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It is with a heavy heart and I ride with you, saddlepals. This is my last Time Ranger column.

I’m retiring to pursue working on a novel about lactose tolerance.

Guess most of you saw through all that in the first paragraph. Yup. It’s April Fool’s. Well. Almost.

All kidding aside, we’ve got a pretty nifty adventure ahead. No fooling, we actually have a Santa Clarita fellow who nearly walked around the entire planet — backwards...

(PHOTO CAPTION: This isn’t completely local within the confines of our mountain walls, but it’s close enough and interesting. Telephone service was inaugurated in Los Angeles in 1880. There were seven original phone customers. By 1927, four of them were still listed in the phone book. That first 1880 phone book, by the way, was a small card.)

 

WAY, WAY BACK WHEN

• A belated birthday wish to San Francisquito Power Plant #1. They just celebrated their 90th anniversary on March 18th. The electricity factory turned the first on switch back in 1917. The “Grandpa of the DWP” and its mighty turbines are still up there, churning out power.

• Ignacio del Valle was one of the state’s first major players, mayor of Los Angeles and owner of the Rancho San Francisco — which was then most of the entire darn Santa Clarita Valley. He died on March 30th, 1880.

• On April 3, 1917, the Castaic Post Office re-opened after being closed for nearly two decades. Seems no one was sending mail to Castaic and no was receiving any. The PO reopened in Sam Parson’s store. Don’t rush to Sam’s to get your prescriptions filled. That’s closed, too.

• On April 4, 1893, a major earthquake centered in Pico Canyon shook the valley. Distraught neighbors from Newhall formed a concerned citizens committee and marched to Pico Canyon. They complained to Mentryville management that all their oil drilling in the canyon had caused the quake.

• In 1917, a bond measure passed, creating about a half dozen “check dams” to stem flooding. The dams created several large ponds. According to reports, up until the 1930s, these dams helped keep a variety of creeks running year round. State officials planned to create hundreds more in the SCV to keep the Santa Clara River running bank to bank year round and help agriculture. By the time California got around to giving the project a green light, the Depression hit and, like many other big projects of the 1920s, they never all got built.

 

MARCH 30, 1927

• “Bulldog Bill” Walters came down from his gold mine in the hills, searching for a grubstake. Ol’ Bill wasn’t asking for much, just a Ford truck, a 30-gallon tank for water, two months supply of food, a few picks and shovels, and, an intern. Well. A helper. Bill wandered in with ore samples in his otherwise empty pockets. Heavens. I think I’ll place the same ad except I’d like two interns. I’ll drop them off in the truck, let them work for a few months and come back to pick up the gold dust and sign their letters of recommendation.

• The first-ever rodeo at the Baker Ranch, aka, the Saugus Speedway today, took place in the spring of 1926. It drew 16,000 people — a record in California. Roy Baker and “Cowboy” Bob Anderson put a lot of improvements into the arena, adding a $75,000 banked thoroughbred horsetrack and bleachers to hold 20,000. They were getting ready for the 2nd annual Saugus-Baker Ranch Rodeo. It would be a big-to-do, with a staggering $2,000 first-place prize for bronc riding. Then, the Baker Ranch covered 9,000 acres. Baker and Anderson had built a special depot where the Southern Pacific stopped right on the ranch with regularly scheduled passenger trains from various points of the compass. Back then, the Baker Rodeo was part of the national points system and was as important as the Cheyenne, Pendleton and Madison Square Garden rodeos.

• Before we had the American Theater, folks used to look forward to the Friday evening movies at the Newhall Elementary Auditorium. Eighty years back, the bill was “The Lone Wolf Returns,” a Bert Lytell and Billy Dove. The big deal was that this was a “first-run” flick.

• Rain delayed a big war movie filmed at the Saugus Train Depot. Old 19th-century engines and cars were brought in, along with nearly 200 actors and extras. They turned downtown Saugus into a Civil War locale for a week, with more than 100 tents strung out in the area. The untitled movie was produced by the Associated Film Company.

• Sheriff’s deputy Nestor had some extra duty. He helped round up about a dozen Mexican revolutionaries and escorted them to a federal pen in Oregon.

 

MARCH 30, 1937

• A rancher from Wyoming, a Mr. Burnison, purchased the Paradise Ranch above Castaic on Violin Canyon Highway. Burnison brought all his stock and raised cattle and polo ponies on the spread. He would sell it a short time later to Edwin Churchill, the man who won an Oscar for his movie scores, including “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.”

• I think all of us drivers have wondered some time in their lives just how secure a trailer hitch was on a vehicle in front of us. Sammy Toy was towing a truck back to his Evergreen Garage when the rigging snapped. The pick-up smashed right into the passenger car behind it, seriously injuring seven.

• We were the subject of excited gossip on the New York Stock Exchange 70 years back. The Barnsdale Oil Company was a major player and owned leases across the country. One in the LaFourche Parish of Louisiana was bringing in 80 million barrels a year and another one almost as big in Texas. But company president Ed B. Reeser was busting out of his buttons over the Rancho San Francisco No. 1. It was projected to bring in 100 million barrels. Stock jumped from $30 to $34 a share.

• Clyde Cole of upper Bouquet was digging a hole for a fruit tree when he found a complete human skeleton, the skull packed in black volcanic rock. It was estimated to be several years old.

• Two Western Walk of Stars immortals and friends to boot, highlighted the San Fernando Valley Rodeo. Andy Jauregui produced the big event and William S. Hart was the emcee.

• I love this ad from Ford dealer J.W. Doty for used cars. He broke down his inventory this way: “Regular & Good Cars: $150-$475. Square Deal Cars: $125-$375. Other good cars: $25-$125.” The guy even offered terms. Hmm. What would a $25 cost you spread out over five years at 2 percent? I’m figuring not much.

 

MARCH 30, 1947

• Annie Oakley or Wild Bill Hickcock had nothing on Herb Parsons. The legendary shooter of the 1940s and 1950s visited the SCV to put on a shooting exhibition in Stevens Canyon (2.5 miles west of where the Beacon/Tip’s/Blue Moon used to be) Herb traveled the country, representing the Winchester company and dear me, could he shoot. There wasn’t a single unovaled mouth of the more than 1,000 people who showed up to watch his dead eye and trick shooting. The stunt that wowed the crowd the most was Herb covering a washer the size of a half-dollar (remember those?) with masking tape. Then, he placed his .22  on the ground, threw the spinning washer high in the air, picked up his rifle and shot a hole through the center of the washer — without nicking the metal around the hole. Foof!

• At the other end of the valley, locals were watching a different, larger aerial show. The Lockheed Precision Squadron was giving an air show at the 6S Ranch Airport in Canyon Country. Lots of daredevil acrobatics in the clouds...

• You would have to be one crusty cowpoke to appreciate this one. On this date, “Ma” Elle Loyd closed the coffee shop named after. Loyd’s used to be the 1930’s and ’40s version of the Way Station and was a favorite haunt of movie stars and cowboys. Loyd’s opened in 1932. The owners refused to renew Ma’s lease because the ornery so-&-so’s wanted her out so they could open their own establishment.

 

MARCH 30, 1957

• They were drunk. They were lucky. Harold Sharpe and Linda Nelma had a few too many and parked their car smack dab on the railroad tracks to the old entrance to Circle J Ranch off San Fernando Road. As a diesel engine and a hundred cars barreled down on them, they just sat there. Fortunately — or perhaps, miraculously — a pair of Newhall men were riding by at 1 in the morning and yanked the couple to safety seconds before the train smashed their ancient Henry J auto. All parties escaped injury though the couple were booked in a variety of charges.

• The old Los Angeles Examiner sent a reporter down to Mexico City to interview Saugus millionaire rancher, “Big” Bill Bonelli. Bill wasn’t so big these days. He had dieted down to 150. He had left the country to avoid prosecution from a dishonest coalition of politicians and power brokers all throughout the state and up to the governor’s mansion. As head of the State Board of Equalization, Bonelli had unearthed a scam where a certain giant Los Angeles newspaper owned hundreds of liquor licenses under the names of photographers and reporters. Bonelli’s ranch is where the Saugus Speedway is today.

• Bobby Avant had been in the record books for years. On this date, he cleared 6-foot-7 in the high jump, the best high school jump in the nation. Our memory is a bit rusty, but we think 6-7 high jumping is better than dam historian Frank Rock did using a pole... (kid you cuz we love you, Frank!)

 

MARCH 30, 1967

• On this date, Mr. Plennie L. Wingo published his book, “Around the World Backwards.” It traced the Santa Claritan’s youthful excursion where he just about circumnavigated the planet, on foot — backwards. The adventurer set out on April 15th, 1931 and just started walking backwards. He trekked 8,000 miles — backwards — and made it to Asia Minor when warlords stopped his progress.

• I suppose it’s not the worst way to go, although I’d probably wish the cowboy a few more years. On this date, James O’Rourke was riding through Placerita Canyon when he suffered a massive heart attack and died in the saddle. He was 45.

• An interesting case was put before the little Newhall Municipal Courthouse. Several drivers for Greyhound bus charged the Highway Patrol with harrassment. The Ralph Cramdens said the CHiPsters had issued 99 speeding tickets to the bus drivers in a three-month period. The CHP defended the action, noting the guys were speeding.

 

MARCH 30, 1977

• A Native American did a rain dance at Castaic for the filming of an NBC news special on the drought. The dance worked. We got rain and snow 30 years back. It didn’t change the drought status, but it was a pleasant relief.

• We had a celebrity living under our noses in Canyon Country. Mr. Crazy was named Best Household Cat in America by the ACA (American Cat Association).

• Old-time friends and recording artists, Merle Travis and Gene Autry were catching up on old times here. Merle lived in Saugus and managed the Angels of the Canyon Country Little League and Gene had a bit more payroll with his Anaheim Angels of Major League Baseball. Odd thing, I’m distantly related to Merle via marriage.

 

MARCH 30, 1987

• LAFCO, the state agency which helps ratify new governments, continued its feud with the committee to form the city of Santa Clarita. The small bureaucracy refused to release public records to the media and other government agencies. Ruth Benell, who seemed to have a personal vendetta against the proposed new city, huffily told local formation proponents and even other county offices that she would release the records when she saw fit. When questioned why she seemed to be doctoring numbers against the proposed city, she said: “That’s the way I prepared my report.” Intense lobbying efforts by developers, along with Benell’s math, helped shrink the original city limits from about 90 square miles to less than half. A rousing Signal editorial lambasted Benell as “the last of the Romanov empresses” and accused her of hiding behind an iron curtain of her own quilting. Benell’s fuzzy math was criticized when she noted that the proposed city would have a $2 million shortfall in one area and refused to count $3 million in federal highway funds, again, because that was her math.

 

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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