Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
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Aerial Photos: Saugus Speedway, Santa Clara River
Saugus, California

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TOM MASON AERIALS 8/14/1979

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Saugus Speedway

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Bouquet Junction, Saugus High, Citation Homes

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Whites Canyon Road

August 14, 1979 — Aerial photos by Tom Mason, vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Color transparencies, 35mm, Canon F-1 camera.

The view is to the west. In the middle is the Saugus Speedway oval with its figure-8 track layout. To the right (north) of it is Soledad Canyon Road. To the right of that is the Santa Clara River.

Bordering the Speedway property on the left (south) is the Southern Pacific Railroad's Saugus line from L.A. to Palmdale. Trains run backward here, which is to say, eastbound trains travel in a westerly direction, and vice versa.

Below the oval (to the east), the buildings are associated with the Whittaker-Bermite munitions plant. This property became the Santa Clarita Metrolink Station in 1992 (new construction; the buildings were razed). A new access road, Commuter Way, was built in the space between the buildings and the speedway property.



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About Saugus Speedway.

The future Saugus Speedway was built originally as a rodeo arena in 1927 by Roy Baker, brother of shoe magnate C.H. Baker.

Roy Baker purchased the 40-acre property east of Bouquet Junction in 1923 for the purpose of breeding and selling show and pleasure horses. To that end he imported saddle brood mares from Kentucky and studded them with a pedigreed, chestnut-colored saddlebred stallion named Peavine McDonald (b. 1910), which sired five pedigreed mares and four pedigreed colts between 1920 and 1936. Baker advertised that he had 2,500 acres of grazing land and also offered training and boarding services for outside horses.

Probably to attract horse buyers to his ranch in faraway Saugus, Baker staged rodeos. Some references suggest he built a 12,000-seat arena in 1924, but this is dubious. We do know he held a rodeo on the property on April 11, 1926. That December, Baker and partner Bob Anderson started construction on a new stadium, complete with partially covered grandstand seating and a quarter-mile oval track. When it opened May 1, 1927, it seated 18,000 fans, and thousands more had to be turned away for lack of room.

Over the next decade, ownership of the arena would change hands three more times.

As with a majority of the American populace, Baker was hit hard financially by the Great Depression of 1929 and was forced to sell the stadium to cowboy actor Hoot Gibson in 1930. Gibson continued to hold rodeos at the stadium and drew a Hollywood crowd including famous actors such as William S. Hart, Harry Carey, Tom Mix, and John Wayne. He also used the stadium as a movie set or leased it to other companies for film making.

But Gibson felt the effects of the Depression, as well. In September 1933 he appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom and pleaded poverty, saying he had no assets with which to repay a $2,500 loan. He testified that he owned a one-third interest in Hoot Gibson Inc., which owned the Saugus rodeo, and that it was in arrears.

In 1934, Gibson sold the stadium to Paul Hill, owner of the Western Livestock Stockyards, who continued to call it the Hoot Gibson Rodeo. As with his predecessors, however, the stadium brought Hill financial hardship when it was hit by the Great Flood of March 2, 1938. Heavy rains that year caused a river of water to flow down Soledad Canyon and filled the ranch home and arena with mud and debris. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the "old buildings ... collapsed during the March floods" and the arena was built anew.

Nonetheless, Hill lost the ranch sometime after the April 1938 rodeo. According to Reynolds, the property was repossessed by the bank. In 1939, ownership passed to William Bonelli, and it was renamed Bonelli Stadium.

Bonelli, a professor of economics at Occidental College, continued the annual rodeo tradition for a number of years but introduced auto racing in 1939 on a more frequent schedule; ultimately auto racing became the primary draw and Bonelli renamed the arena Saugus Speedway. Occasional rodeos and circuses continued until at least the late 1960s, auto racing until 1995. The facility was sometimes used for concerts before the grandstands were removed in 2012 (the originals had been replaced in 1955). The venue continues to host an outdoor swap meet.


HS7903: 9600 dpi jpegs from original color transparencies by Tom Mason, courtesy of Cynthia Harris, 2018.
SAUGUS SPEEDWAY

SEE ALSO:
• Bonelli Stadium
• Fireball 500


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Saugus Speedway Scrapbook 1979/1995

* RACING PROGRAMS *


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Kurtis Midget 1950, Art 2006

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~1950s

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Ron Hornaday Sr.

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Trophy Girl Amedee Chabot, Miss USA 1962

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Aerial View 1971

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Video: Rolling Man (ABC 1972)

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Photo Album
1971-1975

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Charlie's Angels 1976

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Aerials 1979

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Dan Press Story 1981

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Jason Priestly, Charlie Sheen, Charity Benefit 1991

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Assessor's Map 2008

• Old Barn Burns
11-21-1996


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Video: Driver Reunion 8-21-2017

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Legacy: Sad Sam Stanley

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Remembering Wild Bill Foster 2019

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