The year 1975 included grand opening celebrations for some now familiar SCV institutions, as well as a blessed event for an attraction that isn’t here anymore, and an ambitious effort by local leaders to escape what was perceived as L.A. County indifference to our valley’s needs.
Sioux Chief Lame Deer was called upon to bless the founding of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital while Joan Pinchuk, L.A. Supervisor Baxter Ward’s local field deputy, cut the ribbon on a new Senior Citizen Center. Sierra Vista Junior High School teacher Steve Davis, who spent his off hours developing the muscles that won him the Mr. California title, opened a health club; and history buffs were preparing for Newhall’s 1976 Centennial by forming the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Long-time resident and historian A.B. Perkins was named Honorary President Emeritus and Art Evans was elected acting president.
Teenagers who flock to Magic Mountain for the “white knuckler” roller coaster rides may be surprised to know that a small animal “zoo” was once included in the park’s attractions. In 1975, a wooly monkey named Delilah gave birth to one of the few babies of her species ever born in captivity.
The then-named Boys Club’s auction drew the valley’s biggest crowds by offering many unique auction block items. High bidder Steve Colf purchased a Sitmar Cruise for $1700. Hair stylist Tom Sisk won the bidding for a Miss California finalist’s weight in coins; and business owner Bill Light won the popular “girl in a cake,” which he later featured at the opening of his new store.
In “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” category, Editorialist Scott Newhall was decrying the fact that the CIA was spying on the FBI, the FBI was spying on the IRS, and the IRS was spying on the American people and “taxing them beyond endurance.” And teachers in the Sulphur Springs School District were walking the picket lines demanding higher pay.
But the biggest local news of the year was the push for a new county (dubbed Canyon County by the organizers), a movement inspired by one particularly frustrating L.A. County hearing involving services needed in our valley. Disgusted by the long drive to L.A., the wasted time, and many delays, a frustrated Carl Boyer, III, reportedly burst out of his seat and challenged the whole mess with “Anything you can do, WE can do better!”
Though the necessary petitions had been handed to the Registrar in July, the impatient citizenry was still waiting for Governor Jerry Brown (that’s right, the same Jerry Brown) to appoint a study commission in December. The action began an SCV odyssey for independence, which was finally realized 12 years later.
There were actually two different attempts to form our own county. Both required the consent of the entire Los Angeles County area. In the first vote, held in 1976, 55 percent of the SCV voters approved the creation, but the rest of the county voted the measure down 68 to 32 percent.
Undaunted, the locals mounted another county petition drive in 1977 and the qualifying documents were turned in to the L.A. County offices that December. A celebration of biblical proportions (stemming from the fact that it took the organizers 40 days and 40 nights to gather the 7500 required signatures) was held in February of 1978 at the Newhall Bowl. Most of the celebrants included those who had also been involved in the 1975 drive.
Emcee and vice president of the Canyon County committee, Harry Fedderson, proclaimed that the night would be devoted to relaxation, celebration, and no speeches. (aside from an official presentation made to activist Alice Kline for her “dedication, organization, and hard work” in propelling the petition drive to its successful conclusion).
Though Fedderson had decreed that there would be no speeches, he didn’t say anything about singing, and that’s how the evening progressed with short, humorous narratives about the petition process by Harry, and related songs (music provided by Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin; script and lyrics by Carmen and Joe Sarro and Billie Fedderson).
In spite of the renewed camaraderie and enthusiasm of the 1978 activists, the overall county population once again voted the measure down: 64 to 36 percent.
Any further attempts to start a new county were squelched when the state legislature ruled that a new county must have a minimum population of five percent of the “mother” county. Even as late as 2017, Santa Clarita Valley population had reached only 3 percent. The ruling required a new tactic, which led many of the same activists to begin a drive for cityhood. The third attempt at independence was a charm, with the birth in 1987 of the City of Santa Clarita.