Running the editorial department of a big newspaper wasn't enough for Scott Newhall, executive editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He wanted to own a paper of his own. So, he came to the town his great-grandfather put on the map and bought the weekly paper that bore his family name. The deal was announced in October 1963 and took effect November 1.
Unknown to the Bay Area resident, across town in that same month of October, Mint Canyon businessman Arthur Evans launched his own newspaper: the Santa Clarita Sentinel.
There's room for only so many newspapers — namely, one — in a town of maybe 10,000 people (30,000 on rodeo days). The cross-town rivalry bubbled and brewed and finally boiled over in 1965 when Newhall invited Evans to meet him under the Valley Federal Savings time-and-temperature clock at high noon on Christmas Eve.
When the dust settled, one man was standing — the only one who showed up. Art Evans folded his newspaper a couple of months later.
That might have been the end of it, but Art Evans wasn't a quitter. He remained a thorn in Newhall's side for years.
Maybe it's because Evans had used "Santa Clarita" in the name of his newspaper; we're not sure. But Scott never took to the name. A.B. Perkins had invented it, the diminutive form of "Santa Clara," in the 1940s to stanch the ever-present confusion with the same-named community up north. Bill Bonelli used the new name for his water company and housing tract in 1947. Still, "Santa Clarita" didn't really catch on until Art Evans started promoting it.
Scott Newhall wanted no part of it. He coined the name "Valencia" for the new town his family-owned company was starting to develop and market in the 1960s, and he wanted it to catch on. So, he started calling our entire community "Valencia Valley" in the pages of his newspaper. Not until the early 1980s did he finally throw in the towel when it was clear that "Valencia Valley" had gained no traction. By then we were the Santa Clarita Valley.
That's not all. The far-flung communities on the east side of our valley — they didn't abut each other then — places like North Oaks, Forrest Park, even Mint Canyon and Sand Canyon, and have you heard of Humphreys? — couldn't become economic rivals to Newhall and "downtown" Saugus and Castaic Junction on their own. Art Evans united them under the umbrella name he made up: Canyon Country. The name became official on the day Evans staged the first Frontier Days festival, November 1, 1963 — the very day Scott Newhall's ownership of The Signal became official. The Mint Canyon Chamber of Commerce became the Canyon Country Chamber and developed a strong retail presence. Art and his pals convinced the U.S. Post Office to open a "Canyon Country" branch in 1968 and helped persuade the Hart District to call its new school "Canyon." The L.A. County "Canyon Country" branch library followed in 1971.
Scott Newhall might have won the battle on Christmas Eve, 1965, but in the "name game," Art Evans' legacy endures. No man is more responsible for the currency of the names "Santa Clarita" and "Canyon Country" than Art Evans.
"Valencia Valley" is history. "Santa Clarita" is here to stay.
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I'm Calling You Out, Art Evans.
The Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise | Thursday, December 23, 1965.
I'm calling you out, Art Evans.
At exactly 12 o'clock noon, this coming Friday, I will be standing on the sidewalk of San Fernando Road directly under the Valley Federal Savings temperature sign — waiting for you to walk up to me in public and repeat to my face the insulting and untruthful statements and innuendoes you have seen fit to publish about me in your weekly circular.
For two weeks now you have libeled me and have attempted to expose me to the contempt of my fellow citizens who live in the Newhall-Saugus area.
I am perfectly aware, Art, that you did not mention my name in these damaging attacks. But the references, descriptions and use of certain obvious catch-phrases in these printed insults have made it crystal clear that these remarks of yours can refer to no other person.
If I were to challenge you to come after me with some shooting irons, the gentlemen in the sheriff's office would get into the act. So I have to leave the weapons to words alone.
I dare you to repeat to my face — in full view of the public — the distortions you have printed about me. I openly challenge you to repeat the reckless and vindictive abuses you have heaped on me.
No matter how cleverly you may think you have skirted the edge of libel in your printed attacks, you have assaulted me with patent untruths, you have done your best to make me the object of community scorn, you have attempted to make me a target of public ridicule.
Specifically, you have described me as an "advocate of disloyalty."
Your printed attacks have stated that I also advocate "draft card burning."
You have intimated that my activities "degrade this community."
You have implied that, in some way, I would permit the columns of this newspaper to be used improperly to advance the interests of some unnamed outside interests with which I am also connected.
You have characterized me as a "dupe of communists."
You state that what is really good for this valley is the old, frontier spirit. That was the era when men were men, and when they backed up their words with their six-shooters.
All right, Art, here's your chance to have a taste of that old frontier spirit. I'll be waiting at the Valley Federal sign at 12 o'clock noon, this coming Friday, December 24.
You don't have to be afraid — I am not going to gun you down with a Colt 45.
I simply challenge you to repeat in public the unsavory abuses you have heaped on me in print.
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THe Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise | Thursday, December 30, 1965.
Some of our readers may recall that last week the Publisher of this newspaper challenged Mr. Arthur Evans to repeat in public a number of uncomplimentary and inaccurate statements he had seen fit to circulate in print in his weekly mailer.
Simply for the record and in order to close the book on this episode, we hereby report that, for reasons best known to himself, Mr. Evans did not appear last Friday noon on San Fernando Road under the Valley Federal temperature sign.