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From The Signal Archives: Familiar faces and high prices

Posted: March 6, 2009 12:51 a.m.
Updated: March 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Howard "Buck" McKeon

 
Editor’s note: As The Signal celebrates 90 years of service to the Santa Clarita Valley, we offer this peek into the SCV of days past. Following is from the Feb. 26, 1979, Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise.

40,000? That explains the traffic
The front page of Sunday’s Signal from 30 years ago reports the approval of a General Plan based on a prediction that residences would double in number by the year 2000. In 1975, when the plan was first created, there were 19,300 homes.

In the regional planners’ defense, they based their plan on several “major assumptions” that ended up being fairly accurate:

Namely, the fact that the average number of people per household would continue to decline from the 1979 average but at a slower pace; and as available “prime land” diminished, so would the number of single-family homes. They just undershot both figures by a little bit. A reasonable estimate puts the rooftop count somewhere in the neighborhood of about 100,000 today.

‘Bank President Recounts ... Kidnapping’

“I have the life of you and your family in my hands. You better do as I tell you or I’ll blow you away.” Thus began a sensational account of how Santa Clarita National Bank’s then-president James D. McMahon was taken hostage by three former Vietnam War veterans and then ransomed for $150,000 in different denominations, which was never recovered.

In the article, McMahon says he is comfortable coming forward to tell his story three years after the incident because the last remaining suspect was recently put in custody.

The banker’s kidnapping ordeal ended by a stroke of luck, as it turned out. As he lay hogtied in the bathtub yelling for help to anyone who might be able to hear, a passing maid heard the noise and opened the door.

Despite the duress, McMahon kept his sense of humor. When the maid pulled back the shower curtain and discovered McMahon, she exclaimed, “My God, there’s a man tied up in this tub. Are you the man who rented the room?”

“It was the dumbest question I’d ever heard,” McMahon said with a laugh.

Recognize this face?
Here’s a picture of Howard “Buck” McKeon from his first political campaign, during which he successfully ran for a William S. Hart Union High School District board seat. McKeon’s platform was “strongly opposed to Metro Busing Plan,” a hotly debated topic of the day, and “in favor of better utilization of our tax dollars for quality, well-rounded education.”

McKeon won more than twice the votes of his nearest competitor, Floyd V. Baxter. Baxter would later gain a small measure of notoriety in the region for his heavy-handed brand of judicial activism.

While on the bench in Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Baxter sentenced a PTA president to five days in jail between the reading of the verdict and sentencing — for a parking-lot fender bender where no insurance note was left — prompting a Signal editorial,
“The Hangin’ Judge and the PTA Mom.”

Rising gas prices, you say?
Remember the long lines and talk of gas rationing? I know, last year feels like an eternity ago already. A story titled “Gasoline Supply Cuts Announced” (March 4, 1979) portended a gas-price and supply catastrophe for oil companies.

A global energy crisis was set off with the onset of the Iranian Revolution, and further destabilizing factors in the Middle East were blamed for oil prices reaching then-record levels.

My, how times have changed
Below the headline “Sex, Sew What,” a survey by Psychology Today asked married couples what they like to do with their spare time.

“Of the women, 37 percent said they like to read, 26 percent said they preferred to make love and 25 percent said they would rather sew. Sex was the first choice for men, with ‘attending athletic events’ and ‘reading books’ following in that order. “The survey also found that the longer couples were married, the less popular sex became.”

— Russell Patrick

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