The following article was first printed in the WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 1985 edition of the “OJAI VALLEY NEWS” on Page A-1. It is reprinted here with their permission.
Women-of-the-Year give time, energy to help community
When the OVN news staff chose Arlou Mashburn and Carmen Robertson as its 1985 Women-of-the-year, it was without the knowledge that the two of them not only knew each other, but have been great friends for 24 years, and that, their lives have dovetailed and coincided many, many times since they met in 1961.
“When I moved to Ojai in 1961, Arlou lived across the street,” said Robertson. “The day after we moved in, the doorbell rang and there was this beautiful glossy head of hair with a coffeepot. It was her. It was my welcome to Ojai.”
AND WHEN THEY showed up for a picture-taking session together on Monday, throwing their arms over each other’s shoulders, assuming a buck and wing position and announcing themselves as “The Pit Sisters,” we weren’t sure but what they had misunderstood and thought they’d won the Ted Mack Amateur Hour.
Such high spirits are but symptomatic of high energy these two human dynamos possess. Rare is the person in Ojai Valley who hasn’t been cheered by, but more to the point, helped by, one or both of these women.
Neither stands on much ceremony. Neither holds formal office nor chairs important commissions. What they both have is heart, “miles and miles and miles of heart. “They are both such lobbyists for the Ojai Valley and its people that if they took their act to Washington, D.C., they’d be banned for undue influence.
Officially, Mashburn is the executive director of the Ojai Valley’s Youth Employment Service (YES). Officially, Robertson is the Ojai Valley representative of the Ventura County Arts Advisory Council.
IT’S WHAT THEY DO unofficially that singles them out. The two of them combined have probably driven their and everyone else’s kids in Ojai Valley enough miles on field trips to go around the world twice. They’ve both been unofficial sympathetic ears to enough teenagers (and their parents) in the valley to qualify for master’s degrees in family counseling.
One of Mashburn’s bosses, Ginny Barrett, member of the YES board of directors, said it best about Arlou: “She’s done so much more than what she’s paid to do, put in so many more hours, that she’s still our best volunteer.”
“When you see Arlou coming, you know you’re going to have a good time,” said the Ojai Valley native, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t working with youngsters on a volunteer basis. “Arlou and I were PTA nursery school volunteers, elementary school on up.”
Being mother of six and working almost exclusively with children on her job only makes her want to do more with youngsters.
“There aren’t enough people who like kids,” she said as she sat in her cubbyhole YES office on the grounds of Chaparral High School. “Hiam Ginott, my idol said you should give your child a way out. Don’t come down on them all the time. We’d never talk to adults the way we talk to our kids.
“I wish there was an outreach program here for the kids, something like Interface,” she mused between calls; calls from people wanting to hire someone and calls from kids wanting to be hired.
AFTER AN hour and a half of trying to squeeze an interview in between calls and visits from youngsters, it became obvious that Mashburn is her own “outreach program.” She serves as a personal counselor as much as a placement director on the job. Her manner is so disarming, so non-threatening, that monosyllabic teenagers walk in and find themselves pouring their hearts out to her.
“See how I love this job,” she beamed after effecting a particularly difficult job placement by phone, one in which everyone was happy. “Isn’t this great?”
“What I most hope to do here is maintain the reputation of Evy Foyil. She was here before me and it’s easy for me because of her example,” she said.
Mashburn will also be honored later this year when she leads the annual Independence Day parade down Ojai Avenue on the 4th of July as its Grand Marshall. Barely five feet tall, Mashburn will probably have to sit in a booster chair so her fans can see her in the back seat of the convertible. She won’t mind, because from her standpoint, it will mean she’ll have a better view of all of her friends.
“She works for the good of the artists in this community,” said Carmen Robertson’s longtime friend Diane Volz. “She serves them; she brings the public to them. That’s her joy.”
ANYONE acquainted with Robertson has been buttonholed at one time or another to at- [missing words] there. She worked with the Presbyterian Church youth group and others.
In recent years she has worked as an aide at all levels of the Ojai school system, particularly with the special ed children. “I’m best as helping kids feel good about themselves,” she says. “If you say anything, say I stand for the dignity of children.”
Asked about her supreme accomplishment she said, “I was cleanup hitter for the Topa Topa Elementary School baseball team.”
ROBERTSON HAS very nearly lead two lives in one. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she became a child actress literally at the age of six months. For the next 26 years she worked for the likes of W.C. Fields, Bonita Granville, Jane Withers and appeared in “Our Gang” comedies. As she grew up she worked with Clark Gable, was a stand-in for Lana Turner and swam for two years in Esther Williams movies. “I spent two years under water. I also dived for Ginger Rogers. I was a good swimmer.”
Once she and her friend Diane Volz worked in the movie “Ziegfield Follies” together; they only realized it years later when they met in Ojai. Robertson was in the water and Volz was on the stage in a lavish “smoke-flame water ballet number.”
Then Robertson met and married yacht skipper Jack Robertson; they started a family and moved to Ventura County. The family grew to include Nick, Drew, Cullen, Winslow and Sydney, now all grown and all distinguished scholars in one way or another.
The day she started her family, she retired from the movie industry; the nurturing of her (and other people’s) children became her career. She and Jack resisted temptations to leave because “we wanted our family to have the Ojai way of life.”
“I came home when I came to Ojai. This is a mystical valley. I have a mystical streak and I feel better here than anyplace else.”