Sentimental malcontents who prefer fresh air!

The following article first appeared on Wednesday, June 28, 1967 in “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The article’s author was Nick Robertson. Robertson was only a high school senior at Happy Valley School at the time he authored the article.  The photo of Robertson was added to this article by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

Sentimental malcontents who prefer fresh air!
by
Nick Robertson
Happy Valley Senior

Whether the State of California has a right to rip a freeway out of the Ojai valley is another important issue. The State has lost before, and is probably tired of having to deal with sentimental discontents who prefer fresh air and trees to 15 minutes.

The best thing about the freeway is that almost everyone in Ojai hates it, regardless of political persuasion. People who consider many of their neighbors slightly better than the black shirts sign petitions below their neighbors.

It might even pave the way for a healthy round of civil disobedience if the State decides to go along in spite of the will of residents.

Of course, the most important thing is that people are getting visibly upset and concerned over these two things. Generations, all of them, are continually flinging the epithet “the non-involvement generation” at the others, but at the first city council meeting on recreation, people of all ages attended. Petitions against the freeway, or, if you will, the scenic highway (it doesn’t matter, I guess. We got used to “Defense Department” too), are signed by everyone. People are getting as delightfully disgruntled with police as the post-war French.

It only takes a moment to consider all the advantages of local politics. You are there, you know the people involved, no FBI and investigations and phone taps, no federal troops, never an interpreter problem. You can be heard, and read on every local issue no matter how trivial.

True, there are disadvantages, such as an occasional lull in issues. But there are ways, friends, to remedy this. (Just ask Mrs. Gilman!) Send your mayor on a junket, which not only broadens the scope of civic politics, but also gives you a chance to have him slammed and possibly even censured. Attempt to hold a non-middle-class festival, of any sort. Force an investigation. Pull for statements on pressing issues.

And, just for a joke, maybe we can even get enough people to secede.

Fervor, here

While it is doubtful that either of the major political summers – the long hot and Vietnam – will be likely to reach Ojai, it appears that anyone interested in politics can apply themselves with fervor to one of several local issues which are generating interest.

Local politics concern very few people. Bill Donovan of the Stewpot Restaurant tells of a college town in New England, which was governed, of course, by town meetings, where the college students out-numbered the populace. The state, in an attempt to obtain more revenue, decided to charge a $2 poll tax to the non-resident students. The students, naturally indignant, found that this enabled them to attend town meetings. They did – en masse. The students, tremendously out-numbering the town residents, passed two resolutions: first, that the city should build a tower a yard square and a half a mile high, and second, that they should build a covered moving sidewalk to the nearest girl’s college, well over 50 miles away. The poll tax law was, needless to say, repealed, and the citizens were left to spend their nights arguing about water districts, taxes, and school boards again.

Civic politics have a reputation for provinciality, a reputation a recent article in Esquire claimed, stemming form the European tradition. But in my mind, local politics gives everyone a chance to participate, a privilege reserved for actors and millionaires normally.

While it might be true that a youthful Trotskyite, or for that matter, even a young Republican is not likely to be terribly concerned about school boards, water districts and such, it is definitely satisfying to actually be heard above a telegram to a congressman. It almost helps to take away some of the numbness of a bureaucracy.

But Ojai’s current recreation versus budget struggle smacks of political philosophy: it might be a good cause if only for the moral. More conservative groups can clamor about god, or the city council, helping the – excuse me, those – who helped themselves, while at the other pole, people can keep prodding socialism to get up and run in lieu of creeping.

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

The looking glass

The following article first appeared in “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Wednesday, June 21, 1967 on page C-1. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

The looking glass
by
Melba Meredith

Among the many interesting people in our valley there is a well-known and beloved lady who lives life with a purpose, loves her work and has contributed greatly over the years to the “little ones” of the community. She is charming, vivacious Marian Misbeek, a kindergarten teacher at Ojai Elementary school.

Marian has a colorful background. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where her grandfather, Willis T. Knowlin, an engineer of sturdy, New England stock, had previously arrived in a sailing vessel from Boston, around the Horn.

When Marian became of school age, her parents brought her to California for her education, and in due time, in 1922, she came to Ojai as a young, accredited kindergarten teacher from UCLA.

She recalls that back then there were only three Ojai Elementary school teachers, all in an old fashioned building on the corner of Ojai ave. and Montgomery st., and her kindergarten class of nine pupils was held in the dining room of the Woman’s Clubhouse across the street. Word came from the authorities that if the class number became less than seven it would be closed. But that did not happen due to the devoted efforts of Marian Misbeek whose first love has always been the littlest ones.

She saw her one class grow to the present two classes of 30 and 31.

After four years of teaching, she took time off for marriage and children. She has two successful married sons, John and wife, of Linch, Wyo. and Robert and wife and grandchildren, Melissa and Melinda, of Ojai.

While seeing her sons through college, she returned to her kindergarten work 16 years ago and has been at it ever since. She took summer courses in modern teaching and got a degree, and has been given a Life Certificate from the State of California. Her whole life has been dedicated to starting the youngest on the road to education.

She has a special talent with the young.

Her classes are models of attention and decorum. Youngsters who are little monsters at home are angels in her classes, hanging on her every word, while obviously adoring her. The discipline is not too rigid. There is fun without frivolity and games with purpose. The many projects she develops have imagination and creation to appeal to the tots, while encouraging natural courtesy.

As she walks down the street, pupils and former pupils lean out of cars to gaily shout to her, “Hi, Mrs. Misbeek” and this has been going on for two generations.

The philosophy of this gracious and vivacious lady toward the children is best expressed in her own words: “I have an abundance of faith in little children and am conscious of their feelings and ability to respond to their surroundings in naturalness. The goal is to provide love and understanding to these five year olds, most of them away from home for the first time. To give them a true sense of security and happiness, required for and eager-to-learn attitude, to give them appreciation of their endeavors to learn in meaningful experiences, bestow upon them love and praise in their attempts to grow, emphasize the use of their five senses, which at this age is a vital approach to learning. Have them recognize their teacher as a valued friend at school who with an open heart and mind is read to listen to them when they have contributed with work or deed.”

MARVELOUS MARIAN MISBEEK presents a hand-lettered diploma to Clay Segrest, (who will walk through the gate to “First Grade”), at her graduation ceremonies from kindergarten, held on the lawn in front of Ojai Elementary School. Irene Phillips, her year-long faithful assistant, looks on with enjoyment. A bunch of flowers and an American flag completed the simple arrangement for the impressive ceremony, typical of those conducted by the beloved kindergarten teacher — organized, touching and full of joy. (She has held a Fiesta and a Christmas party during the year, both of outstanding quality, which will become permanent memories for 32 tots.)

Surely among the unsung heroes of this world are the many dedicated teachers who give of heart and mind as well as knowledge to our young.

Police mull action to ‘clean up’ park

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, June 4, 1967 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on the front page. It is reprinted here with their permission

Hippie set
Police mull action to ‘clean up’ park

Ojai police, nettled by a series of provocative acts attributed to members of the Hippie set, were mulling retaliatory action Friday.

Chief James D. Alcorn said his “phone has been ringing off the hook,” with calls from citizens who are plainly disturbed by what they claim are impudent reflections on recent narcotics violations.

Most recent incident was the posting of a sign near the arches fronting Civic Park, proclaiming “Things go better with Pot.” Pot is a slang word for marijuana.

Alcorn said private citizens have also complained about the posting of a routed redwood sign with the capital letters, O-V-D-A, which reportedly stand for “Ojai Valley Drug Addicts.”

He said some of the Hippies hold the sign on their laps as they sit on the wall fronting the park.

Civic Park is a private park, administered by Ojai Civic Association. Alcorn said trustees of the association have been exploring ways of combating the situation, but thus far have failed to find any answers.

In recent discussion of the problem by the Ojai City Council, City Attorney Duane Lyders warned the council that restrictive actions would raise questions of free speech and assembly – thorny issues of civil rights.

As a private park, however, authorities have indicated there might be ways of cleaning up the situation.

The Hippie set has used the front area of the park as a rallying point for some time,, according to Alcorn, but the situation apparently worsened earlier this year when Hippies from coastal cities staged the first of two “Love-ins.”

The first event came off without incident. Barefoot youths with flowers behind their ears strummed on guitars, ate picnic lunches and proclaimed “Love” to all who would listen. It was similar to events conducted quietly in Los Angeles, San Francisco and most recently in an eastern city.

The second “Love-in”, however, had slightly different overtones. Police arrested two visitors on charges of possessing marijuana. One was a girl from Glendale, the other a boy from Los Angeles.

Observers, however, noted that some of the visitors were not so young and some were estimated to be only juveniles who supported the bizarre costumes and deportment of Hippies years older.

Alcorn said the situation was a delicate one. “We have to be careful how we handle this thing,” he warned, “publicity is what most of these people want.”

He said the most his officers could do at present was to see that no laws are broken.

BIGGERS THE BEE MAN: What’s Doin’ in Meiners

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, June 5, 1968 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page D-1. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. Effie Skelton is the author.  Photos have been inserted into this article by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.  

BIGGERS THE BEE MAN

What’s Doin’ in Meiners
by
Effie Skelton

Meiners Oaks continued to expand. On February 15, 1961, another subdivision was added by Griffin and Son, Inc., consisting of seventy two lots, on South Rice Road. Soon the homes were built and filled with new residents.

On January 2, 1946, Mr. and Mrs. J. B. (Josh) Smith, 221 South Poli Street, arrived from Wichita, Kansas, to visit their friends, the Edward Sorensens, who had recently move here from Wichita. They prevailed upon the Smiths to make this their home. At that time, there were many homes being built and carpenter work was plentiful. Smith purchased three lots and started his home.

Now, they have a well-cared-for neat home, fenced, with grounds that are attractively landscaped. There is hardly room in which to put a single plant; for they have fruit trees, bouganvilla, hibiscus, fuchsias, bottle brush, palm trees and Monterey pines. Any corner of their garden would make a lovely picture.

Smith helped build many homes in Ojai Valley. He is now retired. Their hobby is keeping their home in excellent condition, and they are an example of what two people may do to improve their home and make it an asset to the community.

Mr. and Mrs. George Biggers moved to 223 South Padre Juan in 1938, a couple that have not only raised their own large family, but helped other children. They have lived in a house by the side of the road and been a friend of man, of bees, of agriculture and of nature. Biggers is also pastor of the friendly Church of Christ on the corner of Padre Juan and El Roblar.

Biggers experiences with bees have been written up in newspapers and magazines, large and small. He is a man who collects experiences in life as many others may collect pretty rocks. He works with millionaires and the poor, the industrialist and the worker, the sick and the well, and as in Kiplings poem “If”, he has not lost the common touch.

Biggers was born in Oakland, his father moved to San Francisco soon afterwards, where they experienced the 1906 earthquake, and lost everything. His father came near being shot for looting when he was carrying his sewing machine up Nob Hill and was saved by having a picture in machine drawer. The family moved to Monrovia where the father was promotion manager for Fleischman Yeast Company. Then — on to Santa Paula, where he operated a bakery and bought a ranch on Santa Paula Creek, where a cloudburst wiped out their home and possessions.

Biggers became interested in bees at the age of eight, when during a school lunch hour the bees swarmed on an oak limb, he contained them in a burlap sack. His teacher, Iris McIntyre, whose father was a beekeeper, gave him books on bees to read. His high school paper was on bees.

Biggers states that “Mankind can learn valuable lessons from these hard workers. They only stop work to sleep. They have a highly organized society. Duties are assigned to various individuals; there are workers who gather the honey, nurse bees who clean and cool the hive, the guard bees who protect. When bees are on long trips the hives are not forgotten by the bees. To keep the wax from melting and the young bees from dying, the nurse bees are stationed near the frames, fanning them with their wings, some lines fanning in one direction and others in the opposite direction, creating refrigeration rotation. In addition to being wise administrators, the bees are excellent architects. The octagonal cells in their combs are so perfect that scientists found they do not vary in construction from generation to generation. A company supplying needs for operation produced artificial wax combs had the bees looking them over. The bees rejected them, chewed them to bits, and rebuilt them. A California scientist unpuzzled it, the little cells were a fraction of a degree off from being perfect. When built perfectly they accepted them.”

Lucky Oak View resident, Mitch Mashburn, owns this old jar of “Biggers Honey”. (Photo by Mitch Mashburn)

Biggers says that insecticides are wiping out whole colonies of bees, which is creating a danger to American agriculture, as bee pollination is used to increase crops. He moves hives all over California and the western part of the United States. He recently moved 1200 hives to Crowley County, Colorado.

 

BIGGERS MADE NAME WITH BEE BEARDS: George S. Biggers, famous for wearing a beard of bees that reached from his ears down to his waist, kept a bee farm of more than 1,000 colonies on South Padre Juan in Meiners Oaks in the 1960s and ’70s. He was featured on the television show “Ripley’s Believe it or Not,” three times for his famous bee beard. “He wanted to show people that they don’t need to be afraid of bees,” said his daughter, Esther Livesay, a Mira Monte resident. A photograph of Biggers wearing his famous beard, was used on the label for Biggers Bee Farm honey.

ENJOY THE RURAL SCENE: What’s Doin’ in Meiners

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, July 3, 1968 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page D-1. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The “Ojai Valley News” graciously allowed us to reprint the article here. The author was Effie Skelton.

ENJOY THE RURAL SCENE
What’s Doin’ in Meiners
by
Effie Skelton

Meiners is where one may awaken mornings to the sounds of the woodpeckers rat-rat-tat on the oaks, inhale the sweet country air and be happy in being an integral part of the pastoral scene. The mind recalls the residents of the past who also experienced this pleasure, the Oak Grove and Chumash Indians, the early pioneers, and those that lived in time of stagecoach. For $1 a stagecoach could be taken from Ventura to Matilija Hot Springs, where the vacationists and fishermen could get to the mountains quickly and easily. In this age of speed with cars, trailers and campers arriving by the hundreds on holidays and weekends we realize there are many who also wish to become an integral part, even for a short time, of this peaceful scene.

Many of the village street and avenue names are Spanish, pertaining to that certain section. Others are in honor of famous men of the early 1800’s, such as, Arnaz Avenue in honor of Don Jose Arnaz. He is credited with the first attempt in subdividing in Ventura, by a try at townsite—laying near the Mission in 1846. He advertised the advantages of his subdivision in eastern American papers, but without response. Arnaz lived in Ventura. He was a merchant, trader, rancher and a native of Spain.

Poli Avenue was named for Dr. M. A. R. de Poli, a native of Spain, who in the 1850’s was the first practicing physician of the Ventura area. He combined medicine with cattle raising and visited patients on horseback.

Padre Juan (Father John) Avenue is named for Father John Comopla, who was a priest at the Ventura Mission from 1861 to 1877.

**

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Clifford recently moved from South La Luna Road into 242 Carrizo Avenue, purchasing the property from W. W. Haley,  Carrizo is a short street, formerly consisting of families with children, who are now adolescent, in service or married, leaving the residents on the street missing the laughter and sounds of youth. However, this friendly couple has seven lovely, mannerly and considerate children. Clifford is employed by the Postoffice Department in Ventura. Mrs. Clifford’s hobby is being a good homemaker and working with flowers.

**

A lovely lavender Crepe Myrtle shrub is now in full bloom on the neat lawn of Mr. and Mrs. Archie Horrell, 600 Mesa Drive. They also have many other flowers on their well-kept grounds. Mr. and Mrs. Horrell purchased their ten acre orange grove with its two bedroom home in 1952. He was employed by the Shell Oil for 32 years, retiring in 1956. Mrs. Horrell’s hobby is flowers and Mr. Horrell is supervising his ranch, fishing and spending part of his time in his well-equipped workshop.

**

If there is a watch or clock problem, or a desire to purchase jewelry, why not try the Verkuil Jewelers, 136 El Roblar Drive. Verkuil has many years of experience repairing watches and clocks, beginning at the age of eighteen. He worked for the Bulova Watch Company for thirteen years and downtown Ventura Jeweler for ten years. He maintained his own store in Meiners Oaks from 1947 until 1951. He returned to the village in 1961 to again open a jewelry store. When there are capable people near at hand to serve, there is little need to travel to Timbuctoo to have the same service. Mr. and Mrs. Verkuil have a neat home at 131 South Padre Juan Ave.

**

From the memory store room of Lennie Soper: The Soper family, consisting of the parents, two boys and two girls lived in the original Meiners Ranch house. Soper bought a new piano for the girls. One week after the purchase the ranch house burned, together with all furnishings and the new piano. The Soper’s moved from Meiner’s ranch to the Rice Ranch across the river where Lennie operated a milk and egg route to Matilija Hot Springs. He drove a buckboard pulled by one mule.

AFS pupils like new homes, school

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, September 8, 1968 edition of “The Ojai Valley News” on page A-1. It is reprinted here with their permission. The article was authored by Fran Renoe.

AFS pupils like new homes, school
by
Fran Renoe

HIGH SCHOOL, U.S. style is much different for Nordhoff’s two American Field Service students, both 17-year-old seniors. Julita Tellei, left is from Palau, Micronesia, a group of South Pacific Islands, and Salustiano “Tano” Crespo, right, is from Leon, Spain.

Life is busy, bewildering but bright with the promise of an unusual life for Julita Tellei and Salustiana Crespo, American Field Service students who are living with Ojai families for the present school year.

Julita is staying with the Rev. Richard Terry’s family and “Tano”, as he is nicknamed, with the Boyd Ford’s.

It’s a long way for Julita from her home island of Palau, Micronesia (a group of small islands in the South Pacific) and a trust territory of the United States, and for Tano, whose home is in Leon, Spain.

Language

With two years of Spanish, and a good background in English, Julita has not had too much trouble understanding her new “family”, friends and teachers.

Tano, however, who speaks Spanish and French, “has only 9 months of English”, and finds communication becoming easier, but not yet fluent. However, both are making friends fast, enjoy their families, and seem to find the differences between former school ways and American ones interesting and fun.

As Julita says, “everyone is so nice here. All the people talk to you, say hello. I am so busy here that there is no time to get homesick.”

Julita fits in with the Terry family, who unexpectedly found themselves with all five of their children at home, instead of four they expected. She shares a room with 17-year-old Lynn, and also shares Lynn’s teen-age interests.

Sports

“I like to watch baseball, and I enjoy playing volleyball and table tennis. I’m used to a family with children.” At 17, Julita is the oldest of nine children, with seven brothers and two sisters at home. Tano, on the other hand, has only a nine-year-old brother at home, and a sister, 22 who is married, and is enjoying having the four Ford boys as companions.

Tano’s hobbies are photography and architecture, and architecture is the field he hopes to study later in an American college.

As for Julita, “I want to go to college, and probably will. However, I do not know exactly what I want to do. I like geometry, but am not so good at math. I also like science. I will probably be a teacher.”

The Girls

More than Julita, Tano finds living in this country much different from living at home.

“I am not used to going to school with girls,” he said with a big grin, “because I have always gone to a private school for boys only. “But,” and the grin got bigger, “after the first day I decided that going to school with girls is very, very nice.”

It seems that co-education is uncommon in Spanish schools, with only a few private schools using this system.

Both teenagers agree that “children here are much more free with their parents. Free to discuss things, to have an opinion.” At home, Tano emphasized, “children have no opinion.”

“In my home we talk about things,” Julita said, “but not in every home is it like this. It is better if you can discuss things with your parents, like here.”

Julita finds the food much different from her usual diet, “we have more fish, and of course, taro, but here more meat and bread, things like that.”

More Cars

“Also, in Spain, we have our lunch at 2 in the afternoon and dinner at 10 at night. Here, of course, is much different,” Tano remarked.

“There are more cars here, too,” Julita said.

“Something else,” Tano commented. “At home, ladies who are married, ladies with children, do not work. Here, ladies like this work.”

“Oh, married women where I live work,” Julita said, “They didn’t used to, but they do now.”

Tano enjoys playing basketball and Julita is an avid antique collector.

Both admit to having trouble remembering the names of all the friendly students and teachers they have met, but both say, “It is so nice to live in Ojai, everyone is so good to you.”

They also enjoy the idea of living in a small town — Julita, because it seems familiar, Tano because it is different in size from his hometown of 100,000 people. And both like living near a metropolitan area of Los Angeles because “our families are quite good about taking us everyplace.”

“Nordhoff vs. Ojai”

This article first appeared in the Ojai Valley News in the October 22, 1969 edition. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is Ed Wenig.

“Nordhoff vs. Ojai
by
Ed Wenig

Legend has that Mrs. A.W. Blumberg, wife of the builder of the first hotel in the Ojai Valley in 1874, insisted on naming the proposed new town “NORDHOFF” because she said, Charles Nordhoff had called attention to the valley. Husband A.W. Blumberg and promoter R.G. Surdam graciously went along with the suggestion.

Nordhoff did write much about California in a book titled “CALIFORNIA For Health, Pleasure and Residence”, but Ojai Valley was not mentioned. He also wrote for newspapers and magazines and, it is said wrote about the valley. The claim is controversial and has not been substantiated, in the view of historians of recent times.

CHARLES NORDHOFF (1830-1901)

In April 1894, Charles Nordhoff did register at the Gally Cottages, and a few days later lectured at the Congregational Church in Nordhoff on “OLD TIMES IN CALIFORNIA.” The local newspaper reported in two columns everything Nordhoff remembered, but he apparently said nothing about visiting the valley before the town was named for him.

In 1894, the people of Ojai Valley were really stirred up about the name “Nordhoff,” for the only town in the valley. The editor of “The Ojai” suggested in an editorial that the matter had been fully discussed, and that every man, woman, and child in the two valleys, resident or visitor, should be polled. The result of such an election would determine whether the question should be forever dropped, or the proper steps be taken to have the name changed.

Feelings run high

Letters literally poured into the editor of “The Ojai” for and against changing the name of the town. Feelings ran high. In a later editorial the editor gave a mild admonition that letters on the subject should be “cleanly worded communications intended for the common good.”

Those who favored changing the name NORDHOFF to OJAI argued that postal clerks throughout the nation were mistaking Nordhoff for Norwalk; that people outside of the valley were confused as to what the post office address really was; that Ojai Valley was losing the effect of much advertising by having another name associated with Ojai; that the name Ojai was unique, the only name of its kind in the whole wide world! One petition was even circulated in east Ojai Valley for the establishment of a new town in the valley to be called “Ojai”.

Those who opposed the name change explained the “Nordhoff” was the name chosen by the people who founded the town 20 years before in honor of Charles Nordhoff, New York writer and traveler, who, they said, had mentioned the Ojai Valley in a newspaper article; that “Nordhoff” had too long been attached to the location to cast it aside unceremoniously.

Twenty-three years later, without much fanfare, “The Ojai”, on March 31, 1917, carried this notice under the Headline: “Now it’s Ojai”: “This telegram from Washington is self-explanatory. H.R. MORSE, FOOTHILLS HOTEL, YOU MAY ANNOUNCE CHANGE OF NAME FROM NORDHOFF TO OJAI. BEST WISHES. (SIGNED) JAMES D. PHELAN, U. S. SENATOR.”

Footnote: Those who have read “Mutiny on the Bounty” will be interested to know that its co-author, Charles Bernard Nordhoff, who was a student at Thacher School in 1898-1899, was the grandson of the Charles Nordhoff for whom the town was named.

Charles B. Nordhoff in 1918.

SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ORGANIZATION UNDERWAY

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Thursday, November 28, 1957 edition of “THE OJAI”. “THE OJAI” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ORGANIZATION UNDERWAY

The first steps in organizing an Ojai Search and Rescue Team to aid in searching for persons lost in Ventura County’s wilderness areas were taken Saturday evening by a small group of Valley men experienced in riding and hiking in the back country.

Prompted by the two recent deaths of persons lost in the Ojai area, the group met at the Sarzotti Park scouthouse to formulate the basic plans for an organization trained to cope with all types of search and rescue operations.

Although specifically designated as an independent team, not directly connected with any particular law enforcement or government agency, the unit would be at the disposal of any such agency needing its services.

The team would be divided into mounted (horse) and foot groups with each having a separate experienced and selected “special” unit.

The “general” groups would be open to anyone wishing to participate but would be used only for searches in the immediate Ojai Valley area during daylight hours. No special equipment would be required and it is expected that organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Ojai Trails Association, and Thacher School would join as individual units.

The “special” mounted and foot units will be limited to persons experienced in riding or hiking in the mountains and those with their own equipment for remaining in the back country from one to three days. This membership will also be limited to persons with their own trailering facilities and those who are prepared to leave their employment on short notice for a period of from one to three days.

These “special” units would be called upon for search or rescue operations in isolated areas, regardless of season or time of day or night and must be prepared to reach a base camp with their own transportation.

Neither group would operate as a “posse” or have any blanket law enforcement powers.

In any search and rescue operations in Ventura County’s huge unincorporated regions, the organization would work directly under Capt. Guy Fremlin of the sheriff’s office, who was recently appointed to head all such operations in the county.

Representatives of the Ojai Valley Search and Rescue team met with Capt. Fremlin earlier to work out details of cooperation between his office and the team.

The members of the “special” foot unit will probably be taken from experienced Explorer and Sea Scout groups and supplemented with adult leaders.

It is also hoped that a Scout mobile canteen, capable of feeding up to 300 people, will be made available for use at base camps, and that a separate Red Cross unit can be added later. All members of the “special” units will be urged to take or renew Red Cross first aid training.

The organization also plans to accumulate its own special rescue equipment and already has obtained a “basket-type” stretcher for carrying injured persons out of mountainous areas. Donations may be sought at a later date to help increase the amount of equipment.

A BASKET-STRETCHER of the type used to carry injured persons out of mountain areas is examined by a group of Valley men meeting last Saturday evening to organize an Ojai Search and Rescue Team to aid in hunting for lost persons n Ventura County. The stretcher was donated to the new group by a local scout troop. Applications are now being sought for membership in the Team and will be divided into mounted and foot units. An attempt is being made to organize the units on the basis of ability to provide immediate aid to any county agency needing help in search or rescue operations. From left to right are: Jack Huyler, Bill Bowie, Jesse Kahle, Frank Rio (behind stretcher), Ado Ruiz, Dwayne Bower, and Bud Bower. The Ojai Staff Photo

A series of practice drills for the “special” units will probably be held each year with simulated searches into the mountain areas.

Saturday’s organizational meeting resulted in creation of a table of organization for the team in which at least three persons were named to each office so as to guarantee uninterrupted operation should key personnel be unavailable at the time of a search.

Heading the overall operation of the team will be William Bowie, Ado Ruiz, and Bill Klamser, Jr. The mounted groups will be under Jack Huyler, Bud Bower, Gene Meadows and Jesse Kahle and Bowie said that leaders of the foot groups will be announced later.

A telephone system of relaying calls of members was established so that once the initial call from Capt. Fremlin or some other agency reaches the Ojai Police Department, a complete mobilization of the team can be made on short notice.

The team will also make itself available to Ojai area civil defense director James Alcorn, for use in the event of any major disaster in this area.

Application forms along with letters of information about the team will be distributed late this week and may be obtained at the Ojai city Hall or the Ojai Publishing Co. by anyone interested in joining the organization. Further information on the team may be had by phoning any of the three organizational directors listed above.

Ojai was ‘torn apart and rebuilt’

This article first appeared in the August 26, 1970 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is Ed Wenig.

Ojai was ‘torn apart and rebuilt’

(Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of articles by historian Ed Wenig on Civic Center Park and the man responsible for its gift “to the people of the Ojai Valley” — Edward Libbey).

On September 1, 1916, THE OJAI printed an editorial from the Ventura Free Press, written by Editor D. J. Reese, who had attended the Men’s League Banquet in March at the Foothills Hotel:

“Some morning, not far distant, the village of Nordhoff is going to wake up and find itself famous. The work being done in that section just now would make the man who has known Nordhoff of old rub his eyes in astonishment if he was brought into the place suddenly. Great things are in store no doubt. The town has been torn apart and several sections have been removed hither and yon. There has been a general clearing up of everything, and everybody has an expectant look as though wondering what will happen next. The main street has been piled full of terra cotta brick, and no one seems to know what is doing. Old landmarks like the Clark stables and the Ojai Inn have vanished as before a Kansas cyclone. Only the beautiful oaks, and here and there a substantial house like the bank or the clubhouse or the Nordhoff fountain and splendid Ojai atmosphere seem to be left. Something is surely doing. Ask what it is and the Nordhoffite will throw up his hands and mention the name of Libbey. You hear about Libbey every time you ask a question. Everywhere you go you note that somebody is working hard at something or other in digging ditches or burying water pipe or clearing underbrush or building massive and magnificent cobble walls. Why, it is to be another Montecito, you are told . . . “The people there are to be congratulated that they have a Libbey who has taken an interest in their affairs. It is to be hoped they will give him free rein.”

Vast Land Holdings

At an Ojai Valley Men’s League banquet at the Foothills Hotel J. J. Burke, speaking of improvements, told of a well of Mr. Libbey’s which “will pump at least 65 inches, and if Mr. Libbey’s plans materialize he will spend $20,000 in getting the water to his ranch. . . . The old Ojai Inn and all but one of the Berry Villa buildings have been torn down or moved away, making room for more extensive improvements in the future. Through the generosity of Mr. Libbey, Signal Street was cut through and graded to the railroad.”

In the spring of 1916 Libbey was reported to be visiting his friend, H. T. Sinclair and discussing with Mr. Thacher, Colonel Wilson and W. W. Bristol “sundry matters of importance to the community.”

On June 9, 1916 it was announced that E. D. Libbey had bought 200 more acres to add to his previous 300-acre property. “Among the early improvements will be the laying of a water main from his well on the Gally tract to his large holdings. And that is not all, as the entire square upon which once stood the Ojai Inn, is to be improved in a manner that augurs well for the future of Nordhoff, which is good news to the entire community. Mr. H. T. Sinclair has been taken into Mr. Libbey’s confidence and will be the directing head during his absence. Let us be glad, as well as thankful for so generous a promoter as E. D. Libbey.”

On June 16, 1916, we are told that Mr. Libbey has bought the last parcel of privately owned land in what is now the Civic Park. In the local paper, “The plans Mr. Libbey is making to benefit both the town and the Valley has met with the highest approbation of the committee and the cooperation of the League in every way is assured.”

It was reported on June 30 that the Berry Villa, “an historical step-sister of the Ojai Inn, now a demolished antiquity,” had been torn down and the lumber hauled away.

By July 14, fifty men in one crew were working on the Libbey pay roll. Tom Clark destroyed his barn north of his livery stable and constructed a rock wall for a modern garage. This wall can still be seen as part of the Village Drug Store.

Early in November, Architect Requa, of the San Diego architectural firm of Mead and Requa, went to Toledo and got full approval of the plans for the renovation of the main street of Nordhoff. The local newspaper reported, “The post office tower, penetrating the lower heavens 65 feet is to be a reality. There are many features that we shall be delighted to prattle about when fully assured that the architect has removed the censorship.”

In March, 1917, representatives of the Men’s League met with Mr. Libbey. A corporation was formed under the name of THE OJAI CIVIC ASSOCIATION. The incorporators were E. D. Libbey, S. D. Thacher, J. J. Burke, Harrison Wilson, H. T. Sinclair, A. A. Garland, and H. R. Cole. Said the editor of the paper: “The initial purpose of the corporation is to assume title to the valuable property acquired by gift from Mr. Libbey . . . This beautiful park and the tennis courts, covering more than seven acres, is to become the property of the people of Nordhoff and the Ojai Valley.

Concurrent with the changes in the appearance of the town of Nordhoff came a popular move to change the name of the village to Ojai. A petition was circulated under the auspices of Supervisor Tom Clark requesting the name change, and received so many signatures that it was five feet long by the time H. D. Morse, manager of the Foothills Hotel, sent it to Washington D. C. In March, 1917, Senator James D. Phelan sent the following telegram: “You may announce the change of name from Nordhoff to Ojai.”

Early School Days in Valley Recalled for Clara Smith’s Party

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, May 24, 1935 edition of “The Ojai.” “The Ojai” is now the “Ojai Valley News.” It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

Early School Days in Valley Recalled for Clara Smith’s Party

A committee of the grammar school Junior Red Cross attempted to compile a history of the schools of the Nordhoff district, for inclusion in the memory book to be presented to Miss Clara Smith a the banquet celebrating her 50 years of teaching Tuesday evening. But Mrs. Inez T. Sheldon, principal of the school, reports the task a difficult one because memories conflicted. However the following was put together as the best record that could be secured:

First School in Valley

In the extreme east at the foot of the grade on the left going toward Santa Paula H. J. Dennison taught perhaps a dozen children even earlier than 1869. A path up the grade led to the spring just beyond the present first sightseeing stop (Lookout Point) almost to the top of the grade. The big boys carried water if the barrel became empty before the appointed time to haul the next barrel full.

The district then comprised all of the present Matilija, Upper Ojai, and Lower Ojai valleys. The school was laughingly called “The Sagebrush Academy.” The last teacher there whose name no one seems willing to recall was at any rate a very loyal Democrat. He presided strictly—chastising the children of Democrats lightly with a pure white ruler, while little Republicans suffered under the strokes of a very black longer ruler.

In 1895 Mr. Van Curen circulated the petition to divide the district. Inez Blumberg (Mrs. J. B. Berry) and Miss Nina Soule remember Miss Skinner vividly. Earl Soule was too young but learned “his letters” in the second school, the one-room brick.

Brick School

On the present Alton L. Drown residence property, 244 Matilija Street, then an unoccupied tract, was erected the first Ojai School. The sagebrush academy was removed to the Dennison ranch, and later again to the present Upper Ojai where Mrs. E. P. Tobin is now teaching.

While the bricks were being made near the present tennis courts of the Civic Center, a small temporary shed was hastily put up on the same lot to house the school. Rough boards stood straight up and down. Horizontal boards for the roof kept out the sun. On planks facing the wall the children sat using planks against the wall for desks. But this was necessary only a short time. And the little brick school seemed verily a palace, laughingly recall the Soules, Piries, Bakers, John Larmar, and others. A. W. Blumberg made the bricks, and his daughter has an interesting souvenir—a brick on which a lion left his track. The hole from which the clay was taken may be seen to this day in the Civic Center near the railroad.

Noted Pupil

In the biography of David P. Barrows, former president of the University of California in Berkley, it is written that he learned his “ABC’s” with his little bare toes dangling over Mother Earth from rough wooden boxes in which nails had been surreptitiously placed as seats. At least this is found to be historic!

Steepleton Private School

On the present Y-T ranch, just off Grand Avenue, a mile and a half east of the village, in 1874, Mrs. Joseph Steepleton, who later taught in the new brick school, kept private school. Also in the same location as late as 1928, Frank Gerard established a private school. Both private schools were short lived. Mr. Barrows recalls many funny experiments in the old brick school. It is suggested that he be asked for his “wart yarn” when next he visits Ojai.

The Fruit Pickers

Mr. Buckman, the first county school superintendent of Ventura, was one of the first teachers in the brick building. He planted the first orange tree in this now famous valley. Also he grew strawberries to help maintain his financial independence. By getting permission from home, his pupils were permitted to go from school during school hours, to the Topa Topa ranch, (then his home), and pick his strawberries for him. Great was the jealousy of those whose parents would not permit them to stop studying their three R’s long enough to go up to the ranch to pick berries.

So few of the school registers are to be found of the old brick days that only an attempted list of the teachers there can be recorded. Miss Allen, Miss Haight, Mr. Goodman, Mr. Alvord, and Miss Hawks taught before Miss Agnes Howe, who was probably there the longest time of all. She was Miss Clara Smith’s first teacher in California.

Miss Smith had taught in Ohio but here more education for a teacher’s certificate was required so for a short period in 1884 she was a pupil in the old brick school. Thompsons, Clarks, Robinsons, Hunds, Ayers, Spencers, and others already mentioned remember those “old days.” After studying in Santa Barbara, Miss Smith returned and taught in the same brick building. Eva Bullard Myers, Bill Raddick, the Gally brothers, Sam Hudiburg, and others, were some of her pupils.

After teaching in the Ventura schools at the same time that Miss Blanche Tarr taught there, Miss Smith worked her way through the State University at Berkeley and returned to Ojai to teach three years in the new building at the corner of Montgomery and Ojai Avenue. Fred Linder, S. Beaman, and Clark Miller were pupils of hers at this period.

Brown Bungalow

When perhaps as many as 60 pupils were enrolled, it became necessary to add a little brown school, one room, on the same lot as “the new brick.” Miss Pellam taught the little people there until it was moved. George Black, Ventura County School Superintendent, and later the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, married her sister. In 1895 both schools on this site were purchased, the brick building vacated, and the little brown school moved to its present location, 570 North Montgomery, on the Snow property between Millard’s and Lafkas’.

It is interesting to note that the present Drown residence was built by J. E. Freeman in 1911, on the same brick foundation as the old school building. Captain Sheridan of the old Ojai Inn, grandfather of the Sheridan brothers, was responsible for the laying of these bricks.

The Wolf Family

The Wolf family had the first good pictures of this section. Mr. Wolf acted as a trustee of the district, and interested himself considerably in the work. Quite tragically one day his son fell from an oak on the school and was killed.

San Antonio School

Mrs. Lillian Bennett Carnes, Mrs. Margaret Hunt, the Mungers, and Ryersons, tell many fascinating stories of the first San Antonio school, located on Ojai Avenue on what is now the Edward L. Wiest property.

Thacher School

Sherman D. Thacher was refused a position there, being told to go on with his little orange grove. Thus in 1889 with only one pupil this now famous Thacher School was begun.

The Present Wood Building

The wooden grammar school building was first occupied in 1895. It was moved back on the northeast corner in 1927. The sum of $1,250 was paid for the lot. The bond issued failed by one vote at the first election, but was carried for $9,000 at the second one. Mr. Zimmerman was awarded the contract for $7,825. However the building of the assembly hall with the other incidental expenses brought the total cost to around $10,000. It was necessary to use the money obtained from the sale of the “brick school” and the “brown bungalow” plus the building fund, plus the school bonds, to meet this debt.

Miss Mabel Pendergriss was presumably the first teacher in the new school. Amy Hamlin, Eleanor Hammack, Anna Cordes, and others are recalled, but C. L. Edgerton is always remembered when anyone is asked regarding the history of the building. For ten years following the time Miss Smith taught there, Mr. Edgerton was principal.

First High School

The year 1909-10 was W. W. Bristol’s first year as the first principal of the first high school in Nordhoff. School was held with Miss Maybyn (Mrs. Howard Hall) assisting, in the upstairs of the grammar school building. Miss Ruth Forsyth assisted Mr. Bristol the second year. School was so crowded it was necessary to send some freshman to the lower floor under Mr. Edgerton’s supervision.

High School Building

May 17, 1909, there were 108 votes cast for establishing a high school, and six votes against. Of the 25 pupils that first year Edna Leslie (Mrs. Edna Grout) rated as “the best citizen”, and Grace Hobson (Mrs. Fed Smith) as “the best scholar.” The bond issue voted the following year was 151 to 8 for $20,000. Words fail to express the hot times over the proper location of what is now known as the Junior high school. The first trustees are all deceased: S. D. Thacher, F. H. Sheldon, Frank Barrows, Mr. Hobart, and Dr. Saeger. Irma Busch (Mrs. William T. Frederick), Abbie Cota Moreman, Carolyn and Thornton Wilson were in this pupil group.

Old Grammar School Building

When J. F. Linder was first trustee of the grammar school (1912-13) there were 82 children enrolled, and four teachers using all the rooms. Queen E. Kidd was principal, with Katherine Donahue, Olivia Doherty and Celia Parsons as teachers. The principal received $810, the teachers between $675 and $712.50. W. A. Goodman, Mrs. Canfield and E. L. Kreisher, up to 1919 earned $1,200. Miss Abbie Cota and Miss Edna Leslie were teaching during this period; also Mrs. Fred Burnell as Mrs. H. S. Van Tassel and as Mrs. Louise Thompson.

Miss Iris Evans graduated in the first eighth grade held in the old grammar school. In 1924 the 7th and 8th grade books were transferred to the Junior high. Her brother Jim in June, 1925, was in the first sixth grade graduating from the grammar into the Junior high school. Roscoe Ashcraft was principal both years. Miss Anna Gilbert (Mrs. Sexton) preceded him. Mrs. Hathaway and Miss Agnes Howe returned and both were principals during the time the old wooden building was in use.

Matilija

By private subscrition in 1890, W. L. Rice, carpenter and liberal contributor, built the first little Matilija school near the river bed in a lovely oak tree setting. Anna Stewart was the first teacher. The three Soper children, three Rice girls, Blumbergs, and Lopez children were the first pupils.

There were 20 different teachers in the 24 years before February 20, 1914 when in the flood the building was completely washed down stream. A small building was immediately erected on this side of the river, high and dry. It was located on the Meiners’ property a half mile from the Rice residence at the corner. Miss Mary Freeman taught here, and Mr. Krull of the present Johnson place was the Matilija trustee until his death. Four years later the building was sold to the Matilija rancho and removed while the lot reverted to the Meiners’ estate. Miss Pope leaves a very complete record of this period.

In 1918 Matilija united with Nordhoff Union grammar school district. This district averages 10 to 15 children to educate and great was their rejoicing when the school bus in 1919 regularly transferred the children to Ojai.

Nordhoff Kindergarten

In 1920, ten pupils attended the first kindergarten established in the Valley with Miss Clara Newman as the teacher. The next year, in 1921, the name was changed to Ojai Kindergarten.

Miss Matilda Knowlton (Mrs. Joe Misbeek) taught in the Boyd room at the Woman’s Club for four years with an average daily attendance of 25. Then, in 1927, Miss Ruth M. Hart (Mrs. John Recker) moved across the street into the corner room of the present stucco building.

Following is a record of the teachers and the number of kindergarten pupils since that time:

Mary A. Wharton (1928-29) 26; Alice Connely (1929-30) 26; Mrs. Gladys Raymond (1930-31) 31; Elizabeth Pell (1931-32) 23; Elizabeth Pell Wellman (1932-33) 23; Mrs. Mildred Rodgers, present teacher.

Arnaz School District

Dr. Jose Arnaz of the large Arnaz land grant in 1877 gave to the County Superintendent Buckman (formerly of the Nordhoff brick school) the use of one room in his home for a school. His second wife was Adolph Camarillo’s sister, Pet Seymour, who later became Mrs. Drake, was the teacher. Mrs. Ventura Arnaz Wagner recalls how comfortably several years were spent until John Poplin arrived and agitated for a new school building. He hauled and donated lumber as well as contributed labor to the new plant. It was, and still is (what is left of it) a mile from the cider mill (Fergerson or Arnaz home) on the Creek road a few steps down off the present highway (Fergerson grade.) During heavy rains the footbridge washes out and of course it was impossible to hold school.

Young Dick Haydock was the first teacher in this new schoolhouse. He boarded with Poplin who became clerk of the board, until Mr. Healy moved in. Very soon he “ran the school” and the teachers boarded there. His children were the only American children in school at that period.

T. O. Toland’s wife taught this school in 1888 so it probably had been opened three years. Little of note occurred after Mr. Welsh’s resignation until the fall of 1926.

By the fall of 1926 the school had grown to such extent that it became necessary to expand into the coat room. Mrs. Hubbard was the teacher in the school room while Gretchen Close taught in the coat room. However very shortly, Miss Close’s room was moved to Laidler’s grocery store in Casitas Springs. This was the living room in which were housed for a time 37 school children.

Arnaz united with Nordhoff Union grammar school district in 1927. Mr. Nye was their representative on the union board of five members. This section is in the unique position of being part of the Nordhoff Union grammar school district and the Ventura high school district. At the present time, May 1935, Arnaz uses two school buildings, the Casitas Springs buildings, and the Oak View Gardens building.

Casitas Springs School

Mr. Nye in 1927 gave the present school lots to the district with the request that the building be known as the Casitas Springs school. A one-room school was built by Mr. Hitchcock at the contract price of $2,407. Miss Hattie Conner was the first teacher with 43 children in the three grades. All the children of grades four to six were transported by bus to the Nordhoff building.

Mr. Nye was succeeded as school trustee in 1928 by Charles G. Crose, who was succeeded by Victor McMains, and now I. V. Young is trustee for the district.

The teachers in the Casitas Springs school were Hattie Conner, Mrs. Paul Woodside, and the incumbent, Miss Ruth McMillian who has held the position since January, 1930.

Nordhoff Stucco Building

The stucco building of Nordhoff grammar school was built by Johnson and Hanson of Santa Barbara. They were awarded the contract for $34,982. J. R. Brakey had the $1,600 contract for moving the old building back on the northeast corner. Heat, lights, plumbing, blackboards and furniture increased the cost to around $48,000. During Mrs. Inez T. Sheldon’s first year as principal it was found necessary to add a teacher (Mrs. Estes, the wife of the principal of the high school). The assembly hall held two classes and the next year Mrs. Murphy taught in the Boyd Club where the Little Theatre now is. Then in 1927 after the uniting of the Arnaz with Nordhoff, eight rooms of the present building were filled to overflowing. It was two years before the last three rooms were added.

The old building is entirely occupied now and there is a faculty of 18. From 150 pupils in Mr. Ashcraft’s last year, the school has grown to 589 in 1934-35.