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We’ve an interesting trek ahead, what with dime-a-gallon gas and sign wars with Palmdale. There’s horse thieves, junk food moguls and one of the darkest days in our history. April 5th marked the anniversary when four California Highway Patrol officers were killed in a shoot-out here.

Bless their memory.

 

(PHOTO CAPTION: April 5th, 1970 was the worst day in the history of the California Highway Patrol. Four officers — Walt Frago, Roger Gore, James Pence and George Alleyn were gunned down by Jack Twining and Bobby Augusta Davis. All of the officers were from the Newhall CHP station. The oldest — the oldest — of the four victims was just 24 years old. The two perps had threatened to kill a pair of motorists up old Highway 99. Later, they got into a gunbattle with first two CHP officers, killing them both, then shooting another two. Twining held Newhall man Glenn Hoag hostage in a house above Denny’s in Newhall. CHP Lt. Paul Vasquez had an eerie, calm phone conversation, discussing whether Twining was going to kill himself. Vasquez help talk Twining into releasing his hostage. Surrounded by police, he later killed himself with a shotgun he had taken from a fallen officer. Twining’s partner, Augusta is still in Pelican Bay maximum security prison in Crescent City. For the last 30 years, he has refused to talk about that day. An article later came out in an issue of Black Panther Magazine, the official organ of the extremist party. They applauded the killings, calling it, “...a victory for the people.”)

 

WAY, WAY BACK WHEN

• While we have a monument hidden on Pine Street honoring the state’s first commercial oil refinery, that operation was first started at the Lyon Brothers Station on April 8th, 1874, by present-day Eternal Valley. It would later move to its present location. What a mess that must have been.

• The oil business wasn’t always a cash cow. Early refiners in Pico Canyon initially carted huge barrels of oil to the Newhall Oil Refinery via wagons. On the bright side, it was mostly downhill for the seven miles. Cost of moving one 40-gallon barrel back then? A buck. Pico No. 4, the first commercial oil well in California, was pumping out about 10 barrels of crude a day in 1876.

• We’ve often talked about how the pioneers used an old-fashioned “Spring Pole” method to pump oil out of the ground. It was basically a large pole on a fulcrum with a bit on the other end, pounding into the ground and operated by brute strength. Know where we got the method? From Chinese railroad laborers who stuck around Newhall after the railroad was built.

• Le Chene is not only famous around the valley as a top-notch French restaurant, but is known all throughout Southern California. It’s way up Sierra Highway and recognizable by its beautiful rock structure. The place was originally a gas station called Castle Rocks Service. Owner Bill Dodrill had the signature rocks hauled all the way up from Little Rock in the 1920s by horse and wagon. It was a two-day trek — one way.

• Agua Dulce is an eclectic spot as any on the globe. On the old Johnson Ranch in 1914, they held their own school of nine students — including a large water spaniel. Around the same time, the father and son family called the Stonehatchets had an appropriate name. Long before “The Flintstones” movie was filmed up there, the Stonehatchets lived in a cave up there from 1906 into the early 1920s. Then, there was Claude Ellis, an artist who lived in a little lean-to shack on the current park property. He painted faces and landscapes on the rocks up there.

• Remember this date: Aug. 10, 1924. I guess you could say that was officially the last day of the reign of the dons of Santa Clarita. That’s when the Camulos family bid farewell to their beloved Camulos Ranch off what is current Highway 126. From terms of an earlier deed of Ignacio del Valle, Reginaldo del Valle was forced to sell off the plush ranchland. A huge picnic and barbecue was held by friends and relatives and included several famous people, including Charles Russell. While he was there, using a cardboard shoe box, Russell sketched two horses. It hadn’t been published until appearing in The Mighty Signal on April 7, 1985. That picnic was the last meeting on the ancestral homeland of an old Californio family.

• You could buy a hot lunch for 15 cents at the Woodard coffee shop in Newhall. Fifteen cents hardly buys a stick of gum nowadays.

• 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.

 

APRIL 6th, 1927

• There was a special at the Doty garage. Gasoline — excuse me, I must gather myself before I weep — was 11 cents a gallon. Sorry. No good. I AM going to cry...

• Mrs. J.A. Ulmer of Los Angeles had a sickly feeling when she opened the door and a Newhall Sheriff’s deputy was standing there. Seems Mrs. Ulmer was not only cursed with impatience, she was guilty of hit and run. Mrs. U didn’t want to wait out a big traffic jam in Newhall and started not only driving on the wrong side of the road, but on the far shoulder, where she hit Santa Clarita fruit seller, a Mr. Tracey and seriously injured the grocer. Then, she just drove off while others took down her license number.

• In these politically correct climes, I doubt if you’d have a women’s organization host something called “The Harem Tea.” But that’s just what the Newhall Woman’s Club did on this date. Gladys Laney’s mom was in attendance, as was former Signal editor Jeanne Feeney’s grand aunt, Jessie Sackrider.

• A Signal editorial condemned the League of Nations and our involvement in it which is haunting 90 years later compared with the United Nations. Some blurbs from A.B. Thatcher, publisher: “If ever a bunch of thick heads existed it is these foreigners who come over to tell us what to do. In the first place, the League has never done anything that the organizers said it would. It never prevented a single nation from doing as it pleased. That war has not broken out is only explained that the countries are too poor to  buy war material.” Thatcher goes on: “The plain truth is the United States is only wanted in the league for one purpose: to pay the bills.” I think we could run that verbatim today and not notice a difference except for “League of Nations...”

 

APRIL 6th, 1937

• In vain, the Newhall Woman’s Club (Yup; That’s how they spelt it) petitioned Southern California Pacific to keep the Newhall Train Depot (where the Jan Heidt station is today; the abandoned building would burn down in the early 1960s) open. Despite the NWC passing around a local petition with a couple of hundred names,  the railroad said, “nyet.”

• Before there was the Repertory East Theatre, a local theatrical troupe, the Comical Country Cousins,  put on the comedy, “Sarah Who Is Sad.”

 

APRIL 6th, 1947

• We were at war with Lancaster 70 years back. Seems the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce took it upon themselves to kidnap a billboard — owned by the Newhall Chamber of Commerce. The Antelope Valley group put up a billboard, touting their community. Seems some conman in Mojave claimed to have owned the sign and took 50 bucks from the Lancaster CofC to let them use it.

• Several hundred Santa Claritans who had served as extras in the John Wayne classic, “Angel & The Badman,” which was filmed partly out here, motored down in costume to the world Hollywood premiere of the film. Part of the contingent were the Newhall Trail Tramps, a group of cowgirl trick riders based locally. This was the second time a big posse of SCV folks made it to a world Hollywood opening. In 1939, another couple of hundred locals, in costume, were on hand for that great flick, “Dodge City.” One local who was in the film, alas could not make the premier. It was one of the stars and Saugus rancher, Harry Carey. Harry died in 1946.

• Don’t know if it was global warming, but we had another unusual spate of April weather. It snowed again in the valley floor and we had frost warnings in the upper canyons as the mercury plunged below 30.

 

APRIL 7th, 1950

• In the scheme of things, it was of minor importance but to me — and I don’t mean to be self-centered here, just pragmatic — it was the most significant date in all of history — my birthday. Tomorrow begins my 67th year. Celebrations will continue until midnight, April 6th, 2018. Those who protest may get their own column…

 

APRIL 6th, 1957

• Patrons of the American Theater had no idea Elvis could be so disturbing. Dozens of movie goers fled our old movie house screaming when a young yahoo Doug Flowers lit off a bunch of fireworks in the crowded theater. Flowers, who had a couple of other charges hanging over his head, like burglary and disturbing the peace, was arrested and thrown in the pokey for two months.

• Gusts of wind more than 70 mph lashed the valley, making life miserable for locals. Don’t forget, back then, we were primarily ag land and that meant tons of topsoil, fertilizer and tumbleweeds blowing across the Santa Clarita.

• Some say television has no effect on the viewer. Some say the opposite. A mind unbalanced by religious hallucinations was blamed for young Luis Navarette Jaurez murdering his father. Luis, 22, said he had seen the devil on TV, who told him he would make the world a better place to live if Luis would obey him. The Castaic hog rancher jumped his father, pinned his arms with his knees and beat him senseless with his fists. Then, the Castaic man reached his hand down his father’s throat and pulled his tongue out. Luis had to be restrained in a straight jacket.

• We’ve got our own Cowboy Fest around the corner but a half-century back, the Newhall-Saugus Rodeo was already one of California’s oldest wild west shows. World champion cowboys who were household names in the 1950s — Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulders and Elliott Calhoun, the name a few — were already signed on for the 31st annual rodeo, held at the Saugus Speedway grounds.

• For years, folks in some of the outer reaches of the SCV didn’t have street addresses. Mail was delivered to the so-&-so ranch or somebody’s spread. The heavy hand of modernization hit the Santa Clarita when the county ordered that all outlying areas now be labeled with what locals called, “Big House Numbers.” The quiet rural homesteads now had five-digit addresses.

 

APRIL 6th, 1967

• Amazing. We had late snow here in April of 1927, 1947, April of 1957 and April of 1967. The snow level dropped to a pinch above 2,000 feet and there was nearly a yard of the white stuff in Gorman. We just MISSED having snow in April of 2007 when we had a few flakes fall at the end of March.

• With the odd weather came tragedy. A Boy Scout troop from Hawthorne was lost in the blizzard. One of the scouts died. They had no camping gear and were on a hike when the late storm hit. The scoutmaster left them to get help and the boy died a half-hour after he left. The rest of the troop was brought out with no injuries.

• Golfers watched in horror as a small plane climbed above the Vista Valencia golf course, stalled, then fell wing over wing into the 7th tee. Pilot and passenger were dead on impact and wreckage was strewn all over the course. If you can use the word, “fortunately” with an item like this, it was drizzling and the golf course was relatively empty.

 

APRIL 6th, 1977

• The man who put the “super” in superintendent, Clyde Smyth, had a job where pretty much you’d go to work and there was always something. On this date, Clyde had to find a way to serve 3,500 meals for the local schools. His vendor of seven years, Vencoa, declared bankruptcy. There were many reasons for the insolvency, but the company owner also sheepishly added a small bit of blame to Sierra Vista Jr. High. Seems the rascals initiated an actual nutrition program, which cut into junk food sales.

• A gang of horse rustlers went right to the source: the pound. Horse thieves made off with eight ponies which had been found wandering and unclaimed in Sand Canyon. The rustlers just went up to the pen, cut a hole in the fence and loaded up the horses in the middle of the night. Had they done that about 100 years earlier when the Judge Roy Bean of Castaic, W.W. Jenkins was running that part of the valley, they would have been lynched if caught.

• In his day, Henry Winkler was one of the top stars on Earth. Made famous by his role of “The Fonz” on “Happy Days,” Winkler was in town to shoot the movie, “Heroes” with Sally Field.

• Early rumblings were coming from Southern Pacific. The railway warned locals that they might close down the historic Saugus Train Station within a year. One of the first steps was to eliminate the job of “Agent Telegrapher.” With that being the ONLY job at the depot, it pretty much sealed the STS’s fate. Trivia? The very last people to work at this position — and the last official employees — were James “Bob” Guthrie (the agent) and two “clerks,” J.M. Harrington and E.M. Silva. Silva worked graveyard, Harrington swing. Guthrie had lived and worked at the station for 15 years. His daughter, Nancy, was just 1 when they moved in.

 

APRIL 6th, 1987

• The odd war between LAFCO and the founders of the City of Santa Clarita continued. The  agency which is in charge of okaying new governments in California refused to release any figures about costs of building this new municipality and had to be ordered by lawsuit to do so.

• After months of legal positioning, threatened suits and the possibility that Canyon Country Little League would miss a season due to a county technicality, opening day was scheduled to FINALLY go off without a hitch on their home field. One problem: Mother Nature. After all that hassle, opening day was rained out.

 

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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