Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

42nd Annual Newhall Old West July 4th Celebration.

Program Book.

Webmaster's note.

This program book offers the regrets of the Kiwanis Club that there will be no fireworks display this year — and as of July 1, it was true. The reason? The Kiwanis always put in their order for fireworks from the big local manufacturer, Bermite Powder Company of Saugus, a year in advance, upon conclusion of the prior year's festivities. The trouble this time was, between the 1967 and 1968 parades, Bermite Powder was sold to the aerospace firm Whittaker Corp., and Whittaker didn't know about it. This fact was not realized until it was too late — or was it?

On July 3, 1968, The Signal reported there would be fireworks after all, courtesy of The Signal itself — and this time, unlike in past years, entry to the festivities on the Hart High football field — and popcorn — would be free. The Signal didn't say how it pulled it off, but it did note that in the 36 years since the first big celebration in 1932, "only two Independence Days have gone without fireworks. These years came at the height of World War Two and the Korean conflict." The Signal wasn't about to let it happen again for no good reason.

Local [Parade] History.

[Note: The writer was present for the first parade in 1932; as such, he writes from first-hand knowledge.]

Hi, Folks!

How goes the battle — meaning, of course, problems of traffic, not to mention parking.

Our Chamber of Commerce is always very glad to welcome you to Newhall, and maybe you'd be interested in the Whys & Wherefores of our Annual Celebration of Independence Day.

Our Annual Parade and General Riot of Fun and Entertainment was born in 1932, the child (not to mention, white hope) of the Newhall-Saugus Kiwanis Club, which was then having problems in their attempts to make the Santa Clara Valley of the South, a better place in which to live.

Any answers would be helpful. From the San Fernando Valley (then on the fringe of metropolitan growth), there had never been anything but trouble getting over to Newhall.

First, an almost impassable mountain barricade had to be surmounted, maybe with the aid of hand ropes, or a winch. In 1863, General Beale's 90-foot cut (10 feet wide) was chiseled through. Its only immediate handicap was a 29% grade approach.

So, in 1910, there was substituted the Newhall Highway Tunnel, about 450 feet long, and a couple of Fords could pass on its two narrow lanes. It was also unlighted and unloved. It didn't encourage traffic. Some folks wouldn't drive through it.

Assuming that You had, you would have entered the Old Frontier. (A lot of folks didn't want to.)

The 1930 Census counted just over 2,000 folks in the whole darned Soledad Township. (Don't bother to look it up — it is now the Newhall Judicial District. It included about everything north of the Santa Susanna Mountains in Los Angeles County originally to a wandering county boundary.)

It was an area with a Romantic Past, of Gold discoveries, Camps, and Mining, as well as the cradle of California's Petroleum Industry.

At the moment, most of us would have preferred less of a Past, and more of a Future. Dry Farming is a Slow Producer of wealth. Contemporary Water Utility Records indicate maybe a thousand folks in the Township center, Newhall.

The nearest High School was in San Fernando — a logistic problem at best, and at worst ... forget it.

Good publicity just didn't happen. Forest fires, a Constable departing in a hail of lead, an occasional murder were typical news under a Newhall dateline. The story of the St. Francis Dam Disaster (1928, the nearest flood water was five miles, or more, away) probably caused more people to try to locate the old mining settlement, than ever before.

In 1930, the Kiwanis Club had joined with the Ramona Chapter (Native Sons of the Golden West) in dedicating a Memorial to Francisco Lopez, a co-discoverer and co-founder of California's first Gold Camp. (Placeritas Canyon, 1842.)

General publicity of that event had been high, wide & handsome. (Could lightning strike twice in the same place?)

A suggestion was an Annual Celebration. Unfortunately, March 9th is a date of unsure climate. Would a "homecoming" added bring enough folks out? There was a lot of arguing, backing and filling (just like a string of mules). Tentatively a Fourth of July/Homecoming emerged as an idea. Local organizations were sold (or otherwise), the Masonic Club, the P.T.A., the Ladies of both the Community Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Church, the Star Club, the pioneer residents.

On one thing, we were all in accord. None of us knew anything in particular about organizing. None of us knew anything about promotion. No one had any money.

A Fourth of July sort of indicates a Pee Rayde. No one knew anything about putting a parade together. It takes Floats as well as other things. No one had ever built a Float.

Backed by the enthusiasm of Desperation, the Day was a huge success.

Of course, everything had to be home-grown.

The Day started with THE BIG PARADE.

My goodness, how the local township folks turned out. There were scads of horse entries, befitting the Old West. We even had the Lancaster Band. They played the Parade three times and threw in an Afternoon Band Concert. They got $100.00, drove down, accompanied by their families, and spent three times what they got one way or another.

The Parade ended at the Barbecue Pits (the only thing that wasn't free — I think it cost 50 or 75¢). The Float entries, home made, went over like a balloon with the audience.

After the Barbecue, competitive juvenile participation was handled by the P.T.A. — as for adults, they ran the potato, sack, egg, and three legged races. They did not enter the greased pig, or pole competitions, nor pie eating contests — but most of the kids did. Age wasn't a barrier.

In the afternoon, there was also a baseball game, tennis tournament, Band Concert, and a Home-Coming Party for returning wanderers.

In the evening, the survivors gathered at the tennis court, for amateur entertainment of all kinds, fire works (not much of that — it cost money) and the "Dance under the Stars" on the concrete courts, curried, manicured to a shine with hay bales (and sweat).

All this in 1932 — 36 years ago. Kiwanis underwrote and provided Gitup & Git for five years. Then the American Legion Post took over. In 1948, the "Old West" association, formed for the purpose, took over leadership. It died in 1954 — but the Parade was held — some of it. The Chamber has had the job since 1955.

Wars have necessitated suspension a couple of times. It has never had a Santa Claus, to soften the Bumps, of outrageous Fortune. Our Parade entries, still home-made, can compete with the best. Our horse entries are way above average.

Our audiences (bless their little hearts) are plumb impossible in number, coming from there and everywhere maybe borrowing back nostalgically happinesses of their youth.

We don't have the competitions of the "Thirties." On the Henry M. Newhall Park grounds, adjacent to Athletic Field where the Fireworks are shown, the County Recreation Department has all sorts of concessions.

Our Barbecue (hosted for so many years by the local Lions Club) is still with us — and a Real Buy for Value. Kiwanis stages the evening fireworks yet. In fact, one year, Mr. Ted Lamkin photographed the entire Parade, developed the films, and eight hours later projected the picture on the plaster walls, adjacent to the Athletic field. You saw the Parade — you then saw the picture.

The "Dance" is now generally held the evening before the celebration in connection with the Coronation of the Year's Queen. It's much easier on the feet, thataway.

The "Old Timers," of the century turn, are long gone. The generation that produced the Show, knowing that they didn't know enough how to do it, have just about vanished.

On the evening of the Fourth of July (if you stuck around to enjoy it), maybe you'll admit, the job is not altogether "Knowing How" — it's Doing It.

That's our Story. We're stuck with it. Thanx for listening,

A.B. Perkins

Newhall-Saugus Kiwanis Club History.

May 17th, 1968, the Newhall-Saugus Kiwanis Club celebrated its 40th anniversary. It was organized by the San Fernando Kiwanis Club in 1928 and received its charter November 16, 1928. There were 37 Charter Members.

Until the Lions Club was organized in 1945 and the Chamber of Commerce [reorganized] in 1950, the Kiwanis was the only civic organization in Newhall. All community matters were discussed and acted on by Kiwanis. Successful projects included:

  1.  Publicizing of local history including the first gold, first oil, Mission activities, and the meeting of the Southern Pacific north and south rail projects.
  2.  The establishing of a State Historical Memorial Park in Placerita at the site of the first gold discovery.
  3.  The widening of the main street and upgrading of the buildings in the business district.
  4.  Starting in 1930 and finally meeting with total success in 1945, the start of our locally controlled high school.
  5.  A new elementary school and two new playgrounds. (Leading to the start of the July 4th celebrations.)
  6.  In 1933, the first local Community Chest.
  7.  In 1946 the club sponsored the local Co-ordinating Council.

Since 1950, the Kiwanis Club has engaged in more traditional Kiwanis activities, concerning itself primarily with youth work. Boy Scout Troop 2 and Cub Pack 2 are continuing projects. The Campfire Girls were organized. The High School Key Club and recently the Keyettes are sponsored by the club.

Each summer, several boys are sent to the F.C.A. conference in Oregon. An award is given to the High School Senior voted outstanding in Service and Citizenship. Club members have served on all school boards and other civic boards and effective support has been given to needed school tax or bond elections. The encouragement and support of the club preceded the first Junior High School.

Concerned with the poor dental health of local boys and girls, the Kiwanis Club established a free Dental Clinic at the Newhall Elementary School, March 8, 1950. It served children from all over our valley until L.A. County programs and improved economic conditions made it unnecessary. The equipment has been transported and installed into the Lincoln-Jaurez Center, Tijuana, Mexico. Our club, in conjunction with the Tijuana Kiwanis Club, funds and oversees this badly needed project for the Mexican poor.

Since its inception, when Newhall had about 800 residents and Saugus maybe 25, the Newhall-Saugus Kiwanis Club has had a proud record of leadership and accomplishment in our area's civic affairs.

Download individual pages here. Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society collection. Document file.
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