The Sixties in Ojai — Part 1

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, December 21, 1969 edition of “The OJAI VALLEY NEWS” on the front page. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

The Sixties in Ojai — Part 1
How has Ojai changed? Valley’s been urbanized

by Gary Hachadourian


Ten short days from now the decade of the Sixties will have ended.

How have the Sixties affected Ojai Valley?

What changes have taken place here in ten years?

The end of a decade is a convenient time to ask long-range questions because people think in units of ten; January 1, 1970, will seem like a new beginning.

It’s a time that’s convenient for pausing and reflecting.

But it’s also a very appropriate time to ask questions of the long-range variety since it’s always being said that things don’t happen overnight, and a decade certainly isn’t overnight.

See trends

Ten years is a long enough time to take a look at and get a good idea of trends.

In the case of a community, a sufficient number of things should have happened in ten years so that some statement can be made concerning where that town has been, what its concerns were, what its problems were, and, most importantly, where it’s going.

What a city does in one decade determines to a great extent what will happen in the next decade.

Well, has anything happened in Ojai during the Sixties?

Views differ

Your reporter has met a number of people who don’t live in the valley but who visit here regularly and say, “The thing I love about this place is that it hasn’t changed.”

He has met people who have been absent from the valley for a number of years and then have returned to find it, in their opinion, “Just like it was the last time I was here.”

On the other hand, the reporter is friendly with a lot of people who have lived in the valley throughout the Sixties; and he must smile fondly when he says he knows a few people have lived in the Chumash Indian’s Valley of the Nesting Moon for a lot longer than ten years.

These people don’t see the valley as being the same. In fact, they see great changes.

The things they say most frequently are, “I’m afraid for this city, Gary,” or, “I just don’t like what I see going on.”

What’s happened

So what has happened? Physically, tangibly, what changes have taken place since January 1, 1960?

Who’s right — the visitors or the old-timers?

They’re both right.

It’s true that when you compare the amount of actual development that has taken place in Ojai with the amounts that have taken place in other cities — the cities many of the visitors came from — not too much has happened in the valley.

A significant amount of development was carried out in the western end of Ojai’s downtown. Also, a shopping center was constructed at the “Y”, and a hospital and various other office buildings and professional centers.

Otherwise, little

As for the rest, it was residential development; and when you compare the residential development level in the valley with what occurred in other areas of Ventura County — Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, for instance — it really wasn’t too much.

During the Sixties, the population of the valley from Casitas Springs to Upper Ojai rose from about 15,000 to a little under 22,000. This is a healthy jump, but not a staggering one when you consider that professional planners have said the population would more than double to better than 45,000 by 1985.

During this same period, the population of Ojai has risen from 4,700 to 5,800, close to 25 percent. But still, that’s only 1,100 people, and a total population of 5,800 is a far cry from the 15,000 that anticipated by planners by 1985 (in an area between Maricopa Road and Gorham Road — slightly larger than the present city limits).

So it’s true that when you compare Ojai with other areas, growth here has been a little bit here and a little bit there — hard for a visitor to see.

Something crucial

But it’s also true that something crucial has happened in the valley during the past ten years. In the end, the old-timers are more right than the visitors in their assessment of the decade.

They can smell something in the air beside a whiff of smog, occasionally. Since they’ve been here for many years, they can sense any change in the trend of things.

What happened was much more subtle than physical development. But it was no less real.

Became urbanized

What happened was that the valley became urbanized.

Much will be made of this term — urbanization — as your reporter sets down what he thinks were the thematic occurrences in Ojai since 1960. So he’d better describe what he means by the term.

Urbanization is the process that changed Ojai from a rural town to a suburban center. It was as much a change in the thinking of the valley residents as it was a change in the physical development of the area.

When people start complaining about dogs running loose, horses in the streets, that ‘s urbanization as much as building apartment houses is.

Natural process

Urbanization really was an entirely natural process in the valley. The 7,000 or so people who have moved in since 1960 were, after all, essentially city dwellers. Many of them moved here simply because they needed housing that was within commuting distance to the office in Oxnard or Ventura.

As those cities began to fill up, other areas began to develop to accommodate the overflow. The valley was one of those areas.

Of course, many of the people who moved in came by choice as well as necessity, wanting to live in a pretty place that was quieter, more restful, and more personal than an urban center. Even so, they brought with them a different type of thinking.

The point is that as the population explosion began to make its effect on the valley, the thinking of the majority of the residents began to change. The majority’s tastes changed. Its thoughts on what an appropriate future was began to change.

Small wonder that the old-timers feared what they sensed was happening. They, the people who would fight tooth and nail to keep the valley a rural paradise, were becoming more in the minority.

Lack of control

But it wasn’t only that the valley was developing that worried these old-timers. What they really feared — and what the reporter fears, he should add — was that the direction of growth wasn’t being sufficiently controlled.

Ojai, as many people who are only occasional visitors know, is a beautiful place. More significantly, it has the type of beauty that can bring in money by being left as it is.

Those mountains that rise up less than a mile from the center of the city are the impressive boundaries of a national forest. There’s a lake nearby and many parks and many miles of riding and hiking trails, not to mention golf courses.

Ojai obviously should be a town that is a recreational oasis for the real city dwellers to the south of here, in the Los Angeles area. It should be an oasis for its own residents, most of whom have chosen to live here in order to escape the oppressive mode of living in other Southern California cities.

Stress planning

This article, which will be published as a series over the next few weeks, will seek to identify what the city’s problems have been during the Sixties as far as planning its future and implementing its plan goes.

In that vein, the reporter will discuss what the combination of forces was that brought about urbanization. In his mind, there were three basic forces at work:

* Forces exerted on the valley from the outside — essentially the population explosion.

* Forces that worked from within the valley — i.e., the need to urbanize and develop in a chosen direction in order to prevent the valley’s being developed haphazardly, at the whim of developers. Emphasis in this section will be on what type of planning the city actually did and what steps it took to make itself an oasis for tourists and its own residents.

The ‘system’

* Forces that prevented the city from controlling the future as much as it would have liked to. Ojai had a personality that was sometimes self-defeating. Also, it lived — and continues to live — under an economic “system” that made it difficult and even impossible to act in accordance with its desires all the time.

The reporter will also discuss what he thinks was a sterile and self-defeating philosophy of government during these years. As will soon become clear, the reporter is eager to shout congratulations for the steps the city’s government has taken to identify and preserve the character of Ojai, to channel its growth.

But he will point out also that a philosophy of government that stresses the right of a property owner to develop his property as he sees fit, rather than a balance between those rights and community responsibilities, is a philosophy that’s incapacitating and essentially murderous to a community.

Lack of imagination

In some instances, he feels the city planners and elected officials have shown an abysmal lack of imagination and guts. While government has taken some life-giving steps, it has also served as the city’s undertaker.

Obviously, the reporter will not try to hide his feelings. He will try for objectivity, but not detachment.

Why? Because Ojai is important to him. It’s important because it’s his chosen home, but also because it is a unique town and has the potential to become something different, something more habitable for human beings than most other cities.

He should explain that he has lived here for less than two years, and so hasn’t experienced all that he will talk about. His factual information was gained by going through the 1,000 or so issues of the Ojai Valley News that have been published twice weekly since 1960. Also, there have been talks with many people.

The reporter’s particular interpretation of the facts stems from the belief that even though he didn’t live through everything he’ll write about, the type of thinking that people in the valley do hasn’t changed.

To a great extent, the reporter has undertaken this project to gain knowledge about what happened before he arrived in Ojai. He wanted to do it in order to gain a fuller understanding of what Ojai is, where it’s been, and, most importantly, where it’s going.

Examining a decade allows you to do these things — and that’s what we’ll undertake beginning in the next issue.






Drew learns to drive

The following article first appeared in the Fall 2020 (VOLUME 38 NUMBER 3) issue of “Ojai MAGAZINE”. The magazine is published by the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. Photos provided by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

LOOK BACK IN OJAI
with Drew Mashburn
Contributed on behalf of the
Ojai Valley Museum

Drew learns to drive

Sex did not happen for me at 15 years old, but the next best thing did.

Let me explain. Mom was pregnant with my second little sister and fourth sibling, Mindy. Mom was a shorty and her belly got so big that her short legs would no longer reach the pedals in our 1959 Ford station wagon. So, she asked me if I’d like to become the family driver when Dad was at work. It took me all of three whole seconds to exclaim “Yes!” Mom explained I was so close in age to being eligible for a Learner’s Permit (15 1/2 years), if the police spotted us, they’d assume I had a permit. Fine with this soon-to-be Roadmaster! Mira Monte Market, here I come!!!

I had driven back in my early years and by the time I mastered that tank-of-a-station-wagon, I had already had several sets of wheels.

My earliest ride was an old wooden whiskey crate mounted on large, spoked baby-carriage wheels. I was too young to remember it, but Dad made it for me after his return home from the Korean conflict in 1952. (We met each other for the first time when I was 7 months old.) No, Mom & Dad did not drink all that whiskey in order to get the crate.

It didn’t take long for me to upgrade my ride. Dad landed a job in the oil patch not long after his discharge from the Naval Reserves in 1952. He must have been making big money working up in that derrick because he and Mom scored me a brand-spanking-new, shiny red “RADIO SUPER” wagon with white rims and even hubcaps!

Later my parents moved from their W. Oak Street rental to the new home they purchased on E. Aliso Street. Dad must have been makin’ great coin to be able to buy a new home, but I was positive life was good when I received a super-sporty new tricycle on my first birthday. I rode the heck outta that baby until I was 6 years old.

Not only did I have my boss-bitchin’ tricycle, I also got a three-wheeled scooter for Christmas in 1953. Only 2 1/2 years old, and I had a red wagon, tricycle and a scooter in my wheels collection!

I moved up from my trike (that’s biker lingo) to a two-wheeler without even using no stinkin’ training wheels. That’s ’cause my teenage neighbor, Tommy Bugg, taught me to ride on his bicycle. E. Aliso Street was armor-coated with big chunks of gravel in it. Tommy held onto his bike while I pumped hard, then he’d let me go. After falling on that chunky asphalt and tearing the hide off my hands and knees, it only took me about six Bugg-pushes to figure out how to stay upright to save flesh.

My folks must have fallen on hard times. I had to ride an old clunker girl’s bicycle that must have been Mom’s until I was about 10 years old. Later my parents bought me an English 3-speed with a front basket big enough to carry a VW beetle.

I transitioned from leg-powered vehicles to a motorized mini-bike at 12 years old.

Eventually, I got legal and bagged my learner’s permit. I even parallel-parked that bomber-of-a-station-wagon on my first try and nabbed my driver’s license at 16 years old.


MEANING OF ‘OJAI’ IN DOUBT BUT INDIANS HAD NAME FOR IT

The following article was first run in the FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1947 edition of THE “OJAI” on PAGE TEN. THE “OJAI” is now the “OJAI VALLEY NEWS”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown. Photos have been added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

Articles from the past often contain historical inaccuracies. History changes as new information is brought to light. Please read the notes from a local historian below the article for updated information. Or better still, purchase a copy of “The Ojai Valley: An Illustrated History” 3rd edition.

MEANING OF ‘OJAI’ IN DOUBT
BUT INDIANS HAD NAME FOR IT
__________


“A-hawai,”[1] was how the early Indians of the Ojai Valley pronounced what we now call “Ojai,” and they spoke a Chumash dialect; but what it means, has long remained cause for difference. The various Indian dialects used the word with different interpretations, but for many years has been accepted to mean “nest,” (although a number of persons have claimed that “moon” is the proper interpretation.)

However, because of the area’s geographical setting, persons viewing the twin valleys from an elevation are convinced that it resembles a giant bird nest, and for this reason feel that “A-hawai” means “nest.”[2]

[3]From “A-hawai” the name was developed to “Ojay,” and then to “Ojai” when the Spanish and Americans occupied the territory. In the middle of the 19th century, California was about the most interesting place in the world, or at least the entire world wanted to know more and more about this place called California . . . GOLD, you know, interested just about everybody . . . except, probably, a man known as Charles Nordhoff, who was more occupied with the coast scenery and writing about it and the people.

CHARLES NORDHOFF (1830-1901)

Nordhoff was a roving correspondent detailed by the New York Herald to do a few articles about this land by the Pacific shores. While roving around in the year 1872, he came across the Ojai Valley, and what he saw inspired him to write words so forcefully that two men gave a small location his name. [4]

In 1883, an R. G. Surdam purchased 1500 acres of land in the Ojai Valley near the San Antonio creek. Of this land he laid out 160 acres to be established as a townsite, offering 20 acres to anyone who would build a hotel on the property. A Mr. A. W. Blumberg accomplished this feat, and one day while the two families were discussing the townsite over a dinner table, the hotel builder suggested naming it Nordhoff, in honor of the man who wrote so enthusiastically about it. And so was it called in 1884. [5]

Royce G. Sudam
The Blumberg Hotel

However, prior to this, in the Ventura “Signal” issue dated July 26, 1873, the first townsite in the Ojai Valley was advertised as “Ojai,” but this did not develop.[6]

And though legend has it that an unwritten law existed between the Indian tribes, in which the Valley would be utilized to discuss peace terms, and that wars would be religiously forbidden, the land was thickly populated with wild animals.

The early farmers were often troubled by the animals, and so were those who thought themselves safe behind locked doors. Thomas R. Bard, who was sent here to look after the interests of Thomas Scott, assistant Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln, is reputed to have killed a bear in his bedroom in 1870. One year later, so say the history books, three boys lassoed a bear and brought it home to their astonished parents.

The town of Nordhoff was growing quite rapidly, and on October 27, 1891, the first issue of The Ojai was published at the Ojai library.

Just when the name of Nordhoff was changed to Ojai is somewhat confusing. One bit of reference claims “Ojai” was officially adopted in 1916, however, some records show that in 1917 a Henry Morse, then manager of the Foothills hotel, first petitioned to have the name changed. According to the newspaper masthead of The Ojai, the change from Nordhoff to Ojai appears in the May 4, 1917 issue for the first time. Evidently, however, the change must have been of little importance because there wasn’t a mention of the fact in that particular issue.

Why the name was changed, is still another story. Many people claim that Charles Nordhoff, born in Germany, was a German sympathizer during World War I. [7]

Nevertheless, on July 26, 1921, the townsite became officially known as the City of Ojai on a vote to “incorporate” by the people. On this occasion, a gavel, composed of East Indian Teak (off a wrecked English ship on Santa Rosa Island) and Iron Wood (found on Santa Cruz Island), was sent with a letter to the city council by a C. W. Rasey, of Santa Barbara, who wrote: “May the sturdy strength and tenacity of the materials of which this gavel is made, prove typical of the enduring future of your picturesque and beautiful little city.”

  1. ‘Awha’y’ (aw-ha-ee) was the name of a Chumash village in the Upper Ojai.
  2. Research and linguistic analysis has shown that ‘Awha’y means moon, probably in the cyclical sense.
  3. With the Spanish, the Chumash name ‘Awah’y became “Ojay.” Later, with the American settlers, the Spanish name was written “Ojai.”
  4. Charles Nordhoff visit the Ojai Valley in 1872, nor did his 1873 book, California for Health, Pleasure, and Residence, mention it. Nordhoff visited Ojai on a later trip to California, in 1881, and wrote about the Ojai Valley in the book’s second edition, published in 1882.
  5. Surdam laid out what is now the town of Ojai in 1874. Credit for naming the town “Nordhoff” is given to Blumberg’s wife, Catherine.
  6. The first proposed town was to be located east of what is now Gridley Road, on the ranch of Lorenzo Dow Roberts. Surdam beat him to it by platting the town of Nordhoff in a wooded area of the valley called “White Oak Flats.”
  7. There is no evidence that Charles Nordhoff was a German sympathizer. There was some antipathy toward German names during the time of World War I, but more likely Mr. Libbey suggested it because the name was more suitable after the Spanish makeover of the town in 1916-17.

Interview with Krishnamurti about the Ojai Valley

The following article first appeared in the April 12, 1972 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on page D6. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Editorial by Fred Volz

Rare conversation with Krishnamurti about the Ojai Valley

J. KRISHNAMURTI—“I’ll be returning to Ojai in the future.”

Last week our long-standing request to interview Jiddu Krishnamurti, world renowned philosopher, was granted. We spent almost two hours taping this interview, mostly about the Ojai Valley. Krishnamurti is now in New York City to give two talks at Carneigie Hall, before returning to England.

Krishnamurti is a slight, aethetic man with golden skin and large, soft brown eyes. He speaks with an Oxford accent in muted tones, pausing occasionally to collect his words.

He was born in 1895 in Madras, India, the eighth child of a Brahmin family. At 16, with his brother Nityananda, he was brought to England where he was privately educated. He first came here with his brother in the ‘20’s, and we begin our interview with that.

The conversation is almost an exact replica of our tape recording.

Sir, I feel that the people here would appreciate your views about the valley. May I ask you some questions about Ojai?

Krishnamurti—Yes.

Volz—You came here many years ago and you’ve stayed here from time to time. What are your personal feelings about the valley?

K—I came here first with my brother in 1922. We lived here. We came from India via Australia and lived in a little cottage. And the contrast was enormous. We came in July. The dryness, the heat, the dust. But we liked it enormously. It was the mountains. I’ve been practically all over those mountains, over all these trails. I’ve been up to Topa Topa, up to Chief. And I stayed here during the war . . . and off and on . . . treating this area as kind of my home. I also go to India, that is also my home. I stay in England—but this is one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve seen. I’ve been to Kashmir, and I’ve been to Switzerland, and parts of Europe . . . Pyrenees and various mountains in India. This has an extraordinary charm that the others do not have. It’s extraordinarily quiet at night. Wild. And I used to see deer up there . . . bear. Once, I walked behind a bobcat for several miles. The wind was blowing from him to me. So he didn’t smell me at all. Several miles . . . he was rubbing himself and enjoying himself. I don’t know whether they exist now.

V—Rare. Only very occasionally do I see one . . . just a flash.

K—And I see raccoons, foxes, and I’ve seen several times big brown bear. Marvelous. And somehow I like this place enormously. But I see it gradually being spoiled. I hear they want to put a highway through here. That’s the end of this valley. And they want to develop parts of it . . . a tourist resort and all that. I suppose this is what is really happening all over the world. When there’s a beautiful spot, they want to destroy it . . . exploit it touristically for economic purposes. I know a place in India, a beautiful place, but it’s spoiled now by overpopulation. Get rich quick. Recently, I stayed as a guest in Malibu and they’re destroying that whole hill. Terrible.

V—Well, you’ve answered the first three questions I have. I was going to say you saw Ojai then . . . and you see what’s happening now. I was also going to ask you what exceptional qualities Ojai had in the twenties and what it does not have now.

K—This East end has still got it. Because I can go up one of those hills and not see anyone. In those days I would go . . . oh . . . miles and miles . . . but now it’s gradually being pushed out. It will be destroyed. Unless you all stand firm.

V—Do you see any change in the way it’s going now. Or is gradually the land being used up?

K—I’m afraid so.

V—You don’t see a change. Is there anything we could do about this?

K—Ah, I suppose . . . I don’t know why the government . . . or people congregate . . . and say this is one place in California that should be kept the way it was. Or it will be completely wiped out.

V—As a result of economic motives?

K—The way we are going now in America . . . and the rest of the world . . . in 70 years through overpopulation man will destroy himself.

V—There have been encouraging things happening here recently. For example, the Meditation Group—the private schools . . . Happy Valley, Ojai Valley, and Villanova. So there has been a move in that direction. People coming here to build schools and have them expand. Do you see anything happening here along those lines?

K—Let me tell you about Happy Valley. We came here in 1922. In 1927, Dr. Besant . . . the Happy Valley Foundation . . . she started it . . . she bought land, mortgages and all that. She bought it for one purpose . . . I don’t want to be personal . . . that the teachings that K was giving would bring around a different group of people. Happy Valley land was to be used for that. And now it’s gone into other people’s hands . . . unfortunately. But schools here, if there are a great many schools here. What would happen? Can they maintain themselves? Private schools.

V—They come here for the very reason you and I come here. A beautiful, quiet, peaceful place . . . conducive to study.

K—I believe private schools are suffering a great deal. You see I used to talk practically every year at the other end (near Krotona Hill at the Oak Grove). Many people came here . . . gathered and had camps and all that. It’s all different since then. I’ve not been here practically since 1965. But I could come every year. Things have changed. Can’t serious people come here and maintain this atmosphere and this kind of beauty?

V—I think a lot of us are asking that question. I’m not so sure it’s good for the economy of the valley to have more houses, more people. The very reasons we all came here will have been destroyed.

K—How can we prevent the others from destroying it?

V—I think we’ll just have to say no. That the government will have to say no. That the valley should stay in orchards. In open space. I thought of one time writing to our congressman and proposing this as a national park . . . like Yosemite, like Yellowstone.

K—Will they allow it?

V—Well, the list of proposed national parks is long now. A very beautiful place north of San Francisco in Marin County is the newest national park . . . a strip of original seashore . . . in native grasses and sand. It has been preserved in the hands of one family ever since the Spaniards were there. This is the newest national park. Pt. Reyes National Park. We had our hand in proposing that. Now . . . in the Napa Valley . . . with its vineyards . . . they have made that into what we call a national monument which prevents any change to that valley. Not a park, but a national monument. Yet, it’s not as beautiful as this.

K—We have a school in England in Hampshire. There’s the start of a building there . . . the K Foundation owns it. You can’t build new houses . . . you can only improve or pull down old houses. You have to build on the same foundation. And you have to get permission to build from the planning committee—anything at all. We were going to build for 40 people. It took six months to get permission. It’s only an hour from London by train, but it’s a beautiful place and they said let’s not go and destroy it.

V—I think that’s what happened initially to our great national parks. Yosemite . . . John Muir in particular . . . said we’re not going to destroy this. This has to be kept. They brought United States officials there. And they agreed.

K—Can’t this be done here?

V—One of the problems — I was just thinking about this — it’s an exceptional day outside. If you live here long enough, you begin to think the whole world is like this. And it’s not. Locals don’t understand . . .

K—Can’t Ojai be maintained, sir. Through influence . . . through the machinery of government?

V—Let me say, I’m much more optimistic now, than I was last year for the Ojai Valley. Finally, the people who are in charge are getting the message from all of us down below, that we don’t want this to change, we don’t want more shopping centers and tract houses. We want to keep what’s left. What do you think that the citizens here can do?

K—Sir, do you know what is happening in the world? The citizens are responsible for destroying the world. Hmm? I used to go to India, except this winter. Every winter I spent 5-6 months . . . now it’s reduced to 3 months. You have no idea how it’s being destroyed. In Bombay, people are sleeping on pavements. Thousands of them. And under the tree they sleep. And the villages are being destroyed . . . 10 million of them. And the death rate is not so great as the birth rate. Citizens . . . human beings are responsible for this. Why can’t they stop it? Here in this valley . . . live all of you . . . for God’s sake you preserve this place. One place that’s not destroyed. Do you think there are serious people here? Serious in the sense . . . not all economically well established . . . but have roots in the valley . . . serious-minded people who say let’s maintain this atmosphere…this quietness, this beauty, this sense of . . . otherness. Do you know what I mean? Not at all the wrangles of the Catholic, Protestant, Communist, Socialist. Do you think there are such people here?

V—Yes, I think so. Many people of every political and religious affiliation feel exactly the way we do. Recently, a Committee to Preserve the Ojai was formed. They have four-five hundred members and they’re seeking to influence the kind of people who get elected. Working to defeat unneeded shopping centers. They’re working in a very practical way. And their numbers are growing. More people feel sympathy for them . . . and give them money. So, it’s happening here . . . but it has to happen fast. It can’t wait. There has to be a change in thinking. We all have to realize that open space out there is valuable. The most valuable thing we have. Of course, I write about this all the time to the people of Ojai. I don’t know how much attention they pay to it. Nothing much seems to happen. But I like you saying that.

K—You know, sir, in India, in Greece, and in other civilizations, when they found a beautiful spot like this they put a temple. Not a Christian temple or a Buddhist temple, but a temple. A thing that was beautiful and remained sacred because of the beauty of the place. I go to a school in south India. I spend three weeks talking to children. As you enter there, on a hill is a temple. And the feeling you have is of a sacred place . . . be quiet, be nice, be gentle, be pleasant to your neighbor, don’t kill, don’t hurt . . . all that atmosphere makes for beauty.

V—Do you think Americans are different from other people?

K—They’re much more energetic. They’re pleasure seekers. They’re fleetingly serious. I never have seen such race as this that want to . . . they can’t sit quietly. Go to the lakes, go off on guided hikes . . . oh . . . they can’t be by themselves. One year I was walking right up there on your mountains. I was standing looking at the beauty of the land . . . I could even see the ocean . . . A man came down on horseback . . . I was standing very still . . . He said, ‘what the hell are you standing so still for?’ . . . I said, ‘isn’t it a beautiful day?’ He looked at me and said, ‘oh, you’re the Christ child.’ (Much laughter here).

V— That was many years ago, wasn’t it?

K—Yes. I wonder, sir, you know Ojai. Can people treat this valley as a sacred place . . . not as a commercial center? A sacred place becomes beautiful . . . I hope you understand. People will come here because it’s quiet, restful, thoughtful, serious.

V—You don’t see any formal change . . . like, people coming here to form a religious center or a spiritual center. In the practical sense of the word.

K—I would . . . you see, sir, in India we have a place like this. A school . . . but people who come there are serious people. Treat it . . . I hate to use the word . . . as a sacred place. Unless you have this spot where people really can be thoughtful and serious you are going to destroy the world. You’ve heard of the river Ganges in India. We have a school on the banks of it, and it is very old. I found a statue by digging in the garden which is 6th century. Before that, I found something from B.C. So there’s a tremendous sense of atmosphere. I was talking the other day to Frank Waters and he was saying the American Indians felt the land was sacred and the sky was sacred. So keep it clean, keep it unpolluted. Here there isn’t that attitude . . . that feeling for the earth.

V—Yes, we’re supposed to conquer nature.

K—That’s it . . .

V—It says so in the Bible.

K—I know. In the East, there is a respect for the earth, respect for animals . . . not kill them. Here, you must always use it, build a factory, tear it to pieces. There’s that enormous vitality. Every time I used to come back to Ojai, before 1950, I say, “what a marvelous place!” But now I don’t come because it’s marvelous.

V—It would seem to me it would help much . . . if you would come here more often.

K—Oh yes. I’m coming . . . I didn’t come because the people I was working with didn’t want me to come here.

V—When you come, will you be staying here for a long time?

K—Oh, yes . . .

V—Well, this place will become what we think it should become. If we think positively about it, if we think this is the way the Ojai Valley should be, it will be that way.

K—That’s right. You know, Ojai Valley, is known all over the world. Because of the K Foundation. There’s a K foundation in England, in South America, and in India. People want to come here. That’s why that Happy Valley was bought. By Theosophist, by a group of people of whom I was the head. It was for that. Now it is . . .

V—It’s still there, the land, isn’t it?

K—But they’re different . . . and not interested.

V—I’m pleased to hear that you will be back.

K—Next year.

V—Do you plan to give up your place in Switzerland?

K—No, sir. There will be a gathering there. For about 3 weeks from all over Europe. And we’ll go on with that. And we’ll go on with Ojai, on with India. I used to go to Paris, Amsterdam, to various towns, but I’ll be glad to give this up.

V—Sounds like you’re more active than ever.

K—Let me tell you a true story, sir. In India, one time I was doing Yoga exercise and I see a shadow in the window. There is a big black wild monkey. I come quite close and it stretches out its hand. And I hold its hand. And its hand was rough and he wants to come inside. I said, ‘I don’t have time today . . . but come and see me sometime.’

V—Well, I understand you rarely grant interviews . . . on behalf of myself and the people of the Ojai Valley, I thank you for your time.

K: You are welcome, sir.

PATH TO INNER PEACE — The thoughts of Jiddu Krishnamurti, philosopher, at right, were absorbed by over 1,000 people from all over the state who flocked to Libbey Bowl Saturday. Krishnamurti, who is staying in Ojai between speaking tours, drew over 1,00 more people to his Sunday talk. Framed by oak trees and the arched Libbey park bowl, Krishnamurti spoke for the first time in the valley since 1965. (Andy Klamser photo)


Arlou Wells and Harold Mashburn Married at Santa Barbara Church

The following article was first run in THE OJAI newspaper on PAGE TWELVE in the November 19, 1948 edition. “THE OJAI” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown. Photos added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

Arlou Wells and Harold Mashburn
Married at Santa Barbara Church
______


Mr. and Mrs. Warren E. Wells this week announced the marriage of their daughter, Arlou, to Harold C. Mashburn of Meiners Oaks. The couple exchanged their vows Sunday in the Little Chapel of Santa Barbara.

The altar was banked with white gladioli and yellow chrysanthemums. White tapers surrounded the altar. The double-ring ceremony was read by the Rev. Paul H. Gammons of El Montecito Presbyterian church. The bride was given away by her father. She was attired in a period style white slipper satin gown with a yoke of Valencia lace, tight fitted bodice, and a full skirt, shirred twice at the hemline, revealing a ruffled lace petticoat. The full satin skirt swept into a chapel train.

The deep yoke and sleeves were outlined with imported lace ruffling. Her finger-tip veil fell in tiers from a coronet of seed pearls and a single strand of pearls adorned the high neckline of her gown. She carried an arrangement of bouvardia blossoms over a white Bible, belonging to her mother, which carried out the “something old, something new” theme and carried a sixpence in her shoe.

Maid of honor was Barbara Campbell of Los Angeles, who wore a rose taffeta gown. Her head dress was a bandeau of rose ribbon and seed pearls. She carried a colonial nosegay of pink and white flowers.

Tom Bennett of Meiners Oaks served as best man and Jack Cruickshank of Ventura as usher. A program of nuptial organ music was played before the ceremony. Mrs. Wells, mother of the bride, chose a charcoal gray faille dress with turquoise accessories and a corsage of yellow rosebuds. Mrs. Mashburn, mother of the bridegroom, wore a hunter’s green crepe dress with cocoa brown accessories and a Talisman rose corsage.

Following the ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. Wells entertained with a reception at the Fremont room, adjoining the chapel. The bride’s table was laid with a linen cloth and centered with a three-tiered wedding cake, topped with miniature silver wedding bells, surrounded at the base with white gladioli and yellow chrysanthemums.

Assisting at the bride’s table was Joan Mulligan. Betty Jean Mashburn, sister of the bridegroom, was in charge of the guest book.

Following the reception, the couple left for a wedding trip through the Northwest. For travel, the bride wore a blue wool dressmaker’s suit and brown accessories. Upon their return they will be at home at 555 1/2 South Ventura street, Ojai. The bride is a graduate of Nordhoff Union high school, 1948 class. The bridegroom was graduated from Nordhoff in 1943 and served for three and a half years in the U. S. navy. He is employed by the Shell Oil company, Ventura.

L to R: Barbara Campbell (Maid of Honor), Arlou “Wells” Mashburn (Bride), Harold Mashburn (Groom), Jewel Mashburn (Groom’s mother), Clyde Mashburn (Groom’s father)
Mr. & Mrs. H.C. Mashburn’s honeymoon vehicle.
The new Mrs. Arlou “Wells” Mashburn on her honeymoon.
Newly married Harold C. Mashburn on his honeymoon.

Old Gray

The following article appeared in VOLUME 38 NUMBER 1/SPRING 2020 issue of “Ojai Valley Guide” on page 159. This magazine was published by the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

Old Gray

LOOK BACK IN OJAI
with Drew Mashburn
Contributed on behalf of the
Ojai Valley Museum

ROUTE 66 WAS A COOL OLD HIGHWAY. MY PARENTS TOOK THREE OF US KIDS ON 66 IN 1965 TO VISIT DAD’S SIDE OF THE FAMILY IN MISSOURI AND MOM’S SIDE OF THE FAMILY IN INDIANA. WE WERE ON THIS VACATION FOR ABOUT A MONTH.

For a vacation like that, you have to have some reliable wheels. I accompanied my dad to the auto dealership in Ojai to bring home the 1961 Chevrolet Apache half-ton pickup with a 283-cubic-inch engine and three-on-the-three manual transmission he had ordered. I was only 9 years old, but remember the experience like it was only yesterday.

The Tom Mahon Chevrolet dealership is where Jersey Mike’s is now. There are all these big windows at this sandwich shop because it used to be the showroom floor for displaying the new-model vehicles.

Jersey Mike’s is in a long, narrow building that also houses St. Thomas Aquinas Thrift Shop, She Seeks Nomad, Cuts & Curls, The Ojai Donut Shoppe, Kristy’s Nails, and La Fuente of Ojai. All these businesses are in what used to be the mechanic’s bays with really tall, roll-up doors.

Dad and I were led out of the office by the car salesman to the parking lot adjacent to the bays. A few other employees gathered near us. All the bay doors were closed. We waited with bated breath while the salesman had us look at one of the doors. It slowly rose and there was Dad’s brand-spankin’-new pickup. A gent was in it. He drove it slowly out to the parking lot. The keys were handed to Dad as the salesman and others congratulated him. It was a BIG DEAL back in those days! I swear, it was like a grand opening of a new store or something. I’m surprised they didn’t have some uplifting, symphonic music blaring. But, all I could think was something like, “Dad, with all the colors available, you chose coral?” . . . which was basically pink.

Dad never sold that pickup, though he did paint it a number of years later. At one time it was white, then dark blue, then primer gray. When it was younger, he called it Betsy. At the end, he called it Old Gray.

Dad passed in 1998. Mom had me donate the pickup to a charity. It was like cutting off an arm as Old Gray was towed away.



Oaks history — never dull

This article was contributed by longtime Ojai Valley resident Susan Roland. Roland recently discovered this article in the belongings she inherited from her mother. The “Ojai Valley Museum” has added the photos to the article.

Hollywood glamour

Oaks history — never dull


[Much of the following history of the Oaks hotel was taken from a series of articles for the Ojai Valley News by the late Helen Davenport, in 1962 society editor of the OVN.]

Colorized postcard of The Original EL ROBLAR–hotel, now the Oaks, as it looked back in the 1920’s. The photo is from the post office tower.


Staring as a quiet little country inn, the hotel opened around 1920 after many false starts and much talk. The ground was originally owned by P.K. Miller and he built a house on the site where he raised his family, according to Jennie Miller Griffin, his daughter.

The house burned down in the big fire of 1917.

A number of Ojai residents took an option on the property and became stockholders. These stockholders sold out at 50 cents on the dollar to Frank Barrington of Santa Barbara.

THE STORY GOES that the Barrington’s worked for a wealthy woman in Montecito, he as a butler and she as an upstairs maid. It is thought by others that she was a trained nurse. Both, it is true, were Irish and friendly. The wealthy woman ultimately died and left the couple $25,000 to run a hotel. Ojai was their destination.

Soon the hotel opened for business under the name of El Roblar.

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Mr. Barrington in front of the El Roblar on March 4, 1929.

Following the death of Mr. Barrington, his wife continued to operate the hotel for many years. She brought many of her relatives over from the old country to visit and work in the establishment. Local residents held parties there, because the Ojai Valley Inn at this time was a private club.

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Mrs. Barrington in front of the El Roblar in March 1929.

Mrs. Barrington was neat and orderly and well-liked. She saw to it that flowers were in the rooms and on the tables. As was the custom of the time in many homes, she had doilies and tidies strewn around for the homey touch. She took flowers to the Presbyterian church for many years.

Frank Barrington is remembered as a man of graceful charm. The New Years’ Eve parties are well remembered when he served his famous eggnogs to carollers returning to the hotel at midnight — a touch of alcohol in them for adults, unspiked for the youngsters.

Chauffeur-driven cars drove around the orange trees to the front door, letting out passengers who returned many times to the year-round hotel.

FROM A QUIET little country inn — the Oaks hotel became an internationally known hostelry. Changes in ownership followed in rapid succession, some tragic, some happy.

Mrs. Barrington sold the hotel to Canfield Enterprises of Santa Barbara. Mr. and Mrs. Canfield took over with many plans for changes and expansion. But these were put to a tragic end with the unhappy suicide of Mr. Canfield.

This was followed by the ownership of the Oaks going to the Cromwells of San Francisco and once more the doors were open with eager anticipation of a great future. Plans had been completed for the Matilija dam and hopes were high for an expanded hotel to take care of the expected influx of engineers, visitors and fishermen. Once again these dreams were shattered by the suicide of Mr. Cromwell.

Mrs. Barrington again took over the hotel. She soon leased it to Richard Paige (presently living on McAndrew road). This time some of the dreams became a reality. Paige and Morgan Baker, his associate, built the first bar in the hotel. A small intimate room it soon became a sought-after meeting place for cocktails and after-party and theater gatherings. It was noted for its “rump rail” an innovation which allowed the weary drinker to slouch in an orderly fashion with elbows and derriere well supported.

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Mary Harmon and Morgan Baker in the El Roblar in 1954.

During the management of Paige and Baker, the present swimming pool was added to the Oaks attractions. Swim parties were frequent and the hotel became better-known than ever. The unhappiness of the previous years was completely forgotten behind the happy shouts from the bar and pool.

MANY STILL SPEAK of Martinez the bartender, who is said to have mixed a martini so memorable that people spoke of them in hushed and awed voices. They were, it is said, refused to those who were not regarded as worthy of such a mixture by the noble Martinez.

The management of Paige and Baker, as all things must, came to an end as these gentlemen became occupied elsewhere, and the Oaks — still owned by the Barrington estate — again sought ownership and management.

In 1952 the hotel was bought by Frank Keenan and the hotel entered into an era of splendor and activity it had not known before. Keenan was a former county assessor for Cook County, Ill., which is largely taken up by the city of Chicago, and he had glamorous plans for the hotel which he promptly began to carry out.

The present cottages around the pool were built and were soon filled with some of the most glamorous names of Hollywood and New York and less desirable places. Gangster Bugsy Siegal was a visitor. The dining room was remodeled and the bar enlarged. Keenan brought his genial brother Jim to act as host.

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Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel

THE DINING ROOM was named the Chicago room and was greatly sought-after as a meeting place for important groups and glittering with social affairs. The opening with Bud Abbott as M.C. was rumored to cost $10,000. Guests arrived from all over the country and local residents who were lucky enough to be included talked endlessly about the gala affair.

It was during the Keenan ownership that the Oaks took on its present shape and form (that was 1962). The Keenan brothers wide acquaintance brought distinguished guests — and some who had glamour. Nevertheless, it was noted for its quiet dignity, fine cuisine and genuine hospitality.

It was said that Keenan wanted to make the Oaks into a casino a la Las Vegas. City officials who requested their names be withheld remember being approached with propositions and requests for “protection”. These officials let it be known that no gambling would be allowed in Ojai and this particular project was dropped.

The future of the Oaks was suddenly thrown into doubt when after four years of gaiety the Keenan brothers were indicted for income tax evasion back in Illinois. They were convicted and sent to prison.

The genial Jim Keenan died in prison; Frank Keenan completed his term and many hoped he would again resume ownership of the Oaks.

ONCE AGAIN the hotel closed and the halls were hushed. They remained quiet for over a year.

Through Keenan’s attorney, the hotel came into the hands of Heiress Lolita Armour (of Chicago packing house fame) and her new young husband Charles Madrin. It was thought that the hotel was being used as a tax write-off. A deal was made to trade the Armour estate in Lake Forest, Ill. for the Oaks hotel and once again the closed sign was removed.

On Jan. 1, 1958, a new regime started — one of toil and trouble — and a series of managers followed. There were seven in a two-year period before closing early in 1962.

Civic organizations held meetings at the hotel, lunches and dinners set by local residents, dinner dances were held, and the Wednesday style show around the pool were attractions. One manager installed electric heat lamps to be used on the terrace when the sun failed. A key-holders club was formed to make residents use the pool and bar and Richard Blalock’s orchestra played in the large dining room. Honeymooners loved the quiet of the mid-week and Hollywood celebrities dropped in for a rest in the country. Conventions were booked, but accommodations were such that only small crowds could be handled. The hotel was also the hub of the town. Genial Gino Giamari held sway as head bartender.

On the debit side, the various managers made many mistakes. One called an employees meeting once each month, however it was soon seen that those who got up to talk were soon fired. Another imbibed too much, another hated music and called the bartender when the lounge was filled with local people listening to a $ 150-a-week pianist. The bartender was sent home and the patrons left.

The thing the employees hated most was the Las Vegas mirror installed above the bar. Some thought this was not only to check on the bartender but on the low-cut gowns of the ladies. Along with the mirror a complete intercom system was put in, one that could be reversed so that employees’ every whispered word could be checked.

IN FEBRUARY OF 1962 the American Association of Retired Persons (Grey Gables) took a 90-day option on the Oaks, planning to sell units to its members. The price was around $500,000. However, the deal never closed because of the high expense of fireproofing and bringing the aging structure up to the building codes.

The Oaks remained closed for a while in 1962-63 until it was taken over by a well-remembered Ojai valley figure — Santa Barbaran Vernon Johnson. A big, bluff, bearded extrovert, who worked as a telephone company lineman-foreman and still does. Johnson had come into an inheritance and “had always wanted to run a hotel”. Several years prior to this, he had gained a measure of fame when he toured ’round the world (including through Siberia) in a converted Greyhound bus with his wife and 9 children. He bought the mortgage from Lolita Armour for $295,000 — making a $50,000 cash payment.

JOHNSON PLAYED a genial host at these parties, circulating from table to table with stories and goodwill. “He” became, in essence, the Oaks hotel and his face appeared on the menus, on the paper napkins, matchbook covers and even the tiny bar soap wrappers.

Localites were impressed with Johnson who went to Los Angeles one day and bought a $3,000 rare Macaw bird and installed it in the lounge.

Johnson lasted a year before filing for bankruptcy. Henry Coulson, a federal bankruptcy referee living in Ventura, then had the unhappy task of keeping the Oaks open and alive, which he did without the benefit of hotel experience until the Oaks was bought by a local group, headed by Rodney Walker and Jerald Peterson, at an auction in Nov. of 1966 for $230,000.

COMMUNITY PROJECT—Keith Lloyd, left, manager of the Oaks Hotel, confers with Gerald Peterson, center, vice president, and Rodney Walker, president, in front of the 50-year-old Spanish-style inn. The trio heads El Roblar Corp., a community enterprise with 300 shareholders which bought the financially-plagued hotel at auction in 1965 for $230,000 and revived it. (Times photo by John Malmin)




Let’s keep the Sespe wild

The following article first appeared in the August 23, 1989 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on the Editorial page. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the “Ojai Valley News.” The author is unknown.

Editorial

Let’s keep the Sespe wild

Rep. Robert Lagomarsino is on the right track in his efforts to protect Sespe Creek under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, but the California Republican’s plan doesn’t go far enough.

The Sespe is a treasure and its entire 55-mile length should be protected from development.

There is some question whether the full length of the Sespe is eligible for federal protection — some sources say the first eight miles is not — but every avenue that might lead to total preservation should be explored.

The Keep the Sespe Wild Committee is doing just this, and the group is to be commended.

Opponents of full protection and backers of Largomarsino’s bill — H.R. 1473 — contend that Sespe water will eventually be needed to support a growing Ventura County population. This, of course, would eventually require the construction of dams. Some even suggest that dams be in place by the end of the next decade.

We disagree with the water-for-growth issue and support the growing number of people and businesses that back the Keep the Sespe Wild proposal.

The cost of water provided by dams — as much as $1,000 an acre-foot — would be prohibitive and damming the Sespe would be detrimental to area Pacific Ocean beaches since the Sespe is an important environmental link in replenishing the sand.

Some argue that Sespe dams would help ease the problem of declining groundwater and the intrusion of seawater into aquifers, but there are better solutions to these problems.

And, if serious water problems develop years down the road, Congress could change the Sespe designation to allow it to be used as a water source in an emergency.

Again, we believe Keep the Sespe Wild has the best idea.

There are three classifications under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act — wild, which would allow no roads and no development; scenic, which provides for some roads and some privately-owned land; and recreational, with a lot of private lands, campgrounds or development.

The environmental group proposes that the 5.5 miles from the headwaters to Highway 33 at Adobe Creek to Trout Creek be designated scenic, that the 28.5 miles from Trout Creek to Devil’s Gate be wild and the four miles from Devil’s Gate to the Sespe’s confluence with the Santa Clara River be recreational.

This covers the entire length of the Sespe and is a far better plan than the one in the Congress that would protect only 27.5 miles of this Southern California treasure.

THE PLANE TRUTH ABOUT OJAI’S AVIATION HISTORY

The following article first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of “The Ojai Valley Visitors Guide” which was published by the “Ojai Valley News.” It is reprinted here with their permission.

THE PLANE TRUTH ABOUT OJAI’S AVIATION HISTORY

Story by
Perry Van Houten

Along the airfield’s perimeter was a low barbed-wire fence, and a grove of English walnut trees grew on the south and west sides. A few locals remember a restaurant across Highway 33 from the airstrip, The Airport Cafe, in the present location of Ojai Termite & Pest Control. A bar directly across Baldwin Road from the airstrip was known as The Refuge.

“AIRPLANE RIDES $8.00”
The sign was posted on the window of the two-seat Aeronca Champion parked at Henderson Field in Mira Monte. Twelve-year-old Drew Mashburn lived nearby on South Rice Road and might have been on his skateboard in 1964 when he noticed it. He had never flown in an airplane, and he knew this was his chance.

A few days later, Drew and his best buddy, Mark Madsen, 11, spotted the plane’s pilot standing there. They scraped together eight bucks between them, hoping the pilot would let them both cram into the passenger compartment of the plane. But the pilot insisted the price was $8 apiece.

The boys returned the next day, and the day after that, and begged. “I can remember the pilot actually threw his arms up above his head and he says, ‘Alright, I’ll go ahead and I’ll take the $8, and I mean not a penny less,’ ” Mashburn says. Wild blue yonder, here we come, he thought. His whole family gathered at Henderson Field for the occasion.

Henderson Field
Don Henderson built Henderson Field in the 1940’s, on family property near the intersection of Highway 33 and Baldwin Road. He ran a small flying school there, commissioned by the Army Air Corps during World War II. For nearly 30 years, the 2,100-foot runway accommodated up to 20 aircraft per week.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, a popular pastime was flying from local airport to local airport; for instance, from Santa Paula Airport to the Ventura Airpark at Pierpont Beach to Henderson Field in Mira Monte. Well-to-do folks from Los Angeles would fly into Henderson on weekends, including Hollywood stars like Robert Young, Claudette Colbert and Norma Shearer.

“It was the only real, genuine airport I knew of in the Ojai Valley,” says Santa Paula pilot Bruce Dickenson, who had just learned to fly and landed his Piper PA-12 at Henderson Field a few times in the late 1960s. “It was a non-event,” Dickenson recalls, although he remembers there was a big set of power lines pilots had to avoid.

In July 1945, Don Hendeson died in the crash of his small plane near the airfield. He was 37. His son, Don Henderson Jr., was 3-and-a-half when it happened. He says his father had taken off in the fog early one morning for Bakersfield when, for some reason, he decided to return to the airstrip. “He overshot the runway and ended up in the walnut grove, on fire,” says Henderson, now 74. “I often think about how my life would have been different if he hadn’t died that day.”

Henderson Field, which had gone public just six months before the crash, stayed in operation and even opened hangars and a waiting area — with restrooms — in 1949. Pilots landing at night remember being guided down by their wives, who would park at the end of the runway and shine the car lights. The airstrip closed around 1970 and was replaced by the Ojai Villa Mobile Estate, which is still in existence today.

Hardly anything remains of the old airfield, except a portion of the runway sticking through the dirt on the north side along Baldwin Road, and some cream-colored rocks. “Almost directly across the highway from AJ’s Express Chinese Food you will see several boulders. The boulders used to line the entrance to Henerson Field and the hangars,” say Drew Mashburn.

Other Ojai Airstrips
The Ojai Valley’s fondness for flying machines dates back to the earliest days of aviation. A 1929 aerial photograph shows a 1,500-foot airstrip near the “Y” intersection, where Vons is today. “It was removed around the time the Krotona Institute was built because the planes were taking off and landing right over people’s heads,” says Ojai historian David Mason. The Theosophical Society had purchased land south of the runway in 1924 in their move from Hollywood to Ojai.

Mason says a private airstrip on Rancho Cola near Lake Casitas may have been used in the filming of the 1950s TV series, “Sky King.” It was also used as a base for parachute jumpers. A landing strip in Rose Valley at Bodee’s Rancho Grande is shown on the 1991 USGS Lion Canyon quadrangle topographic map.

The Ojai area is also home to a number of heliports, including one that’s still in use at Help of Ojai’s West Campus on Baldwin Road — often referred to as “the old Honor Farm” by locals — plus several scattered throughout the backcountry that are utilized by fire, law enforcement and search and rescue crews. The late actor Larry Hagman had his private Majlar Heliport built on his estate atop Sulphur Mountain.

Crashes and Mishaps
When Ojai’s greatest benefactor, Edward Drummond Libbey, opened a new golf course and clubhouse in 1924, everyone wanted to check it out, including a Navy lieutenant who flew a military plane from San Diego to Ojai to see it for himself. “He circled the clubhouse a few times and then decided he would land on the fairway. But he nosedived into a sand trap and broke the propeller,” Mason says.

The damage to the aircraft took a couple of days to repair, and soon the pilot was airborne and on his way back to base, when again he had trouble. “He managed to take off from the green, and in doing so he hit the high wire running along Ojai Avenue, and it pulled the plane back down and he crashed again on the street, and broke the landing gear.”

Perhaps the most famous aviation mishap in the Ojai Valley was a product of Hollywood. Frank Capra’s 1937 movie, “Lost Horizon,” is based on the novel by James Hilton, who visited the valley in 1934 and exclaimed, “This is Shangri-La!” The plot follows a British diplomat and some civilians who crash land in the Himalayas. Some of the movie was filmed in the valley — although the Ojai footage reportedly ended up on the cutting room floor. However, the valley is still often referred to as Shangri-La.

In 1945, a USAAF pilot crashed his P-51D Mustang fighter plane into Nordhoff Peak, just below the fire lookout tower, while attempting an emergency landing in bad weather. Since the crash, debris from the wreck has been found scattered all over the mountain. In 1980, a U.S. Forest Service controlled burn in the area accidentally ignited unexploded ordnance from one of the aircraft’s high caliber machine guns, leaving the work crew wanting for flak jackets.

An aviation mishap in the Ojai backcountry in December 1949 had a much happier ending. Twenty-six-year-old Glendale pilot Robert Bryant disappeared on a flight from Glendale to San Francisco. He was found a week later, several miles from the wreckage of his small private plane on Topa Topa Peak, in upper Sespe Canyon. A ground party struggled through waist-deep snow to get to Bryant, who survived but suffered from serious injuries and exposure.

First Flight
Back at Henderson Field, Drew Mashburn’s family looked on as he boarded the plane for his first flight. “We started to get in the airplane and the pilot turned around, looked at us and said, ‘Hey, how much do you guys weigh?” Mashburn knew what the pilot was getting at — there had to be a weight limit. “There goes our ride, I thought,” he recalls.

In despair, the boys gave the man their weights. It was too much, but the pilot gave in. “He said, well, that’s a little over, but we’ll make it work.” They climbed in and off they went down the runway. “It’s good we didn’t spring the door in mid-air and fall out,” Mashburn chuckles.

At first, Mashburn thought the little airplane wasn’t going fast enough to get airborne. “It didn’t seem like we were moving very quick. I thought we were going to move a lot quicker. The wheels of this thing were going down into the chuckholes, and that’s probably the reason we couldn’t pick up any speed,” he says.

Bouncing down the narrow strip of oiled dirt, the aircraft passed the Mira Monte Market (now Rite-Aid). In those days, Mirror Lake was down at the far end of the runway, where Woodland Avenue is now. “And that thing kept getting closer and I kept thinking, man, we’re just gonna land in the lake. And at the very last second, up we went, and it was just stupendous. It was like no feeling I’d ever had in my life.”

Creek takes ranger’s home

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Sunday, February 12, 1978 edition of the “Ventura County Star Free Press.”

Creek takes ranger’s home

‘We just got out of there in time’

By Gregg Zoroya


“I know I’m not afraid of the river now. I was before. Before, it looked like it was something out of the Grand Canyon. It looked like the Colorado River,” said Drew Mashburn, 26, county ranger for the Matilija campground area.


“Before” was the early moments of Friday morning when Mashburn and his 24-year-old wife Gene-Marie were driven from their home alongside the swollen banks of the creek.

As they turned from the home, wet and cold, with belongings that consisted of little more than the clothes they were wearing and escaped to a neighbor’s house, the raging torrent of Matilija Creek broke out and engulfed most of their house at 2088 Matilija Canyon Road.

In the process of destroying the house, the waters swept away the Mashburn car, pickup and cab-over camper.

A weakened roadside on which their remaining vehicle was parked — a county car containing camera equipment and other family valuables — collapsed and dropped the car into the creek later that morning.

“We lost the front porch, we lost the front screened porch, we lost the kitchen, the dining room. We also lost the living room and the beautiful stone fireplace,” said Mashburn.

The house, remains of which sit precariously on the edge of the creek, is county property and was valued at $40,000 said Paul Lamp, county parks superintendent.

Besides the vehicles, the Mashburns lost much of their furniture — including everything from dining and bedroom sets to refrigerator, stove, television and stereo, and an antique victrola.

Mashburn declined to put a dollar estimate on the property that is gone, until his insurance company can estimate the damage. But he anticipates a loss of several thousand dollars.

Much of the furniture is still under payment, said Mashburn.

“It’s like paying for a dead horse.”

With the stream 100 feet from their house and behind a thick five-foot-high earthen dike, the Mashburns tried to get some sleep late Thursday night.

Mashburn planned to keep checking the creek bank through the night.

“It was my opinion, that it would eat away a little at a time, and if I saw it get ready to go through the dike I’d move my car up on the road,” he said.

“We had trouble sleeping because of the sound of the roaring river. It turned out that the reason it was so loud was because it was right against our door.”

The creek had broken the dike several hundred feet upstream, across from the Paul G. Robinson home at 3080 Matilija Canyon Road. This was at 11:30.

Mashburn later guessed that when the creek broke the dike it shifted its course further up the bank with the Mashburn home right in its path.

At about 12:30 a.m. the couple was aroused by the sound of water smashing up against the door facing the river bank.

“I opened the door and a foot of water came right into the house,” he said.

He slammed the door immediately, “and it just flashed through my mind: This can’t be happening to me.”

In the instant the door had been opened he had seen a mass of water up along the side of the house and two of his three vehicles beginning to lean down into the water over a widening river bank. Other pieces of equipment that he knew had been there were already gone.

“As wild as it was,” said Mrs. Mashburn, “we just got out of there in time.”

They gathered what valuables they could, a traveling bag full of clothes, their two cats and their two dogs and waded up to Matilija Canyon Road, about 25 feet above and behind their house. Mashburn managed to drive one car out.

“I fell in the water and he was dragging me through it to get out,” said Mrs. Mashburn. “It was just awful.”

“I figured the first thing we should do is get up on the road. I figured it would be safe there,” Mashburn said.

It was, for the time being. They drove up the road to the home of John Steen, 2346 Matilija Canyon Road, where they spent a nervous, sleepless night.

But the water wasn’t through with them. The next morning, Mashburn drove back toward his home and parked the car on the shoulder in order to walk past two washed-out areas of Matilija Canyon Road. While he was probing the ruins of his home, a friend came running to tell him that the shoulder of road holding his car had given way and that Mashburn had lost the county car as well.

His wife was evacuated out by sheriff’s helicopter Friday afternoon along with other canyon residents.

Mrs. Mashburn recalled returning to the house Saturday morning.

“I didn’t cry until I saw the house that morning.”

“It is very doubtful that we would restore it (the house),” said Parks Superintendent Lamp.

“And if we did it would be another five years before we attempt it.”

Mashburn must find another home.


Daniel Jensen, left, and Jeff Jones, both of Ojai, and Ranger Drew Mashburn, gesturing, stand where Mashburn’s kitchen was before Matilija Creek swept through his home; his wife, Gene-Marie, is in the background
A car belonging to parks ranger Drew Mashburn lies stranded after storm waters that washed it downstream in Matilija Creek.