Early Stories of Ojai, Part VII (Downtown Nordhoff) by Howard Bald
Written in 1972 by longtime Ojai resident Howard Bald.
Nordhoff (now Ojai) has generally been described as a quiet, peaceful little place, and generally it was. Several oak trees strung along Main Street from Tom Clarkâ€™s livery stable [Ojai Village Pharmacy] to Schroffâ€™s harness shop [Ojai Cleaners] furnished the only shade, for there was no arcade until 1917.
There were three gaps in the row of buildings on the north side of Main Street. One was between Lagomarsinoâ€™s saloon and Archie McDonaldâ€™s blacksmith shop at the east end of the business block [the Hub], and Barrowâ€™s hardware store stood alone. There was an alley on both the east and west side of that building, which I think was the site of the present hardware store [Rains].
The east alley was used by pedestrians. I think the board sidewalk prevented vehicles going through. But the sidewalk ended at the west corner of Barrowâ€™s hardware, so that alley was quite generally used by horsemen as well as pedestrians.
West of that alley was Brayâ€™s plumbing shop, and from there on to Signal street was the livery stable with its buggy sheds, corrals, and hay sheds. West of Signal on the site of the Oaks Hotel stood a small, whitewashed, clapboard building where Chet Cagnacci was born at the turn of the century and later, I believe, Tommie Clark.
Across the street about the site of Van Dykeâ€™s Travel Agency [Library Book Store] stood Dave Raddickâ€™s
residence, then easterly a break then the meat market [The Jester]. On the southwest corner of Signal and Main was â€œThe Ojaiâ€ newspaper printing office where the theater now stands and easterly across the street, where the present post office is located, was Charley Gibsonâ€™s blacksmith shop. There was a gap between the blacksmith shop and Lauch Ortonâ€™s plumbing shop, the barber shop and post office. Through that gap could be seen the Berry Villa, which is now the Post office employee parking place.
A little distance east of the post office, briefly, stood C.B. Stevens little grocery store, then the entrance and exit to the Ojai Inn, which is now our city park. A leaky, redwood horse trough and a hitch rail extended onto the barranca. It was always shady, and teams of horses and buggies were customarily tied there while the out of town folks did their shopping.
I once had a Plymouth Rock hen who would bring her brood through the alley between the saloon and blacksmith shop to scratch around where the horses were tied. Sometimes she would miscalculate and be overtaken by darkness, so hen and chicks would simply fly up on a vacant spot on the hitch rail and settle down for the night. Our stable and chicken coop was just back of Dr. Hirschâ€™s office [Dr. Phelps], and more than once at about bedtime, I would carry them back to their own nest.
Schroffâ€™s harness shop east of the barranca stood high enough from the ground that one could step from a saddle horse onto the porch, which was convenient for ladies riding sidesaddle to dismount and mount.
The corner of South Montgomery and Main was open and was used mainly by Thacher boys to tie their
horses while attending services at the Presbyterian church, which then stood where [Jersey Mikeâ€™s] parking lot now is. That building is now the Nazarene Church [Byron Katieâ€™s headquarters] on N. Montgomery and Aliso.
I could go on and on and on with details of the village of Nordhoff at the turn of the century, but I fear that would become too boring, so I will get on with some of my memories of the activities of the time.