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A warm and Western first week of Spring to you, dear saddlepals. The air is fresh, the sky is clear. It seems a perfect morning to mosey through a time vortex and visit what our Santa Clarita Valley looked like in years gone by.

C’mon. Let’s mosey. Don’t rest your latte cup on the saddlehorn. It leaves rings...

 

(PHOTO CAPTION: In 1910, Henry Krieg homesteaded some of the best land in the valley. His home was Vasquez Rocks, that otherworldly landscape where so many films have been made over the decades. Old Hank took years to build himself not just a well, but an impressive reservoir system. Using pick, shovel, wheelbarrow and TNT, Krieg burrowed 285 feet into the mountain, creating a reservoir from an underground stream and concrete wall 30 feet from the opening around it.)

 

WAY, WAY BACK WHEN

• On March 22nd, 1875, with a blast of Hercules dynamite on the San Fernando Valley side, construction began on the Newhall Railroad Tunnel. The engineering marvel would become one of the longest tunnels in the world and folks still use it today on their Metrolink jaunts.

• Throw your Stetsons, Resistols and O’Farrells into the air and let’s have a hearty Happy Birthday. On this date back in 1889, the Castaic School District was founded.

• Before we were Americans, Santa Clarita belonged to Mexico. On March 26, 1821, we became the territory of Alta California.

• Back in the days of the Tataviam and Chumash, from Sand Canyon to Newhall, out to Castaic and beyond, it was all one big grove of white and live oaks, sycamores and willows aplenty. All those trees and shrubbery — along with a human population of about 500 — helped keep the water table higher. Creeks flowed year round. The Santa Clara River, at Castaic Junction, was more of a full-roaring river than a creek, year-round. Speaking of water, it was both blessing and curse. About three times a century, we were hit with epic flash floods. Then, there was the St. Francis Dam Disaster. Both the old raging waters and the state’s second worst manmade disaster helped wash away centuries of Indian artifacts.

 

MARCH 23rd, 1927

• It’s been a lot of years since we’ve had our own dairy. Back in the 1920s through the 1940s, we had as many as 10 local dairies. On this date, we had four of them who drew top honors in the county dairy testing from the Health Department, grading up in the high 90s. For those of you who keep notes on this, those four would be Golden Age, Cook’s, Wayside and Frew.

• Tom Lozier got sent up for 180 days. His crime? Hog swiping. Lozier was the caretaker of seven hogs at the Hovgon Ranch. He told the owner that the baker’s half-dozen all perished. Actually, Lozier ate one and sold six. So Tom went to the pen for raiding the pig pen. Sorry.

• A tradition that lasted into the 1970s was honored at the old Mitchell Ranch in Canyon Country. Along with neighbor Remi Nadeau, they had their annual round-up, branding several hundred head of steers and holding a big barbecue and party afterwards.

 

MARCH 23rd, 1937

• Locally, we’ve lost more lives to the old Ridge Route than in all the wars combined. The snake road claimed another life when Jim Steele of Castaic plunged over a 200-foot-deep cliff. A rancher got suspicious when he saw Jim’s faithful dog pacing fretfully back and forth where the car left the road. An investigation indicated a tire blew on Steele’s car, he lost control and went over the edge. In his death, folks wondered just who was their reclusive Castaic neighbor. When they checked his remains, his driver’s license gave the name of Jim Rennison.

• The spacious Farnsworth Ranch of Placerita Canyon was sold to H.C. Farquar of Los Angeles for a rather pricey $9,000 on this date. It was a pretty spectacular spread.

• We celebrated Spring with a picture postcard view. All the mountains around the Santa Clarita were covered with a thick mantle of snow, with five inches reported on the ground at the Bouquet Reservoir. Sure could use some of that run-off right about now...

 

MARCH 23rd, 1947

• There’s always been a bit of confusion in talking about the Ridge Route. In 1947, it was both Highway 99 and the Ridge Route, with the original highway to the east called “The Old Ridge Route.” On this date, the NEW Ridge Route was given the go-ahead to expand. It was eventually widened beginning in 1947 and they took out nine curves. The project would end up costing about $3 million. Around the same time, there was talk about building a huge, three-tiered tunnel to incorporate trains at the bottom, big rigs in the middle and cars atop. Best I know, it was never built.

• Burtchell Matthews, out-of-towner, was charged with manslaughter. His passenger, 20-year-old Annette Ballentine, died of massive head wounds after Matthews crashed. The Vallejo man had been driving 90 mph — in the rain — when he lost control of his motorcycle with Annette on the back.

 

MARCH 23rd, 1957

• We need some sort of Santa Clarita Memorial Wall for the Knucklehead. Fred Miles of Burbank would be added to the lengthy list. On this date, he was practicing his fast draw in Dry Canyon and became the latest quick draw artist to get the order wrong. Fred crouched, slapped leather, pulled the trigger THEN pulled the pistol from his holster. Yup. He could see the ground through the hole in his thigh.

 

MARCH 23rd, 1967

• We made the World Records again. Hart Park’s spunky auburn mustang, Roaney, celebrated his 43rd birthday on St. Patrick’s Day. While dog years are about a 7:1 ratio to humans, horses are a 4:1 and that made Roaney about 170 in human years. The former movie star was the last living creature owned by William S. Hart. He was given a special “cake,” 60 pounds of molasses, oats, sugar, carrots and other goodies — in the shape of a shamrock. Supervisor Warren Dorn was on hand to cut the cake for the ancient pony.

• Two men nicked a fog-shrouded hill in Gavin Canyon, but that’s all it took. Pilot and passenger were killed in the Cesena accident near the 99 freeway.

• It’s amazing the carnage we suffered in the old days along our highways. On this wet weekend a half-century back, eight people lost their lives and 32 were seriously injured in various traffic accidents.

• Teachers in the Hart District got a range. The lowest paid rookies were now receiving a minimum of $6,100. That’s not a month. That’s a year.

• No one was kidding CHP patrolman John Botsford. While off-duty, Botsford was held up by an ex-con and robbed of cash, gun, sunglasses and a transistor radio. The gunman hadn’t even cleared the drive-way though before Botsford freed himself and called the Sheriff’s department. Then he rushed outside to climb in his car and help give chase. Racing across his lawn, poor John noticed that the ex-con who had broken into his house had also shot dead his dog. Rudolph Valentino Kelly was arrested a few miles from the scene by Sheriff’s deputies. He had escaped from prison a month earlier.

• You could hardly toss a ballot and not hit a school board candidate. The SCV earned the distinction of having more people running for school boards than in any district of the county.

 

MARCH 23rd, 1977

• My dear friend, mentor and favorite one-eyed Indian, Fran Wrage, retired on this date. Coach hung up his jockstrap 40 years ago as head basketball coach at Hart High. Coincidentally, his son, Rob, was named the MVP of the Santa Clarita Valley the same week.

• In case someone asks, it was 30 years ago when British Columbia’s last working steam engine, the Royal Hudson, chugged through the SCV. Now that would be a train ride, Newhall to Vancouver...

• Back in the days when we used to write editorials, Scott Newhall penned a doozy, continuing his tradition of slamming every poor soul to serve in the Oval Office. His latest target was Jimmy Carter. Quoth Scott: “The canonization of St. James Earl Carter, Jr., is proceeding apace. It was a mere six months ago that this tousled-headed four-flusher from the peanut patches of Georgia was sniveling his way into the White House by promising the American people they would be ushered into an instant Utopia if they would be gracious enough to give him their votes.” And that was just the first paragraph.

 

MARCH 23rd, 1987

• CHP Lt. J.J. O’Brien was famed for his good mirth and passion. The officer lashed out at the imbecilic design of the Town and Country Shopping Center, located at a hair pin suicide curve which gave drivers sometimes less than a second to turn onto Bouquet. “It’s the dumbest thing they (the county) have done in years,” O’Brien scolded at an SCV Transportation Committee meeting.

• The little lords of local homeowners association filed suit against a Valencia resident for putting the wrong kind of tile on their leaky roof. The case went to jury, with the confused Judge, Bruce Sottile, wanting to see the various Valencia roofs in question. The barrister was accompanied by both attorneys. As they toured the area in question, John Marlette, lawyer for the Homeowners’ Association, blurted out: “Gosh, that’s awful!” and pointed toward an offending roof. It belonged to the house of the homeowners’ president...

Come back and visit next week here under the warming glow of your SCV Beacon. I’ll be waiting with another thrilling trailride into the yesteryears and history of this wonderful Santa Clarita. Until then — vayan con Dios, amigos!

 

(SCV Historian John Boston also writes The John Boston Report blog for your SCV Beacon. Don’t forget to check out his national humor, entertainment & swashbuckling commentary website — http://www.johnbostonchronicles.com/ —you’ll be smiling for a week…) — © 2017 by John Boston. All rights reserved.

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