Local bust nets marijuana valued at $4 to $5 million

This article first appeared in the “Ojai Valley News” on September 6, 2000. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Local bust nets marijuana valued at $4 to $5 million
by Lenny Roberts
OVN staff reporter

It’s apparently that time of year again, when sophisticated marijuana farms are discovered by authorities on routine helicopter patrols of Ojai’s backcountry.

Recently, more than 4,000 high-grade plants were uprooted and destroyed after being located in what Sheriff’s Capt. Dennis Carpenter described as a very remote area of northern Matilija Canyon, in the Los Padres National Forest, with no known trails in or out of the area.

Carpenter, in a prepared statement, said that narcotics investigators discovered the clandestine farm approximately two weeks ago, but did not move in immediately in an attempt to identify the responsible parties.

On Aug. 28, investigators entered the site and found more than 3,000 plants, along with a sophisticated cultivation operation. The subjects fled the area prior to the deputies’ arrival.

Three days later, investigators returned to the site and removed an additional 1,055 plants. Several miles of concealed water lines were found, along with an encampment that served at least four people. The confiscated weed has an estimated street value of between $4- and $5 million.

Also discovered at the site were large quantities of food, two rifles and a base camp with assorted tools. Carpenter revealed the subjects had caused a “significant amount of damage to the natural vegetation and habitat, which included the killings of two deer and a fox.”

Authorities hope they will be able to identify those responsible from evidence collected at the site.

The find was the first since October 1999 when a sheriff’s pilot discovered 662 high-grade marijuana plants growing in a Ladera Canyon pot farm, three miles north of Ojai. Those plants had an estimated street value of $1.2 million, according to authorities.

In 1996, three major discoveries in the mountains surrounding Ojai yielded a combined payload of more than 16,000 high-grade sensamilla plants, with a potential value of more than $86 million. In September 1998, after a year of excessive rain, narcotics officers announced the destruction of 1,157 high-grade plants found in an isolated area off Sulphur Mountain Road. The plants had an estimated street value in excess of $4 million.

No arrests have been made in any of the finds, which investigators believe may be related.

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.

He got Meiners O. for unpaid debt

The following article first appeared in the December 3, 1969 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission. The photo of John Meiners is used here by courtesy of the Ojai Valley News. The other photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.

He got Meiners O. for unpaid debt
by
Ed Wenig

Meiners Oaks, a community where nearly every home is under a Live Oak tree, takes its name from John Meiners, who owned the large area for many years.

John Meiners (1826 - 1898)
John Meiners (1826 – 1898)

John Meiners, native of Germany, had come to the United States about 1848 and had established a successful brewery business in Milwaukee. He acquired this Ojai ranch in the seventies, sight unseen, as a result of an unpaid debt. When he heard that his friend, Edward D. Holton, a Milwaukee banker, was going to California for a brief trip, Meiners asked him to see the property he had acquired. Mr. Holton’s evaluation was perhaps it was the largest oak grove on level land in Southern California, much of it so dense that the ground was in continuous shade. Furthermore, to his surprise, Meiners discovered that the climate of the valley was good for his asthma.

Hogs grazed there

For a long time the oak grove was fenced, and provided pasture for a large herd of hogs. All traffic from Ojai to Matilija went on a private road through the Meiners property, using a gate which was supposed to be kept closed. So many people went through the gate without closing it that in 1893, the manager of the ranch, P. W. Soper, locked the gate. With the Meiners road closed the only way of getting the mail to Matilija by stagecoach was a roundabout one by Rice Rd. A news item in “The Ojai” related that, as Rice Road had been flooded, “the mail was sent up to Matilija last night on horseback, the rider going across the back hill country. . .” However, Mr. Soper later gave several keys to A. W. Blumberg, operator of Matilija Hot Springs, with the stipulation that they be used only by mail carriers and scheduled stagecoach drivers.

The barn and livestock area on the Meiners Ranch. A fence surrounds the main oak grove seen in the distance.
The barn and livestock area on the Meiners Ranch. A fence surrounds the main oak grove seen in the distance.

In 1896, the big barn, on the Meiners Ranch, located approximately where the Ranch House Restaurant is now, caught fire one evening about midnight. No fire fighting equipment was available. Twenty horses, many tons of hay, harness, and farm implements were completely destroyed. “The Ojai” of February 15, 1896 reported, “Through the flames the horses could be seen plunging and dashing about insanely in the midst of the burning firey furnace; twenty fell victims without a single rescue.” But, the article goes on to state further, “Mr. Meiners built a large temporary barn on Monday, and the work of the great ranch goes on energetically.”

House still stands

The Milwaukee brewer lived on his ranch intermittently from the 1880’s until his death in the valley in 1898. His original big house still stands on the hill above the Ranch House Restaurant and is now used by the Happy Valley School.

John Meiners and his wife can be seen sitting on the raised, covered porch on his hillside home on the Meiners Ranch.
John Meiners and his wife can be seen sitting on the raised, covered porch on his hillside home on the Meiners Ranch.

John Meiners organized his ever-increasing acreage into a very productive ranch. Several hundred acres to the north of the oak grove were planted in oranges, lemons, prunes, apricots and apples. P. W. Soper, father of the late “Pop” Soper, was general manager of the Meiners Ranch, and lessee of 90 acres of Texas red oats, 90 acres of wheat, and 200 acres of barley. A visitor who toured the ranch with Mr. Meiners in 1897 wrote, “At the Meiners Ranch we saw stalks of oats that measured 7 feet 7 inches.”

To visualize the vast area, the ranch can be described as bounded on the south by the hills of the Happy Valley School [Oak Grove School now], on the west by Rice Road, and on the north by the foothills near Cozy Dell Canyon, and on the east by a line running through the junction of Highway 33 and El Roblar St., north and south.

The forebears of several of the present day residents of Ojai Valley came here as a result of John Meiners’ interest in his ranch. The grand-daughters of Edward D. Holton, who made the original favorable report concerning the ranch of Mr. Meiners, and the Ojai Valley, are Miss Alice and Helen Robertson of the East Valley, and his great grand-daughter, Mrs. Anson Thacher. Otto Busch came to the ranch as manager in 1907, and his son, Geo. Busch, now retired, was one of Ojai’s postmasters.

PUBLIC SECONDARY

The following story is from Walter Bristol’s 1946 book, “THE STORY OF THE OJAI VALLEY.” It is assumed that Walter Bristol is the author.

PUBLIC SECONDARY

In 1909 a Union High School District was formed. The first trustees were Sherman D. Thacher, Joseph Hobart, Dr. B. L. Saeger, F. H. Sheldon and F. P. Barrows. W. W. Bristol was engaged by Mr. Thacher at their meeting in Berkley to be the first principal. He was assisted the first year by Mabyn Chapman, a teacher of great versatility, and the second year by Ruth Forsyth, in the subjects of science and mathematics.

The first two years of the school was conducted in the upper story of the old wooden grammar school. Twenty-four pupils enrolled the first year.

Norhoff Grammar School, where Miss Baker went to school.
The old wooden Nordhoff Grammar School.

In 1910 the principal told the trustees that a new building must be planned for as soon as possible since there was not room enough to carry on. Bonds were voted for $20,000. Since one member of the board, F. P. Barrows, did not agree with the majority as to the site for the new building, it became necessary under the law to call an election to decide on a site. A hot election ensued—one faction wanting it east of town, the other west of town. Fortunately, the western advocates won.

In the fall of 1911 the new building was ready and formally dedicated on November 1st. The first class to graduate was made up of Grace Hobson, Valeditorian, Carolyn Wilson, Salutatorian, Nina Freeman, Ethel Freeman, Edna Leslie, Abbie Cota and Levi Bray.

Nordhoff High School (1911)
Nordhoff High School (1911)

The first annual named “Topa Topa” appeared at the close of 1912-1913 session.

First page of the 1912-1913 Nordhoff Union High School annual (yearbook).
First page of the 1912-1913 Nordhoff Union High School annual (yearbook).

In 1916 the new manual training and Domestic Science buildings were completed and dedicated. In 1919 Principal Bristol resigned. The principals to date were W. D. Gayman, Albert L. Estus, R. M. Wilson, Jack Polski and in 1933 Rudolph H. Drewes.

The new high school was completed in 1929 during the administration of Jack Polski. A large gymnasium was completed in November, 1940.

Buildings designed by Roy Wilson.
Buildings designed by Roy Wilson.

Mr. Drewes has established a useful place in the community. He has been district head of the Boy Scouts, director of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce and is now Chairman of the Playground committee and President of the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Church.

Postcard: Matilija Hot Springs Pool

Matilija Hot Springs swimming pool when it was enclosed

Bathers on the Steps of the Plunge. The Ojai newspaper reported in March 1902 that “Work on the building to surmount the plunges at Matilija Hot Springs has been begun, and the frameworks will be up in a couple of weeks with propitious weather.” The indoor pool was 150 feet long and 65 feet wide. Individual dressing rooms accommodated 70 people.  Electric lights illuminated the grounds, and there was a covered dance pavilion.

Matilija Hot Springs swimming pool in the 1950s.

Later Open Pool at Matilija Hot Springs. Buildings and facilities at each of the Matilija Canyon camps were replaced over time, often due to the fact that one or the other had been destroyed by flood waters. Here we see a replacement to the earlier plunge at Matilija Hot Springs.  The scarcity of swimming pools elsewhere in the county resulted in lots of summer traffic to the pools in Matilija Canyon.


The above is an excerpt from Ojai: A Postcard History, by Richard Hoye, Tom Moore, Craig Walker, and available at Ojai Valley Museum or at Amazon.com.

 

Early Stories of Ojai, Part V (The Ojai Train)

Waiting for the train to arrive.

Early Stories of Ojai, Part V (The Ojai Train) by Howard Bald
Howard Bald recounted life at turn-of-the-century Ojai in these articles from 1972.

Much has been written over the years about leading citizens of the Ojai Valley and their contributions to the community. What I propose to do is to try and present a picture of the everyday citizen, something of what life was like at the turn of the century and the decade that followed, of some of the industry and activities that have long been forgotten.

Unfortunately, there are not many left to help me on points that have become dim in my memory. I trust, though, that there will be no more inaccuracies in my statements than there have been in statements made by people who are better qualified to be historians than I am.

For instance, at the dedication of the new post office a few years ago it was stated that the new building stands on the same spot the post office stood at the turn of the century. Another person in her memoirs stated that Ojai (Nordhoff) never had a saloon. Also the Ojai newspaper wrote an account of Mr. Gridley murdering a Basque sheepherder in the Sespe. All of which I know to be absolutely inaccurate. But more on those subjects later.

Now it is not my purpose to start right in criticizing others, but to show how easy it is to make misstatements. I will doubtless make my share of them.

Arriving in the village of Nordhoff (Ojai was Nordhoff until the time of the first World War) in the spring of 1900, I was a scrawny, squint-eyed eight yar old with a supposedly short time to live because of TB. The long severe winters of northern Washington and Idaho kept me wrapped up in bed a good part of the year, so a mild climate with plenty of freedom was recommended by the doctors.

Well, I took full advantage of the freedom and in that way gained a wider knowledge of what was going on than the average boy of that time.

One of the things that stands out in my memory was the Nordhoff train. It was not until I had grown up that I realized that the train had arrived only two years before my arrival in the Ojai Valley.

Two trains plied between Los Angeles and Nordhoff. As the train left Nordhoff at 6 am, its sister train left Los Angeles. They crossed at Moorpark, where the crews had their lunches, then continued on to their respective destinations. So each train took 12 hours to make the one way journey.

On long summer evenings one popular source of entertainment for certain men, boys and dogs was to sit on the board sidewalk, where the arcade is now, and at the sound of the train whistle down near Grants Station [where Rotary Park is now], all would take off on a trot for the [Nordhoff] Depot.

Near Schroff’s Harness Shop (where the Ojai Cleaners now is) we cut down Montgomery Street and below the lumber yard, now Wachters, we went across to Fox Street.

At the same time the Matilija Hot Spring’s big lumbering overland stage, driven by either John Oretega, Bill Olivas (father of the Billy Olivas who is currently making headlines at Matilija Hot Springs) or Bob Clark would wheel in a cloud of dust, followed by Wheeler Blumberg with his four white horses hitched to a four-seated buckboard. Nordhoff’s taxi, which comprised a team of horses attached to a buckboard, would be there along with an assortment of country folk with a horse and buggy to meet incoming friends or family.

The Matilija Stage

As the train crossed S. Ventura, S. Montgomery and Fox streets huffing and puffing, with steam jetting from both sides and the bell clanging, there was general pandemonium, for many of the country horses were terrified of such a monster and resorted to lunging, bucking and rearing. Not infrequently would be heard snap of a buggy shaft or a wagon tongue amid the barking of dogs and shouting of women and children on the ground greeting incoming family.

When the Matilija and Wheeler Hot Springs guests were all loaded there would be a popping of four horse whips, as the stages departed through town on a dead run. In later years I have wondered just when the horses settled down to a jog trot, for certainly they couldn’t endure such breakneck speed for long.

The Taxi

Finally as broken harness and buggy shafts were mended and the more terrified horses were led out across the bridge and all the passengers had departed, the boys and dogs would straggle off to their respective homes and the men back to their visiting along the boardwalk or to Dave Raddick’s pool room. I don’t believe the patron’s of John Lagomarsinoa’s card house were ever diverted from their evenings carousel by the arrival of a train.

Postcard: Hanging Rock — A Trysting Place.

Hanging Rock by E.M. Sheridan

I’d like to go to hanging rock today,
Just as I did in that far other day,
To sit and dream in the deep canyon’s shade
Beneath the towering crags rising rugged above
The tumbling waters of the river,
In wondrous Matilija.

Twas very long ago, in flaming youth,
We two sat side by side beneath
The great moss-covered stone
A trysting place sought out in those old days
By the swift river waters where trout sprang
Glinting in the sunlight
In Matilija.

With devil’s slide across the way,
And dotting the declivities
The snow-white Spanish daggers reared their heads
Boldly in the upper reaches of the sun
On the canyon steeps,
And bird song filled the air, and calling quail
And murmuring dove were in Matilija.

It’s well-remembered by the young of then,
That old hanging rock,
By those of now who are with us
Those of now with grandchildren
Toddling about their knees, and whose mirrors
Bring a sigh as a memory travels back.
And where are the lovers of yesteryear,
Lovers of olden Matilija.

NOTE: Hanging Rock was covered by Lake Matilija when Matilija Dam was built in the 1940s. Where do young couples go to tryst now that Hanging Rock is gone?