The Time Ranger | When Just About Everybody Lost Their Jobs 

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

You up yet? Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. And sorry again. I know. It’s the weekend and the sun isn’t up. Couldn’t we be civilized and just skip our Saturday horseback ride into local history just this once? 

Well. No. 

And, no. 

Besides. Once you’re up in the saddle, all woes and aches will magically disappear. 

We’ve a most interesting trek ahead, what with floating skulls, brawls and death marches. We’ll also go back to when Newhall had more saloons than any other buildings. We’ll also visit the biggest unemployment crisis in local history. 

Which is what some of the more egregious party animals on our history trek like to call, “The Good Old Days …” 


LOS PREZBOS — Just about all of us have moseyed along Newhall Avenue past the Newhall Presbyterian Church on Newhall Avenue. You’d have to have a hard heart not to smile at many of the clever spiritual messages on their marquee. Thanks for making at least my day brighter with your wit, dear Presbyterians. Speaking of whom, back on May 31, 1891, the Rev. F.D. Seward formed the church. Happy 133 years old. Next to the Catholic mission, the Presbs are the second oldest church in the valley. 

GEEZ. YOU GUYS DON’T LOOK A DAY OVER 140 — Another belting out of Happy Birthday. On June 1, 1883, a year after the death of Henry Mayo Newhall, The Newhall Land & Farming Co. was founded by Newhall’s widow and five sons. 

FROM DEATH VALLEY TO SANTA CLARITA — Actually, there wasn’t a Santa Clarita in 1849, not even a Newhall or Saugus. Many of you time travelers certainly remember Manly & Rogers’ epic hike from Death Valley to Castaic back in 1849. William Manley and John Rogers were part of the ill-fated Jayhawker Party that was stranded in the desert. The two men set out on foot to find help in San Francisco and ended up hundreds of miles off. They finally found San Francisco, but it was Rancho San Francisco. 

While Manly & Rogers walked for help, the Bennett-Arcane group stayed at Death Valley. John C. Colton was one of the group that waited. In 1903, he recalled that hellish adventure of starvation and thirst. At first, the group began killing oxen, even boiling the hooves for soup. They watched members of their party die of exposure and disease. 

Manly & Rogers eventually returned, with riders from Ignacio del Valle’s ranch to the rescue. They brought the group back to the Santa Clarita. Colton’s recollection: “Several days without water … struck Santa Clara River. Partly emaciated and nearly dead. Men who had weighed 200 pounds were less than 60. Reached Rancho San Francisco February 5, 1850.” About the del Valle hospitality, he wrote: “How we did eat, sleep and drink. We did nothing else for two weeks.” 

Colton also noted: “(How we) have been cared for at the old milk house” which “must be preserved forever — it must remain a landmark — earthquakes will hardly capture it — I regret you didn’t leave a little pile of adobe to mark the locality of the old Ranche (sic) House that looked to our starved party like a palace.” 

That address was from a letter from Colton to E.H. Bailey, Rancho San Francisquito; Surrey P.O., CA; Feb. 28, 1903. 

By the way. Several of the Jayhawkers held reunions under the shade of an oak grove in Castaic up until World War II. 

GUESSING YOU DIDN’T NEED TO CALL AHEAD FOR RESERVATIONS — In 1878, the population of downtown Newhall proper was 60 people. There were 10 businesses in town and four of those were saloons — which means there was one saloon for every 15 people. 

Those saloons were Mike Powell’s Palace (which historian A.B. Perkins noted was terribly misnamed). Within a stone’s throw away were Nick Rivera’s place for Hispanics, Boynton’s “Aristocratic Hangout for Gentlemen” and the bar at the Southern Hotel. The Southern, by the way, was one of the top hotels on the entire Pacific coast. 

Besides the Newhall Train Depot, there was the George Campton General Store (he was partners with J.O. Newhall) and George Lechler’s saddle shop and barn. Judge John Powell’s wife ran a boarding house. That’s seven buildings. 

The other three were the Pacific Coast Oil Co. (which would later become Standard Oil of California), Newhall Elementary School and a Newhall Ranch warehouse next to the train depot. 

Scattered around town were a few old adobe buildings, a couple more on the outskirts of downtown, one in Placerita Canyon and another across the street from Newhall Elementary. 

One event caused economic hardships for the new town (it had just moved in 1878 from its original location across from the present-day location of the Saugus Cafe). It also caused a population plunge. In 1882, town founder Henry Mayo Newhall died. His payroll, second only to the big camp in Mentryville, was drastically cut. Oil workers to cowboys, hotel staff to warehouse workers found themselves unemployed. 

COWS, STAY HOME. — In 1813, the local mission padres erected a sturdy gate and fence at present-day Newhall Pass. The reason? To keep their cattle on this side of the valley.  

JUNE 1, 1924 

SOMETIMES, CRIME LIFE IN NEWHALL WAS JUST PLAIN QUIET — There were seven cases of people illegally picking yucca plants (and getting fined $10). And that was the extent of the crime log of an even 100 years ago. Signal Editor Thornton Doelle wrote: “Either people are getting good, or have improved means of keeping out of the way of the law.” The law business was so slow at times here that Judge Miller transferred his office from the Hap-a-Land Hall/Masons’ Club to the Forestry Service Office. Like most in town, Miller took a second job. He was the local fire dispatching officer.  

AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO FILL OUT A SINGLE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT — I’m betting any local school administrators would just love to not only take back 1924 prices, but also all the open spaces that went with it. On this date, the little Newhall School District floated a bond calling for $40,000 to be raised to build a brand-new school house (where the present Newhall Elementary sits today). This very week, a century back, we also called for bids for the construction of the new school. You’d think you’d get a lot of envelopes with the figure, “$40,000” scribbled. The old building had become terribly overcrowded and in ill repair. For years, half of that Newhall Elementary schoolhouse sat on Kansas Street, as a private house, right behind present-day Jimmy Dean’s off of Lyons. 

HOW’S THIS FOR COMEDY? A $1,000 SCHOOL BOND!! — Across the valley, the little San Francisquito School District also offered up a school bond — of $1,000 total. The 10 bonds were $100 each and were laid out in yearly increments. The $1,000 was to be used for small improvements and purchases of chairs and desks. The poor little school would not be needing the money four years hence. In the worst possible case of irony, they’d never need the bond. In 1928, a giant wave washed away the little school when the St. Francis Dam burst. San Francisquito Elementary would never reopen. 

TRY GETTING ASCHENBRENNER ON A BUSINESS CARD — We were such a small town, we didn’t have a regular dentist. Dr. C.F. Aschenbrenner would come in to town, once a month, and set up shop in the Newhall Hotel. Fancy this: The guy gave free exams, too. 

HECK. A CENTURY LATER, WE’RE HARDLY EVEN MILDLY CONCERNED. — The very last paragraph of the May 30, 1924, Signal had a small but fierce message and one that I hope is still true today: “Subscribe for The Signal — the paper that is not afraid.” 

JUNE 1, 1934 

WOULDN’T YOU JUST KILL TO OWN ONE OF THOSE OLD SHEEPSKIN-LINED LEATHER FLYING JACKETS WITH “NEWHALL AERO SQUADRON” ON IT!!!??? — Long before the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department had helicopters prowling the skies, there was the Newhall Aero Squadron. Made up of biplanes, 17 of them held maneuvers out of Newhall International Airport (near where Granary Square is today). The test was to chase a “bandit” car blind, using radio and teletype link-ups with the Goodyear Blimp. Oh. Newhall International Airport? That was the nickname locals affectionately gave the airstrip because it made the occasional mail run into Mexico. 

A GAZILLION-GABILLION DOLLARS? — Wonder how much that land would be worth today? I’m speaking of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Houghton. They bought 5 acres in Happy Valley and built their dream home.  

JUNE 1, 1944 

WE SHOULD’VE CALLED DOWNTOWN NEWHALL, LICEBERG — In nostalgia, we often look back to Newhall as if it were Yosemite. There were eyesore pockets in the valley and one of the worst was the corner of 8th and Railroad. Despite all the signs warning against dumping, folks filled up a lot there with all manner of unmentionables. It became such an eyesore and health hazard that our county supervisor, Roger Jessup, paid a special visit just to inspect the rat and lice breeding ground. 

IF THE STANLEY FAMILY IS STILL IN A GIVING MOOD, I WOULDN’T MIND GETTING 250 ACRES FOR BEING THE TIME RANGER — The Woodcraft Rangers were given a rather nice — and expensive — surprise. On this date, B.L. Stanley donated 250 pristine acres in Sloan Canyon for their ranch. 

WHEN TIMES WERE TRULY TOUGH — So many families and friends wrote and received letters from the front of World War II. Our boys suffered through many hardships and much danger. Arthur E. Lee’s letters came from a prisoner of war camp in Austria. It took five months to make it from Europe to Newhall. The sergeant, in one of his notes, wrote: “My Xmas this year was rather dull; no Tom and Jerries, and no exchange of presents. We received a parcel from the Red Cross with a little candy and cigarettes. God bless them.” 

AN EVEN MORE SOMBER LETTER — The letter no family wants to get arrived at the Cherry house in Newhall. Leon Cherry was killed in a gunnery accident somewhere in the Pacific. He was buried at sea. 

JUNE 1, 1954 

WHEN CHATSWORTH WAS NOT JUST NEXT DOOR, BUT IN THE SAME HOUSE — Oddly, or not so because they’re part of government, the State Registrar of Voters included Chatsworth as part of the Santa Clarita Valley. The little community was considered one of our precincts 70 years back when we were called the Soledad Township. That unincorporated area, with Newhall as the center, took up about 1,000 square miles. 

NOT EAST OF EDEN, BUT EAST OF NEWHALL — A week earlier, a plane had crashed near East Canyon. Within a few days, looters had stripped it of all parts. 

JUNE 1, 1964 

PUT ME DOWN FOR A THOUSAND ACRES — One of many of our riders’ laments is that they can’t take things from yesteryear back with them into the here-&-now. For just $60,000, you could have bought 120 acres along old Highway 99/The Old Road. How much do you think that frontage would be worth today? I have the answer. A lot. No pun intended. 

JUNE 1, 1974 

OUR YO YO THERMOMETER — We suffered under triple-digit temperatures Memorial Day weekend three decades back. As quickly as the heat wave appeared, it disappeared. Come the first Tuesday, it barely made it to 70. 

ALAS, POOR PEE-WEE. A FELLOW OF INFINITE JEST… — Here’s some extreme trivia for you. On this date, California Institute of the Arts hosted a feminist video show. One young male actor appeared in a short film entitled, “Mermaids.” The student? Paul Reubens, who would later become the world-famous comedian, the self-abusing Pee-Wee Herman. In his heyday, he was one of the hottest entertainers on the planet. The CalArts alum died of cancer just last year in July, at the tender age of 70. 

TWO HART INDIANS WHO DID ALL RIGHT FOR THEMSELVES — On this date, 50 years ago, Hart track coach Jim Droz presented the MVP team trophy to Dave Tanner. Droz would later become the world’s top real estate salesman and Tanner a darn talented local dentist. 

JUNE 1, 1984 

ONE COLUMN. TWO HAMLET REFERENCES. — It was like the beginning of one of those “B” horror movies. Or at least a watery version of “Hamlet.” Four decades back, a fisherman found a human skull floating in Castaic Lake.  

OUT OF TOWN ROTTERS, THE LOT OF THEM — You didn’t want to mess with Ken Kruska. He was working at the Chevron station near Magic Mountain when he went out to see why a station wagon with two men and two women was just parked near his pumps. He walked out and discovered they were just sitting there, smoking dope. When Kruska ordered them to leave, the two men got out and started a fight with the attendant. Despite the odds, Kruska pounded on the pair. They left, promising to bring reinforcements. They did. Ten more men drove up and started a melee with the Chevron employees. When a gun was produced by a customer, the gang split, vowing to return. They had the smarts to hide all the way over at Marie Callender’s (at Magic Mountain Parkway and The Old Road) and were arrested.  

FROM THE “WE JUST PAINT THE SIGNS, WE DON’T SPELL ‘EM” DEPT. — There sat two road signs in the Valencia Industrial Center. One was for Avenue Stanford (after Leland) and another was Avenue Standford (whom we don’t know). The Standford was eventually yanked. Our money is on former Newhall Land CEO Tom Lee as the original culprit. Just cuz he went there, doesn’t mean he can spell it … 

PULL OUT THOSE PONCHOS, SADDLEPALS!! — Forty years back, and cripes that seems like yesterday, we had a spiffy thunder and lightning spectacle along with cloudbursts throughout the valley on Memorial Day proper. 


Well, dear friends and neighbors. You folks rest up. See you in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure, and, 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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