John Boston | When Signal Editors Moseyed to Tijuana — to Fight

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Saddlepals. You don’t want to say this too loud our in front of a mount that reads lips. BUT — It’s Leap Year.  

SHHHHH! 

Just wanted to warn some of you fellow Mighty Signal time travelers, but horses can be such literal thinkers so ix-nay on the Eap-yay Ear-nay. 

We’ve a most excellent trail ride ahead through the old trails of Santa Clarita history. There’s a world-record traffic fine to chuckle over, Pleistocene-sized mountain lions and someone had the dumb idea to start filling San Francisquito Canyon with water. 

We’ve got steely-eyed posses riding through blizzards and Old Testament floods, so best the thin-blooded of you bring a sweater. 

WAY, WAY BACK WHEN  

ASSUME THE POSITION: BLANCHE IS BOOKING YOU — Here’s a little library trivia for you. On March 1, 1916, the Los Angeles County Library opened its first branch in the Santa Clarita Valley. Christine Woodard was the librarian. She dished out ice cream, fizzes and bestsellers at Woodard’s Ice Cream Parlor, site of the first library. Well. She didn’t exactly dish out a lot of bestsellers. They only had a few books and magazines. In the next 10 years, the library would swell to about 500 titles, with about 200 of those being magazines. Signal Editor Blanche Brown would take over as librarian. 

MARCH 2, 1924 

WE AIN’T LION — Frank Tapia shot an immense mountain lion on this date, over in Bull Canyon (that’s down from Oat Mountain, where the sun goes down). The creature was reported to be more than 9 feet in length, tipping the scale past 300 pounds. Now THAT is a beast. Times were different back in the 1920s. The Signal noted: “Mountain lions are the most terrible menace that deer have to cope with and every one eliminated from the hills is a good deed done.” Those sentiments were from on-again, off-again Signal Editor Thornton Doelle — who was the local forest ranger. 

SOME REASONING AS PLAIN AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE — I wonder if the old Signal editors picked up on the irony of their own juxtapositioning of stories. After calling for the extermination of all pumas in their lead story, The Mighty Signal ran another story right next to it. Topic? Local farmers were complaining that there were too many deer in the area, eating valuable pasture. Some deer were even raiding vegetable gardens and grain silos. Guess no one bothered to do the math about cougars eating deer. 

LET THERE BE LIGHT — The State Highway Commission began wiring the old Newhall road tunnel with lights. They put in eighteen 200-watt lights, nine on a side. Because the tunnel was so low, the lights were placed between the hub and fender line of autos. Valley Electric of San Fernando earned the job, with a total bid of $600. 

‘SALISBURY SALES?’ WHAT DID THEY MAKE? STEAKS? — H. Reyes, foreman for the Salisbury Sales Co., was dragged into court for allowing a controlled burn on his company’s property to escape into San Francisquito Canyon and burn 200 acres, including several telephone and electric poles. Reyes was given a suspended sentence, provided he pay for damages of several hundred dollars. 

OUR BAR-BRAWLING NEWSPAPERMAN — A certain local forest ranger and newspaper editor (Thornton Doelle) and a couple of pals decided to take a late-night post-Hap-a-Lan Hall dance road ride from Newhall to Tijuana. “This dingy, crude and dirty little adobe town isn’t nearly so wild as it is painted. It’s just about twice as wild. Anything and everything goes. The spirit of Jesse James hovers about every nook and corner.” More diary notes: “‘Chileville’ (what TD called Tijuana) has a subconscious mind police force, consisting of about a dozen shrimpy cops and an equal number of deputies. Any one of our beloved Crime Crushers could eat the whole pack for breakfast any day and still be hungry.” 

MARCH 1, 1926 

‘BETTER CHECK THOSE BLUEPRINTS,’ HE SAID IN A SING-SONGY VOICE — At the time, the event was cheered as a modern marvel and civilization’s proud accomplishment. On this date, a spigot opened and the first water from the Owens Valley water project began trickling in to fill up the newly built St. Francis Dam. A little over two years later, in 1928, the nearly 200-foot-high dam would burst, sending a monstrous, nearly 200-foot wave of death and destruction down San Francisquito Canyon to Saugus, Fillmore, Santa Paula and on to the Pacific.  

MARCH 2, 1934 

SCHOOL’S OUT — Interesting that 90 years back in the paper, there were snippets about goings-on in the local elementary schools of Honby, New Era and Saugus. Alas, those campuses have not been with us for many a year. 

MARCH 2, 1944 

DYING IN THE SNOW — Volunteerism was one of the major ways a lot of little things got done back when. My own humble opinion? It made us a stronger country. One of the busiest and most thankless tasks was frequently endured by the Newhall Sheriff’s Mounted Posse. Regular deputies and volunteers would be called upon in the worst of weather and circumstances to bring back the living, the injured and the dead. On this date, the Posse braved a blizzard up Mint Canyon to ride to a wreck in Agua Dulce. Four Lockheed test pilots were killed when their light bomber crashed in the five-foot drifts of snow. It was the third plane wreck that week. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JDJ — Janice Darlene Johnson was born on Feb. 29 90 years ago, making her the SCV’s only Leap Year baby at the time. 

NATURE GIVETH, AND NATURE TAKETH AWAY — It was amazing the amount of damage that occurred during the big rains of the early 1940s. In the storm from a week before, many local farmers and ranchers, whose lives depended on the whims of Nature, found they were land poorer after the storms. Ernest Wood lost several acres when the creek rose up Forrest Park way. He lost several pigs and chickens and the few that remained were marooned on a little island. Wood almost lost his life trying to save some pigs. He waded out into the flood and was swept away a quarter-mile. Ernest was treated for shock and exposure and was hospitalized. He was most fortunate to be alive. All over the valley, ranchers found that with the first rays of dawn, the big storm had taken another chunk of their topsoil. The Bonelli Ranch on Soledad lost a whopping 40 acres to the mad Santa Clara River. 

MARCH 2, 1954 

WHO DO, THAT VOODOO, THAT YOU DO, SO WELL … — Now here’s a headline — lead or otherwise — that you don’t see every day in your friendly neighborhood Mighty Signal: “TERROR CREATED BY VOODOO RITES IN INDIGENT CAMP.” Percy Robinson was, a — ahem — guest at the Warm Springs detox camp on the way to Lake Elizabeth. He was transported to the Newhall jail after using a baseball bat to threaten several other patients. He was also criticized for using the local flora (acorns, twigs and leaves) to make necklaces during his voodoo ceremonies.   

AFTERNOON SHEEP-COUNTING — I wonder how many Kiwanians stayed awake for this one. On this date, the local service club showed a film — after lunch — entitled: “Sheep, Stars and Solitude.” It was about shepherding in Arizona. Geez. I’ve got to pour the canteen over my head after just reading the title. Wonder if the Kiwanis entertainment chairman was heavily fined or thanked afterward. Something like that sure beats public speaking, on either end. 

EATING HIGH ON THE HOG — A half-century back, The Halfway House offered a special fresh trout seven-course dinner — for $1.50. Next time you’re at our historic eatery up Sierra Highway, ask if it’s still on the menu — and if it’s still a buck-fifty. That’s like, 21 cents per course, not counting tip. You can’t get a cup of coffee for that today, nor an ice cube … 

MARCH 2, 1964 

REPORTER ASKS THE WRONG GAL THE WRONG QUESTION — Signal cub reporter Ed Murdock was stuck with the plum beat: “Question Man.” Ed wandered the streets of the valley, asking womenfolk a single query: “Does Your Husband Help You At Home?” The reviews were mixed. The last lady who was asked really gave her hubbie what-for: “He’s no help at all. In fact, he’s rarely home to do anything. When he should take time to help, as on weekends, he’s out asking strange people silly questions.” The wife in question? Mrs. Ed Murdock. 

RE: THE ABOVE? — Always had a special place in my heart for Ed Murdock. He was my high school journalism teacher. AND — a heck of a ping pong player … 

MARCH 2, 1974 

AND, 50 YEARS AGO, WE WERE ENERGY INDEPENDENT. NOT. — Santa Claritans were a bit testy and I don’t mean high-testy. A half-century back this week, gas stations were closed across the valley due to the Arab Oil Embargo. The few stations that were open had long, stalled caravans of thirsty cars, waiting to fill up. It was on this week in ’74 when the odd-even system began. Depending whether your license plate ended in an odd or even number meant what day of the week you could buy gas. Prices were driven through the roof, too. Imagine. Gasoline at 62.9 cents a gallon. 

MARCH 2, 1984 

BLESS YOUR HEART, DEAR LOU BROWN — Sheriff’s deputy Lou Brown was in the right spot at the right time and a 17-year-old Saugus girl was very glad he was. The young lady was out rather late — 11:30 p.m. — and making a phone call at the Tresierras Market on San Fernando Road. That’s when Brown witnessed the perp, Tony Castro, sneak up behind her and grab her. Castro started ripping the girl’s clothing off and tried to drag her into the parking lot. That’s when Brown hit the siren and gave chase. He lost sight of Castro but more than likely saved the girl from being raped. Castro was caught later.  

THE BIG THIRST OF ’84 — Be conservative with those canteens, saddlepals, while we’re riding through early 1984. No rain at all fell in the months of January and February in the valley. 

TOMMY MOE MOORE NEEDED TO LOSE SOME SERIOUS WEIGHT — Here’s some extreme trivia for you. I’m not sure if it’s a record that still stands today (if any of you amigos over at the Highway Patrol can update this, I’d be appreciative). But on this date, teamster Tommy Moe Moore of Duncan, Oklahoma, and his partner were driving two double rigs of steel when his friend’s rig broke down in Barstow. They loaded the steel from the busted truck onto Moore’s. He ran the weigh station at Castaic and refused, for a while, to be pulled over by CHP officers in hot pursuit. When he was dragged into local court, Judge Adrian Adams charged him a whopping $16,000 fine for his cartoonishly wobbling rig, which was overweight by 48,000 pounds. 

WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND — One of my personal favorites of Scott Newhall’s editorials was published on Leap Year 40 years back. Scotty’s tome was entitled: “Plant Trees, Not Cement.” His lead tells it all: “Funny thing about the California state highway engineers is the fact that they can build the best freeways in the world. But, unfortunately even more often they build the ugliest.” Amen. Funny thing, too? We’ve been fighting the great international cement company, Cemex for about that same number of years, on the exact, same issues. 

•     •     • 

You know, even with the miracle of hopping across dimensions, time sure seems like it’s flying. January and February of 2024 are already gone and it’s March in the here-&-now. Oh well. Nothing to do than to allow ourselves the gift of moseying into yesteryear to more simpler climes. See you in seven, dear saddlepals. Until then — ¡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. If you’ve already got your copy, then leave a kind review on Amazon! 

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