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!”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.