WEEKLY COLUMNJohn Boston's Time Ranger & SCV History: Connected To The Moon & a Fake Miss Valencia
Posted on: 04/20/2017 00:00
Really, I suppose a big part of what we do on these treks is to constantly unearth wonderful cocktail party trivia.
We’ve got a doozy for you this morning about how a piece of Santa Clarita is up on the moon, smiling at us. Like, right now.
We’ve got a most interesting vista ahead of us, what with our own Cool Hand Luke moment, battles for independence and an attractive nuisance call from the old Saugus Depot.
And no posting.
(PHOTO CAPTION: Here’s a little cocktail party trivia for you. Saugus was named after the birthplace of town founder Henry Mayo Newhall. Our sometimes forgotten little Massachusetts sister city is still around today. the word, “Saugus,” comes from the Narragasut Indian word meaning: “sandy spit of land.” They got the spit right. Just kidding, saddlepals. Just kidding.)
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
• On April 18, 1899, Richard and Martin Wood started the Saugus Cafe inside the Saugus Train Depot. They had signed papers, taking over the little eatery in the northeast corner of the depot back in January but apparently served the first meal under the new title on the April 18 date. The restaurant actually was opened on September 1, 1887, under the ownership of James Herbert Tolfree. Interesting name for a business in a train depot.
• Speaking of Saugus, we just got our mitts on an obscure correspondence from 1923, noting that John Fremont used to run a trading post in this area in the mid-1800s where he “...used to intercede for the Red Man and interpret the White, or vice versa.”
APRIL 20th, 1927
• This was our own Newhall Spin & Marty Moment. A 14-year-old car thief from Kern County was apprehended when he tried the same stunt at Gene Doty’s grandpa’s Ford Dealership. Jesse Doty gave chase but couldn’t catch the freckled-faced perp. Four local youths — the Cheney Bros. Harry and Rob, Bob Matthews and Irwin Kee, took up the chase, tackled the kid and held him down until someone brought back the sheriff.
• Signal editor/owner Dad Thatcher went after Charlie Chaplin, saying the guy wasn’t morally fit to be an American nor should he be allowed to make movies. Maybe we should get the Historical Society to go out and bulldoze that little chapel The Little Tramp donated to us...
• Cool Hand Luke need not look over his shoulder. While Paul Newman in the film of the same name ate 50 eggs, an Antelope Valley man consumed 45 of them in one sitting over at a local Easter get-together.
• One of the most dangerous business is farming and a Mr. Edeler of Plum Canyon could attest to that. He fell under the wheels of his big tractor and only a recent rain saved his life. The soft mud cushioned the heavy machinery as it rolled over him. Still, he sustained major injuries and a broken collar bone. Statistics of the day showed that someone connected with a farm died from injuries every 30 minutes. That’d be across America, not Santa Clarita. We were so small back then, we would have run out of farmers in about two hours at that rate...
• Rather strange crime from 90 years ago. Someone stole the big drinking fountain from the New Era School in Bouquet Canyon.
• On this date, Charles Veigel and Mr. Phipps of Van Nuys held their grand opening for the Newhall Ice Co. They had a new machine that cranked out 15 tons a day. Back then, that’s how we mostly kept things cold around here. Well. That and winter.
• Funny how times don’t change. In another editorial, “Dad” Thatcher lamented the area’s crime problem. The local chief of police for L.A. had complained about the soft stance the courts had taken, promising that “if the courts won’t eliminate the gunmen, I will.” The Signal felt we were a step away from vigilantism.
APRIL 20th, 1937
• I’m not exactly pinpoint sure where this used to be (Gladys Laney — can you help??) but a huge 12,000-acre chunk of property called “Home Acres” went to the state for failure to pay a whopping $22,000 tax bill. L.A. County promised they were going to take it over and build a huge park. The land was described “east of the tracks in Newhall.” That sort of opens up a lot of possibilities.
• Andy Jauregui held more than roping sessions on his Placerita Canyon ranch. The Hall of Fame cowboy lent his place out to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church for their annual barbecue.
APRIL 20th, 1947
• Pea soup fog was blamed for the death of four on a small plane that didn’t make it through Weldon Canyon. First to respond were the Kitchells. They used to own the Highlands Park Motel, which today is a little ranch right next to the Rice Canyon park entrance. My dad almost bought the place in the 1960s...
APRIL 20th, 1957
• A neighbor had warned of this before it became a park. Word got out that Placerita Canyon’s new state reserve was a great place for romance. Four couples were asked to, ahem, disperse, by local Sheriff’s deputies (the cops must have been between crime sprees). According to a local deputy, two of the couples involved 12-year-old girls and the eldest of the quad was a mature 15.
• Dale Robertson, handsome cowboy movie star, was the parade marshal for the 31st annual Newhall-Saugus Rodeo. Dale was also a past national rodeo champ, too.
APRIL 20th, 1967
• Residents reported a strange sort of harassment — one from the air. Seems several pilots had buzzed the Santa Clarita, making aerial assaults on homes, farmers on tractors and dipping to 10-feet to force a car off San Francisquito Canyon.
• Meanwhile, another plane crashed, taking the life of a 22-year-old LAPD officer Richard Burke. His passenger sustained serious injuries. Burke crashed off Highway 14 and actually stumbled away from the wreckage, wandering around before dying from his wounds.
• A boy who had run away four times committed suicide in his Newhall jail cell rather than return home. Deputies reported that the boy seemed happy and was heard whistling. While they checked his cell every 30 minutes, as he was a simple runaway and in seeming good spirits, they did not take away his possessions, including his belt. He used it to hang himself.
• Construction was delayed on the valley’s second high school campus. Rain, and, oddly enough, snow, postponed groundbreaking on Canyon High.
APRIL 20th, 1977
• The old Saugus Train Depot’s days were numbered. It was nearly demolished by a Southern Pacific wrecking ball before the new SCV Historical Society stepped in to rescue it. But as a final hurrah, the station agent’s daughter, Nancy Guthrie and her friend Debbie Romero, used a warm Sunday afternoon to sunbathe in their bikinis on the roof. Their enticing shapes caused quite a stir with two minor traffic accidents in front of the depot reported. The girls reportedly were asked by Sheriff’s deputies to try other side of the roof that wasn’t visible to San Fernando Road motorists.
• Co-eds at Saugus High complained to administration about teen boys accosting them en route to school and trying to force them into a small tunnel underneath the giant state water pipe next to the campus.
• This is one of the most obscure — and amazing stories in all of local lore. We have a bit of Santa Clarita smiling down at us from the moon. Back in the 1920s, John Irwin used to sit with his children and share that he always wanted to be the first man to walk on the moon. John Irwin died in 1956 at the age of 77. When the United States sent their second lunar lander to the orb on Aug. 2, 1971, one of the astronauts was James Irwin — NO RELATION to John. Let’s take a breath here because this gets complicated. Prior to that moon walk, John’s daughter sent a touching letter to James Irwin along with her father’s photograph and asked if the astronaut could leave it on the moon. He did. James Irwin even mentioned it in his autobiography, “To Rule the Night.” John’s son, Bruce, I believe, still lives in the SCV.
• We just didn’t get no respect. On this date, Kitty Ruth — Miss Valencia — was in the Miss California Pageant. Locals were scratching their heads, trying to figure out just who the heck was this local beauty. She wasn’t. Well. She was beautiful, but she wasn’t local. Pageant producers randomly picked the Granada Hills coed to represent the Santa Clarita Valley. Darn thing was, Kitty Ruth won, too. There wasn’t a soul in the audience from the SCV to cheer on the surprised gal. This all came about because the pageant was held at Magic Mountain and the organizers thought it would be nice to honor the locals by entering a Miss Valencia. She was sort of appointed by friends of friends to represent the area although her closest affiliation was that she “had a brother who worked at the park once.”
APRIL 20th, 1987
• There is a sub-category and little-discussed aspect of nostalgia called The Great Person Theory of History. I don’t know if Ruth Bennell could qualify as great, but she had a huge effect on this valley. Leader of LAFCO, the powerful but tiny stage agency which kill or give life to new governments, from dog catcher districts to entire counties, Bennell at times seemed to make it her personal mission to kill the formation of the city of Santa Clarita. Bennell shrunk the proposed borders by half, cutting out most of the new and future development from local control. Bennell gave backers a take-it-or-shove-it ultimatum on whether to accept a proposed 40-square mile boundary — cut from an original 90 then 75 square mile proposal.
• The “Happy Hump,” Magic Mountain, owned by Bally Manufacturing Co. was sold on this date for $600 million to the New York investment firm of Wesray Capital. Thrown in to the deal were Six Flags’ six other theme and two water parks.
• Supervisor Mike Antonovich came under a glaring eye for his “Breakfast Club” meetings with local developers. Many of his campaign backers were invited to these regular closed-door sessions to discuss how to carve up the SCV. And no. Environmental, school representatives or social representatives were not invited.
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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POEM OF THE WEEK
The Rose Family
By Robert Frost
The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple's a rose,
And the pear is, and so's
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only know
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose--
But were always a rose.