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)

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.

NEW RULES FOR KINDERGARTEN ANNOUNCED

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.

NEW RULES FOR KINDERGARTEN ANNOUNCED

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.

Ojai Valley Neighbors

This article first appeared in the August 24, 2001 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission. The photo of the Surf Shop was added by the Ojai Valley Museum.

Ojai Valley
Neighbors
by
Chris Wilson

Ojai runs thick in Neal Mashburn’s veins. The third-generation native has called this valley his home for all of his 31 years. And he’s been under the watchful eye of the community thanks to his well-known mom, Arlou.

Neal Masburn when he was owner/operator of the Beatched surf shop in Oak View.
Neal Mashburn when he was owner/operator of the Beatched surf shop in Oak View.

His mom was named Ojai’s Woman of the Year in 1989, was the grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade and ran the Youth Employment Service for a number of years. But since his father Harold’s death about three years ago his mom has been less active in the community.

“Now she just lays low, clips coupons and keeps out of sight,” he says.

When he’s not working at his Oak View business, Beatched, he helps her with yard work and has often thought of writing a book. He’ll call it, “Thoughts of Pop While Riding the Lawn Mower.”

“His most enjoyable time was taking care of the yard,” Neal says.

Neal’s grandmother moved to Ojai from Indiana. She worked at Rains for about 30 years, he says, and saved her money. When she died each of the half-dozen kids got a little inheritance. Since he didn’t want to work for anyone else, he decided the best way he could honor Grandma’s legacy was to start a retail shop, Beatched was born more than six years ago, and has grown each year.

“I make a living,” he says.

Neal admits that he’s a natural-born salesman. And he says that he can read his customers within seconds of waltzing through the door. He has built his successful reputation by offering what customers ask for. There’s T-shirts, grass skirts, skate and surf boards, stickers, sandals, posters, wet suits and vinyl record albums. And that’s a partial list of the inventory. Recently he’s begun offering one-on-one surf lessons. And he opens the parking lot to a free concert party every Memorial Day weekend.

Neal Mashburn standing in front of his surf shop, Beatched, on N. Ventura Avenue (AKA; Highway 33) in Oak View, California. Photo circa 1998.
Neal Mashburn standing in front of his surf shop, Beatched, on N. Ventura Avenue (AKA Highway 33) in Oak View, California. Photo circa 1998.

Neal too, proudly confesses his true love for Summer. Not only the season, but the adorable blonde who’s served at the Ojai Brew Pub since opening day and graces a lingerie ad that shows up regularly in the Ojai-Ventura Voice newspaper. They’ve been together for nearly five years.

“She’s made me better,” he says.

So with Beatched, Summer, surfing, skating, and a love for the warmth of the valley, it’s no wonder that Neal says, “Ojai has just been all about friends.”

It’s paradise. It’s home.

Photo: Ojai Train at Devil’s Gulch

These pictures are from the book Southern Pacific’s Scenic Coast Line – A Color Pictorial by Tom Dill. They were taken by Stan Kisler. The last steam run up the Ojai Branch occurred on May 22, 1955.  This was an early form of “push-pull” operation with the 2771 on one end and the 2367 on the other as the special works up the steep grade on the big fill near Oak View.”

Thanks to Brian Aikens for this photograph!

Oak View Fire Station 23

History Fire Station 23, Oak View by Ventura County Fire Department

Oak View’s first fire station was established in 1938, when the County Fire Protection District delivered a flat bed Chevy truck, with a 300-gallon water tank and a 500 gallon-per-minute pump driven by a Chrysler auxiliary engine, to the Oak View Road station. A small amount of hose was also carried on the truck.

In 1946, Engineer Wayne Troxell was put in charge of the Oak View station and its volunteer group.

The title, Engineer, was later changed to Captain and the titles of the four Captains in charge of the four districts in the county were changed to Battalion Chief. The Engineer’s title was not used again until 1962.

At that time working hours were reduced from four 24-hour days on and 48-hours off to a schedule of two 24-hour days, one eight-hour day on, and 48-hours off. The new engineer position covered the station Captain’s two days off and worked with the Captain only eight hours of his three days on.

Troxell, his wife, and children lived in a small trailer parked behind the station. In 1948 a new two-stall fire station with living quarters for Wayne and his family was built at 15 Kunkle Street in Oak View. In 1952, Troxell resigned and built a number of buildings and homes in the county, including Station 20 and Station 35.

Glen Tremain, the second man hired for Oak View, lived at the station with his wife in an eight-by-ten room, cooking meals on a small two-burner stovetop.

Glen served the district for a number of years until he retired as Captain of the Ojai fire station.

The Oak View fire station has the distinction of owning the first resuscitator unit in service in the fire district. Donated by the local Lions Club, it marked the beginning of other service clubs donating resuscitators to their local fire stations.

In 2000 the station was demolished for today’s Station 23 on the same site. The crew operated out of a trailer across Kunkle Street, in a vacant lot, until the new station was finished.

Memories & Reminiscences of Oak View

This article is taken from the Oak View Community website: www.oakviewca.org. Mr. Watkins reminiscences are reproduced essentially verbatim (some spelling corrections) from a copy of an article found in The Sentinel. The Sentinel was an Oak View newspaper, published in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It appeared weekly on Thursday by Chuck and Faye Hill, with advertising by Joe Colville.

THE ROAD TO OJAI, by Percy G. Watkins
The Oak View Sentinel, 1959.

From Rocky Flats (Casitas Springs) north, the Ojai road followed the course of 399 to where it starts to run parallel to the railroad now. Then it crossed the tracks to stay close to it on the west ford of the San Antonio Creek. About where 399 leaves the railroad to go up the San Antonio Creek Valley. The old road then continued about parallel with the railroad on up the Ventura River Valley. A short distance from the ford, it crossed a private road going from the Hollingsworth Ranch House passing by La Crosse Station (near Casitas Springs) to fording the San Antonio Creek. It reached dry ground near where drying equipment was used in the processing of apricots. The apricot orchard was then south of the Hollingsworth home. A man named Meyers (I do not know if he spelled his name that way), rented the ranch from Jack Hollingsworth, father of James Hollingsworth who lives there now. The apricot orchard was later very nearly taken away by floods.

The private road went on over the hill as does the Sulphur Mountain road now. On the left further on, where the road starts up the grade over Sulphur Mountain, was a small house with pens and some farm buildings. Here William (Bill) Foreman lived with his wife and small children. He had horses and wagons and hauled for others–hay, wood, etc. The place was known as “The Sheep Camp.” This private road was also used by a Mr. Jennings, who lived where the Rocky Mountain Drilling Co. has its yards. He owned the land from there to Ranch No. 1 (now the Willet Ranch) in the Arnaz area. Here lie the remains of oil well equipment at the first summit of Sulphur Mountain Road. However, the road at that time went up the canyon instead of over the present grade. About a half mile or less up the canyon, in 1900, a crew was drilling a well for oil with cable tools. The man in charge of this venture was a man named Van Epps, who in later years became well-known in oil well drilling circles. He was killed several years ago in an oil well explosion near Fillmore. The well, of course, did not produce.

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. After passing the barn, the road passed some buildings of the Arnaz Ranch. The road then went past the old adobe house to again cross the San Antonio Creek.

The road then proceeded up the Creek past a house which belonged to a many 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 US Geodetic Survey marker stood at this point.

THE ROAD AS IT REACHED OAK VIEW IN 1900 — LAND $30 ACRE

The Grade Road forded the San Antonio Creek where it immediately passed the house on the Harter ranch. A Mr. Alex Wiltfong lived in this house, which I believe still stands. Mr. Harter, owner of the ranch, lived in a small house nearby. At this point a private road went up the canyon to get to the farm land of the ranch. This land is now owned by Judge David Drapeau, Margaret Bertles, the Mangans and others. I think this included the land on the south of Sunset St. This part of the ranch was planted in plum trees. Leaving the Harter house, the Grade Road climbed steeply and roughly to where Dr. Clow now lives. At practically the same point where the road to the Clow’s house leaves the Old Grade Road, there was a private road leading to the Arellanes Ranch. At the entrance was a barbed-wire gate with a sign on it: “THIS 40 ACRES FOR SALE–$30.00 PER ACRE.” On a hill back of Wood’s Nursery was a small house of typical design.

This house was vacant from 1900 to about 1915. Then a man named Garman repaired it to make it livable. By that time Nidever had bought the ranch and planted an apricot orchard. Garman rented it and farmed on shares. Mr. Garman attempted to get around the expensive practice of pitting the apricots before they were laid out to dry. He built a huge machine to cut the fruit, and women were hired to spread the apricots. He took out patents on his machine and was working on improving it at the time of his death. Hay and barley were also grown on this ranch. We called the ranch, “the Canstancia Ranch.” I think it should have been Cagnacci.

THE MESA

The Mesa, (Oak View Proper) in 1900 was, with its deserted homes, neglected yards, and half-farmed acres, an example of good deal of the earths history. It told of the broken hopes the unfilled dreams, unrewarded ambitions, and labor of people long gone from this region.

Poor crops at times and low prices for abundant crops at other were factors that, coupled with the lack of water, finally drove the sturdy people to the more favorable areas.

North of the Harry Wood Nursery (on Portal St. in Oak View) was a building that people called the Soso or Sosa) house. I remember there were a number of old worn-out ÒWalter A. WoodsÓ mowing machines standing nearby. West of this building, which I think had been a barn converted to a house, was a big cactus thicket which bore large yellow fruit. It was of the semi-thornless variety, introduced by Luther Burbank.

From that point, the road to Ojai climbed further to the entrance of the Staire Ranch. Dr. Staire (a dentist) and his brother were partners in this ranch. W Lee Ferguson, who tended the Staire orchards, lived in a house near what is now Courtney Richards Chicken Farm. South of this point was located a unique stone building built many years before, of lime shale slabs held with plaster. These slabs were fairly abundant along the old grade. The building was used for storage. It was probably occupied by one of the Mexican families before California came into the hands of the Americans.

Mr. Ferguson was the found of the Cider Mill, and was the man who planted the apple orchard on Rancho Arnaz. He married Fannie, the daughter of Mr. Goodyear (Father of Ed Goodyear mentioned earlier in this series ) who had always resided at Rancho Arnaz with her father. Mr. Goodyear deeded most of the property to his children, but Rancho Arnaz was once more restored when Mr. Ferguson bought up the land from these children. Ferguson also acquired the Armsbury Place and a large part of the apple orchards are a remnant of that property. Mr. Goodyear lived a long life, cared for nicely by the Fergusons. Though they had no children, Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson lived long and happily together.

South of Oak View, after leaving Rancho Arnaz, the Grade road went north to the Staire Ranch, with its barn & drying equipment visible on the right of the road. Nearby stood a two-vat prune dipper, apricot pitting shed, tracks with fruit cars, permanent smudge houses and a dry ground. These occupied the land on which the home of Mr. Springer is located. There was only a hay field where Courtney Richards, has his chicken ranch, 410 Old Grade Rd. Nearly half of the land of the Staire Ranch was devoted to prunes, about half to apricots, the rest to olives.

North of the drying plant, just about where Walt Shiernbeck lives, (139 E. Oak View Ave.) stood a building used to store dried fruit. This belonged to a Ventura banker named Walker, (I believe he was the father of Harley Walker, who was once the president of the Union National Bank). This ranch was planted to prunes mostly. Hay was grown along the lower end near the railroad tracks, and near the fruit house, east of the road and south of where the Gardens Water Co tanks now stand. This ranch was crossed by the road.

THE OAK VIEW RAILROAD STATION

The Mahoney family house was vacant and run-down in 1900. However, a good fence and shade trees surrounded the house even though the yard had gone into ruin. A cistern south of the house and a galvanized iron tank west of the barn were used to store rain water.

In passing, note that the Walker place to the south (mentioned earlier) was later subdivided and became known as Oak View Gardens No. 1. And the Mahoney Ranch, as it became known, was called Oak View Gardens No. 2. Oak View was the name given to the railroad station and siding as it passed the Mahoney Ranch. These stations were erected about every two miles between Ventura and Nordhoff (Ojai).

Back of the Oak View station was a prune drying plant with a typical two vat dipper. Also behind the station was a reservoir built by Mr. Sherwood. The reservoir was never lined even though he had intended to pump water from a well in the river bottom. A projected public road had been laid out (and partly graded) from the Oak View Station to the Ventura to Nordhoff road along the north line of the ranch. It was thought at the time that this road would be used to transport local products to the railroad station.

In what is now the north section of Oak View, William Collins, an early day Ventura banker, owned the ranch across from the Hemus place. The drive to the Collins house started where Shamrock Inn (near Ojai Drive) now is located. In 1900 the area north of the drive was planted to pears and apples. The trees were old, but a few trees yet remained of an orchard that predated the pears and the apples. South of the drive, the hill had been planted to apricots. A huge pear tree stood north of the drive at the gate; and a few years ago, this tree almost surround the Inn. Much later, the drive was changed to make room for the building now there.

A big red barn stood on the hill east of the drive after it changed to a southward course at the top of the hill. South of the barn was a house owned by a Dr. Miller, a dentist. It was a straight up-and-down board house as usual, but it had what I presume is called a hip roof.

Two brothers by the name of Warren owned the Miller Ranch and, I believe, the Sherwood Ranch at the time. One brother had a home east and south of where the Shamrock Inn stands. The other brother had a house near where Best Tire Shop (on Vent. Ave and Ojai Dr.) is located. Both houses were vacant after the Warrens moved out, but beautiful roses bloomed in the yard each year. Ivy was trained over eastern portions of both homes. Moonflower vines, Boston ivy and a vine called (by old timers), Potato Vine, grew over the Miller house. The house had no shade trees.

In 1900, the only occupied home in Oak View proper was the Staire House on Old Creek Road mentioned previously). Our family moved into the Miller house in 1901. That made two occupied houses in Oak View. At a point a little north of the entrance of Oak Dell Park ( in north Oak View ), the Nordhoff road went up a steep grade and came down on the side about due east of where Dr. John Munger (in Santa Ana Vista) now lives. Standing just south of the entrance to the Oak Dell Park, one can look back over the area traversed by the Old Grade Road. You can see far to the south the land that was owned by Ed Goodyear (which Henry Clivas now owns). This land was known as “The Mesa.” Some of the people called it “Hard Scrabble.” The soil is poor and shallow. Hard pan lies under almost all of it from a depth of a few inches to several feet. It is stony, and, in those days, without water.

The Livingston house was due west of where the Ventura River Municipal Water District buiding now stands. Only a hayfield surrounded the house, no other buildings of garden. It was of the typical up and down board construction of its day, and it was in poor condition. The Feraud Ranch produced hay and had a small vineyard (wine grapes) and an apricot orchard on the part south of Devil’s Gulch. There were a few English walnut trees among the apricots. part of the ranch extended into what is now known as Linda Vista Knolls.

Dr. Staire dug by hand numerous wells in the barranca that passes the post office building. All these attempts were failures. There had been attempts on the Walker Place and the Miller Ranch to dig wells by pick and shovel. Sherwood made several tries. One across the canyon from the school house lacked but a few feet of reaching water. Mr. Mahon afterwards drilled in the old hand dug well to get a fair well. However, in seven years it dried up. Dr. Staire had a good spring near the railroad tracks from which he hauled water. Most people, however, hauled water from Ventura River or San Antonio Creek in barrels or tanks.

Looking south from the north end of the “Mesa” (Oak View proper) Red Mountain appears as a back drop for the southern end. The south end of the mesa (now owned by Henry Olivas) was owned by Ed Goodyear, son of the man who owned the old Arnaz Adobe with a portion of Rancho Arnaz as late as 1900. This ranch stretched (I believe) from the Ventura River on the west to at least the edge of the bluff overlooking San Antonio Creek on the east. And it extended from the north line of land belonging to his brother John (on the south) to land belonging to the Kennedy’s on the north.

J. Logan Kennedy and his wife Netta had this second parcel of land on the Mesa of about thirty acres. This thirty acres was farm land, in addition to pasture land. I think it reached from the edge of the bluff overlooking Ventura River to the San Antonio Creek. Some of their land was east of the creek. North of the Kennedy property, was land owned by a Mr. Harter, an elderly man whom I believe was from Florida. He and his wife lived on this ranch. So much for the area of Oak View proper.

The old grade road north of Oak View ran parallel to the railroad tracks at the Feraud house in what is now Santa Ana Vista. The Feraud house was more modern than most of the houses in this area. It has been improved and additions have been made to it, but the old building is still there. On the Feraud property, there was a small amount of water from shallow wells beside the railroad tracks. Some hay and apricots were grown on this part of the ranch north of Devils Gulch. Mr. Feraud, I believe, tried to get a well in the river bed. He dug by hand, but his efforts failed.

The land owned by Judge Brown, reaching from the San Antonio Creek to the Grade Road, now belongs to Mr. B. E. McCormick, a resident of Ventura. Only a short distance marks its frontage on Highway 399 from where the new pipe line of V.R.M.W.D. crosses the road at Santa Ana Vista by the road that leads to Skyline Estates. Stevens Land Co. of Los Angeles owned the land which now covers part of Mira Monte, Midway Acres, and land to the Krotona Institute property, and part of the Ventura River bottom to Meiners Ranch (now Meiners Oaks). An abandoned home stood across the railroad tracks from the location of the Mira Monte School. The ranch north of the Feraud property (mentioned last week) belonged to a Mrs. Barrett. She had two children. Louie was the older, was married and had two children. Charles attended the Arnaz School with his cousin Naude Jackson who lived with the family.

A History of Oak View

A History of Oak View by Patty Fry

Prior to its development, Oak View was just uninhabited land between Ojai and Ventura. Watermelons grew where Dahl’s Market is at 445 Ventura Avenue and apricot orchards covered a great deal of the remaining land. In the late 1930s, people began to build homes there, called the place “Oak View Gardens”.

Among Oak View’s earliest residents was the Hiram Watkins family. Hiram was born in 1866 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. When his parents could not compromise their marital or political differences, Mr. Watkins took his older son, Glyme, to Texas, while his wife, Narcissa, after selling their Missouri home, returned to Kentucky with Hiram.

Hiram married Allie Belle Delp and they set up housekeeping in Summerfield, Kansas, where he grew broom corn and manufactured and sold brooms to support his family which soon included two children, Percy and Florence. Around 1892 they moved to Sterling, Nebraska, opened a rag carpet company and Allie Belle gave birth to four more children, Elva, Ruby (Berry), Clifford and Fern (Munger).

In 1901, the Watkins family moved to California from Nebraska and rented land in Oak View to raise cattle, hogs and hay. This is where Jane and Irene were born. Around 1903, Hiram purchased seventy-five acres of land on a hill east of Highway 33 in what is now Oak View for $2500 and tended an apricot orchard there. When it seemed that automobiles were here to stay, Hiram opened a service station/grocery at the corner of what is now Watkins Way and Ventura Avenue in Oak View. Allie Belle took over some of the responsibility for the orchard. When the bottom dropped out of the apricot market in 1928, Hiram pulled out most of the trees. He went back to making brooms which he sold to merchants in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. When things were slow, he went door-to-door. He, reportedly, made the brooms in a barn near Mirror Lake.

Percy Watkins married Effie Crose, whom he had met when she worked on the family’s apricot ranch in 1917. She was in Oak View helping to care for her brother and signed up for the pitting crew to earn money for college. When the Depression hit, Percy and his Effie moved in with his parents so they could help each other through this period. They remembered eating popcorn from the broom corn for breakfast cereal. They also grew peanuts and often had pan-roasted peanuts for an evening meal. They had plenty of fresh milk, though, and they sold it and wood to buy groceries. One year the $7 a month that came from selling their dairy products was the only income they could count on.

Watkins sometimes got something in trade for their milk or the firewood Percy chopped and delivered to neighbors. According to Effie, “Often is was something we didn’t want and couldn’t use.”

Percy and Effie rented the old Kennedy house for a while. Hiram died in 1942 and Allie Belle in 1951, after which Percy and Effie moved back to the ranch land on the hill where the apricot trees once grew. They brought a trailer onto the property and created a lean-to outside it. In the meantime, Percy, who was working in the oil fields by then, was bringing home lumber and scrap wood from the oil derricks and storing it on the property. When the telephone company took out the square telephone poles between Ventura and Ojai, Percy brought some of those home. Effie’s brother brought them truckloads of rock from a quarry in Northern California where he worked-all of this for their future home.

Effie drew pictures of her dream house and Percy started building it in 1961 using the materials he had been hoarding-the square telephone poles as beams, the stone as flooring and to build the massive fireplace. The house didn’t go up overnight. In fact it would be another ten years before Effie realized her dream as the Watkins didn’t move into their home until 1971.

Percy died at the age of 93 in 1983. Effie was also in her 90s when she died in 1997. [Read Percy’s recollections in The Road to Ojai, posted on this website.]

Mrs. Jessie R. Caldwell opened a gas station and grocery in Oak View Gardens in 1927 where the Shell Station is on Highway 3 and Santa Ana Road. Reverend Craig established a Holiness Church in Oak View in 1928. By 1929, it was necessary to start a school and it opened with sixty-eight pupils. There was no heat in the building, so school started at 10 am to give the building time to warm up before the children arrived.

There is mention of a library in Oak View as early as 1930. At one point it was housed in a garage.

In 1945, the community created a memorial park at Apricot Street and Mahoney Avenue. It was named, Glenn Memorial Park in memory of Captain Glenn A. Loban and others who had lost their lives in the war. Local families of servicemen planted shrubs and roses and labeled them with the names of their sons.


The above is excerpted from Patty Fry’s book The Ojai Valley: An Illustrated History, available from Matilija Press. Click on the book image to purchase.