Lionel Rolfe Included Among Historical Figures of Santa Clarita

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October 21, 2020 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

June 11, 1968 — Reporter Lionel Rolfe occupies the city desk at the offices of the Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise.  From the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.


An unexpected find on the website of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society are some rare photos and a biographical sketch of Lionel Rolfe. Here is a link to their entry:

Lionel, who died in November 2018, lived most of his life and pursued his journalism career in Los Angeles, except for a short stint in San Francisco, where he worked on the San Francisco Chronicle. So it might seem odd that he is regarded as a figure of historical interest in Santa Clarita.

Lionel got his first newspaper job in the early 1960s with the Pismo Beach Times in San Luis Obispo County. He covered a lengthy fight in the local school board where the John Birch Society was working to defeat an attempt by the teachers to unionize. The head of the school board blamed Lionel for the turmoil, declaring he was a communist agent trained in Moscow and Peking to stir up trouble in American school districts. Lionel was fired.

He was blacklisted for years, getting back in the newspaper business only in 1968. He had become friends with Scott Newhall, executive editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Newhall was a native of San Francisco, but his great grandfather was the land baron Henry Mayo Newhall, for whom the small town of Newhall, just north of Los Angeles, was named. In 1963 Scott Newhall bought the local newspaper, the Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise. He hired Lionel as a reporter. Newhall soon brought Lionel up to San Francisco to work on the Chronicle, where he stayed until 1971, when he returned to Los Angeles to take a job at the counter-cultural Los Angeles Weekly.

In 1987, Newhall, Saugus, and several other small towns were incorporated into Santa Clarita. The local paper changed its name to the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. So Newhall, its newspaper, and the paper’s staff were absorbed into Santa Clarita’s history. The entry on Lionel on the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society website contains four photos of Lionel from 1968, one of which is reproduced above. The text explains that reporters when they returned from an assignment would use of any leftover space on the film in their cameras by taking pictures of other staff members. The four contemporary shots of Lionel are from old negatives in the files of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. The photographer is given as Cheryl (?) Riley.

The Historical Society entry on Lionel also contains a copy of the biographical essay, The Life and Times of Lionel Menuhin Rolfe, by Linda Laroche, which was first published in the Pasadena Weekly, November 21, 2018.