Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Conversations with Maurice Roderick:
Reminiscences of Newhall in the 1920s.

Interviews By CAROL BEEMAN,
Transcribed by KAREN MURRAY.

Contributed November 2001.

This series of interviews was conducted by Carol Beeman with her father, Maurice Roderick (born Mauricio Rodriguez), before his death in Texas. Roderick's father Carlos was a foreman for a time on the Newhall ranch. Carlos was married to Josefa Perea, daughter of Jose Ramon Perea (of oil discovery fame) and Maria Antonia Josefa Duran — both of whom are buried at the Ruiz Cemetery. Another daughter, Felicita, who married Edward Kichline, is the great-great-grandmother of Karen Murray, who transcribed and submitted the interviews.

Maurice set his coffee cup carefully on the small table beside his chair and leaned back comfortably, gathering his thoughts about the events one year in San Francisquito Canyon ...

Old-time Thanksgiving Dinner

We planned on having turkey. Had a Hills Bros. coffee can with a slit in top, lined with cotton, two screws on either side to hold lid tight which we opened with screwdrivers. This was where we kept the money for our Thanksgiving Dinner.

Deer season had opened so people could have venison for Thanksgiving. Went hunting with J. (identification unknown). J. sat on a big rock to roll cigarettes. Fire observer was across canyon. I took my gun, followed footprints of deer. Doe walked further up the hill, stopped, looked back at me then down the canyon. Pebbles rolled, startling her, causing her to look back to see what cause it. I shot from the hip.

J. thought it was a coyote that startled the deer. He took out a knife and dressed her. We took turns dragging her down hill then both carried her back up hill to old Maxwell place. J. stayed under a bush while I went after water.

We put the deer on the running board, tied the head on the fender with rope, leaning on the engine hood, then tied the legs to the door hinge. About this time the forest ranger stopped by, wearing a badge but no uniform. J. rolled another cigarette.

We dorve past the general store waving at some men sitting on the high cement porch, stopping at the blacksmith shop to show the boys our fine catch.

People came from all over and from the livery stable. The livery stable was used as a storeroom for hay and a blind pig. We hid bottles in the hay.

We stopped by Aunt Annie's (Perea) and she called us back to take pictures of our deer.

Arrived home about 4 pm, finished dressing the deer, cleaned our guns. "Did you aim at the deer?" J. asked. It seemed my gun barrel was bent.

Later on we returned to Aunt Annie's to show Uncle Joe (Perea) the head and gave them some nice venison roast. Uncle Joe had skinned the deer.

The money in the coffee can was not used for turkey after all, but there was plenty for the other food and a start on Christmas.

Hunting in Arizona

Once we took a hunting trip to Arizona. I remember a rockwall near a bush with a javelina rooting underneath it. There was a bobcat in a nearby elderberry tree. A hunter came up the ravine to the tree. The javelina is watching the cat, cat sees hunter, screeches, jumps from the tree and runs up the canyon past the javelina and me. The javelina snorted when the cat screeched but the javelina can't climb well so he ran down the canyon towards the hunter. The hunter thought the javelina was attacking him.

Three other hunters came to the ravine below me. One said, "I'll go down, you two go up." One hunter made a 3 foot jump off the rock into a crowd of javelina, about 15 of them. After shooting several rounds, came laughter. No one knew which way to shoot. Javelinas were snorting and running in all directions.

I saw a jaguar going up the slope of the other hill across the ravine. It began to snow so I went up into a mine tunnel. With a snort, a deer charged out of the tunnel. Fear made the hair rise on the back of its neck. It was the first whitetail I ever saw.

Ramblings in Southern California

Whatever happened to Burbank potatoes? We visited Burbank's Experimental Garden north of Santa Rosa.

Uncle Ed (Kichline, had a ranch in San Francisquito Canyon) budded fruit and berries. He had a huge mulberry tree. He also raised bees. The bees weighed down the blooming branches of the fruit trees. There were also violets next to the house that the bees loved.

Eddie (jr.-Maurice's cousin) and I used to fight with violets. Agnes (Eddie's sister) made us quit. She called the Johnny Jump-ups.

We had Johnny Jump-ups on our ranch (near Newhall), yellow ones, but no mariposa lillies. We did have Maricopa lillies (the California poppy?)

Mariposa is a town in the hills near the desert. I rode to the desert in a Model T with no top. I encountered the migration of the grasshoppers, wings silver in the sun. They smashed into the windshield. The road became slick and the car slid. I kept one tire on the gravel at the roadside. I used water from the radiator to wash my legs first, then the windsheild.

Foresters came down from the other direction and asked what I was doing. Then they followed my example.

I went on up into the hills and parked by a spring. I washed my legs again, then my socks, then filled the radiator.

Back to the present in Texas —

Recently I saw a small yellow grashopper in the pasture. Newly-hatched. Grackles were in the pasture, probably for hatching grasshoppers. The crickets are singing now. I opened the window, they weren't singing last night in the rain. I forgot to grain the sheep last night until eleven. Went to do it now.

Bootlegging in Newhall

(These events occured during the Prohibition Era.)

"What kind of meat is this?" Maurice asked, helping himself to the beef pot roast.

"Pot roast," I (his daughter Carol) answered.

"What was that we had at the Center this noon?"

"I'm sure that was pot roast too. It was so tender, that was a very good dinner, wasn't it?"

"Yes, it was," he said, spooning cream corn on his plate. "What was that vegetable they had with it?"

"Mashed potatoes and gravy. And broccoli"

"I knew it was something green." He helped himself to the salad.

"I was amused when all the old-timers began telling us how good poke salad is. They were astonished we'd never eaten it, until we said we were from California."

(Maurice reminices now.)

I remember when I was a boy — we'd just moved into town (Newhall), into a big, beautiful house with a big yard around it. There were big weeds growing out in the back yard, with red berries on them. Mother (Josefa Perea Rodriguez) said they were good to eat if you baked them and poured off the water, but my dad (Carlos Rodriguez) said, "Don't you dare eat them. That's nightshade and they're poison!"

After a few weeks, Mother told me to cut out those weeds and burn them so we could have a garden. So I got the hoe and was hoeing them out. There were some other tall weeds in there, too, and I was hoeing all of them out when the next-door neighbor came over to the fence to talk to me. He was a middle-aged man, and a bootlegger.

He said, "What are you going to do with that marijuana?"

"What marijuana?" I asked. I had heard the name, but didn't know much about it.

"Those weeds you've cut down in that pile there," he said, pointing to the pile of weeds.

"I'm going to take them into the back lot and let them dry, then burn them," I said.

"I'll carry them out for you," he offered. "Just leave them there, or better yet, throw them over the fence here, and I'll get rid of them for you."

Being a kid, it never occured to me to wonder why he was being so helpful. I just saw a chance to get out of some work, so I raked them up and threw them over the fence. They had such a sickening sweet smell.

The next day they were standing up on their stems, in bunches, leaning all along the fence. They stayed there about three days until they were dry. Then I saw him carry the stems to the back lot. He put them down on the rubbish pile and burned them. The stems were all bare, the leaves were gone.

A few months later, the police came down there and arrested him, taking him to jail. Jim (Kindred) was courting my sister then, and the bootlegger shook his fist at Jim and said, "I'll get you for this."

(Carol asks if Jim was on the police force then. Maurice replies "yes" while spooning strawberries over his ice cream.)

There was another bootlegger in town. The Government men worked with the police Chief and Jim helped get to the bootlegger's house. The G-men told Jim to carry a shotgun. Jim wanted to use a pistol but the Chief said to do what the G-men said, the bootlegger would probably fire at them.

The bootlegger came to the door, slammed it, and ran out the back. The G-men were beyond the back fence. Jim and the Chief ran around the house. The bootlegger, climbing the fence, turned and shot and Jim who was holding a flashlight on him. Jim fired back and the G-men got the bootlegger.

A third bootlegger had a still in a hole in the river bank, half in, half out.

You could smell the mash in town. The police caught him in the middle of making it. He had jugs under several small willow trees. There were guns in a shed. They confiscated the guns and jugs. The local police kept one of the guns in the police station. This was the gun I used to shoot my first deer.

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