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
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.


The following article was on page 2 of the JULY 16, 1948 edition of THE “OJAI.” It is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News. The author is unknown.


Enrollment in the kindergarten classes of the Nordhoff Union Elementary School district will be subject to regulations set up by the school board—regulations made necessary by the lack of sufficient kindergarten space, the coming school year, it was announced today.

With two sessions in the Oak View kindergarten and two at Nordhoff, there were not sufficient accommodations last September and there will be more on a waiting list this coming year, since the new kindergarten at Meiners Oaks will not be completed before February of 1949.

However, there is a solution which should work for the possible benefit of the children in their school work, members of the school board agree.

It is generally accepted that the school entrance age in California is too low, most states setting a higher age. By the sixth grade the average age is a year greater in proportion, showing that the average child either starts in later or has not been promoted at the end of one of the school years. The state convention of elementary school principals last April went on record as favoring a five-year entrance age to kindergarten.

Therefore, all children five years of age or older on September 1, 1948, will be admitted to a Nordhoff kindergarten; those from four years and six months to five years, as of September 1, will be placed on a waiting list and after the first day of school those whose ages are greatest will be notified that they may enter, the number allowed to enter depending upon class space still available.

Registration for kindergarteners or other pupils new to the district will be handled in the school office in Ojai beginning August 2. A birth certificate or other official evidence of correct birthdate must be shown to gain enrollment in either kindergarten or first grade. The school office will be open Mondays through Fridays from 9 am to 12 noon and 1 to 4 pm beginning with August 2. In general, the school office will be closed during the month of July.

For the convenience of Oak View children, registration there will be conducted on or about September 1 at that school; an announcement will be given later, after Mrs. Ethel Eitens, principal, has returned from her summer school work. Casitas Springs children will enroll the first day of school, September 13.

Charming country school a page out of the past

The following article first appeared on Page A-4 of the Sunday, December 7, 1969 edition of The Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Charming country school a page out of the past
Fred Volz

Once-upon-a-time there was this charming English cottage-style elementary school nestled securely under giant oaks. Four spacious classrooms with peekaboo windows looking out on an unmatched rural scene. The school was peopled by over one hundred happy children as was testified by the exuberant art work papering walls. There was even a pretty school teacher and a dashing young principal.

This once-upon-a-time is not a scene out of a Victorian novel. This once-upon-a-time is now – and the school is San Antonio, still operating gracefully in the orange groves on the corner of Grand and Carne roads in the east end of the Ojai Valley.

The Ojai Unified School board has been making their meetings a round robin of the eight schools in their district, primarily to survey maintenance problems. Last week it was San Antonio’s turn.

Of course, there were many things that needed fixing in a school built in 1927, but the school board didn’t dwell upon them. Their visit was pure nostalgia, perhaps for the scenes of their own childhood country school, or perhaps for the country school that never was.

School’s history

Wrote Ed Wenig in his newspaper column “The Intangible Spirit of Ojai” on October 12, 1961 . . . “when the so-called little Sagebrush Academy at the foot of Dennison Grade moved into a new school in the Upper Ojai Valley in the 1880’s to form the Ojai School District, the area in the east end of the valley was left without a school. The San Antonio School district, according to Dr. John Rogers, was formed in 1886 to fill the need.

“While the residents were waiting for an old granary to be moved into position, classes were held under the oaks. (They still are in nice weather). Shortly thereafter, a new school was built at the corner of Grand and Carne.

“In 1926, district parents wanted to bond themselves for a new school building. Not much opposition developed in the district, but W. W. Bristol, long identified with the Nordhoff School district, earnestly tried to convince San Antonio voters that their school district should consolidate with Nordhoff. He claimed that good roads spelled the doom of tiny schools.


“But residents were unconvinced. (They were still unconvinced in 1965 when they voted 2-1 against district unification.) The bonds passed and the present building was dedicated in 1927. Two classrooms were so arranged that the area could be converted into an auditorium. It was the largest in the valley. San Antonio school has now been enlarged to five rooms.

“When the school was built, among the trustees was an ardent Englishman, Fred Udall, Sr. According to Roy Wilson, Santa Paula architect who designed the school, this is why English cottage-type architecture was selected. The school was built for around $20,000.”

Lots of land

Outside of usual maintenance problems, San Antonio is as sound as the day it was built over 40 years ago. (Its 12 by 12 foot pillars are now supporting a new roof). However, its potential is yet to be realized.

Five acres of land in two soccer fields are largely unused and constitute an undeveloped recreation area for East-enders. The area could be converted into tennis courts, volleyball courts, a baseball diamond or a football field. The yard is now rough dirt, and water facilities would have to be installed. Barbecue pits and picnic areas would then be possibilities.

But the aura of another age slumbers under the oaks at Grand and Carne. Many pioneers in the valley fondly remember the school as a social center. In 1892 a reporter for “The Ojai” described such a social as “the most enjoyable gathering we have had the pleasure of attending. An admirable musicale and literary program was carried out. Social games were played and, of course, there were refreshments—coffee such as not every mother can make and palate-pleasing cake. The door receipts of $12 were turned over to the school as the beginning of a fund to buy either a piano or an organ.”

Now, 78 years later the coffee is still fresh and black, the cookies rich and tasty, the conversation neighborly.

In the library-classroom of the old school the board meeting was again a social occasion—for trustees, for parents, for the newspaper – just as it was 78 years ago in a happier, but less “enlightened,” year.