We’re starting off today’s trail ride by welcoming a new and permanent saddlepal. My longtime amigo, Tom Frew The Fourth Only In Pretentious Roman Numerals, made his transition a short time ago. This week and this week only, he’ll be riding up front, in a place of honor. After that, the Mighty Scotsman will be riding in the back as he tends to slow down the posse by constantly looking for loose change along the trail.
And, don’t get too close to Tom. He’ll talk your ear off.
We’ve a most interesting trek ahead, Santa Clarita Valley friends and neighbors. There’s bad guys, good guys, thespians and the usual Gee Whiz Martha, Did You See That!?!?!?!?! tidbits.
C’mon. Together, let us mosey into the mystic …
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
MASTER OF ALL HE SURVEYED — One of the valley’s most controversial figures, Gen. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, was born on Feb. 4, 1822, in Washington, D.C. He amassed a fortune in sometimes very questionable real estate deals and, while leading several progressive movements to help Indians, was also in charge of an Indian Affairs agency that was sometimes responsible for wholesale massacres on the Native Americans. When Abraham Lincoln refused to appoint him United States surveyor general, the president quipped: “He tends to become master of all he surveys.”
BABSTER PARK? — Legendary silent film star William S. Hart purchased the Horseshoe Ranch from Babcock Smith back on Feb. 5, 1921. Babby’s original house is the bunkhouse down on the flatlands of Hart Park.
MEXICAN TO AMERICAN, OVERNIGHT — Feb. 2, 1848, the Treaty of Hidalgo was signed, ending the war with Mexico. California became a U.S. possession and everyone who used to be a citizen of the Mexican-run territory was now a citizen of the U.S. Locally, that affected about the 60 or so folk living in the Santa Clarita.
FEBRUARY 3, 1924
HIT THE ROAD, JACK — As a constable, it’s usually an interesting morning after you write a report entitled: “Pursuit of an Insane Section Worker.” Jack Pilcher and deputies Wertz and Brown chased Antonio Acuna all the way from Agua Dulce into the valley proper, a distance of about 12 miles. Interesting fact: the three lawmen were in a car and Acuna was on foot and he beat them to Newhall.
I’LL CHASE THOSE CROOKS RIGHT AFTER I FINISH THIS OIL CHANGE — Speaking of Pilcher, on this date, he turned over his garage to Fred Lamkin. Pilcher had come to town a few years earlier with the intent of starting a garage, which he did. But, with the lawless element of the SCV, he was talked into taking over the Constable of the Court position. Eventually, he would become a nationally renowned lawman, making front-page headlines in many of the nation’s big newspapers.
FEBRUARY 3, 1934
NOT SO MINIMUM WAGE — Another work camp way on the other side of the valley was set up to help transients make an honest wage. The federal program was very specific. They hired only men who were from back east. The transients were paid 50 cents a day and worked until such time that they made enough to buy a train ticket back to their eastern homes and pocket a little spending money. That 50 cents a day is 320 times less than the upcoming current minimum wage for fast food workers — or, $10 a month vs. $3,200 a month today. The San Francisquito Canyon camp had 300 men to start.
A JOB MOST DULL — For being the town shoe repairman, L.B. Dull carried an odd name. On this date, he was a bit flabbergasted when a delivery truck backed into his humble little shop and unloaded 265 pairs of boots and shoes for repairs. Talk about a big-dollar job in the middle of the Depression. The footwear came courtesy of the big California Conservation Corps work camp up Bear Divide. Old Mr. Dull had to hire a couple of extra hands to get the order out.
WE WON’T LEAVE A LIGHT ON FOR YA — On this date, Mrs. Hixenbaugh sold the Newhall Hotel to Mrs. Hines, of Los Angeles.
FEBRUARY 3, 1944
A ROBBERY MOST VICIOUS — A Los Angeles businessman survived a brutal kidnapping and attempt to burn him alive. E. Cottan, owner of a successful upholstery and drapery business on Sunset, was kidnapped by three thugs. He was robbed and taken up to Mint Canyon in the trunk of his own car. There, the felons set his Buick on fire with Cottan still in the back, supposedly unconscious. It was an odd whodunit. Cottan had driven out after someone asked him to come to their business in Hollywood for an estimate. Just as he was getting out of his car, three thugs attacked him. First threatening to shoot Cottan, they blindfolded the upholsterer, robbed him and knocked him out. He woke to the smell of fire and kicked his way free. Sheriff’s deputies were on the lookout for three men — all who were wearing elaborate show business disguises of fake beards and mustaches.
YET MORE CRIMINAL BRUTALITY — The carnage continued. Two escapees from Wayside Honor Rancho nearly beat an invalid to death and then beat and robbed the owner of the 99 Oaks gas station across from Wayside. Oddly enough, the two young men later turned themselves in and pleaded guilty to the crimes. It turned out they committed the robbery, assaults and three car thefts to make sure they got enough time to avoid being drafted in the military. They got their wish: 15 years each of hard labor.
ONE OF OUR MOST SPECTACULAR ACCIDENTS — On this date, a huge double rig diesel jackknifed near present-day Railroad Avenue and Magic Mountain Parkway. It flipped and slid into Wood’s Garage, next to the Saugus Cafe. Wait. It gets better. The sliding truck sheared off all five gas pumps and the sparks started a spectacular blaze. Fortunately, only the front of the building was singed by heat and smoke. The driver was knocked out from the collision but his life was saved by the hitchhiker he had picked up earlier who pulled him from his flaming truck. Damage to the building and to replace the pumps was $4,500.
BACK IN THE DAYS OF ADULT RESPONSIBILITY — A picture on World War II was being shown at the Newhall Elementary Auditorium. But because it had some graphic scenes of explosions along with wounded and dead bodies, no child under 18 was allowed entrance. Such a documentary today would muster a “G” rating.
FEBRUARY 3, 1954
ALMOST TOO YOUNG TO BE LABELED PUNKS. ALMOST. — Three juveniles who drove up to Newhall for a little rabbit hunting ended up in the pokey. The trio burgled Newhall Hardware, taking several rifles, pistols and ammo. The trio — two 14-year-olds and a 12-year-old — were heard in the hills above Thatcher Glass off today’s Railroad Avenue, expelling an awful lot of ordnance. When sheriff’s deputies caught up with them, they had the hardware boutique’s missing guns and ammo.
FEBRUARY 3, 1964
BOOK ME FOR A TWO-YEAR STAY — In case Paris Hilton shows up in town, don’t show this to her. She’d have a heart attack. You know how much it cost to spend the night, for two, at the old Beacon Motel at Castaic Junction? Just $5 a night, less for the weekly rate.
BUT COKE WAS BUT A DIME — I know. You’re saying, “Well. Wages were less in 1964.” And you’re right. For example, at the Standby Employment Agency on 8th Street in Newhall, they offered a full-time position for a nurse’s aide. Full time, the pay was $240. That’s $240 a month.
NOT SO CROWDED AT BILL’S PLACE — Here’s some stats for you. The staff at William S. Hart Park noted that, in 1963, about 180,000 people visited their county sanctuary. That’s less than 500 a day. And, that attendance mark was up 24% from the year before.
FEBRUARY 3, 1974
ACTORS BEGONE! — Nope. That’s not a pesticide to get rid of thespians. On this date, the Canyon Theatre Guild was evicted from the Old Courthouse Building on Market. Nope. The troupe wasn’t asked to leave because of their acting. Owner Andy Storinsky was selling the building. The CTG used The Rafters’ attic for their public performances. The wooden floor was the very same dance floor in the Hap-a-Lan hall from the 1920s in the same location. Today? The attic is used for Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.
TALK ABOUT SOME HEAVY ACTING — During one CTG performance, a weakened portion of the floor gave way and an actor fell partially through, his legs dangling through the ceiling of the floor below.
HIPPIE. — I came across a photo of my old pal, Tom Lee, in The Mighty Signal of 50 years back. The long-haired Newhall Land junior exec was president of the Boys Club ( “And Girls” was added on shortly thereafter) and wearing a tie wider than Newhall Creek.
FEBRUARY 3, 1984
I HAVE FRIENDS WHO MARRIED WOMEN NAMED GALE — Gale-forced winds wreaked havoc across the valley, knocking over double-rig trucks and pert near all things vertical. Power lines in front of Hart High were down and sizzling, forcing teachers and law enforcement officials to keep inquisitive and common sense-challenged students away from electrocuting themselves. Some of the gusts in the passes topped 100 mph.
HE’S ONE OF THE GREAT ONES — Ed Harris came back to town. The 1975 graduate of the CalArts School of Theatre and famed actor returned to the campus to talk to the students about show biz. Harris has earned many accolades over the years, including four Oscar nominations. Just some of his movies include: “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “A History of Violence,” “Pollock” and “Enemy at the Gates.”
WE GREW. — Again. The estimated population of the valley creaked up to about 86,000 residents — 5,000 more than the year before. That was about a 6.53% increase.
• • •
Well. Yonder glowing nebula ahead is our gateway into the Here-&-Now of Santa Clarita. Let’s get back together in seven, right here at The Mighty Signal (259-1000 for subscriptions) hitching post. Until then, be most excellent and kind to one another — ¡y 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.