The following article first appeared in the “Ojai Valley Guide” (VOLUME 37 NUMBER 3 | FALL 2019) on pages 136 – 137. The “Ojai Valley Guide” was published by the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.The photo of the broken egg was added by the Ojai Valley Museum.
LOOK BACK IN OJAI with Drew Mashburn Contributed on behalf of the Ojai Valley Museum
“WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?!!!??” DAD QUESTIONED ME IN A VERY STERN VOICE.
“But, Dad! I’m just gonna drive it down to the corner to show Doug and Rick!” I whined.
“What did I tell you before you bought it?” Dad asked.
The following article was first seen in the Monday, May 21, 1962 edition of “THE OJAI VALLEY NEWS” on the front page in the “Who’s Who” section. The article is reprinted here with the permission of “THE OJAI VALLEY NEWS”. The author is unknown.
Man who knows everyone in Ojai
Here is a man who really needs no introduction . . .
He seems to know every body in Ojai and everybody seems to know him.
He’ll shout a greeting to you from across the street or from a car in which he happens to be driving by.
You mark him by that butch haircut, sprinkled with gray, those heavy dark-framed glasses, his penchant for knit ties, his flair for natty combinations in sports coats and slacks.
And a penchant also for kidding and a practical joke . . .
But police work for Jim Alcorn is no joke.
Here is a man with nearly 30 years of police work behind him. A cop (he doesn’t mind the word if it’s used in a friendly way) who has dealt with just about everything there is in the way of crime and criminals. A product of a tough, hard school who knows the value of discipline.
And he exacts it from his force . . .
But still he retains his sense of humor.
Jim came to Ojai from Beverly Hills to take over the job of Ojai’s chief of police May 1, 1952.
Years on the Beverly Hills department, one of them as a uniformed patrolman, three as a detective, five as a detective sergeant and the rest of the time as detective lieutenant, winding up as chief of detectives, Jim decided he’d had enough of a big town.
“I was born right in the middle of Los Angeles,” he said, “I decided I’d like to try life in a small town.”
They were giving an examination for police chief here. Jim came up an took it — along with 50 other aspirants. He came out second in the written test but ended up in first place after the oral exam.
So Ojai got the man at the top of the heap for its chief of police.
When Jim took over there was no bureau of records. There were four men on the force. Jim applied his experience to a reorganization of the department. He started a record department. The first new man he hired was A.A. Quijada — known to the whole valley as Chumo — who is still on the department and its specialist in juvenile delinquency.
The new men coming on tended to be younger. Alcorn now heads a police force of seven men whose average age is 31. In addition the force has two policewomen.
In the accent on youth Ojai’s department is following a national trend. It is also in step with national trend in another respect — scientific police training. All members of the force, including the policewomen, hold certificates from Ventura college in police administration. One, Tom Marshall, has his from Citrus College. A number of the officers have taken several courses. Policewoman Lou Reitzel took an advanced course in traffic safety. Said the chief: “We had to buy her a slide rule so she could figure the problems.”
Belonging to both the earlier era of policework: “when all you had to be was big and be able to push people around” and to the new scientific era, Jim says the modern police methods are far superior, attract better men and are much more effective.
He himself has attended law enforcement schools and is a graduate of a course in police administration and science at UCLA.
As far as crimes go, Ojai isn’t a Beverly Hills. Here, Jim says, the whole police operation is different, more personal. The city boundaries mean little. People from all over the valley think of the Ojai police department as “theirs” and call in with their troubles. And many, many a time Jim has played the role of mediator in domestic disputes — almost that of a father confessor at times.
On emergency calls from outside the city limits Jim has one strict rule: Send what personnel are needed to handle the situation. Call the sheriff or the state highway patrol and wait until they arrive. But NEVER leave Ojai unprotected.
Looking back over his years in police work, Jim thinks there’s little difference between the amount of juvenile crime then and now.
But as to juvenile delinquency — by which he means acts not serious enough to be classed as crimes — he thinks there’s a lot more nowadays. He blames two things — the easy availability of cars and liquor.
And note this, citizens. Your chief of police thinks that as motorists you are a bit careless of the rights of pedestrians in crosswalks. Also, the time is drawing near, he feels, when we are going to need traffic signals to control traffic.
Alcorn has a scrapbook fat with clippings of cases in which he played a part while on the Beverly Hills force. He was the first detective on the scene after Benny (Bugsy) Siegal, underworld overlord, was shot gangland style in a Beverly Hills mansion. He participated in the capture of one Gerald Graham Dennis, one of the most notorious burglars in modern criminal annals who stripped homes of movie stars and other famous persons of a million in jewels and furs. Acting alone, he ran to earth a bandit who held up the California bank using a child as a shield. Alcorn traced the bandit and his girl friend through a license number jotted down by the child’s mother. As he burst into a hotel room the bandit reached for his gun but Jim made a flying leap for the bed on which the bandit was lying and overpowered him.
He’s had his picture in Life magazine. He’s known many a famous person in connection with his police activities — John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, Jimmy Durante (“a wonderful guy”), the late Jerry Geisler, the lawyer, Howard Huges . . .
But policework isn’t quite as glamorous as on TV. “It’s wearing out shoe leather, asking questions — just plain hard work,” Jim says, who ought to know.
He thinks “Dragnet” was the most realistic police drama on TV. “It was so realistic it wasn’t even interesting.”
Perry Mason? “He must be God. In real life you never, never can get anyone to confess like that” says Jim, rubbing his chin. (He needed a shave).
The following article first appeared in the Sunday, June 4, 1967 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on the front page. It is reprinted here with their permission
Hippie set Police mull action to ‘clean up’ park
Ojai police, nettled by a series of provocative acts attributed to members of the Hippie set, were mulling retaliatory action Friday.
Chief James D. Alcorn said his “phone has been ringing off the hook,” with calls from citizens who are plainly disturbed by what they claim are impudent reflections on recent narcotics violations.
Most recent incident was the posting of a sign near the arches fronting Civic Park, proclaiming “Things go better with Pot.” Pot is a slang word for marijuana.
Alcorn said private citizens have also complained about the posting of a routed redwood sign with the capital letters, O-V-D-A, which reportedly stand for “Ojai Valley Drug Addicts.”
He said some of the Hippies hold the sign on their laps as they sit on the wall fronting the park.
Civic Park is a private park, administered by Ojai Civic Association. Alcorn said trustees of the association have been exploring ways of combating the situation, but thus far have failed to find any answers.
In recent discussion of the problem by the Ojai City Council, City Attorney Duane Lyders warned the council that restrictive actions would raise questions of free speech and assembly – thorny issues of civil rights.
As a private park, however, authorities have indicated there might be ways of cleaning up the situation.
The Hippie set has used the front area of the park as a rallying point for some time,, according to Alcorn, but the situation apparently worsened earlier this year when Hippies from coastal cities staged the first of two “Love-ins.”
The first event came off without incident. Barefoot youths with flowers behind their ears strummed on guitars, ate picnic lunches and proclaimed “Love” to all who would listen. It was similar to events conducted quietly in Los Angeles, San Francisco and most recently in an eastern city.
The second “Love-in”, however, had slightly different overtones. Police arrested two visitors on charges of possessing marijuana. One was a girl from Glendale, the other a boy from Los Angeles.
Observers, however, noted that some of the visitors were not so young and some were estimated to be only juveniles who supported the bizarre costumes and deportment of Hippies years older.
Alcorn said the situation was a delicate one. “We have to be careful how we handle this thing,” he warned, “publicity is what most of these people want.”
He said the most his officers could do at present was to see that no laws are broken.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
“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.
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.