Police mull action to ‘clean up’ park

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.

Ojai’s first jail still exists near Santa Barbara

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

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

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

Let me tell you the story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Officer Quijada: “Chemo” Therapy

Chemo Therapy by Bret Bradigan

Note: This editorial was published in the Ojai Valley News in May of 2008. The OVN won 3rd place from the National Newspaper Association for the editorial.

In the past 18 months, we have had three incidents in Ojai involving firearms – a shooting on Drown Street in February 2007, a shooting on Fox Street in September 2007, and reports of gang members brandishing a pistol in Meiners Oaks on March 20 of this year. These are ill portents for our quiet community. Lines of race and class are drawn sharply now that were never before so distinct. A climate of fear and hostility has crept into our lives. We gradually grow apart from each other, with fewer and fewer of those casual interactions that once blurred these boundaries of race and class and created, in myriad multiplying ways, our community.

Gang influences flourish in this void, where neighbors, instead of becoming friends, become some abstract “other.” People start looking out for themselves as defined by their narrow self-interests, and lose sight of the larger benefits of opportunity and safety that accrue to the altruistic purposes of looking out for each other.

It was not always like this. Back in the day, Ojai had a one-man gang task force named Anselmo “Chemo” Quijada. Pronounced “Chummo,” he was everywhere and knew everyone, from 1955 until his retirement from the Ojai Police Department in 1980.

Virtually all Ojai old timers have Chemo stories – about how he would instantly size up a suspect to determine whether they were a bad kid doing bad things or a good kid doing bad things. And he would treat them accordingly – there was no one-size-fits-all policing in those days.

“He kept a lot of guys out of trouble by handling things personally,” said Vince France, Ojai’s police chief back in the 1970s. France would know. He was one of those trouble-makers. “I probably wouldn’t have been a police officer except for the fact that Chemo took a personal interest in me. He treated me almost like a son … I could easily have gone the other way.”

France spoke fondly of his teen-age days as a local rowdy, when he’d be caught in the act of underage drinking and the cops “would pick me up in a squad car and ride me around until I sobered up, then take me home.”

Another of these wayward-trending youths was Keith Nightingale, who was one of France’s partners in adolescent mischief-making and went on to a successful career as a military officer and now globe-trotting government contractor. “I grew up with him and he did a great deal for the boys of Ojai and kept a lot of us out of jail – figuratively and literally … He always had an understanding mind as to when a boy was being a boy or was really going bad and would adjust as needed.”

Boyd Ford said that his son, Dennis, had broken into the nearby Presbyterian Church, camped out for the night, and was discovered by the police. Quijada “came right into our living room with Dennis, (mother) Maxine and I and talked to all of us. You don’t get that anymore.”

Another Chemo story involved kids smoking marijuana in the Matilija Junior High School parking lot in the late 1970s. Quijada made them discard the illegal substance and ordered the kids to tell their parents they’d been smoking pot, and said he would call the parents later to make sure his orders had been followed. He did and they had. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty.

One project that Quijada provided for Ojai boys was a productive outlet for their aggression. “He was acutely aware that Ojai had nothing much for boys, so he started a boys’ athletic club where Ojai Coffee Roasting is now. It got a pretty big clientele and he staged fights Friday night and Saturday afternoon between boys so they would stay positively engaged.”

Ojai had few Latinos in those days, and Quijada took a personal interest in all of them. We have a growing Latino population now – in fact, as a percentage of our school-age population, Latino enrollment has nearly tripled since the days of Chemo Quijada nearly a half century ago.

France believes that the gang members of today are mostly hardened criminals with “no conscience. I don’t know that the approach Chemo had would do any good,” he said. But he did allow that early intervention from caring adults could make a positive difference. One policing problem now, France said, is that the system doesn’t allow the same kind of flexibility and discretion that Chemo routinely employed. “Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.”

Nightingale said, “I’m afraid Ojai is so large and economically segregated that a ‘Chummo’-type person could not work the magic now that he did then … the best we can hope for is that we find several Chummos working their constituency, recognizing that if one person can be made better, we are all better.”

A quiet beat cop who rarely drew attention to himself, nearly 1,000 people turned out for a benefit for Quijada when he was suffering from the cancer that claimed his life in 1985. “It was the damnedest thing you ever saw,” said France. “All these politicians and movers and shakers right next to the crooks that Chemo had arrested. I think we raised more than $20,000.”

Ojai’s best days may yet be ahead of us, if all of us who call this place home shoulder the responsibility to make that happen. And we can best do this in quiet ways – one-on-one, with watchful eyes and open hearts. We are all role models, whether we like it or not. It is good for us in Ojai to remember we have such a rich legacy of role models on which to pattern ourselves. For Ojai to live up to its promise, we have to carry a little of Chemo Quijada’s spirit within each of us.

Note: The Ojai Police Boy’s Club was founded by Chief J. D. Alcorn; Anselmo “Chemo” Quijada was the acting director. The City of Ojai donated $500 to start the project. Boxing, wrestling, judo, and fencing were taught under personal and competent supervision. The ring used was purchased from “Pop” Soper, a well-known character of the boxing world. Many famous boxers trained at his camp in Matilija Canyon. Those who probably trained in the ring purchased by the Police Boys Club were Jack Dempsey, Jack Roper, Jackie Fields, Barney Ross, Mickey Walker, and many others. Boys from fourteen to eighteen years of age were eligible. Boxers of note would drop by the club and give instruction to the boys on the finer points of boxing. Each month a scholarship was given to a member by a prominent member of the community.