Tip of the hat to all y’all thousands of saddlepals this wonderful Signal Saturday morn.
Those lids secure on the lattes? Got the sunglasses on tight? Facing the right way in the saddle? (There should be a large equine-ish head in front of you with two twitching ears, hopefully that are not pinned back to the skull.)
We’ve a fine trail ride ahead through the backtrails of SCV history. It’s rare I get to say this. Please allow me to brush a tear from my eye, doff my terribly expensive 1000X O’Farrell cowboy hat, and place it over my heart. O tears of joy — we’ll be inspecting a Tush Contest!
I don’t invent history.
I just report it.
In fact, instead of more of the usual Western preamble before we head into yesteryear, let’s all respectfully ride in silence until we get to that Tush Contest …
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
BIRD-BRAINED. BUT IN A GOOD WAY. — On Nov. 18, 1848, there were only maybe a couple hundred souls in the valley. John Woodhouse Audubon was one of them. He camped out near Castaic Junction for a few days, studying our local birds.
WE AIN’T LYON — A little earlier, on Nov. 20, 1831, the famed Lyon brothers, Sanford and Cyrus, were born in Machias, Maine. Couldn’t tell you who came out first. They would buy the Wiley Station, a little depot near present-day Eternal Valley, and turn it into the closest thing to a town before Newhall was built in 1876. We eventually named Lyons Avenue after them. (Although the county mapmakers misspelled it as “Lyons” instead of “Lyon.”) The brothers were close their entire lives, but it was Sanford who was the businessman, and Cyrus who was the fabled gunfighter.
NOVEMBER 18, 1923
A NEED FOR SPEED, EVEN A CENTURY AGO — The topics of road paving and speedsters were at the forefront of Newhall life. Seems like we were going to get our main drag paved, but how much the state would pay for and how much we’d have to fill up the local hat with was up for debate. What was inarguable were the dozens of speed demons who raced through downtown Newhall. We had set up speed traps for a while and that slowed things down. But when we took them away, it was like a race track through town.
LIGHTS OUT FOR YOU, BUDDY — While talking about highway crime, on this date, M.G. Hanan was fined $1 for driving with one headlight. Hmm. Maybe I wouldn’t make a good judge, but if of ol’ M.G. didn’t have either headlight working, would that mean he’d be fined — nothing?
CRIME, NOR MACHINE, DOTH NOT PAY — Old A.H. Schuyler was arrested up in Castaic for operating a slot machine.
SLIME MERCHANT: GOOD BAND NAME. — Forest ranger, Signal columnist, and on-again, off-again editor Thornton Doelle lashed out against literary trash. Specifically? The racy fiction magazine. Doelle singled out one “slime merchant” newsstand periodical with the curious name of “Warm Puppy.” Wrote the Mighty Doelle, “Hypercritical prudery has undoubtedly passed in America but there are still normal stands of decency to be preserved if a respectable social structure is to be maintained.” Wonder how Thornton would have fared living in 21st–century Santa Clarita?
NOVEMBER 18, 1933
OK, FINE, MIKE. BUT DON’T START SHOOTING AROUND THE GAS LINES! — On this date, Mike “Two-Gun” Sylvia was honored for 20 years of service with Southern California Gas Co. Mike had a pretty interesting life. He played pro baseball for the old Philadelphia Nationals. When SoCalGas was building their pipelines through Newhall, Mike earned his nickname for sporting a double-rig holster. It was a deterrent to other companies who kept trying to use the new roads the gas company was building.
NOVEMBER 18, 1943
TEEN PUNKS. NOTHING NEW. — We had an unusual twin crime spree 80 years back. Two separate gangs of highway buccaneers terrorized the SCV, stealing — between them — over 50 cars and kidnapping folk. Luckily, no one was seriously harmed, although the second gang left a string of burned-out vehicles up and down the Ridge Route. The California Highway Patrol captured both groups, five young punks in the first gang, four in the second. The second gang was populated by toughs ages 14-21. Here’s the capper: In that last gang, it was led by the 14-year-old, described by officers as “… the toughest individual ever arrested by the CHP.”
‘NEW WAVE OF VIOLENCE?’ — The Valley Times, just over the hill from us, took a swing at the SCV, noting in a big headline: “NEW WAVE OF VIOLENCE HITS NEWHALL.” Signal Editor Fred Trueblood tried a little damage control, noting that the wave of violence was just “… a little shooting in Val Verde and laying on of hands in Mint Canyon.” Hmmm. Seems to me the only thing you could describe as “… a little shooting” is when the guy misses.
NOVEMBER 18, 1953
GLOW WORM LOUIE — Sheriff’s deputies nabbed “Louie the Glow Worm” 70 years back. The arsonist had been suspected of setting a number of fires here and throughout the Southland. He had started small, by setting trash fires in alleys, then graduated to igniting lumber yards. He had long been a suspect because he frequently was at fires and was the first to run into a building to yell the warning. While being questioned in downtown Los Angeles about a blaze, the giddy sicko started a fire in a nearby trash can. He was eventually sent to San Quentin where he busted rocks. Non-flammable rocks …
I BID THEE, CAULK WELL — Castaic School was seeking bids for a building add-on. Top wage was $3.69 for the plasterer foreman. Bottom money went to the sewer pipe caulker at $2.10 an hour.
NOVEMBER 18, 1963
BE THE BEARD — Speaking of things defunct, Frontier Days was in full swing. What was unusual — especially for 1963 — were the dozens of Canyon Country men wandering about, sporting grizzled beards. It was a long-time custom to grow facial hair for the big Frontier Days celebration. May I point out that the contest was mostly limited to the men of Canyon Country?
NOVEMBER 18, 1973
BOBBY WAS THE BEST. ON THIS OR MOST PLANETS. — Some of you old-timers will remember the little bartender Bobby Batugo and his domain at the top of Lyons — Tip’s. On this date, Bobby took top honors as the World’s Best Bartender with his tropical drink, the I.C.C. of 1973. It was made of Carioca rum, Plymouth gin, pineapple juice, and grenadine with crushed ice and a mint leaf. People would come from all over Southern California to try his cocktails. Cripes. I sure miss those drinks from Bobby — and Tip’s. What I remember about Bobby was that big, friendly smile and that he left the Philippines in 1929 and, 50 years later in such a public life, I still had trouble understanding him. I once started out doing a cover story for Los Angeles Magazine, interviewing Mr. Batugo. Fifteen minutes in, I realized the world-famous mixologist did not speak English. He had only learned about four dozen catchphrases, like, “Hot enough for you?” or “How about those Dodgers?”
A FATAL SPINNING OF THE FATES — There are those little turning points in life where a seemingly innocent decision can have far-reaching effects. On this date, Audrey Getz, owner of a Canyon Country pet shop, offered to give his 15-year-old employee a ride home. The boy had a flat tire. He refused and walked his bike with the flat tire home along Sierra Highway. The lad was killed when an 83-year-old driver hit him.
THERE WAS NO BUSINESS WORD FOR SMOG — My old friend Dan Hon had a great quote 50 years ago. He was driving home over Newhall Pass and started complaining about the grey-green ooze hanging in the air. Said Hon to Ruth Newhall: “In two more months, I’ll no longer be Chamber of Commerce president. I’ll be able to call that stuff smog.”
THE GREAT GAS SHORTAGES OF 1973 — Folks were faced with the specter of gas rationing. The last time we had issued ration coupons was during World War II when we had just two gas stations in the valley. We never had to ration, but we did have shortages and odd-even days. That’s when you could only buy gasoline on certain days depending on what number your license plate ended with. It got so bad that even President Nixon dimmed the lights at The White House as an energy-saving gesture.
ANNOYING WOKE DUMBELLS, EVEN BACK THEN — On this date, the College of the Canyons board of trustees tabled a measure that would have set up a firearms training class at the college. It was for a police training class. Some board members pointed out that the police academies already had their own target range. Others didn’t want the class on campus on “moral grounds.”
HM. I CAN SEE THAT. OR, NOT — Here’s a great gig. Richard De A’Morelli, a 22-year-old self-proclaimed psychic, claimed to have encountered UFOs. Where? In Canyon Country. De A’Morelli said: “It was an incredible experience.” He pointed out that he connected with aliens from outer space — telepathically. “There doesn’t have to necessarily be a sighting in the area,” said the young psychic.
NOVEMBER 18, 1983
HIS ARGUMENT? THE SUN NEVER SETS ON THE SANTA CLARITA VALLEY — Four decades back, we had a rather unusual race. Attorney Mark Posner narrowly beat out incumbent and COC board chairman William Broyles — by 19 votes. Good thing, too. Seems there was this small technicality that Broyles, despite running for re-election, had moved to Llano, which is east of Palmdale.
MIMI, THE BASTION OF COMMON SENSE — My friend, mentor, and hero, Ruth Newhall, wrote of the absurdity of double-language ballots in her gossip column, “MIMI,” 40 years back. Ruth chided the bureaucrats, noting how expensive and useless it was to have ballots in two languages. As proof, she pointed out how the county sent a woman to help Spanish-only speaking voters at the Vista Hills polling place. Problema grande? No Spanish-only speaking voters showed up. Not only that, the woman ONLY SPOKE SPANISH, not English. “Some help,” noted Ruth. She finally asked: “How many English ballots do you find in Mexico and points south?”
BEST TUSH IN CALIFORNIA — And, finally, saddlepals — who says our secondary education in the Santa Clarita Valley doesn’t prepare its students for the real world? On this date, Hart graduate Teri Groves competed at the Marriott Hotel in San Pedro for the 5th Annual Miss Tush Contest.
• • •
Before we split up, saddlepal Pat Comey had a question. If you amigos and amigo-ettes were in charge of giving a new name to parts of Saugus, instead of “Canyon Country,” what would you call, ahem, “Canyon Country?”
Words cannot convey how special it is to share these weekends with you, dear fellow Santa Claritans. It’s a grand valley we’ve got, isn’t it? Looking forward to riding with all y’all next week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. And, until then — ¡vayan con Dios y feliz dia del pavo, 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 Christmas gift idea. Leave a kindly review…