THE TRANSFORMATION HAS BEGUN

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, August 18, 1916 edition of “THE OJAI.” The author is unknown. Note: Reference is made several times to the town of “Nordhoff.” This was what the town’s name was before it was changed to “Ojai”.  All photos were added to this article by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

THE TRANSFORMATION HAS BEGUN

Just now things are doing in Nordhoff of such unusual character that the oldest inhabitant is constrained to sit up, or stand up, and take notice. In fact, the activity is being led by one of the oldest inhabitants — Thomas Clark, who, indeed, throughout all the past in Nordhoff’s history, has lived an active life, contributing his full share of the warp and woof woven into history’s fabric, which has grown threadbare in spots by the constant wear of time, and which he has started in to rehabilitate with new industrial threads and some patches.

Thomas Clark

No doubt the inspiration for greater and better things first surged in on the crest of the wave of sentiment for good roads, becoming a fixed purpose when Mr. E. D. Libbey arose to the occasion and gave added impetus to the vehicle of progress not alone in words, but in action. As a captain of industry and commercial achievement few men are better equipped than Mr. Libbey. With the wealth to humor any reasonable ambition, coupled with an inclination favorable to this locality. Nordhoff is indeed fortunate to have the right to lay partial claim to the citizenship of such a magnanimous benefactor and admirer of nature’s gifts so lavishly, of which Nordhoff is the commercial center.

Mr. Clark’s labors for betterments are closely linked with Mr. Libbey’s plans for civic or community improvements, the work of the former aiding the purposes of the latter, which are known to and being carried out by Mr. H. T. Sinclair. Mr. Libbey’s confidential agent in the matter of improvements contemplated or in progress on the beautiful park tract and the old Ojai Inn square, which is the expansive front yard or plaza of the business center of Nordhoff, to be transformed into a place of greater beauty by the hand of artifice, and to harmonize the scene, without a blemish, the property owners will obscure unsightly fronts behind an ornamental arcade of concrete and tile, the material for which already lines either side of the street, awaiting the labors of the architect and the builders.

LUNCH BREAK AT THE OJAI INN. Tourists stopped at the Ojai Inn for meals, particularly when they drove what was called “the Triangle,” from Ventura to Santa Paula and then through the Upper and Lower Ojai Valleys. The automobiles here date from about 1916, shortly before the hotel was bought by Edward Libbey and razed for creation of today’s Libbey Park. (OVM Collection)

After some parleying, and a small amount of worry as to the fate of the postoffice, Tom Clark cleared the way for a place for the old postoffice building to light, and Escovedo, the housemover, accomplished the rest, and the old Smith building has been transplanted — in two sections — across the street, and now rests intact on the east side of the Clark lot, with post office, plumbing shop, barber shop and Brady’s kitchen safely housed as of yore.

Corner of Signal and Main (AKA: Ojai Avenue) looking east. Clark’s old barn at left was razed to allow for the building of Clark’s Auto Livery. Some of the buildings at right of photo were moved to the opposite side of the street to allow for the construction in 1916 to 1917 of the new post office and tower.

To do this Mr. Clark wisely revised his plans and demolished his entire barn structure, to be replaced with a modern garage and auto and horse livery annex. The west wall of the garage, under the skilled hand of Philip Scheidecker, of Los Angeles, is rapidly going up, entirely constructed of rock, mostly moss-covered, above the rougher foundation.

Clark’s Auto Livery c1920. Note rock wall of building at left of photo.

The removal of the old building is the signal for activity on the Libbey side, but just what transformation is to take place is a matter of rumor or conjecture. A fine building, without doubt, is to replace the old, combining post office and public library — perhaps. Many other things are likely to happen that will add to the greater and more beautiful Nordhoff.

Edward Drummond Libbey

 

 

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

The following article first appeared in the Friday, November 24, 1916 edition of “THE OJAI” on the front page. The author is unknown. This was written before the town name changed from “Nordhoff” to “Ojai.”  The photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

Landscape gardener F. C. Fassel, on the annual payroll of Mr. E. D. Libbey, is now grading the vacant lot between the Ojai State Bank and the Boyd Club, which within a year will be styled the “Garden of Rose,” which in beauty will outrival Eden — perhaps — with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve looking in instead of looking out.

Edward Drummond Libbey

The ground is to be artistically embellished for the reception of all the more popular and beautiful varieties of rose bushes. All of the fine specimens so carefully nurtured by custodian Achelpohl of the Club will be transplanted in the plot, without retarding their bloom. This beauty spot will serve to add to the power of the magnet that will surely attract outsiders to the Ojai valley, adding still greater charm to Nordhoff’s civic center.

It is to be regretted that the wheels of the vehicle of progress shattered and tore out the great trailing rose bush at the corner of Clark’s deposed livery barn. In full bloom, with the rich colorings gleaming from the lower and upper branches of a live oak that served as a trellis, it was the marvel of all the tourists and the pride of the valley. It, however, still survives to bloom perpetually in thousands of “snap shots” by the ladies and knights of the Camera.

But there is some recompense for its loss. A handsome garage, built of moss covered native rock and tile adornments, is nearing completion on the corner, which furnishes an attraction less dainty, but more useful.

Clark’s Auto Livery (circa 1920). Note rock wall of building at left of photo.

The new post office building of hollow tile construction, with its massive tower, is now going up. The memorial fountain, after being torn down, is assuming its former shape in a position four feet further back from the street.

The Arcade is just completed and work has commenced on the Post Office Tower, 1917. The tower is at the left of the photo. (David Mason collection)

The park wall and pergola is lining up handsomely.

Colorized post card of the pergola with fountain. The park’s name was changed from “Civic Center Park” to “Libbey Park”.

The big park is taking on more beauty daily, and the million gallon reservoir is nearly completed.

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.

THE ROAD TO OJAI

The following article first appeared in the Thursday, Sep. 11, 1958 (Vol. 1, No. 35) edition of THE SENTINEL. THE SENTINEL was purchased by the Ojai Valley News. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News. The author is Percy G. Watkins.

THE ROAD TO OJAI
by Percy G. Watkins

(continued from last week)

THE ROAD AT THE ARNAZ GRADE

As the road to Nordhoff (Ojai) in 1900 passed La Crosse, (near Casitas Springs), it followed the railroad tracks to pass the home of Ed Goodyear, son of the man who owned part of the Arnaz Ranch at that time.

Here the road split. The Nordhoff Road turned to cross the railroad to go up the San Antonio Creek Valley. The other road went straight up the Ventura River Valley.

After passing the Goodyear home (built like so many of the houses that were here at that time) the traveler passes a large barn which was across highway 399 from the present Rancho Arnaz Cider Mill. West of it, the road wound up to the top of the hill to the farm land of Ed Goodyear (which now belongs to Henry Olivas). Mr. Goodyear was killed on this grade a few years later after being run over by a wagon loaded with corn.

The road then proceed up the Creek past a house which belonged to a man named Amesbury. He was, I think, one of the members of the crew who was drilling the oil well Van Epps managed. This house, and the land which belonged to it was sometimes known as the Harmison Ranch. Alfalfa grew on this land. (It’s now known as the Littlefield Ranch).

The road again leads to Ranch No. 1, with its No. 1 well flowing sulphur water. Beyond the barn and shop stood the house Tom Bard built to house and feed the men associated with him in drilling California’s first drilled oil well.

Across the Creek was the Arnaz School (Oak View’s first school), which was built in 1883 and is still standing. (It is now occupied by the N. Amescua’s). Not far from this point, the road forked and the Creek Road continued on up the San Antonio Creek Valley. And the other one went up the old grade to what is now the central part of Oak View.

At this point was a row of mail boxes which marked the end of the Ventura Star Route. An old fashioned steel-perforated sign indicated the distance to Ventura and to Nordhoff by both routes. A U.S. Geodetic Survey marker stood at this point.    (to be continued)

Intolerant of intolerance

The following article first appeared in the Ojai Valley News on July 22, 2011. It is appears here with their permission.

Passing the Buck
Intolerant of intolerance
by
Bill Buchanan

The worst case of poison oak I ever caught was from climbing a hill to throw black paint on a Ku Klux Klan billboard. On a chilly evening in the fall of 1971, my senior year in high school, three friends and I left in the middle of a football game to deface a sign that we felt was an embarrassment to anyone with any sense.

The sign had been posted at one of the gateways to the town. It featured a hooded rider on horseback, and read, “The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan welcome you to Fort Payne, Alabama.” That was our hometown, and that sign had to go. So we devised an elaborate plan that involved two of us hauling four cans of black paint up a steep hill to the billboard. With our hearts beating loudly enough to be heard in the next county, we happily dropped our bombs on the offending target. The sign was never replaced.

Afterward, the four of us were jubilant. We were terrified when we thought about getting caught by the police, or revenge that might be visited upon us if it was discovered who defaced the sign. But the pride I felt in doing something I knew to be right outweighed my fear.

My disgust for racial prejudice came as a result of playing basketball. My school had been integrated when I was 9 years old. In my little town, integration went smoothly and without incident. I had classes with African-Americans, but did not have much interaction with black students. That changed when I joined the basketball team in high school and acquired some black teammates.

I came to know and like some of the black guys on the team. We shot baskets together, practiced together, ran sprints together, and joked in the locker room together. Later, when we became comfortable with each other, we sometimes cruised around town together. These were good guys. So when someone said something negative about African-Americans, they weren’t just talking about a nameless group of people. They were talking about Donnie, Ralph, Sam and Robert — guys I knew and liked.

The current crusade by some against gay rights reminds me of the civil rights struggles in the ’60s and ’70s. Some, including a few presidential candidates, are attempting to make political hay from bashing gay people. This prejudice and marginalization of gay people is as wrong now as the abuse of African-Americans was then.

While I joined the fight against racial prejudice early on, I was late to the game on gay rights. For too many years I used gay slurs and told derogatory gay jokes. For this, I am deeply ashamed.

Acquiring gay friends changed my attitude. Perhaps my prejudice was fueled by the belief that people had a choice in their sexual preference. But I learned that belief was mistaken. Every gay friend with whom I have spoken told me that they knew early in life, even as small children, that they were different. I realized that you are either straight, or you are born gay — and nothing is going to change that.

A significant percentage of our population is gay or lesbian. They are our friends, our co-workers and members of our family. No matter how you view homosexuality, gay Americans are citizens and deserve the same rights afforded everyone else under the law.

Anything less is morally indefensible.

“DEATH VALLEY DODGE” AT THE ISIS

This article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, February 4, 1916 edition of THE OJAI. THE OJAI is now the Ojai Valley News. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News. The author is unknown.  The photos have been added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

“DEATH VALLEY DODGE” AT THE ISIS

Through an arrangement made by S. D. Nill, it is now possible to see in Nordhoff, the nationally celebrated “Death Valley Dodge”. This unusual car has battled its way through every noted desert of the Southwest, has climbed inconceivably steep mountains and holds the unique double record of having been driven from below sea level to the highest point ever reached by an automobile on the Pacific Coast. It has conquered all sorts of obstructions, defying the laws of equilibrium and gravitation.

1915: Death Valley Dodge car at unknown location during 1,000 mile drive around the California desert including Death Valley.

In the motion pictures you will see a car actually turning corners on two wheels with passengers in its tonneau, racing the “Owl” a mile a minute, tearing up 35 percent grades with ease and speed, fighting its way through an inconceivably rough country where there are no roads, and climbing down rocky bluffs so steep and rough that a mountain goat would find difficulty in doing what “Death Valley Dodge” actually does before your eyes. It flashes its way through grease-wood, cactus and yucca growing to twice the height of the car, conclusively showing to what extreme limits of strength the master builders of this latest motor product have been able to install into a motor car.

These unusual pictures will be shown at the Isis Theatre of this city on Monday, Feb. 7th, from 2 to 10 p. m.

You can get free tickets by calling on S. D. Nill, the local Dodge Brothers dealer.

This ad was on the front page of THE OJAI in its Friday, February 4, 1916 edition.

Ojai’s first jail still exists near Santa Barbara

This article first appeared in the Wednesday, December 13, 1989 edition of the Ojai Valley News on Page A-7. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is Barbara De Noon.

Ojai’s first jail still exists near Santa Barbara
by
Barbara De Noon
Special to the News

Would you believe that Ojai’s first jail, built in 1873, is sitting in Santa Barbara County?

Let me tell you the story.

In 1873, the 50 peace-loving settlers in the Ojai Valley, tucked below some beautiful mountains (where there were more horses than people), felt the need for someone in the township to represent the law.

About the same time, a prominent lady of the town was sitting on a log one day watching her husband erect a canvas hotel (where Libbey Park is now). She was Mrs. Abram Blumberg and she said to her husband, “You know, our settlement should be call Nordhoff” (reportedly meaning Wayside Inn or Northern Hole). [But actually named for author Charles Nordhoff.]

And so it came to pass that Ojai’s first name was really Nordhoff (always remembered by our only school).

Right afterward, the residents of this infant town hired Andy Van Curen (1848-1923) as its first constable.

Andy, as everyone was fond of calling him, had an unusual appearance. He had sparkling brown eyes, “wore” a white beard, and his head was completely bald except for one fringe of hair.

The first location of the jail was close to Ojai Avenue in front of what used to be Loop’s Restaurant. Then it was moved [west] to what is now the southwest corner of Ojai Avenue and Blanche Street (later the space of Security Pacific Bank’s parking lot).

Immediately after being hired, Andy personally built the jail, using 1-by 4-inch sideboards laid flat on top of one another.

The timbers were nailed together by iron spikes, one inch apart.

There were two cells, each with an iron door, one with the capacity for four prisoners and the other for seven.

Windowless, there was a six-inch slot in each cell for air.

The jail provided extra storage for Van Curen’s coffins and tombstones as he was the only undertaker in the valley.

Prominent ladies of the town made doll dresses out of the scraps from the linings of the coffins.

Actually, Van Curen was a livery stable owner and made an unusual constable.

He was described as a man who accomplished his duties in a kindly and sympathetic manner, keeping peace in the Ojai Valley.

He arrested an occasional operator of a “blind pig” (an establishment that served illegal bootleg whiskey), but, most of the arrests were participants of violent quarrels, drunks and horse thieves.

A great-grandniece of Andy’s wife, Mrs. Charles Phillips, remembers seeing her Uncle Andy taking trays of food prepared by his wife to the prisoners arrested and participants in violent behavior.

No one, however, ever escaped from the jail, a veritable fortress.

When Van Curen had given his services for many years, there was a movement among some of the local citizens to elect a younger and more active man to replace him as constable.

Commenting on this situation in her memoirs of the period, Helen Baker Reynolds writes, “Andy was hurt and incensed.” He let it be known that if he were replaced no one else could use his jail. And so the movement for replacement promptly collapsed.

After a half-century of being constable, and before leaving the valley to move to Pasadena, Van Curen offered the little wooden jail to the city, realizing it was a relic of the Old West and of early Ojai history.

Unfortunately, the offer was turned down and the jail was sold.

It was moved on a flatbed truck and became an attraction 14 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, off San Marcos Pass, on a horseshoe bend (once deep in the forest) behind an old stage coach stop called the Cold Springs Tavern.

The old tavern, genial remnant of 100 years ago, featured refreshing drinks and exceptional food for people who traveled the pass and to this day, still does!

And you can still see the first wooden jail of Ojai, sitting in a dark corner nestled in the trees at the rear of Cold Springs Tavern.

Drawing of the jail built by Constable Andy Curen as it looks at the Cold Springs Tavern in Santa Barabara County.

There are those of us who think the genial relic should be returned to its home, Ojai.

Anyone interested please contact Bob Browne, curator of our wonderful local museum.

January 1969 Rainfall and Resulting Damage

Fifty years ago, the Ojai Valley, as well as, all of Ventura County, was drenched by records amount of rain that resulted in the loss of life and millions of dollars of damage to public and private property.  The following two articles first appeared in the Wednesday, January 29, 1969 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page A1. They are reprinted here with the permission of the “Ojai Valley News”. The author of the first article is unknown.  Photos have been added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  Some of the photos were taken in January and others in February of 1969.    

The rainfall — this
is how it happened

On January 17 only 6 inches of rain had pattered on the valley. It looked like a dry year.

On January 29 over 30 inches had fallen from two Pacific storms.

The first storm started in earnest a week before last Saturday. When it ended in a drizzle six days later, over 12 inches of rain had fallen. However the valley was still in pretty good shape and Lake Casitas was storing 150,000 acre feet water for future use. Barrancas, creeks and rivers were running with a heavy winter flow.

Then it happened. Within the next 24 hours seven inches landed on the valley – double and triple that in the mountain areas – from a tropical storm.

Saturday morning, barrancas burst, creeks overflowed, and the river went wild, causing the biggest disaster in the history of the valley.

“GIVE ME MY BOOTS N’ SADDLE” was “Give me my boat n’ paddle” for Elmer Myatt of Kim Engineering and Lothar Herrman, who decided to have a little outing during the big rain Sunday night. Our photographer caught them preparing to wade to the restaurant for a coffee break. The white spots in the photo are rain drops on the camera lens. The water was nearly two feet deep for a couple of blocks along Ojai Avenue. (From Wed., Jan. 22, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”; Page A-4)

Here’s the day-by-day rainfall:

OJAI:                                                                             1969
January 17 ………………………………………………………………… 6.05
Januray 18 ………………………………………………………………… 6.54
January 19 …………………………………………………………………10.47
January 20 …………………………………………………………………14.05
January 21 …………………………………………………………………18.61
January 22 …………………………………………………………………19.12
January 23 …………………………………………………………………19.22
January 24 …………………………………………………………………21.64
January 25 …………………………………………………………………28.64
January 26 …………………………………………………………………29.94
January 27 …………………………………………………………………29.94
January 28 …………………………………………………………………30.23
January 29 …………………………………………………………………30.23
OAK VIEW                                                                     1969
January 17 ………………………………………………………………….. 5.97
January 18 …………………………………………………………………..
January 19 ………………………………………………………………….. 8.87
January 20 …………………………………………………………………..16.48
January 21 …………………………………………………………………..20.07
January 22 …………………………………………………………………..20.65
January 23 …………………………………………………………………..20.65
January 24 …………………………………………………………………..22.16
January 25 …………………………………………………………………..29.46
January 26 …………………………………………………………………..30.89
January 27 …………………………………………………………………..31.28
January 28 …………………………………………………………………..31.30
January 29 …………………………………………………………………..31.59

Two swimming pools were washed away from homes along San Antonio Creek near Ojai. (Dan Poush photo from “THE GREAT FLOOD VENTURA COUNTY January 1969 February”)
The San Antonio Creek jumped its banks, then ran through Camp Comfort.
Flooding damage at the junction of Hermosa Rd. & Creek Rd. The Ojai Valley Inn golf course is at the right of the photo.
Private residence that was located along Creek Road. The flooding San Antonio Creek demolished it.
Railroad bridge toppled at Casitas Springs by 1969 flooding.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

City faces crisis;
$400,000 repairs
by
Fran Renoe

“Ojai is, of course, a disaster area, and I have proclaimed it as such.” Mayor A. R. Huckins opened the Ojai City Council meeting Monday night with that statement, and the council immediately began discussion of the city’s damages.

Pipe gone

“At this time we have raw sewage dumping into San Antonio Creek. We need to replace 430 feet of sewer line,” City Manager Jack Blalock said, “This is our immediate problem. Then, there’s 500 feel along Creek rd. that is completely gone and at least a mile near Rancho Arnaz, and maybe more. Sewer lines in Meiners Oaks and Oak View are also washed out.

“This 430 feet requires 18-inch pipe, which is terribly expensive. It’s a matter of public safety, and has to be done immediately. We have a representative, John McWherter at a meeting of public works officials in Ventura tonight to find out what we have to do to be eligible for disaster funds and aid in this problem. We feel sure that Ojai will be given high priority in funds and aid,” Blalock said.

Councilman William Burr and Maarten Voogd formed a sub-committee relating to sewer problems and according to Burr, at least 6,000 feet of line is estimated to be lost, in addition to line that has yet to be measured, still covered by water or debris that the committee cannot get to and estimate damage. At this time, however, cost estimates run as high as $400,000. Blalock said that the needed 18-inch pipe runs at least $20 a foot.

Huckins reported that Blalock had ordered part of the sewer system plugged in order to keep out rocks and dirt. Even so, at least one section of sewer line is known to be plugged with debris, and Huckins commented “when that happens, sometimes it is cheaper to just lay another pipe.”

Blalock also needed approval of the council to clear the plugged lines. He said “there is a good possibility that our crew and equipment cannot do the job. We may need to call in a contractor to use jetting action tools. The first manhole just before the 430-foot break is completely filled with mud and we don’t have that kind of equipment.”

“I understand the city is also in the market for a new police car,” commented councilman Loebl.

“Yes, we were almost in the market for a new policeman,” commented Huckins. They were referring to the narrow escape achieved by Gene Meadows when his patrol car was inundated by flood waters just east of San Antonio Creek after the bridge went out.

After some discussion led by Councilman Monroe Hirsch concerning competitive bidding for a new patrol car — he wanted to know if dealers outside of Ojai were invited to bid on new cars — the council approved purchase of a patrol car. Competitive bidding between local Ford and Chevrolet dealers is conducted, with Blalock explaining that in one instance an outside bidder was only $1.75 lower than a local dealer, and that when servicing and repair work had to be done, it was cheaper to buy from a local dealer as the patrol cars could be worked on locally, instead of the police department having to drive the cars to dealers outside the valley.

Canada st.

“Other immediate damage includes street repair, especially Canada st.,” commented Mayor Huckins. “We thought at first the water was coming from the Stewart Canyon storm drain. Now it appears that it is an entirely new stream.”

AFTER THE FIRST RAINSTORM Stewart Canyon basin, built by the federal government as flood control above Canada st,, had reached a peak of 15 feet and here has receded to 11 feet. Water metering tower is well above water level. (from Sun., Feb. 2, 1969 edtion of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”;Page B-3)

“Parts of Canada are caving in,” Blalock said. “We may lose all of the street as far as Eucalyptus unless we can divert the stream.”

CANADA STREET in Ojai is gradually sinking in places as a result of an underground river which is threatening the walls of the Stewart Canyon concrete tunnel underneath the roadbed. The city recently has believed to have found the source of the water and is bypassing it into the tunnel underneath the street. Only time will tell — and the next big rain — if that is the solution. (from Jan. 15, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”; Page B-3)

Councilman Burr announced that he and Voogd would be meeting Thursday night with County Public Works staff to see what could be done and what was supposed to be done. Huckins commented that a special meeting of the city council would be called if necessary to expedite authorization for any street work that needed to be done.

“There is a strong possibility we will be able to get disaster funds,” Huckins said. “We certainly can’t float a bond issue at this time and as a public body we can’t borrow from the bank. Therefore, we’ll just have to find out how to get money, then worry about how to pay it back as this is an emergency.”

Councilman Hirsch emphasized that he thought it most important that the city work with the County public health authorities to consult and approve Ojai’s actions before fixing the pipe. He felt this was important in order “not to incur liabilities where the sewage goes out at the downstream area.”

John McWherter, of the Ventura sanitary engineering firm of McCandless-McWherter & Co., arrived to make his report to the council of what had happened at the Monday night meeting in Ventura with State and County public works officials and disaster authorities.

“A Mr. King of the State Emergency Assistance Office in Sacramento met with at least 50 representatives of various city and county staffs to tell us what could be done to correct the flood damage and how to apply for assistance,” McWherter said.

Next meeting

“I brought the council a sample resolution which is to be filled out and presented to the Tri-County meeting of state and federal disaster people at the Federal building at 9 a.m. Saturday.  If Ojai is interested in obtaining assistance we should have this resolution passed upon tonight so it can be presented at that meeting.”

McWherter said he felt that the Ojai sewer system would get top priority, and suggested that a second resolution be passed if any financial aid was to be requested for street damage and repair.

Huckins immediately stated that he was in favor of the resolution to seek sewer aid, but not in favor of asking for street repair aid. “We should not ask for outside aid unless we just can’t handle it ourselves,” Huckins stated.

Burr recommended that a complete report on street damage be compiled including time spent, equipment used, photographic proof, because he felt that such a report would strengthen the cities request if made at a later date. Hirsch and Loebl voted against tabling the street resolution. The council was, however, unanimous in it agreement to collect material to be presented at a later date for financial aid for street repair work.

McWherter stated that as many as 39 state and federal agencies were standing by to provide assistance to those cities and civic agencies needing help.

Federal funds

Hirsch maintained that “it is unfair to have Ojai taxpayers paying into a fund which is used by other cities and not taking advantage of the availability of such funds when offered. I fail to see the value of essentially penalizing a small community such as ours,” Hirsch said.

“We did sustain a disaster and it is going to cost money. I don’t think we would be taking any advantage of financial funds.”

“There’s no question that federal help is needed in the sewer clean-up,” Councilman Voogd said. “But at the same time we have to be very careful to only ask for money when we really need it and after an evaluation of the situation.  If some of these situations are not as crucial as they look then we must judge the degree of crisis. That is on what we should act.”

Other business conducted by the council consisted of approval of minutes from the planning Commission and Architectural Board of Review; approval of resolutions authorizing the preparation of plans and specifications of the Del Norte sewer extension which will service Jim Wyndle’s Richfield Service Station, the Ojai Valley News and the State Equipment Yard near the Y shopping center, plus a resolution to establish an underground utility district — this involves multiple use of a trench by Cable TV, the Edison Company and possibly Pacific Telephone.

The council also approved two ordinances, one adopting a uniform building code and another a uniform plumbing code.

FIXING THE GAS LINE on the Grand Avenue bridge, partially washed out, was this repairman from Southern Counties Gas Tuesday. He was held by the legs by another repairman. Utility company workmen worked round the clock after the storm to restore services in most areas. (Wil Marcus photo); Wed., Jan. 29, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” (Page B-7).
Looking west on Grand Avenue in January 1969.
Grand Avenue bridge damaged by flooding in 1969.
Gridley Road was damaged by the flooding.
ALL THAT REMAINS of Friend’s Packing House up on the Maricopa Highway is resting in the yard of Realtor Jack Gilbert’s home across the highway. Gilbert’s house was also totaled. The packing house was dismembered and washed down across the highway. (From Sun,, Feb. 2, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”; Page A-6)
Flood damage to the Maricopa Highway across the Ventura River from the Ojala Resort. The bridge leads over the river to Matilija Hot Springs.
Flooding damaged Wheeler Springs which is located along Highway 33 (AKA: Maricopa Highway).

Pony Express Day will be held at Lake Casitas

The following article first appeared in the August 27, 1999 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission.  All photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  Those photos are of items that the Oak View Civic Council possess and which Barbara Kennedy and Leanna Kennedy graciously arranged for the museum to photograph.     

Pony Express Day will be held at Lake Casitas
by
Lenny Roberts
OVN staff reporter

Oak View’s Pony Express Day, the annual event staged to supplement operating costs for the community’s civic center, has found a permanent home at Lake Casitas.

Pony Express Day reflects the long-gone days when Oak View staged similar events in honor of the unincorporated community, which was a stop on California’s Pony Express route.

In 1995, members of the Oak View Civic Council created Pony Express Day while searching for alternative sources of income to support the recreational and other programs it offers.

After three years of moderate success at the Oak View Community Center, organizers moved the event to the lake in 1998 in an effort to lure more people from Ojai and beyond, according to honorary mayor Barbara Kennedy.

Flyer promoting 1998’s “Pony Express Day”.

“Having it at the lake is a big advantage,” Kennedy said. “We’re expecting 200 to 300 entries for the car show alone and have already received calls from people in Los Angeles who want to enter.

“The Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce is involved and hopefully we’ll get a lot of the Ojai people there.”

Last-minute entries for the 12-category car show, at $25 each, will be accepted until showtime. Trophies will be presented for first and second place, best of show and for the mayor’s favorite entry.

Newspaper ad promoting 1999’s “Pony Express Day”. Local artist Colleen McDougal did the illustration.

“That’s what they tell me — I just pick the one I like,” Kennedy said.

The Ojai Band, which recently concluded its 1999 Wednesday night summer concert series at the Libbey Park bandstand, is scheduled to perform, as are the crowd-pleasing Frontier Gunfighters who stage a series of comical mock shoot-outs against a western-style backdrop.

Also returning is emcee Rick Henderson, the Miss Chili Pepper and Mr. Hot Sauce competitions, the Bronk Vreeland Ojai Ford-sponsored International Chili Society chili cookoff, the Old Time Fiddlers, the Ojai Valley News-sponsored horseshoe tournament, KHAY Radio personalities with live periodic broadcasts and other entertainment yet to be determined.

Notice the sponsors of the 1999 “Pony Express Day”.

For kids of all ages, sno-cones will be provided by the Oak View Lions.

Pony rides and game booths featuring carnival-style competitions will be evident throughout the day, as will Sheriff Department exhibits, including Ojai’s K-9 unit and representatives from the Police Activities League (PAL) and the Ojai Valley’s DARE program.

Kennedy said the availability of booth space is running out for commercial and non-profit vendors. However, there are still some available at $25 for non-profit and $50 for commercial vendors.

There is no charge to attend Pony Express Day, but parking at Lake Casitas is $5 per car.

For additional information or entry forms for any of the events, call Kennedy at 649-2232 or Oak View Civic Council president Leanna Kennedy at 649-9720.

This booklet contained the listing of event sponsors, Schedule of Events, advertisements, and Special Thanks.

 

This photo was on Page A-1 in the Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001 edition of the Ojai Valley News. Photo by Chris Wilson. The caption read, “MISTY GLENN sits atop Election at Oak View Civic Council’s Pony Express Day corral Saturday afternoon. Terry Kennedy, in cowboy hat, led riders around the corral on Election and Cassie, at right, both owned by Rhonda West of Oak View. This event has been going on for more than 50 years.” Notice the T-shirt Kennedy is wearing.