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.

THE OJAI VALLEY MUSEUM AND “THE OJAI’

This article first appeared in the Miravalley News in May of 2000. The author is Al Warren.  The color photo was added by the Ojai Valley Museum.

THE OJAI VALLEY MUSEUM AND “THE OJAI”
by Al Warren

By taking just a few short steps across a sunny courtyard, you may escape the activity of Ojai Avenue and enjoy the serenity of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The locale is the Ojai Valley Museum, housed in an exquisite replica of early mission style architecture. Built as a church in 1919, the museum is the only building in Ojai on the National Register of Historic Places. A striking stained glass window and massive wooden doors adorn the front of the structure. In 1969, the Ojai Valley Historical Society was incorporated to give Ojai’s history a fitting home. After several moves, the Museum has found its home.

The “Ojai Valley Museum” is located at 130 W. Ojai Avenue in Ojai, California.

Inside is a remarkable collection of documents, artifacts, newspapers, and pictures that recreate the Ojai scene from time before the Spanish intrusion in 1542 through the early settlement years, long before the area changed its name from Nordhoff to Ojai.

Fittingly, the exhibit nearest the entrance is devoted to the earliest inhabitants of this area – the Chumash people. Tools, weapons, utensils, ornaments attest to the presence of rich Canalino/Chumash cultures. For as long ago as 2000 years well organized villages existed, including permanent sites on the Channel Islands.

Adjacent to the Chumash story is an equally well displayed collection of memorabilia recounting the history of the settlers who established the roots of this community. Names that now identify streets, schools, and parks become real people through photographs and documents that record their accomplishments. Tico, Blumberg, Pierpont, Baker, Libbey, Soule, Thacher are a few of the many who contributed to the history of the Ojai valley.

A highlight of a visit to the museum is the diorama depicting the Sespe Wilderness area. A beautifully painted backdrop surrounds lifelike representations of the wildlife and vegetation indigenous to The Sespe. The scene is breathtakingly real, including the huge boulders. Museum Director Robin Sim told me that these were man-made and added, “Real stone would be much too heavy.”

I had to believe her. They looked real to me. She assured me also that what I saw as a blank wall next to the diorama, she could see as a door to a children’s section — coming soon. Remarkable vision!

As you leave the Sespe diorama, a sculpture of real stone is visible through the rear windows of the building. This magnificent piece, “Condor Soaring”, was sculpted by Carlyle Montgomery who died in 1998. The condor appears alive. Sculpted from a 9000 pound slab of black Belgian fossilized limestone, “Condor Soaring” stands in the patio at the rear of the museum.

The Gallery is a room set apart from the permanent exhibits. Its intended use is for viewing exhibits of ongoing events. Subjects are changed periodically. Currently featured is “The Ojai”, one of the most durable and respected tennis tournaments in the world. The exhibit billed as “100 Years of Tennis” is a nostalgic tribute to the Ojai residents and organizations whose time and enthusiasm have maintained the tradition of quality tennis competition for over 100 years. Actually, the present format of single elimination matches began in 1899.

It isn’t necessary to be a tennis buff to enjoy this beautifully executed exhibit. Photographs and manikins display the gracefully inappropriate feminine tennis wear. Pictures of the players and spectators abound. The placards record the history of Ojai as well as that of tennis. Displays of old rackets and tennis balls evoke fond memories for anyone who has ever stepped on a court.

The greatest players in the world have competed on Ojai courts. The list is long: Bill Tilden, May Sutton Bundy, Helen Wills Moody, Ellsworth Vines, Pancho Gonzales, Alice Marble and Billie Jean King are among the best known, but not necessarily the best of a distinguished list.

For old tennis hackers such as I, this is a touching trek down memory lane. For anyone else, it is a creative and professionally prepared exhibit of an event that has brought very favorable attention to Ojai. Competition in “The Ojai” begins the last week of April.

Our Museum is proof that size is not necessary to assure quality. On Wednesday through Friday the doors open at 1:00 P.M. Saturday and Sunday the opening hour is 10:00 A.M. A gift shop is on the premises.

The Museum is located on the corner of Blanche Street and West Ojai and the phone number is 640 1390.

The Little Brick Schoolhouse

The Little Brick Schoolhouse by Patty Fry

In 1874, Andy Van Curen circulated a petition for another school that would be closer to the newly established village. As soon as school superintendent F.S.S. Buckman approved it, Abram Blumberg started making the bricks for the structure near where the main tennis courts are today in Libbey Park. A note in a July, 1874 issue of the Ventura Signal, states, “A brick kiln will be burned on the Ojai during the summer.”

One night a mountain lion sauntered through the drying area behind Blumberg’s Nordhoff Hotel and left a paw print in a brick. Blumberg gave this keepsake to his daughter, Inez.

While the bricks were being made, the townspeople immediately erected a temporary schoolhouse on Matilija Stree west of John Montgomery’s house. Soule and Pirie offspring reported in later years that after having lessons in this crude structure for a few months, the students considered the new brick schoolhouse a “palace.”

The oblong brick schoolhouse consisted of one classroom and two anterooms. It had a sixteen-foot ceiling and four windows on each side allowed sunlight in. A drum in the center of the classroom provided necessary heat. The students sat in pairs at double desks and there was a bench in front of the teacher’s desk for reciting. Mrs. Joseph Steepleton, who had previously conducted a private school in her home, accepted the teaching position for the newly established Nordhoff School District.

The original wooden schoolhouse was moved to the top of the grade and became known as the Ojai School District. In about 1883, upper valley residents built a larger schoolhouse two miles east, reportedly on the boundary of Hobart’s and Robinson’s properties. This school operated independently until 1965.

Jerome Caldwell and F.S.S. Buckman were among those who taught at the little brick schoolhouse. Anna Seward taught there during 1884. She introduced calisthenics and music to the children. Agnes Howe was the teacher between 1885 and into the 1890s. Howe once claimed that the single room schoolhouse had more bats than children and she spearheaded an incentive program to rid the place of the bats.

In 1882, when enrollment reached sixty students, a brown bungalow was added to the brick schoolhouse.

Teachers were responsible for school maintenance. They asked the older students to sweep the floors and build fires for heat. Students carried water from nearby streams or cottages and everyone drank from a pail using a community dipper. The children liked to play stick ball, pum pum pull away and marbles for keeps. There was also great interest in baseball, riding and hiking in those days, recalled Miss Howe.

Clara Smith, a well known figure in county education, taught at the village school and served as its first principal until tragedy struck in 1892. Her fiance, Scottish-born Robert Fisher, a blacksmith by trade, died suddenly of typhoid fever on the day they were to be wed.

Clara, the daughter of community leader, Daniel Smith, first taught school in Nebraska at the age of 15. She was so devoted to education that she once walked from Nordhoff to Ventura to take a teacher’s exam. Her career progressed from teaching at most local schools, as well as some outside the county, to serving as County Director of Rural Education and Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Clara Smith retired from the school system in 1935.

Teachers weren’t in abundance during the early years, as was illustrated by an incident occurring in 1895. When Agnes Howe fell from a bicycle and sprained her ankle, the school closed for a week while she healed.

In 1889, 14-year-old Charlie Wolfe, son of Judge and Mrs. Irvin W. Wolfe, died at the school when he fell from a tree he was climbing. His twin sister had died at birth.

In 1893, Miss Beal’s primary grades had six more students than seats. It was obvious that the community had outgrown its little brick schoolhouse.

When parents initiated plans to build a bigger and better school, others reminisced about how well the brick building had served the community. Not only had it been the fountain of education for their children for twenty years, but also a church, a meeting place and a social hall.

Every new religious group used it as a place of worship while building its church. It was the very heart and soul of the village. Within those brick walls the townsfolk held their entertainment, made new friends and cemented relationships. That is where community leaders made their decisions, some of which affect our lives today.

But progress is progress and the fact was that the town had outgrown their school and a new one was built to accommodate the education of the valley children.

After the community abandoned the old schoolhouse, the brown bungalow was moved to 570 North Montgomery Street and Ezra Taylor, who ran a machine shop in town, moved his family into the brick building. It was home to the A.E. Freeman family around 1910. Mr. Freeman, a local grocer, reportedly added the second story and began the transformation that camouflaged the original brick outer walls. G.L. Chrisman bought the Freeman home in June of 1916 and the Alton Drowns lived there during the 1920s and 30s.

In 1946, Major Richard Cannon bought the former schoolhouse and opened the Cannon School there. One year later, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cataldo converted the school into the Ojai Manor Hotel and began renting seven rooms. Although these owners had altered the little brick schoolhouse beyond recognition, until the 1980s, a keen eye could detect Blumberg’s misshapen, aged bricks as foundation beneath the time-honored facade at 210 Matilija Street. The old bricks are still visible on the inside kitchen wall.

The Lavender Inn

In the 1980s, Mary Nelson removed the old Old Manor Hotel and opened it as a bed and breakfast. In 1999, the old schoolhouse, once again beautifully remodeled, has resumed as a bed and breakfast under the name, The Moon’s Nest Inn [now The Lavender Inn].


The above is excerpted from Patty Fry’s book The Ojai Valley: An Illustrated History. In 2017 the book was updated by Elise DePudyt and Craig Walker. It is available in the museum’s store and through Amazon.com.

 

 

Discord Comes to the Ojai Valley in 1880

Discord Comes to the Ojai Valley by John Montgomery

[Note: John Montgomery was one of Ojai’s first settlers. He arrived in Ojai in 1874. He lived in the large, two-story wooden house that still stands on Matilija Street, next to Theater 150. Montgomery Street is named after him.]

From the year 1873 to 1879 we were a harmonious and model community, living in peace and good fellowship, with no offensive inequalities of fortune or education. Upper and Lower Valley, East End and West End mingled on equal footing at our picnics, May Day parties, and Christmas trees. Our population continued increasing, and the newcomers were welcomed to our festivities. Those were happy days for our children who knew no strifes but a generous emulation at school; many of them are now fathers and mothers residing in the valley, some have left to return, and a few have gone never to visit us again.

The brick schoolhouse served as Nordhoff's church until 1882.

Our little brick school house sheltered on Sundays members of all churches and creed, and many were ignorant and indifferent as to the pastor’s sect or denomination, enough that he preached good will and the golden rule to all men. The stentorian voice of our village blacksmith led the choir at service, and, admitting that he did sing out of tune a half note on either side of the scale was a trifle in those days to the neighborly ear of charity, and was compensated by the fervor of his good intentions.

For years we were content to ride in our farm and spring wagons, and our cottage organs were the pride of the parlor and had the choice location among the furniture.

But this Arcadian felicity was not to last forever, and the demon of discord was biding his time to entrap us. First, a top buggy came into the Valley and the wagon fell fifty points. Then Mrs. _____ introduced with her two accomplished daughters, a seven octave Steinway grand, and the organ trade disorganized to a collapse. Later, a reading club was got up in the village, having a clause to avoid crowding, that members must reside in Nordhoff. This was equal to slamming the door in people’s faces, and the epithets “stuck up” and “high-toned,” were hurled back in retributive ejaculations.

The fact is, people were soured. The year 1877 was a dry one, and 1875 was the disastrous “rust” year, and two bad years in succession made people “long” on expense and “short” on resources. The hotels were crowded with stylish eastern tourists who introduced new and expensive notions, sneered at our music and church service, and reproached us on our want of a decent church. The two hotels, though miles apart, glared at each other in envious rivalry. [The Nordhoff Hotel was located where the Libbey fountain is now; Oak Glen Cottages were located on the corner of Ojai Avenue and Gridley.] The guests and others at the Nordhoff Hotel raised a subscription to build a church, and the whole Valley joined in the contribution; trustees were chosen and the association incorporated, and all went harmoniously till the question of the church site came up. Then the storm burst. Nordhoff people insisted on having the church in their town, while the outsiders were equally determined to have it up their way, and complete rupture took place between Nordhoff and its opponents; and the village, strong in the justice of its course, put on its war trappings and defied the world.

The Upper Valley to a man joined the eastern seceeders. The two hotels were the

Ojai Presbyterian Church (1882) by J. Cleveland Cady

nucleus of the hostile forces. The good pastor was drawn into the vortex of dissension, and losing his equilibrium, recklessly declared for the Wild West, and was thrown overboard by the “Orientals” as a second Jonah. Then suddenly somebody discovered that the minister was not a Baptist, and another that he was not a Methodist; while some of the older members had their doubts that he ever was sound on Calvanism. But the difficulty deciding on a church site had to be overcome one way or another; and the trustees, amid the din of battle, resolved, four to one, that the proper place for the Presbyterian church was where it now stands, in the center of the community and accessible to all [where Ojai fire station is now located]. Nordhoff was furious, the more so that one of its trustees had gone back on it, voting with the majority; and this culprit has survived the crisis to indite to The

The two churches united.

Recurrent these “Annals of the ‘parish’.” But the plucky town kept its back up, and when Mr. S.S. Smith of San Francisco, generously contributed $500 toward building a chapel, Nordhoff immediately made up the difference and never rested till the last coat of paint was on the walls and a sonorous bell in the steeple [this second church was built where the Ojai Library is now located in downtown Ojai].

After this little blizzard the social atmosphere cleared up; Christian charity that for a time had not a leg to stand on, now threw away its crutches, and asserted its supremacy, softening men’s hearts and extending the right hand of fellowship. But never again will the valley enjoy the primitive simplicity of its earlier years, when it was a model community, realizing the dream of a Roussen or a Tolsten.

Note: When Mr. and Mrs. Charles Nordhoff visited the Ojai Valley in 1881, Mrs.

Ojai Historic Landmark #1 - Ojai's First Church

Nordhoff decided the community should have a proper church. She sent plans for a church along with the money to build it. It was constructed on the Soule property, where the fire station now stands. Those living in the town of Nordhoff defected and built their own Congregational Church where the Ojai Library is located. In 1900 the two congregations reunited and their churches were moved to the same lot-the parking lot in front of Jersey Mike’s. The original Presbyterian Church served as the church, and the Congregational Church was used for Sunday school classes and offices. When the current Presbyterian Church was built on Foothill Road, the old Presbyterian Church was sold to the Nazarenes and moved to the corner of Montgomery Street and Aliso Street. It is now a center for author Byron Katie and is Ojai Historic Landmark #1.]