The Time Ranger | Two, Count Them, TWO Lone Rangers! 

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

A warm and Western howdy to you, dear saddlepals, as we start knocking on the door of summer. We’ve a most interesting trek ahead into the foothills and back canyons of Santa Clarita history. In the key of R-rupted flat, as my pal John Duarte likes to estimate it, let us sing Happy Birthday to the original Newhall Land & Farming Co. Let’s also ride gingerly past squirrel wranglers, lepers from south of the border, the Lone Ranger (both of them) and look back at The Mighty Signal’s take on when boys could marry at 14 and girls at 12.  

Make sure to take your dusters. We’ll also be riding in the rain. What say we rein our horses toward that compelling vortex up yonder and see what used to be? You’ll be truly amazed this trek, dear friends … 


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BIGGEST BIZ IN TOWN — Back on June 1, 1883, six signatures and the issuing of 10,000 shares of stock set into motion arguably the most profound set of circumstances in Santa Clarita Valley history. Margaret Jane Newhall, widow of Henry Mayo Newhall, and their five sons (kinda, it’s a complicated family) founded The Newhall Land & Farming Co. The boys took 1,250 each and Margaret kept 2,500. The original company included 143,000 acres — or 225 square miles — of prime California real estate. The boys, at the time, were from 21 to 30 years old. Not a bad inheritance for being so young. Some love the company. For others, it’s a burr under their saddle. But, they have provided thousands of homes and millions of dollars in charity over the decades, back in the days when they were more involved with the community. Happy birthday, saddlepals and saddlepal-ettes. 

JUNE 8, 1924 

SOMETHING SEEMS UNMISTAKABLY SQUIRRELY HERE IN WILDWOOD — Back in 1924, there was a dirt road leading to Wildwood Canyon, built by the sweat of local men. Wildwood was just being divided — not into housing units, but into campground lots. The average lots were a quarter of an acre, but were as small as 40 by 60 and as big as nearly an acre. They were being sold primarily to city folks who came out here for nature. At the time, the developers of the project were planning to build a recreation hall, dance floor and swimming pool. A little earlier, Wildwood Canyon was home to a squirrel ranch that raised the varmints to make fur coats. Eeesh. Imagine giving a squirrel coat to a beloved. “Thanks, honey. You shouldn’t of. I mean, really …” 

AND NO RELATION TO ROCKY, THE FLYING SQUIRREL — This may be the first and only time that the phrase, “Squirrel Wrangler” is mentioned in these august graphs. So here goes. The, ahem, “Squirrel Wrangler,” who started the coat business in Wildwood Canyon in the 1920s went out of business just about a year after opening up shop. I read a report that his — ahem, again — squirrel ranch was filled with cages housing the larger grey squirrels. When he closed shop, the owner freed hundreds of the varmints. They quickly spread throughout the valley, driving out the indigenous red squirrels. I know. I know. Red Squirrel. Good band name … 

SQUIRRELS, PART III — A gathering of squirrels is called a, “dray” or a “scurry.” This WILL be on the final … 

SQUIRRELS, PART QUATRO — Any puns, aloud or mumbled, linking rapper Dr. Dre and a dray of tree rats, will be cause to banish you to the back of today’s posse … 

EXITING THIS GLORIOUS PARENTHESIS IN HORRIFIC FASHION — Meanwhile, across the valley, another shepherd in our paradise campground found this world too hurtful. H.W. Balestier of upper Mint Canyon, owner of a popular vacation spot campground nestled under the oaks, committed suicide. Shot himself in the head and didn’t leave a reason. Relatives were stunned. Except for some health problems, Ol’ H.W. seemed happy. He was a Newhall Mason. 

GINGER. JIN-JER. WHATEVER IT TAKES. — The first-ever Signal column of A.B. “Dad” Thatcher appeared on this date, a whole century back. Dad would buy The Mighty Signal a year later in 1925. But, on June 6, 1924, his first Jin-Jer Jar column appeared. As with many a first effort at prose, it was pert near awful. However, Dad did have one interesting paragraph in his “items” column. It read: “Wouldn’t it be about the right thing for the charitable Americans to take a lay-off the next time any foreign nation has a great calamity? None of them seem to appreciate the gifts.” Seems true nearly a century later. Next week, “Dad” would appear in the publisher’s box as the associate editor. 

JUNE 8, 1934 

JUNE GLOOM, JUNE SHOWERS — We had two small rain storms waltz through the valley the first week of June, 1934. The first left nearly three-quarters of an inch and the second dumped a half-inch. Old-timers from the 1930s reported that, in the 19th century, June was actually and frequently a wet month. Actually, I’m on the record for being all in favor of EVERY SCV month being a wet month … 

AT THOSE PRICES, ONE COULD START A SERIOUS RANCH — Fortunately for local ranchers, cattle prices were up nearly a buck per hundred-weight from a year earlier. Grass-fed steers were going for as high as $7 per. 

PLANNING YOUR 6TH-GRADE GRADUATION AND WEDDING RECEPTION FOR THE SAME DAY — Before there was Palmdale Bashing, there were the Louisianans to pick on. A Signal editorial was outraged that the legal age for marriage in that state was 14 for boys and 12 for girls. What a concept. Getting hitched before your growth spurt … 

AMEN, BOY HOWDY. TRY FINDING A NON-PORNOGRAPHY FLICK TODAY — The Signal also called for the motion picture industry to clean up its act. In an editorial, owner A.B. Thatcher lamented how our youth were being corrupted by violence and racy themes. 

JUNE 8, 1944 

TERRORISM IS NOTHING NEW — During World War II, the local Southern California Gas Co. closed their branch in Newhall to the public. Folks used to go in to pay their gas bill, but for most of the war, SCG locked the doors and customers paid their bills at Newhall Pharmacy. On this date, SCG opened their doors again to the public. 

EXCUSE US? NOTHING IS BIGGER THAN NEWHALL!!! — You law enforcement officers might get a kick out of this one. On this date, local deputies Brown & Parnell tried to pull over a big double rig DuPont Chemical tanker truck for doing 45 in a 25 through town. The driver sped up to nearly 60. When they wrote him up and ordered him to appear, he took the ticket, but said he wouldn’t show. He said DuPont was bigger than Newhall. 

JUNE 8, 1954 

LEPROSY IN NEWHALL — Signal editor Fred Trueblood, in his weekly column, “The Signal Tower,” noted that Mexican immigrants were sneaking into the valley in increasing numbers. Wrote Fred I: “These people are good people, and deserving of sympathy.” He went on to list their lengthy and good character traits. Trueblood though, said that something must be done simply on a health basis as one Nacionale who had been picked up locally, had leprosy. 

OILY OILY AUCTION FREE — The California Standard Oil Co. celebrated its 75th Anniversary. It was originally the Pacific Coast Oil Co., founded right here in Newhall in 1879. The SCV still holds the record for many “firsts.” We drilled the first commercial oil well in the West back in 1876 with Pico No. 4 — a state historical landmark today that pumped oil for well over a century. We had the first commercial oil refinery. In 1903, the Standard boys laid the first major pipeline from the San Joaquin Valley, through the SCV and on into L.A. Standard also started the first gas station in America in Seattle in 1907 and discovered the vast oil reserves in Bahrain in 1932 and in Saudi Arabia in 1938. 

JUNE 8, 1964 

SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE THAT CIGARETTE — Tex Williams was one of country/western music’s biggest stars. He was managed by another local legend, Cliffie Stone, of Sand Canyon fame. Tex had a nightclub out here and the abandoned building still sits on Newhall Avenue, across from Green Thumb nursery. Tex was famous for his 1947 hit, “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.” He also had chart busters in “Suspicion,” “Poker Club” and “That’s What I Like About the West.” Interestingly, Tex was born in Ramsey, Illinois, in 1917 and started singing professionally at 5. You could say his father really liked his mother because Tex had nine brothers and two sisters. He was in a band with his father and brothers and used to yodel — at a rather high-pitched level. His voice changed dramatically as a teen and he developed that famous bass tone. He got his name in 1938 when a promoter put together a trio he named Oakie, Arkie and Tex. He kept that name the rest of his life. You might, too, if you were named Sollie Paul. Tex, who had a house in Newhall’s Happy Valley, died in 1985. He is remembered on Newhall’s Walk of Western Stars. 

JUNE 8, 1974 

SERIOUSLY. NO BALONEY. — Perhaps we should consider inducting him into Newhall’s Walk of Western Stars. Santa Clarita is famous for being the home to many a famous movie actor. One of the stars of Mel Brooks’ famed comedy, “Blazing Saddles,” hails from out here. He lived on Bob Scott’s ranch. His name? Baloney. No last name, just like Madonna. Baloney was the Brahma bull in the flick that Alex Karras rode.  

A TROUBLED HOME FOR TROUBLED YOUTH — Back in April 1974, Camp Scott in Bouquet Canyon changed from a probation camp to a detention center. Since that date, dozens of juvenile delinquents had escaped. The move was because of epic problems at the county’s downtown detention center. A wide variety of charges, including unsanitary food, homosexual rape, youths sleeping on the floor and gang violence, caused the L.A. juvenile jail to move some of their offenders out to Santa Clarita. 

BURYING THE BURNED BRASSIERE — Five decades back, students from Miss Rochelle Thomas’ sociology class buried a casket filled with memorabilia of their day — a burned bra, rock ‘n’ roll records, birth control pills, a marijuana leaf, copies of Playboy and Playgirl magazines and some Signal front-page items regarding Watergate, along with other items of the day. They buried the time capsule at the Valencia Civic Center and were supposed to come back on June 1, 2000, to retrieve it. They waited until the fall, during the Hart-Canyon football game. They were the only two high schools in existence locally in 1974. Rochelle Thomas became Rochelle Neal and was a local principal by 2000. 

MY GOODNESS! THOSE NAKED PEOPLE CAN BE SEEN FROM SATELLITES IN SPACE!! — The Sheriff’s Department received a complaint about a family in Valencia that bathed in their pool in the nude. According to the report, the neighbor complained: “I can see them just as clear as anything with my binoculars.” 

CRIPES. I HOPE HE’S FORGIVEN ME. — On this date, Jim Behan won the state amateur freestyle wrestling title in the 192-pound division. It’s not that I was mean to him when he was a kid, but I kept him perhaps too long in a couple of headlocks. Sorry. 

HISTORY’S CIRCULAR. SO’S SHOW BIZ — On this date, Billy Barty and his Little People Baseball Team played a charity fund-raising game with the coaches of Wm. S. Hart Baseball. Barty, a noted film and TV star, had performed here at Newhall Elementary in the 1930s as a young man in a traveling vaudeville show. 

‘CONSTANT’ COMMENT? — Frank Lebrun died on this date. He was 95. Frank was the last of the valley’s old-time muleskinners. When he was 6, he moved into the SCV from the Antelope Valley. His father, Constant Lebrun, homesteaded 160 acres in San Francisquito Canyon in the early 1880s. As an older boy, Frank’s first paying job was cutting down oak trees throughout the valley for The Newhall Land & Farming Co. They sold the oak for firewood and charcoal for Los Angeles bakeries. As of 1974, remains of one of the old kilns was still viewable in a canyon off Interstate 5.  

Lebrun cowboyed for years and was a 20-mule team driver who helped build the California Aqueduct and St. Francis Dam. (In the early 20th century, there used to be a huge mule lot at the present intersection of Bouquet and Soledad.) Historian A.B. Perkins had witnessed the craft of these teamsters. It was an amazing feat to keep 20 mules going, especially around the treacherous narrow dirt canyon passes around the valley. It was especially comic when a couple of these huge teams met one another on a tight curve. Frank had once witnessed a “green” team of Missouri mules plunge to their death on a canyon road. 

Lebrun once recalled his father telling him of a horse drive from Santa Maria to Newhall. They hugged the coast for a while, then had to wait for low tide to drive the horses past Rincon Point. 

As a young man, Frank homesteaded next to his father’s spread in San Francisquito. He would sell his property after the St. Francis Dam broke in the great 1928 disaster. His son, George, recalled visiting the dam site a week before it broke. “We saw the red water leaking from the sides of the dam and didn’t like the way it looked.” Of the almost 500 souls who lost their lives, many were friends and family of Frank.  

Lebrun lost a sister and part of her family. Two of her children woke shortly after midnight, after hearing a dull roar in the distance. Their father ordered them back to sleep. They snuck out to climb a hill and that’s when the waters roared by, taking their house and sleeping family with it to the Pacific Ocean. 

Frank would move onto a few acres across from what would be Hart High School. He grazed cattle there and would continue to punch cows until he was 85. For the next 10 years, he worked on his garden and other chores — including, in his 90s, patching his neighbor’s roof. He rests in the Catholic cemetery in Piru today, with his wife, Clara Ashby Lebrun. 

JUNE 8, 1984 

ALMOST AS MUCH AS A HAPPY MEAL IN TODAY’S PRICES — The median price for a home in the SCV was $118,000. 

NOT ONLY WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN, WHICH MASKED ONE WAS HE? — One of the worst movies ever made was the 1980s bomb, “The Lone Ranger.” The producers of that wretched 1981 flick, released after a ton of post-production woes, filed a suit against Clayton Moore, THE Lone Ranger, prohibiting him from wearing his mask in public. Ironically, Clayton was being inducted into Newhall’s Walk of Western Stars on this date. Instead of his trademark mask, he wore sunglasses. And no, the rock band, ZZ Top, didn’t try to sue him for wearing his cheap sunglasses … 

LONE RANGER, DEUX — Here’s some extreme Lone Ranger trivia for you. The actor, Clinton Spilsbury, played That Masked Man in the 1980s flop. The producers couldn’t stand his voice and all his lines were later dubbed by James Keach, younger brother of actor, Stacy Keach.  


Isn’t this always something? We get close to returning to Santa Clarita and the horses sense the familiar surroundings and pick up the pace more than a little bit. Don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait for seven days to pass and we can ride the back canyons together in another exciting Time Ranger adventure. You folks be most excellent to one another, and, until next Saturday —  “¡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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