The Time Ranger | Grave Robbers, Nuclear War & Spencer Tracy  

The Timer Ranger
Time Ranger

C’mon, dear saddlepals. Roll out of the bunks and hop into those jeans. Don’t make me say the obvious. You get double minus bonus points if we catch you in jeans that have been pressed, have pleats or a designer label like Jordache, Naked & Famous or Toys R Us. Ditto with anything tie-dyed or self-mutilated to make someone believe they got worn out working.  

Ahead on the trail for us this morn’? There’s 8-track bootleggers, killer outlaw horses and heinous bulldozer/nap accidents waiting … 


AND TONY WAS NO MORE — On June 21, 1841, less than two years after being given the ENTIRE Santa Clarita Valley in lieu of back military wages, Antonio del Valle died. He left half the valley to his widow and half to his oldest son, Iggy. Well. Technically, Ignacio. 

AND BILL WAS NO MORE — On June 23, 1846, William S. Hart died. Easily the most influential citizen of this valley in the 20th century, Hart left his estate and grounds to the county to be used as a park. Most of the town of Newhall shut down the day he died. In Los Angeles, they were holding a giant rodeo when the announcement of the death of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars was made over the PA. There was hardly a dry eye in the stadium when a cowboy stepped to the microphone to sing: “Oh Bury Me Not, on the Lone Prairie.” Hart’s legacy stays with us nearly a century later. 

ONE EPICALLY BAD TRADE — Back in 1916, Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Short homesteaded up Mint Canyon. They raised horses. Almost a century ago, they traded one of their colts, oddly named Vixen, to George Green. Vixen may not have liked the name or George because a couple of years later, he kicked Mr. Green to death. 

THE ANCIENT “ROAD OF DESPAIR” — Few folks realize that Grapevine Canyon originally ran through the Santa Clarita Valley. In the 1850s, it was the name of the road from the Mission San Francisco in Castaic to Mission San Fernando. Crossing over to the SFV side in Whitney Canyon, travelers had to go through a rather thick tangle of wild grapes, hence, the name. The road was also called “El Camino Desesperar” — or, “Road of Despair.” It was very treacherous and meant only for hiking or horses. Sometimes, a hearty soul would attempt to bring a small cart up and over the rugged mountains. The gullies and ravines were littered with goods, wagons and skeletons that had slipped over the edge.  

WHEN SANTA CLARITA WAS CALLED HOSMERS — I’ve often commented on how many names this valley has had over the decades. The old Lyons stage station near Eternal Valley today was also called Fountain’s Station, Hart’s Station (no relation to Two-Gun Bill) and Hosmers. The place would be called a different name after whomever was station manager at the time. Before there was a Newhall in 1876, that station was the valley’s center of population and it was called Andrews. The place was chosen for a delicious natural spring that bubbled out of the ground. John C. Fremont and his brigands stayed there, waiting for word on whether they would be ambushed at Newhall Pass. (They weren’t.) 

POPULATION NON-EXPLOSION — An early county directory from 1875 listed 20 men living at Lyon Station, eight in Placerita Canyon and 30 in Soledad. (There were actually many more in Soledad around that time — they just weren’t listed as permanent residents). 

MURDER UP HOLLANDSVILLE WAY — In 1860, the old Moore’s Stage Depot up San Francisquito Canyon was the site of a gruesome murder. Three men, described as Mexican, were accused of beating to death two tourists, a J.T. Williams from Wisconsin and G.W. Laughly of Ohio. The depot used to be called Hollandsville. The Moore family still has relatives living here in the SCV. Talk about tracing your roots … 

BUCKS & OUR ONE-EYED GOD — This isn’t exactly an epic historical tidbit, but it sure adds that necessary color to the past. From an old Signal interview years back, historian A.B. Perkins was asked if the good old days were so good. He exploded with laughter, noting: “Why in those days, you would think nothing of taking off in the middle of the week to take your family on a picnic. Today, all people seem to think of is the dollar and watching television.” Perk: It hasn’t changed much. 

IN BABY TALK, IT’S CROW ON A DONKEY — In Spanish, Camulos means Juniper tree. In Chumash, it means “house of refuge.” 

JUNE 22, 1924 

OUR FIRST CAR DEALERSHIP — Long before there was Creekside Road with its inventory of thousands of cars valued in the tens of millions, there was J.W. Doty. He opened the first car dealership here in the SCV, selling Fords. On this date, business was so good, he had to tear down a section of his building on what would be Railroad Avenue today. He expanded by doubling his floor size. When Model T Fords came out in 1909, they were a staggering price — $850. By 1924, that price would tumble to a quite attainable $260. Mind you, houses in town cost just $600, on a full acre. Wonder what Jess would think of selling a top-of-the-line Ford pick-up in 2024 for a hundred thousand dollars? 

JUNE 22, 1934 

ANOTHER HOMICIDE BY HORSEY — Stockwell J. Smith should have stayed in Newhall. Stocky had homesteaded here in the 1920s and found the place a bit crowded. He moved to Oregon to raise horses and, on this date, was killed by an outlaw wild stallion on a roundup. 

AND NO ONE DIED AT OUR HITCHING POST — Ninety years ago, the Blue Eagle Cafe in downtown Newhall actually had a hitching post and watering trough in front of it. Geez. I remember our old house had a hitching post by the front porch up until the 1990s. Ah, the good old days. 

JUNE 22, 1944 

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA VISITS — We had several Spencer Tracy sightings in the valley 60 years back. On this date, the classic, “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” was being filmed in Pico Canyon, with Oscar-winner Tracy. We should point out that Signal Editor Fred Trueblood spelt Tokyo, “Tokio.” 

TAKING THAT PERMANENT LUNCH BREAK — Lazaro Wucetich took his last nap on a Newhall Land & Farming Co. field, leased by another company. After a hard morning’s work, Wucetich ate his lunch and took what he thought would be a quick snooze under the raised blade of a giant Caterpillar bulldozer. His friend hopped up to likewise take a nap in the shaded seat of the earth mover. That’s when he accidentally hit the shovel release. It crashed, killing Wucetich instantly.  

BOMB HOUSES — You can still see some of the quaint cottages built during the housing crunch of World War II. They are on Chestnut and Walnut and were called the Bermite Tract and were rented out to defense workers at the big Saugus ordnance factory. On this date, phase II was started and 50 more Bermite homes were built. 

JUNE 22, 1954 

ANOTHER KIND OF BOMB HOUSES — Several solemn community leaders met at the Newhall Park building to study what the effect would be on the SCV should Los Angeles be hit with a nuclear bomb. It was part of a nationwide civil defense test. The made-up scenarios were chilling. They included tens of thousands of people from Southern California, many of them injured or sick from radiation poisoning, in a panic evacuation to the Newhall area. Bedlam was painted, with the scenario including cars with the dead blocking the highways. Thousands of evacuees would be pounding on the doors of local homes. Major fires had broken out around the valley. Editor Fred Trueblood summed up the post-disaster planning: “It was a little bit hazy, a little bit hesitant, a little bit confused. But behind it loomed the awful possibility that something like the pretended major emergency might, at some time, be an awful reality.” 

I HATE LIKE HECK TO OFFER A DISCLAIMER, BUT — Can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared stories like the above. Afterward, I’ll get a letter, written in surprise, where the author didn’t know L.A. had an atomic bomb dropped on it. Setting the record straight, it was an atom bomb DRILL … 

O RARE AND GOOD DR. PETERS — For decades, we had our own Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Her name was Dr. Sarah Peters. She had set up office here in the 1920s and was still working at age 78. On this date, she appeared the Channel 2 show: “You’re Never Too Old.” 

FRIED FRED — Fred Baker never got a chance to appear on “You’re Never Too Old.” The Wayside Honor Rancho inmate electrocuted himself on this date. He was shifting some irrigation pipes when he lifted one of the 20-footers way up in the air, touching some high-tension wires.  

JUNE 22, 1964 

HIS ‘LITTLE BUDDY’ WAS A NO-SHOW — We picked our grand marshal for the 1964 Fourth of July parade. Actor Allan Hale Jr. had just finished filming the pilot for an upcoming TV series. It was something about a bunch of castaways on a faraway jungle atoll. I’m not sure if it was ever a hit, but the series would eventually be called “Gilligan’s Island.” OK, saddlepals. Sing it with me, con gusto: “A three-hour tour … a three-hour tour …” 

YOU CAN BANK ON IT — Nine local businessmen filed to establish a national bank in the valley. It would eventually become Santa Clarita National. Most of you old-timers will remember the names of the nine: my childhood person-of-cowpal Walt Fisher; Bob Fitzpatrick, the sporting goods and hardware fellow; Carleton Hadley (who had that great junk place); turkey rancher Curt Huntsinger; farmer Frank Lombardi; builder Jack Nelson; Paul Palmer the grocer; and, Carl Peters the ambulance driver. E.J. “Aggie” Agajanian, who had started out in the valley picking up trash in his pickup truck, was the lead man and the bank’s founder. Santa Clarita was bought by Security, which was bought by Bank of America. I know. I’ve had three checking accounts and never closed one or changed my bank once.  

JUNE 22, 1974 

WHY CAN’T IDIOTS BE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES? — Grave desecration. It’s older than the pyramids. Vandals struck the old Mitchell Cemetery near Sand Canyon, knocking over tombstones and digging up the grave of Ellen Dyer, who died in 1906. No human remains were disturbed. Seems like idiots have been invading the sanctuary up there for years, breaking or even stealing tombstones and digging the place up. Hope they get haunted good, too. 

OR MAYBE A CHANCE VISIT FROM THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON? — On this date, without benefit of breaking a good bottle of champagne, the county launched their newest floating craft: the S.S. Relief. It was a floating toilet on Castaic Lake for boaters. Or swimmers, snorkelers or potty-trained guppies, I guess.  

ROPE-A-DOPE ANTELOPE — Magic Mountain was literally the home where the deer and antelope roamed. The amusement park held a press party and the citified reporters were treated to a rare sight: a couple of deer and an antelope were grazing outside the boundaries of the park. The deer were wild. And, well, so was the antelope. As we haven’t had antelope in Santa Clarita for some 150 years, the latter had escaped from the children’s petting zoo. 

8-TRACKS. 9-TRACKS. WHATEVER IT TAKES. — On this date, a Reseda man was arrested for selling bootleg music. Some of you are so young, you may have never even seen something called an “8-track.” Those were the bulky, video cassette-sized music providers. The out-of-towner was busted for having 1,225 bootleg cassettes. 

JUNE 22, 1984 

OBVIOUSLY, THEY WEREN’T RAISED BY JIM VENTRESS — The Boys & Girls Club set yet another record. They took in around $185,000 for their annual auction 40 years back. Bonus, one of the rare brawls took place at the valley’s largest charity event. Two men, who had been arguing all evening, got into a fracas at the checkout line. There seems to have been a junior-high-style disagreement over who had been in line first. One fellow, who had bought an expensive bottle of wine, used the bottle to conk the other guy in the back of the head. He was arrested. 

DON’T LOOK NOW, BUT I’M GUESSING IT JUST GOT WORSE — Local high schoolers were given a current events test. Half of the 643 taking the test didn’t even get ONE answer right on the geography portion, although everyone did well in identifying Michael Jackson. 


I don’t know about you, but all this riding, I’ve developed a healthy appetite. Hm. Let’s see. Let me reach into my shirt pocket and pull out this Post-It reminder. Yup. It says, “Hay for the Horse and Rib-Eye for Me.” You folks be kind to one another and I’ll see you with another exciting Time Ranger adventure next week. Until then?  “¡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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