Memories of times before freeways recall life as simple, safe

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, May 17, 1995 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page A-8. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author, Lee Strohbehn, was a longtime dentist with a practice in the Ojai Valley. The photo of Dr. Storhbehn was added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

The Golden Years
Memories of times before freeways recall life as simple, safe
by
Lee Strohbehn

Before freeways, was it only the exuberance and vitality of spirit of young parents that drew us to downtown L.A.?

Some of the fondest memories I have are those when my wife and I took our family to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. How well I remember Richard Kiley and the Man of La Mancha at the Mark Taper Forum and Ingrid Bergman at the Amanson Theatre.

And the concerts — we were there to see Zubin Meta conduct and to hear the L.A. Phiharmonic. And afterward to take the family to dinner right there at the Music Center, or to a favorite, Edwards Steak House on Alvarado St.

Let’s do lunch
And then there were trips to the Hollywood Bowl. What a delight, to take a lunch and sit high up under the stars to listen to programs which, as a farm-bred Iowa boy, I never thought I or my family could be part.

As parents, we had a feeling of fulfillment to realize that our three children enjoyed these experiences as much as we did and that we could provide them.

Life was affordable
Admission prices at that time seemed affordable. Nor did I have the feeling the environment was unsafe, or that the drive home late at night was an ordeal.

How times change! How could I afford those adventures now for five people?

And if Edwards Steak House were still there, I wouldn’t dare take my family to a restaurant on Alvarado. Somehow to drive the freeways, especially at night, is daunting to me now.

As our family grew older and we began to rely more on local entertainment events, Frank Salazar came along and the Ventura County Symphony orchestra was born. We subscribed immediately as charter members.

How delightful it was to recognize Ojai’s Frank Roller and his violin, Dorothea Walker and her cello, and Lavonne Theriault and her drums down there among all the other Ventura County musicians. We truly felt linked to beautiful programs.

I’m one of those untalented people who knows nothing about music but enjoys it endlessly. There are times when I lose myself, when I’m oblivious to everything around me and I feel one with a composer who has struck the chords I like. I cherish those moments.

Oldies missed
I confess that I was confused when Maestro Salazar left the orchestra. I had, in a sense, matured with him musically and I must say I miss him. I understand there has been a parallel experience for those audiences who have been attending performances of the Conejo Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Now those two orchestras are undergoing further transition. The apparent objective of those behind the podiums is to produce a “World Class” orchestra by combining talent and weeding out those who do not perform to and exclusive standard. I have heard that they hope to attract excellence from outside the area.

My limited knowledge of music doesn’t allow me to discriminate the finer levels of quality. I always enjoyed Frank Roller’s violin but I seriously doubt that his talent would have allowed him to survive the judgments that must be made to seat one orchestra instead of two in Ventura County.

I love Ojai’s summer band concerts on Wednesday nights in Libbey Park. I like the sound and revel in the incomparable social ambiance.

Memories linger
I used to feel something akin to that when the Ventura County Symphony was young, especially when I could bond with Roller’s violin. Although Frank isn’t with us now, his memory still lingers and epitomizes a homegrown spirit I miss in the Orchestra.

“World Class,” if it means change in community participation, simply doesn’t mean that much to me. I’m sorry to see the Ventura County Symphony Orchestra elevated to a class conscious status beyond my ability to enjoy or afford.

Lee Strohbehn

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