Much to investigate this beautiful morning, dear saddlepals.

There’s Mother’s Day flash floods, giant camels, movie stars, environmental nightmares, the SCV Curse, movie star cover-ups, biker fights, bomb threats, babies driving SUVs, disasters and everything but kissing.

And that probably went on back when.

Not that you guys should get any ideas while we’re in our separate saddles.

C’mon. Let’s mosey...

(PHOTO CAPTION: Hard to believe with all the soccer moms around today, but the SCV was an extremely rough and tumble area back in the late ’60s through mid ’70s. We easily had 40 serious bars in the valley and several of those were hard core. On this week in 1967, a Hell’s Angel was arrested at one for a tiff and across the valley at the Coy Gal up Sierra Highway, a 6-foot-6 cowboy both shot up the place and had a pretty good demonstration of fisticuffs before he was subdued. A United Nations of bikers gathered for a booze run at a local ranch. Present were members of the Angels, Galloping Gooses, Rebels and Satan Slaves. The law raided the party, confiscating several stolen bikes and arresting one of the “mammas.” The wife of a Galloping Goose, she was posing as a Deputy Sheriff herself. Judge C.M. MacDougall asked her at sentencing if she had ever played Annie Oakley. She said no and he fined her 50 bucks...)


• On this very day of May 13th, 1856, a squadron of soft-footed creatures meandered through Newhall, headed for Fort Tejon. The lolling camels were part of an ill-fated experiment to use the beasts to patrol the vast wastelands of California. One of my students just told me the reason why the camels didn’t work here was because of their feet. They were made for soft desert sands — not the sharp rocky topography of Southern California. Speaking of camels, back in 1981, local hiking Canyon Country teen-ager Tim Wilson found a leg bone to a giant Pleistocene camel called Camelops. The beast lived here around 12,000 years ago and was 13-feet tall at the shoulders. That’d be tough getting your foot into a stirrup. (NOTE TO SADDLEPALS: Please resist the temptation to send e-mails about how camels lie down so you can climb atop them; I was just making a tack joke.)

• One of the subfiles of history is the Great Man Theory. Briefly, it holds that sometimes, the life of one person (man/woman/child) can greatly effect the course of events. Today is the birthday of Henry Mayo Newhall, founder of the town that still bears his name. He was born in 1825 and died an EXTREMELY young man at the age of 57 (he died on March 13, 1882). I say “EXTREMELY” because I’m 57. Anyway. The town of Newhall was founded in 1876 and one of the first things Hank did was to build this epic 5-star hotel, The Southern. I wonder had he stuck around a little longer, with his vision, energy and creativity, could the Santa Clarita Valley have been turned into “the Paris of the West” as his great-great grandson Scott Newhall had once kiddingly described this patch of nettles. Interesting, too, the comparison of Henry Mayo Newhall and Antonio del Valle. Both acquired essentially the entire Santa Clarita Valley and both died fairly soon after doing so. It’s a curse, I tell you. 

• On May 8, 1875, a year before Newhall became a town, John F Powell was appointed judge of the newly-formed Soledad Judicial District. In 1900, he’d move into a big yellow house on 8th and Chestnut. The north part of the house started in late 1870s. It was a board and bat number built by the Drew family. Drew was an oil rigger up Pico Canyon. Drew would later rent his home to a Dr. Kutch, an early physician here. The Mayhue family lived there in the late 1890s. Judge John Powell had been a storekeeper up at Resting Springs, near the Nevada border, when the mines closed. Powell’s very first case was Krazynski vs. Sam Harper. Sam Harper was brother in law to Sanford Lyon. Sam’s cows had broken through a fence and had grazed up Krazynski’s pasture. (Krazynski was manager of the Lyon station.) The Powells had homestead up Dry Canyon, running cattle and sheep. Used to be a reservoir there and was home to the San Fernando Valley Gun Club. Old Johnny Powell was one of 48 names on a petition to start Newhall School District. Powell moved his judicial district office to Newhall house property in 1900 and held court until Jan 12, 1923 when he retired. Port C. Miller took over. It wasn’t ever what you’d call a full-time job. His court only held three people. One hot day, he moved his court outside and a small crowd was stung by a nest of angry bees. D.A. from L.A. was rather miffed about holding court under a big shade tree. Powell held court at a temporary construction warehouse on the Ridge Route. 40 workers had been arrested for gambling and instead of bringing them into town, Powell drove out at 10 p.m. and held court in the building while other workers pelted the building with rocks. When Powell and the deputies got back to their cars, all the tires were flat. Mrs. Powell ran a room and board house next to Newhall’s General Merchandise store on Market and Main (SF RD) opposite the Southern Hotel. Other end of the one block street, Mike Powell ran the Palace Saloon, just south of Campton’s store, across from 8th and Main. The good justice died in 1925. Fittingly, it was in court, right in the middle of his hearing a case. His old house was torn down in 1960. Yes. That is all going to be on the test...

• May 14, 1874, famed womanizing bandito and California’s most wanted outlaw, Tiburcio Vasquez, was literally caught with his pants down. He was visiting a girlfriend when L.A. Sheriff Billy Rowland and his posse surrounded the house and ordered him to come out. Tibby vaulted out a window and was trying to escape while putting on his britches. A deputy shot him in the butt. His reign of terror would later end in a San Jose hanging.

• This isn’t soooo way back, but Lorraine Wilson of Friendly Valley was a movie actress during the 1930s and 1940s. One of her dancing partners starting out in those big musicals? Some poor hoofer named Clark Gable. Lo was wife of Stu Wilson, famed Signal columnist.


MAY 11th 1927

• Santa Monica socialite Mrs. Manage was pulled over in our speed trap for violating our 15 mph rule in her new Cadillac. Actually, Mrs. M went through at warp speed and was doing nearly 60. She flashed a smile and lots of diamonds and said she’d pay the ticket, but asked that because of her “social standing,” would the officer not put her name in the newspaper. He promised he wouldn’t put her name in The Signal. Our editor, A.B. Thatcher, did. So 80 years later, if you see any descendants of the Santa Monica maven, giving them a knowing wink and tsk-tsk-tsk waving of the index finger.

• After 38 years of pumping oil out of Pico Canyon, Walton Young retired. In 1889, he came to Newhall and started working as a blacksmith’s helper in the machine shop. Eventually, he became superintendent of all the oil fields in that part of town, and was the superintendent and principal of the Felton School District and little red school house in Mentryville. J.W. Barrett took over the boss’s role in Pico Canyon after Young called it quits. Young and his wife (who were married here in 1891) went to Hawaii for six weeks and retired in Santa Monica.

• Countable Johnny Seltzer was sporting a pair of shiners courtesy of an obstreperous hobo. The bum popped the officer twice before Johnny got the best of him.

• It’s a message that could probably be learned today. The Newhall PTA urged that parents should screen the silent movies their children watched and get them to play outside more. I don’t think kids had that kind of problem in the 1920s but they sure do in the early 2000’s...

• Poor Leslie Brown went to the beach at Ventura and never came home. Riptides carried he and two friends out to sea. Rescuers tried for two hours to bring them ashore. One beach-goer swam out with a tire for them to hold onto but eventually, the 14-year-old boy weakened and drowned in plain sight of his Newhall parents. His body washed up on shore two days later. Terrible tragedy.


MAY 11th 1937

• On this date, our clerk of the Soledad Township, Frances L. Wallace, tendered her resignation to her boss. It was postmarked Honolulu and Frances said she was never coming back to Newhall. Can you imagine? Trading 1930s Hawaii for the SCV? Foof!

• At the end of Happy Valley at 747 Maple Street was Smokey Winfield’s place. He kept a private park which included an Olympic-size swimming pool, picnic area, boxing arena and other fun stuff. Smokey’s daughter was training for the Olympics as a swimmer. Despite being a world-class water athlete, she never made it. World War II canceled that. Still. Smokey was the SCV’s precursor to the Spectrum Health Club. He charged membership fees to use his place under the oaks.

• Bill Swisher had to stop building his dream house. His neighbor said Bill was constructing it on her property.

• Old prospector Joe Schoaf reportedly found a huge nugget worth $2,000. That was a pretty darn big gold rock back in 1937 money. Nope. That was a genuine golden boulder.


MAY 11th 1947

• Hard to believe, but on this very day 70 years ago, the nighttime low was 39 degrees — colder in the upper canyons.

• Myrtle Anne Lamoreaux passed away quietly in her Arch Street home. Her son, William, aka, “Red,” was the world’s most famous child screen star: Buzz Barton. Red just came back from World War II and never came close to the fame he had as a child. He would pass away years later as a working cowboy on the Randall Ranch.

• Paul Butler had some salt rubbed into his wounds. The Castaic principal just suffered a defeat of a $250,000 bond to build a new school. Next day, he got a letter from the Federal Works Agency that they had approved a $10,000 grant to help build the school voters had just turned down.


MAY 11th 1957

• I’m not quite sure how he got out of this one, except for the fact his family was beau coup connected. But on this date, a couple of hot rodding youths smashed into a pair of Newhall Sheriff prowl cars, injuring two deputies. One of the drivers? Gary Yurosek, 20. Gary played in the backfield at Hart with the legendary Joe Kapp and later, Gary would star at UCLA as an offensive lineman. The Arcadia Street lad would change his name not so much because of ramming a Sheriff’s vehicle with his souped-up brand new ’57 Vette, but because he became the actor, Gary Lockwood.


MAY 11th 1967

• At the old Sit-&-Scratch, aka, The Mustang Drive-In, the theater was evacuated when someone called the Sheriff’s with a bomb threat. Right in the darn middle of a Jerry Lewis movie. No reports of complaints from the French embassy...

• Seems rather hilarious in retrospect. James Hofner, super of the Hart School District, was okayed a pay hike. His yearly salary of $24,656 was described as “Hefty” by local media. Out of that, we should point out, he had to buy his own Alka-Seltzer.


MAY 11th 1977

• Hard to fathom, what with us being in a record drought, but it rained on Mother’s Day 40 years back. No. More appropriately, the heavens opened. The storm took two days to pass through and it snowed heavily in Gorman. Rain here fell in sheets and a severe flash flood watch was issued with yet another car being washed away at Quigley.


MAY 11th 1987

• It could have been milk, cheap white California wine — even maple syrup would have been better. But no. A double tanker truck overturned on Bouquet Canyon. Its cargo? Molten asphalt. Firefighters had to quickly build a dam to stop the black lava from spreading.

• I wonder if this effected Baby Kis’s driver’s permit 14 years later? On this date, Sharon Kis parked her big Chevy Blazer in front of a friend’s house, set the brake on a hill and ran inside to get her daughter’s sweater. She had left her 2-year-old in the car. When she jogged back out, the SUV was missing. Camden Kis had wiggled out of her car seat, released the brake and tried to steer the big rig. It rolled downhill, around a corner and smack dab into the Noland family’s house, doing $20,000 worth of damage — which was a ton back then. The Nolands had just put their home up for sale. Camden was unhurt. Ironically, Cam’s mom was a diligent volunteer who worked to make traffic safer around the valley. Whoops.


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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