Optimists honor 25 Nordhoff students

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, November 12, 1967 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on the front page. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

Optimists honor 25 Nordhoff students

The Ojai Valley Optimist Club’s “Youth Appreciation Week” will be held Monday through Sunday, Nov. 13-19. Highlight of the week is “Youth in Community Day,” when 25 students from Nordhoff High school participate in the work day of 25 local businessmen.

Students and sponsors are scheduled for a 7 a.m. breakfast Thursday at the Oaks Restaurant, according to Optimist President Bob Music.

The Optimist Club will present two outstanding community service awards: one to Roger Armstrong, an Eagle Scout who was instrumental in collecting needed items for fire-fighters during the recent Santa Paula fire; the other to Elizabeth Jones, a senior at Nordhoff high school who has contributed 190 hours of work as a volunteer of the Junior Red Cross. The awards are among the highest given by the Optimist club.

Rev. Theodore R. Little of the Ojai Presbyterian Church will give the invocation at the Nov. 16 breakfast, after greetings from President Music. The master of ceremonies will either be Dale Holt or Rev. Little.

Dr. Pat Rooney will give the keynote talk, followed by the community service awards presentation and introduction of students and their sponsors. Participation certificates will also be given at this time. Chairman of the event Bob Smith will give the closing words of thanks.

After the breakfast, the students will pair off with their sponsors and work with them at their professions until 2:30 p.m. that day.

Sponsors and students participating in “Youth in Community Day” are: Ojai mayor and David Keitges; city administrator and Byron Barnes; chief of police and Pat Harwell; recreation director and Karen Bunch; Oak View fire station, Allen Ormsby; Meiners Oaks fire station, Rod Davis; U.S. Forest Service, Terry Hanrahan; Ventura River Municipal Water District, Frank Carlson; U.S. Post Office, Beverly Fox; Presidio Savings, Jeni McKinney; Channel Islands Bank, Karen DeSautelle; Soule Park, Greg Stafford; Ojai Hospital, Nancy Branch; Price Realty, Ron Brandolino; Ojai Valley News, Kathy Magill and Merideth Morrison; Neilson and Co., Jim Flanagan; Rexall Pharmacy, Danny McKinney; Safeway, Jim Blymer; Roberts Shoes, Annette Hanson; Oaks Hotel, Carolyn Cloar; Rains Dept. Store, Marie Goudy, and county supervisor, John Hubbard.

YOUTH APPRECIATION WEEK — Some of the students participating in the Ojai Valley Optimists Club’s “Youth in Community Day” to be held Thursday are: (first row, from left) Karen Bunch, Jenni McKinney, Beverly Fox, Annette Hansen, Dan McKinney, Frank Carlson. (Second row ) Nancy Branch, Kathy Magill, Terry Hanrahan, Jim Cox. (Third row) Dave Keitges, Pat Harwell, Jim Flanagan, John Hubbard, Greg Stafford, Ron Brandolino. (Back row) Dale Holt of the Optimist Club, Jim Blymyer, Byron Barnes, and instructor Paul Labute. (News photo)

The 35-member local Optimist club put the final touches on “Youth Appreciation Week” during their Thursday breakfast meeting at the Boots and Saddle restaurant. President Music said that the County Board of Supervisors has issued a proclamation for the national youth week, and that the Ojai City Council will also issue a proclamation when the councilmen meet Monday in City Hall.

AFS pupils like new homes, school

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, September 8, 1968 edition of “The Ojai Valley News” on page A-1. It is reprinted here with their permission. The article was authored by Fran Renoe.

AFS pupils like new homes, school
Fran Renoe

HIGH SCHOOL, U.S. style is much different for Nordhoff’s two American Field Service students, both 17-year-old seniors. Julita Tellei, left is from Palau, Micronesia, a group of South Pacific Islands, and Salustiano “Tano” Crespo, right, is from Leon, Spain.

Life is busy, bewildering but bright with the promise of an unusual life for Julita Tellei and Salustiana Crespo, American Field Service students who are living with Ojai families for the present school year.

Julita is staying with the Rev. Richard Terry’s family and “Tano”, as he is nicknamed, with the Boyd Ford’s.

It’s a long way for Julita from her home island of Palau, Micronesia (a group of small islands in the South Pacific) and a trust territory of the United States, and for Tano, whose home is in Leon, Spain.


With two years of Spanish, and a good background in English, Julita has not had too much trouble understanding her new “family”, friends and teachers.

Tano, however, who speaks Spanish and French, “has only 9 months of English”, and finds communication becoming easier, but not yet fluent. However, both are making friends fast, enjoy their families, and seem to find the differences between former school ways and American ones interesting and fun.

As Julita says, “everyone is so nice here. All the people talk to you, say hello. I am so busy here that there is no time to get homesick.”

Julita fits in with the Terry family, who unexpectedly found themselves with all five of their children at home, instead of four they expected. She shares a room with 17-year-old Lynn, and also shares Lynn’s teen-age interests.


“I like to watch baseball, and I enjoy playing volleyball and table tennis. I’m used to a family with children.” At 17, Julita is the oldest of nine children, with seven brothers and two sisters at home. Tano, on the other hand, has only a nine-year-old brother at home, and a sister, 22 who is married, and is enjoying having the four Ford boys as companions.

Tano’s hobbies are photography and architecture, and architecture is the field he hopes to study later in an American college.

As for Julita, “I want to go to college, and probably will. However, I do not know exactly what I want to do. I like geometry, but am not so good at math. I also like science. I will probably be a teacher.”

The Girls

More than Julita, Tano finds living in this country much different from living at home.

“I am not used to going to school with girls,” he said with a big grin, “because I have always gone to a private school for boys only. “But,” and the grin got bigger, “after the first day I decided that going to school with girls is very, very nice.”

It seems that co-education is uncommon in Spanish schools, with only a few private schools using this system.

Both teenagers agree that “children here are much more free with their parents. Free to discuss things, to have an opinion.” At home, Tano emphasized, “children have no opinion.”

“In my home we talk about things,” Julita said, “but not in every home is it like this. It is better if you can discuss things with your parents, like here.”

Julita finds the food much different from her usual diet, “we have more fish, and of course, taro, but here more meat and bread, things like that.”

More Cars

“Also, in Spain, we have our lunch at 2 in the afternoon and dinner at 10 at night. Here, of course, is much different,” Tano remarked.

“There are more cars here, too,” Julita said.

“Something else,” Tano commented. “At home, ladies who are married, ladies with children, do not work. Here, ladies like this work.”

“Oh, married women where I live work,” Julita said, “They didn’t used to, but they do now.”

Tano enjoys playing basketball and Julita is an avid antique collector.

Both admit to having trouble remembering the names of all the friendly students and teachers they have met, but both say, “It is so nice to live in Ojai, everyone is so good to you.”

They also enjoy the idea of living in a small town — Julita, because it seems familiar, Tano because it is different in size from his hometown of 100,000 people. And both like living near a metropolitan area of Los Angeles because “our families are quite good about taking us everyplace.”

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.


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.


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.


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.

The Duke Comes to Ojai

The Duke Comes to Ojai

Written and compiled from various sources by Tony Thacher.

Sherman Day Thacher and Duke Paoa Kahanamoku at The Thacher School in 1922.
Sherman Day Thacher and Duke Paoa Kahanamoku at The Thacher School in 1922.

On a dry and dusty afternoon in late October of 1922 this unlikely pair were captured on film standing near the top of the alluvial fan emanating from Horn Canyon in the northeast corner of the Ojai Valley. Sherman Day Thacher, as headmaster of the school he founded 33 years before, is shown flanked by Olympic swimming gold medalist Duke Paoa Kahanamoku of Honolulu, Hawaii. Duke had been invited to come up from Los Angeles to give a demonstration and instruction in swimming to the assembled student body in the Thacher School’s pool. In reality this crude concrete structure was a rather murky irrigation and fire reservoir full of biota from the creek that filled it.

Duke’s swimming skills, superb physique and good looks had already made him a star both in and out of the water. And his gold medals and promotion of board surfing had made his reputation as the “Father of Modern Surfing” and the “Ambassador of Aloha.” From almost the moment of his birth on August 24, 1890 in Honolulu, Kahanamoku’s life revolved around the warm Pacific waters surrounding Oahu.  While that on its own might not have been a particularly unusual accomplishment for an Hawaiian Islander of the time, what was unusual was his speed through the water. In the first officially sanctioned Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) swim meet in Hawaii in August of 1911, Duke knocked over 4 seconds off the world record for the 100-yard open water event, causing stateside AAU officials to declare there must have been an error and refusing to sanction the time.

Although not used to swimming in a pool, Duke continued his winning ways in the water stateside. At the Olympic games of 1912 held in Stockholm, there was no mistaking Duke’s incredible speed and power, and he won the 100-meter freestyle, again breaking the world record and easily taking the Gold medal. Over the next few years, Kahanamoku’s reputation grew to new heights as he continued shattering world aquatic records in various competitions around the globe. Duke Kahanamoku continued swimming for the rest of his life, winning his last Olympic medal at the age of forty-two. His remarkable twenty-one year career as an Olympic champion remains today a record achievement.

Duke Kahanamoku (holding hat at left) at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.
Duke Kahanamoku (holding hat at left) at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

At the same time, he was credited for popularizing the sport of surfing. In a series of widely attended demonstrations around the world, Duke would ride the waves on his handmade long board to the delight of onlookers, and thus the ancient sport was revitalized along the coasts all over the world.

Duke Kahanamoku surfing with Diamond Head at left in the background on Oahu Island in the Hawaiian Islands.
Duke Kahanamoku surfing with Diamond Head at left in the background on Oahu Island in the Hawaiian Islands.

As someone identified with the Hawaiian Islands it is easy to forget that Duke Kahanamoku ever spent significant time anywhere else, yet he was a regular presence in Southern California throughout the 1910’s and 1920’s. The Southland was equally charmed with Duke making many friends and becoming a particular favorite of the movie colony. And, of course, his worldwide fame and good looks didn’t go unnoticed by the studios. In 1925, Famous Players-Lasky (Paramount) offered Duke a film contract. However, his promising film career was hobbled by an ironic twist – he couldn’t appear on-screen doing what the world best knew him for – swimming. AAU rules strictly prohibited Duke from accepting money for swimming. And Duke had no intention of giving up his amateur standing in athletics just for Hollywood film making, which he considered nothing more than a fun lark. So the studios found themselves with a non-swimming swimming star and were forced to come up with creative ways to use him in non-aquatic roles. They tried their best and over the next few years, Duke made appearances in a number of films. Without being able to be seen as the aquatic champion, his career in movies in the ‘20’s quickly fizzled. However, in later years, Duke would return to the screen on several notable occasions. In 1948 he played a native chieftain opposite another famous “Duke,” John Wayne, in The Wake of the Red Witch, and in 1955 he again played a native chief in the John Ford-directed Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda and James Cagney.
Kahanamoku left a legacy in his native Hawaii, where he became its most revered citizen and goodwill ambassador. For more than twenty years he served as Sheriff of Honolulu and after Hawaii became the 50th State in 1959, he was made the State’s official “Ambassador of Aloha.” Kahanamoku died at the age of seventy-seven, just three weeks after greeting Hawaii’s one-millionth visitor.

TWO DUKES: John "The Duke" Wayne and Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.
TWO DUKES: John “The Duke” Wayne and Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.

Today, there are many memorials and monuments to Duke Kahanamoku on the Hawaiian Islands, outside Sydney Harbor and elsewhere, but all too few stateside. However, in Ojai, it’s Sherman Thacher’s unheated and untreated irrigation reservoir that can still be linked to the legendary swimmer and surf rider, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.

Sherman Day Thacher at The Thacher School swimming pool which was really a reservoir.
Sherman Day Thacher at The Thacher School swimming pool which was really a reservoir.


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.


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.

Public Elementary

The following story was taken from W. W. Bristol’s 1946 book titled, “The Story of THE OJAI VALLEY – An Intimate Account.” It was printed by The Ojai Publishing Co., Ojai, California. There’s a section in the book called, “THE SCHOOLS” under which this story was included.

by W. W. Bristol

One of the first institutions in any American community is the public school. The earliest public school in the Ojai Valley was opened in 1869 at the foot of the grade about where [Boccali’s] is now.

It was taught by H. J. Dennison—a rancher in the neighborhood. The school facetiously dubbed “The Sagebrush Academy.”

Along about 1875 the first school in the village began its career. It was located on what is now Matilija Street between Montgomery and Signal. To house the school a one-room brick building was constructed—the bricks being made at the south end of what is now the Civic Center.

It was at this school that Dr. David P. Barrows learned his A.B.C.’s—a man who became president of the University of California.

The brick school eventually became inadequate and in 1895 a contract was let to build a two-story frame building on Ojai Avenue. Clara H. Smith was the principal of this school from 1900 to 1902. C. L. Edgerton presided over the school from 1902 to 1912. Roscoe Ashcraft and W. A. Goodman were two principals who served the community before the coming of Mrs. Inez Tarr Sheldon in 1925.

The need for more room to accommodate the growing population became imperative. Consequently, in 1927 the old two-story frame building was moved to the back of the lot and a new school building was started with at first eight classrooms. In 1929 three more classrooms were added and in 1937 three more. In 1938 a large, handsome auditorium with cafeteria facilities was built.

Lloyd Emmert in 1939 succeeded Mrs. Sheldon as superintendent of the elementary school district,–Oak View Gardens and Casitas Springs having been added to the Nordhoff district. In 1941 Albert A. Herman was appointed superintendent. He is a good man in the right place.

Mrs. Sheldon should be remembered for her splendid work in instilling in the minds of her pupils and in the community also…the idea of world fellowship in the promotion of peace. Her pupils exchanged letters and pictures with other pupils in all parts of the world and 32 portfolios embodying this educational effort make an interesting display.

“Good Will Day” was celebrated each year on May 18—the little girl of eight said to her teacher, “Good Will Day is a day to learn how to get along with people.”

Nordhoff High School (1909 – 1919)

The First Decade of the Nordhoff Union High School
An Address by Walter W. Bristol, the First Principal Presented in December 1939.

Although I had been re-elected principal of the Madera Union High School, I decided to make a change; and, with my family, went up to Berkeley and put myself at the disposal of the appointment secretary of my alma mater, the University of California. When I went into her office one morning, she asked me to see a gentleman from Ojai. I was introduced to Sherman D. Thacher. Well, the upshot of the matter was that I decided to go to Ojai, the personality of Mr. Thacher having much to do with my choice. However, I had been in the Ojai Valley many years before and remembered the beautiful environment.

We reached Ventura on the morning of July 1, 1909. The “Ojai Bullet” [a railroad engine] was busy shunting beets at Oxnard, so we stole a march on the Southern Pacific [Railroad] and came up the Creek Road in a surrey drawn by two horses, which made the hot, dusty trip in about three hours. We stayed at the Berry Villa, a small hostelry situated back from the Main Street, behind Charlie Gibson’s blacksmith shop [now the site of the post office]. Mrs. Joe Berry, who is still living in the Valley, kept a very nice place.

While I was looking over the school situation, Mrs. Bristol had a very amusing time trying to find a place to live. We finally leased a house on Blanche Street, which was being built by Mrs. Bates of Ventura. We spent the rest of the summer in Santa Barbara.

The Old Elementary School, Nordhoff High School’s First Location

The time for opening the school duly arrived. On the second Monday in September 1909 [Sept. 13, 1909], Miss Mabyn Chapman and I met the trustees and twenty-four pupils. Members of the board of trustees were: Sherman D. Thacher, Joseph Hobart, F. H. Sheldon, Dr. B. L. Saeger, and Frank Barrows. The school convened on the second floor of the old grammar school building, which has just been torn down [1937]. Principal Edgerton had the grammar school on the ground floor with about 75 pupils.

The situation was depressing. The upper floor consisted of two class rooms and two other small rooms, one of which, used for an office, was hot, and in the other in the attic a colony of bats had their hideout and regaled us every day with nauseating odors.

But all that was overlooked and in time remedied. Mr. Thacher introduced us to a group of splendid boys and girls, who almost to a man lived up to what our first impressions indicated. But, the principal evidently did not live up to the first impressions of the pupils, for I learned afterward that they thought he, because of his heavy eyebrows and stern expression, was going to be a hard taskmaster.

The appointment secretary at Berkeley had sent Miss Mabyn Chapman as assistant to the principal. Miss Chapman remained with the school for five years. She was a remarkably versatile person. She could teach almost any subject usually given in the high school those days with equal facility and made a charming hostess. She lived in a cottage next to ours, and that corner (Blanche and Oak Streets) became the social center of the high school. I speak feelingly about Miss Chapman (now Mrs. Howard Bald) because the successful launching of the high school owes much to her ability and her loyal attitude.

We had a successful, happy year in spite of our handicaps. On the evening of the day school closed, I was taken to Ventura by the [Abe] Hobsons in their car to take the train en route to China, Japan and the Philippines; and so close was my schedule of travel that, on returning, I arrived in Ojai the day before school opened in the fall of 1910.

Mrs. Ruth Forsyth of Gilroy was added to the faculty the second year. She also remained five years and was a splendid teacher. Miss Chapman and Miss Forsyth became fast friends, and I could fill a page or two recounting amusing and sometimes strenuous adventures.

The distinctive feature of the second year of the school was the introduction of an extensive course of lectures and entertainments. The principal gave a series of illustrated talks about his trip to the Orient. Principal Lee of Oxnard High School gave an illustrated lecture on the Shakespeare country. Mrs. Albert Barrows gave a talk on the Philippines, and we had a concert or two. In lighting the projector, we had to use acetylene gas; and it was a toss up as to whether it would last through the lecture. The girls that year organized a basketball team and met Santa Barbara. The boys did some track stunts, with Bob Dennison frequently coaching them. Tennis was, of course, a favorite sport.

A play of that year stands out in my mind. It was “Op O’ My Thumb,” in which Margaret Bald distinguished in the leading role. I recall that Mrs. Margaret Clark Hunt furnished horses one Saturday for the whole school. We went to Topa Topa’s summit. Through the kind offices of some of the boys, I was pulled out of the saddle when the interesting trip was over. I did not go to church the next day.

During the second year of the school, I urged, much to the evident consternation of the trustees, the necessity of having larger quarters and more equipment. Being convinced that such was the case, the trustees began the discussion of a site for the proposed new building. According to law, if all the trustees of a school unite on a site, it may be carried without a vote of the people concerned. Four of the trustees, from the first, favored a site about three-quarters of a mile west of the village [then known as Nordhoff]. One member stuck to his guns for a site east of town on what is now known as the Waite Tract.

The whole matter was warmly discussed on the street and in the press. At last, the day of the election arrived and such excitement. The west side carried the day by 40 votes. Bonds for $20,000 were voted, and in the summer of 1911 the buildings were rushed to completion on ten acres of land, half of which was given to the district by Waldo Forster.
In September 1911, the first sessions in the new but somewhat incomplete plant began. Miss Helen F. Dorrance and Miss Ida Belle Lamb were added to the faculty. John Timms was the janitor and gardener and served for many years. Under the direction of Miss Lamb (now Mrs. R. S. Dennison), the Girl’s Glee Club became a prominent and most delightful feature of the school.

The new school buildings were formally dedicated November 1, 1911. Dr. James

The “new” campus in 1910

Blaisdell of Pomona College was the speaker of the evening. In the spring of 1912, Miss Lamb presented her Girl’s Glee Club in its first concert. It was most ambitious for a small school (about 40 [pupils] now] and very successful. The stage setting won great applause by the large audience and was the work mainly of Miss Nina Soule and Mrs. [Olive] Bristol.

The first part of the program was the Glee Club. The second part was Denza’s cantata “The Garden of Flowers,” starring Carolyn Wilson. Miss Chapman had organized a Deutscher Ziken (German club), and on May 10th gave a concert and play in German. The play presented that year was “The Elopement of Ellen,” which included in the cast Howard Bald, Nina Freeman, Thornton Wilson, Abbie Cota, and Tom Gibson.

The first class (1912) to graduate was: Grace Hobson (Valedictorian), Carolyn Wilson (Salutatorian), Nina Freeman, Ethel Freeman, Edna Leslie, Abbie Cota and Levi Bray.

The annual, which we named Topa Topa made its first appearance at the close of the 1912-1913 session. Carolyn Wilson was editor and Howard Bald business manager.

At the opening of school in 1912, automobiles made their first appearance in the faculty. Miss Forsyth drove down from Gilroy in a Reo, and Miss Dorrance appeared in some kind of car. The principal did not have such a luxury until 1917.

Physical Education was started in that year [1912]. Miss Chapman and Rev. W. H. Macpherson taught the various stunts in this line and gave public exhibitions from time to time.

There were two major plays in 1912-13. “The Lady of Lyons,” a five-act play, starred Thornton Wilson and Helen Baker. The play was directed by Miss Dorrance, and the rather elaborate costumes were designed and made by Miss Chapman. It was a memorable show. Also, “A Scrap of Paper,” starring Thornton Wilson and Dorotha Clark [was performed], with a part for each member of the class. Another excellent program was presented by the Girl’s Glee Club, under Miss Ida Lamb’s direction, in the spring of 1913.
The class of 1913 was: Margaret Bald, Fred Burnell, Howard Bald, Ruby Watkins, Mertie Jackson, Mary Freeman, Elma Morris, Thornton Wilson, Dorotha Clark, Jennie Friend, Maxwell Allen, and Rose Goodman.

Howard Bald was ill on commencement night, which circumstance gave the principal a chance to commend his splendid services to the school.

Owing to the well-nigh perfect record at the University of California of Grace Hobson, professor Thomas of the University school examination staff, reported to us that the N. U. H. S. stood first in the state in scholarship among the freshmen at the close of the first semester on 1912-13. Carolyn Wilson that same year, at the San Jose Normal School, won a prize of $150 for good work in her studies and for participation in school activities.

School opened early in September, as usual, in 1913. In the fall of that year, the Alumni Association was formed, and for several years we held annual conferences. The graduates living near attended, and many who were away sent letters.

The Girl’s Glee Club gave a concert on December 12th, and Miss Agnes Lord assisted with her violin. It was Miss Lamb’s last concert, for she married R. S. Dennison soon after. Miss Dorrance continued the girl’s chorus work. The play that fall was Kendrick Bang’s “The Worsted Man,” a semi-musical comedy, starring Harry Stoker and Charlotte Treadway.

The month of February, 1914, was noted for a great storm. Rain poured down for 54 hours with scarcely a let-up. School was closed for three or more days. In June “The Private Tutor” was presented by the senior class, consisting of Tom Gibson, Clifford Watkins, Irma Busch, Julia Lescher, Elizabeth Kincher and Jack Clark.

Tom Gibson, a remarkable lad, was the Valedictorian, his subject being “The Marvels of Modern Surgery.” He was a student who knew what he wanted to do and stuck with it. Tom Gibson is now a most successful surgeon in San Francisco. The Topa Topa was edited by Tom Gibson and dedicated to the principal.

In the fall of 1914, Alexander Barnes was added to the corps of teachers. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes made their influence felt in the school and community, especially in the field of music.

The play that fall was “Her Own Way,” by Clyde Fitch, starring Helen Baker and John Dunshee. It was cleverly done. Instead of the usual concert in the spring, Mr. Barnes put on a very successful minstrel show, using fifteen boys in the circle. This entertainment was followed in May by a play called “All of a Sudden, Peggy,” which was put on by the senior class.

In the spring of 1915, the school decided to accept the invitation of the Southern California High School Chemistry Society to compete along with other Southern California high schools in a written examination relating to chemistry. We sent Helen Baker and Ruth Garland to Los Angeles to represent us. In due course, we were notified that our team had won the coveted distinction of having the highest average and winning the cup. On October 22, 1915, at a luncheon at the University Club in Los Angeles, there were assembled the Garlands, the Bakers, the Principal, and Miss Forsyth, who taught the team and who came over from Pasadena to be present. In the presence of about one hundred scientists and science teachers, our girls were presented with the cup, and a proud day it was for the school.

The commencement exercises of the class of 1915 were rather unique. On the stage there was a demonstration of classroom work in Mathematics, chemistry, and botany. A lesson in trigonometry was given by Charlotte Busch, botany by Marguerite Mallory, geometry by Evelyn Herbert, and chemistry by Fred Sheldon and Ruth Kincher. This program constituted the first part of the evening exercises. The second part conformed to the usual type of commencement proceedings, in which Helen Baker was the Valedictorian.

Topa Topa that year was dedicated to Madame Thacher with the following lines:
Aged thou art,
But old thou never wert.
Gray Time is yet thy friend; aye more,
Thou dost so make God thy life.
That old Time hast had command
To spare thy soul to abide alert.
In years we measure by the score,

Aged thou art.
Thy temp’ral powers decline.
The Spirit is ever thy star; aye more,
Thou dost so make Love thy life,
That in this transient world of strife
There glows through thee spirit so divine.
To know thee is to love, adore.

Sixty-one students registered in the fall of 1915. Miss Alice Fowler took Miss Dorrance’s place in the faculty. Miss Forsyth gave place to Miss Hope Jordan. The fall play was “The Colonel’s Maid,” starring John Dunshee and Reba Taylor.

One Saturday in February, 1916, I was sitting in the Boyd Club, when Mr. Charles M. Pratt came in. As he approached me, I arose; and we passed some complimentary remarks, when he suddenly asked me, “What can I do for you?” For some months, I had been concerned about the inadequacy of our high school to meet the modern demand for training in the practical aspects of life and had fear and trembling about deciding to broach the subject to the trustees and ask for equipment to teach domestic science and art for the girls and boys. Crafts for the boys, also. I was so full of the subject that, when Mr. Pratt asked me that fateful question, I replied promptly. “Yes, Mr. Pratt. I wish our high school had the facilities to teach domestic science and the crafts.” We discussed the matter awhile, when he ended the conversation by saying, “I will come to see you some day soon.”

The day came, and we went over the whole subject on the grounds. He said finally, “You seem to know just what you want. Tell your trustees to get the same architect who planned your school and have him plan, construct, and equip one building for the boys and one for the girls and send the bill to me.” I am sure I walked on air the rest of the day. The trustees lost no time in getting the buildings up and the equipment put in place, so that they could be in use in the fall of 1916.

The week of May 15th was high school week at the Isis Theater [the town’s motion picture theater], a part of the proceeds to be given to the school by the proprietor for athletics and the Topa Topa. Owing to the illness of the English teacher, we did not have a play in the summer of 1916.
The class of 1916 was composed of Ruth Garland, Elmer Freeman, John Dunshee, Hazel Parmenter, and Harold Neville. At the commencement exercises, Ruth Garland was the Valedictorian, and Dr. Alter W. Palmer of Oakland was the speaker of the evening.

The annual was edited by John Dunshee and dedicated to Charles M. Pratt with these words:
To the man out of the East
Who bears choice gifts
To bless us and those who follow,
Gifts of gold, but also
Gifts of character and the spirit
Of plain democracy,
More enduring
We dedicate this, our annual.

The school opened in September, 1916, with great expectations. The two new buildings were ready and splendidly equipped. Seventy-two pupils were registered. We began the year with the following new teachers: Lucetta Kenneberger, Margaret Alltucker, Francis Mowry, and Kenneth Rich. Alexander Barnes held over. Miss Mowry had the domestic science and art departments and Mr. Rich the manual training.

A Spanish Club of twenty-eight was organized. In February, 1917, Miss Kellenbarger ambitiously put on Sheridan’s “The Rivals,” starring Eldred Miller and Doliver Church. Mrs. Wilda Wilson Church helped with the play and other times gave us readings and interesting talks.

The new buildings were dedicated in March [1917]. The speakers were Dr. Scherer of the California Polytechnic [Institute] in Pasadena; Mr. Pratt; Sherman D. Thacher, the president of the board of trustees; Felton Taylor, president of the student body; and the principal.

We did not compete for the chemistry cup in 1916, for the reason that chemistry was given out every other year. But in the spring of 1917, we prepared to enter the competition again, with Miss Alltucker as instructor. The team we sent to Los Angeles was composed of Cecil Crowe, Reba Taylor, and Eldred Miller.

The senior play was given on June 5th. It was staged out of doors and coached by Miss Kellenbarger, who, by the way, was an exceptional English teacher. The play was “Hiawatha.” Felton Taylor was Hiawatha, and Esther Waite was Nokomis. William Mallory made his debut as an actor in the part of the child Hiawatha.

On Saturday, June 9th, there descended upon the Ojai Valley the disastrous fire of 1917. I had been at a meeting of the County Board of Education that day and drove home about two o’clock. Esther [his eleven-year-old daughter] was with me, and we spoke about the smoke rising over the range toward the north, but did not consider it serious. John Timms and I patrolled the school grounds; but when the hot wind swept the flames along the tops of the oaks toward the school property, we were helpless. The tennis court saved the domestic science building and the main buildings, but the manual training building was burned to the ground and the expensive equipment ruined. Mr. Pratt wired to have the building rebuilt at his expense.

Those were sad, trying days. We had no lights in the auditorium, so simple commencement exercises were held in the old Presbyterian church. The class was Cecil Crowe, who entered high school at eleven years of age and was one of the brainiest boys I knew; Felton Taylor; Florence Schurman; Dewitt Menefee; George Jackson; Esther Waite, and Bennie Houk. Cecil Crowe was Valedictorian. DeWitt Menefee edited the Topa Topa.

The great fire destroyed our home and all there was in it, also, Mrs. Bristol’s School building and equipment. Mr. Ladd telegraphed from Portland, Oregon, that we could have his house for the summer, which we gratefully accepted. My wife and I were at the crossroads. What should we do? Seated on the east veranda one afternoon, we discussed the situation. Mrs. Bristol had made a success of her [private] school and loved it; but rebuilding would be a trial and expensive, especially if she took a few girls to board, which she importuned to do. I was inclined to take advantage of the break and try for another school.

It was the lowest point in our depression; for, turning to some unopened mail on a table nearby, I read a letter from the Southern California Chemical Society saying that our team had again won the contest in chemistry. That settled it. I couldn’t desert a school that had won an intelligence test in competition with twenty-two schools and eighty-four students. In October, 1917, the presentation took place at the University Club in Los Angeles. Reba Taylor received the cup for the school, which this time was ours to keep.

The opening of school in 1917 was quite depressing. The enrollment had decreased considerably. The shadow of the great fire was till over the community. The war spirit [World War I] was such that the boys wanted military drill, which to a limited extent was allowed them. We had in the school that fall a Jewish boy, whose family came here for the winter. He had some training in military tactics and undertook to command the boys under general direction of Mr. Rich. Miss Rosina Caldwell took Mr. Barnes place in the faculty. The reconstructed manual training building was ready for the opening of school.

There was a move to organize a Y. M. C. A. in Ojai. The school gave a play written by Kate Douglas Wiggins entitled “The Birds”. . . . It was given in the old Presbyterian church. Early in 1918, automobile sheds were constructed by the boys of the Manual Training Department. The winter play was “Green Stockings,” starring Florence Thompson and George Busch. The spring play, coached by Miss Kellenbarger, was “In Cleon’s Garden,” a Greek play. It was given out of doors. Arthur Waite and Eldred Miller had prominent parts. A turtle and parrot were in the cast. Special lighting effects were devised by the students, and tiers of raised seats were provided for the audience.

Topa Topa that year was edited by Reba Taylor and dedicated to Edward Drummond Libbey. The dedication lines follow:

A man whose practical idealism,
Whose love of the beautiful,
Whose vision of altruistic service,
Has inspired and brought to pass
A great work in the Ojai Valley –
An esthetic endowment of such wondrous value
That no man can contemplate it without
Spiritual uplift.

The class of 1918 consisted of Faith Van Curen, Eldred Miller, Reba Taylor, Ruth Parmenter, Charles Parsons, Dwight Van Fleet, Winifred Gibson and George Busch. Reba Taylor was the Valedictorian. On account of the high cost of materials, Topa Topa was not published that year.

At the opening of the school in 1918, Miss Ruth Garner of Lodi took Miss Alltucker’s place; and A. W. Muse took Mr. Rich’s work. Both of these were remarkably fine persons and teachers, and we hated to lose them. Miss Elizabeth Taff, now Mrs. Harry Dennison, took Miss Mowry’s work in the Domestic Science Department.

We had just got well-started with the work of the year, when the Spanish Flu struck the town; and the school was closed for seven weeks. The Manual Training Department put on a play in April, 1919, called “Under the Laurels,” under the direction of Mr. Muse; which, as I remember it now, was not up to our usual standard of plays.

The class of 1919 graduated on the evening of June 20, and [was] comprised [of] the following students: Elsie Gibson, Dorothy Yant, Harriet Semro, Margaret Macleod, Jessie Drown, Margaret Hunt, Melba Miller, Fern Watkins, and Arthur Waite. Dorothy Yant was the Valedictorian.


Very early in our history, the teachers and students agreed that in athletics we would undertake only such sports as we could with credit to ourselves. Consequently, we left out track and football and concentrated on tennis, baseball, and basketball. In 1917, we were first in the county in tennis, second in baseball, and second in basketball. I shall never forget the pennant game of baseball played with Fillmore on our field in the spring of 1917. Bennie Houk, reputed to be the best pitcher in the county, pitched a fine game through eight innings; and our school was ahead. In the ninth, he let in enough runs to beat us. The excitement was too much for him, perhaps. We were good losers, nonetheless. The nostalgic effect of the game was felt in the school for some time. I remember Mrs. Drown gave the school a scoreboard, and Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Houk gave us a handsome blue and gold megaphone.

In the years 1912 and 1919, inclusive, we graduated sixty pupils. Of these, 35 went to higher schools. Eighty-two children, so far as we have been able to learn, have been born to these graduates, some of whom have also graduated from the local school.

With this report of the first decade of the Nordhoff Union High School, I bring to a close what seems to me to be romantic years.

Postcard: Nordhoff High School (1910)

Nordhoff Union High School
. In 1910, Norman F. Marsh designed this bungalow style building (above) to house the new Nordhoff High School. Marsh designed it so that, “every window will extend to the floor and will swing open their entire length. The pupils will in ordinary weather practically work out of doors.” At the time, this was a revolutionary concept in school architecture. Charles M. Pratt, a wealthy Eastern oil tycoon who owned a home in Ojai, hired Marsh to design a separate manual training and domestic arts building at the school. Marsh was a successful Los Angeles architect who also designed Venice Beach, the University of Redlands, and the Parkhurst Building in Santa Monica. The new Nordhoff High School campus opened in October of 1911 with forty students.

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.