Chariot races were exciting events

The following article first appeared in the “Ojai Valley News”. The exact date is unknown, but its author, Ed Wenig, wrote a regular history column for that newspaper in the 1970’s. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the “Ojai Valley News”.

Chariot races were exciting events
by
Ed Wenig


“One of the outstanding incidents of the (Ventura County) fair was the winning of the chariot race by Tom Clark of Ojai in the world’s record time of 52 seconds. Tom claims that, knowing he had the race well in hand, he held his horses up. If he had chosen to let them go his time would have been somewhere around 51 seconds.”

This was the exultant report in THE OJAI on September 24, 1926. The colorful county supervisor for the Ojai district had once again distinguished himself in the field of horsemanship. This time his achievement was significant enough to warrant a special article in the Boston Globe, which told of the new world record.

In those days chariot races were truly exciting events. The drivers were garbed in ancient Roman costumes, and the chariots, patterned after the ones used in the Colosseum of Rome, rattled magnificently by on their wooden wheels.

Stage Coach Driver
Tom Clark, whether dressed in a Roman toga or in conventional modern attire, was always a colorful personality. As a teenager he had become a driver of stage coaches between Ventura, Ojai, and Santa Barbara. To the fashionable winter patrons of the Foothills Hotel the ride in his stagecoach from railroad station of Santa Barbara or Ventura was a much-anticipated event.

Many were the holiday expeditions piloted by Tom Clark. No matter how tortuous the road or how many streams there were to be forded, no one ever had the slightest doubt that Tom Clark would be in complete control of his horses and stagecoach. His livery stable at the corner of Signal Street and Ojai Avenue was the starting point of many trips both by stagecoach and horseback throughout Southern California.

His daughter, Elizabeth, now living in Santa Ana, recalls the joyous expedition of her Nordhoff High School graduating class to Wheeler’s Hot Springs. Two tallyhos were employed, one driven by her father, and one by her uncle, William Clark. The road was so winding that often the lead horses could not be seen by the passengers as they turned the corners. She recalls that at a moment of great excitement came when a Stanley Steamer approached on a blind curve, and it required all the skill of the drivers to keep their horses from bolting at the encounter.

THOMAS S. CLARK 1865 – 1940
Ready to race is Tom Clark.