Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Volunteers Pave the Way to Henry Mayo Hospital.

© | Video by SCVTV | Images courtesy of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital except as noted.

50-Year History of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, 1962-2012 | Video by SCVTV, Oct. 16, 2012 | Interviews (in order of appearance): Tony Newhall, John Fuller, Paula Cox, Joyce Wayman, Lea Serlin, Betty Burke Oldfield, Lucile Novack, Maria Strmsek, Gloria Barrett.

The Santa Clarita Valley learned how ill-equipped it was to deal with a major disaster in the wee, dark hours of Oct. 12, 1962, when a southbound Greyhound bus slammed into a grain truck that had just pulled onto the fog-shrouded Ridge Route near Castaic. One female passenger died and 22 others were injured, including a 19-year-old sailor en route to his Navy ship at Long Beach.

Victims were transported to Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills and to the little Santa Clarita Hospital[1] at 21704 Soledad Canyon Road in Saugus. The sailor lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness[2]. He occupied one of Santa Clarita Hospital’s 19 beds for more than a year[3]; not until 1964 would Santa Clarita Hospital add 62 beds in a new convalescent wing. The future 43-bed Golden State Memorial Hospital had not yet opened[4] at 24124 Lyons Avenue, and Newhall Community Hospital, which started as a doctor’s office in 1926 at Spruce (now Main) and 6th Streets, had just six beds and no ICU.

Sailor Philip J. Deniston lies in a coma while his parents seek damages in court. They eventually received the lion’s share of the then-largest amount ever awarded in Los Angeles County for a single collision. Their son never regained consciousness. Click image to enlarge.

Eight or more Greyhound passengers who were treated at Santa Clarita Hospital, several in critical condition, hailed from communities stretching from Sacramento to Mexico. They needed more help than doctors and nurses could provide. They needed clothing and emotional support, and they needed to contact out-of-town family members — who would need help of their own to find their way around our still-remote valley.

Lena Huntsinger, Santa Clarita Hospital’s assistant administrator, put out the call, and the community’s leading ladies responded.

"The Greyhound bus accident … pointed up the real need for a hospital service group," Huntsigner said. "In this isolated area there is no place where people can turn for help when they have become stranded because of an accident."

Huntsinger appealed to the Santa Clarita Methodist Church Women’s Society of Christian Service to help establish a group of non-nursing volunteers to assist recovering patients. The following month, on Nov. 27, three women — Martha Barton, Jereann Bowman and Gwen Gillespie — drafted a set of bylaws for the new organization, which would be called the Santa Clarita Valley Women’s Auxiliary. Its purpose was to "promote interest in person-to-person service within the community" and develop a "hospital service group composed of girls" ages 14-18. There were three classes of membership: Regular, consisting of adult volunteers; Patroness, non-volunteers who according to the bylaws were typically "wives of medical and administrative staffs"; and Junior — the candy stripers.

Originator Lena Huntsinger, center, is flanked by two of the original Pink Ladies, Martha Barton and Mrs. Auby Lee. Click image to enlarge.

The volunteers were already helping at Santa Clarita Hospital in December, before the bylaws could even be ratified. That happened at the organizational meeting Jan. 10, 1963, at Hart High School. Lois LoFiego was elected the first president; vice presidents were Sue Bedwell and Ann Cash — the latter succeeding LoFiego as president the following June — while Louise McJohnston, Betty Bullock and Barton rounded out the initial director positions.

Santa Clarita Hospital provided the uniforms for the volunteers: the usual striped overalls for the junior volunteers and peach-colored outfits for the adults, who came be known as the "Pink Ladies" or, affectionately, "Pinkies."

By mid-1963 a dozen Pink Ladies were visiting patients at Santa Clarita Hospital, feeding those who needed assistance, helping them write letters, and bringing them flowers, games and books. Forty-five girls from Hart High (then the SCV’s only high school) signed up as candy stripers the first year, under the direction of Mrs. Oleita Hickox, Mrs. John Bodine and Mrs. Auby Lee. The young candy stripers elected their own board in June 1963: Martha Atkins (president), Pat Reyes, Sally Longoria, June Butts and Mary Munoz.

Pink Ladies treat Santa Clarita Hospital’s convalenscent patients to an outing at Hart Park in 1966. The convalescent wing opened in 1964. Click image to enlarge.

Pink was naturally the shade of the punch, cake and corsages presented to the candy stripers and Pink Ladies at the annual teas, which coincided with National Hospital Week and by 1964 expanded to Golden State Hospital. Golden State primarily handled acute cases while Santa Clarita Hospital was focusing more on elderly care with its new convalescent expansion. In 1965 the Pink Ladies and candy stripers expanded their volunteer activities to a local Well Baby Clinic and Preschool Clinic operated by the Los Angeles County Health Department.

That same year brought the Old Orchard Shopping Center at Lyons Avenue and Orchard Village Road. It was a portent of things to come. The Newhall Land and Farming Co. was planning an entire "new town" to be called Valencia which would quickly double the valley’s population and shift its center of gravity to the west. The thousands of new residents would need more places to work, new places to study, and upgraded facilities in which to recover from illness and injury.

When the birth of Valencia kindled an argument over the Santa Clarita Valley’s name, Santa Clarita Hospital took on the neutral and nondescript name, "Inter-Valley." Click image to read the announcement.

Branding was an issue. The name "Santa Clarita" evolved from "Santa Clara," first used in the 1700s[5]. But as the communities of Newhall and Saugus took shape in the late 1800s, the valley came to be known as the "Newhall-Saugus Area." With the birth of Valencia on Aug. 20, 1967, Newhall Land wanted to rename the area "Valencia Valley," but this effort met vehement resistance from local old-timers.

Newhall Land President Thomas L. Lowe recuited Lutheran Hospital Society to organize and finance the valley’s first nonprofit, community-owned hospital, and he waded through the bureaucratic morass to get it built. (Photo source: Ruth Newhall.) Click image for more information.

Sidestepping the naming scuffle, Santa Clarita Hospital Administrator Charles S. Dyer announced a name change in November 1969. Henceforth his hospital, now boasting 125 beds and 180 employees, would be called Inter-Valley Community Hospital,

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