As I’ve oft-quoted Brother John Duarte, “Time, like your uncle, is relative.” Good thing. We might panic, as this somehow is already the LAST BLANKETY-BLANK APRIL IN 2022!
Rest easy. With the miracle of time travel, we’ll be going back this gorgeous weekend morning, saddlepals, to indulge in a wide array of adventures.
There’s a mastodon tusk found up San Francisquito Canyon to inspect. Speaking of critters, we’ll say howdy to Gasterosteus Aculeatus Williamsoni and we’ll visit a poor inmate who was almost blended to death.
We’ll say hey to John Wayne and wince when The Mighty Signal tried to BOTH run the Jehovah’s Witnesses out of town AND take away women’s right to vote.
Like the latter’d be a bad thing.
Mount up, compadres. And I mean that in an equestrian kind of way…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
WHERE’S THE BEEF? — The cattle market collapsed and the Mayor of Los Angeles and owner of the Rancho San Francisco (today, much of the Santa Clarita Valley), Ignacio del Valle, was forced to sell his home. Frontman Thomas R. Bard bought the rancho on April 29, 1865, in a complicated land deal.
THE REAL McCOYS — Much of what we know about the Tataviam Indians who populated this valley prior to the 20th century came from the discovery of a cave by two Castaic boys. Brothers Everette and McCoy Pyle, on May 2, 1884, discovered one of America’s most significant Indian caches near the Chiquita Landfill today. It was later called Bowers Cave after the Ventura doctor to whom the boys sold their treasure.
KA-BLOOEY — A light coastal steamer named the Ada Hancock blew up on April 26, 1863, in San Pedro Harbor. Local significance? W.T.F. Sanford died in the explosion. Sanford was the brother-in-law of Phineas Banning, the man who first piloted a wagon over the brand-new Beale’s Cut. Sanford was one of the 26 of 50 passengers who died instantly. Sanford’s brother had earlier been murdered by the infamous bandit Charles Wilkins (who was lynched for that and other deeds), and his sister, Rebecca, married the larger-than-life Phineas Banning.
LOTS o’ LANDOWNERS — Newhall Land had a few owners before Henry Mayo Newhall acquired “it” at a sheriff’s estate sale in January 1875 for about $2 an acre. Prior to that, the great rancho and all its lands were called Rancho San Francisco and were owned by L.A. Mayor Ignacio del Valle. It had gone through a few changes of ownership. On April 29, 1865, del Valle deeded it over Robert H. Gratz, to pay off debts. On April 30, four years later in 1869, it was deeded over to Philadelphia & California Petroleum for 35 cents an acre.
WHEN CASTAIC WAS RAMONA — For a few years in the late 19th to early 20th century, the area we know as Castaic was called Ramona Hills, in honor of the famous American novel, “Ramona.” It’s a Shakespearean romantic tragedy that launched a westward movement from the tens of thousands of reading clubs across America. On April 27, 1886, the San Francisco Chronicle had published a story, linking the connection between Rancho Camulos and Helen Hunt Jackson’s classic American novel.
I’D BUY THE T-SHIRT — I’m not kidding. I’d KILL to have a T-shirt with this on front & back: The Union Religious & Moral Society of Acton. They were the predecessor of the Acton Community Presbyterian Church and they held their first services on April 28, 1888.
WORLD’S GREATEST BARTENDER LIVED HERE — Yup. For you old-timers, you’ll remember Tip’s, that great restaurant where IHOP sits today on Pico Canyon, overlooking Interstate 5. Tip’s was literally world-famous for being home to several of the world’s recognized best mixologists. The first one was Bobby Batugo. He was born on April 26, 1905, in the Philippines. Interestingly, although he worked at Tip’s for years, few realized he didn’t speak English. Batugo had just learned a smattering of phrases like, “How about those Lakers!?” or “Yeah!” Of course, working in a noisy and busy bar, you didn’t have a lot of chances to have an actual conversation.
APRIL 30, 1922
LIKE THERE’S NOTHING TO DO HERE? — Saugus did not sit well for Ethel Wood. The young bride of Fielding Wood, owner of the Wood Garage and Blacksmith Shop, had only lived here for a year before taking off.
ANOTHER ENLIGHTENED SIGNAL OPINION ESSAY — On this date, The Official Signal Editorial came out AGAINST a proposed equal rights amendment for women. Editor Blanche Brown — a WOMAN — noted there might be some disagreement if a bride did not like her husband’s last name. Hey. Me and Tim Whyte know guys and we don’t like them or their last names, either…
APRIL 30, 1932
NO RELATION TO ‘MASTER DON’ MONTELEONE — On this date, some gold prospectors in San Francisquito Canyon found a different kind of treasure. They unearthed a complete mastodon tusk. It was the first, and possibly only, recorded mastodon remains found in the SCV. The tusk was taken to S.D. Dill, the local school bus driver and shoe repairman, for authentication. What can I say? We were a small town back then and our paleontology department was rather lacking. Mr. Dill did go on record as saying the huge specimen was pure ivory. There have been mastodon remains found in other parts of Southern California.
GOOD NAME FOR A NEW SCV CONDO PROJECT* — When the great St. Francis Dam Disaster struck four years earlier, it sent a nearly 200-foot-high wall of water careening through the upper canyon. Of course, the height lowered to about 60 feet at the base of the canyon. Still, it was enough to change the course of San Francisquito Creek by 100 feet and more in places. A group of miners camped out where the new river flowed and called their little group, “Camp Depression.”* Even on an easy day, they could pan out about $1 worth of gold dust. Noted one miner, “Our expenses are about four bits a day, so we always come out ahead. Then, if we want to loaf, we only pan 50 cents per day and come out even, besides having a good time.” Miners had set up several sluices up and down the creek. As the grizzled panner noted, “This is no lazy man’s job.” Interestingly, miners were taking fortunes in gold as early as the mid-1820s, preceding the Placerita discovery by 20 years.
GRAPES OF WRATH — It was one of the reasons why it’s a crapshoot growing grapes here. A major freeze passed through, killing off just about all the grape crops.
ONE OF THE MIGHTY SIGNAL’S BEST-EVER OPED COLUMNS — Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher penned a front-page think piece on yodeling. His thoughts, “When the real Swiss singer yodels, he yodels. He doesn’t put a lot of meaningless sounds, expressing regret that he was a cowboy, or that he couldn’t be back home after the work’s all done, or that some beautiful girl had been false or something. Not the yodeler. He starts a string of clear notes that echo back from among the hills or mountains, so fast and clear that they make a composition of many parts, all joining in harmony.” Of course, Dad failed to note that there weren’t any coyotes in Switzerland, whom cowboy yodelers sometimes mournfully mimic.
APRIL 30, 1942
82 YEARS AGO, NOT WHAT YOU’D REMOTELY CALL FUNNY — Time has a way of softening things. On this date, a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses came up to Newhall from the San Fernando Valley to protest America’s involvement in World War II. Seems a group of cowboys, in town for the rodeo, took umbrage at the Witnesses’ political and spiritual views and beat up three of the younger protesters. In a front-page editorial of The Signal, publisher/editor Fred Trueblood wrote: “It is time that something be done about that political-religious sect which styles itself Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Trueblood went on to point out how thousands of Japanese-Americans went into relocation camps “…in a patriotic manner. They went into exile without grumbling.” Trueblood went on to call the JWs traitorous, subversive screwballs.” Trueblood further wrote of the church: “These politic-religious termites are not wanted in Newhall. They have no church and few, if any, communicants here. At least 999 out of every 1,000 residents resent their presence. Nobody invited them here. Nobody wants them to come here or stay here. They are the rankest kind of intruders and trouble makers.” Ouch.
INCOMING!!!!! — Bermite owner Pat Lizza returned from Washington, D.C. with a contract to switch from making fireworks to munitions. Bermite became one of America’s largest producers of ordnance during World War II, employing nearly 2,000 people around the clock.
A HAUNTING SIMILARITY TO MODERN TIMES — With World War II in the early stages, the Army ordered that all public gatherings be limited, so only 5,000 people attended the 17th Newhall-Saugus Rodeo. (It actually went back further.) In attendance were again a who’s who of Hollywood, including Leo Carrillo, Bill Hart, and Wild Bill Eliot. In the arena, Newhall Land & Farming’s Peter McBean’s group won a gold ribbon for the best riding group. Some actor fellow named John Wayne won first place for Best Riding Pair in the parade division.
BEFORE IT WAS CALLED RECYCLING — Local wardens began a big pitch to collect scrap for the war effort. Seemingly everything was of use, from old bacon grease to rags. Zinc from batteries was collected. Copper, rubber, iron, steel, you name it, were needed. Junked autos were towed into town. Eight cars could make one 155 mm gun, 26 could build a tank and 12,000 could build the hull of a battleship.
APRIL 30, 1952
BOBBY SOX TRIVIA — There were 339 TOTAL high school students enrolled at Hart (The beloved mascot was The Mighty Indian!!) in 1950-51. That represented ALL the high school kids in the valley. In 1951-52, that number swelled to 400. There were 220 kids of junior high age enrolled here. Average cost per student per year was $576. That was compared to the state average of $375 per pupil. Guess our kids were more special…
APRIL 30, 1962
OH NO YOU DON’T!! — The Happy Valley Gate isn’t exactly new news. Residents of the then-isolated community were up in arms. Seems the state notified them they were going to toss in a connecting road from Highway 99 to Newhall via Valley Street. On this date, the neighbors banded together and formed the Happy Valley Homeowners Association. Blessedly, there were no CC&Rs…
STILL ARE. MOSTLY. — The Mighty Signal ran an early editorial on Mother’s Day. We were pro.
APRIL 30, 1972
GUESS THE GUY JUST DIDN’T BLEND IN — Well. There are Chamber mixers and there are Wayside mixers. In the former, you get cheap white wine and rubber chicken. In the later, you break your foot. Wayside (today, Pitchess) inmate Randy Jefferson was painting the kitchen when he noticed he had dropped some paint chips in one of the giant industrial dough blenders. Jefferson climbed into the empty vat to retrieve them. While he was inside, an inmate turned on the mixing button, severely smashing his foot.
OKAY. OUR MOTHER’S DAY EDITORIAL? SHE’S OFF THE LIST — She was pretty much the neighbor from hell, sending abusive letters to her neighbors’ bosses, chucking rocks into swimming pools, and tossing dirt clods at passers-by. She upped the ante on this date by shooting her next-door neighbor when he came home from work. The Saugus woman felt the man had been trying to kill Nixon. She was arrested for attempted murder.
APRIL 30, 1982
AND NOW WE HAVE SMARTPHONES THAT CAN LAUNCH ROCKETS AND STREAM MOVIES — On this date, Pacific Telephone announced they would be closing their doors in Newhall. It was part of a statewide program to reduce regional offices from 150 to 40 within a year. The 41 people who had jobs at the Newhall Avenue office had to commute to Woodland Hills, where our valley’s 50,000 phone users would be served. Up until 1982, folks used to be able to walk into the building and pay their phone bill, either that, or pay it at the drug store.
IT’S ON THE WEDNESDAY BUSINESSMAN’S LUNCH SPECIAL AT THE WAY STATION — Guy Welch was in court again, charged with killing 66 spiny stickleback fish at his Soledad Canyon resort. He was charged with three counts of altering the Santa Clara riverbed without a permit and one count of possessing an endangered fish. Basically, Guy kept trying to dam up the creek at his White Rock camping resort. Just in case anyone asks you, the Latin name for the pesky stickleback is Gasterosteus Aculeatus Williamsoni. “Williamsoni” ain’t Italian. It’s Latin to honor Lt. Robert S. Williamson, the young map-maker who certainly didn’t “discover” Soledad Canyon but sure as heck mapped it in the early 1850s. Williamson was the first white man to also “discover” our infamous little sardine that has stopped many a development.
Whelp that was one bona fide fun ride. All those in favor of heading out next weekend with a brand-new Time Ranger adventure, raise your right hand. Your OTHER right hand. See all-y’all in seven and until then, be good to one another and — vayan con Dios, amigos!
Check out John Boston’s new SCV history books — “Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America,” Volumes 1 AND 2 at johnbostonbooks.com.