Arminta Guthrie, widow of the last Southern Pacific Railroad station agent at Saugus and “mom” to the last family to live in the Saugus Depot, died Wednesday. She was 90.
Arminta Guthrie came to Saugus with husband James “Bob” Guthrie in 1962 when the railroad assigned him to run the local depot, which sat across the street from the Saugus Café.
Arminta and Bob Guthrie in the 1940s
“At that time there were no homes in Newhall or Saugus to rent,” Arminta remembered in 2012. “So I said, OK, they’ve got living quarters upstairs. We’ll just move in up there.”
So they did. Arminta, Bob, and five of their six children – Ed, Cheryl, Marla, Debbie and Nancy – occupied the depot’s four small upstairs rooms, of which only two were bedrooms, plus a temporary living room addition. (Their oldest daughter, Linda, was married and out of the house.)
Downstairs the couple sold passenger tickets, handled baggage and sent Western Union telegrams. Arminta had been trained in railroad bookkeeping just prior to coming to Saugus, so she actually worked for her husband two or three hours per day while raising all of those kids.
The Guthries made the depot their home for nearly 16 years. Passenger service ended in April 1971, but freight trains continued to stop in Saugus until shortly before the depot was closed forever in November 1978.
The Guthries played a key role in saving the vintage 1887 depot from demolition – a fate that befell many old train stations in the 1960s and ‘70s, including the depot at Lang, which stood in Soledad Canyon near the flashpoint of the recent Sand Fire.
The Guthries alerted the fledgling, 3-year-old Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society that there was a wrecking ball in the future and that the community would have to act fast if the building was to be preserved. Long story short, the depot was moved in June 1980 to Hart Park where it stands today as the Historical Society headquarters.
Daughters Marla and Debbie have a tea party upstairs in the depot in the 1960s.
After a 46-year railroad career that took Bob and Arminta from Kansas City to Mexico to Oxnard to Saugus, the couple bought a 31-foot motorhome and moved to the Bishop area, later to Paso Robles where Bob died in 2005.
In 2010, Arminta revisited her old Saugus Depot home for an on-camera talk and tour [watch it here], and in 2012 she participated in the dedication of a plaque in her late husband’s memory at the depot [watch it here]. Visit the “Guthrie” section of SCVHistory.com [here].
The Guthries were living in the depot when snow “stuck” Dec. 19, 1970.