LOOK BACK IN OJAI with Drew Mashburn

The following article first appeared in the Spring 2019 (VOLUME 37 NUMBER 1) issue of the “Ojai Valley Guide” magazine on pages 154 and 155. The magazine is published by the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

LOOK BACK IN OJAI
Want to know what it smells like under the Jack Boyd Center?
Drew Mashburn knows!
by
Drew Mashburn

I admit it! I’m addicted to coffee. I mean real coffee. Strong and black!

Several years ago, my dear wife bought my favorite coffee mug at Rains Department Store. On it there is a black-and-white photo of downtown Ojai, looking west, when Ojai was called Nordhoff. The photo is mainly of the then-new Arcade. How do I know this? Because at the far left edge of the photo is the post office bell tower as it’s being built. It has scaffolding all around it and the domed top has yet to be added. So, the photo was most likely taken in late 1916 or early 1917 because construction was completed prior to the first Ojai Day that was held April 7, 1917.

Edward Drummond Libbey of Libbey Glass had the common-looking, old, western-style downtown — with its wooden boardwalks and false fronts — made over to create the beautiful downtown architecture we have today. But, he didn’t mess with the Ojai State Bank or the Jack Boyd Memorial Club that were prominent structures on Main Street and east of his new and grand post office. I’m not sure as to why, but I suspect that they were simply too magnificent in appearance to justify changing, or he had a gut feeling that if he did, he’d get his new-to-town butt kicked by longtime Nordhoff folks who loved those old buildings.

The Ojai State Bank’s architectural style was neoclassical with tall, heavy columns that looked like Rome to me. I understand it was built of brick. After Libbey had the Arcade, Pergola and Post Office in the downtown done over in the plaster/stucco-sided Mission Revival style of his liking, the old bank must have really clashed with them in appearance. It was located where the public parking lot is at the east end of the Pergola.

The Jack Boyd Memorial Club sat on the east side of the Ojai State Bank and along Ojai Creek (aka East Barranca). It was a masculine-looking building with a dark roof of wooden shingles and its covered porches were supported by very thick wooden posts. The Craftsman Bungalow-style building was built in 1903 to be a clubhouse for men. If ol’ Edward had dared to change the appearance of this sacred-to-the-community men’s-folk clubhouse, I’m fairly sure his hide would have been stretched above it’s fireplace mantel.

But, change is inevitable. I’m not sure exactly when, but the Ojai State Bank was acquired by the Bank of America. It set up shop in the old building for a number of years and, somewhere along the line, the bank wound up owning the Jack Boyd Memorial Club. In fact, in 1956, the Bank of America decided to build a new bank on the lot occupied by the Jack Boyd Memorial Club. The bank needed to rid itself of the old clubhouse. The Lions Club offered to take it off the bank’s hands, but members changed their minds when they heard that the city of Ojai was tossing around the idea of building a community recreation center. Upon hearing this, the Lions suggested that the city take ownership of the old men’s clubhouse and have it moved to a suitable site. That happened in February 1957. It was decided the Jack Boyd Memorial Club would be moved to Sarzotti Park.

The “Jack Boyd Memorial Club” being moved from its location on the west bank of Ojai Creek (AKA: East Barranca) out onto Ojai Avenue in February 1957. The building was moved to Sarzotti Park.

I was a few months short of being 6 years old, so I wasn’t downtown to witness the Boyd Club being raised up off its foundation and onto the trailer and big truck used to move it east on Ojai Avenue. Believe it or not, Mom and Dad didn’t let me hang alone downtown at that age, but I was aware the Boyd Club was going to be headed up Park Road. We lived on East Aliso Street and our home backed up to Sarzotti Park. My neighborhood buddies and I rode our bikes down to the street and watched the crew move the old building from Ojai Avenue onto Park Road.

We probably drove the crew crazy because, as they ever so slowly moved the building, we kept circling around the truck, trailer and building to witness all we could. We were enthralled with what was going on. At one point, several of us youngsters ditched our bikes and crawled under the trailer because we wanted to see the bottom of the building. I don’t know what the heck we were thinking and some adult guy chased us out from under there. Kids!

The building was offloaded onto heavy, wooden-beam cribbing to where it sits today. I’m not positive, but I think it took two trips to get all of the building from Ojai Avenue to Sarzotti Park. I only recall the one section of building being moved. Guess what? As the building sat there for a few months being readied for lowering onto a new foundation, us kids got under it several more times! After all these years, I can still recall how it smelled. It had a strong smell of musty, old wood. Yet, it was a pleasant smell.

The building sat on that cribbing for what seemed like a lifetime to me. I could hardly wait to have it open into the new recreation center I had heard it was going to become. My buddies and I would go up there often to check on the progress of the building being permanently set in place.

One time, two of my East Aliso Street buddies (Mike Payton and Mark Kingsbury) were behind the building. I think it was Mike who climbed up a tall pine tree in the row of pines that ran from the western side of the park clear to the east side and just south of the building. Mike was throwing down pine cones to Mark and me. There was all kinds of scrap lumber scattered around the building. Mike flung down a pine cone from his lofty position. Mark and I stepped back in an attempt to catch it. I stepped onto a 16d nail that was protruding through a piece of scrap wood. When I lifted up my foot, the wood lifted up off the ground as well. It really freaked me out! I really buried that big ol’ nail into my heel. I think it went clear up to my tailbone. All I could think about was what Mom had told me about stepping on a a rusty nail . . . that being, you can get lockjaw from it! I pulled the nail and chunk of wood loose, then hightailed it for home at close to the speed of sound. Mark could usually run as fast as me, but he was no match for my speeding frame that day. I think I must have left a sonic boom.

I believe it was about April that the building was set onto its new foundation, then opened for public use that summer. My puncture wound had healed by that time and I didn’t get lockjaw because Mom made me get a dang tetanus shot. So, I was one of the first of the neighborhood kids to get to use the new recreation center, which became known as the Boyd Club, now the Boyd Center.

Oh, I almost forgot. Unfortunately, the Ojai State Bank building was demolished in 1960. I know that its big Roman-looking columns were saved, but I have been unable to locate them.

By the way, in case any of you know of a coffee mug for sale with the Ojai State Bank and the Jack Boyd Memorial Club on it, please let me know where my wife might purchase it for me.

Drew Mashburn is a volunteer at the Ojai Valley Museum.

Beautification Month

The following article was first published in the Winter 2018 (VOLUME 36 NUMBER 4) issue of the “Ojai Valley Guide” magazine that is published by the “Ojai Valley News”. With their permission, the article is reprinted here. It ran on pages 154 and 155 in the magazine.

LOOK BACK IN OJAI 1969
Beautification Month


By
Drew Mashburn
Contributed on behalf
of the Ojai Valley Museum

In October 1969, the Ojai Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a “Beautification for Better Business Campaign.” I had graduated from Nordhoff High School only a few months before and must tell you, at the time, my business was chasing after beautiful women and cars. I could not have cared less about sprucing up things around the valley, except for a good wash and waxing of my 1961 Austin Healy “Bug Eye” Sprite to, hopefully, impress beautiful young ladies.

So, moving on, I was ignorant of this cleanup drive.

Mr. Libbey, of Libbey Glass Co. fame, was a proponent of the “City Beautiful Movement” featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. At the original Ojai Day, April 7, 1917, held in Civic Park (now Libbey Park), Libbey said in a speech: “There has been too little attention paid to things aesthetic in our communities and in our homes. The time has come when we should encourage in ourselves thoughts of things beautiful, and the higher ideals which the people fostering of the love of that which is beautiful and inspiring.”

Libbey’s speech includes the word “beautiful” twice. His words and actions emphasized improving Ojai’s aesthetic qualities. As a lifelong resident (67-plus years) of the Ojai Valley, I truly believe that Libbey’s ideals have been ingrained in our town, even inspiring the 1969 beautification campaign and valleywide cleanup drive decades after his speech.

On the evening of Oct. 30, City Building Inspector Ken Swift and Hal Mitrany of the Chamber of Commerce chaired a meeting at the Ojai Woman’s Club to organize the cleanup. Thirty-eight groups were invited and about 40 representatives attended. The PTA, American Legion, Chamber of Commerce, Boy and Girl Scouts, Retail Merchants Association, Jaycees, Woman’s Club, Garden Club, Retired Men’s Club, East Ojai Valley Associates and the Committee to Preserve the Ojai were among the groups participating.

Harrison’s Rubbish Service volunteered to place collection bins throughout the city and dates were set for free trash and junk removal.

City, county and state agencies were on board. The City Council proclaimed November Cleanup and Beautification Month. The county allowed a main trash-collecting station to be located behind Libbey Park and the state furnished a truck and driver to assist groups that picked up litter along the highways.

A city beautification conference was held at the Ojai Valley Inn, attended by about 80 planners and planning commissioners from all the cities in Ventura County. Featured speakers were Camarillo officials who touted their community’s beautification successes.

In November, the Ojai Architectural Board of Review decided to demolish the Pergola’s two large arches that had been bombed in October 1967 and December 1968. In addition to removing an eyesore, they wanted to open up the view of the park from Ojai Avenue. The Ojai Planning Commission, City Council and Ojai Civic Center Park trustees agreed.

The western arch of the Libbey Park Pergola destroyed in a bomb attack and then demolished in the 1969 beautification drive.

The city also decided to work with business owners to help pay for sidewalk repairs as some sidewalks were not only unsightly, but dangerous. Sidewalk repairs and installation of planters were coordinated with the state repaving Ojai Avenue. In addition, the city repaved 12 residential streets in the western portion of town.

Despite the fanfare and ambitious goals, Inspector Swift reported at the end of November that the beautification and cleanup campaign had fallen short, as participating organizations failed to develop, propose or implement plans. Little had been accomplished beyond some improvement at private homes. He did, however, report two successful beautification projects:

+ The Civic Center Park Board of Directors voted to demolish the bombed arches at the front of the park.

+ The Chamber of Commerce purchased and planted a permanent Christmas tree at the “Y” intersection.

That very same Christmas tree has grown into a mighty fine tree that we all continue to enjoy during the holidays and all year round.

Skinniest Raccoon Ever: Reality or Ojai Legend?

This article was published in the Ojai Valley News on March 19, 2003. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Skinniest Raccoon Ever: Reality or Ojai Legend?
by Earl Bates

A few Ojai residents say they have seen the elusive “skinny raccoon,” but many people are skeptical about its existence.

“I have talked with people who say there are none of them around here,” said Ojai resident and Ventura County park ranger Drew Mashburn.

The most certain place to find a likeness of the skinniest raccoon, also known as a ringtail cat, is in a field guide to the mammals of North America. The illustrations of the well-known animals like deer, bear and coyote have a real look about them, everyone knows those animals actually exist. But looking at an illustration of the ringtail suggests a fictitious creature, something like a cross between a Cheshire cat and a mongoose.

Sightings of this unlikely looking little mammal are scarce in the Ojai area, but they are very much worth looking out for. A ringtail sighting is proof that fantastic little wild creatures still haunt the backcountry just north of Ojai.

“The only ringtail I remember seeing,” said Mashburn, “was when I was parked on the road above Lake Matilija. I looked down and saw this thing bouncing through the brush.” Mashburn remembered thinking, “That is the skinniest raccoon I have ever seen, and then, all of a sudden, I realized it was a ringtail.”

Ventura County Parks Department Park Ranger Drew Mashburn (circa 2014). Mashburn's career with the department began on August 26, 1974 and ended in mid-September of 2015 when he retired with 41+ years of service.
Ventura County Parks Department Park Ranger Drew Mashburn (circa 2014). Mashburn’s career with the department began on August 26, 1974 and ended in mid-September of 2015 when he retired with 41+ years of service.

Then Mashburn’s reasoning powers took hold of him as he thought, “No, it can’t be, there are no ringtails in Ventura County.” Mashburn did some research and found that ringtails were listed as possible residents in nearby territory. “I looked in some of my books and they claim ringtails can still be found in the Santa Barbara backcountry, and that’s like the far end of Matilija Canyon.” He is now certain that the skinniest raccoon he ever saw was actually a wild ringtail.

Ringtails are not as rare in the Ojai area as the history of their infrequent sightings would indicate. Although ringtails live in local habitats shared with humans and other creatures, their behavior characteristics keep them almost always out of sight.

One of the main reasons ringtails are seldom seen is because they are strictly nocturnal. They sleep during the day and emerge from hiding places, like holes in oak trees and under rock piles, to do their hunting at night.

Another reason ringtails are seldom seen is because they have learned to stay out of developed areas. They prefer to live out of town, especially along the rocky water course habitats of foothill canyons.

Ringtails are experts at stalking mice and rats, and they sometimes catch small birds. They also eat berries, including those from the manzanita plant.

Adult ringtails measure about 30 inches from nose to tip of tail. Their long busy tail, accounting for about half of their overall length, is banded with black-and-white rings. Their tail serves an important function in helping the ringtail keep its balance while scurrying along branches and across piles of rock in pursuit of prey.

In overall length, ringtails are nearly as long as, but much skinnier than, raccoons. Raccoons have much bulkier bodies but shorter tails. Ringtails weigh from 2 to 3 pounds, about one-fifth the weight of a typical raccoon.

Ringtails are remarkably agile creatures. They have been recognized for their great skill in catching rodents and for their ability to outmaneuver some of the animals that prey on them, including owls and bobcats. Early prospectors and settlers in California employed ringtails as mousers, which earned them the nickname, “miner’s cat.”

In the Mediterranean climate of Ojai’s backcountry, ringtail kittens are born in April and May in litters of three and four. They are fully grown at about six months of age.

Ojai area residents who would like to try and catch a glimpse of the mystical and elusive ringtail could try their luck on a walk through Rose Valley during the wee hours of the morning. Anyone interested in seeing more than an illustration in a field guide before venturing out on a late-night ringtail sighting expedition is welcome to stop in at the Ojai Ranger District Office at 1190 E. Ojai Ave. and ask to see their mummified version of the seldom-seen ringtail cat.

ringtail