The Time Ranger | SCV Sasquatch Offered a Job Hauling Trash? 

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

That orange orb menacingly rising in the east? That’s what we old-timers call, “the sun.” Some of you saddlepals might be hiding under blanket or pillow. Some of you may still be snoring in the front seat of your Lexus, surviving some heinous local charity bash from last night. 

No better cure for a hangover or dancing too much than a horseback ride. The nice thing about trail riding back in time, we can return to a point before you over-indulged. 

This morning, we’ve a most interesting trek ahead, what with local plague victims, giant grizzly bear attacks, below freezing Junes and terrorists. 

Why, we even have a local Bigfoot sighting. 

C’mon, amigos. The old-timers are already up in the saddle. You yuppies dig through your closet, find those Joe Namath square-toed Dingo poor-excuse-for-cowboy boots and slip them on. It’d help if you had at least pants and a blanket to complete the ensemble …  


NAMED BY A FILTHY GROCER — The Civil War had only been over for three years when the Soledad Post Office was founded on June 12, 1868. The birth was rather complicated. Soledad was this floating tent city that followed the latest gold or silver strike up and down the Santa Clara River and Soledad Canyon.  

The population would shrink to less than 100 and grow to over 1,000, depending on how hot the strikes were. In trying to establish a post office, the federal government noted that Soledad would have to establish roots and change its name. It seems there was a Soledad in Northern California and postal officials did not want to get the mail confused. Well. More confused.  

A federal official was talking with a store owner, Jim O’Reilly. O’Reilly was an interesting character. Historical accounts paint him as a constantly filthy and ill-kempt soul, one you didn’t want touching your produce. At the time, there was a semi-permanent settlement halfway between modern Agua Dulce and Acton.  

The postal official asked O’Reilly on the spot to name the settlement. O’Reilly then saw his friend, Manuel Ravenna, a Genoan stage owner and businessman, walk by. And so the community was named. Up until the early 1970s, that area was still called Ravenna. It’s a campground today. Ravenna still appears on many maps. 

WHEN IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET TO BAKERSFIELD — It would become one of the world’s most dangerous highways. On June 15, 1915, construction on the Ridge Route began. When it was first opened, the grades were so steep, big rig trucks could only climb up at a rate of 2 mph. Downhill was a nightmare as many braking systems for the bigger vehicles would break but not brake. 

MORE ON ANCIENT TRUCKS? — In the early 20th century, every major truck manufacturer in the United States would send, usually via rail, their new trucks to be tested here in Santa Clarita. They figured if they could make it up and down the new Ridge Route, they could drive anywhere in America. 

RIDGE ROUTE, PART 3 — In an article from the AAA Magazine at the time, the writer noted that people who made the trip from Newhall to Bakersfield and lived to tell about it, wrote adventure books about the trek. 

THAT AIN’T CHICKEN FEED — A clipping from the old Los Angeles Herald noted that a Mrs. Erwin made $300 a month profit from her chicken ranch in Soledad Canyon. That was back in 1894. It was more than most local farmers were bringing home midway throughout the 20th century. 

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE AND DON’T TELL ME YOU CUT IT SHAVING — Local rancher John Kuhrts wrote in his diary that he and John Searles took a big mule team from San Francisco through Newhall in 1887. Searles would later be attacked by a giant grizzly bear and nearly have his face torn off near Frazier Park. 

EVER WONDER WHERE HASKELL CANYON GOT ITS NAME? — I don’t. In 1890, John Haskell traded 160 acres in Los Angeles for 1,400 acres in Saugus. Haskell’s grandson, Bailey, who is 94 today, noted in 1964 “… that it was the poorest move he ever made, considering the value of property today in Los Angeles.” Personally, I’m glad the Haskells stuck around. I used to live in the house Bailey built, with hand-made adobe bricks. 

JUNE 15, 1924 

GLOBAL COOLING — Here it was, middle of June, and the temperature was unseasonably cold. Folks in some of the canyons reported lows in the lower 30s. That’s more than sweater weather … 

MINT CANYON ELEMENTARY. HOME OF THE RED-HOT KIDS. — The Mint Canyon School almost burned on this date. Just about everyone in the canyon rushed over to fight the brush fire as it licked right up to the wooden school walls. 

JUNE 15, 1934 

HOUSE GETS BUILT!! STOP THE PRESSES!!! — We were such a small town of a few hundred souls, that whenever someone built a house, it was usually front-page news. Gaylord Smith broke ground on his Market Street property on this date. He was the son of George Babcock Smith, the man who owned the original Horseshoe Ranch, which, today, is William S. Hart Park. 

SUSPICIOUS BEARDY BEHAVIOR — Years ago, the menfolk of Santa Clarita used to compete in a beard-growing contest. The winner was announced at the Fourth of July festivities. On this date, four Newhall men motored to downtown Los Angeles to testify in a court case. On the way back, they stopped in front of a big bank to run an errand in an adjacent office. The four men were all sporting beards that had long passed from the sublime to the ridiculous. As three of them sat in the car with the motor running, LAPD officers pulled in from all directions. Guns drawn, they ordered them out of the car with their hands up. Seems someone called the cops and thought four men with fake beards were holding up the savings institution. No one was shot and, after an explanation of Newhall’s quaint hair growing contest and a polite tug on the tufts, the men were released. 

JUNE 15, 1944 

OUR LONG-FORGOTTEN MINIMALIST OUTDOOR JAIL — The estate of Judge John Powell put up his old lot for sale. Powell had a home at where Walnut, Ninth, Chestnut and Eight Streets are. There used to be a giant oak and under that shade, in the hotter months, Judge Powell used to hold outdoor court. Sometimes, the perps would be chained to the tree. 

ANOTHER FALLEN HERO — We lost another local boy on the World War II front. Jim Bartlett, former firefighter here, died when his transport ship was sunk by an Axis submarine. 

SHARP AS TAX? — People showed their patriotism with their pocketbooks. The property tax delinquency rate here was the lowest in L.A. County history. 

THANKS, BEVERLY HILLS, FOR OUR HIGH SCHOOLS!! — A new state law requiring that seventh- and eighth-grade students stop attending grammar school and attend high school (providing there was one in their area) was one of the top reasons why locals began trying to get a high school here in the valley. Prior to 1945, the older kids went over the hills to either San Fernando or Lancaster. Locals didn’t like the idea of little seventh- or eighth-graders being that far from home all day. There had been talk of building our own high school for years. We were part of the elephantine Los Angeles Unified School District, which oversaw ALL the high schools in the county — until the citizens of Beverly Hills sued to break away in the 1940s. That successful lawsuit was the precedent that allowed the Santa Clarita Valley to create the William S. Hart Union High School District in 1945. 

JUNE 15, 1954 

IN THE 15TH CENTURY? THAT WORKS OUT TO ZERO. — Here’s a staggering indicator of the Santa Clarita population explosion. In 1954, we had just one high school, Hart. Forever home of The Mighty Indians. Hart had 68 graduates. A half-century later, in 2004, there would be more than 2,600 seniors graduating from the valley’s campuses, public and private. Fun with numbers? That works out to 7.647 high school seniors per square mile in our valley. 

MORE ELMER FUDD HUNTING ANECDOTES — A visiting L.A. man was teaching his son firearm safety. Pops shot himself in the leg during the lecture. Another out-of-town hunter shot his companion in the foot while looking for deer, because, knowing deer, you know how underfoot they can get. Under new Fish & Game rules, the shooter with the foot that looked like Swiss cheese lost his hunting privileges for life. 

JUNE 15, 1964 

RFK & RFK JR. — On this date, The Mighty Signal launched a new featured called “News Reals.” Nothing new, it took stock photos of famous people and inserted allegedly funny voice boxes over their heads. The inaugural panel was of Robert F. Kennedy, who would be assassinated four years later at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Along with RFK, a Newhall woman, Betty Evans, was also shot by Sirhan Sirhan. Despite being hit in the head, Mrs. Evans suffered only a superficial wound. I’ve often noted that history is circular. Sixty years later, RFK’s son, like his father, is running for president. 

JUNE 15, 1974 

THE WORLD’S WORST PHONE PLAN — Agua Dulce has long enjoyed a reputation as an outpost. Businessman Dick Madigan knew this only too well. He had business in both Palmdale and Newhall and had to make toll calls to both places. Madigan solved the problem by getting two separate telephones — one number in Palmdale and one number in Newhall. Madigan noted the downside: “It costs me 40 cents to call from my bedroom to my kitchen.” 

POTUS IS A NO-SHOW — Much of the Santa Clarita Valley was getting ready for the Aug. 12 arrival of Gerald Ford. The vice president was scheduled to speak before thousands at California Institute of the Arts. Back then, we had something called the Women’s Chamber of Commerce and president Flo Cheseborough was in charge of lining up Andy Gumps for as many as 10,000. Gerald would end up being our most famous no show. Some tiny inconvenience popped up that day he was supposed to speak at CalArts: President Richard M. Nixon resigned. And Ford? He had to be sworn in back in D.C. as president. 

SASQUATCH TAKES OUT THE TRASH — We’ve had Bigfoot sightings recorded all the way back to the 1940s here in the SCV. On this date, Jackson McBride reported a chilling tale to local sheriff’s deputies. McBride, his son and the boy’s friend reported seeing eerie lights on their Lost Canyon hog ranch. They also reported spotting a 9-foot-tall hairy humanoid standing in a pig pen. What made the deputies wince was that the creature was wearing a blue belt around its ample waist. Officers investigated the site, but found no footprints. They did bump into a man hauling trash from the farm and questioned him. The man quipped he hadn’t spot anyone 9 feet tall — hairy or not — lately. The trash hauler asked the lawmen that if they did bump into someone matching the description, to please send him back because he could sure use the help loading his truck. 

NEVER GET TIRED OF REMINDING STEVE — On this date, Steve Dixon was named Placerita Junior High’s top athlete. Yes. It’s the same Steve Dixon who missed the lay-up years later against Verbum Dei that would have sent Hart High to a certain CIF championship in basketball.  

THE PROPHETIC SIGNAL PARAGRAPHIST — That rascal Scott Newhall penned another of his famous above-the-fold front-page editorials. This one was entitled: “Keep Your Asses Down, And Find A New Hero.” The provocative title led into a rather trenchant — and hauntingly prophetic — look at the new burgeoning phenomenon of small, zealous, psychotic and militant political groups around the world. Quoth Scott: “They rise and fall, overnight, like colonies of Mediterranean fruit flies. They fight and die, frightening the world for a few brief bloody minutes, and then they fade into yesterday.” Scott also predicted: “We are in the middle of a new world war right now, and if we do not do something quickly about cleaning out the rot this new world war is going to spread, and spread fast.” The headline? It came from terrorist/hostage/heiress Patty Hearst: “You have to keep your ass down, come out shooting, and then start asking your questions later on.” 

THE PUNISHMENT FITTING THE CRIME? — Henry Battle was the driver behind the huge gravel truck that ended the lives of three local small children. Battle was cited by the California Highway Patrol for having faulty brakes. On this date, in his day in court, he was fined $50. 

“AND LET’S CUT TO THAT HELICOPTER FOOTAGE OF THE HIGH-SPEED CHASE ON HIGHWAY 14…” — Hart senior Laura Diaz was one of the speakers at her graduation 50 years back. For years, Ms. Diaz has been an L.A. TV news anchor. More importantly, she was the kid sister of my pal, Eddie. Hart had 513 graduates. Canyon sent 363 grads into the world, making it a grand total of 876 for the entire valley. 

“GIVE ME THE THREE-IRON. OH. NEVER MIND.” — On this date, Peter McBean, great grandson of town founder Henry Mayo Newhall, had his golf clubs stolen from his cart at Big Valencia. The set was worth $600.   

JUNE 16, 1984 

JUST A MOMENT PLEASE, I CAN’T FIND MY FLEAS — With apologies to the “Itsy-Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” song, here’s something that will hopefully get you into your doctor’s office for a check-up. On this date, a Frazier Park man died of the Black Plague. He was one of two cases reported in L.A. County. Yup. The other guy died, too. The disease is carried by fleas. It’s quite curable, unless it goes untreated. 


Drat if that isn’t our particular time portal up yonder. Time to return to the Santa Clarita, with all its blessings and humdrummia. “Humdrummia” is what my dopey sister-like substance Leslie Ann calls the life safe and predictable. See you companionable friends and neighbors seven days hence with another exciting Time Ranger. ’Til 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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