Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Newhall California (Part 2)

 The Film Industry

One of Newhall's marvelous claims to fame is the movie ranches scattered around the area.  A few have disappeared and others such as Disney's Golden Oak Ranch (Old Yeller, Roots, Pirates of the Caribbean) are still going strong in Placerita Canyon. 
 a set at Golden Oak Ranch

As a child I watched and loved black and white Western movies that were shown on Saturday afternoons.  In Westerns, the scenery should be listed in the cast of characters because of the strategic role it always played in shaping the on-screen drama.  I came to recognize places around the area that I had seen in these old movies, places such as Santa Susanna Pass or sites in the Newhall or San Fernando Valley area.  Even the movie sets, though altered for each film, had a sameness about them. 
 Three Monogram cowboys ride tall in the latest volume of Warner ...
a Monogram movie poster

I believe Monogram and Republic were the first movie ranches around Newhall.  Republic was located where Golden Oak Ranch is now, and Monogram produced many hundreds of Westerns over a 50-year period (Gunsmoke, High Noon, The Virginian) before selling out to Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, in 1962.  He renamed it Melody Ranch and from there put on a popular TV program of Western music.  Still called Melody Ranch, it still hosts film production. 

Randall Ranch was an equipment supplier to the movie business and was located over on Pine Street near the Pioneer Oil Refinery mentioned in yesterday's post.  Randall's had the props and equipment that films needed during production: stagecoaches and wagons, horses and buffalo, guns, Indian props, etc.  My sisters used to go over there and ride around on one of the buffalo.  Yeah. 

An early movie actor named Hoot Gibson owned a ranch near the river that evolved into major rodeo grounds.  In the 50s it transitioned into Saugus Speedway and on still evenings we could hear the noise of the cars racing around the oval.  The place was later bought by my friend's parents and became the site of our almost death on the railroad tracks.

William S. Hart, another early Western actor, worked and lived in Newhall.

And a famous family of Hollywood stuntmen lived nearby--Yakima Canutt and his sons.  Yakima doubled for John Wayne and choreographed the wild chariot race in Ben Hur
Yakima Canutt

The Newhall Incident
What is probably the most tragic event ever to occur in my hometown, I have written about here.

Magic Mountain
There weren't enough teenage-level jobs to go around in the Newhall area until Magic Mountain (now Six Flags) was completed in 1971.  Previous posts cover Magic Mountain here and here.  It is still a very popular destination and is known for its crazy roller coasters.  I will say it was the most fun place I ever worked!

I am so lucky to have grown up in a place abounding with fascinating history, stunning landscape, and a rural wildness that has regretfully disappeared in the decades since my teen years. 


  1. Neat place! Nice reading more about where you lived in your teen years.

    So you think of someone's hometown as the place she lived during her teen years? My first four years were spent in upstate SC, but then we moved to NC, and I've lived here ever since. My mom had a different experience in that she was born in Paris, but lived most of her life in West Africa until she was fifteen. (Her parents were missionaries.) Then they came back to the US for good because of her brother's problem with epilepsy.

    Her father was born in China and lived there until missionaries were forced out. His parents went to Thailand, and he was sent to Georgia to a college to finish up schooling, I believe. But his family was from the Montana/Washington/California region. Yet he ended up in West Africa, and then based in South Carolina. I should have asked him where he considered his hometown to be.

    1. "His parents" meaning his dad and step-mom. His own mother died in China soon after giving birth to her first daughter. It is weird to have a great-grandmother buried in China. I do wonder sometimes about her grave.

    2. Wow, your family is Heinz 57! (at least as far as places lived) Much more interesting than mine. I wonder what the burial practices are in China. Do you think there's actually a grave for your gr-grandma? Perhaps the missionary society would know (if it's still in existence).

      As for hometowns, for me high school was the defining factor in calling a place home. I did some of junior high and then all of high school in Newhall, and returned there to visit my folks for many years afterward. They still lived there until 1996. One of my sisters lived there until @2005 and my other sister still lives in that area.

      High school was the time when I made friends who I still know, and when life experiences and decisions became meaningful. Everything before that is childhood memories.

  2. I have an unrelated question for you. What do you think about those DNA kits from Ancestry.com? I see advertisements on TV (the guy who thought he was German and traded his lederhosen for a kilt when he found out he was Scottish), and was curious if you thought something like that was interesting enough to do or if it were just a waste of money. Thanks!

    1. I find the 3 DNA tests I've done to be super interesting, and they are way cheaper now than even just a few years ago. My first one was done through National Geographic years ago. Then I did 23andMe about 5 years ago--they have some fantastic graphics and info on their website, and they match you with relatives. They update the information periodically and also update yours.

      Ancestry also matches you with relatives and I have had more success with it in that way for the obvious reason that Ancestry itself is a genealogy site, so the people who do the test through them are more likely to have already amassed a detailed family history.

      Each one varied slightly in showing my background. Keep in mind that for females it's your mitochondrial DNA that is tested.

      I recommend the DNA test for anyone who is curious about their ancestry. The test is easy and results take 6 weeks. $99 isn't that much to spend on something meaningful, and it occasionally it goes on "sale" for less.

    2. " Keep in mind that for females it's your mitochondrial DNA that is tested.: -- oh interesting. I am so unfamiliar with all this, but I did look this up after reading your reply.

      Stupid question: what do they test for men?

      Thanks so much for your reply about that!

    3. Not stupid at all. This stuff is extremely complicated and I don't get a lot of it. Men have a Y chromosome AND mitochondrial DNA from their mother, so when they are tested both those ancestries are in the results. You and me don't have the Y, obviously. My uncle took the test to get a good look at that heritage for me. There's plenty of information out there, even some that's less scientific. 23andMe does a pretty good job of explaining it, but I haven't looked at it in a couple of years. Time to brush up on that.

    4. Oh, thank you so much for explaining that. I did look it up last night, but I like your explanation better. I was going to ask if you had a brother take the test, but I see your uncle did. Maybe I should skip testing myself and just pay for one of my brothers to do it. Or do the testing kits do just one test for each sex (mitochondrial for women; Y for men)?

      Also, the mitochondrial DNA is just your mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's DNA, right? So you'd have absolutely none of your maternal grandpa's DNA showing up...is that correct? And the Y chromosome thing is just the paternal line the whole way down or ??

      Maybe I'll check out 23andMe since you recommended it.

      Thanks again!

    5. I thought about that too, just having my brother do it, because he would have both sides. However, if I understand this correctly, just as you and a sibling could have variations in looks, eye color, etc., your DNA could be varied. It would be valuable to have yourself AND a sibling do it, and then compare the two.

      You're right about the line the DNA would follow: mother's mother's, etc. Same with the Y--father's father's, etc. Let me know if you decide to do it and whether you find any surprises in your makeup.

    6. I am really glad you told me this. I let one of my blogger friends know because she had her DNA tested and thought she was finding surprises because of her biological father's ancestry which she didn't know much about. I guess these surprises were just hiding in her mother's gene pool.

      Now I see why you got your uncle tested. I'd have to do that, too, if I wanted to know about my Truax side (he's the one who was born in China.)

      Hmmm, I'll have to give this some thought. It's not as telling as I'd hoped. Thank you again. I'll let you know if I do the test at some point.

    7. Ancestry.com claims this:

      "Yes, both women and men can use AncestryDNA since we all carry the DNA that is being tested. In fact, men and women are tested in the same way for the same number of markers. Unlike some other DNA tests, which only analyze the Y-chromosome (and can only be taken by a male to look at your direct paternal lineage) or mitochondrial DNA (can be taken by a male or female but only looks at your direct maternal lineage), AncestryDNA looks at a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations. "


      Maybe they've updated things or maybe they are being misleading?

    8. I'll go back and take a look at that. I guess I didn't really read over all of Ancestry's info like I did 23andMe when I did the first test about 5 years ago. Thanks!

  3. Oh yay, I found this post again. I sent you a private message on Facebook today related to a family friend who adopted a child from China and had his DNA tested, but the message might be lost to you since we aren't FB friends.

    Then today I got my Ancestry.com results! My highest percentage was surprising -- Italy/Greece (35%) - what?! -- and then Irish (26%) and Great Britain (19%). Europe West was only 5% as were the Caucasus.