Watching a Lifetime of Change.
One of the SCV's last pioneers, Frederick Bailey Haskell, died Saturday at the age of 95.
The Signal | Tuesday, January 25, 2005.
The small rock house near Magic Mountain Parkway and Bouquet Canyon Road where he was born in 1910 is long since demolished. He farmed with plow horses and saw a staggering change in the Santa Clarita Valley few have witnessed.
Frederick Bailey Haskell, one of the valley's last pioneers, died Saturday, January 22, 2005, a few hours shy of his 95th birthday.
"We sat down and figured Bailes actually made it to 95, counting all the leap years," said his son, Charles.
Known as Bailey to decades of Santa Clarita Valley residents and "Bailes" to his friends, Haskell's family legacy dates back to the 19th Century. His grandfather, John B. Haskell, homesteaded a ranch in Bouquet Canyon that today still bears his name. The Haskell family would eventually farm more than 1,200 acres.
"There's still a rock wall there, showing where my (great-grandfather's) two houses were," recalled his son.
Haskell lived a rich and varied life. Farmer, rancher, inventor, businessman, builder, hunter and pool hall owner. he witnessed the staggering change of progress that transformed the valley from a quiet agricultural are into a thriving suburbia.
"I'd say Bailes took growth with a grain of salt," Charles recalled. "He saw it as inevitable. But toward the end, there, we'd take him for drives through Stevenson Ranch, and he'd ask: "Where are all these SOBs coming from?'"
As a boy, Haskell would ride his horse from his ranch over to San Francisquito Canyon where the cowboy star, Harry Carey, had his famous ranch and resort. As a teenager, Haskell worked on the St. Francis Dam and helped rescue the victims when the dam burst in 1928, killing 500 people in California's second-worst man-made disaster [sic].
The destruction of shabbily built San Francisco following 1906 earthquake is considered the worst man-made disaster.
In an earlier interview with The Signal, Haskell recalled the morning alter the dam broke.
As the sun was fresh in the sky March 13, Haskell spotted a shivering figure clutching the upper branches of a big tree. A young woman had been washed away by the flood and into the saving branches of the mighty oak. The waters had stripped off her clothes.
Haskell recalled how he leaned a big wooden ladder up against the tree, climbed up, wrapped a blanket around the victim and carted her, fanny-up, down the pegs.
"You know," Haskell recalled, "I'd bump into that woman around town maybe three times a week for 60-70 years. All that time, she's never even looked at me or said hello back. I guess she was still embarrassed by me seeing her naked."
"He was one heck of a nice guy. They just don't come any better than him," said friend Don Long. "I bought his store from him 40 years ago. There are so many things about the heart and soul of the man. We hunted and fished together for years. I'd say the legacy he left was that he was the last of the old Newhall outdoorsmen."
According to his son, Haskell was "asked to leave San Fernando High School" in the early 1920s. He lived with a step-grandmother named, coincidentally, Molly Steppe.
"'There was no idle time with her,'" Charles recalled his father's words.
Haskell ended up graduating from Santa Barbara High School where he boxed and played end on two county football championship teams. He came back to Saugus and worked odd jobs.
"When people used to ask me about what it was like, living here during the Depression, I had to answer that I didn't really know," Haskell had said years earlier. "We didn't know it hit because we were already depressed."
"Bailes knocked around during the Depression, panning gold with his dad. Gold was $16 an ounce, and they brought in about a buck a day," Charles said. "And then, he told me he got 'the best job in the whole darn valley.' He was a salesman for the ABC Brewery and had a beer route that took in north Los Angeles County up to Bridgeport and San Luis Obispo."
Haskell made $25 a week — very respectable wages then.
"People used to ask Bailes why he just didn't buy up more land when it was at a buck an acre," his son said. "Dad's answer was: 'Cuz I didn't have a buck.'"
In the 1940s, he married Berte Chaix (pronounced "Shecks" by the family), who hailed from another landmark Newhall family. Berie's father owned the famed old Chaix Hotel. The Haskell-Chaix family still owns property in the valley, making them one of the longest-running landowners on record.
Near where the west end of Newhall is today, around Wiley Canyon and Lyons Avenue, Haskell lived on the old Stone Ranch after World War II; he and Berte farmed and raised cattle.
They raised forage food (hay. alfalfa) and later, what old-timers call truck crops — melons, carrots and such. He started a tractor and excavation business. Then, in the early 1950s, he opened the feed store where J&J Tires is today at the corner of Newhall and Lyons.
In 1956, he built Haskell's Hardware across from the Way Station today and, a few years after that, built Newhall Family Billiards.
"There was a big movement for family entertainment centers across the country then," Charles said. "Because pool halls had a bad reputation, Bailes made sure he kept that family atmosphere. If you were under 18, your folks had to sign papers saying it was OK for you to shoot pool unsupervised."
"I remember him as being the epitome of his generation," recalled his grandson, Jared Haskell. "He was the last of that old Newhall group that was at their best in the outdoors. He lived through history, seeing the valley go from horse-and-buggy days to modern life. He was hard-working, fair, tough and he didn't complain. And, he was fun."
"What I remember in the last years was him talking about how he outlived his friends," said his son. "He said he was tired of 30 years of burying friends. He was about as good an old man as you could have asked for."
Berte Haskell was six years younger than her husband and died Easter Sunday 2003.
Bailey Haskell is survived by his sons, Charles and John.