. He penned an editorial about hobos and how they were a problem. Doelle differentiates the various classes of the homeless: “The hobo works and wanders, the tramp dreams and wanders and the bum drinks and wanders.”
BACK WHEN YOU HAD TO WORK FOR YOUR WATER — Art Brown dug a new well up Mint Canyon way. At 35 feet, it was sucking up tons of H2O, leading him to believe he had hit an underground river. Probably did.
KIDS HOME BY 6? NO WAY!! — Wonder how this would go over today — on this date, Newhall enacted a local ordinance making it illegal for children to be outside their homes after 6 p.m. unless they had a special written permission from their parents.
CUE THE RACY 007 MUSIC — James Bond — he would be Newhall’s special anti-liquor agent, not the fictional British spy — and sheriff’s deputy H.A. Wertz made a surprise visit to Paul Lima’s place. Just over the Newhall Pass, they raided the Lima ranch and relieved the entrepreneur of 2,000 gallons of red wine, along with Paul’s new chemistry lab. Seems Mr. Lima was going to go into the moonshine business. Señor Lima was fined $900 — about the price of a house-and-a-half back then. If you do the math, the moonshine fine would be more than $1 million! Two words. “Yee” and “Ouch.”
NOVEMBER 25, 1933
POPULATION PLUNGES — All five of the SCV’s Depression-era California Conservation Corps work camps were feverishly emptied on this date. Hundreds of working men were evacuated to help fight the huge Sunland-Tujunga blaze in the next valley over. In the early 1930s, we had more federal work camp residents in the SCV than actual citizens.
SORRY. IT’S A LITTLE ‘TOO-TOO’ FOR ME. — We’ve gone by many handles over the years. For a short time, one of our nicknames was Sunshine Valley.
NOT SO SURE ABOUT THE ‘GIVING THEIR LOVE TO THE GROUND’ PART OF THE SONG — Up until the 1970s, this valley was plagued by a foreign weed with wanderlust. It was that time of year when SCV farmers were piling tumbleweeds — aka, Russian Thistle after the 19th-century immigrants who accidentally brought them here — high and deep. Then, they’d set them on fire.
MUCHO AUTOS — This is more of a national tidbit, but it certainly is interesting. America had 24,317,020 autos in 1933 — or, one for every five persons. England had one car for every 30 people, Germany one for every 80, and Russia — one for every 5,100 souls. There were just 33 million cars worldwide. I think we have that many in one apartment complex here in 2023 …
NOVEMBER 25, 1943
REMEMBER THAT OLD FARMERS’ ADAGE, “IT AIN’T HAY?” —Well. THIS time, it truly wasn’t. On this date, 28 tons of hay burned in a spectacular fire on old Highway 99 (Interstate 5 today). Rancher B.C. Filgoers had just bought a double truckload in Bakersfield at $24 per ton. Coming down the Grapevine, the truck’s differential got white-hot, exploded, then started the blaze. Filgoers lost nearly $700 on that run, not counting his truck.
HARRY WAS A GOOD SOUL — World War II was in full swing. Our own world-famous actor, rancher and Saugus resident, Harry Carey, spent his Thanksgiving visiting wounded soldiers in Southland hospitals.
BRRRR. BRRRRR. AND BRRRRRRRRrrrrr SOME MORE — It was more than a smidge cold. Folks were greeted with morning frost and thermometer readings of 21 degrees in town, colder up the canyons …
NO GIGGLING AND LET’S BE ADULTS HERE — There’s a punch line hiding somewhere and I’m not going near it. On this date, the second half of the double bill at the American Theatre was: “We Were Never Licked.” I’m hoping it was a war movie …
NOVEMBER 25, 1953
OUR SUPER VET — On this date, Herbert Clayton passed away. The Newhall man had the distinction of fighting in both World Wars I and II.
FRED. YOU SIMPLY WOULDN’T BELIEVE 2023 — Signal Editor Fred Trueblood wrote an amazingly trenchant editorial. A half-century back, the headline asked the question: “Is TV Fouling Its Own Nest?” Trueblood suggested that “… television executives should think about cleaning up their entertainment before public resentment gets too violent.” He also took on the boob tube’s economics: “… TV has gone hog wild on commercials. Even short news broadcasts are broken into, not once but several times by plugs.” Boy oh boy. Mr. Trueblood would be spinning if he could see what passes for entertainment today.
NOVEMBER 22, 1963
WHEN CAMELOT, AND INNOCENCE, ENDED — For most of us who are old enough, we can all recall exactly where we were when the announcement was made across the nation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was 13, in gym class. I remember walking home afterwards, stunned. Most people I passed on the streets were sobbing, and some, doubled over. After Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as president, he declared a National Day of Mourning. Just about everything, from schools to grocery stores, was closed here in Santa Clarita and around the country. The one thing that remained open during the crisis? Our churches …
NOVEMBER 25, 1963
NOT SO MUCH NEWS MIGHT BE A GOOD THING. — Being in business for more than a century now, The Mighty Signal has grown and shrunk, in dimension and number of pages. We’ve published editions as small as four pages and wrist-breaking editions with 300 pages. Sixty years back, this newspaper was a weekly. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, it published and distributed its regular Thursday issue on Monday.
COWBOYS & COWGIRLS A-PLENTY — The Canyon Country Chamber of Commerce declared that its brand spanking new Frontier Days celebration in Mint Canyon was so successful, that they would make it an annual event. The Western fest used to be the staple of the north part of our valley, complete with rodeos, fairs and parades. It’s been extinct for quite a few years now …
NOVEMBER 25, 1973
BEFORE THE DREADED DAYS OF ZOOM — The fuel crisis hit local schools. With gasoline prices skyrocketing, SCV school districts abandoned their late bus schedule. The William S. Hart Union High School District faced stopping bus service altogether and had to ask the federal government for emergency bailout money. A third of all Hart district kids — about 2,500 — rode the buses. All field trips and band trips were canceled, too.
HOW COME WE DON’T TALK ANYMORE? — I guess there are some words you can’t take back. On this date, a couple was having a serious argument while motoring along Vasquez Canyon Road. The wife was driving. She uttered something unkind and her 54-year-old husband opened the passenger side door and bailed out. Pert near killed himself, too.
NOVEMBER 25, 1983
AND? BETTER THAN THE KORN DOG KLEPTOS — Sheriff’s deputies finally captured Blaine Burnette, aka, The Ice Cream Bandit. Burnette earned the moniker for holding up over two dozen fast-food establishments, most of them ice cream parlors. Just when they put ol’ Blaine away for a 20-year stint, our noble gendarmes were faced with a new gang of food-themed robbers. They held up several fast-food eateries on Lyons Avenue and were dubbed — The Hamburger Bandits. Better than the Hamburglars, I reckon …
• • •
Hope you folks had a peaceful and rewarding Thanksgiving and spent quality time with family and loved ones. Look forward to seeing you all next weekend with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. And, until then — ¡vayan con Dios y casi Feliz Navidad, 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 holiday gift idea. Leave a kindly review…