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From The Signal Archives: Fires, politics and vino

Posted: November 5, 2009 8:55 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Editor’s note: As The Signal celebrates 90 years of service to the Santa Clarita Valley, we offer this peek into the SCV of days past. The following is from the Nov. 1, 1956, issue of The Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise.

Fires, crashes, train derailment
Not a lot of people lived in the Santa Clarita Valley — or, as at least part of it was then known, Soledad Township — back in 1956. But the area didn’t lack for action. The Nov. 1 issue featured stories about a train crash, two deaths in car crashes, a fire at a Safeway cold room and a wildfire set by two runaway San Fernando Valley girls who got lost while trying to hitchhike to Oregon. Seems the girls were lighting matches while trying to make their way through heavy shrubbery in the dark of night when they caught the underbrush on fire in the Circle J. Ranch area. Kindly sheriff’s Arson Investigator Sgt. W. B. Hatcher got the story out of them after their dropped match created an “avalanche of flame,” The Signal reported. But the paper was very forgiving: The two runaways, ages 12 and 15, were “too scared and too obviously repentant” to be held accountable, it reported. “Sgt. Hatcher took them back home.”

Pass the pan of vino
As to the train derailment above Ravenna Station in Soledad Canyon, a large crane was brought in to lift the toppled cars off the torn-up tracks, The Signal reported. Among those derailed cars was a boxcar loaded with condensed milk and a tank car full of wine. “The stress of the derailment opened up several small cracks in the tank shell, but very little vino was lost since buckets and pans appeared as if by magic to place under the leaks and catch the drippings,” the newspaper said.

Democrats dominate
Back in 1956, Democrats outnumbered Republicans locally by more than 500, The Signal reported. “The success or failure of the major party candidates will hinge on how many registered Democratic voters decide to cross the line into the Republican camp. If everybody votes according to his registration the Grand Old Party candidates will not have a chance in Soledad,” the newspaper said.

Plenty of propositions back then, too
While many people now days decry the number of propositions on the ballot, back in 1956 there were plenty, too — 19 statewide propositions and four countywide ones. “Of all these propositions Number 4 is the most controversial and has caused the biggest expenditure of political propaganda funds,” The Signal reported. “It is the so-called ‘Oil and Gas Conservation’ act.” Even in these pre-Scott Newhall days, when Fred W. Trueblood Sr. was publisher, the paper was not above taking sides in its so-called news columns: “The Signal thinks very poorly of the whole initiative idea and advises any voter who feels that he doesn’t completely and clearly understand any one of the propositions to vote No.”

Crossover voters
The ads in this issue showed that crossover voters were specifically targeted. “Democrats and Republicans vote for Jacque Boyle, Republican, for Assembly,” one ad said. And another: “Do you want as your United States Senator a man who filed a brief in Federal Court asking the Judge to acquit 14 Communists, afterwards convicted by a jury of conspiracy to seek the violent overthrow of the United States government?” “We are registered Democrats, but we can’t vote for a man with this kind of a record, regardless of his party label,” it continues, urging voters to return Thomas J. Kuchel to the Senate over challenger Richard Richards.

Before deregulation
An ad from Southern California Edison Co., featuring the cartoon character Reddy Kilowatt, boasts, “The same amount of electricity costs you less today than it did 20 years ago.”

— Lila Littlejohn


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