The Time Ranger | DAM!! Who Was Hugh McMuholland?

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​​​A crisp and cool Saturday morning in December to you, saddlepals. Just mosey over to The Mighty Signal’s hitching post and amongst the tens of thousands of fine steeds, a perky Time Ranger Western-type intern will point to your horse. We’ve a most interesting trek ahead to the back trails of Santa Clarita history. 

Relax. Take a moment. Let’s saddle up and go peruse moonshiners, gangsters and football heroes. We’ve also got the valley’s largest orange juice experiment, blizzards, hobo camps and burger bandits. 

We’ll also pay respects to arguably the most significant week in Santa Clarita Valley sports history …  


DATES, ANNIVERSARIES AND MORE DATES, NONE OF THEM EDIBLE — Some of the following is way back and some not so. On Dec. 12, 1975, the SCV Historical Society was founded. The city of Santa Clarita? It was founded on Dec. 15, 1987. I wasn’t born yet. (Scanning the crowd with steely eyes for gigglers …) And, the Automobile Club of Southern California launched its charter on Dec. 14, 1900. That’s kind of important because it was the Auto Club that was in charge of everything from road maps to vehicle registration to street signs to issuing drivers’ licenses. In fact, for the next three decades, EVERYONE in the SCV had just one day to drive down to a long-forgotten local garage to register their vehicles, usually outside at an AAA folding card table. 

EXTRA INANE FURNITURE TRIVIA — Folding tables go as far back as ancient Egypt.  

DECEMBER 16, 1923  

BOOTLEGGERS BUSTED — Just about everybody with a beige shirt and badge was in the Lake Elizabeth area to break up a giant moonshine ring in Leona Valley, which was considered part of the SCV’s 1,000-square-mile empire, called the Soledad Township back then (and a few years later, the Little Santa Clara River Valley). Signal Reporter & Everything Else, Thornton Doelle, noted they discovered: “… enough liquor to float a dreadnought.” That’d be a really big boat. The perp in this case was a Mr. C. Eichenhofer. His spies had gotten wind of the motorcade of various police vehicles headed up his way and he was feverishly trying to dump thousands of gallons of booze. It was a case of too much alcohol and not enough time. One officer reported the stuff was of the cheap variety. “You’d be better off drinking carbolic acid.” Neighbors were rather surprised. The Eichenhofer ranch was the ritziest in Leona Valley. 

SANTA ANA WINDS. ON METH. — Cyclonic winds tore through the canyons a century ago, knocking over chicken coops and blowing off roofs. The chilly zephyrs caused residents several sleepless nights. 

DECEMBER 17, 1925  

THE HANDSOME BANK ROBBER — It was 98 years ago when Jenks Harris held up the Piru Bank in that sleepy little community just a few miles west of here. He got away with a sizable amount of cash for such a small bank — $11,000. (Although a report in the Dec. 31, 1922, Sacramento Union newspaper put the figure at $6,000.) Jenks was a bit-part actor, stuntman, and, well — a bank robber of course. He conceived of the robbery while making a movie for Universal in Piru. Jenks also kidnapped the bank’s president, C.F. Spencer, and his young daughter. They were driven to Los Angeles to delay word of the robbery. Jenks was also behind other bank heists in the Southland. They never made it to L.A. because they were captured in Castaic in a big shootout with our legendary lawman, Jack Pilcher. Odd bit of sentencing, Jenks Harris was given an “undetermined sentence of one year to life” by a Ventura judge, last name of “Roberts.” I’m not sure how long Mr. Harris served. The Piru Bank building, built in 1918, is still standing in the sleepy little community. 

DECEMBER 16, 1933  

DAM NATION — William Mulholland was in charge of building the ill-fated San Francisquito Dam, which later burst, killing nearly 500 people. Hugh Mulholland was in charge of building the nearly completed Bouquet Canyon Dam, next valley over from San Francisquito. H.M. promised the Bouquet reservoir wall was “80 percent stronger than necessary.” Back then, locals were understandably more than a little concerned since it was just five years after the St. Francis Dam burst, creating one of the biggest man-made disasters in U.S. history. Well. Cross your fingers. It is still up … 

MORE ON THAT OTHER MULHOLLAND — Over the years, I’ve done a little digging as to what, if any, was the relationship to the famous William Mulholland of this Hugh Mulholland fellow. Now. Bill Mulholland’s father was named Hugh Patrick Mulholland. Bill Mulholland had a younger brother named Patrick, but Hugh Jr. died in 1920. Was the builder of our Bouquet Reservoir the nephew of William Mulholland? I’m going to have to continue digging as to what, if any, relationship they had. If any of you saddlepals can shed some light, give a jingle or e-mail. 

LAST ITEM? — Sets a new world record for most references to “Mulholland” in one paragraph with eight … 

THE UNANSWERED DILEMMA 90-PLUS YEARS OLD — Today, we’re lamenting what to do with the homeless in Santa Clarita. It was the same way back in 1933. Locals were complaining of wandering tramps and hobos in the valley. They had more places to camp out back then, but not as much food available … 

DECEMBER 16, 1943  

RELEASE … THE HOUNDS!!!! Hunters were undaunted on opening day of deer season. Despite 2 feet of snow on the ground in upper Bouquet and beyond, and the fact we were in the middle of World War II shortages, deer hunters turned out in droves. Hunting season literally meant putting meat and protein on a skimpy dinner table. 

MAKING ORANGE JUICE THE HARD WAY — Eighty years back, a double rig carrying freshly picked oranges didn’t quite make it across the tracks at San Fernando Road. A freight train hit the second trailer, dragging it for a half-mile before stopping. Squished oranges were all about. So were thousands of undamaged oranges, which caused locals to grab some gunny sacks and collect as much vitamin C as they could cart off. This almost has a Paul Bunyanesque quality to it. A storm came in that added water to the mix. At least it cleaned up the stickiness. 

DECEMBER 16, 1953  

THE REIGN OF TERROR FROM THE BOZO HUNTERS — It continued. More canyon residents were besieged by the dove and quail hunters. Guy Price of Live Oak Canyon had his home riddled with bullets while sitting in his living room. Other residents had sheds and buildings shot up. Adding insult to injury, the hunters frequently would leave their cars and trucks in people’s driveways, blocking access. One woman was knocked over by a hunter, who also threatened to kill her dog. 

A WHOLE NEW MEANING TO GETTING LIT UP — Hog farmer Robert Hohn of Bee Canyon was electrocuted on this date. He was putting up a building on his ranch when a nephew ran a crane into some high-tension wires. The wires hit the metal beam Hohn was holding and zapped him with 50,000 watts, killing him instantly. 

DECEMBER 16, 1963  

BIG DAM. BIG PARK. — On the heels of announcing a new Castaic Dam, residents were surprised to hear that we would be home to the largest recreational area in Los Angeles County. The county supervisors announced the construction of an 8,700-acre reservoir and park land. About 5,500 of those would be used for the park. The reservoir would hold 11.4 billion gallons of water. 

RE THE ABOVE? — That’s 43153694337.6 liters, for any Eurotrash visitors. Figured it out in my head… 

BRRRR, BRRRRR, BRRRRRRRR AND THEN SOME —We had a cold snap march slowly through. Nighttime temperatures dipped into the low 20s. Here. Here’s another “Brr.” Brr’s cost nothing …  

DECEMBER 16, 1973  

UFOS? VEGANS? — It couldn’t have been rustlers. They take the cow or butcher the carcass on the spot. It sure seemed like someone had a grudge against the Shaffner family up San Francisquito Canyon. For the sixth time in 1973, someone shot one of their prized Herefords. Each cow was valued at $400.  

COW KILLERS, PART II — You know, the 1970s weren’t that long ago. I remember we had a full-time livestock detective in the local sheriff’s office and the poor guy was overworked … 

LEAVE IT TO THE GOVERNMENT TO COME UP WITH A $12-WORD FOR A TWO-BIT PROGRAM — Hard to believe, but we had our own Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program. In English, it means, “Removing Junked Cars.” We even had our own local overseer. California Highway Patrol officer Dale Kakac earned the nickname of Fred Sanford (ala the grumpy junkman on the TV show, “Sanford & Son”). In six months, he removed 29 wrecked or abandoned cars from our valley’s streets and fields. 

DECEMBER 16, 1983  

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE BURGER BANDITS — The infamous Burger Bandit Gang was at it again. The pair (smallest number required for qualifying as “a gang”) of robbers earned the moniker for robbing a couple of dozen fast food outlets in the Ventura/L.A. area, including the SCV. They came back to Newhall to rob the Jack-in-the-Box on Lyons — for a second time. 

CHASING THE MONEY CHANGERS OUT OF THE TEMPLE — On this date, the old Bank of America building on San Fernando Road was taken over by a church. 

TERRIFIC TOMMY — Tom Bonds quarterbacked the Hart High Indians to their first-ever CIF championship 40 years ago this week, beating North Torrance, 29-16. 

THE STREAK — The very next day, the Canyon Cowboys carried a bearded coach Harry Welch off the field. The boys won THEIR first CIF title, beating powerhouse Bishop Montgomery 40-24. This victory would be part of the legendary “Streak” where the Cowboys won 46 in a row, from October 1983 to November 1986. 

IMMORTAL POETRY ON COWOYS & INDIANS — With Hart and Canyon both taking titles, that was an amazing weekend in local sports history, perhaps the most amazing ever. Wrote Signal Editor Scott Newhall: “The Hart High football victory over North Torrance was just as devastating as Hannibal’s defeat of the Romans in the Punic Wars. And Canyon’s crushing victory over Bishop Montgomery (another Torrance powerhouse) was no less significant than the Duke of Wellington’s rout of Napoleon and the French grand armée at Waterloo. It is a privilege to convey to our heroes the thanks and appreciation of their neighbors for such memorable prodigies on the gridiron. As they say, in song and story, it’s not the game that matters, it’s the winning.” 

•     •     • 

Thanks so much for the company, saddlepals. Time to head back to the here-&-now and maybe do a little shopping. If I may offer a small and humble shameless plug — have any history buffs on your list? You might want to visit the link below for gift ideas. That aside, brush down your horses, give them a treat, tell them you love them and let them loose in The Mighty Signal’s upper pasture. I’ll see all y’all in seven. 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.  

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