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.
“But, but … only to the corner, Dad!”
“I’m not going to lose everything I’ve worked so hard for all these years because you want to risk driving without insurance. You’re a juvenile, so I’m the one who gets sued for all he’s worth!”
Dad was adamant.
My first automobile collected dust while I worked my tail off for about three months accumulating enough dough for insurance. I mowed lawns, filled in ditches, rototilled weeds, baby-sat and whatever to speed me onto the highways and byways!
While I was earning the bucks for the insurance payment, I drove my 1949 Chevrolet pickup forward and backward about 6 feet in the area Dad designated as my parking spot. That old six-cylinder sounded like music to my ears! I painted the rear bumper aluminum and the rims black. I tire-blacked the sides of the old, weather-beaten, cracked tires. She was lookin’ mighty pretty to me, even though she had lots of dents, but had a great coat of dark-red primer. I gave my buddy (“Oakie” as my buds and I called him) $150 for the beauty. Oakie had covered the inside door panels with simulated-wood shelving-liner. He’d put new carpet on the floor and, best yet … installed “Barefoot” pedals on the gas pedal and a floor-mounted headlights-dimmer switch. I tell ya, that girl was chompin’ at the bit to hit the road and so was I!
One of the first places I drove my new wheels was to Nordhoff High School where I was a junior. When my buddies saw the pickup, a few of them posed: “Why did you buy a truck?!!?? You can’t take girls for a date in that ol’ thing!” AHmmmmmmm … they had a point, but I just told them that I’d borrow my folks’ F85 Oldsmobile on date nights. Settled that problem.
Mainly, I bought a pickup because my dad always had pickups. I learned to drive a manual transmission in Dad’s 1961 Chevy.
Pickups were in my blood! Pickups are very commonplace with young people today, but back in the ’60s, not a lot of youngsters cared for them as their primary ride. Yet, when out of school, all my buddies wanted to take my pickup frequently because it was fun. Riding in pickup beds back in those days was allowed, and everybody dug doing it. We took the pickup on camping trips, to the beach, to swimming holes up the Maricopa Highway, to local sporting events, and we cruised Ojai Avenue in it.
I could tell you tons of stories that happened with my ol’ 1949, but I have limited space. Here’s a good one: I’m NOT condoning this type of behavior, but it happened.
In October of 1968, my buddies decided for me that we were going to use my pickup as a “War Wagon” on Halloween to terrorize other pranksters and trick-or-treaters. We bought flats upon flats of eggs. We had serveral hundred egg-grenades. We filled balloons with gallons of water. The projectiles were loaded into my pickup’s bed. Larry Sisk rode shotgun while I piloted the War Wagon. Our buddies were not only in the pickup’s bed, but standing on the side running boards and rear bumper. Off we rolled to downtown Ojai.
None of our lurking enemies were expecting us. As we tanked on down Ojai Avenue, my buds launched eggs and water balloons in all directions. It was like a war zone!
We got the best of the soldiers who were taking cover behind the walls of the Pergola and Arcade. After we made a couple of passes, most of our enemies just hid as they saw us approaching. At some point, we wound up on Grand Avenue where one of our idiot buddies threw an egg at Mr. Hardy’s taxi cab. If I recall correctly, it was Casey Mansfield who did so. Anyway, Mr. Hardy chased us all over the place as I foolheartedly attempted to elude him.
Well, we deservedly got pulled over by the city’s finest on North Montgomery Street next to Ojai Elementary School. One of the two policemen in the black-and-white asked for my driver’s license. He asked me what we were up to. Uhhhh! What was I supposed to say?!!??? I pretty much told him that we were just acting our ages and being Halloween hoodlums. Sisky sat there and smartly remained calm. He was a useless shotgunner!
The policemen spotted all our ammo in the pickup’s bed. Sisky and I wisely remained in the cab. The coppers made the other guys stomp all the eggs and water balloons in the bed of the pickup. The bed was about 2 inches full of broken eggs and water. It was a gooky, slimed mixture that would have made great scrambled eggs, minus the shells. After scolding all of us, the policemen told all my buddies to get back into the pickup, then head home immediately. All the guys resumed their previous seats. WRONG!!! The coppers told all of them to sit in the bottom of the bed in the goop. Do you think a single one of my buds made a break for it!!! Nope! The jokesters all sat as directed and looked like a big ol’ omelet as they whined away. One of the policemen told me to get everybody home right away and to NEVER do what we had done again. Yes, sir!
I wound up selling the ’49 in 1969 during my senior year of high school. I bought a super-clean 1961 Austin Healy “Bug Eye” Sprite. Notice to all of my buddies: That car was a chick magnet. Eat your hearts out!!!