Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Remembering Chester A. Vaughn and Carefree 1940s Newhall.
April 28, 2005.

    My grandfather, Chester A. Vaughn, moved to Newhall from Norwalk in the late 1940s, I think. I know that I was quite small and I was born in 1943. He and my grandmother first lived on a road that ran perpendicular to the main street, and across the street there were vast fields. The houses were all in a row, and all of the back yards looked almost identical. There were other kids in the neighborhood and we would meet them and play together.
    Gramps worked for Union Oil as a Gauger; at least, he retired from there. He left for work before the sun came up. He often took us to work with him and we would spend the entire day up in the hills north of Saugus, a few miles off of the road that leads to Santa Paula. There was a café in Saugus and a Truck Stop at the junction of 99 and the road to Ventura. All of the waitresses knew my grandfather and they would be so nice to us kids.
    The oil company had a shack where the men could do their office work. It also had a few beds so that they could sleep. Their shifts were quite long. Several times a day, Gramps would have to go out and check the big storage tanks. I loved climbing up the stairs and pretending that the storage tanks were castles and I was a princess. There were a lot of rattlesnakes in the area and the men would shoot them, skin them and then hang the skins in the Dog House (that's what the bunk house was called). They used to give me the creeps, but I never saw a single live rattlesnake. There was another man who worked with Gramps. His name was Murphy and he rode around in an open jeep. Even as little as I was I had a crush on him. He was always happy-go-lucky and he and my grandfather were great friends.
    Gramps was also a lifelong friend of Ambrose Stewart, who was the sheriff in Newhall. I believe Ambrose may have been the reason my grandparents moved to Newhall. He and Peggy, his wife, would come over to visit with my grandparents. Murphy was a deputy and sometimes, when we went to town, Gramps would take us into the sheriff's office to see Ambrose and Murphy. Everyone in town knew my grandfather. He was a very outgoing man and made friends easily.
    We always went there for Fourth of July. Gramps and Granny took us to a place called Slippery Gulch (Webmaster's note: Placeritos Ranch, later called Melody Ranch), and he and my dad would have beer at the old saloon and order sarsaparilla for us kids. It was a magical place.
    I am not too sure about my history. I know that he designed and built a house on a street named Valley or Valley View. I went by the house a few years ago and it was bright yellow. There was a big horse ranch across the street, and the people who lived there had a horse named Poncho. Poncho loved my grandfather's strawberry patch and she — yes, a "she" named Poncho — would stand in the patch and eat until she burst. She was very gentle with us. It used to be so hot in the summer that my siblings and I would find shelter from the sun wherever we could. Poncho made a great umbrella. As long as we were under her, she would not move. She would stand there all day if necessary. Being little and self-centered as only small children can be, we never thought of how hard it must have been for that poor horse to stand in the hot sun.
    After Gramps retired from Union Oil he went to work for a liquor store in town. That didn't keep him busy enough, so Ambrose got him a job in the bakery of the Soledad State Prison*. He loved that job. That man could cook. Oh, how I miss his meals.
    My grandmother became quite ill and had to go to the doctor a great deal. In those days you weren't hauled off to jail if you left your kids in the car. Gramps would find a nice shady place to park, give us pencils and paper to draw with, roll down all of the windows and then take Granny to the doctor. She died in 1956. Gramps stayed on in Newhall until I was in my early 20s and then moved to Santa Cruz until a stroke made it impossible for him to live alone. But oh, how I remember those carefree days in Newhall.

* Soledad Prison is in northern California; if Ambrose Stewart was a county deputy sheriff, perhaps the writer is referring to a local county facility.
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