A Serene Space for Experiencing Art

This article by Anca Colbert was originally published in the Ojai Valley Guide Magazine – Summer 2019 issue. Colbert is an art adviser, curator, writer, and long-time resident of Ojai. It is published here with Colbert’s permission.  ©2019 Anca Colbert – All Rights Reserved. 

canvas and paper                  photo©Stefan Roth

People walking into canvas and paper are in for a surprise.

The approach is slow.

From the outside, one friend thought it was an art supply or a stationery store. Another, a framing shop. The name is simple and it can lead to various interpretations. Spelled in white lower-case letters on a square, grey sign, the name is clearly visible from the street.

Located on Montgomery Street a couple of blocks north of Ojai Avenue, this small California bungalow house looks renovated and appealing. Soft greys, white trims. Two large, square windows flank the entrance. A flagstone path carves its way through a sea of pea gravel, leading to the front door.

So, past the two olive trees, left and right of the paved walkway, you arrive at the front door, which is wide open. You enter into a spacious room, softly lit. You feel you’re about to discover something different.

Indeed, you are.

There are three art works on display. Only three: one on the left wall; one on the right wall; one on the back wall facing the entrance, each identified by the tiniest possible numbered marker, or a small label. The space is deceptively, purposely simple; quiet; spare, but inviting. Natural, filtered light mixes with recessed gallery spots to create an ideal environment for viewing artworks. A sense of warmth and serenity gently embraces the visitor.

The color of the paint on the wall is a light, warm grey, almost white; an ideal choice for showing art. Georgia O’Keeffe’s biography mentions the keen attention she dedicated to choosing the right color for the walls of Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery in New York, and for her own studio: “a neutral grey, a tone that was best for thinking visually.” The color of the wall behind artworks is a serious matter for any art professional. In some circles, it is the subject of endless debate and subtle considerations. The muted tones of the oak wood floor mix light shades of greys with blues and earthy neutrals, adding to the serenity of this visual oasis.

In the center of the space, under six recessed skylights, is a round, soft grey ottoman sofa: the proverbial Circle in the Square concept embodied in this design. Here is a fine place to sit and slowly look at art, if one wants to. Or, just to sit.

In the window alcove, to the right of the entrance, a stylish young woman sits behind an elegant wooden desk with her MacBook, fresh flowers in a small vase, a guest book, and a one-sheet of information about the works on display.

There are no prices listed as the works are not for sale. But for those curious to learn more about the artists or their work, a short bibliography is provided on the verso of the list. She (Alex Jones) welcomes you to take a sheet, if you wish. She will fully engage in conversation and offer information, if you wish. You can talk. Or not.

canvas and paper – “Giacometti: portraits on paper” installation                  Photo©Stefan roth

Is this an art gallery?

It could be. But there are no openings, no parties, and the art is not for sale.

Is this an art museum? Yes, it is, but one with a twist.

What exactly is it then?

It is a gift. A surprising, enigmatic, generous gift from an art-loving Ojai resident to this town renowned for its art-loving artists, residents and visitors. The space is open and free to visit, Thursday to Sunday afternoons.

The website simply states: “canvas and paper is an exhibition space showing paintings and drawings from the 20th century and earlier in thematic and single artist exhibits.”

The first exhibit opened in October 2018, and showcased landscape paintings by modernist British artist Ivon Hitchens. The website documents this and every subsequent exhibit, facilitating online visits.

It was followed by paintings from the 1950s representing three key painters of the Bauhaus and abstract movements: Josef Albers, John McLaughlin and Max Bill. As a group, their works created a palpable, vibrational effect in the space. One could feel the desire to look and to be in a quiet state of mind, inclined to contemplation and meditation. Quoting Josef Albers: “I am interested particularly in the psychic effect-aesthetic experience caused by the interaction of colors.”

The third show offers “portraits on paper” by Alberto Giacometti. Three pencil on paper drawings of three writers – James Lord (Giacometti’s biographer and friend), Jean Stein (author, editor and oral historian) and Jean Genet (French novelist and playwright) – focus on a lesser known aspect of the famous sculptor’s talent. Rather small in size, their presence nonetheless fills the space with a strong evocation of these significant writers and their exceptional lives.

The next show unveils three still life paintings by Jacob Van Hulsdonck (17th century Flemish), and French modern masters André Derain and Georges Braque. It runs from June 27 to September 1.

Josef Albers (German-American) 1888 – 1976 Variant: “With First Green” 1947-1955 – oil on masonite
© 2019 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Every three months a new group of three works appears, carefully selected by the man behind this project, Neil Kreitman. The art shown at canvas and paper comes from a collection of paintings and drawings assembled by him in recent years.

Born and educated in London, Neil traveled widely and lived in several countries, including years in Greece. He spent twenty years in Los Angeles. As for Ojai, he first lived in the valley between 1988 and 1992, before coming back to settle here in 2010. A quiet man, he speaks softly and slowly, fully engaged as he listens to the visitors.

Growing up Neil was exposed to art collecting by his parents, whose interest was primarily in mid-century modernist British artists. His own earlier interests drew him to South Asian art, mostly of Buddhist inspiration. More recently he re-discovered 20th Century British, American and Western European artists.

What prompted him to create this space?

His lifelong love of art combined with a sincere motivation.

Simply stated: The idea of sharing beautiful things with other people in a beautiful place, with the hope that it will resonate with them. The pleasure of seeing the space evolve as an expression of an idea.” His wish was to create “a space which allows the viewer to feel with no expectations, but the intention is to tell a small part of the bigger story.” Like its architecture and its gardens, this art space is a book open for interpretation.

It took two years for Neil to turn his vision into reality, transforming the property into its current incarnation. He credits the process and its result to four people closely involved with him in the creation of the space: “The architect on the project was Jane Carroll, the garden was designed by my partner Sarah Munster, Kerry Miller was the contractor, and the floor was made by Mike Bennett. It was a collaborative endeavor and it involved a lot of dialogue.”

Rear garden with fountain – photo©2019 Stefan Roth

There are infinite ways to discover art and to experience it. From the emotional to the esthetic, the connection to art covers the rich range of human perception.

Here, at canvas and paper, the space has been carefully designed to allow freedom for a close look at art. The environment engages the viewer in a singular, intimate relationship with the artwork and its maker. Go into the garden. Walk around slowly. It is a serene place for meditation.

Time stands still around here. If you allow it. So does the mind. Let the eyes be quiet, to look and to see.

In art as in music, significance is defined by what is present and/or absent, by what’s there and what’s not; we feel the difference and savor this rare experience whose meaning is shaped by its context.

In the increasingly fast paced, noisy environment of most contemporary art galleries, fairs and even museums, visitors crowd the venues and spent on average 20 seconds with any one work. There are expectations and demands as one enters these places, the traditional and ever more popular temples for art devotees: to look; to learn; to move; to comment; to buy; to take pictures and selfies and share them, fast. The noise and the movement replace the experience itself.

Not surprisingly, a contrarian trend has developed in recent years: the “slow art” movement.

Slow Art Day is “a global event with a simple mission: help more people discover for themselves the joy of looking at and loving art.” An annual event held in April, there were 175 “slow art day” venues around the world in 2019, most of them in museums. The formats vary, but “what all the events share is the focus on slow looking and its transformative power.”

What a surprise to find in our own town a space for experiencing art in an intimate setting, free of noise, demands and expectations, a calm place where we can enjoy a slower pace for contemplation, for spending five to ten minutes or more looking at one single artwork floating on an entire wall. Facilitating an authentic engagement in a tête-à-tête with art – and with oneself – is a rare occurrence. It makes for a refined art experience. Democratic, yes. Banal, no. Intimidating, it could be. Privileged, yes. Demanding, yes and no. Depends on what each person makes of it.

canvas and paper holds a delicate balance, a delicious line undulating between simplicity and complexity.

Step inside. Take time to look, observe and feel: you may be surprised by what develops.

Neil Kreitman photo ©2019 Norman Clayton
Back wall: Alberto Giacometti’s “Portrait of Jean Stein” – 1962, pencil drawing

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

The following article first appeared in the Friday, November 24, 1916 edition of “THE OJAI” on the front page. The author is unknown. This was written before the town name changed from “Nordhoff” to “Ojai.”  The photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

Landscape gardener F. C. Fassel, on the annual payroll of Mr. E. D. Libbey, is now grading the vacant lot between the Ojai State Bank and the Boyd Club, which within a year will be styled the “Garden of Rose,” which in beauty will outrival Eden — perhaps — with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve looking in instead of looking out.

Edward Drummond Libbey

The ground is to be artistically embellished for the reception of all the more popular and beautiful varieties of rose bushes. All of the fine specimens so carefully nurtured by custodian Achelpohl of the Club will be transplanted in the plot, without retarding their bloom. This beauty spot will serve to add to the power of the magnet that will surely attract outsiders to the Ojai valley, adding still greater charm to Nordhoff’s civic center.

It is to be regretted that the wheels of the vehicle of progress shattered and tore out the great trailing rose bush at the corner of Clark’s deposed livery barn. In full bloom, with the rich colorings gleaming from the lower and upper branches of a live oak that served as a trellis, it was the marvel of all the tourists and the pride of the valley. It, however, still survives to bloom perpetually in thousands of “snap shots” by the ladies and knights of the Camera.

But there is some recompense for its loss. A handsome garage, built of moss covered native rock and tile adornments, is nearing completion on the corner, which furnishes an attraction less dainty, but more useful.

Clark’s Auto Livery (circa 1920). Note rock wall of building at left of photo.

The new post office building of hollow tile construction, with its massive tower, is now going up. The memorial fountain, after being torn down, is assuming its former shape in a position four feet further back from the street.

The Arcade is just completed and work has commenced on the Post Office Tower, 1917. The tower is at the left of the photo. (David Mason collection)

The park wall and pergola is lining up handsomely.

Colorized post card of the pergola with fountain. The park’s name was changed from “Civic Center Park” to “Libbey Park”.

The big park is taking on more beauty daily, and the million gallon reservoir is nearly completed.

Volunteer team is dedicated to helping Valley neighbors

The following article first appeared in the Ojai Valley News on Wednesday, October 21, 1992. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Volunteer team is dedicated to helping Valley neighbors
by
CANDACE LAWSON
OJAI VALLEY NEWS

Drew Mashburn, Carl Hofmeister, and Jim Wright are members of the Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team. The team’s 18 members are dedicated to helping their neighbors and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Since the 1950’s, Upper Ojai rancher Carl Hofmeister and a group of Valley volunteers have worked as partners with the Sheriff’s Department in an important capacity — as a trained search and rescue team that regularly finds lost hikers, saves victims of hard to reach accidents, and plucks drowning or stranded people from raging rivers or flood waters.

Hofmeister, a man of few, but well chosen, words only smiles and shakes his head when you ask him how long he’s been doing this kind of thing. Hofmeister organized the group “many years ago,” even before the Sheriff’s Department became involved, to help his fellow Valley residents. The Valley was less populated and more isolated at that time.

“If someone gets hurt, you can’t run off and leave them, you have to help them. It gets in your blood,” Hofmeister, the Captain of the Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team said.

Today the team is officially organized through the Sheriff’s Department, who supplies them with rescue equipment, including two trucks kept at Hofmeister’s Upper Ojai ranch, and monthly training.

The 18-member team is called in by the Sheriff’s Department when special rescue skills are required. Some examples of their work include being called if a car is over the side of a mountain road, if an organized search is required to find a lost or injured hiker, if a victim or body must be recovered and transported out of a remote location, either by helicopter or overland, or if a plane wreck must be located.

The Upper Ojai team is one of four in the county. Other squads include the Fillmore, East Valley and Dive teams. The Upper Ojai team is traditionally the busiest, with the Los Padres mountains close by. Hofmeister says the team can get called up as often as two or three times each month. But in slower times, for instance during the summer, calls can be fewer and further between.

Members’ training includes CPR and first aid. Some of the members, who come from all walks of life including ranchers, optometrists, attorneys, and county parks employees, are trained as emergency medical technicians.

But they all receive special training — from how to tie a proper knot to rigging pulley systems to lift someone out of a tight situation.

Drew Mashburn has been on the team for just over a year, and has been impressed with how much there is to learn. He says he’s just now getting more comfortable with his training and skills.

Mashburn said the team’s most common rescue results from people just not being prepared when they go out into the wilderness.

“Many times people bring these things on themselves. They don’t let people know where they are going, and they don’t wear proper clothing and get caught in inclement weather,” Mashburn said. “Even in Ojai in August, you should bring a windbreaker when you go hiking — you never know when you could fall and break a leg and get stuck overnight in bad weather.”

Many people don’t even realize the team exists, or that it’s a strictly volunteer enterprise, Mashburn said. But the team is now seeking community support so they can make an important capital purchase — beepers to notify members when they need to assemble for an emergency response.

“We are trying to upgrade our unit, and one of our biggest problems is slow response time,” Jim Wright, a 23-year veteran of the team said.

“When we have an emergency, the Sheriff’s department calls Carl, and then he goes through the phone list and calls everyone else. Than can take 20 or 30 minutes, but if we had pagers that went off we could respond immediately,” Wright said.

The pagers have been priced at about $2,500. And to help raise the funds in these days of tight county budgets, the Search and Rescue Team is hosting a benefit barbeque at the Upper Ojai’s Summit School this Saturday.

The $12 donation gets you top-sirloin steak with a soda and all the trimmings. Children under 12 will be served hot dogs and hamburgers free of charge.

For tickets and information call 646-2496 or 525-7943.

Optimists honor 25 Nordhoff students

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, November 12, 1967 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on the front page. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

Optimists honor 25 Nordhoff students

The Ojai Valley Optimist Club’s “Youth Appreciation Week” will be held Monday through Sunday, Nov. 13-19. Highlight of the week is “Youth in Community Day,” when 25 students from Nordhoff High school participate in the work day of 25 local businessmen.

Students and sponsors are scheduled for a 7 a.m. breakfast Thursday at the Oaks Restaurant, according to Optimist President Bob Music.

The Optimist Club will present two outstanding community service awards: one to Roger Armstrong, an Eagle Scout who was instrumental in collecting needed items for fire-fighters during the recent Santa Paula fire; the other to Elizabeth Jones, a senior at Nordhoff high school who has contributed 190 hours of work as a volunteer of the Junior Red Cross. The awards are among the highest given by the Optimist club.

Rev. Theodore R. Little of the Ojai Presbyterian Church will give the invocation at the Nov. 16 breakfast, after greetings from President Music. The master of ceremonies will either be Dale Holt or Rev. Little.

Dr. Pat Rooney will give the keynote talk, followed by the community service awards presentation and introduction of students and their sponsors. Participation certificates will also be given at this time. Chairman of the event Bob Smith will give the closing words of thanks.

After the breakfast, the students will pair off with their sponsors and work with them at their professions until 2:30 p.m. that day.

Sponsors and students participating in “Youth in Community Day” are: Ojai mayor and David Keitges; city administrator and Byron Barnes; chief of police and Pat Harwell; recreation director and Karen Bunch; Oak View fire station, Allen Ormsby; Meiners Oaks fire station, Rod Davis; U.S. Forest Service, Terry Hanrahan; Ventura River Municipal Water District, Frank Carlson; U.S. Post Office, Beverly Fox; Presidio Savings, Jeni McKinney; Channel Islands Bank, Karen DeSautelle; Soule Park, Greg Stafford; Ojai Hospital, Nancy Branch; Price Realty, Ron Brandolino; Ojai Valley News, Kathy Magill and Merideth Morrison; Neilson and Co., Jim Flanagan; Rexall Pharmacy, Danny McKinney; Safeway, Jim Blymer; Roberts Shoes, Annette Hanson; Oaks Hotel, Carolyn Cloar; Rains Dept. Store, Marie Goudy, and county supervisor, John Hubbard.

YOUTH APPRECIATION WEEK — Some of the students participating in the Ojai Valley Optimists Club’s “Youth in Community Day” to be held Thursday are: (first row, from left) Karen Bunch, Jenni McKinney, Beverly Fox, Annette Hansen, Dan McKinney, Frank Carlson. (Second row ) Nancy Branch, Kathy Magill, Terry Hanrahan, Jim Cox. (Third row) Dave Keitges, Pat Harwell, Jim Flanagan, John Hubbard, Greg Stafford, Ron Brandolino. (Back row) Dale Holt of the Optimist Club, Jim Blymyer, Byron Barnes, and instructor Paul Labute. (News photo)

The 35-member local Optimist club put the final touches on “Youth Appreciation Week” during their Thursday breakfast meeting at the Boots and Saddle restaurant. President Music said that the County Board of Supervisors has issued a proclamation for the national youth week, and that the Ojai City Council will also issue a proclamation when the councilmen meet Monday in City Hall.

Our only protection is thru long range planning

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, December 6, 1967 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page D-6. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

EDITORIAL by Fred Volz

Our only protection is thru long range planning

Twenty years ago after World War II only the most far-sighted cities in California envisioned what would happen to them.

First, they took to heart the population predictions of the experts, predictions which estimated 30,000 people a day would migrate to California in the ’60’s.

Second, these imaginative communities began to make long range plans for doubled, tripled populations. Many enacted the first master plans so new developers would be forced to adhere to more than nebulous “guidelines”, or to the wishes of a current planning commission. Now, these areas have become the model communities of California, where property values are high because they are the preferred places to live. It was all done through long range planning.

Other communities couldn’t see the need for long range planning and dealt only with problems when they were pressed by developers. San Diego, for example, is still squabbling over whether it should enact a master plan. We hardly see whether it would make any difference; San Diego has been raped by uninhibited development and only massive, expensive urban renewal can salvage what’s left.

It was so easy for communities just to coast along 20 years ago (just like Ojai is now). There seemed to be enough room for everybody. Land was cheap, autos one to the family, and the vistas of the Great West beckoned to all. If a man wanted to put a gas station across from the post office, why not — the lot was obviously “commercial” and just sitting there.

Twenty years later we can see the end — there is just so much land. The frontier is gone. This is easy to see in the Ojai Valley, bounded by high mountains on three sides and the ocean on the other. Unless long range plans are made now to protect the semi-rural environment of the valley, the citrus groves and ranches will be overwhelmed and the valley will become another San Fernando.

Even in Ojai, at a time in our history when the most unperceptive resident should know better, there’s a persistent notion that a man who owns property has the “right” to develop his land any way he chooses. Not only that, but he has the “right” to do so without the government interfering, or any planning commission telling him the rules of the game.

This hangover from the Frontier came into the open recently in, of all places, the county planning commission when it was considering a golf course development which curiously had a trailer park at its entrance. The county planning staff wanted extra time to draw up long range plans for the Lake Casitas watershed, surely one of the most beautiful, unspoiled areas left in Southern California. The majority of the commission became impatient with the staff. “Why these people want to put in trailers immediately,” was the commission consensus. (We’ll bet that the developers don’t turn a shovelful of dirt in five years. They just wanted the zoning.)

Think of the valley. Think of the millions of dollars in beautiful homes, ranches, citrus groves. Think of the thousands of modest homes that represent the largest single investment of their owners.

We believe these people have rights — and joined together they represent the rights of the community. They have the right to expect from their government some guarantee of protection.

Protection of what? Why, protection of the semi-rural beauty of the Ojai Valley — the very reason people wanted to live here and invest here. Make another vast tract out of the valley and you’ve destroyed the prime value of our community.

That’s why long range planning — right now — is essential. Without it, the population explosion will destroy our environment, just as it did in countless cities who didn’t plan ahead.

We the people who live here have “rights” and it is perfectly in order for us to ask local government bodies for protection of our environment.

There is no other guarantee of protection than long range planning.

Fred Volz — Publisher and editor of the Ojai Valley News from 1962 to 1987. (Courtesy of Ojai Valley News)

Less talk about hippies; more talk about change

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, November 1, 1967 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page D-6. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. PLEASE NOTE: Nick Robertson wrote the article when he was only a Senior in high school.  The photo of Robertson was added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.  

Less talk about hippies; more talk about change
by Nick Robertson
Happy Valley Senior

A “church in change” is a phrase which might draw a strong reaction from both those who think it is perfected and those who think it incapable of facing change. But to a majority of people, it is probably one of the greatest blessings to come from the institutionalized church for a long time.

There are many, myself included, that think that a religious and moral institution should lead the way for social reform, not fight it. There are, of course, arguments which slow the more impatient of us down to a walk: namely, that the church should consider social change carefully before either opposing or supporting it.

What an institution cannot afford to do is avoid facing social changes, and with this in mind, the United Presbyterian Church of So. Calif. sponsored a conference on Theonetics (a catchy, expressive and convenient if undenfinable word) with the subject “Under 21 in California.”

Aside from the word, which sounds much more active than theology, the subject is particularly attractive to someone under 21 in California. It was, as a matter of fact, even more attractive when I found I could be subsidized by the conference if I went as a “conversation starter”: one of the few times I have ever heard the axiom that children should be seen and not heard put to better disuse.

The idea of having a host of youths at the conference was necessary, not only because of the topic, but because over half of the speakers were well over 21 anyway (it was decided that 21 really meant nothing and it was youth that was being discussed). The formal parts of the meeting tended to be discussing youths rather than discussing with them.

As I have an admitted bias to being discussed rather than heard from, I think that I will speak primarily about being heard from.

Hippy topic

The hippies, whoever they may be at the moment, were the predominant topic of discussion for the first two days.  It seemed to me that most of the people attending were unduly hung up on long hair and acid, and the program scheduled two speakers on the hippies.  The first was the editor of a Los Angeles underground newspaper, “The Oracle”, and in keeping with the spirit of the times, he was well over 40.  The second speaker did not show up for some reason, and by the second day it struck me as good luck that the emphasis (we youths had discussed threatening a walk-out unless emphasis was taken from the hippies) was shifted.

The first evening featured three young speakers under the heading of “Youth in Action”. They were all participants in some sort of social welfare program (Inner City, VISTA, and a function of the Presbyterian church called Caravaning). The church establishment came under a certain amount of fire from all of them, as the church is bound to. The message: do something!

I think that as far as I was concerned the most impressive speaker of the entire affair was introduced as “The Minority Youth.” He was Johnny Scott, a product of Budd Schulberg’s writer’s studio in Watts, and one of the most eloquent voices to come out of the ghetto (some of his poems appeared in both the L.A. Times and Time Magazine). Scott, a student at Stanford, spoke stirringly about the plight of the black man in a lily-white America. Being predisposed to such talks, anyway, for I feel that most of us WASPS (White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestants) have created a lot of our own problems, and having the guilty conscience of the typical white liberal, I don’t think anyone left the conference not duly impressed and saddened by the demand, not plea, for understanding of a black youth.

More discussion

The entire set-up of such an event makes it possible for all in attendance to either take or leave the insights presented as well as enrich them by informal conversations.  It is only fair to admit that I approached the hall with somewhat the attitude of an extremely angry (and extremely) young man, and I think that hard-headed , angry revolutionists pale after a brief exposure.  Were it mine, I would keep more time unstructured:  I felt that the talks provided a tremendous stimulus, but a stimulus that could have been matured better by more freewheeling discussion.  Our table talks were probably as important to all involved as any other single part of the conference, though I could have relaxed a little more at them.

One decided hang-up most young people attended with was the idea of communicating for result. We are an impatient breed. While we speak of the necessity of communication rather incessantly, there is, so to speak, method to our madness. Most went not with the idea of learning so much as to prod, to force a confrontation on the church, speed up a committee or two, and get what many young people in the church feel is a necessary involvement out of their congregation.

While adolescents are almost by definition a state of change, the church has often been a leader in social reaction, and it seems that there is now a tremendous impatience within the younger membership of the church that now demands action and acceptance of change.

But when one can obtain enough objectivity, it is seen to be a creative, worthwhile, and effective means of dealing with a problem (assuming that a younger generation is a problem). Perhaps we can attribute the tremendous concern for the younger generation to the long-haired, barefoot element. We beat the “seen but not heard” axiom by looking fully as obnoxious as we sound.

Ojai resident Nick Robertson when he was around 14 years old.

Marijuana more than a drug; it’s a symbol

The following article fist appeared in the Wednesday, May 31, 1967 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page D-6. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. Nick Robertson wrote the article when he was only a Junior at Happy Valley School.  The photo of Robertson was placed into this article by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

Marijuana more than a drug; it’s a symbol
by
Nick Robertson
Happy Valley Junior

Probably one of the most pressing problems for many people today is the question of juvenile use of drugs. Question, perhaps, is not exatly what it is though: thus far, one group has been determined to stop people from smoking marijuana and the other group has been hell-bent of getting high without getting caught. Both groups, as a matter of fact, are too busy to bother to learn anything about marijuana itself, or the other group.

At the moment, marijuana is more than just an intoxicant. For the mainstream of America, it is long hair, beards, cacophonic music, and “dropping out.” For the “hippies” and the other youth cults (call them what you will: fads, movements, games, cults. Who knows?) it is a heavy club to hold over mainstream America, somewhat comparable to a Masonic handshake or some other symbol of a closed society.

As far as I am concerned, it is a rather selfish cause, but highly understandable. To many people, middle class America is represented as much by alcohol as the hippies are by drugs, and a rebellion against middle class America is not only understandable but highly logical to youth.

But I’m straying from my end: It is time for a reevaluation of our laws concerning marijuana on one hand and a reevaluation of the use of marijuana on the other.

Its history

Let’s begin at the beginning: marijuana is the name we have for the leaves of the plant cannabis sativa meant to be smoked. The plant, also known as Indian hemp, was at one time used for rope. Hashish, a specially prepared form of the plant which looks somewhat like sen-sen, takes it name from the same root as assassin: disciples of Hassan Ben Sabah, “The Old Man of the Mountain,” who started a terrorist organization working from the mountains of Persio, got “high” before they were sent out to murder assorted people. Thus, hashish, “the gift of Hassen.”

The drug is common in the Middle East, where the Muslim religion prohibits drinking. Apparently, there is little or no problem of addiction in the hashish dens more spectacular than their equivalent of barflies.

The problem does not begin until one comes into possession of marijuana in the United States. According to the 1965 edition of Compton’s Encyclopedia, one is arrested for failing to pay the tax on marijuana (this is the federal law, bear in mind: probably designed to make the FBI eligible for work in narcotics control), or for selling narcotics without license, if sale is the charge. Though I do not know exactly what would happen were one to ask for a tax stamp, there are also state laws (though in Colorado, the charge of marijuana possession is a misdemeanor only) which make it illegal.

Effects

The effects of marijuana have been variously described as amazingly similar to alcohol (they are in essence the same, after all), an opening of doors in the mind, and even as a temporary form of paranoia. It is non-addictive, and as to charges that it leads to addiction, they have been answered by saying that this is society-induced and legalization could correct it.

Many people find absolutely no hostility when under the influence of the drug, but law enforcement agents say that someone may become dangerous when under the influence of some form of marijuana. It is said that marijuana leads to addiction, and some would even consider the drug addictive.

The numbers of people knowing, or having heard, both sides to the story is extremely small. As a matter of fact, most people are rather ignorant about the subject, yet would cheer when users are arrested simply because they are breaking the law.

The police, of course, recognize the ignorance and apathy get nowhere, and have begun programs of education for youths, parents, and teachers.

This is a step in the right direction, but with one foot only. Is there any reason why parents shouldn’t talk to some users, too? Is there an way the police could talk to the users?

Whether all this is possible is indeed a question, but I fail to see how the best interests of all can be served unless both sides are shown in a fair and just light. Of course, if indiscriminate arrest or constant use are in the best interests of all, I stand corrected. But if otherwise, there is no cure for gloating over the arrests of “pot-heads” and expelling suspected users from school, nor in groups sitting around a pipe, secure in their superiority over mainstream America.

There has obviously got to be some form of correction of our attitudes. As usual, the problem is communication, and barriers are put up by both sides. Perhaps long hair isn’t all bad, perhaps work has its spiritual and moral aspects, and little on both sides. Marijuana might be a somewhat ridiculous place to start, but everybody should be grateful for anything.

As it is, any discussion of marijuana is hampered by the association of it with rebellion on college campuses, sit-ins, marches, and youth movements: by the continued propaganda and lobbying of the all-powerful liquor industry; by the inherent evil people seem to find in things foreign and the inherent good young, or rebellious people seem to find in things forbidden.

Ojai resident Nick Robertson when he was around 14 years old.

 

 

The Great Akela hands out pack awards on final pow wow of year

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, June 28, 1967 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page C-4. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

The Great Akela hands out pack awards on final pow wow of year
By
Peg Ryan

L to R. (Standing) Steven Frank, Robert Hoovan, Billy Arant, Frank Sanchez, David Quick, Terry McDonnell, and Eddie Seidenkranz. (Seated) Mike Murphy, Todd Hillegeist, Jimmy McConnell, Kerry Ryan, Eddie Hoovan, Peter Vargo and Steve Pullen.

As the lengthening shadows fell across the Ojai Valley last Friday night, a tom-tom beat was heard at Camp Willet, calling the Great Akela to the last meeting of the season for Pack 3509.

Standing before the leaping flames of the council fire, Akela (Bob Hoovan) and his second chief (Bill Krips) with painted faces and in full Indian regalia, made a most impressive sight, as they presented the following awards: Bobcat rank, Jimmy McConnell, Michael Grizzard, Eddie Hoovan and Robert Leonard; Greg Herrick, Wolf emblem, gold arrow, two silver arrows; Donald Miller, Wolf emblem, gold arrow; Wolf emblems to Mike Smith, Todd Hillgeist, Ricky Taylor and David Williams; Kerry Ryan, Bear rank, gold arrow, six silver arrows; Terry McConnell, Lion rank, gold arrow, six silver arrows; Mark Rivers and Jeffery Krips, Lion emblem; Billy Arant, Lion emblem, silver arrow.

George Oliver, Webelos Den Leader, accepted four boys, Mark Rivers, Robert Hoovan, Jeffery Krips and Terry McConnell into his den, the last lap of the Cub Scout trail.

The new charter was presented by Joe Tanghetti; new Cubs, Steve Pullen and Eddie Hoovan were introduced to the packs, with their parents. “Akela” presented thank you certificates to Steve and Janice Vargo, outgoing committee man and Den mother. Terry McConnelll presented Janice with a gift from Den 6, her former den.

The dens competed with each other in a new yell. Sally Seidenkranz led the entire assemblage in a number of songs and a skit, “Gripping Episode of Gory Gulch”, in which everyone took part.

The most enjoyable pack meeting of the season closed with the playing of “Taps” by Robbie Johnson, Boy Scout Den 1, den chief. The “echo” of Taps was played from a distant hillside by Ernie Seidenkranz.

Local bust nets marijuana valued at $4 to $5 million

This article first appeared in the “Ojai Valley News” on September 6, 2000. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Local bust nets marijuana valued at $4 to $5 million
by Lenny Roberts
OVN staff reporter

It’s apparently that time of year again, when sophisticated marijuana farms are discovered by authorities on routine helicopter patrols of Ojai’s backcountry.

Recently, more than 4,000 high-grade plants were uprooted and destroyed after being located in what Sheriff’s Capt. Dennis Carpenter described as a very remote area of northern Matilija Canyon, in the Los Padres National Forest, with no known trails in or out of the area.

Carpenter, in a prepared statement, said that narcotics investigators discovered the clandestine farm approximately two weeks ago, but did not move in immediately in an attempt to identify the responsible parties.

On Aug. 28, investigators entered the site and found more than 3,000 plants, along with a sophisticated cultivation operation. The subjects fled the area prior to the deputies’ arrival.

Three days later, investigators returned to the site and removed an additional 1,055 plants. Several miles of concealed water lines were found, along with an encampment that served at least four people. The confiscated weed has an estimated street value of between $4- and $5 million.

Also discovered at the site were large quantities of food, two rifles and a base camp with assorted tools. Carpenter revealed the subjects had caused a “significant amount of damage to the natural vegetation and habitat, which included the killings of two deer and a fox.”

Authorities hope they will be able to identify those responsible from evidence collected at the site.

The find was the first since October 1999 when a sheriff’s pilot discovered 662 high-grade marijuana plants growing in a Ladera Canyon pot farm, three miles north of Ojai. Those plants had an estimated street value of $1.2 million, according to authorities.

In 1996, three major discoveries in the mountains surrounding Ojai yielded a combined payload of more than 16,000 high-grade sensamilla plants, with a potential value of more than $86 million. In September 1998, after a year of excessive rain, narcotics officers announced the destruction of 1,157 high-grade plants found in an isolated area off Sulphur Mountain Road. The plants had an estimated street value in excess of $4 million.

No arrests have been made in any of the finds, which investigators believe may be related.

Intangible Spirit of The Ojai (No. 1)

The following article first appeared in a newspaper on November 22, 1961 that, eventually, became the “Ojai Valley News”. It is reprinted here with the permission of the “Ojai Valley News”. The author is Ed Wenig. Wenig wrote a series titled “Intangible Spirit of The Ojai”, but failed to title each of his articles in the series. So the “Ojai Valley Museum” has added “(No. 1)” to the title.

Intangible Spirit of The Ojai (No. 1)
by
Ed Wenig

Little six year-old Rudolfo Reyes desperately clung behind his brother Pedro as they rode in a long pack train to their Cuyama home. The year was 1894. Don Rafael Reyes, his wife Maria and their 10 children, all on horseback with a long string of pack animals, were wending their way from Ventura to the Matilija Canyon, up the north fork to Cherry Creek, then over hill and dale to the adobe ranch home. This trail was the only way to reach their destination from Ventura. The present highway was not a reality until the early thirties.

On the large cattle ranch Rudolfo’s older brothers had the exciting job of herding and branding cattle in the spring and fall roundups. Of course, branding in those days consisted of the time-honored method of roping, throwing to the ground, tying, and applying the branding iron to the struggling beast — a far cry from the modern use of the narrowing corral and the chute with the animal locked in fore and aft. Vaqueros from neighboring ranches helped each other. Rudolfo had the original branding iron, in the shape of a wine glass, and also the original registration papers issued to his father, Don Rafael, in 1858.

RUDOLFO REYES — Cuyama Vaquero ready to hang up his saddle after 40 years as a cattleman.

All the hardships of the early California pioneers were part of the isolated Reyes Rancho, even into the early part of this century. With only a trail over the mountains to Ventura, and a rough and tortuous wagon road to Bakersfield, acquiring the necessities of life and the care of the sick were a problem. The round trip to Bakersfield by wagon to bring 40 sacks of flour took three or more days.

As in the case of most of the old early California ranches, the latch string was always out for strangers who often stayed overnight. Good and bad people were welcome, with no questions asked. Says Rudolfo: “Once a man working for my father turned out to be an outlaw who had killed several men. When he heard “the law” was after him, he climbed up into the attic of the old adobe. Here he waited as the officers came in. His guns were at “the ready” as they searched the ranch. The officers went away and the outlaw skipped out!”