You know, if I could be fooled about the ongoing nature of life, I might be tempted to feel sad a pinch. This is the last trail ride of 2003 for us.
Of course, on the bright side, dates are just someone’s scribbling on paper.
C’mon. Some of us with a groan, some of us with a push, some of us with an effortless bounce — let’s all hop in the saddle and inspect the countryside when there weren’t such bothersome things like progress interrupting the view …
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
THE GOOD OL’ DAYS — Century after century, the ancient Indian civilizations here in the Santa Clarita neither shopped nor watched holiday football bowl games.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HANK — Acton millionaire, mine owner, California senator and governor Henry T. Gage was born on Christmas Day, 1852, in Geneva, New York. Small world? That’s where my daughter goes to college …
BAD TIBBY! — Apparently, the Message of Christmas was lost on our local and famed bandito, Tiburcio Vasquez. Day after Christmas in 1873, he and his gang raided the town of Kingston. They basically took the little berg over, tying up the citizens and having a good ol’ drunken time. The outlaws made off with about $2,500 in jewels and cash.
ETERNAL MARK — On this day in 1908, Mark T. Gates was born somewhere in Nebraska. Most of us pass by his legacy if not weekly, then daily. Gates was the founder of Eternal Valley Cemetery on Sierra Highway near Newhall Avenue. Eternal Valley was founded on Feb. 5, 1958. Gates and his family bought 750 acres of ranchland from the heirs of Henry Clay Needham. Needham is famous for running thrice for president, once for California governor and once for U.S. senator as a Prohibitionist in the 1920s. Today, part (240 acres) of that original 750 acres is the Gate-King Industrial Park.
DECEMBER 30, 1923
FIRE, BAD!!! — On this date, The Newhall Land & Farming Co. was behind stopping the formation of a fire district in the valley. Newhall Land petitioned the county Board of Supervisors to ax the proposal, noting that most of the district’s taxation would fall on their heads with very little benefit. There were other locals who did not want the extra tax burden. The district was very large (stretching from Gorman to Palmdale) and the population very small back then, with most of it centered in our dear Santa Clarita Valley.
FIRE, STILL BAD!! — Two hunters were arrested for starting a forest fire in Reasoner Canyon (that was over Piru way). They were dragged before Judge Warring of Piru, fined $20 and given a suspended 20-day jail sentence, provided they pay for the cost of fighting the 60-acre blaze. That was about 30 bucks back then.
A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS — Ah, the good old days before pre-packaged and/or fast foods. Local children were delighted at the annual Christmas tree lighting over at the Hap-a-Land Hall on Market Street. The kiddies were all given bags containing apples and nuts. And, they were happy about it.
“PRIMITIVE SOUTH SEA BARBARIANS.” GOOD BAND NAME. — Signal on-again, off-again editor, Thornton Doelle, wrote his first editorial on this date. It was a gripping piece on modern head hunters. Doelle drew parallels between the “primitive South Sea barbarians” who beheaded their enemies and corporate presidents who used children in despicable working conditions. Doelle demanded profit sharing and medical benefits. A hundred years later, he could write the same op-ed without many, if any, changes …
DECEMBER 30, 1933
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR — Ninety years ago, The Mighty Signal noted that the valley needed more houses.
CAN’T FIGHT THE MUSIC — Signal editor and owner A.B. “Dad” Thatcher continued his lopsided war with jazz. Old Dad hated the avant garde music with a passion. From his front-page column: “… By noise, I mean jazz. That meaningless, discordant, squalling, howling racket, which makes the Chinese and African music seem classical has probably reached the nerve centers of the crooners and squawkers, and they have quit, except in the cases that are hopeless, because they are incapable of understanding what harmony means.”
RE THE ABOVE — I’ve got SO many professional musician pals, I’m going to have to send the above paragraph as a Christmas present …
THE BUSINESS OF WRITING TICKETS — With the brand new Highway 99 (today, The Old Road) at Castaic came both a curse and a blessing. The modern road allowed more people to speed. On the other hand, local lawmen were writing more tickets and they were being paid at Newhall Court …
GHOSTS IN PLUM CANYON — Johnson and Prickett made an interesting discovery on their Saugus ranches. The farmers unearthed small cannon balls and ordnance from the big old .50-caliber Sharps rifles. The men thought perhaps a battle had taken place involving John Fremont’s men in the mid-1850s. If that be true, perhaps it would lend some credence to the old ghost stories about people hearing shouts, cries, explosions and horses whinnying in Plum Canyon.
DECEMBER 30, 1943
LET IT SNOW LET IT SNOW LET IT SNOW — We had a White Christmas 80 years back. Well. At least on the upper hills. A heavy snowfall closed the Ridge Route Christmas Day and left the valley with postcard vistas. Downtown Newhall had snowbanks on what few sidewalks we had back then.
SILENT DEATH ON CHRISTMAS EVE — Booze and carbon monoxide were a fatal mixture for a visiting Arizona woman. She and three pals were having a Merry Christmas, then went to sleep in a cabin above Castaic. Their heater, which used bottled gas, was blamed in the death of Lela Thomas and the severe poisoning of three friends on a frigid SCV night.
DO THESE EXTRA LANES MAKE MY BUTT LOOK FAT? — California gave some good economic news to the SCV. Highway 99 would be widened to four lanes after the end of World War II. It was part of a $75 million project to improve roads in California and predicted to help the forecasted labor problem with all the soldiers returning home.
DECEMBER 30, 1953
CHRISTMAS: FIRE SEASON? — Hard to believe, but we had a severe fire peril rating around Christmas time. The valley had only been doused with just 2 inches of rain all season, making it one of the driest years on record.
AN ALLEGED SOCIALITE — There had been a spate of libel lawsuits in the early 1950s on big newspapers. This prompted Signal Editor Fred Trueblood to comment: “A woman giving the name of Mrs. Roscoe Astorbilt, who is reported to be one of the society leaders of the city, is said to have given what is purported to be a party yesterday for a number of alleged ladies. The hostess claims to be the wife of a reputed attorney.”
DECEMBER 30, 1963
A HIGH-FLYING CHRISTMAS MIRACLE — Over the years, the same scene has been oft repeated and never has the train lost. On this date, Rich Philbert tried to beat the train at the Market Street crossing. He nearly made it. Southern Pacific No. 805 hit the rear end of his pickup, spinning the vehicle and sending Philbert airborne some 50 feet. He lived through it.
DECEMBER 30, 1973
MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER — Attorney, pal, chamber president and local activist Dan Hon caused mouths to shrivel up to Cheerios size. Hon penned a letter to the feds, requesting that they not grant $1 million in anti-drug funds to the SCV. From Dan’s letter: “We have a few hard-core addicts, but nothing like in Pacoima or Watts. Our pill problem appears to be housewives hooked on diet pills furnished by their physicians and a small minority of experimenting kids.”
SPEAKING OF ROLLING STONE HEADLINE PUNS, “IT’S A GAS GAS GAS” — Southern California Gas Co. released some interesting figures. They projected that the SCV had about a half-trillion cubic feet of natural gas underground. We pulled out, then, about 15 billion per year locally.
A DARK DAY FOR HOT RODDERS AND LEAD-FOOTED COMMUTERS — The Highway Patrol reminded everyone that, as of Jan. 1, the new maximum state speed limit would be cut from 70 to 55 mph. Today, if you’re driving through the SCV on Interstate 5 or Highway 14 or sometimes on surface streets, it seems the minimum speed is close to 80 …
CLERK JERK — A half-century back, the Retail Clerks Union was striking. A picketer at Safeway on Lyons walked up to the store manager and told him there was a bomb in the store. The bodego was quickly evacuated and searched. The striker, who was still outside when the deputies arrived, was arrested. That’s a poor combo plate: out of work, dumb and in jail.
GAS JOKE — Because of the high prices and gasoline shortage, one local station had this sign posted: “GASOLINE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. HA, HA …” Bet locals would have swooned had they been able to peek into the future and see gasoline at $5 a gallon.
DECEMBER 30, 1983
INSURANCE AGENTS SURE WERE HAPPY — Right around the corner for SCV and the rest of California was the new mandatory auto insurance law. Get caught driving without insurance and you’d lose your license for a year. It’s a real rough estimate, but car insurance in 1973 was ABOUT $50 a month. Today, it’s closer to $200.
WHAT AN ABSOLUTE CATCH OF A BOYFRIEND — Michael Jackson — not the “yee-hee” one — was arrested on this date on a bizarre kidnapping conspiracy. Johnson was reported to be behind a plot to kidnap the daughter of his live-in Saugus girlfriend, then sell her into slavery in Mexico. Jackson’s alleged plan was to use the money from that abduction to finance a career of kidnapping girls (two of them reportedly illegitimate children of mafia bosses) and selling them into slavery. Jackson, 44, was an escapee from Marion prison in Illinois.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 818 — Another benchmark date around New Years of 1984: the neighboring San Fernando Valley got its own area code of 818. It was the state’s 10th area code.
• • •
Well saddlepals. Once again, we brought everybody back, safe and sound. Normally at this part of the trail ride, I’ll say something like: “See you next week with a brand-new Time Ranger adventure.” Except this time, I’m wishing: “See you all next year with a brand-new Time Ranger adventure …” Isn’t that something? The year of 2024 is knocking on the door? You folks be well and be good medicine for one another. 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. Also? His political satire, “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Joe Biden” is available in print and Kindle.