Memoirs by Monica Ros, founder of Monica Ros School

In Her Own Words by Monica Ros

Transcription of Mrs. Monica Ros’s handwritten notes from approximately 1984-1986, including her autobiography, the school history, her teaching philosophy and the founding principles of the Monica Ros School.019-monica-ros-school


In what I consider, and I think my sisters would have agreed, our best remembered and formative years were spent when we lived in the then undeveloped area of Willoughby on the outskirts of the North Shore Line.

My name before marriage was Monica Horder. Margaret and I were born in Burwood, Australia in 1904 – 1901 respectively and from there we moved to Croyden, both suburbs on the eastern train line, and in 1910 we moved to a large two story house set in the middle of three acres of ground and named Greenacre. The house in Willoughby had been built by a gentleman, a Professor Pitt-Cobett (not sure of spelling) from England who taught at the Sydney University, and who lived at Greenacre in lonely state with his serving-man perhaps with nostalgia for England.

Patricia, known as Pat, our sister, was born in Croyden in 1909 so she was only a baby when we moved. How we loved that sweet and charming house! It was hung with convolvulus creepers and the front door, set in a small porch, looked out on the grass oval with a tall Italian cypress in the center. The gravel drive circled the grass and led straight to the front gate. On either side of the drive was a half-acre of rough grass (one became a tennis court later) and all was surrounded by an arboretum of trees and shrubs. There was a horse and carriage stable but we only aspired to pasturing our grandfather’s beloved old horse Graff for several years which we rode occasionally round the acre paddock. Mother developed a half acre of flower gardens on the east side of the house and from our bedroom window, on the same side, was a distant view of the Middle Harbour Hills and a bit of blue water.

Another feature of the area at that time was the extensive Chinese market gardens and I remember seeing these industrious people jog-trotting with their pails of water balanced on a pole over their shoulders. The water was derived from deep wells in the fields which in turn produced mosquitoes in appalling numbers which I remember doing battle with each night even in a mosquito net shrouded bed.

The extension of Edinburgh Road beyond our house was then a sandy, stony road, which wound down by a bush track to the waters edge. As children we were often taken on boating picnics, a rowboat being hired from a man who accommodated picnickers. We were often accompanied by cousins and by several young uncles, our mother’s younger brothers who taught us to row. Our father, who was a Londoner and twenty years older than our mother, did not feel at home on boating picnics and did not join us, but he liked us to have the fun. He did love Greenacre and I think the setting suited him with its overtones of an English country home.

Our mother had graduated from the Sydney University (not a very usual distinction for a woman then) and was a serious minded, gentle person and avant-garde in her thinking of the day. She married my father when she was twenty-one. She was really suited for an intellectual life, but devoted her energies to home making and seeing that her three girls have a happy childhood. At the same time she was able to follow her own interests and devoted time to writing papers and to the study of philosophical subjects and social change along with close friends of the same mind. While all were involved with husbands and families they shared this mutual desire to pursue philosophical, literary and social interests of the day. Naturally some of this rubbed off on us.

Our father, while primarily a businessman and so hard working, never interfered or opposed mother’s interests, but was devoted and proud of us all.

He really loved music and while he had no actual training beyond singing as a young boy in St. Paul’s choir in London he was sensitive, appreciative and supportive of my interest in music and was always happy for me to play the piano for him. Later he bought me a beautiful violin from my teacher who had purchased it in Brussels when on tour. And later, too, he built Margaret a little studio where she could work at home. She studied at the Julian Ashton art school in Sydney. His spending money in this way was indicative of his cooperation with mother to give us the where-with-all, within his means, for us to make progress in our chosen vocations. It was always understood, too, that we were eventually to be self-reliant financially. Otherwise, we were very limited as to clothes, entertainment and lived very simply at home and were rather serious minded though loving a good time, but most unsophisticated socially.

During our years at Greenacre the tennis court was made on one of the large grass areas either side of the driveway – a big expense for our father – which provided reciprocal entertainment at home with friends. There were tennis afternoons and evenings when everyone stayed to supper and an evening of music followed provided by our respective talents. Our cousins at Chatswood were our model. Tennis on Saturday afternoons at their home was wonderful topped off with supper and musical evenings and dancing on the verandah. As we had no brothers, except an older step-brother who was not much at home as he had taken up going on the land, which was a drawback socially for us, but with our cousins we met their fellow school and university friends and so a congenial group was formed. Tennis courts were prevalent in those days which provided a great deal of social life for families in a round of invitations of this kind.

Summer holidays were spent usually at the seashore where a house was rented, sometimes together with our cousins, sometimes separately. Friends were invited to stay and the entertainment was the beach and surfing. Father came during week-ends. I do remember when we were quite young at Greenacre driving in a four wheeler cab with assorted cats among the luggage over French’s Forest to Collaroy on Pittwater or some such place. The Blue Mountain with marathon walks up and down gullies, was another holiday resort.

For ten years or more we lived in this rather self contained and isolated environment though one with cultural motivation. There were always books, reading aloud and an interest in music and art. Our home also provided a source for the love of reading and acquaintance and taste in literature and the arts. Plays were our passion and took up a large part of self-entertainment during the holidays with cousins and friends. The script was usually original and anything at hand provided costumes and stage props. There was a captive audience of mother, aunts and friends. I am sure the work in my school in later years in children’s dramatics stemmed from those early years of remembered delight.

We were taken for one glorious outing a year to the theatre, a never forgotten treat, to see plays such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, the Blue Bird, and so on. Once, I remember, we saw a big circus when a client of our fathers presented us with tickets! Later Mother would take me to orchestral concerts and recitals once my interest in the violin was established. A fellow violinist and I would spend afternoons playing violin duets together or spending much time rehearsing in a string ensemble organized by our teacher and so on.

It became apparent as Margaret and I grew older that our interest definitely lay with drawing and music. Our parents were far sighted enough to encourage this, so in spite of limited means – World War I soon disrupted my father’s business – money was put out for drawing and music lessons and private education. Also it was always understood and accepted that we should try to eventually become largely financially independent. Pat, who was much younger than Margaret and myself and while very musical, but on leaving school Pat took up secretarial work, though later reverted to music and the theatre.

SCHOOLING (Young Miss Monica’s)

With the exception of a few years when I attended two different small private schools and until my early teens, schooling was carried out by a governess and later with a small group of children who lived in the same locality. When very young in Burwood I attended a (kindergarten) private infant’s school, as they were called then, a short distance from home. On moving to Boyden, where Pat was born, I had a governess, a Miss Davidson, who came to our home to give me lessons.

Perhaps an anecdote is timely here because it shows Margaret’s flair for language, humor and charm at an early age. Mother had come to the study with Margaret, then barely three, I’m sure, to see me settled in with Miss Davidson. When the time came to leave, Margaret loath to do so was enticed by suggesting that she pick up her teddy bear and take him out doors. “Oh!” she exclaimed, thrust the little beast outside. I can see mother laughing now. As she guided the child out by the door.

Later I joined a family of children, two boys and two girls, for lessons with the same governess. We had lessons in their big nursery play-room. Margaret was still too young to join us being three years younger than I. I have a vague recollection of beginning readers and doing sums, but I do remember vividly when one day I found I could read Guy of Warick all by myself.

Next, when eight or so, I was sent to a school in Strathfield called Meriden. It was a long journey, which involved a walk to the train station where the train took me to Strathfield. I remember very little except that there were lots of girls and I was very shy. One girl became a life long friend and we visited each other’s homes during holidays even when we lived far away from each other. It was certainly a long journey to Homebush from Willoughby and vice versa. We shared the same interest in imaginative occupations.

What schooling Margaret had at this point I do not know. Perhaps Miss Davidson or mother attended to it. About this time, I came down with a severe illness and was in bed eight to ten weeks. It was soon after I was able to get about a little that we moved in 1910 to Willoughby and to live at our beloved Greenacre home. As a result of the long confinement I had to learn to walk again and recall distinctly trying to meet my father as he came home from work. How long the front drive seemed!

When at Greenacre we first attended a private school in Chatswood named Astrea, which entailed a walk to the train, which took us to Chatswood. Some time later it was decided that Margaret’s and my schooling should revert to a small group of children taught at home. We were enrolled with a brother and sister of our own age to have lessons with a governess named Miss Caroline Whitfeld a charmingly, cultivated woman with a gift for stimulating interest in literacy and historical subjects in particular and encouraging creative writing, but always with an eye to grammar and spelling. Later the group of children was enlarged to eight – all girls then some of whom became life long friends – came to Miss Whitfeld’s home for lessons where rudimentary school rooms were created and morning exercise were held in the hallway.

There was French and little plays given for our parents in French. I was always poor at sums, but remember laboring through long division. I believe it was Miss Whitfeld who really drilled the times tables into one. To Miss Caroline Whitfeld we owe a great deal of our early education.

Miss Whitfeld had two sisters living with her and one, Miss Harris, wrote and published teen age stories and also taught drawing in which Margaret and I participated. I do remember still life attempts, but I think possibly the greatest influence Margaret had was from a little girl named Helen Young who had a talent for drawing ponies and horses. We would stand around her at recess and beg her to draw for us. The ponies she told us were brumbies. Recess was taken in a small adjoining field – no play equipment, we had our own games. We sang songs together Miss Whitfeld playing the piano. This socially simple, but educationally sound schooling in a limited way has had a lasting effect on our lives. My cousin, who was one of the group, still writes in her letters to me, when referring to something she had written Miss Whitfeld would not approve of that construction!

This small and protected personal school environment was left behind when in 1916, I first and Margaret later was sent to the Redlands on Military Rd. Mosman, a school which is still flourishing in a northern suburb of Sydney. In my day the principal was Miss Gertrude Rosely whom one thinks of “with gratitude as a guide, counselor, friend and an inspiration to live a good life as well as a teacher of formal education.  To quote from a recent retrospect celebrating Redland’s centenary. Miss Rosely resigned in 1945 and the school is now run as a Church of England School. There, a very good teacher, a Mr. Collins, was teaching and I’m sure Margaret must have made her mark when she entered his class, because she continued her studies with him after leaving school.

By then I had taken up the violin for some years. Much time in my school years was spent studying music as well both piano and violin though the violin became my principle instrument. For some years I had been studying violin with a teacher named Mowat Carter who was well known in Sydney. This entailed trips to town for lessons after school. It was a long day via a ferry boat. He was not attached in any way to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, which was, and still is the foremost school of music there.

Later I attended the Conservatorium the main purpose being to prepare myself for teaching, violin in particular to children. This deep rooted feeling and interest I had for children to have a well grounded, sensitive and appropriate beginning in learning a musical instrument was carried over much later when the Monica Ros School was formally founded in 1944 at the present site with a curriculum that allowed for a child’s creativity, learning, growth and happiness through musical experiences as well as the recognized academic needs.


World War I was still in progress, our brother and uncles had enlisted and been sent overseas. Except for that and the stringent economy at home, life seemed to go on for us as usual though I do remember being emotionally distressed and un-nerved at a lot of the news, and especially when cousins and friends enlisted.

World War I was over in 1920 and the main reason for selling Greenacre in 1921 was moving to a small house in Roseville on the North Shore train line. It was more practical as we grew older to be within reach of easier transportation to and from the city since our lives were devoted almost entirely to our respective interests of music and art and the accompanying social interests. Father later bought a house in Roseville on the west side of the train line and we lived there for six or seven years.

When we moved to this house named St. Margaret’s by a previous owner, Margaret had begun her studies with Julian Ashton. I do picture her now how she would start off for the train dressed in the acceptable art-school fashion of a chintz overall type dress, her huge folder of drawings under her arm. As children at Greenacre we spend countless hours in our playroom painting, coloring, drawing and writing stories, but Margaret definitely was always the one who wanted to and could draw. I remember one instance that made her talent clear to me. I had taken a sketch pad and pencil into the garden to make a drawing of the house and it was awful, so dead and mechanical. Margaret came along and in a few strokes produced the house and its charming atmosphere. I knew I would never be able to do likewise however much I appreciated drawing and paintings.

It was while living at St. Margaret’s that Margaret had her illustrated joke accepted by the Bulletin and she was sent to Melbourne by Mr. Wheeler to work on his paper. I do remember she had a new coat and hat for the occasion and I thought how brave she was to go off like this by herself.

Margaret was pretty with thick brown hair that had a wave and was smaller in stature than I, perhaps 5 ft 4 inches. We were always dressed alike as children and of course at school we wore the school uniform of blue serge skirt and midi or blouse. Our clothes were all made at home and I later took up sewing and made a lot of my own clothes. From an early age Margaret suffered from asthma, often severe attacks, but it never dampened her lively spirit and an innate courageous outlook. At school she was not above practical jokes to the embarrassment of an older, more proper sister when a reprimand was administered.                        Of my mother’s influence in an artistic way I have no recollection of her ever painting or sketching at home, but I do remember with what admiration I would look at a large canvas hanging in our grandmother’s living-room wall of a woodland scene and stream and being told mother painted that. Otherwise our home atmosphere supplied the rest of our influence. One of our uncles, who became an architect, would write us letters always illustrated with knights in armor which we loved. There was no question about it, Margaret always wanted to be an artist and draw. I think Margaret’s words in reference to her own artistic talent are best said in her own way – books and pictures seemed to go together all my childhood. If I wanted to draw all my life, which I did, then books seemed the proper place for drawings to go.

Music was my love. I was first taught piano by an aunt, my mother’s sister and a good pianist. At five years I had my first piano lesson and showed off by demonstrating how I could play a chromatic scale, though I had no idea what a chromatic scale was but probably liked the sound I played and studied piano on and off for years. Spending hours at the piano practicing and playing through all kinds of music. I don’t know why it was decided I should learn the violin. Thirteen was too late to begin, but I became devoted to the struggle. I was not a well-known violinist as Margaret has written, just a devotee of the instrument and a plodding student. I attended the Conservatorium of Music and along with orchestra, chamber music and theoretical work I studied with a different teacher and it was the beginning of a good understanding of technical differences, which had hampered my playing heretofore. From then on I never swerved from an interest in teaching children and beginners and laying a sound foundation as well as deriving pleasure from learning to play violin or piano. Another teacher at the Conservatorium with whom I studied also specialized in these same teaching ideals especially where young children, were concerned. Children I have always related to.

I married Ricardo Ros a Theosophist from Havana, Cuba in Sydney in 1927.  At that time we were both members of the Theosophical Society, but we also had a great interest in the teachings of Krishnamurti, so after a trip to Madras, India to attend a Theosophical convention we decided on our return to Sydney to go to Ojai, Calif.  Our main interest being to hear Krishnamurti, the now well-known world philosopher and teacher who spoke regularly in Ojai where he had a home.  Ojai is where Krishnamurti’s first camp, as it was called, was being held in the spring of 1928.  Later we went to Havana, Cuba to stay with my husband’s family.  That was during the Machado regime. After almost a year we returned to Ojai in April 1929 and Margaret joined us here in Ojai.  She had come over with friends from the theosophical group who at that time were interested to hear Krishnamurti.  Margaret had an invitation to visit friends in Holland which she did and then made her way to London.

The first Ojai house we lived in was a charming building on Eucalyptus St., later pulled down for more modern dwellings and rented, I remember, for $25.00 a month in those early depression years.  When there was a vacancy we moved to Krotona to live.  But then came “the break” which necessitated moving from Krotona and resigning from the Theosophical Society.  It was at that time in the early thirties that the depression struck Cuba severely as well as everywhere else, so that my husband’s income was sorely depleted and capital investments were lost in the U.S. also.  So it was then I began forming a class of violin students and my husband taught Spanish at Thacher School when Dr. Barnes was headmaster. Among my first violin students in Ojai was John Perkins, son of Margaret Perkins Baker and Louise Butler daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Charles Butler well-known residents of Ojai.

During this period in the early thirties I took time to resume studying violin with Louis Kaufman in Los Angeles and later took piano lessons with Elizabeth Cofee, an excellent piano teacher who had come to live in Ojai with her friend Rebecca Eichbaum.  These two women contributed much to the musical life in Ojai for many years.  Musical activities for me centered in playing string quartettes at Edward Yeomans home with other Ojai players.  Regular gatherings for quartet playing for our own enjoyment were held there.  The players being Edward Yeomans Senior, cello, Agnes Gally, Violin, Forest Cooke of Thacher, viola and myself violin.  Often, too we supplied music for school programs at O.V.S. and Thacher.

In the summer of 1937, I was able to make a short trip to see my sisters who had left Australia to make their home in London.  My husband left for Havana Cuba at the same time.  Never a strong person it was there he underwent surgery and when we both had returned to Ojai we went at once to San Francisco where Ricardo underwent radium treatments – the forerunner of chemo therapy, I presume.  Back in Ojai we lived in what is known as the Bauer house on Grand Ave.  I don’t remember the rent, but it must have been very little compared to today’s rents for owners were delighted to have their properties occupied at all.

My husband only lived a short while dying October 9, 1939.  Shortly thereafter I went to Havana to be with his family.  That was during the Batista dictatorship.  I remember seeing him once with his family at a concert.  Jasche Heifetz was playing at the Paliacio de Bellas Artes.  Which reminds me of the coincidence when I was in Havana first in 1928.  To my amazement a concert was advertised to be given there by Henri Verbruggher string quartet.  This quartet had been in residence at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney for years and one of the players was my former violin teacher.

In the late spring of 1940 I returned to Ojai to the same house.  I had to set to work to augment my income and the natural thing was to begin teaching music again. Besides piano and violin lessons a group of children came for music classes which consisted of singing songs, rhythmic and dramatic play in which all participated at a level in which a child’s imagination and ability could have free rein and the quality of pretend is uppermost.  It was from that time my school was founded in 1942 in Ojai which had its beginnings in classes devoted to the enjoyment of songs, dramatic play, rhythms, dancing at the level of nursery school age children. The house had an exceptionally large living room ideal for free movement and games. I remember some of the first children coming wonderingly through the front door that opening morning: Anne Thacher, Betsey Hart, Priscilla Tippet, to name a few to have music.  These classes developed into the first Nursery School in Ojai and then on to Kindergarten and the lower grades.

Here would be a good place to tell of the group of actors who came about that time to live in Ojai.  They called themselves the Chekhov Players and were a creative and talented group, Iris Tree and Alan Harkness being two of the guiding lights.  The plays which they produced in Ojai were exceptional.

I mention this group because one member named Hurd Hatfield offered to help me with the children’s classes. Story telling, fun and nonsense dancing, painting and dramatizations were all in his line. By this time the first music classes had developed into regular morning activities of a nursery school order.  I remember that to commemorate Thanksgiving Hurd painted a large freeze of pictures depicting the Pilgrims who left England and came to America because the King would not let them have any ice cream was the story.  No matter.  These classes developed into the first nursery school in Ojai and then on to Kindergarten and the lower grades.

It was June 5, 1942, that I took my U.S. Citizenship in the Ventura Courts, Margie (Perkins) Baker being my sponsor.  And during that summer of 1942, I traveled to Seattle when I stayed with friends and attended summer courses of nursery school procedures at the University of Washington as well as taking further piano study.  Live piano playing to me being a desirable basic instrumental requirement for nursery school music.

Due to the request of parents and of Mrs. Anson Thacher in particular, who was very interested and supportive, the first advertised Ojai Nursery School was established and operated in these surroundings, for until 1944. I remember a sand box and slide being installed and a swing, Mrs. Aino Taylor, wife of John Taylor who was later principal of Nordhoff High School, assisted me as the class grew and Mr. John Ascott, who formerly worked at O.V.S., would come and help the children with wood-work in a little open sided shed lovingly called “the shop.” Seated activities, for the most part, took place on the extensive L shaped out-door porch with ran the length of the house. One dramatic event which took place one night during this time at the Bauer house was a fire in the big living-room.  A pet cat, who was sleeping indoors and who woke me up by rushing and jumping about the room, saved the situation. The fire trucks came and in the meantime I had used the garden hose.  Fortunately the fire was contained at one end of the room though the piano was damaged by heat and I lost many books. It was thought that sparks from the fireplace caught some clothes that were left to dry, but faulty wiring was also considered. Having music in the non-blackened area is still remembered by Anne Thacher who reminded me of the incidence.

One picturesque occasion worth recalling was the arrival at school in the mornings of Sally and Donna Gorham in a pony cart until the school was moved to McNell Road.  Parents brought and called for their children and they came mainly from the east end of the valley.

A forerunner of dramatic performances took place at the school on Grand Ave., too.  Del Garst reminded me once how he was the prince galloping to the tower to rescue the princess, and I believe Mr. Ascott constructed the tower from which the princess looked from a window.

The very first brochure of a diminutive size reads Ojai Nursery School.  An outdoor school for children 2 to 3 years of age stressing music, rhythms and social training.  The monthly fee for 5 mornings was $15.00 and the hours 9 to 12. There was a description of having activities in the outdoors as much as possible either in the garden or on the porch while music and rhythms were conducted in the large living room.  Because of the California climate making things possible, outdoor activities were always a feature of the school and continued to be from there early beginnings.  I dwell in these things because the atmosphere was established then for a child’s world and needs and was carried over to the next home much later years.

1944 to 1968 – MONICA ROS SCHOOL

It is fortunate indeed for the Monica Ros School which began as the Ojai Nursery School and Kindergarten on Mc Nell Road to have had its beginnings in a semi-rural community, than present.  Tree shaded and rather undeveloped outdoors, where as well as using some basic outdoor equipment the children could run and play freely and enjoy their own creative games. With plenty of rocks on the school grounds but also many trees and shrubs. There was even a bird watching area took and with the climate that favors outdoor activities the out doors became a classroom in many instances where children could develop and enjoy the contact with their surroundings.  This love of school surroundings I remember was reflected once when a child exclaimed when a diseased Acacia had to be removed “Oh Mrs. Ros you’re ruining the school.” So it can be said that the basic philosophy, if you want to call it that, actually arose from the happy relationship the children and teachers had with each other and their surroundings.  Also, the exciting small houses used as school houses, while inadequate in many way, brought an atmosphere of homelike informality which compensated for a made to order school room, however well designed.

I have always maintained that “right beginnings” were essential to ensure understanding of a subject and to develop necessary skills. This was based in my realization that my own beginnings at one time were inadequate to learn what I needed and when I found that I could learn with a teacher who imparted the necessary guide lines, I vowed then that I would learn to teach with skill and understanding “right beginnings” (at that time, a musical instrument in particular).

I wanted them to have right beginnings, an education that reflected not only appreciation of things to be learned, but to have good values, good relationships and of the finer responses brought about by the exposure to music in particular and all it’s related interests and skills.  These skills spoke for itself in the happiness as it was reflected in the children’s flowering during their early years.

Also my wish was always to be able to include children of various socio-economic environments and therefore scholarships were offered, sometimes in part or on a reciprocal basis, to those children who in my judgment would benefit from the school as well as the school from the children.  In this respect I do not find in any scrap book one announcement of a fund raising event that did not have as its aim the scholarship fund.  It brought a spirit of helpfulness between people and was never regarded in any other light.

To learn with a love of learning, without competition, to take responsibility, to appreciate another’s ability, to cooperate in the enjoyment of the marvelous make-believe of play-acting with costumes and music and dancing was my wish for all the children to experience and above all music.  Singing together regularly and musical appreciation, all of which created a harmonious atmosphere as well as discovering individual talents.

Because of interest in music and training as a teacher of young children, it seemed only natural, when the school opened on McNell Road that presenting music in a variety of forms should be a part of the curriculum on a daily basis.  The sturdy secondhand piano was purchased for $50.00 and lived under a tarpaulin in the pergola.  It was a focal point for singing daily during the week, and for dancing, dramatic play and rhythms from the three-year-olds on up.

As to the related area of folk dancing, it helps a child rhythmically to improve physical ability and to gain interest historically about the country from which the dance comes.  Singing in dramatizations give poise, self-confidence, aids memory, and teaches getting along with others.  Comradery is formed by children singing together.  By helping children release stored-up emotional and physical pressure, music assists children in their concentration on the basics reading, writing and arithmetic.

To return to fund raising events I should like to mention the annual fiesta of those days.  This included the caring dedicated help of parents as well as staff.  Parents gave such support and encouragement to the little school.  These affairs were aided by the children themselves, each contributing for sale something of their own making such as a painting or some little ceramic work of art.  It was always accepted by them as something they did to help their school. There was usually a little program of some kind, too, again by the children.

I should like to name everyone but will have to content myself with mentioning those who contributed so much to the early life of the school also have names not already given credit. Mrs. June Roller was a valued music group teacher.  Mrs. Nell Roest, Mrs. Helen Cooper as nursery school teachers.  Betsy Pfeiffer who was an outstanding first and second grade teacher.  I myself taught third and fourth grade when first and second had their own teacher.  Jean Yeats  carried on after Betsy left and who carried out experiments in the kitchen showing the presence of air on a heated empty can which crumpled before our eyes! Caren Proctor and Rupert Carr who taught shop. Mrs. Barbara de Creft whose outstanding gift was painting and where mother, Mrs. James Moore had taught before her and when planned and carried out with a stereo _____(?) lecture a children’s art show held at the Ojai Art Center was in 1953 with work from the children ranging from 5 to 10 years.  An artist in her own right who really inaugurated the school’s outstanding art work.  Science was first introduced formally by Da_____(?)Ersol who came to the school and donated to the classroom and intricate model of the sun and the planets.  And there was Fred Maurer (?) and his brother, students from Ventura College who attended classes and in the early _____(?) who introduced his class to biology and took a very popular sports period.  Woody Chambliss who helped with the finishing touches of plays, and sometimes necessary narrations.002-1944-monica-ros-school002-1944-monica-ros-school

As the Monica Ros School was run as a private business there was no board of directors but the staff met once a month after school for tea to share their views and ideas and to discuss what was taking place in the school.  Any problem that may have arisen.  Of course in running a school there were anxious moments, financial worries and a lot of hard work connected with such an endeavor, but I know with the dedication of staff and of parents the school is indebted to so much of the happy and enriched early childhood education which they helped me carry out.  But I know that only with the help and dedication of parents and staff was I able to carry out my hope of providing “right beginnings” for children at Monica Ros School, this is no boast: I have been told over and over by children and now grown and parents of the lasting and happy and helpful experience it provided.  Much of the charm and development of the grounds can be attributed to Mr. Bryan King.  Besides all of the regular work, he developed a lovely rose garden outside my house, he was responsible for keeping the grass play area in condition, picked hundreds of persimmons which were sold and of his own volition for each Xmas program. Clientele of friends of the school who have remained faithful throughout the years and who attended these occasions: There was Connie Wash and Patsy Eaton, the William McCachey’s, the Anne Thacher, Helen Griggs, John Marillo (?), Elizabeth Thacher, Joni Friend who made an owl costume for her daughter Anne (when The Owl and the Pussy Cat was performed) of individually sewn brown paper feathers.  The Herman Guttman’s who constructed and _____(?) the school’s first jungle gym (still in use).  Barbara Griggs who helped with dramatics, sewing costumes and especially when her daughter Curry Griggs, the cow in The King’s Breakfast. Mr. and Mrs. Bill Myers, Nancy Myers always helping me I remember in particular at Bake Sales held when the Tennis Tournament was in session.  In the very, very early days Babette Ferrer helped with her casting of plays.  The William McCachey’s and I must mention here one of the first performances at the school’s new location which was Peter and the Wolf because Robert (Calder) Davis reminded me he was the Duck.  I should like to include here the name of a friend of the school, Mr. Harry Sinclair who attended that performance and I think was the first donor of a whole scholarship to a child in the school.  I remember Beatrice Wood donating a piece of her lovely pottery for a raffle and Ellie Hyman who would _____ and give readings to the spellbound children or tell stories she was a ___ ____ and when husband Paul Hyman who’s bookkeeping services were gratis.  There was Howard Gally who made the first set of building blocks for the school two of which are still in use in the Kindergarten room big enough for children to get into. _____(?) a bell and _____(?)  A product of Sue Beck’s imagination and carpentry talents.  Other names Mrs. Florence Baldwin, Jean Post, Shirley Brown, June Roller, Nel Roest, Michael Ehrhardt, James Loebl,  Lilo Saber, Guy and Olga Ignon, John Torsuch, Dilly and Elizabeth, Rawson Harmon, the John Wilson’s, Isabel Hermes, Richard Paige, Wallace Burr, Headmaster of O.V.S., John Perkins, Elena Green, the Jacobs and Parkers, Dean Thompson’s.  And thanks to Margaret Thomas for the Building Blocks Fund.

When the prospect of adding more grades came about I went in the summer of 1948 to New York where I attended classes at Teacher’s College under the teaching of childhood education dealing with reading methods in particular and materials.

High standards in academic subjects are maintained and I think a love of inquiry and independent thinking and learning about the world was encouraged.  Except for basic standardized readers put out by Scott Foresman and arithmetic tests the choice of other texts was left to the director and teachers and teachers were free to use their own educational recourses in class projects. And of course each class had its own library from which the children chose their free reading material.  Harcourt was an accepted responsibility.  A lot of attention was given to the phonetic help applied to spelling and reading to the children create a great deal of original creative writing. But I think what permitted the school, and for which it won its reputation for creative activities, was through music and dramatic play. A sturdy old fashioned upright piano was on the cement floor of the pergola and for years was the focal point for the daily singing classes, folk dancing,  rhythm and dramatic play.  These activities culminated in the Christmas celebration and the end of the year play, usually a script written from a well known children’s classic, was performed to an audience of parents and friends of the school.  I have never regretted having put so much emphasis on these musical and creative subjects and all the related skills for from it was the heart of the school.  I have always maintained that a school environment needs music and that children’s responses are self-evident of the beneficial effect of music and its therapeutic or pure enjoyment in the ability to sing songs together, more freely and enjoy dancing and have the fun of acting out a part.

This deep rooted feeling for children have a well grounded, sensitive and appropriate beginning in learning musical instruments, however elementary would give a student confidence and pleasure in making music.  My desire is to present children with musical experiences at an early age that allowed for a child as well in studying an instrument.  In conjunction with the respective music teaches them and where music education was given an important place in the curriculum.  This interest in “right beginnings” was carried over much later when the Monica Ros School was founded and where an emphasis was given to an environment that allowed for a children’s creativity and growth, learning and happiness.

Naturally one would hope that the school may continue with the same emphasis, however differently expressed, but always with sensitive and discerning concern for quality and cultural enrichment.

This then is a summary of those early years of what I feel was the life of the Monica Ros School in its simple environment, dedicated to the children’s “right beginnings” in learning and living, not in an authorative lest a “harmonious atmosphere”which was how a former teacher expressed her feelings to me.


The Ojai Valley is a notable friendly place, I believe.  I have always found a good feeling between schools of different types and a spirit of helpfulness.  To name instances in our case.  The principal of the grammar school is the most wonderful about allowing children from my school to ride the school bus to various school activities, generally dramatizations, and extra chairs will always be willingly loaned out. The exchanging and lending out of costumes for plays, which resulted in a teacher and some boys from the Thacher school (for High School Age) caring they came to photograph the children in their Alice in Wonderland costumes for free.  And then is constant introduction of applications for this or that teaching positions between schools.


The community of Ojai Valley has varied interests but certainly the main ones are orange growing and schools.  In between people are interested in small businesses, artistic treats, music, painting, ceramics, and acting.  Then there are the philosophical minded and church minded.  Also a certain fluctuation among people from the east who have found Ojai a desirable place to have a winter home (and put their children in school) who have contributed to cultural standards.


My policy has always been and has been carried into effect that school fees should be within the means of the lower bracket income groups.  I can safely say that children are enrolled from every varied walls of life and there is no disturbance of race, creed, colour or any difficulties about it.

TEACHING: Not by method but by a process of renewal

A bigger me. what kind?  In California we deal in superlatives: theirs are apt to be the biggest and the best.  When someone asked what kind of an instrument a double _____(?)  was, he was told that it was a California violin. A bigger me in relation to teaching should have another meaning, another dimension surely? Are we bigger in size of importance or in understanding?  Understanding we hope – at least it is an illusive attribute to describe.

In teaching very young children what does understanding employ?  Warmth, humor, values, training, experience, calmness, intelligent guidance  — there are endless attributes for an understanding teacher.  If one were to divide these attributes into two categories we should have the thinking ones and the feeling ones.  Together they could create a well balanced person.  I think a real state of awareness, of understanding comes about if a person has a balance of thought and feeling no matter at what level.  Obviously there is no pattern for this, but it does seem desirable that a teacher be a balanced thinking feeling person.  Fundamentally is there wrong and right? What we do today will be regarded as wrong tomorrow? What is it than that we seek to do?  Teach in the right way surely!  We’d make a method out of new ideas!  No, the direction I see is for an awareness of the present and constant re-creation of values.  Children live in the moment – they should be our cue.

The distinction however, is not between order and disorder. To think that mechanical teaching is orderly whereas developmental teaching is chaotic, is a very great mistake.  All good teaching is orderly, but there are different kinds of orderliness.  The moment some people see any order sequence of work they are inclined to call it mechanistic.  Nine times out of ten they are right, but they are guessing just the same.  One must look deeper.  One must find out whether it is externalistic and whether in practice it emphases accumulation, for these are the decisive features of the mechanicistic approach.  There are _____(?) arguments against mechanistic teaching.  It does not work out well in practice and it is based on a false psychology.

The young beginner has the same kind of quality of experience as the highly developed expert, the only difference lay in degree.
It is a very strange thing how often both the friends and foes of developmental teaching fail to realize its essentially orderly character, how often they seem to take it as the equivalent of chaos.

Music is my other assignment and this I dwell upon lovingly because of the enrichment and values it gives to children’s lives as perhaps no other subject can do in these early grades, provided there is a sensitive approach as in everything else.  It opens up an opportunity, new vistas for the creative imagination of the child, it accents feelings, nurtures the natural artistic responses.  This therapeutic value and gives endless delight and fun.  Children’s responses to music delight one as much as rewarding conversations or certain stories.  Dr. Mus____(?) has _____(?) out.


What makes people want to become teachers?  I can only answer for myself.  Things, small things seemingly at the time stand out clearly and have obviously given direction to my interests.  Happenings that have not been blurred from memory because of their long range significance.  Once in my early teens I remember not being able to control tears because a very young child, who was sitting in a school assembly hall, affected me just by the appearance in her face.  Another time I was conscious of a clear cut resolution, often having suffered at hand of bad violin instructors with bad temper _____(?) and suddenly finding haven in discovering I could do this with another type of teacher —  to be a good music teacher of children because it was important.


The Ojai Nursery School and Kindergarten (now with an addition of first and second grades) began from a group of five children who came to me first for music and rhythmic play and by request of the parents was later formed into a Nursery School group.  School was held in the veranda round a central patio and garden with some basic equipment installed.  In the succeeding six years a kindergarten was added and a subdivision made of the four year olds, a first grade and next year a second grade will be added.  So that children are enrolled here from years of 2 to 7 years.  Also there was a remodel to a permanent residence where once again house and grounds have undergone a gradual adaptation to growing needs.  The physical appearance of the a school does not look like a sample designed for the specific needs of such a school age group.  Where in many have a certain uniqueness, but accommodating handicaps.  But at least imaginative creative ideas have been put to the test.  In So. Cal children live largely out of doors — it is this normal environment and so the psychology is a different one to that of a school in a city or in a cold climate.  There is no desire on my part for a large school in the contrary, but it should be large enough to have companionship and interest for children of any age group and to avoid any taint of inclusiveness.  The school numbered almost fifty children last year and it is my wish not to go beyond that number or beyond a second grade like ____(?) one searches for a ______(?)


In the beginning I can only say that I hope the intent of the little school spoke for itself through the responses of the children as they felt physically secure when they first made a break from home and continued to respond and flower as they entered kindergarten and Grade school.

I hope this has given an account of the school and its atmosphere, its problems and its aspirations.  The school problems are my problems.  I do not know any other method than to go about then in a spirit of constant deciding – even renewing ones ideas and this does not imply uncertainty, on the contrary it is an understood, logical process.  If traditional education is wrong and progressive education right, why aren’t more educational problems part of the whole school.  A new experience for me will be teaching second grade and also having two age groups at one time.

I find myself in charge of a school of my own which has grown far beyond what at first contemplated and with insufficient training for the job that it has developed into.  I can draw on my music training and teaching, travel and philosophical background and an early childhood of _____(?) simple growth but in a cultural _____(?)  home environment and school largely with a generous or small groups.  But it is naturally not enough, I feel in an insecure position from the fact of holding no degree.  I have taken courses wherever possible and will continue to do so.  While I attained certain results with the children and parents have been satisfied I am greatly indebted to the direction of _____(?) such work that is given at Teacher’s College and hope I am able to work with the children _____(?) times of none _____(?) and valuable experiences there.


Now we go back in time a little.  It was in 1925 or 1926 Margaret and I left our home in Roseville to live in a community of people where there were numbers of young people, often with their parents, who were members of the Theosophical Society.  Our mother had been a member for years.  There was no coercion as far as we were concerned, but eventually we joined the society, too, for we had many friends there.  For someone like my mother it was a broadening influence from the accepted conformist church doctrines.  In this community there was a definite dedication to training and study of theosophical doctrine and thought, but otherwise everyone was free to pursue his or her respective manner of living a livelihood if necessary.  I continued with my associations at the Conservatorium and did some teaching and had a job in a radio station for a musical programme and Margaret worked in town for some firm.  For some personal reason Margaret never wished to discuss this period in her life; she seemed embarrassed to tell anyone about it – it was hard to explain I suppose, though the Theosophical Society was and still is a recognized liberal mode of religious thought by many people all around the world.  Anyway, our connection with it was a fact and I leave it to you whether it seems appropriate to mention it or not.  I know Margaret really rejected it.  She said once — Those dotty times.  I think the difficulty arose in trying to explain this period of her life to others.  While personally not in the least interested now, I look upon this period as a broadening experience.  One did meet people in Sydney from all parts of the world too.  I for one my husband who was a Theosophist from Havana, Cuba and visiting the center, as it was called, in Sydney.  Margaret had an invitation to visit friends in Holland, which she did, and then made her way to London alone.  We, of course stayed on in Ojai where I have had my home ever since.

Margaret never told me much, but I think it was a frightening experience for her to be alone in London, very little money and tramping about with her portfolio of drawings and letters of introduction and references from Sydney.  As I mentioned before we were so unsophisticated.  I’m sure we had never been in a hotel.  Those must have been grim times for Margaret.  I know father helped out, but Margaret was so independent.  Father died in July of that year, 1929.  Mother and Pat came over to London to be with Margaret in 1930.  They lived in St. Johns Wood, Margaret working and Pat studying, singing and ballet.  Florence James perhaps can tell you about those times and what Margaret did to make her way.  I have no letter to refer to having unfortunately destroyed all mothers of that time.  In 1933, mother decided to go back to Sydney leaving the girls in London.  As her health was not good and mother felt the climate too severe in London, but in February of that year she died at sea on the voyage out.

In 1937, I was able to take a short trip to visit my sisters while my husband went to Havana.  Margaret was married happily to Arthur Freeman then they had a top flat in an apartment in Inglewood Road, Hampstead which Margaret, with her usual flair, made very attractive and I thought even the view of chimney pots enchanting.  Florence James perhaps can tell you more than I about those times and what Margaret did in the way of making her way.  I have no letters to refer to.  I took a bus tour and enjoyed all kinds of theaters and trips to Scotland but feel a visit from a sister from So. Cal. was a bit of a strain.  Pat was living somewhere else and well into the musical opera touring business.  Arthur, of course could tell you what they actually did then.  I can remember Margaret working at sketches in the flat.

Soon after my return to California World War II in 1939 began.  That was a terrible time.  Margaret’s letters were gay and funny as usual describing events, which must have been petrifying in reality.  I managed to speak by phone once.  Of course the U.S.A. did not enter the war until much later 1945.

As I have written earlier after my return from a visit to Havana in 1940, I resumed teaching music.  Formerly I had taught violin in particular when my husband was alive, and as I mentioned I later formed a class of nursery school age children for musical experiences of all kinds, which developed into a Nursery School later.  In 1944 I was able to purchase a property near by which was ideal for a little school and which on the same site is the Monica Ros School though I retired as director sixteen or more years ago.  Margaret on the other hand had a keen insight into children’s minds and needs and ways, but strangely contended she did not like them about personally.  So we had different ways of expressing our feelings toward children.  I devoted to teaching, she as an illustrator.  I included a brochure for which Margaret supplied the drawings.  She would sometimes at my request send me illustrations for costumes, which I needed when the school was involved in a period play performing plays for was a high light of the schools curriculum including music of all types.

In 1955 I paid a short visit to Sydney and stayed near the Freeman’s at Elizabeth Bay.  They had returned from London in 1949 and were making their way, Margaret in her chosen field as an illustrator of children’s books and Arthur was teaching at the Technical College.  I retired from the school in 1968 and in 1969 I returned again to London for six months after my retirement.  Margaret and Arthur then lived near the Hawkesbury district and Margaret was then hoping then to conclude her work as an illustrator of children’s books for I recall the effort it was for her to get assignments finished.  Soon afterwards they sold up everything and went to live abroad mainly in Mallorca until their return to Sydney where Margaret became increasingly frail and died in September 1978 after months of a sad coma like existence.

Monica Ros School in Ojai

Art & About–A Passion for Ojai Music Festival Posters

Art and About…a passion for posters
The Music Festival’s vibrant illustrated history by Anca Colbert

1993 Beatrice Wood

As Libbey Bowl is about to come alive once again with the magic sound of music, we take a look at some of the art posters created for the Ojai Music Festival: as a group, they give us a bird’s eye view of the Music Festival’s history and tell us stories about the events, programs and performers.

In the 66 years the annual summer festival has played to devoted, adoring crowds of music lovers from Ojai and far beyond, a number of original posters were created. The more memorable works were produced between 1975 and 1995.

Prominent contemporary artists donated their designs or the use of their images for poster designs to the Festival: some of local repute (e.g., Beatrice Wood, John Nava) and many others (e.g., Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Motherwell.)

Posters have a long history as a medium combining art, graphic design, location and events. The tradition of producing posters for marketing and for fund-raising is well established in the world of the performing arts.

But what exactly is a poster?

Many use the word loosely when referring to any print or reproduction. Let’s try to define the term as what it truly describes.

POSTER in English is AFFICHE in French, PLAKAT in German. These words describe the literal action of affixing, gluing something on to a support. That is the primary function of a poster: a single sheet of paper, printed on one side only, is posted on a vertical surface to publicize something through a clear message combining words and images.

How and when did posters appear?

Broadsides (i.e., small size posters) produced with typographical design using hand-letter presses appeared as early as the 16th century. Ephemeral by nature and in purpose, broadsides were used for dissemination of a wide variety of ideas and events, official and individual proclamations, poetry, etc. They are valuable as refined examples of popular art and reflections on the culture of their day.

The revolutionary discovery of color stone lithography by Jules Cheret in Paris around 1865, and its technical evolution over a few decades into a means of mass communication, led to the development of posters as a new and modern art form. By 1900 buildings in Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna, and New York were covered with larger posters advertising department stores, perfumes, automobiles, bicycles, magazines, operas, concert halls, theater shows, fine foods, and travel. Plastered on walls, on construction sites boards and on kiosks specially designed for that purpose, their emergence in the street life of cities transformed the urban landscape. Posters became a popular medium for advertising in an artful manner.

A few artists (Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Steinlen, Mucha, et al) developed a passion for the stone lithographic process and its ability to produce multiple copies of one work fast and cheap. They also fell in love with the Japanese woodcuts first exhibited in Paris in 1889, fascinated by their esthetics and adopting their approach to bold composition, negative space and simplicity. These attributes are some of the key elements of an effective poster design.

The new art form quickly found an audience of avid collectors. Many gallery and museum exhibitions were already recording their growing popularity in the early 1900s.

Form and content changed at accelerated speeds throughout the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. The presses were running, and the names of Le Moulin Rouge, Le Chat Noir, Aristide Bruant, Mistinguette, Josephine Baker became famous through their now illustrious poster images.

WWI and WWII provided an explosion in bold, patriotic, political poster designs.

After WWII a true renaissance of the fine lithographic printing occurred essentially through the skilled efforts of one man: Fernand Mourlot and his printing studio in Paris put lithographic stones and tools in the hands of contemporary artists (Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Chagall) teaching them and many others how to draw on stones to create original graphic works. That led to an abundance of brilliant original limited edition fine prints and poster designs created by these artists for their publishers and exhibitions in the 50s and 60s.

The trend spread like wildfire to the USA where new lithographic and silkscreen studios opened their doors to work with artists on fine prints (Tamarind Lithography Worshop, Gemini G.E.L., ULAE.) Pop art was hot in the 60s and 70s, and production multiplied on both coasts. Rock artists produced psychedelic concert posters in the Bay Area; Warhol was experimenting with every ink in sight in New York; while others like Robert Motherwell, David Hockney, Kenneth Noland, Richard Diebenkorn, and Jim Dine were creating some of their finest original prints, and occasionally posters for art exhibitions and cultural venues. Many of the posters created by these masters for the OMF in the 80s were sometimes signed and numbered, and they are by now quite rare and valuable.

1981 David Hockney
1980 Richard Diebenkorn









Original vintage posters have generally become quite collectable. They are represented in major museum collections worldwide. Reference books,specialized auctions and catalogues abound on the topic. A new breed of collectors (private and public) have turned their attention to the more recent examples of the Modernist and Populist styles coinciding with the renaissance of fine printing and design as “arts” after the 60s.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Ojai is a small town. Yet at a time when most places witness the disappearance of posters due to the ever-growing dominance of digital communication combined with the increased costs of paper printing production, Ojai holds the tradition of producing posters for local events such as the Ojai Music Festival, Ojai Film Festival, Lavender Festival, Wine Festival, Ojai Day, the Art Museum, and the Art Center.

Ojai is also a place unlike any other: rustic, intimate, culturally sophisticated, it is revered by the visiting composers, musicians and conductors coming to the Music Festival. Who could forget Dawn Upshaw’s profoundly moving lyrical ode about why she so loves coming back to sing in Ojai?

Beatrice Wood was world renowned. She moved from Los Angeles to Ojai in 1947, like so many other devotees of Krishnamurti and his annual talks under the oak trees. Coincidently, 1947 was the inaugural year of the Music Festival in Ojai. Beatrice spent the rest of her long life in this valley. Her studio had become a cherished destination – almost a pilgrimage – for art lovers, writers, Hollywood celebrities. She did not travel much, but the world came to her. When she passed away in 1998 at the age of 105, she was the most celebrated ceramic artist of Ojai and one of the significant ceramic sculptors of the 20th century.

Her contributions to local non-profits in the arts included the OMF, the Ojai Library, schools, and almost every organization which solicited her support. She believed that arts and education can change lives. They can, and they do. Beatrice generously walked her talk. Her 1993 concert pianist poster for the OMF is bold, at once provocative and charming, just as she was.

1967 typographical design
1989 John Nava









Two posters, 22 years apart, shine the light on Pierre Boulez, one of the brightest stars in the Festival’s history. The 1967 poster is using limited means, typographical design mostly and two colors (the classic red and black associated with broadside-type posters). The 1989 design by John Nava makes dramatic use of the four-color process offset printing to visually evoke the ambiance of the festival. A dreamlike atmosphere sets the stage in the blue/grey background against which three inset images – painterly renditions of the conductor’s face and hand gestures – come to life illuminated against a Midsummer Night’s Dream nocturnal atmosphere. That’s what it feels like, in the night, under the oak trees in Libbey Park, when Boulez conducts in Ojai.

1978 Jim Dine
1987 Jack Youngerman









Both Jim Dine’s and Jack Youngerman’s posters focus on flowers. Appropriate symbols for the setting of the festival in the idyllic natural beauty of the fertile Ojai Valley. Dine’s delicate composition draws the viewer’s eye in a subtle seduction, while Youngerman’s luminous two-color silkscreen explodes with yellow petal power in our face. The visual range represents well the musical diversity offered at the festival year after year, from the intimate classics to the cutting-edge contemporaries.

As the applause slowly subsides and the stage lights fade away, music lovers slowly, very slowly, walk out of Libbey Bowl, folding their blankets and absorbing the discoveries, surprises and joys experienced during that particular weekend. Most of us retain magical memories of specific performances. Who can forget Boulez conducting his own spellbinding Dialogue de lâ ombre double while the Ojai birds punctuated the elaborate acoustics of the composition with their own musical score? Our memory replays those high notes for years to come, words and images, sounds and lights. The vibrational quality of music is enriched and amplified by a natural environment unlike any other. The palpable experience of those moments shared with other music lovers enters our emotional and body memory.

Music is a most evanescent art experience. What remains of these intangible moments? Sometimes a poster, ephemeral art from that year’s Festival, triggers a smile and a treasured reminiscence.

Powerful posters do that well.


Ojai Quarterly Magazine Summer Issue 2013

Photo credits: Permanent Collection of the Ojai Valley Museum of Art and History and the Ojai Music Festival

©2013 Anca Colbert

E.P. Foster and Ojai’s County Parks

Remembering When…
forefathers’ foresight led to valley parks by David Mason

“No camping was permitted west of the stream;although parties may spend the day or the evening under the live oaks, and for a small consideration may buy wood from the custodian of the park with which to cook their dinners – or suppers.”
“History of Ventura County, California” – 1926

The Road to Nordhoff
The Road to Nordhoff

The journey from San Buenaventura north through the settlement of Stoney Flats (now Casitas Springs) to the town of Nordhoff (now Ojai) was a long and sometimes treacherous trip. The buggy trail switched back and forth across the flowing San Antonio Creek at least a dozen times on its way to the Ojai Valley. The trail was commonly referred to as Creek Road and by today’s standards, it was indeed a scenic road.

In 1883, Mary Gally, owner of the Gally Cottages, wrote in her diary, “My favorite drive that first summer was down the Creek Road for it was the one green spot in the Ojai, with the wild grapevines hanging down from the trees and the grassy banks above the running water.”

For many years, travelers had found a beautiful spot to stop, camp, rest and water their horses. It was a cool refreshing place just on the outskirts of the small town of Nordhoff, a place that was shaded by many mature oak trees and a creek that ran nearby. It was widely known as a comfort spot, and the location would become known as Camp Comfort. It was the coming of Mr. and Mrs. E.P. Foster to the town of Ventura that would save this wooded campsite for future generations to enjoy. Foster had come to Ventura in 1872 to become a rancher. Later, he would become president of the Bank of Ventura which sold to Bank of Italy (now Bank of America). In 1874, Foster married Orpha Woods, and together they had 10 children.

Camp Comfort
Camp Comfort

The Fosters loved trees and the shade they provided on their family picnics. They often rode in their

carriage, drawn by two beautiful horses, to the Camp Comfort area, long before it was a public park. The land on which Camp Comfort was located belonged to a gentleman named John Hodson who owned many acres in the area. Hodson was in the process of cutting thousands of cords of wood from his acreage and selling it and the thought of cutting down the stately oaks that shaded the comfort stop much disturbed the Fosters, so they decided to prevent it, if possible.

Meanwhile, with the nation accepting the fact that the automobile was here to stay and not just a passing fad, many new roads were being built. The first organized automobile race was being sponsored by the Vanderbilt family on the East Coast, and out here in the West, Foster was going before the County Board of Supervisors with his idea of creating a public park along the narrow dirt trail so that all the people could relax and enjoy the shade. The parcel of land consisted of 20 acres of “wild land.” The Board of Supervisors negotiated with the owner to purchase the property and succeeded. The final price was $2,500 in gold.

People enjoyed swinging on the grape vines at Camp Comfort.
People enjoyed swinging on the grape vines at Camp Comfort.

The June 18, 1904, edition of the local newspaper, The Ojai, reported: “Last week the Board of Supervisors who met in the shade of the beautiful live oaks that adorn the premises, were so favorably impressed with the camp and its surroundings that they unanimously agreed to buy the property for a public park.”

Speaking on behalf of the citizens of the small town, the paper continued, “The Honorable Board of Supervisors, in this noble act, has the Ojai’s approval and appreciation, and also its lasting gratitude.” The area was officially named Camp Comfort and it was the first county park.

The Fosters did not satisfy their desire for parks with Camp Comfort. They purchased 65 acres from the Ayers family along the banks of the Ventura River to create another park (now at the north end of the Ojai freeway). This park was to be designated as the Eugene T. Foster Memorial Park in honor of the young son of the Fosters who had died at an early age. The Fosters purchased additional acreage from some of the surrounding property owners to increase the size of the park. The entrance was through a great stone gateway over a bridge crossing the Ventura River.

Foster Park was a popular camping ground from the start. There were barbecue pits, camping spots, swings for the children, a swimming hole in the river and, amongst the sycamores on the other side of the river, a place for campers to locate their tents and remain all summer if they desired.

Foster Park
Foster Park

Over the years, a small settlement developed just outside the entrance to the park and became known as the town of Foster Park. The town received an official post office in December of 1952. However, within 17 years, the whole town was obliterated by the construction of the freeway to Ojai.

The Fosters would continue their endowments to the county. The financing of the Buenaventura Hospital, later named the Foster Memorial Hospital (now Community Memorial Hospital), and the creation of the 65-acre Seaside Park lying along the ocean shore, also known today as the Ventura County Fairgrounds. The Fosters personally worked to have other public parks established in the various sections of the county. They were interested in the beautification of the parks and highways. Many of the tree-lined highways in Ventura County were started by them.

(c) 1999 The Ojai Valley News

Ojai’s Juvenile Delinquency Problem–1926

Who Knows the Solution? 1926 Editorial in The Ojai

The following editorial appeared in The Ojai, December 31, 1926:

The City of Ojai stands very badly in need at the present time of some one who can solve this problem of boys on the streets at night. This band of young fellows that ranges up and down the town after dark, has become a public nuisance. They congregate outside the theater and in other places and make the place hideous with their noise. The curfew ordinance apparently has no effect. It does no good to chase them off the main streets unless they will go home, and home is apparently the one place that has no attraction. The cooperation of the parents seems to be entirely lacking. As a result, there is growing up in our midst a bunch of young hooligans. They have no respect for the rights of other people or for property. A number of minor depredations have already occurred. From this stage, the step into crime is a short one. Unless something can be done about it we are raising a crop of recruits for the State to take care of later on.

* * *

And yet, it is not fair to condemn these boys out of hand. Lacking any home life worthy of the name, they seek a field of interest and an outlet for their energies on the streets. All normal boys pass through an age when their instincts are those of a savage. At such a time they need understanding and guidance. The whole course of their future lives may be decided by the influence under which they come at this critical stage. Cannot something be done to help these boys? Is there not some way to provide them with the conditions that will give them scope for their energies along constructive and useful lines? Three things seem to be absolutely essential. First the right kind of leadership and supervision; second, a place to spend their time; and third, some sort of equipment.

The first is the hardest of all to find. The right kind of leaders for boys of this sort are young men. Men who have not lost touch with the effervescence of youthful nature, who can join in and yet retain the authority of leadership. And they should be men who can do something well enough to command the respect of the boys. Talking does little or no good. We might get a small workshop started wherein the boys might learn to make things with their hands. There is nothing quite so thrilling to a real boy as to discover and develop the skill of his hands. Games are good if they can be controlled.

The second and third requirements go together. We need some sort of a boys’ club with a certain amount of equipment for shop work and games. It would not cost a great deal.

Is it not possible for us to start some sort of boys’ club here in the Ojai? The need is great and we can hardly go on much longer ignoring the present state of affairs. Of what use our community singing and our folk dancing and our other attempts to promote a community spirit so long as we have these young people running wild about the streets? Surely it is time we elders did something to assist these young scallywags across this difficult and dangerous period of their lives.

The Ojai, Friday, December 31, 1926

Ojai’s Brick Firehouse

Ojai’s Brick Firehouse — County Historical Landmark Information

Firehouse-ImagePrior to 1929 the Ojai Valley fire protection was left somewhat to chance and the generosity of impromptu volunteers. Of course, the northern borders were watched over by the rangers of the Los Padres Forest. It is to one of the forest rangers who was to become Ojai’s first professional fire fighter, William Bowie, that we owe most of the information for this story.

In 1925 the growth of the area outside of Ventura city was such that the county decided to form fire districts for unincorporated areas and invited any incorporated city to join. Ojai voted to do so. Each district had one commissioner. Berkeley Brandt, one of the many easterners who came to Ojai, was the first commissioner. (Berkeley Brandt, also a noted architect, designed the firehouse.) He resided in the East End of the valley where he was a citrus grower.

In 1925 the volunteer firemen were : Fred Linder, Chief, Lawrence Shaw, Assistant Chief, Art Sacherer, Secretary, Sam Hudiburg, Clarence Lindnerm, Gene Mitchell, Herb Miller, Tommy Lopez, Guy Cruickshank, Cecil Little, Ken Ayers, Nelson Cota, George Noble, Joe Misbeek, Leon Munger, Bert Griffen and Stan Bunce.

In the forties they were: Martin Kosub, Harold Rice, Guy Stetson, Jr., Alvin Kosub, Rudy Lopez, Arla Harris, Henry Lawrence, Jim Gallio, Reg Bunce, Fred Phiffer, and George Schroff.

Volunteer firemen are still used in Ojai (1970s). Even after professional crews took over, the County continued the volunteer concept. Under the plan an individual applies as a volunteer and is required to attend classes in fire suppression. In the old days when the siren went off volunteers who were available responded from their businesses and went to the station where instructions were found on the black board. There was no compensation in the beginning for these services. About 1932 the volunteer was paid an hourly rate. This is still the basic program, but they are now contacted by walkie talkie radio.

Among the early professional firemen were: Joe Misbeek, Billy Lonsdale, Frank Keys, and Tommy Lopez.

There was also an honorary fire department. Some of the members were: Sherman Thacher, W.C. Hendrickson, Halleck Laffets, L.A. Peasley, Frank Barrington, C.V. Miller, Boyd Gabbert, F.H. Pirkins, Ernest Clark, George Sacherer, G.H. Hickey, Carl M. Yant, E.E. Kennison, William Phillips, and Cecil Little.

The first fire station was on the east bank of Stewart Wash (which now runs under Ojai Avenue just east of the Bank of America). The equipment consisted of a 1917 Model T Ford. Mounted on the car were two twenty-gallon chemical tanks. The Boyd Club occupied the present site of the Bank of America (now a collection of shops on Ojai Ave). The chief lived on the first floor of the club. He took calls for the police at night. The siren was on the roof of the City Hall across Ojai Avenue in the Arcade mounted on a steel windmill tower.

In July 1926 the volunteer fire department contracted for an American La France fire engine type 99 with a Buick motor and a one hundred gallon booster pump at a cost of $5,975. When the Ojai Fire District was organized it assumed $4,000 of the debt. The engine was delivered in December, 1928. The truck had a five hundred gallon per minute pump; a 125 gallon water tank with 500 feet of two and one half inch hose; 200 feet of one-inch hose. The down payment was raised by the volunteers and civic leaders and the fire district paid the balance. During this expansion period the charter honorary members played an active part. They were Berkeley Brandt, Hallet Lefferts, W.C. Hendrickson, Fred Barrington, C.V. Miller, Boyd Gabbert, F.H. Perkins, Ernest Clark, George Sacherer, G.H. Hickey, Carl M. Yant, E.C. McKennison, William Phillips, and Philip Pierpont.

A bell took the place of a siren and was placed in the belfry of the post office. During the day the caretaker of nearby Boyd Center took calls when the chief was out on firework of the district.

In 1936 the department was credited with helping to fight the Ventura Wharf and Warehouse Company fire. By this time the department had additional equipment in the form of a one and one half ton Dodge truck with a 300 gallon water tank and hose on the body. The pump was driven by a chain link from a power take off from the drive shaft.

On October 25, 1939, the fire department was put to the acid test. A fire started in the building housing the Ojai Publishing Company in the Arcade. The entire block was immediately endangered. Very quickly Fire Warden William Bowie was on the scene with Fire Chief Fred Linder in charge of the volunteers. Equipment from Ventura and Santa Paula was called in. In November of that year the City Council passed a resolution commending Bowie, Linder, and the volunteers for saving the downtown.

There were two platoons of volunteer firemen, each of about fifteen men. One was on call for downtown Ojai and one for the outlying areas. In the absence of radio communication one volunteer drove between the two crews during a fire alert to keep each informed. Later a portable radio system was used that could send messages but not receive them.

One of the major problems of the pioneer fire department was the numerous water companies with different size pipes, hydrants, etc. One, the American States Water Company, that serviced the City, had fire hydrants. The Libbey Water Company supplied the new subdivision, the Arbolada and the new Country Club. Senior Canyon Water Company supplied the East End. The Ojai Improvement Company piped water from Fox Canyon near Gridley Canyon to the hotel and homes on Foothill Road. Siete Robles Water Company supplied East Ojai Avenue. Meiners Oaks had their own system as did the Creek Road area. Oak View had two suppliers. None of these had fire hydrants in the early days. Even in the case of the American States Water Company the pipes would sometimes break in several places when under stress. When the Libbey Water Company was laying a new and larger main from their wells on Grand Avenue to the Arbolada, the fire department laid a connecting line which greatly improved the downtown situation and reduced fire insurance premiums. In cases where the capacity of the water lines was in question as to the amount of pumping pressure that might be exerted, the hydrants or outlets were painted different colors and the colored chart was carried on the truck indicating which ones could be used for pumping. This is still a necessity to determine the flow of the system.

As the years advanced the Fire Department took on fire prevention tasks and ordered safety measures at Nordhoff High, Monica Ros School, Ojai Valley School, and Oak View Elementary. The theater was also inspected and safety measures ordered. An arson unit was also at work which consisted mainly of the Chief.

During World War II the Ojai fire department in cooperation with Ojai Red Cross and its chairman, Dr. Tippett, taught first aid. A total of 385 citizens participated. During this period the department invested in a resuscitator, inhalator, and aspirator. The resuscitator was donated by the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club.

Harmon Vaughn, who had purchased the bakery from the Baker family, gave the department a Model A delivery truck. It was painted red with two white crosses on each side and a sort of ambulance became part of the department’s equipment. The materials for the “ambulance” were again a gift of the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club and cost $413. Citizen William Mays donated a portable generator plant at a cost of $150.

All was not serious work for the volunteer fire department. After the tennis tournament was concluded on Saturday, the firemen closed off Ojai Avenue between Signal and Montgomery and hosed the area down for a big street dance. Early Sunday morning the firemen were out to wash the powder from the pavement. The powder was used to help the waltzers glide to the tunes of the 20s and 30s. When Ojai Avenue became a state highway the practice was discontinued. But even before then the town leaders were thinking of discontinuing this old time activity because of the intrusion of “outsiders.”

Ojai’s first firehouse was located on Ojai Avenue, where Danski is now.

By 1935 the Ojai Avenue fire station was outgrowing its space. A new site was decided on South Montgomery Street, which had been, from 1894, the former location of the George Thacher Memorial Library. Part of the site was bought by a committee of valley citizens headed by Dr. Charles Butler which was destined to be the home of the Ojai Valley Art Center. The space north of that was bought by the fire district and was to be the home of the fire department until 1979.

[The architect for the new building was none other than Fire Commissioner Berkeley Brandt. According to David Mason, “when it was decided to pursue construction of a new building, Berkeley Brandt, volunteered to draw plans for a new building to replace the small one. Originally from Chicago, Brandt had attended the Harvard School, the Chicago Art Institute, and the University of Chicago. He had devoted himself particularly to the study of architecture and went to Paris, France, where he attended the L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. He made a name for himself in America by designing large important public buildings, mostly libraries and Masonic lodges, including the Ojai Masonic Lodge. His work, while to a certain extent conventional, was also marked by an originality and broadness of conception, which gave it a distinctive individuality. Consequently, Brandt’s services were in constant demand.”]

This was the time of the Great Depression, so the fire district applied for Federal funds under the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The government’s share was $6,000 and the Ventura County Fire Department was to provide the additional $4,000. The Federal government agreed to a 10% override in case of necessity. The district was to furnish the plans and a technician to supervise construction. The contractor encountered difficulties and delay began. A series of articles appeared in The Ojai by editor Frank Kilbourne. In an editorial on January 9, 1936, he wrote in part: “Oh, yes! there was something said about putting up a new fire hall in Ojai. In fact, the government loan has been secured, the deeds given, the machinery and some material put in place on the lot and nothing happens! Labor shortage, they say! That sounds good. But give us our fire hall as soon as may be–and the cut in insurance rates to follow…” Kilbourne was answered by a letter to the editor on January 16, 1939, by John A. Dron, local manager for the WPA in Ventura County. He attempted to explain the labor shortage by pointing out that another WPA project in Ojai was absorbing all the eligible and available men who were on relief. He wrote: “If The Ojai will point out where twelve carpenters may be found on relief rolls at the present time, anywhere in the County, to put on the fire house, it will perform a great service to the WPA, for there are several projects equally as worthy as this one and now standing approved, which cannot be taken up because of the lack of skilled labor. The primary purpose of the WPA Program is not “to give a fire hall as soon as may be.” The Ojai editor replied in an open letter to Mr. Dron and regretted any offense and ended his letter by saying that, “it is heartening to know that labor is scarce. And the entire valley is confident that as soon as may be, the fire hall will be built! Meantime, our sincere regrets over the unhappy brain wave which resulted so wrongly.”

On January 30, 1936, The Ojai reported that construction was started by a contractor from Santa Paula and a crew of WPA workmen from Meiners Oaks and Oak View working on the foundation. But in March,The Ojai reported again that only 30 hours of WPA labor per week was available. In the same article we read, “that the new building will be constructed from cement blocks and provide space for two engines in the large one-story section and in the two-story section side will have an office, nose room, dormitory and storage space for the fire ladders. Upstairs will be living quarters for the County Deputy Fire Warden in charge here–in this case William Bowie and family. The structure will be finished in a white coating of cement and whitewash giving an effect similar to that of the high school (now Matilija Jr. High School). The Ojai Garden Club was active in those days. The Ojai tells us that the Club received the cooperation of the county fire authorities in a move to keep the poles off the Santa Paula grade. The poles carried a private telephone line from Santa Paula to the new station.

When the eight thousand dollars from the WPA portion was exhausted for reasons not available, the government failed to appropriate the additional $3,000 and the interior of the building was threatened with incompletion. [David Mason says, “during the final stages of construction, the government asked for an accounting and inspection of the building. It was found that the construction supervisor had been lax in his duties, being away from the site much of the time and spending a lot of time gambling in Ojai and Oxnard.  In fact, he lost much of the firehouse WPA money in Las Vegas. He had also allowed materials to disappear from the site and, when the inspectors arrived, the fire station that was supposed to be almost completed was no more than a shell of a building and the funds all but depleted. The government refused further help. The deputy fire warden, William Bowie, and some of the county firefighters volunteered to complete the work themselves.]

Ojai was not to be denied their new firehouse. Ventura County decided to go it alone. A carpenter was hired to build cabinets and install the sinks. The Fire Warden suddenly became the prime mover in completing the building project along with the aid of his staff. It was not until 1939 that the roof was put over the small porch in the front of the building, which became a bedroom.

The “new” cement brick firehouse on South Montgomery St.

By September 17, 1936, the move into the new building was eminent. The Ojai of that date wrote: “When the new quarters for the Ojai branch of the Ventura County Fire Department on Montgomery Street are completed, the fire boys plan to hold an open house and dance. The public will be invited to inspect the building.

“The large garage, with overhead doors at both ends, will take care of four cars: the two fire-fighting units now housed in the old firehouse, a light pickup, and Deputy Fire Warden Bill Bowie’s personal car.

“Adjoining the garage is a large office, which will have new desks and equipment, and in the rear a dormitory for additional firemen, with modern showers. The entire upper floor above the offices will be an apartment for Mr. Bowie and his family with kitchen, bath, bedroom and living room, and with stairs in the front and rear and a passageway leading to the large  sun deck above the garage. The grounds in front will be landscaped. A driveway along the south side will lead to a a turn around in the rear, where there will be an area of lawn. A weather box is to be erected here, where an official thermometer, barometer, and other instruments will be located.

“The whole structure is built of concrete bricks, heavily reinforced with large steel-framed windows throughout, and is a distinct asset to lower Montgomery Street.”

No further articles appeared in The Ojai about the opening. However, we do read in a news release of December 17, 1936, that the City Council voted to let the Boy Scouts use the old firehouse for a meeting. Apparently the move was made to South Montgomery in late 1936 or early 1937.

Groovy History: Ojai’s Two:Dot Studio

Groovy History: Ojai’s Two:Dot Studio recorded the sounds of the psychedelic ’60s. Now it’s playback time. by Mark Lewis

A Two:Dot poster designed by Dennis Shives.

When Dean and JoAnne Thompson built themselves a home in the East End back in 1954, they made the news with their choice of material. Rather than put up a standard suburban ranch house, they hired a contractor to mix mud and straw into large blocks, bake them in the sun and truck them to an isolated lot near the end of Hendrickson Road. There, the blocks were assembled into a handsome, Mission-style ranch house, complete with a two-car garage and a workshop for Dean to putter around in.

“We went back to the good old Chumash construction and built an adobe house,” JoAnne recalls. “Warm in the winter, cool in the summer.”

The Ojai Valley News considered this structure so unusual that they ran a story about its construction. But after that auspicious debut, the house subsided into anonymity. No one took much notice, a few years later, when Dean converted his workshop and part of the garage into a homemade recording studio. The Thompsons raised three sons in the house, then sold it in 1976 and moved to Santa Barbara. In 1983 the house passed into the possession of its current owners: Darrell Jones, an engineer, and Glenda Jones, a painter who taught at Topa Topa Elementary School. The Joneses knew nothing of the house’s history. Then one day their friend Dennis Shives brought over an old record album, Milton Kelley’s “Home Brew,” and told them it had been recorded in their garage.

“I told them that they have got some big ghosts in this place,” Shives recalls. “That this is a magic place.”

Shives these days is an artist, but in 1970 he was primarily a musician, and he had played harmonica on the Kelley album. The best players in town regularly found their way to the Thompsons’ Two:Dot Recording Studio to cut their teeth as recording artists. Alas, none of the records they made there became hits. The little studio closed its doors when the Thompsons moved to Santa Barbara, and over the years it faded into oblivion — until the advent of the Internet, where time stands still, and nothing is lost forever.

These days, a copy of “Home Brew” that’s still in decent shape will go for hundreds of dollars on eBay — and a sealed, never-played copy might fetch $3,500. And “Home Brew” is not even the most sought-after Two:Dot recording. The long-vanished studio is barely remembered in Ojai, but it’s now world famous among collectors of obscure rock albums from the ’60s and early ’70s. Cultish websites make gushing references to the “legendary” Two:Dot, that mythical place where “mega-rare” albums like “Hendrickson Road House” were created. Enthusiasts in Europe and Japan will offer big bucks for vinyl rarities recorded in that converted garage — albums hardly anyone bought when they first came out. As long as a record can plausibly be categorized as “psych” or “psych-folk” — short for “psychedelic folk rock” — people will line up to bid for it.

This is the story of Two:Dot’s heyday, and its unlikely afterlife as a holy grail for record collectors. It’s set against the background of Ojai’s extraordinarily vibrant music scene during the Two:Dot era, which largely overlapped the psychedelic ’60s era. This was a time when several big-time rock stars came to Ojai and mixed easily with little-known local players, some of who would go on to bigger and better things. Two:Dot was a vital component of that scene. There were plenty of bars and clubs in the valley where bands could play live sets, but there was only one place in town to cut a record: Dean Thompson’s funky little adobe-walled studio in the middle of an orange grove, near the end of Hendrickson Road.


Dean and JoAnne first met at the University of Redlands around 1950. She was a voice major; he was a physics major with a minor in math. Together, they added up to something. By 1951 they had married and settled on Drown Street in Ojai, where Dean started work that September as the science teacher at Nordhoff High School. Five years later, Dean left Nordhoff to work for a neighbor, Lee Appleman, who had started an electronics business called Topatron. By then, the Thompsons had built their adobe house on Hendrickson Road, a private road that runs east from McNell Road to the top of a hill offering splendid views of Sulphur Mountain. Their three sons, Kenneth, Bryan and David, attended the nearby Monica Ros School. Their neighbors included the movie star Anthony Quinn.

Sue Akins with her band, circa 1971. From left: Don Wilson, Sue Akins, Martin Young. (Photo courtesy Sue Randall)

The Thompsons planted 700 Valencia orange trees on their five-acre lot. (JoAnne planted the first 50 herself, by hand.) Meanwhile, Dean began to dabble in audio recording as a hobby. “He hung a microphone from the rafters in the living room and recorded me singing some Broadway tune,” JoAnne recalls. “Just for fun.”

In the late ’50s, Appleman moved Topatron to Garden Grove. Dean soon tired of the long commute. He decided to stay in Ojai and turn his recording hobby into a full-time career. For the name of his new venture, he reached back to his college days, when he and his friend Tom Oglesby had talked about starting a business someday and calling it Two:Dot, for their initials: Tom W. Oglesby and Dean O. Thompson. Years later, Dean revived the name for his Ojai recording studio. It appealed to his quirky sense of humor.

JoAnne handled the office duties, and Dean was the engineer. They did not initially set out to record rock ‘n’ roll acts. Two:Dot’s bread and butter was souvenir albums for church choirs, student chorales (including Nordhoff’s Gold ‘n’ Blue Singers) and high school musicals. (One album still in JoAnne’s collection is a Santa Barbara Youth Theatre production of “West Side Story” featuring Eduardo Villa, who currently makes his living as a tenor at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.) But in the mid ’60s, with the advent of the Beatles, the market for rock music grew exponentially. Suddenly, newly formed groups were crawling out of the woodwork, and they all dreamed of signing a record deal with a major label. These groups represented a potential bonanza for Two:Dot — and for Dean’s new friend Tom Lubin.

Lubin was a Santa Barbara City College student, a part-time radio DJ and a would-be music mogul, affiliated with a fledgling Santa Barbara label called Jet Set International. He already had produced a single by a local band called the Calliope, which had received some regional airplay and sold a few thousand copies. Now, Lubin was looking for a place to record Jet Set’s other acts, the folk singer Don Robertson and a garage-rock band called Blue Wood. But Jet Set was a shoestring operation, and studio time in L.A. was expensive. Somewhere, possibly at the radio station, Lubin heard about a little studio in Ojai with a decent 4-track tape recorder and reasonable rates.

“I think it was mid 1966,” Lubin says. “I ended up driving over Casitas Pass for the first time to see the Two:Dot studio. Over that year I’d drive that road countless times. Through farmland to Ojai to Hendrickson Road and more farmland. Hendrickson Road was one of those country roads that started out paved but quickly became dirt. Dean’s place was the end of the road. For those who belted up that road and missed Dean’s access drive, they would suddenly end up in a gully in the middle of Dean’s orange grove.”

The studio looked primitive, but it was fully functional, and the price was right. Lubin produced a Blue Wood single (“Turn Around” backed with “Happy Jack Mine”) and a Don Robertson album, “Yesterdays Rain” (sic). Neither record took off, but there were plenty of other musicians in the region who were eager to take their shot at success. Dean decided to place a bet on the rock ‘n’ roll boom.

“A few weeks later he called and said he was getting one of the new Ampex 8-track, 1-inch recorders which had just been introduced,” Lubin says. “We drove down to Audio Industries, which was the premier pro audio supplier in Hollywood. There we were on La Brea across from the old Chaplin studio that had just become A&M Studios, lifting the 8-track up into Dean’s old pickup. It took four of us, and it was seriously top-heavy.”

Dean’s new 8-track machine was more advanced than the one the Beatles had recently used in EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London while recording “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

“How proud he was to take it home to his studio in the middle of an orange field,” Lubin says. “Even the Beatles only had 4-track.”

Dean’s next move was to have Lubin record a demo album, to show what Two:Dot and its 8-track could do. Lubin recruited some musician friends from L.A., and they set to work writing songs.

It was now late July of 1967, the midway point of the Summer of Love. “Sgt. Pepper” was dominating the airwaves, and flower power was in full bloom. In downtown Ojai, hundreds of hippies spent that summer cavorting in the park, where they clashed with local rednecks, sometimes violently. But all was peaceful out on Hendrickson Road. Lubin and his friends commuted to Ojai every Friday evening and spent the weekend in the studio laying down tracks.

They called themselves Prufrock. By year’s end they had completed an impressive-sounding album that echoed all the psychedelic sounds emanating from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then they disbanded and went their separate ways. Two:Dot never pressed any vinyl copies of the Prufrock record — it existed only on acetate. But it had served its intended purpose, by showing what an ambitious band could achieve at Two:Dot.

“The album pushed the little studio to the limit,” Lubin says. “I borrowed a harpsichord and a celeste from the UCSB Music Department. I organized a string section, found an arranger, got a brass section, a choir, found an extraordinary lead guitarist. We didn’t think it would ever get done, but of course it did. It was an impressive recording for Dean to use for demonstration.”

Installing the 8-track did not automatically vault Two:Dot into the big time. The Thompsons’ approach to marketing leaned heavily on word of mouth, so it took a while to build a regional reputation.

“We didn’t do any advertising,” JoAnne says. “We were just sort of open to whoever came. Some of them were pretty bad.”

Others were undeniably talented. There was for example Dennis Shives, who played harmonica on Ronny Bowdon’s 1968 EP “Portrait of a Gambler,” recorded on Hendrickson Road. Another Two:Dot discovery was Ojai guitar whiz Martin Young, who was only 16 in 1969 when he recorded an album called “Take One” with local singer Sally Magill. Young played most of the instruments himself.

Two:Dot was not a full-fledged label; it was more akin to a vanity press. Dean generally ordered only as many album copies as the recording artist was willing to pay for. “The majority of the people who came to us used to sell them to their friends,” JoAnne says.

Some Two:Dot clients were more ambitious — they hoped to use their albums as demos to market themselves to major labels. Many of these demo albums were recorded with local musicians serving as session players. Dean paid these musicians with free studio time, which they could devote to their own projects. For homegrown Ojai players like Martin Young and his fellow guitar virtuoso Raj Rathor, Two:Dot’s unlikely presence in their tiny little town was an enormous stroke of luck.

“We were honing our craft there,” Rathor says. “What better place than a recording studio? It’s amazing that we had one.”

“It was our introduction to the professional-musician world,” Young says. “And Dean was just a gracious guy. A gentle soul.”


Bryan Thompson, Martin Young, Milton Kelley, JoAnne Thompson, Jeff Hanson and Alan Thornhill, on a recent visit to the old Two:Dot garage studio site on Hendrickson Road. Photo credit: Caitlin Petersen.

Dean had no shortage of session players to call upon, because Ojai by the late ’60s had developed a thriving music scene. The homegrown talent was augmented by L.A. transplants like John Orvis, who moved up here from Venice in 1969. Orvis would strap a Pignose battery-powered amplifier on his back, plug in his left-handed guitar, and wander around the Arcade, serenading passersby with tasty blues licks. Nor was Orvis the only live-music option in town.

“You could go hear live music at six or seven places on a Friday night,” Shives recalls. He played harmonica with the Ojai All-Stars, which had a regular gig at the Ojai Club, a rowdy downtown bar located where Ojai Pizza is today. “There was also the Oaks, the Cactus Club, the Sand Dollar, the bowling alley, the Firebird, the Deer Lodge and the Wheel — all had live music,” Shives says.

Libbey Bowl was another popular venue for local musicians. It was there, early in the summer of 1970, that Dean Thompson met Milton Kelley.

Kelley was a singer-songwriter who had grown up in Ojai and was now back in town after serving a tour in Vietnam. He was part of the musical line-up at the bowl that day, and Dean liked what he heard.

“Dean was there recording some live stuff,” Kelley says. “He came up and said, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got a recording studio up on the hill. You should come up and do an album.’ ”

The result of that conversation was “Milton Kelley’s Home Brew,” released on the Two:Dot label. The backing musicians included Martin Young on guitar, Poi Purl on “jangle piano,” Ronny Bowdon on “bongo-congas” and Dennis Shives on harmonica. Dean was the engineer and the genial host.

“He knew what people needed to get them going,” Shives says. “You could feel comfortable up there. And when you feel comfortable, the music sounds better.”

Kelley’s friend Dan Cole had some recording experience — he had played drums for the Raiders, an early ’60s Ojai group that had once cut a single in a Hollywood studio. Cole ended up producing Kelley’s album.

“I listened to a bunch of his songs and we picked, like, 13 of them,” Cole says.

After they had recorded them all, Dean said they needed one more song to complete the album. On the spot, Kelley and Shives came up with “Peyote Pete.”

“We did it in one take,” Cole says. “And that’s the song everybody likes.”

“We printed 400 LPs and sold every one,” Kelley says.

Meanwhile, Dean was back in the studio recording another promising singer-songwriter, 19-year-old Sue Akins. She had grown up in Ventura but left home at 17, venturing north to Haight-Ashbury, the hippie mecca in San Francisco, before returning to Ventura County. By 1968 she had landed in Ojai, where she was living in the Cottages Among the Flowers on West Aliso Street, and working as a dishwasher at the Gables.

She had written a couple of songs that had impressed her friend and neighbor Phil Wilson, with whom she played music occasionally. As it happens, Wilson also played bass with a local trio, which had arranged to cut an audition tape at Two:Dot. During that recording session, Phil told Dean Thompson about his talented friend Sue, the teen-age troubadour who might be the next Laura Nyro.

“Eventually Dean asked to meet me, so I went up to the studio with Phil,” recalls Sue Randall (as she is now known). “I was a polite young lady of few words but I remember Dean’s beaming face and that jolly beard. I didn’t feel intimidated at all.”

Dean offered to produce an album for Randall.

“I’m sure I said something like, ‘Far out, man,’ ” she says. “Suddenly I had a whole lot of songwriting to do. And I kept my day job.”

The backing musicians for these sessions included Wilson on bass, Norman Lowe on guitar and Don Mendro on piano and drums.

“At first we recorded tracks with the group, whichever group was on board,” Randall says. “Later, Dean and I would do the solo material, songs I wrote for guitar and piano, autoharp and multiple voices. This is where Dean and I came together. Dean owned the candy store and he was letting me run through it, hog-wild, tasting all the wares, letting me use whatever I wanted.

“On some tracks, I would think we must be done, but Dean would say, ‘I think one more track would make it perfect, can you think of something?’ I could come up with new stuff at the drop of a hat. He was able to see this, though I couldn’t. I’m sure he was like this with all the musicians who came to his studio. Somehow, he knew how I wanted my song to sound and he made it happen.”

The album, “Hendrickson Road House,” came out in December 1970. Randall cannot recall exactly how many copies were pressed, but she thinks it was probably 200. She formed a group called Hendrickson Road House, with Phil Wilson on bass and Martin Young on guitar, and they promoted the album at their shows. Eventually the last copy was distributed, and no more were ever pressed.


As the ’60s turned into the ’70s, country rock began to supplant psychedelic rock, as musicians exchanged their Nehru jackets for fringed buckskin vests. Yet the early ’70s still counts as part of “the Sixties” — the era rather than the decade. The “cosmic cowboy” phase of the Sixties had kicked in, with Laurel Canyon as its epicenter. The music business was still booming, especially in Hollywood, where A&R men, the gatekeepers, reigned supreme. At the other end of the industry food chain, Two:Dot continued to record anyone who could pay for a session, and a few who couldn’t.

“Dean was always generous with the personal as well as his studio time,” Tom Lubin says. “Lots of acts didn’t pay for the time, or would do so sometime later if the recordings made any money. Some did. Dean did a lot of horse trading and bartering for painting, wiring, equipment, etc. I don’t know if he accepted eggs for studio time, but he probably did if he believed in the artist.”

Daniel Protheroe, who had played bass with the Calliope, did some session work at Two:Dot from time to time. One day, he asked Dean for a full-time staff job. Dean hired him and immediately left town on vacation, leaving Protheroe in charge of recording a single called “Love is an Animal,” by a man from the Santa Ynez area who owned a menagerie. Clients like this were strictly small-time, but Two:Dot seemed poised for bigger things. Especially when several prominent television actors who lived in the valley began coming to the studio to cut demos.

One was the actor and country singer Sheb Wooley, of “Rawhide” fame, who had topped the pop charts in 1958 with his novelty hit “The Purple People Eater.” Another was James Brolin of “Marcus Welby, M.D.” Then there was Michael Parks, the star of “Then Came Bronson,” who was living on Foothill Road. Parks was also a singer, and he was scheduled to do an album for Warner Bros. He decided to record it on Hendrickson Road. It was to be produced by another Ojai resident of the time, the folk-rock pioneer Jim Hendricks. With this big-time project in view, Dean decided to splurge on another studio expansion.

“So we ordered a 16-track tape recorder, and away we went,” Protheroe says.

Unfortunately, the Parks-Hendricks project fizzled. Protheroe did record some demos with Hendricks and the legendary songwriter and producer Van Dyke Parks (with Martin Young on guitar), but those sessions never resulted in an album. Still, the new 16-track machine did enhance Two:Dot’s regional reputation.

“Dean Thompson was widely known in the Central Coast,” says former Two:Dot technician Jeff Hanson. The studio “was a little dynamo out in the back woods that really made its mark.”

As word got around about Two:Dot’s high quality and low prices, clients from distant places began to beat a path to Dean’s door. “We had an Englishman come out,” Hanson says. “John Jones, a Brit. He found us.” Jones recorded his material, paid in cash for the sessions, took his tapes and left. “We never saw him again.”

Another unknown singer who recorded at Two:Dot in those days was Eddie Mahoney, who fronted a Berkeley rock group called the Rockets. Mahoney’s Two:Dot connection was Tom Lubin, who by this point was working for CBS Records in San Francisco. Lubin had taken on the Rockets as a personal project.

“I liked them, we got along, and so I arranged to produce and engineer four songs at Two:Dot,” he says. “The band and I went to Ojai a few times. Two:Dot was bigger now and there was a lot more gear. The old studio was now the control room, and the other half of the garage was now the studio.”

Pleased with the results of these sessions, Lubin took the tapes to his colleagues at CBS. To his chagrin, they declined to sign the Rockets, and the band soon broke up. But Eddie Mahoney did not disappear into obscurity.

“Eddie took the tapes to Bill Graham, changed his name to Eddie Money, and a couple of years later was signed to CBS,” Lubin says.

As Eddie Money, the singer would score big hits like “Baby Hold On” and “Take Me Home Tonight.” But in 1972 he was just another unknown rock ‘n’ roller who trekked to the Ojai boondocks to make a demo, hoping it would be his ticket to the big time. There were many more like him. Two:Dot continued to record church choirs, student chorales and school musicals, but it was the would-be rock stars who really kept things humming at the studio during the early to mid ’70s.

“We were cranking out a lot of work in those days,” Hanson says.

“It was mostly local bands,” the former Two:Dot engineer Larold Rebhun says. “We could do an album in a day.”


One of those local bands was the Country Z Men, whose lead vocalist, Alan Thornhill, had moved to Ojai in 1973. Other Z Men included Martin Young and Jim Monahan, with George Hawkins on bass and Todd Nelson on drums. The group did session work at Two:Dot and cut some demos of their own. “We never released any of it,” Thornhill says.

The Z Men had a steady gig playing at the Sand Dollar on East Ojai Avenue. (Formerly known as Boots and Saddles, it later changed its name to the Topa Topa Club, and is now a Chinese restaurant called the Golden Moon.)

“We played there six nights a week, and that place was full every night,” Thornhill says.

The Ojai scene was still going strong, and not just at the Sand Dollar. Glenda Jones, who was living in Ventura at the time, remembers driving up Highway 33 to hear live music at the Oaks, in its pre-spa phase.

“Everybody in the county used to come up and dance at the Oaks,” she says.

People came to Ojai from beyond the county, too. Famous people. John Lennon and Yoko Ono rented a house in the East End for several weeks in June 1972. They mostly kept to themselves, but other rock stars were more sociable. The singer Chaka Khan rented the old farmhouse on Persimmon Hill, where she threw epic parties. “They would go on for days,” Glenda Jones says. “You’d find people sleeping under trees.”

Ojai in this period resembled a northern outpost of Laurel Canyon. At least one full-fledged rock star of the era became a full-time resident: Jimmy Messina, who in 1972 bought himself a ranch on Creek Road. His musical partner Kenny Loggins was a frequent Ojai visitor who for awhile maintained a pied a terre in the old motor court on Mallory Way. Loggins in particular was willing to befriend the local musicians and hang out with them. He would come to the Sand Dollar to see the Country Z Men, and sometimes join them on stage.

“He sat in with us a couple of times,” Thornhill says.

“Of course we were all awe-struck,” Young says. “We recorded a couple of demos with Kenny.”

Naturally, those demos were cut at Two:Dot, still the only recording studio in town. Loggins & Messina did not cut any tracks there as a band — they recorded at Messina’s ranch, using a remote truck they brought up from Hollywood. But the two stars did visit Two:Dot together from time to time to check their mixes on Dean’s equipment.

Another Two:Dot visitor and Sand Dollar regular was a strikingly beautiful Ojai Valley School student named Rae Dawn Chong, the future film actress (and the daughter of Tommy Chong of “Cheech and Chong” fame).

“I met Kenny and Jim on the corner in the center of town when I was 12,” Chong says. “They were cute guys, obviously older, but we started talking and they invited me to lunch and we became friends instantly. They took me up to Messina’s ranch where they were recording that day.”

Messina’s wife initially was nonplussed by Chong’s presence: “She was very cautious and angry at first, me being jailbait, but realized I had charmed them into adopting me in a platonic way, so she relaxed and made sure I was safely returned back at school.”

Chong was a big fan of the Country Z Men.

“My home economics teacher was dating Martin Young,” she says. “Her name was Vanessa Hendricks. [Jim Hendricks’s ex.] She was my pal and she took me to the Sand Dollar to see them. I went quite a bit because I spent my weekends with her.”

Chong also made the scene at Two:Dot, at least when the Z Men were in session.

“I loved the band. I think Alan Thornhill is an amazing singer. George Hawkins was my first big crush. I thankfully grew out of that but my teens were filled with awesome music made by dear friends. I felt very lucky to be so exposed to it.”

Hawkins left the Z Men in 1976 to join Loggins & Messina on their farewell tour. “His life changed overnight,” Larold Rebhun recalls, as Hawkins went on to play bass with a long list of hall-of-fame rock stars over the years.

Rebhun’s life changed too, if not quite overnight: The Two:Dot technician started working in that remote truck at Messina’s ranch, which led eventually to an illustrious career as a engineer at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood. (Rebhun later moved into TV and film work, and in 2011 he won an Emmy for sound recording.)

Ojai’s Loggins & Messina era also was pivotal for Alan Thornhill, who co-wrote a song with Kenny Loggins and Martin Young, and made connections that led to some big-time gigs, such playing guitar in Hoyt Axton’s band. Young went on to play in Clint Black’s band for many years. The Country Z Men never released a record as a group, but they went on to successful individual careers, helped along the way to some degree by connections originally made through Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina.

“It was really a big thing for us,” Thornhill says.

It was less of a big thing for Dean Thompson, since Loggins & Messina as a group never recorded anything in his studio. But in 1974, another well-known rock group did come to Hendrickson Road to cut an album. And these sessions would yield the only hit song ever recorded at Two:Dot.


Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show had scored big hits in 1972 with “Sylvia’s Mother” and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone.” But their follow-up singles all flopped, and two years later they were broke.

“We recorded a lot of the ‘Bankrupt’ album in Ojai, including the hit single ‘Only 16,’ which was a cover of the old Sam Cooke song,” says the former Dr. Hook vocalist Dennis Locorriere.

“I don’t remember who found the studio or how we came to record there,” Locorriere says. “As the album title boldly states, we were broke and didn’t have a record deal, so it was probably less expensive to do the recording there than at a big, fancy studio in one of the major cities. I don’t remember much about the studio itself because we were touring and would drop in on days off to do some work on the tracks and get right back on the road.”

“Bankrupt” came out on Capitol Records in 1975, and “Only 16” topped out at No. 6 on the Billboard singles charts in January 1976, with Locorriere on lead vocal. Two:Dot finally had produced an actual hit: “Only 16” soon was certified as a gold record. But already the little studio’s days were numbered.

By this point, the trippy ’60s era finally had expired, and “the Seventies” were in full swing. Rock music was now a serious business, and there was a limit to what Dean and JoAnne Thompson could accomplish in a converted garage in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. They decided to move to a bigger market and open a much bigger recording studio. In March 1976, they sold the house on Hendrickson Road and moved to Santa Barbara.

Alan Thornhill remembers ferrying boxes of Two:Dot equipment to Santa Barbara in his old VW van, driving over Casitas Pass during a heavy rainstorm. Dean’s new building was an old Salvation Army gymnasium with a leaky roof. As Thornhill unloaded his van there and looked around, he was not very impressed. “I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be the new studio?’ But it turned out great.”

Dean retired the Two:Dot name and dubbed the new studio Santa Barbara Sound. He built a first-class facility that attracted world-famous clients, as Thornhill discovered one evening when he dropped by and found himself keeping company with Ringo Starr. (They watched TV together while Joe Walsh mixed Ringo’s latest album on Dean’s shiny new 24-track machine.)

“Dean slowed down a bit in Santa Barbara,” Lubin says. “Once the studio was Santa Barbara Sound it was world class, but also more of a business, and I think not so much fun for Dean.”

Dennis Shives makes a similar point: The Santa Barbara operation was vastly bigger and better than Two:Dot had been, but perhaps less satisfying to run.

“At that point it was not the same,” says Shives. “It reminded me of Los Angeles.”

By 1990, Dean had sold Santa Barbara Sound and gone on to other things. He died in 1996, at the age of 70. The old Two:Dot crowd was well represented at his memorial service.

“It was one of those funerals that take forever, because everybody had something to say,” Shives says. “Great stories!”


Dean Thompson’s professional legacy endures, as reflected in the subsequent careers of his former technicians, many of who now run their own studios or audio-related businesses. “Dean was a real mentor,” Protheroe says. “He touched a lot of lives.”

But Two:Dot’s physical legacy — the actual recordings — seemed destined for the scrapheap. In fact, that’s precisely where many of them ended up. Some years after the move to Santa Barbara, Dean made a good-faith effort to locate everyone who had ever recorded anything on Hendrickson Road. The people he was able to locate were offered the master tapes of their sessions.

“The others eventually were tossed,” JoAnne says.

So that was that. Except that it wasn’t. Even before Dean died, old Two:Dot albums were popping up in unexpected places, especially in the record collections of people who were fascinated by late ’60s psychedelia. One such collector was Raymond Dumont, who lives in Buchs, an Ojai-sized town near Zurich in Switzerland.

Dumont makes a specialty of reissuing obscure late ’60s albums on vinyl through his own label, RD Records. In the early ’90s, he was particularly interested in an extremely rare and much-sought-after recording by a singer named Arthur, last name unknown. This Arthur apparently had recorded his one-sided LP at a label called Two:Dot in 1969. But no one had ever heard of Two:Dot. Eventually, Dumont’s research led him to Dean Thompson. He placed an overseas call to Santa Barbara.

“But Dean did not remember Arthur,” Dumont says.

Some time later, Dumont called again to ask more questions, only to find that Dean had died, and that JoAnne did not remember Arthur either.

With further research, Dumont eventually determined that the mysterious Arthur was a Canadian singer-songwriter named Arthur Gee, who had cut that Two:Dot record as a demo. Gee then went on to record two albums in the early 1970s for Denver-based Tumbleweeds Records. Neither one made a splash, so Gee returned to Canada, where Dumont eventually found him many years later. With Gee’s cooperation, Dumont produced a handsomely mounted vinyl reissue of the “Arthur” Two:Dot sessions, now titled “In Search Of.”

The fuss over the Arthur album rescued Two:Dot from obscurity. Soon, the collectors of late ’60s “psych-folk” records had a new holy grail to pursue: Sue Akins’s “Hendrickson Road House.”

“It’s a great record,” says Dumont, who tried in vain to find Akins so he could reissue her album too. But Akins now had a different name, Sue Randall, and she had left the music business behind many years before. She was difficult to locate, and completely unaware of the renewed interest in her old album.

“I never found her,” Dumont says.

Meanwhile, original copies of “Hendrickson Road House” were going for $1,000 or more on eBay. Collectors began bidding for anything with a Two:Dot label, on the theory that it would have a similar sound to the Arthur and Akins albums. In Ojai, an astonished Milton Kelley was informed that a pristine copy of “Home Brew” was now worth its weight in gold, and then some. (Alas, Kelley was not in a position to cash in. He has only one copy left, and it’s been played a lot.)

Three factors drove the collectors’ fascination with Two:Dot. First, scarcity. Two:Dot generally printed albums in tiny lots: 50 copies, 100 copies, perhaps 200 copies. Four decades later, how many could possibly be left?

Second, sound quality. For a tiny studio out in the boondocks, Two:Dot maintained very high technical standards. And Two:Dot of course used analog equipment, which later was rendered obsolete by the digital revolution. Many audiophiles nowadays revile the sound of digital recordings and thrill to the sound of a well-made analog album, including those cut at Two:Dot.

Third, the cultural context. If a record gives off the right vibe, redolent of the late ’60s, then it will be cherished as an endearing artifact of that tie-dyed, paisley-patterned period that began with “Sgt. Pepper.”

“The late ’60s, early ’70s psych stuff is very interesting to collectors,” Dumont says. “Especially when it was released locally.”

The problem for collectors is that most Two:Dot albums were not in fact very psychedelic. Many a psych-folk aficionado has ponied up for a rare Two:Dot title by the likes of the Guys and Dolls or Mountain Glory, only to find himself in possession of a mediocre country-rock album, or one with a Christian theme. Even more problematic is “Maybe,” a very rare Two:Dot album by the groovy-sounding Mystic Zephyrs 4. Collectors who shell out hundreds of dollars for a copy may be disappointed to learn that the Zephyrs in question were four squeaky-clean teenage siblings from Ventura, whose album is rather less trippy than advertised. Back it goes on the online auction market with a new and somewhat desperate sales pitch, such as this one (actual ad):

“Incredibly strange and rare original private press from 1974! Incompetent teen-age family band with sincere pop songs and positive vibes. The drummer is only 12! May be your only chance to grab this highly sought after and mega-rare artifact!”

Eventually, Two:Dot collectors unearthed the rarest artifact of all: The original Prufrock demo album from 1967, of which only six acetate copies were ever made. Somehow, one of these acetates resurfaced many decades later in Europe. One track — “Too Young” — appeared on a ’60s compilation disc and apparently became a cult favorite in Austria. Eventually Tom Lubin, who now lives in Australia, received the inevitable email from Raymond Dumont: “Dear Sir, are you the Tom Lubin who produced and engineered the band Prufrock in 1967?” And so, 40 years after those seminal Summer of Love sessions in Ojai, the Prufrock album — now called “Visions” — finally was released on vinyl in 2007. (It came out on CD a year later, and is available on

In 2009, Lubin had the further satisfaction of seeing the Rockets demos he had produced in Ojai in 1972 finally released as part of a Rockets CD called “Re-Entry.” (The lead singer is now billed as Eddie Money rather than Eddie Mahoney.)

Dean Thompson, of course, did not live to see these old Two:Dot recordings rediscovered and reissued. Lubin, who says he fell out of touch with Dean after moving to Australia in 1987, seems eager to share the credit with his old mentor. “I thank him for the opportunities and the support he gave me,” Lubin says. “He was a wonderful friend.”

Next it was finally the turn of “Hendrickson Road House,” the collectors’ favorite. Sue Randall was living in Oregon, still unaware of the intense interest in her old Two:Dot album. In June 2010, someone finally tracked her down and clued her in. A year later, “Hendrickson Road House” came out on CD, on the British label Wooden Hill. It contained some never-before-heard bonus tracks, most of them recorded on Hendrickson Road and preserved for decades in acetate form by the former Two:Dot technician Don de Brauwere, who remastered them and gave them to Randall for the reissue.

“I was very happy to be able to contact JoAnne Thompson to tell her that ‘Hendrickson Road House’ had come full circle,” Randall says. “I was happy to be able to say thanks to Dean for the incredible opportunity he gave me 40 years ago. I am indebted to everyone, even the jerks, who were instrumental in making this happen. I could never have guessed this outcome.”


Hendrickson Road long ago was paved all the way to its end, so these days the uphill drive to the former Two:Dot site is a smooth one. The garage has gone back to being a garage, and is notable only for the presence of Darrell Jones’s lovingly restored 1947 Dodge sedan. Glenda has converted Dean Thompson’s former control room into an exercise room, and the only audio equipment it contains is her Bose CD-radio player.

JoAnne Thompson still lives in Santa Barbara, in a lovely home overlooking the ocean. Still very active at 83, she gives voice lessons, sometimes recording her students on a machine in her living room — a nice Two:Dot touch.

Ojai still boasts a lively music scene, along with a couple of spiffy recording studios. (The popular indie rock band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes spent several months in the valley in 2011-2012 cutting their hit album “Here.”) Alan Thornhill plays at the Ranch House on Friday nights, and Milton Kelley has a regular gig at the Deer Lodge. Martin Young recently moved back to Ojai after many years as a big-time professional guitarist based in Nashville, and he often joins his old friends on stage. Few of their listeners realize it, but whenever Thornhill and Young play an old Country Z Men favorite, or whenever Kelley and Young play “Hard Way to Die” from “Home Brew,” they are offering a tribute of sorts to their Two:Dot days.

Young says he might look into the possibility of releasing those old Country Z Men demo tracks, “if we can find a decent copy.” Another intriguing possibility would be the demo he cut with Dan Protheroe, Jim Hendricks and Van Dyke Parks — if he can find any copy at all. “I’d give my left arm to have that recording now,” he says wistfully.

Is there anything else from the Two:Dot vault that is waiting to be rediscovered? Jeff Hanson doubts it. Not since Dean Thompson threw out all the unclaimed master tapes when he liquidated the studio’s inventory.

“There is no vault,” Hanson says. “There’s nothing left out there.”

But how can he be sure? Who knows when another Arthur Gee might come forward, a forgotten hippie troubadour clutching the only remaining copy of an old Two:Dot demo? Or perhaps that mysterious Englishman John Jones will one day re-emerge from oblivion clutching the tapes of his Two:Dot session, now hailed by collectors as a long-lost psych-folk masterpiece.

Dean Thompson’s studio was open to all comers, without filters, at a time when a great many people sincerely believed that rock music had the power to save the world. Some of those who recorded there hoped to sign with a major label and win fame and fortune. Others just wanted to testify; to add their voices to the heavenly choir. They sang their piece, paid for their records and went away. And life went on, and rock music did not, after all, usher in the millennium, and those records ended up stashed in a box in an attic and forgotten. Some are still there.

The Two:Dot catalog — whatever is left of it — beautifully documents this process as it unfolded here in Ojai, where the millennial impulse has always been strongly felt. No wonder collectors are drawn to these records. They offer the pure, unvarnished sound of the Sixties moment, lovingly preserved on vinyl, still waiting to be heard.

Originally published in the Summer 2012 edition of the Ojai Quarterly.

Rara Avis in Our Midst

ART AND ABOUT … RARA AVIS in our midst by Anca Colbert

Everyone wants to understand painting. Why don’t they try to understand the song of the birds?

–Pablo Picasso

BlackbirdHave you heard the song of the red-winged blackbirds in this valley?

Years ago, walking along the soggy shores of Lake Casitas, I discovered where they gathered in the reeds, perched on tall cattails. They have enchanted me ever since with their melodic whistling and modulated thrills. Blue and grey herons, white egrets, bright black crows, hawks, peregrine falcons, mourning doves, flocks of quail abound at the lake and visit the Ojai Meadows Preserve, which the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy has restored and maintains as an ecological safe haven. (The latest count states there are 174 species of birds at the Meadows!)

What about those spirited hummingbirds, those flying jewels, tiny lightning bolts, dashing up, down, sideways and even backwards, coming to a sudden stop, hovering and looking at you, suspended in thin air, apparently motionless while their wings beat on average 60 times per second? These acrobats are a daily miracle in our lives.

Since ancient times birds have inspired people and artists. Messengers of the gods, their flight or song were “signs” interpreted as either good or bad omens sent from a higher source. Had Caesar listened to the augurs about those Ides of March, he might not have walked into the Capitol that fated day in Rome. In cultures around the world, from the Greeks and the Egyptians to the Aztecs and the Zulus, these divine winged messengers were revered through art and rich myths.

This is about two artists whose works I love, and the very different birds which inspired them. Botke1These “rare birds” are indeed treasures in our midst: two large paintings of magnificent, tropical birds by Jessie Arms Botke (on display at the Ojai Valley Museum) and two small retablos of modest, local birds by Dianne Bennett (at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts).

The distinctive art and accomplished careers of Cornelis and Jessica Arms Botke have long been known far beyond Ventura County, where they lived and had their studio most of their lives. Originally from Chicago, the couple moved to Santa Paula in 1929. They worked together on numerous commissions (some grace public spaces in Santa Paula and Ventura), but had different styles, which they continued to develop separately. Cornelis (1887-1954) was a refined printmaker, a skilled draftsman keen on attention to details. Jessie (1883-1971) became famous for painting exotic birds, with a predilection for white peacocks (the Botkes kept an aviary and peacocks roamed their large property in Wheeler Gorge). Her splendid skills as a designer and a colorist made her style famous: detailed renditions of elegant, rare birds set against luxuriant foliage in rich, dazzling colors with spectacular use of gold leaf backgrounds. She painted large and bold. Jessie’s works were widely exhibited and collected in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Her career was as brilliant as her painting.

Jessie Arms Botke, “Twelve Tropical Birds” (1954).
Oil painting and gold leaf on canvas.
Photo courtesy the Ojai Valley Museum.

In 1954, Frank Keenan, owner of Ojai’s Oaks Hotel, commissioned Jessie Arms Botke to paint an entire wall for the hotel barroom. Botke responded: “I have an idea for a really stunning design, cockatoos, macaws, parrots and parakeets in a mass of rich tropical leaves, the sky spots in pale gold leaf.” In the 1970s the mural was purchased by Sara Bayless and removed from the Oaks in sections. In 1993 she donated it to the Ojai Museum, where (after restoration) it is now on permanent display. The Michelin Guide would say: “Worth a detour!” I encourage you to go discover these treasures, and read about their unusual history. (David Mason, Ojai historian, wrote the curatorial notes at the museum, which provided precious information for this story.)

Botke painted large-scale compositions of regal elegance, refined decorative canvases and murals often showing groups of birds in decidedly elegant repose. Her feathered subjects keep a certain distance from her and from the viewer: a splendid, seductive detachment.

Dianne Bennett’s paintings of birds are often small to tiny in scale, and use metal signs and other rescued materials as support. Her focus is mostly on an individual subject and on more humble, common birds, but she is expressing their singular nature. These birds sit up close and intimate with the painter and the viewer. They speak to us in a direct, primitive, soulful language.

I recently visited Dianne at her studio in Meiners Oaks and asked about her connection with theBluebird birds. “When I was growing up, my father always kept bird feeders off the back porch so I have been tuned into songbirds since I was a child. When I see a bird, I experience a sense of freedom and pure joy.” “They are wildlife in our midst and witnesses to our madness. I have read that songbird numbers are decreasing due to global climate change, loss of habitat, feral cats, acid rain…. So I see birds as winged messengers reminding us to be conscious of our actions and how they affect our planet.”

Bennett’s works are currently exhibited in two local shows: “hear + now” at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Ojai (through June 29) and “one time one place” at the Museum of Ventura County in Ventura (June 9 to August 19).

Both Botke and Bennett show profound love and respect for their feathered subjects. Whether silent and motionless or singing and in full flight, the sentiment is one of reverence by the painter for her “sitters.”

As birds fly through space, they draw lines, circles, spirals; they create a visual reality in the air, just as their songs and calls make music that punctuates the silence. Space and silence. How these are defined, by their presence or their absence, is at the core of every painter’s gesture, every musician’s note, every poet’s word. Do birds have any choice in these matters? Of course not. Do artists? Most of the great ones feel driven by the inner necessity of a creative force, a mysterious spirit which flows through them and guides their hand. The old Chinese proverb got it right: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”

©2012 Anca Colbert
Ojai Quarterly Magazine, Summer 2012

The Road to Art Country

Art and About….

…. The Road to Art Country by Anca Colbert

As one leaves the Pacific Ocean to veer from the Pacific Coast Highway to Highway 33 toward Ojai, the eyes catch sight of the sunlight over the hillside on the left. Sometimes just a glimmer of light, other times a bright shimmering over the fields and orchards of the old Taylor Ranch: a first sign on the road up to Ojai that something is quite different now after that turn.

The 15 miles from the ocean waters to the mountain valley takes just twenty minutes to drive, but feels much longer. Time and distance can be measured, but the impression of entering another realm is a flexible reality.

“Topa Topa Bluffs” – Pastel by Bert Collins, one of the founders of the Ojai Studio Tour (collection: Ojai Valley Museum)

The stretch of highway through La Canada Larga runs a few miles. While you can already see the Topa Topa Mountains in the distance, famous for their occasional and unforgettable “pink moment,” the wide road seems to have purpose: a feast for the eye and a time to prepare for the entrance on to the more narrow, winding mountain road leading higher up to the Ojai Valley.

“The essence of drawing is the line exploring space,” says Andy Goldsworthy, an artist who has deeply explored movement in art and nature.

Driving up to Ojai on that road feels like a visual andante. That seductive sense remains still fresh and exciting after years traveling on the same path, first as a frequent visitor from Los Angeles, later as a full-time resident of the Valley.

Seekers of art adventure take the road up to Ojai the second weekend in October. For some it’s an annual pilgrimage. Their destination: touring the open studios of the renowned Ojai Studio Artists (OSA). This year it takes place October 8-9. OSA’s website ( gives ample information about the organization, its founders and history, its 52 current members, this year’s tour, and the “Meet the Artists” reception at the Art Center. Yellow banners mark the location of the studios. Easy to spot!

Open studio tours have become a favorite event in recent years, drawing both local crowds and tourists. There appear to be at least 26 of them in Southern California alone! Visitors always get a map and guidance to the studios. The tours usually are run by the artists themselves. They open their homes/studios for visitors to see their work (both completed and in-progress) and to engage in conversation.

So there is a chance to really connect with an artist, in their real-life personal environment (gardens, dogs, chickens and all), not in the more neutral/abstract/detached space of an art gallery or cultural organization, nor with the frenetic pace and accelerated intensity of busy booths at big art fairs. Most art lovers treasure this chance at an up-close and personal glimpse into an artist’s creative heart and soul.

Artists, their family and friends work very hard to produce and prepare for this annual event and the two long days of interaction with hundreds going through their studios. Not easy for people mostly keen on working alone in a quiet space. Probably most artists relate to Georgia O’Keeffe’s famous comment: “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way–things I had no words for.”

The OSA Tour was founded in 1984 by Marta Nelson, Gayel Childress and Bert Collins. It was called “A Day in Art Country,” a clear homage to the French Impressionists and their love of landscape painting. Every year OSA organizes an exhibit and sale at the Ojai Art Center showcasing works by all their artist members, whether or not they participate in the tour that year. How is the Ojai Studio Artists Tour different from others? In 1989, Vivika Heino and Linda Taylor joined the three original founders to initiate a new program: Revenues from the tour would fund scholarships to help local students with their continuing education in the arts. Members also agreed to participate in some way with art enrichment for their community and schools. Since 1993, OSA has given out more than $133,000 in art scholarships. In the process, these artists have changed a few lives. Art does that.

You have to leave the coastline and drive up the gentle hills to a higher place to reach this small paradise called Ojai. The light is different here. There is a sweetness in the air. That drive itself on a fairly narrow mountain road towards the village creates excitement and expectation: a sense of initiation emerges, inspiring those seeking a closeness to the artist’s life to deepen the connection to their own creative life force. The mystery of art is contagious. And that surely is a good thing.

©2011 Anca Colbert 

Ojai Quarterly Magazine, Fall 2011 Issue


Art and About… of Dogs and Their Artists.

Ojai Quarterly Magazine, Winter 2011 Issue

…… of dogs and their artists.
By Anca Colbert

From large shepherds to small bichons, dogs are a most visible part of life in the Ojai Valley. They seem to have a particularly important place in the physical and emotional geography of artists’ studios.

Two famous ceramic artists in the valley always had dogs around: Beatrice Wood had little Dali, then Colette, Charlie and others. Otto Heino aged with his fluffy Australian shepherd, Prince, on his heels. Donna Granata shared a touching memory about the pair:

“Otto sculpted a kiln god in the likeness of Prince and I saw it on top of the kiln and asked him if I could have it. Otto was always so generous. Whenever I would ask him for a kiln god he would fire it for me so that it would be more durable. It remains my favorite among my collection of kiln gods.”

Picasso and his dachshund, Lump: Photo by David Douglas Duncan
Picasso and his dachshund, Lump: Photo by David Douglas Duncan

Dogs provide protection. Literally and spiritually. Indeed they are, as Milan Kundera put it, “our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent.” Artists are isolated by the nature of their work, often self-absorbed, and sometimes affected by the stress or anxiety of not knowing where their creative flow is taking them. A dog’s rhythmic breath and physical ease, its ability to be in the here and now, can be a great comfort in the studio. Dogs are physically grounded and emotionally grounding. A cold, wet nose brings instant re-connection with reality! Dogs teach artists to be playful yet patient, spontaneous yet quiet, detached yet fully present. It is no wonder that some Ojai painters have devoted much of their creative attention to painting their cherished companions and accommodating models.

When I asked Linda Taylor why most artists prefer dogs to cats in the studio, her answer was prompt: “Dogs don’t walk on artworks!” In her case, having paw marks on her exquisitely executed prints would be a no-no. She finds that playing with her dogs (Oreo, a male Australian shepherd, and Libbey, a female Australian cattle dog) relaxes her and helps her find resolution with her art.

Linda Taylor playing ball with Libbey in her printing studio.

Kate Hoffman is an accomplished painter of animals, horses, dogs and cats. She prefers older dogs: “They are quieter and easier to paint.” She likes pictures of sleeping dogs; they remind her of people. One of her favorites is Andrew Wyeth’s painting (“Master Bedroom”) of a yellow lab peacefully sleeping on a bed, curled up against the pillow in a soft light.

Kate’s rendition of her samoyed-wolf mix, Tofu, echoes a similar sense of comfort and relaxation. As a painter, she is always looking to simplify, and she captures the essence of her subjects, a fine line moving at the intersection of the human and animal kingdoms.

“Missy” by Kate Hoffman

Dianne Bennett experiences the animal world with the warm, keen sensitivity manifested in her brilliant paintings and retablos of birds, turtles, coyotes etc. As she tells her stories with colorful vibrant images, clearly there is a love and reverence here for the whole world of nature, a deep and joyous connection among the full spectrum of all forms of life.

With Sophie, her white poodle, cuddled snuggly in her arms, Dianne speaks about dogs with gentle tenderness in her voice.
“Sophie in my world waiting” Painting by Dianne Bennett











“A dog’s needs are very simple: they will be there, sit and wait for you,” she said. “Art making is a solitary endeavor. Sophie, like Jackson before her, is my muse and constant companion while in my studio. Her presence, watching and waiting, provides inspiration and connection that calms me and supports my creative flow.

Pablo Picasso had many dogs in his life, and apparently they went everywhere with him, although he often left women and households behind.

Maybe his most adored canine companion was a dachshund named Lump, which he had gotten from David Douglas Duncan, the photojournalist and author of seven books on Picasso, including “Picasso & Lump: A Dachshund’s Odyssey.”

PicassoDauchPicasso’s masterful use of the simple line drawing catches the essence of his beloved Lump in “The Dog.” His sketches of Lump, like those of his toros, are among his most famous drawings. As for the photographs of him embracing Lump, tight and close to his heart, I can’t recall any other picture of Picasso where his whole body seems to surrender into such a soft smile. Dogs do have that effect on people, even on the most moody of masters.

Charles Schulz, of Snoopy fame, summed it all up: “Happiness is a warm puppy.” And we all know he was an authority on dog matters.

As for other illustrious dogs and their famous masters, one must at least mention David Hockney and his inseparable dachshunds Stanley and Boodgie; William Wegman’s photographs of his Weimaraners (Fay and her brood); Andy Warhol and his dachshunds Archie and Amos; Pierre Bonnard’s black poodles and his dachshund, Pouce; and Lucian Freud’s haunting portraits of his beloved whippets Pluto and Eli.

Dogs do not speak (or do they?), so we must want to listen intently and observe their body language to hear their voice. These furry friends are humble yet quite effective teachers to humans on matters of unconditional love, trust, wisdom, playfulness, patience and animal instinct.  Joyful and attentive companions, they bring all that and unaccountably more to the lives of those willing to open their eyes and hearts to their soulful presence. The bond is powerful.  In an artful portrait, it is made visible.

©2011 Anca Colbert and the Ojai Quarterly Magazine

World War II Comes to Ojai

The World and Ojai Change Forever, from The Ojai Valley News, 1991

Soldiers parading on the golf course.

Betty Jo Bucker Strong of Ojai was attending services at the Ojai Presbyterian Church on December 7, 1941, when news broke that Pearl Harbor had been bombed:

“That Sunday’s afternoon excursion for us teenagers was immediately canceled, and we all just stood in front of the church absolutely numb,” she recalls. “Within days, we were ordered to tar-paper our windows at night, and we held regular air raid drills. My mother learned to shoot a rifle.”


Ojai on the Defensive

With the declaration of war, Ojai Mayor Fred Houk issued a proclamation creating a Civilian Defense Council to coordinate “all war and defense measures in the city and the community.” Routine blackouts and air raid drills were signaled by the bell in the post office tower, and civilian wardens with whistles patrolled the outlying neighborhoods to warn householders to douse their lights. Stores in the Arcade conducted end-of-the-day business behind draped windows, and cars were ordered to pull over and turn off their headlights.

Less than three months after the start of the war, on February 24, 1942, the Ojai Valley’s readiness was put to the test when a Japanese submarine slipped into the Santa Barbara Channel and fired 20 rounds from its 5-inch guns into the Ellwood Oil REfinery near Goleta. Although there were no casualties and little damage was done, the incident unnerved locals when told that it was the first attack of the war on the U.S. mainland. That February night, the all-clear signal for Ojai and the Central Coast didn’t come until almost dawn. The blackouts became a nightly occurrence thereafter, and it was several weeks before the standing order was rescinded and Ojaians resumed normal activities after nightfall.

Residents of Ojai, as in all American communities, threw themselves behind the war effort by raising money for the Red Cross, purchasing war bonds, rationing rubber tires, collecting scrap metal, nylon, and silk, sewing bandages and “comfort kits” for the wounded, even collecting cooking fat that was used to make munitions. “Everyone was involved in the war effort,” remembers lifetime Ojai resident Shirley Dunn Brown. She would soon leave Ventura College to work as a radio contact for the civilian fire and aircraft spotters at an observation post on the old Raymond Ranch near San Antonio School.

The Army Heads South

During February of 1942, a U.S. Army regiment of some 3,000 troops moved south along the California coast from Fort Ord, digging foxholes and patrolling several locations on the beaches until it reached Seaside Park in Ventura, where it established regimental headquarters in the winter of 1942.

Ventura resident Campbell Fahlman was a 26-year-old private from Nebraska serving with the 134th Infantry Regiment, a part of the 35th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, that had been federalized by the Nebraska National Guard to help defend the California Coast. He remembers the temporary shelter at the fairgrounds vividly:

“We had no blankets or tents when we got there, so we slept on the stadium benches of the fairgrounds. It was cold and damp, and a lot of guys caught the flu. It was rough…”

The regiment’s 1st and 3rd battalions occupied “on line” positions on the beaches from Gaviota to Malibu, practicing “stand-to’s,” alerts, and patrols. Officers filled their intelligence journals with notations of alleged submarine sightings (which were later proven to be only sea lions) and mysterious lights reported along the blacked-out coast.

Camp “La We Ha Lis”

Meanwhile, Colonel Frank Dunkley was ordered to take the 2nd battalion inland as a reserve force. Seeking a location for the battalion’s training base, he discovered the Ojai Valley Country Club, which operated at that time as a winter resort. Ojai’s weekly newspaper then known as “The Ojai” reported that Army officers had visited the valley during the first week of May to scout locations for a “small unit” of soldiers.

“The telegrams flew back and forth from Ventura to Toledo, Ohio,” recalls Fahlman, as the Army sought permission from the Edward Drummond Libbey estate to occupy the private property. Three weeks later, a battalion of 1,000 men took over the former country club. “Everyone thought we were going to ‘O-jay,” remembers Bob Branch, a longtime Ojai resident who was then a young operations sergeant. “We were all from out of state, and we didn’t know how to pronounce the word, not even our commanding officer,” he chuckles.

A plea went out to Ojai homeowners with extra rooms or cottages to rent to make them available to the wives of soldiers who had followed their husbands to the new base.  Many Ojai residents remember the influx of military visitors.  David Mason’s grandmother’s house on Fox Street had a parlor that was diode into apartments for 4 army wives, and Shirley Dunn’s mother rented out rooms in their large family home in the Arbolada.

Military tents blossomed on the Country Club grounds. Enlisted men set up over 125 tents on the southwest side of the golf course, while some 20 line officers were housed in the clubhouse. Bob Branch remembers erecting the platform tents with wooden floors brought up from the Seaside Park headquarters: “It was a typical army tent camp with six enlisted guys in a tent. Each of the 4 companies first stationed there–E, F, G and H–had their own mess tent. Systems of open latrines–slit trenches–were dug into the golf course.” Wooden barracks were added a few months later.

Barracks at Camp “La We La His,” home of the 134th Infantry.

The new camp was soon dubbed “Camp La We La His,” meaning “the strong, the brave” in the language of the Nebraska Pawnee, which was the 134th regimental motto. Roads were built between the barracks and the officer’s quarters and were respectively named Dunkley Road for the battalion commander, and Miltonberger Road for the regimental commander. Second Battalion Field in front of the clubhouse was designated the official parade ground, and the long, tree-shaded entrance road tot he former country club was renamed Nebraska Road in honor of the regiment’s home state. In time, the camp constructed a dispensary, a chapel, kitchens and recreation halls.

An officer’s club was set up in the clubhouse bar, which at that time was decorated like a British pub with tartan plaids and English prints on the walls. According to Shirley Dunn, who met and dated Army Capt. Rodney Brown while he was stationed there, “it was very cozy, very British-looking, and it just dazzled all those farm boys from the Midwest who had never seen anything like it!”

Romance and Pranks

More than a few couples recited their wedding vows before base chaplain Capt. John Reents, whose little daughter often stood in as a flower girl. Wedding receptions were held on the patio of the former clubhouse. Other romances bloomed between local women and the soldiers stationed in Ojai and led to weddings held out of state when the men were transferred to distant locations. Ojaian Shirley Dunn Married Capt. Brown in 1944. Bob Branch wed Norma Nichols of Ojai the same year, and Pvt. Fahlman married Madge Kilbourne, daughter of the newspaper’s editor, in 1943.

One night a young Betty Jo Buckner joined a group of her school friends who dared each other to sneak up the the Country Club “to spy on the Army.” Armed sentries stood guard every night at the three entrances to the property: at the intersection of Country Club Road and Country Club Drive, at the service entrance further south on Country Club Drive, and at the greens keeper’s house on Highway 33 and Ojai Avenue. The young pranksters managed to stay hidden from the rifle-toting guards, but by the time they got close enough to see anything interesting, their courage had disappeared and they ran back to town. Nevertheless, the life of a soldier must have impressed her, because two years later, Betty Jo Buckner became the first local woman to enlist when she joined the U.S. Air Force as a field locator and was stationed for the duration of the war at a bombardier training base in New Mexico.

Training and Readiness

While very little information was made public about the military activities inside Camp La We La His, those who were stationed there recall many days spent in combat training exercises in preparation for the expected enemy invasion. Whenever a Japanese submarine in the Pacific was lost on American radar screens, the 134th Infantry was put on alert. “They trained with 60- and 80-mm mortars, machine guns and rifles,” remembers Bill Bowie, a long time resident of Ojai and archivist at the Ojai Valley Museum. “At one time, I was a fire marshal; and I went along with the troops when they held artillery practice out by Rancho Matilija or up in the Sespe. My job was to report any brush fires that the ammunition might ignite.”

Pauline Emerson Farrar was fresh out of Nordhoff High School in the summer of 1942 and was working at Bill Bakers Bakery.

“We’d often look out the store windows to see small squadrons of armed soldiers sneaking through town from doorway to doorway, on special training maneuvers,” she remembers. “We had to remind ourselves that they were practicing military techniques for dodging enemy fire! Of course, we never interfered, but it always gave me a start!”

Pageantry and Parades

The regiment’s commanding officer, Col. Butler B. Miltonberger, a lover of military pomp and circumstance, quickly organized an unofficial regimental band.  Private Campbell Fahlman joined as a drummer. Some 35 musicians, playing the drums, tubas, trumpets, trombones, saxophones and cymbals, were decked out every Sunday in white spats and dress belt and sash for the colonel’s formal Guard Mounts and Parade Retreats, marching in formation on the golf course in front of the flag pole. Ojai townspeople were invited to attend the ceremonies and remember the soldiers who were still dressed in their heavy winter uniforms in the middle of the summer. “The summer sun was brutal on those boys,” says Pauline Emerson Farrar. “There were always a few who would faint in the heat.”

Others remember the pageantry that stirred unabashed patriotism in the hearts of the local spectators. Writing at the time in a letter to the local editor, pastor George Marsh of the Presbyterian church described “the superb setting which suggests something of the grandeur and beauty of the far-flung expanse of our fair America–the green stretch of the beautiful golf links rising to the rolling hills which mounted to the noble range of the Matilija, and the mountains touched with the glory of the setting sun.” An officer in the camp was quoted as claiming, “No camp in the United States has a finer setting.”

Valley Hospitality Blooms

In town, a hospitality center serving coffee and doughnuts was opened for the soldiers at Russ and Ruth Brennan’s electrical shop on Signal Street, where the Dancers Studio is located today.

Villanova School made its pool available to the Army for swimming and diving, and softball games were organized at Sarzotti Park between the soldiers and local teams. Dances were held at Nordhoff High School (then located where Matilija Jr. High School stands today).

As a coed attending Ventura College in 1942, Harriet Grout Kennedy remembers “marvelous times” getting to know the soldiers who arrived in Ojai that spring. “The bowling alley was located at 312 E. Ojai Avenue where the Village shops are today, and we organized bowling leagues to include the Army boys,” she recalls. “We went to the movies at the Ojai Playhouse, and we also used to get out to the Maggie Hunt stables which were next to St. Joseph’s Hospital and take the officers on horseback rides.”

It wasn’t long before the community volunteers running the little hospitality center out of Brennan’s Electrical Shop moved their activities to the larger Jack Boyd Club, then located next to Libbey Park at the present site of the Bank of America [now Nomad Gallery], which became Ojai’s official U.S.O. headquarters. An Army dance band, formed out of the larger regimental band, practiced at the Boyd Club and played at the frequent dances held in the club’s basement, at the high school, or at other county U.S.O. locations. Campbell Fahlman, who played in the dance band, remembers those parties with special fondness. “I used to play the drums and watch this pretty girl who danced with all my buddies,” he recalls, “so I decided I’d better figure out a way to meet her.” He did, and married her a year later.

Military Secrecy

Recognizing “the importance of maintaining close understanding and high morale between the U.S. armed forces and the civilians among whom they are stationed,” Col Miltonberger assigned a Pvt. Gorfkle and a Sgt. Lorimer to submit occasional army news items to “The Ojai” for publication.

Although the exact number of troops stationed in Ojai was never revealed, nor were the destinations of the almost constant arrivals and departures of the various companies, military promotions were routinely reported, and community leaders active with the local Red Cross and U.S.O. were invited to the camp to discuss their volunteer projects with the officers. Col. Miltonberger was a stickler for discipline and insisted on the meticulous appearance of his troops at all times. The camp’s log records his almost-daily admonition to his officers: “Any member of this unit found dead in battle will be found properly dressed.”

Popular Guests

The troops were immensely popular with their Ojai hosts.

During December of 1942, locals teamed up to furnish two recreation halls on the base–one was was remodeled from the old garage building of the country club–by contributing a piano, tables and chairs, rugs and curtains, books and games, and had them both ready for use by the holidays, complete with fresh fruit and nuts. Trees provided by the Forest Service station in Ojai were decorated with paper chains and popcorn made by Ojai school children. Ojai churches sent their choirs to sing at the base chapel.

Rumors circulated that the 134th would soon get orders to overseas duty. Some 1,000 townspeople turned out to watch would be the regiment’s last ceremonial parade on January 10, 1943. Within days, “Ojai’s beloved Army group,” as one newspaper editor wrote, was abruptly pulled out in January 1943, leaving behind them an almost deserted camp, many local friendships, and not a few sweethearts. The soldiers of the 134th 2nd Battalion were sent to hot spots in both the European and Pacific theaters of war. Some were assigned to the Aleutian Islands, while most joined the ground divisions that ultimately merged with Patton’s Third Army in France.

During the eight months the 134th 2nd Battalion had been stationed at Camp La We La His, Ojai Red Cross volunteers had mended more than 2,000 uniforms for the soldiers,sewed military piping on 1,000 of their caps, and helped find rooms and employment for Army wives. Hospitalization and baby equipment were arranged for expectant Army mothers. Valleyites collected hundreds of rags that the soldiers used to care for their equipment, and gas heaters were donated to warm the wooden barracks during the winter months.

Camp Oak is Born

By May of 1943, a convoy of new Army units from the 174th Infantry arrived in Ojai from Fort Dix, New Jersey, with hundreds of raw recruits hailing from upstate New York. The promptly renamed their new home Camp Oak. The social schedule of popular U.S.O. dances and Army band concerts were resumed, along with the collection of donated furniture for the camp facilities. Sports events were played again at Sarzotti Park between the soldiers and local teams. The base’s new Army Chaplain, Lt. Frederick E. Thalmann, performed still more weddings at the officers’ club.

Much of the daily routine in Ojai again centered around the presence of the soldiers. Joe Sarzotti, whose family farmed many acres in the Ojai Valley, had been granted exempt status from the draft because his agricultural work was considered critical to the war effort. “I was just 20 years old when the war started,” he remembers, “and we worked from one season to the next harvesting barley, oats, citrus and about 40 acres of apricots. Almost every bit of it was sold off to the government’s quartermaster corps and wound up as C-rations. I don’t know why we had to bother with the middle man, we could have trucked it all to downtown Ojai and sold it directly to the soldiers at the Ojai Valley Inn.”

Joe did participate in at least a few bartering sessions that had a more perusal touch.  He befriended several soldiers while they were stationed in Ojai, and they struck up a typical war-time deal: he swapped his much-coveted gasoline ration coupons for their cigarette coupons.  “I was a smoker at the time, and those city boys said they definitely wanted to spend their precious leave time out of town!”

Not all the soldiers were so eager to leave the little quiet town.  “There were more than a few romances that bloomed during the war years,” he says. “My sister Mary met a 1st lieutenant at a U.S.O. dance at the Boyd Club, and they dated for several months until he was shipped out. That’s the way it was during the war: here today, gone tomorrow.”

Sarzotti remembers several soldiers with the 174th Infantry from New York who used to make fun of the unglamorous life in the Ojai. “They thought it was the worst hick town they had ever seen!” he laughs, “but when they left, they cried. The people in Ojai were so nice to those young men, inviting them home for dinner, organizing social for them. I guess they weren’t used to that kind of warmth and hospitality.”

Here Come the Seabees

By the end of January 1944, the 174th Infantry had pulled out of Camp Oak and was assigned duties in Oregon, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama. Life in town quieted down again, until word came that the U.S. Navy had allocated $80,000 to improve the camp for the Navy’s use. Seabees from Port Hueneme spent several weeks working on the barracks and the clubhouse and even adding two swimming pools.

In May 1944, units of the Acorn Assembly and Training Detachment from Port Hueneme moved in under the command of Capt. Marshall B. Gurney and Lt. Cmdr. Lloyd R. Saber. Like the Army soldiers before them, the sailors became an important part of Valley life, even spending their liberty time helping local ranchers with the harvest during the summer and fall. Ojai firefighters could always count on extra help during an emergency from the Camp Oak Navy personnel, and the high school football games were regularly attended by the Navy doctor and a pharmacist’s mate.

In November of 1944, when a commercial airstrip was approved for Ojai’s Dry Lake in Mira Monte (locally known as Henderson Field), the Navy loaned the heavy equipment that was used to grade the landing strip.

In April of 1945, locals were thrilled to be invited to Camp Oak to watch an exhibition match played on the camp’s 9-hole course by radio and film stars Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Proceeds raised from the $1 tickets went to the Navy Relief Welfare Fund. Cmdr. Creighton, one of the Navy’s finest golfers, paired up with Bing Crosby, while Hope’s partner was Gabe Burbank, a former professional golfer who was stationed at Camp Oak at the time.

Some 3,000 spectators, civilians and servicemen alike watched the 12-hole match that was marked with the antics of the famous comedians. At the end, the Hope and Burbank team won the contest by the margin of one hole. It was an extravaganza of stars and military brass that focused enormous media attention on the little town and its former country club.

Victory Comes

Nine days later, on May 8, 1945, VE-Day was celebrated by all Americans, and three months after that VJ-Day brought an end to five years of combat on every continent of the world.

Still, it was months before the Navy at Camp Oak made known its intentions about its continued use of the property, although fewer and fewer sailors were seen in town. Rawson B. Harmon, local resident and manager of the Libbey interests in Ojai, announced that the Libbey estate would no longer keep the property but insisted that the Navy restore the links and the buildings to their original condition. Numerous private investor groups made offers to purchase the country club on the assumption that the military would son be gone.

But it was not until late summer of 1946, 15 months after the end of the war, that the U.S. government finally auctioned off over 50 barracks buildings and quonset huts, some of which were purchased by locals. Villanova School, which was facing an unusually high enrollment for its first postwar term, bought two large barracks to use as dormitories, and others can still be spotted in the Ojai Valley today as converted residences, workshops and places of business.

From Fort to Resort

In October 1946, the Navy returned the property to the Ojai Valley Company, and one week later Rawson Harmon, representing the Ojai Valley Company, announced the sale of the Ojai Valley Country Club to Don B. Burger, Willard Keith and Associates of Beverly Hills. An article in “The Ojai” assured locals that “Mr. Burger and his associates will operated the property in accordance with standards established by the Libbey interests and have expressed a sincere desire to cooperate in every way with the Ojai community in making the country club one of the finest developments of its kind in the country.”

Work on the reconstruction of the golf course began in December 1946 under the supervision of William P. Bell of Pasadena, the original architect of the famed course, and took seven months to complete. A new swimming pool was built, and tennis courts, stables and riding trails were completely reconditioned. Inside the charming old clubhouse, the dining room, bar, and guest rooms were restored by a team of local workers, including a recently discharged Army sergeant who knew the property better than anyone.

Campbell Fahlman had returned to Ojai, the hometown of his bride Madge Kilbourne, and drove straight to the country club where he had been stationed five years before he was sent to join Patton’s Third Army in Europe. Fahlman was hired on as part of the crew that worked on every inch of the 200-acre property throughout the winter and spring months; and on June 7, 1947, the former country club, that had been briefly known as Camp La We La His and Camp Oak, was officially reopened as the Ojai Valley Inn, leaving behind forever its place in the history of World War II.

Originally published in the Ojai Valley News.