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The Santa Clarita Valley for Newbies

Amaze your friends ... and avoid rookie faux pas

Posted: April 1, 2011 6:00 a.m.
Updated: April 1, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Get the down-low on our valley and avoid the rookie mistakes.

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If you've moved into the Santa Clarita Valley recently, you might not be suffering from any confusion over the streets named Railroad Avenue or Newhall Avenue. But if you've been around awhile, you might get tripped up now and then by these streets - especially if you are offering directions to a newcomer.

You see, until recently, these streets had other names, which, like "Lord Voldemort," shall remain unspoken. (Wait, did I just name him in print? Oops.) Of course, if you come across a Newhall business website that hasn't been updated recently, you might see one of those old street names in the address, so hang in there.

The fact is, the SCV is changing rapidly. I mean, we've got a bag full of wine bars now - the kind of thing William S. Hart probably would have taken a shot at, back in the day. But it's all good. However, outside the wine bars and the mall, newbies should keep their newness on the down-low as much as possible to avoid bullets and tar-and-feathering and the like. And the best way to do that is to avoid making the "telling" faux pas. Herein we try to help you with a brief primer, The Santa Clarita Valley for Newbies.

The Santa Clarita Valley forms a rough triangle between mountain ranges and is loosely bordered by the 5 and 14 freeways to the west, east and south. The city of Santa Clarita was formed in 1987 and pretty much follows the same boundaries. With some spillage outside at Sand Canyon and Fair Oaks, it encompasses most of the area between the 5 and 14 freeways, with the upper city border, as the drunken crow flies, from just below Castaic at the 5, across east to the 14 freeway in the Shadow Pines area.

Newbies must remember that, whenever discussing with an old timer where something is in our valley, you simply must use Newhall, Saugus, Valencia, Canyon Country, Tesoro, Stevenson Ranch, etc. (Though everyone thinks they live in "Valencia.") If you use the generic "Santa Clarita" it won't help them locate anything. But, whenever you are trying to provide a mental image for someone from outside our area, just say "We're out by Magic Mountain." Then you'll get the "Oh, yeahs."

A river runs through it
Speaking of using proper names, nothing indicates you are a newbie faster than speaking the wrong name for our local "river." While our city is Santa Clarita, the river that runs through our valley is the Santa Clara River. This river runs for 84 miles from the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County, through Santa Clarita to Ventura County, emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 30 miles of this river route is located in the Santa Clarita Valley.

And don't even get us started about the chlorides.

It seems our river got its name before the Mission Santa Clara, and the county and city that grew up there, ever got started. But that area up north grew faster and our area down south got stuck with "little Santa Clara," hence Santa Clarita in Spanish.

But we won the PR war when we took on "Awesometown."

No joke, where's the oak?
Like a movie star dodging the paparazzi, the Oak of the Golden Dream, where the first gold was actually discovered in California, in 1842, likes to keep its whereabouts in doubt. There are actually five historical markers for this site. Two of them are beside the officially-designated oak, which is still alive, and located on the Heritage Trail at the Placerita Canyon Natural Area.

The three other markers will pull you off the road in anticipation, but you'll be miles away from the tree. One marker is on Sierra Highway, just north of Placerita Canyon Road, overlooking oilfields; one is on Lyons Avenue, just east of Interstate 5, overlooking Burger King; and one is on The Old Road, just north of Rye Canyon Road, and, except for the screening tree line, would be overlooking Six Flags Magic Mountain. "Golden dreams" have obviously changed since 1842.

Cinema Drive
Newbies wouldn't know it, and might not believe it, but the reason a certain "Valencia" street is called Cinema Drive is that there used to be a cinema on it. What is now The Church On The Way was the location. But I don't think the church-folk thought it was funny when I stopped in recently and asked them what time "Sucker Punch" started.

Strange sightings at the rocks
The most important thing to know about the Vasquez Rocks isn't that they were named after a famous outlaw or that they have been used in countless movies or even that they make up an incredible, not-to-be-missed natural wonder. The real highlight is that Jesus shows up there every Easter. Seriously, I've seen him. I think he even has a Facebook page for this. But you can find out more at the park office at (661) 268-0840.

A dangerous curve
The Saugus Speedway, now known for its swap meets, was, indeed, used as a speedway for many years. In fact, I remember attending a figure eight demolition derby there one night in the dim past. There were dusty, tire-smoking good times, with lots of crashes.

And while SCV newbies might be aware of the speedway's history, there was another famous "crash" nearby they probably never heard about.

In 1929 a cowboy named Tom Vernon derailed a train engine on the rail curve near the Baker Ranch Stadium (which would become the speedway). Then he robbed the train's passengers at gunpoint. And though he got away with no more than $400, the incident was labeled the "Great Saugus Train Robbery."

While a $400 haul doesn't sound all that "great," considering $400 in 1929 would buy as much as $5,000 would today, it was at least the "Worth Doing Saugus Train Robbery."

Do you have any more quirky items of note that newbies may be unaware of? If so, send them to Maybe we can use them in a future installment of The Santa Clarita Valley for Newbies.



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