The proximity of Los Angeles to Santa Clarita Valley is quite a distance, especially when there were no existing freeways. It was dirt roads for us. Which translates into, we are out in the sticks. (A moniker that still hangs over our heads to this day). With prohibition raging in Los Angeles little communities like ours fed the illegal alcohol consumption of the bigger city. We too, were under the prohibition laws, but without the large staff of law enforcement, things slipped through the cracks. The little canyons around our valley provided cover for stills that were dotting the hillsides. Wildwood Cyn. in Newhall was one of those sites. At the time of prohibition, anyone with a vineyard or fruit trees could make up to 200 gallons of wine per year for personal consumption. The Catholic Church was exempt from the law. But alas not everyone had a vineyard. So begins the plans for a wine heist.
The story begins at the Saugus Train Station. The depot was a favorite stop for the rail crews because the Saugus Cafe was right across the street. A nice hot meal was only steps away from the depot. While the train was idling at the station, the crew inside eating lunch across the street.
A plan was put into motion. Some locals figured out that there was going to be a shipment of wine from San Antonio winery in Los Angeles on the northbound train. They laid in wait for the crew to go across the street. Quickly breaking into the rail car containing barrels of sacramental wine, with their own bottles at the ready, they siphoned off wine into their waiting containers. Mission complete, and they slipped back into town. No one was the wiser. No police reports were filed, nothing. Because they didn’t get caught.
Decades later at a family barbecue an aging relative retold the story of how he and his buddies heisted some wine from the train. I’m sure the family members were astonished. Fines for stealing or having alcohol were astronomical during prohibition.
The story spread straight to Hart High School the following day where myself and a few friends listened to this crazy story being retold. Our friend was quite proud of his “bad ass” grandpa and friends. He just had to share the story.
Decades later again, I’m retelling a story that I listened to on the Senior Quad at Hart High. As time goes by, what seemed like such a daring act looks mundane. This is just one of the many stories that have shaped our Valley. The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society is the keeper of such secrets. Just like my friend from high school, we are eager to share our history with anyone that shows up at our doorstep. Our Wine Heist wine tasting event is being held inside the Saugus Train Station, yes, the actual one that the heist took place at all those years ago!
This will be the kick off event in our quest to build a new modern museum inside the Pardee House.
The Date is March 19th, Saturday
Tickets available at wwwscvhs.org. or phone 661.254.1275 you must be 21 years or older to attend.
Cost is $50.00 per person.
You will receive a commemorative wine glass, and a light snack of cheese and crackers.
Some of the wineries that will be participating are Pulchella, Mystic, Four Brix, Nuggucciet, Golden Star, Ken Brown and Pence. More are on the way.
Please help us build the only museum dedicated to the history of Santa Clarita Valley.