July 4th: An Old Newhall Tradition
By Leon Worden
Herbert Hoover was in the White House. The nation's economic troubles were looking like they would get worse before they got better. Nobody was in a particularly celebratory mood, and from his tiny office and print shop at 636 Spruce Street, Signal editor A.B."Dad" Thatcher griped about Newhall's lackluster display of patriotism on America's 154th birthday.
"In the old days," Thatcher writes, "two objects were to be attained, or a (July 4th) celebration was marked down as a fizzle. The first was to get the best known speaker possible, and the other was to buy more fireworks than (any) other town."
"It was July 4, all right. But as far as distinctive celebration was concerned, it might as well have been any other picnic day, or Sunday."
The next year, 1931, was worse. Just months after Congress made the Star Spangled Banner our national anthem, "the population of Newhall celebrated the Glorious Fourth by trips in every direction, most of that direction was toward the beach."
Then a curious thing happened. Maybe it had something to do with a young upstart named Roosevelt who was promising national renewal and nipping at Hoover's heels. I don't know. But in 1932 the locals got their act together and staged one wing-ding of a July 4th show.
"The national holiday was celebrated in Newhall with the greatest and most colorful festivity that has marked the public doings in town for many years," the ever-patriotic Thatcher writes.
It seems our town mothers and fathers, most notably the realtor-turned-historian A.B. Perkins and Chevy dealer Fred Lamkin, decided that Depression or no, Newhall would have a parade.
"The parade formed on Arch Street," Thatcher writes, "from whence it marched to Newhall Avenue, which was followed to Tenth Street (now called Lyons Avenue), turning to Spruce Street (now called San Fernando Road*) and moving south to Market Street, where it turned to the playground near the Community Church and dissolved."
The parade had an "Old Time" theme — no kidding — with an "old-time prospector and his family, the Mule Team freight line, cowboys, old time ranchers and others, along with the newer things that have become a part of our community life."
Things like S.D. Dill's brand-new 1932 school bus, which was "an impressive lesson of the progress both of transportation and the number of pupils."
The "Catholic Ladies" won Sweepstakes for their model of the San Fernando Mission, complete with "Indians, Padre and other features."
Newhall Ice — still in business today — won the "originality" prize for its blocks of ice with flowers and fruit inside.
Opal Houghton's stunning hat won her the "best ladies costume" prize, presented by Ruby Kellogg.
"Jess Doty and his men put on an odd stunt. A car of 1913 was shown with some wheels out of center, and known as Galloping Lizzie, was followed by one of the newest models."
"Herb Ball's freight line got stuck, and lost the water wagon, but finally got its place with the sixteen mule team."
After the parade, "fully two thousand people milled around, visiting, greeting friends, dodging the fire crackers, and waiting the opening of the barbecue dinner. Pictures of the old timers, who were there in force, were taken."
Politicians made patriotic speeches, and sporting events lasted until sundown.
"The greased pig and greased pole contests seemed to make the most sport, the pole climbing being continued until finally Robert Poore, of Glendale, managed to overcome the slippery handicap and get the $2.50 prize."
Evening festivities included a fireworks display on the grounds of Newhall School.
Every year after that, Newhall's Fourth of July festivities just got bigger and bigger.
The 1933 parade saw no fewer than 27 official entries, with "about a hundred horsemen, rodeo performers, cowboys, cowgirls and movie stars."
It is a fine tradition, one that has stayed the same more than it has changed over the years.
Sure, we'll have a few more than 27 official entries tomorrow. More than 127, even. And the parade will draw a bit more than 2,000 spectators. It'll likely be the biggest mass of humanity this town has ever seen at a single community event.
But this year's "Life on the Frontier" theme isn't too different from the "Old Time" motif of 64 years ago. And we're bound to have some 1930s-vintage automobiles, as well as some of the "newer things that have become a part of our community life," as Thatcher put it.
Newhall Park will again be the venue for post-parade activities. We might not have a greased pig contest, but we'll have pig races and all sorts of other contests at Frontier Days, which start right after the parade and run through Sunday, July 7 at the fairgrounds on Soledad Canyon Road. And "Dad" Thatcher would be pleased to know we'll have fireworks.
Independence Day is a special time in Newhall, where people from all over Santa Clarita come together to show their pride in the greatest community and the greatest nation on earth.
Have a great Fourth of July.
* San Fernando Road was renamed Main Street in 2007.
©1996 LEON WORDEN • ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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