A History of Oak View

A History of Oak View by Patty Fry

Prior to its development, Oak View was just uninhabited land between Ojai and Ventura. Watermelons grew where Dahl’s Market is at 445 Ventura Avenue and apricot orchards covered a great deal of the remaining land. In the late 1930s, people began to build homes there, called the place “Oak View Gardens”.

Among Oak View’s earliest residents was the Hiram Watkins family. Hiram was born in 1866 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. When his parents could not compromise their marital or political differences, Mr. Watkins took his older son, Glyme, to Texas, while his wife, Narcissa, after selling their Missouri home, returned to Kentucky with Hiram.

Hiram married Allie Belle Delp and they set up housekeeping in Summerfield, Kansas, where he grew broom corn and manufactured and sold brooms to support his family which soon included two children, Percy and Florence. Around 1892 they moved to Sterling, Nebraska, opened a rag carpet company and Allie Belle gave birth to four more children, Elva, Ruby (Berry), Clifford and Fern (Munger).

In 1901, the Watkins family moved to California from Nebraska and rented land in Oak View to raise cattle, hogs and hay. This is where Jane and Irene were born. Around 1903, Hiram purchased seventy-five acres of land on a hill east of Highway 33 in what is now Oak View for $2500 and tended an apricot orchard there. When it seemed that automobiles were here to stay, Hiram opened a service station/grocery at the corner of what is now Watkins Way and Ventura Avenue in Oak View. Allie Belle took over some of the responsibility for the orchard. When the bottom dropped out of the apricot market in 1928, Hiram pulled out most of the trees. He went back to making brooms which he sold to merchants in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. When things were slow, he went door-to-door. He, reportedly, made the brooms in a barn near Mirror Lake.

Percy Watkins married Effie Crose, whom he had met when she worked on the family’s apricot ranch in 1917. She was in Oak View helping to care for her brother and signed up for the pitting crew to earn money for college. When the Depression hit, Percy and his Effie moved in with his parents so they could help each other through this period. They remembered eating popcorn from the broom corn for breakfast cereal. They also grew peanuts and often had pan-roasted peanuts for an evening meal. They had plenty of fresh milk, though, and they sold it and wood to buy groceries. One year the $7 a month that came from selling their dairy products was the only income they could count on.

Watkins sometimes got something in trade for their milk or the firewood Percy chopped and delivered to neighbors. According to Effie, “Often is was something we didn’t want and couldn’t use.”

Percy and Effie rented the old Kennedy house for a while. Hiram died in 1942 and Allie Belle in 1951, after which Percy and Effie moved back to the ranch land on the hill where the apricot trees once grew. They brought a trailer onto the property and created a lean-to outside it. In the meantime, Percy, who was working in the oil fields by then, was bringing home lumber and scrap wood from the oil derricks and storing it on the property. When the telephone company took out the square telephone poles between Ventura and Ojai, Percy brought some of those home. Effie’s brother brought them truckloads of rock from a quarry in Northern California where he worked-all of this for their future home.

Effie drew pictures of her dream house and Percy started building it in 1961 using the materials he had been hoarding-the square telephone poles as beams, the stone as flooring and to build the massive fireplace. The house didn’t go up overnight. In fact it would be another ten years before Effie realized her dream as the Watkins didn’t move into their home until 1971.

Percy died at the age of 93 in 1983. Effie was also in her 90s when she died in 1997. [Read Percy’s recollections in The Road to Ojai, posted on this website.]

Mrs. Jessie R. Caldwell opened a gas station and grocery in Oak View Gardens in 1927 where the Shell Station is on Highway 3 and Santa Ana Road. Reverend Craig established a Holiness Church in Oak View in 1928. By 1929, it was necessary to start a school and it opened with sixty-eight pupils. There was no heat in the building, so school started at 10 am to give the building time to warm up before the children arrived.

There is mention of a library in Oak View as early as 1930. At one point it was housed in a garage.

In 1945, the community created a memorial park at Apricot Street and Mahoney Avenue. It was named, Glenn Memorial Park in memory of Captain Glenn A. Loban and others who had lost their lives in the war. Local families of servicemen planted shrubs and roses and labeled them with the names of their sons.

The above is excerpted from Patty Fry’s book The Ojai Valley: An Illustrated History, available from Matilija Press. Click on the book image to purchase.


16 Replies to “A History of Oak View”

  1. I have lived in Oak View for the last 36 yrs the deed to my house has me living in ” Oak View Home Spring Gardens” lot # 13 .
    The property next to mine was owned by the Post Master of Oak View from 1953 until his wife passed in 2008 ( Meryl & Eva Shelley) what great stories they had.
    They had some o the original apricot trees on their property. The new owner has removed all but 2 .

  2. My brother, Mitch, mentions apricot trees. So, does the story. In the 1960’s, our parents would load us kids up into their 1958 Ford stationwagon and drive us to Oak View to pick apricots. We’d park in the parking lot of a church (now, the Calvary Chapel) that was on the corner of Mahoney Avenue and Apricot Street. Apricot Street had old apricot trees lining both sides of the street. I don’t believe that any of these trees were on private property. I seem to recall that they were on the dirt road shoulders. Nobody cared if you picked the apricots. That’s probably because all the neighbors had apricot trees on their lots. After I moved out of my parent’s home, I used to pick apricots along Apricot Street into the early 1970’s. I drove down the length of the street a couple of days ago to see if any of the trees remained. I was saddened by the fact that I was unable to locate a single old tree. Great memories though!

  3. We had a very mature apricot tree on our property when we moved to our house in Oak View 26 years ago. I am proud that we kept that tree in our yard ,and it still produces lots of delicious apricots throughout the end of june and into july. you are welcome to visit and anytime!

  4. My wife and I bought a home in Oak View on Rio Via. Found out that the real name of the street is/was Rio Viaduct. And of course that Oak View was originally Oak View Gardens. Kind of Ventura, which has been San Buenaventura. Everything was indeed better, back then!

  5. Hi I was born in Ojai & grew up in Oak View I can’t remember what the western feed store behind the Ven Oaks market was called any help would be appreciated thanks

  6. Hiram, was my great grandfather and Elva was my grandmother. This was fabulous information to find. Thank you

  7. My name is Don Cox I married Debbie Collins we have been married for 48 years I enjoyed reading all of the comments my wife and I grew up in Oak view we hung out with the Kennedys the Alfres The crows the Rogers The stocks The Grabowski’s and so many others in the late 60s and early 70s Oakview was a great place for young ones to grow up in my wife’s parents purchased land from Percy Watkins and built the house at 74 High St. back then it was the only home in about canyon now there it’s like five other homes crammed in a very small place boy how things have changed

  8. I grew up in Oak View too. Went to kindergarten at the corner of Mahoney and Valley Road, My house was 281 Valley Road. I knew the Rickets, the Ball’s and the Ross’s.

  9. We had an old apricot tree in Skyline, they were the best apricots I have ever eaten. Don’t really know how old the tree was..huge..

  10. I grew up on Prospect St. I was born in 1955 and we moved in 1971 to Oregon. I go back for vacations. Oak View will always be my home. It was an awesome place to grow up. I grew up with the Merkel’s, Wilson’s, Timmon’s. I knew everyone who lived there. I’ve taken my kids to see my hometown. We lived at 317 and 311. My parents Nelson and Arlene Flower’s built the house at 311. I had so much fun growing up there.

  11. Capritto’s raised in Oak View along with our cousins the Quinn’s, remember Jeff Moreno, Felipe Cruz, the Nelsons, Lee’s, Dharon(now Thames) and Doralynn As well. Memories of walking around OV at 2:00 am with all the other kids in summer, parents, did you know? Fondly remembering everyone from Oak View Elementary, De Anza and VHS.

  12. Just moved into the Percy and Effie’s home. The beams made of square telephone poles the stone floor and massive stone fireplace are still in original condition.

  13. What was the name of the steakhouse east of 33 and just south of McDonalds? It’s a homeless haven now.

  14. Charles,

    Per chance, could the steakhouse have been slightly North of McDonald’s. If so, I’m thinking it might have been the “Gaslight Restaurant” in Mira Monte.

    — T. Drew Mashburn (“Ojai Valley Museum” volunteer)

  15. So I sent the picture of us for Warner kids at A & W we started talking and she decided to look up history of Oakville. Come to find out they named that little park which I never knew there was a park there it is now the Calvary church after my step grandfather‘s brother Captain Glenn Loban. He was shot down when he was 22. They say it was friendly fire in World War II We didn’t know anything about him because my grandfather was so upset about his death he never spoke of him.

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