The Time Ranger | When Patty Hearst Hid Out in the SCV  

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

Make sure those fetching designer cowboy and cowgirl hats are on tight. We’ve got low-flying Santa Clarita Valley UFOs overhead. 

It’s going to be a beautiful and exciting trek into the back canyons of Santa Clarita history. There’s gold, heart-breaking tragedy, bad guys, good guys, and one bona fide local hero who SO deserves to be on our Walk of Western Stars. 

C’mon, amigos. Put that left foot in the stirrup, swing up in the saddle and experience how all the problems just simply disappear … 


UFOs LAND IN BOUQUET!! — We were attacked by objects from outer space. But it wasn’t until May 24, 1934, when Joe Rudell found a 13.5-pound meteorite. The “rock” was about 4 by 6 inches, very dark and much heavier than any stone of the same size. It also was not affected by a variety of acids poured onto it. 

TOMMY CAN YOU HEAR ME? — Apologies up front for the ancient The Who band reference. Col. Thomas Mitchell was one of the most influential people in the SCV. He arrived in upper Canyon Country on May 24, 1860, and lived the life of a hermit for a while, holing up in an old miner’s lean-to shack. He married a young girl named Martha and the two of them would build a great ranching empire. Their son, Frank, was born on Nov. 14, 1869, and was one of the first pupils at the second oldest school district in Los Angeles County and would grow to be a prominent rancher in the SCV. Frank Mitchell died on Feb. 13, 1951. The Mitchells still live in this valley today. 

GOLD, BUT NO WATER IN THEM THAR HILLS — When the gold rush of 1842 hit this valley, there were soon about 100 miners digging and panning here. A drought reduced that figure to about 50. With the rains of 1843, the number surged again and the average miner was taking home about $2 a day in dust and small nuggets. By the end of 1843, about 2,000 ounces (reported!) had been removed.  

GOLDDIGGER. BUT NOT THAT KIND OF GOLDDIGGER. — In 1844, another gold camp was founded in San Feliciano Canyon. Jose Salazar, who would soon be the next husband of Dona Jacoba del Valle (she was married to Antonio del Valle, who died in 1841; she inherited half of the Santa Clarita Valley) was rather wealthy himself. He took in about $43,000 in dust in less than two years. The widow del Valle had a way of surrounding herself with powerful men. Her son-in-law, Ignacio, would inherit the other half of the SCV and he was also the future mayor of Los Angeles. Jacoba’s next hubbie, Jose Salazar, was co-Alcalde of Los Angeles. 

YOUR SPANISH SLANG FOR THE DAY — Alcalde originally was a derogatory term, meaning snitch. 

MAY 25, 1924 

AND TELL ME? WHY ISN’T THORNY ON THE CITY’S WALK OF WESTERN STARS? — Thornton Doelle was a Renaissance man — Signal associate editor at the time, local forest ranger, volunteer mounted posse member and poet. So his prose might not be lost, 80 years later, here is one of his verses. It’s entitled, “The Heart of a Rose.” Here goes:  

“Have you ever looked  

In the heart of a rose,  

And read a story there —  

Of tears that burned,  

And a heart that yearned  

For someone who could not care? 

Oh, the mem’ries that cling 

To the end of a day, 

Jealously claim our secret woes; 

Yet each one, out there, 

In the garden somewhere, 

Is known to the heart of a rose.” 

OH HOW WE WISH WE COULD HAVE WARNED THE TRAGIC 500 — One of the tragedies of these Saturday trail rides is that we cannot warn the citizens we visit. On this date, several young members of the Raggio and Ruiz families participated at the graduation program at San Francisquito Elementary. Less than four years later, those young souls, along with about another 500, would lose their lives when the St. Francis Dam burst in one of America’s deadliest tragedies. As for SFE? The little campus would be wiped out by a giant wall of water. 

WHAT’S NEW? COUNTY CROOKS AND CHEAPSKATES! — The seeds of resentment between the SCV and Los Angeles County had been planted decades earlier. On this date, the local Masons unsuccessfully, again, petitioned the L.A. Board of Supervisors to come up with the rent money they owed the local men’s group for letting the county use part of their building as the local courthouse. 

MAY 25, 1934 

KENTUCKY FRIED RATTLESNAKE? — Al Thomas had an unusual way to help him and his family get through the Great Depression. Besides being in the local varmint control business, Al would capture rattlesnakes and sell them at 30 cents a pound. The venomous snakes were used for everything from belts and shoes to food. Yup. Kinda tastes like chicken, albeit a tad tougher no matter what kind of The Colonel’s secret herbs and spices you added … 

SPEAKING OF CRITTERS — Ted Kornelissen was in charge of gathering asses. The four-legged kind. He was chairman of the Fourth of July committee’s Burro Polo Match. He had plenty of jockeys, but not enough burros. 

SAUGUS TO THE ROSE BOWL — “Cowboy” Bob Anderson moved his Baker Ranch (Saugus Speedway today) Rodeo to the Rose Bowl in 1934. Some of America’s top cowboys were attracted to the event for the $5,000 in prize money, including Newhall’s Andy Jauregui.  

WELCOME, AMERICAN LEGION! — On this date, 19 locals were granted a charter to form an American Legion Post in the Santa Clarita. They held their first meeting and planned a party and parade through town to commemorate the founding. 

WONDER IF IT’S STILL AT THE LOCAL SHERIFF’S HQ — On this date, famed movie star William S. Hart donated a beautiful silver cup to the local sheriff’s station. It was a perpetual award called The Quarter Trophy. Local deputies would compete to see who could shoot a quarter at a distance. 

HANG ’EM. — Vandals, probably seeking lost buried Spanish treasure, wrecked much of the old granary at Castaic Junction, at the site of the San Francisco Mission. Archeologist Van Valkenburg and local historian A.B. Perkins had been working on the site. When they returned one morning, they discovered that would-be robbers had visited the satellite mission, prying apart and breaking up the old Spanish tile floor. It had taken a year for Civilian Conservation Corps workers to carefully dig out the dirt atop the floor. 

GETSMEYER. GABSINGER. WHATEVER IT TAKES. — Here’s a sweet correction for a Signal typo. This newspaper’s editor/publisher from 90 years ago mistakenly changed George Getsmeyer’s name for George Gabsinger. Here’s Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher’s correction: “My long hand cannot be called the plainest, and the fault was due to the absence of a typewriter. When we remember that Mr. Getsmeyer is a teacher of things social and metaphysical, the name might be construed as sarcastic, which God forbid was the furthest from the writer’s intent.” 

EEESH. I’M STILL WAITING FOR MY FIRST AIRPLANE. — A Signal feature contemplated the changes of cars in the future. The writer quoted a prediction: “Cars will not be used in 1984; everyone will travel by airplane.” The writer also predicted that in the future, the average highway speed will be a startling 60 mph, but that most would prefer to drive 28 mph around town. 

MAY 24, 1941 

BIRTH OF THE SIT & SCRATCH — The valley’s first full-time movie house, The American Theatre, was established on this date. Those lucky enough to get in were treated to a double bill, newsreels, cartoons, previews of coming attractions, a special showing of William S. Hart’s epic Western, “Tumbleweeds,” and an introductory speech by Two Gun Bill Himself. Interestingly, there was an Army serviceman in the crowd. Hart thanked him for his loyalty to his country, then learned he was a full-blooded Sioux and Hart, who had grown up with the Native Americans, spoke at length to the soldier in Sioux. Oh. The American drew the unasked-for nickname of “Sit & Scratch” later due to an outbreak of fleas and, no. You didn’t have to pay extra for that … 

MAY 25, 1944 

EULA. THAT’S A NO-NO. — Mrs. Eula Lorraine Sedlak walked into the Wayside Honor Rancho as a visitor and ended up a guest. She was caught trying to smuggle opium to her husband. 

BACK IN THE DAY WHEN “COUGAR” MEANT “COUGAR” — Over the years, the Saugus train depot had a lot of unusual cargo dropped off. On this date, Pat Woods was notified there was an extremely urgent package from Washington state waiting for him. It was a chicken wire cage with four mountain lion cubs and a note: “Please feed the cougars warm milk out of a nursing bottle until owner arrives.” The wife of the station manager said she’d warm the milk bottle up, but “… would be darned if she would feed the baby mountain lions.” 

BEYOND TRAGEDY — Certainly, for a parent, there were few stories more horrific than this. Rancher Cyril Wollstenhulme and his wife had loaded a tractor onto the back of a truck and were carting it into town for repair. They sat in the cab. They allowed their three young boys to ride atop the tractor. The tractor broke free, crushing the three boys, killing one and maiming the other two. What an unimaginable day. If anything, we recall these tragedies in hopes that parents will be extra vigilant. 

MAY 25, 1954 

LET NOT THE TOURISTS LEAVE NEWHALL-SAUGUS WITH A SPARE NICKEL — In modern times, we have our big Fourth of July parade on the Fourth of July — even when it falls on a Sunday. But, back in 1954, parade planners would sooner host the Fourth of July parade on Christmas morning than on a Sunday. They decided to host the fest on July 3. The reason was that the thousands of folks who came from out of town — and even locally — would have more money to spend on Saturday than on Monday. 

ANOTHER HEARTBREAKING STORY INVOLVING CHILDREN — Local sheriff’s deputies picked up four girls, ages 10-12. They were hitchhiking on Highway 99, by Towsley Canyon. They said they had no destination in mind, “… anywhere but home,” said one. They told of drunken parents who repeatedly beat them. The four girls were returned to their family in San Fernando. 

2-SHAY. 3-SHAY. WHATEVER IT TAKES… — Some of you truly old-timers will remember the 2-Shay Guest Ranch. It was a restaurant/bar and hotel complete with a swimming pool, up Bouquet Canyon. 

MAY 25, 1964 

AND NARY A SINGLE AD FOR A FARM MONKEY — We were still an agrarian community, as evidenced by The Mighty Signal’s classified ads. There were more listings for farm and livestock than there were for apartment rentals. 

MAY 25, 1974 

BLACK OUT ALL THE YEARBOOKS — Jack Uhey’s family goes all the way back to the 1800s here. The Hart senior was named the Foothill League high school baseball co-MVP. The Mighty Hart High Indian would later go onto to major league fame, winning a game in the World Series. 

PATTY HEARST IN PLACERITA — The radical Symbionese Liberation Army and their hostage, heiress Patricia Hearst, paid a visit to Newhall on this date three decades back. William Harris, 29, and his wife, Emily, 27, stopped in Placerita Canyon, asking if there was a motel in the area. Hearst was the subject of one of the biggest manhunts in history, but, according to Placerita resident Bill Walls, she was the one doing most of the talking. The alleged kidnap victim had earlier been reported to have fired an automatic rifle at a sporting goods clerk in Inglewood when he tried to stop Bill Harris from stealing a pair of socks. Within hours, FBI agents were interviewing old Bill. He identified the married couple and the heiress from photos. Shortly thereafter, his quiet Placerita home was inundated with the nation’s media. I hate that when that happens. Walls described Hearst to The Mighty Signal: “Such a beautiful girl, so pleasant looking. She just smiled so nice. What under the sun would have caused her to do something like this?” 

NEVER GIVE A MILLIMETER? — At the time, Santa Clarita, along with the rest of America, was being dragged kicking and screaming into “metrication.” Locals were more than upset about impending plans to go from inches, feet, miles ounces, pounds, tons, cups, quarts and gallons. Replacing them were the likes of centimeters, meters, kilometers, kilograms, grams, milliliters and liters. Because of the furor, the government never did completely make the transfer. Thank goodness. 

MAY 25, 1984 

YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY. “THERE’S NO BUSINESS, LIKE FARM BUSINESS” — The Newhall Land & Farming Co. may be known for condos, but it also made a few extra coins leasing out its land to movie companies for locations. Nick Nolte was in “Under Fire” in which actors rode elephants for an African battle scene — filmed in Piru. Clint Eastwood ran for his life in the movie, “Firefox.” But instead of sprinting through Russia, Clint was running along the banks of the Santa Clara River. With so many commercials, TV shows and movies filmed on Newhall Land, well, ahem — land — the company had their own full-time movie location coordinator. Weldon Sipe oversaw 306 productions in 1983. 

THE LONG LOST SAUGUS TRIBUNE — I sometimes wonder whatever became of some folk. Case in point, Justin Miller. On this date, he produced the one and only known issue of The Saugus Tribune. Miller’s lead story was about the collision of U.S. and Soviet naval vessels. He even hand drew the relief map of Iran and the Caspian Sea, along with sketching a rather remarkable likeness of Walter Mondale, who had just beaten Jesse Jackson in the Illinois primary. What made the publisher so amazing was that Justin Miller was in the fourth grade at Baptist Day School. That was 40 years ago. I wonder if Justin went into journalism or did something respectable with his life? 


I so appreciate the good company, dear saddlepals. Thanks for being such companiable friends and neighbors. What say we tempt the gods and all get back together with another exciting Time Ranger next weekend? Hugs, headbutts and “¡Vayan con Dios, amigos!”  

If you do love local history and reading about ghosts, myths and monsters, visit Boston’s bookstore at Pick up JB’s two-volume set of local horror and macabre … 

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