Boxing Day at the Hart

The William S. Hart House in Newhall, CA

The William S. Hart Ranch House and Museum in Newhall, CA

In the United Kingdom, the day after Christmas is celebrated as Boxing Day. It has nothing whatever to do with pugilism; rather, it commemorates the day that servants and tradesmen received a “Christmas Box”—fortunately, not on their ears—from their employers, by way of a gift.

As today was not a working day for me, Martine and I decided to visit the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum in Newhall. On the way, we decided to try Brett’s Deli in North Hills, but the place was so mobbed at we just wrinkled our noses and shook our heads, proceeding instead to Maria’s Italian Deli in Newhall, where we had a good lunch.

Why do I keep returning to the Hart Ranch? This must easily have been our seventh or eighth visit. Each time, we take the quarter mile trail up the hill for free tour of the house given by a docent. On the way down, we look at the herd of bison donated by the Walt Disney Company to the ranch in 1962. I guess there was something about the silent cowboy star that appeals to me. I still watch his movies. Today, in the old ranch house at the foot of La Loma de los Vientos, the Hill of the Winds, the name of Hart’s property, I viewed the last half of Hell’s Hinges (1916), in which the cowboy star wreaks horrible vengeance on an evil town which kills the preacher with whose sister Hart has fallen in love. Hart was the first big cowboy star.

During the 1980s, I was personally acquainted with the actor’s son, William S. Hart, Jr. He taught real estate at Cal State Northridge (CSUN), and he invited me several times to give a guest lecture on my specialty, the use of census and other government data for site research. (At one time, I was an expert on the subject.)

It was a cold and windy day at La Loma de los Vientos, but not unseasonable. Newhall is near the canyons attached to the transverse mountain ranges that have been the epicenter for so many earthquakes in recent years. They are also a racecourse of the winds originating in the Mojave Desert and blowing the smog out to sea.