Arlou Wells and Harold Mashburn Married at Santa Barbara Church

The following article was first run in THE OJAI newspaper on PAGE TWELVE in the November 19, 1948 edition. “THE OJAI” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown. Photos added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

Arlou Wells and Harold Mashburn
Married at Santa Barbara Church
______


Mr. and Mrs. Warren E. Wells this week announced the marriage of their daughter, Arlou, to Harold C. Mashburn of Meiners Oaks. The couple exchanged their vows Sunday in the Little Chapel of Santa Barbara.

The altar was banked with white gladioli and yellow chrysanthemums. White tapers surrounded the altar. The double-ring ceremony was read by the Rev. Paul H. Gammons of El Montecito Presbyterian church. The bride was given away by her father. She was attired in a period style white slipper satin gown with a yoke of Valencia lace, tight fitted bodice, and a full skirt, shirred twice at the hemline, revealing a ruffled lace petticoat. The full satin skirt swept into a chapel train.

The deep yoke and sleeves were outlined with imported lace ruffling. Her finger-tip veil fell in tiers from a coronet of seed pearls and a single strand of pearls adorned the high neckline of her gown. She carried an arrangement of bouvardia blossoms over a white Bible, belonging to her mother, which carried out the “something old, something new” theme and carried a sixpence in her shoe.

Maid of honor was Barbara Campbell of Los Angeles, who wore a rose taffeta gown. Her head dress was a bandeau of rose ribbon and seed pearls. She carried a colonial nosegay of pink and white flowers.

Tom Bennett of Meiners Oaks served as best man and Jack Cruickshank of Ventura as usher. A program of nuptial organ music was played before the ceremony. Mrs. Wells, mother of the bride, chose a charcoal gray faille dress with turquoise accessories and a corsage of yellow rosebuds. Mrs. Mashburn, mother of the bridegroom, wore a hunter’s green crepe dress with cocoa brown accessories and a Talisman rose corsage.

Following the ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. Wells entertained with a reception at the Fremont room, adjoining the chapel. The bride’s table was laid with a linen cloth and centered with a three-tiered wedding cake, topped with miniature silver wedding bells, surrounded at the base with white gladioli and yellow chrysanthemums.

Assisting at the bride’s table was Joan Mulligan. Betty Jean Mashburn, sister of the bridegroom, was in charge of the guest book.

Following the reception, the couple left for a wedding trip through the Northwest. For travel, the bride wore a blue wool dressmaker’s suit and brown accessories. Upon their return they will be at home at 555 1/2 South Ventura street, Ojai. The bride is a graduate of Nordhoff Union high school, 1948 class. The bridegroom was graduated from Nordhoff in 1943 and served for three and a half years in the U. S. navy. He is employed by the Shell Oil company, Ventura.

L to R: Barbara Campbell (Maid of Honor), Arlou “Wells” Mashburn (Bride), Harold Mashburn (Groom), Jewel Mashburn (Groom’s mother), Clyde Mashburn (Groom’s father)
Mr. & Mrs. H.C. Mashburn’s honeymoon vehicle.
The new Mrs. Arlou “Wells” Mashburn on her honeymoon.
Newly married Harold C. Mashburn on his honeymoon.

Old Gray

The following article appeared in VOLUME 38 NUMBER 1/SPRING 2020 issue of “Ojai Valley Guide” on page 159. This magazine was published by the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

Old Gray

LOOK BACK IN OJAI
with Drew Mashburn
Contributed on behalf of the
Ojai Valley Museum

ROUTE 66 WAS A COOL OLD HIGHWAY. MY PARENTS TOOK THREE OF US KIDS ON 66 IN 1965 TO VISIT DAD’S SIDE OF THE FAMILY IN MISSOURI AND MOM’S SIDE OF THE FAMILY IN INDIANA. WE WERE ON THIS VACATION FOR ABOUT A MONTH.

For a vacation like that, you have to have some reliable wheels. I accompanied my dad to the auto dealership in Ojai to bring home the 1961 Chevrolet Apache half-ton pickup with a 283-cubic-inch engine and three-on-the-three manual transmission he had ordered. I was only 9 years old, but remember the experience like it was only yesterday.

The Tom Mahon Chevrolet dealership is where Jersey Mike’s is now. There are all these big windows at this sandwich shop because it used to be the showroom floor for displaying the new-model vehicles.

Jersey Mike’s is in a long, narrow building that also houses St. Thomas Aquinas Thrift Shop, She Seeks Nomad, Cuts & Curls, The Ojai Donut Shoppe, Kristy’s Nails, and La Fuente of Ojai. All these businesses are in what used to be the mechanic’s bays with really tall, roll-up doors.

Dad and I were led out of the office by the car salesman to the parking lot adjacent to the bays. A few other employees gathered near us. All the bay doors were closed. We waited with bated breath while the salesman had us look at one of the doors. It slowly rose and there was Dad’s brand-spankin’-new pickup. A gent was in it. He drove it slowly out to the parking lot. The keys were handed to Dad as the salesman and others congratulated him. It was a BIG DEAL back in those days! I swear, it was like a grand opening of a new store or something. I’m surprised they didn’t have some uplifting, symphonic music blaring. But, all I could think was something like, “Dad, with all the colors available, you chose coral?” . . . which was basically pink.

Dad never sold that pickup, though he did paint it a number of years later. At one time it was white, then dark blue, then primer gray. When it was younger, he called it Betsy. At the end, he called it Old Gray.

Dad passed in 1998. Mom had me donate the pickup to a charity. It was like cutting off an arm as Old Gray was towed away.



Oaks history — never dull

This article was contributed by longtime Ojai Valley resident Susan Roland. Roland recently discovered this article in the belongings she inherited from her mother. The “Ojai Valley Museum” has added the photos to the article.

Hollywood glamour

Oaks history — never dull


[Much of the following history of the Oaks hotel was taken from a series of articles for the Ojai Valley News by the late Helen Davenport, in 1962 society editor of the OVN.]

Colorized postcard of The Original EL ROBLAR–hotel, now the Oaks, as it looked back in the 1920’s. The photo is from the post office tower.


Staring as a quiet little country inn, the hotel opened around 1920 after many false starts and much talk. The ground was originally owned by P.K. Miller and he built a house on the site where he raised his family, according to Jennie Miller Griffin, his daughter.

The house burned down in the big fire of 1917.

A number of Ojai residents took an option on the property and became stockholders. These stockholders sold out at 50 cents on the dollar to Frank Barrington of Santa Barbara.

THE STORY GOES that the Barrington’s worked for a wealthy woman in Montecito, he as a butler and she as an upstairs maid. It is thought by others that she was a trained nurse. Both, it is true, were Irish and friendly. The wealthy woman ultimately died and left the couple $25,000 to run a hotel. Ojai was their destination.

Soon the hotel opened for business under the name of El Roblar.

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Mr. Barrington in front of the El Roblar on March 4, 1929.

Following the death of Mr. Barrington, his wife continued to operate the hotel for many years. She brought many of her relatives over from the old country to visit and work in the establishment. Local residents held parties there, because the Ojai Valley Inn at this time was a private club.

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Mrs. Barrington in front of the El Roblar in March 1929.

Mrs. Barrington was neat and orderly and well-liked. She saw to it that flowers were in the rooms and on the tables. As was the custom of the time in many homes, she had doilies and tidies strewn around for the homey touch. She took flowers to the Presbyterian church for many years.

Frank Barrington is remembered as a man of graceful charm. The New Years’ Eve parties are well remembered when he served his famous eggnogs to carollers returning to the hotel at midnight — a touch of alcohol in them for adults, unspiked for the youngsters.

Chauffeur-driven cars drove around the orange trees to the front door, letting out passengers who returned many times to the year-round hotel.

FROM A QUIET little country inn — the Oaks hotel became an internationally known hostelry. Changes in ownership followed in rapid succession, some tragic, some happy.

Mrs. Barrington sold the hotel to Canfield Enterprises of Santa Barbara. Mr. and Mrs. Canfield took over with many plans for changes and expansion. But these were put to a tragic end with the unhappy suicide of Mr. Canfield.

This was followed by the ownership of the Oaks going to the Cromwells of San Francisco and once more the doors were open with eager anticipation of a great future. Plans had been completed for the Matilija dam and hopes were high for an expanded hotel to take care of the expected influx of engineers, visitors and fishermen. Once again these dreams were shattered by the suicide of Mr. Cromwell.

Mrs. Barrington again took over the hotel. She soon leased it to Richard Paige (presently living on McAndrew road). This time some of the dreams became a reality. Paige and Morgan Baker, his associate, built the first bar in the hotel. A small intimate room it soon became a sought-after meeting place for cocktails and after-party and theater gatherings. It was noted for its “rump rail” an innovation which allowed the weary drinker to slouch in an orderly fashion with elbows and derriere well supported.

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Mary Harmon and Morgan Baker in the El Roblar in 1954.

During the management of Paige and Baker, the present swimming pool was added to the Oaks attractions. Swim parties were frequent and the hotel became better-known than ever. The unhappiness of the previous years was completely forgotten behind the happy shouts from the bar and pool.

MANY STILL SPEAK of Martinez the bartender, who is said to have mixed a martini so memorable that people spoke of them in hushed and awed voices. They were, it is said, refused to those who were not regarded as worthy of such a mixture by the noble Martinez.

The management of Paige and Baker, as all things must, came to an end as these gentlemen became occupied elsewhere, and the Oaks — still owned by the Barrington estate — again sought ownership and management.

In 1952 the hotel was bought by Frank Keenan and the hotel entered into an era of splendor and activity it had not known before. Keenan was a former county assessor for Cook County, Ill., which is largely taken up by the city of Chicago, and he had glamorous plans for the hotel which he promptly began to carry out.

The present cottages around the pool were built and were soon filled with some of the most glamorous names of Hollywood and New York and less desirable places. Gangster Bugsy Siegal was a visitor. The dining room was remodeled and the bar enlarged. Keenan brought his genial brother Jim to act as host.

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Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel

THE DINING ROOM was named the Chicago room and was greatly sought-after as a meeting place for important groups and glittering with social affairs. The opening with Bud Abbott as M.C. was rumored to cost $10,000. Guests arrived from all over the country and local residents who were lucky enough to be included talked endlessly about the gala affair.

It was during the Keenan ownership that the Oaks took on its present shape and form (that was 1962). The Keenan brothers wide acquaintance brought distinguished guests — and some who had glamour. Nevertheless, it was noted for its quiet dignity, fine cuisine and genuine hospitality.

It was said that Keenan wanted to make the Oaks into a casino a la Las Vegas. City officials who requested their names be withheld remember being approached with propositions and requests for “protection”. These officials let it be known that no gambling would be allowed in Ojai and this particular project was dropped.

The future of the Oaks was suddenly thrown into doubt when after four years of gaiety the Keenan brothers were indicted for income tax evasion back in Illinois. They were convicted and sent to prison.

The genial Jim Keenan died in prison; Frank Keenan completed his term and many hoped he would again resume ownership of the Oaks.

ONCE AGAIN the hotel closed and the halls were hushed. They remained quiet for over a year.

Through Keenan’s attorney, the hotel came into the hands of Heiress Lolita Armour (of Chicago packing house fame) and her new young husband Charles Madrin. It was thought that the hotel was being used as a tax write-off. A deal was made to trade the Armour estate in Lake Forest, Ill. for the Oaks hotel and once again the closed sign was removed.

On Jan. 1, 1958, a new regime started — one of toil and trouble — and a series of managers followed. There were seven in a two-year period before closing early in 1962.

Civic organizations held meetings at the hotel, lunches and dinners set by local residents, dinner dances were held, and the Wednesday style show around the pool were attractions. One manager installed electric heat lamps to be used on the terrace when the sun failed. A key-holders club was formed to make residents use the pool and bar and Richard Blalock’s orchestra played in the large dining room. Honeymooners loved the quiet of the mid-week and Hollywood celebrities dropped in for a rest in the country. Conventions were booked, but accommodations were such that only small crowds could be handled. The hotel was also the hub of the town. Genial Gino Giamari held sway as head bartender.

On the debit side, the various managers made many mistakes. One called an employees meeting once each month, however it was soon seen that those who got up to talk were soon fired. Another imbibed too much, another hated music and called the bartender when the lounge was filled with local people listening to a $ 150-a-week pianist. The bartender was sent home and the patrons left.

The thing the employees hated most was the Las Vegas mirror installed above the bar. Some thought this was not only to check on the bartender but on the low-cut gowns of the ladies. Along with the mirror a complete intercom system was put in, one that could be reversed so that employees’ every whispered word could be checked.

IN FEBRUARY OF 1962 the American Association of Retired Persons (Grey Gables) took a 90-day option on the Oaks, planning to sell units to its members. The price was around $500,000. However, the deal never closed because of the high expense of fireproofing and bringing the aging structure up to the building codes.

The Oaks remained closed for a while in 1962-63 until it was taken over by a well-remembered Ojai valley figure — Santa Barbaran Vernon Johnson. A big, bluff, bearded extrovert, who worked as a telephone company lineman-foreman and still does. Johnson had come into an inheritance and “had always wanted to run a hotel”. Several years prior to this, he had gained a measure of fame when he toured ’round the world (including through Siberia) in a converted Greyhound bus with his wife and 9 children. He bought the mortgage from Lolita Armour for $295,000 — making a $50,000 cash payment.

JOHNSON PLAYED a genial host at these parties, circulating from table to table with stories and goodwill. “He” became, in essence, the Oaks hotel and his face appeared on the menus, on the paper napkins, matchbook covers and even the tiny bar soap wrappers.

Localites were impressed with Johnson who went to Los Angeles one day and bought a $3,000 rare Macaw bird and installed it in the lounge.

Johnson lasted a year before filing for bankruptcy. Henry Coulson, a federal bankruptcy referee living in Ventura, then had the unhappy task of keeping the Oaks open and alive, which he did without the benefit of hotel experience until the Oaks was bought by a local group, headed by Rodney Walker and Jerald Peterson, at an auction in Nov. of 1966 for $230,000.

COMMUNITY PROJECT—Keith Lloyd, left, manager of the Oaks Hotel, confers with Gerald Peterson, center, vice president, and Rodney Walker, president, in front of the 50-year-old Spanish-style inn. The trio heads El Roblar Corp., a community enterprise with 300 shareholders which bought the financially-plagued hotel at auction in 1965 for $230,000 and revived it. (Times photo by John Malmin)




Let’s keep the Sespe wild

The following article first appeared in the August 23, 1989 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on the Editorial page. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the “Ojai Valley News.” The author is unknown.

Editorial

Let’s keep the Sespe wild

Rep. Robert Lagomarsino is on the right track in his efforts to protect Sespe Creek under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, but the California Republican’s plan doesn’t go far enough.

The Sespe is a treasure and its entire 55-mile length should be protected from development.

There is some question whether the full length of the Sespe is eligible for federal protection — some sources say the first eight miles is not — but every avenue that might lead to total preservation should be explored.

The Keep the Sespe Wild Committee is doing just this, and the group is to be commended.

Opponents of full protection and backers of Largomarsino’s bill — H.R. 1473 — contend that Sespe water will eventually be needed to support a growing Ventura County population. This, of course, would eventually require the construction of dams. Some even suggest that dams be in place by the end of the next decade.

We disagree with the water-for-growth issue and support the growing number of people and businesses that back the Keep the Sespe Wild proposal.

The cost of water provided by dams — as much as $1,000 an acre-foot — would be prohibitive and damming the Sespe would be detrimental to area Pacific Ocean beaches since the Sespe is an important environmental link in replenishing the sand.

Some argue that Sespe dams would help ease the problem of declining groundwater and the intrusion of seawater into aquifers, but there are better solutions to these problems.

And, if serious water problems develop years down the road, Congress could change the Sespe designation to allow it to be used as a water source in an emergency.

Again, we believe Keep the Sespe Wild has the best idea.

There are three classifications under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act — wild, which would allow no roads and no development; scenic, which provides for some roads and some privately-owned land; and recreational, with a lot of private lands, campgrounds or development.

The environmental group proposes that the 5.5 miles from the headwaters to Highway 33 at Adobe Creek to Trout Creek be designated scenic, that the 28.5 miles from Trout Creek to Devil’s Gate be wild and the four miles from Devil’s Gate to the Sespe’s confluence with the Santa Clara River be recreational.

This covers the entire length of the Sespe and is a far better plan than the one in the Congress that would protect only 27.5 miles of this Southern California treasure.

PARKING METERS FOR OJAI . . . ?

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, January 12, 1951 edition of “THE OJAI.” That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News.” The article appears here with their permission. The author is unknown.

PARKING METERS FOR OJAI . . . ?

Some of our city fathers let drop a broad hint after their meeting Monday night that they would like to make a present of some parking meters to the city. This is rather a contrast to the propaganda put forward by council members some months ago to the effect that the issue of parking meters was not a serious one, but was introduced more or less to take people’s attention away from the proposal of a city sales tax, since passed.

They have not come out flatly in favor of the meters, but they have repeatedly brought the idea forward as a solution to what they term “Ojai’s parking problem.”

What parking problem? How can a town which has the greater percentage of its merchants concentrated in one block on one side of the street possibly have a parking problem? If the definition is such that the problem consists in not being able to park exactly in front of the establishment in which the driver wishes to shop, then, there is a parking problem. However, there is a large parking lot east of the city hall, and with the exception of a few unusual occasions, there has always been ample room to accommodate a large amount of cars, and without any overtime parking penalties. If shoppers still insist on parking on Ojai avenue, they are always able to find spaces within at least two blocks of the Arcade, which should not constitute a great burden, since many of these same shoppers are willing to beat their way down to Ventura or Santa Barbara and walk many blocks to do their shopping.

Nuts to the parking problem! If the city dads feel that our present rate of growth will demand more parking space in the future, let them make provisions for off-street parking while there is vacant land in the downtown area.

There is the parking lot adjacent to the city hall, already mentioned. There is land behind the Arcade, between Ojai avenue and Matilija street. There are various locations in the downtown section still unoccupied that will serve for parking if the council members fee that space is needed.

As to the financial picture, the meter company estimates that in Ojai, meters will bring in $4 per meter per month. With 110 meters installed, this would amount to approximately $5280 yearly revenue. Of this, the meter company takes half until the meters are paid for, which would take roughly two and one-half years. In the meantime the city would in all probability have to take on an extra employee to service the meters and make collections, since it has been the understanding, under the present city set-up that our city officials and employees are being worked up to and beyond their capacity. The additional employee would reduce the revenue from the meters, since it is a strange practice of people nowadays not to work for nothing.

It looks as though we are getting a little too large for our Levis. A city sales tax—yes. Off-street parking—perhaps, but KEEP PARKING METERS OUT OF OJAI.

My Favorite Town — OJAI, CALIFORNIA

This article was originally printed on pages 42 – 46 in the December 1951 issue of “FORD TIMES” magazine which the “Ojai Valley Museum” has in their collection. The magazine was gifted to the museum by the Ojai Branch of the Ventura County Library System.

My Favorite Town —

OJAI, CALIFORNIA


by Lael Tucker

paintings by Brice Mack

We were looking for a temporary home town. We gave it that designation because, in the middle of a long trip, we had to find a town where we could spend six consecutive weeks writing. It had to be a very special kind of town—one to belong in—in a hurry.

We were rediscovering our own country after four years in Europe. Our own house was leased, our children in transition between languages and schools, our belongings scattered. So we started out to see our country again. Seventeen states and six thousand miles later, we were in Ojai, California.

Nobody told us about Ojai. We were still looking for that temporary home town. This day, we were merely on our way to relax in some hot sulphur springs up a small valley fifty miles north of Los Angeles. The narrow road from the Pacific Coast curled upward like lazy smoke. The gentle mountains on either side reminded us of the Pyrenees.

We came to a road sign that pointed to Ojai. We abandoned the hot springs idea simply because we like the name Ojai (O-hi), and because we felt happy. Six weeks later we still did. We hated to leave.

Ojai’s Main Streeet shops are sheltered in a long, homogeneous block under a continuous, graceful arcade. The post office has a Spanish bell tower, the park has picnic tables under the oaks and the best free tennis courts we ever saw.

The side streets are oak-shaded, and the Valley Outpost Motor Hotel is built on the edge of town under the mountains. Each housekeeping cabin is tree-shaded and private, and flowers bloom in each yard. The sun shines in a painter’s blue sky. Nights are cool in the brown, hot summer, and the winters are green and mild.

Ojai’s citizens come from everywhere, believe all kinds of things, dress as they like, and like what they please, from classical music to bowling at the local all-night short order joint. All kinds of school children go to all kinds of schools. The whole population—old settlers, winter residents, and visitors—have two things in common. They came to Ojai because they wanted to, and are there because they love it.

After so long in Europe, where everyone does everything for you, I had to learn to keep house all over again. In Ojai, everybody helped me do things for myself. Bewildered by the impersonal superabundance of food in the big markets, I went down the street to Mr. Cox’s family grocery. He helped me plan my menus and select the ingredients, while his chic, pretty wife told me how to cook what I bought. He also took me home in the store truck when I was walking, coaxed my daughter into drinking milk, and brought us orange crates for my son to convert to furniture. The Cox’s came from Oklahoma.

Since public laundering was rather an expensive business, Mrs. McNett, the manager of the motor hotel, loaned me her washing machine, taught me how to use it, and managed to do a big batch for me while showing me how. The McNetts are from Arkansas.

A lady from Maine initiated me into the art of making starch, and a neighbor from Louisiana said it was a pity not to darn good wool socks, and fixed up my husband’s while she demonstrated.

My husband wanted to write his book unmolested, do some walking in the country, hear some music and get a sunburn. Ojai obliged on all counts. Unlike the rest of California, Ojai expects you park your car now and then and take a walk for fun. It also understands a writer’s preoccupied, antisocial behavior. And there were six weeks of bright, browning sun—and a music festival!

El Rancho Ojai was a grant of land, full of streams, bears, wildcats and coyotes, all of which have since diminished. It was the press that really discovered Ojai’s dependable and lavish virtues. Charles Nordhoff, roving correspondent for the New York Herald, dropped up in 1872 and wrote so glowingly of climate and beauty that a lot of people named Dennison, Gray, Sinclair, Van Curen, Pirie, Montgomery, Munger, Waite, Todd, Pinkerton and Jones came out to visit and stayed to winter, founding a sunny, Spanish-style New England village in the western valley. In gratitude, they called it Nordhoff as well as Ojai for twenty-five years.

Its history is a fine mixture of New England and Wild West. A classical Latin scholar from Vermont named Buckman taught school in Ojai. One Colonel Wiggins opened the first hotel with a grand ball for three hundred and closed it again when his guests objected to being treated like company privates at New York prices. Four highly equipped professors, one specialist in Oriental languages, opened a Seminary for Young Ladies, but no young ladies dared the valley. The Thacher School for Boys, established in 1889, flourished, and later graduated author Thornton Wilder and Charles Nordhoff’s grandson, Charles, the writer.

Ojai town was incorporated in 1921 and has grown since from a population of 750 to 2,600. The constant sun, which is its blessing and its reason-to-be, has nearly destroyed it three times by making tinder of its surrounding forests.

But nothing has touched its spirit, its community spirit. Before you have been there a week, you find yourself partisan and citizen of Ojai. You speak of yourself in Ojai as “we.” It’s hard to define what makes it like that.

It’s a town of schools, day schools, boarding schools, progressive schools and prep schools, public schools and two where children take care of their own horses.

It’s a town of religions. Besides the usual denominations of an American community, there are Mormons, Missionary Baptists, and Four Squares. Mrs. Annie Besant tried producing the “new human type” in Ojai. Jiddu Krishnamurti made Ojai his retreat and many gentle people live there in order to listen to him.

It’s a town of the arts. It’s not its artists and writers, its Beatrice Wood, the ceramist, Guy Ignon, the painter, its Chekhov players or its music festival, that make it so. It’s everybody.

The millionaire’s wife will stand next to the talented plumber at the art exhibition. The wintering lady form Maine partners the Mexican ranch worker at the dance. The man who grows acres of oranges for fun or the one who drives in from Ojai to tend a business in Los Angeles may keep score for the school kids at the bowling alley. Whatever squabbles there are, are personal. You’re welcome. Not as a Howdy Stranger, but as Hello Citizen. They only want to keep Ojai the way it is: a place where you’d rather cut off your finger than cut down an oak tree and where you can belong at once, and for as long as you like.



The post office reflects the Spanish influence in Ojai.
TOP PAINTING: The shaded golf course at the Ojai Inn and Country Club BOTTOM PAINTING: Native oaks were here long before the first settlers came.
TOP PAINTING: Even a young town like Ojai has its past BOTTOM PAINTING: Autumn colors come early to the Valley

Bike lanes on Hwy. 33 presages future

The following article was first run in the Wednesday, February 15, 1978 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page B-16. It is reprinted here with their permission. Photo inserted by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

Bike lanes on Hwy. 33 presages future

Editorial by Fred Volz


The fact that the shoulders of Highway 33 are torn up right now between Villanova Road and Tico Road in Mira Monte is good news. That’s because CALTRANS, of all people, is building bike lanes on both sides of the road, as was announced in this newspaper last month.

California’s highway bureaucracy has finally become aware and is doing something about the 75 million or so of us in America who use bicycles as an alternate means of transportation. In 1975, over 7.5 million foreign and domestic bicycles were sold in this country — twice as many as were sold 10 years ago.

THIS TREND is increasing, as is evident to people-watchers in Ojai Valley. As our area becomes increasingly congested with automobiles, and the benefits — to the rider and to the environment — become more and more evident, we expect bike-riding locally to outstrip by far the national trend.

The long-time baby of this writer, in gestation for a decade, is about to be born. Last week, supervisor Ken MacDonald reported that he is confident the county will be able to acquire the abandoned Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way, whether or not supervisors re-allocate the $300,000 currently earmarked for the project. That’s because the state is pushing the project.

Valleyites must be concerned that this marvelous strip of land which links the three major communities in the valley becomes “multiple use”: hiking, biking, riding. We’ve heard bureaucrats say that the three aren’t compatible. “You can’t have a horse trotting on an asphalt bike path,” has been cited. That’s true; so you pave one side for the bikers and roll dirt on the other half for the riders.

At least, this was the way it was done by the state and City of Sacramento in its marvelous hiking, biking, riding pathway we visited last year in the state capitol. The “trail” stretches along the American River from the suburbs to downtown along a spur line railroad right-of-way that’s still in daily use by freight cars. The pathway was built along the railroad right-of-way to one side of the tracks, which for the most miles run along an elevated embankment. Works fine.

THE MULTI-USE pathway has a 6-foot strip of asphalt down one side with a white center line divider down the middle to mark the opposing directions. Alongside is graded an ample dirt strip for horses.

One Sunday we trotted along the asphalt for 5-6 miles on our usual morning jaunt. Along the way we met other runners and were passed in both directions by hordes of bikers. Horses followed other paths along the river embankment. We all had a fine time waving and greeting each other. The morning proved sunny and clear; the air off the river and the fields was fresh and cool; the experience was such that we remember it vividly.

So, let’s get on with our own pathway on the abandoned railroad, so that someday we may experience the joy of riding/hiking/biking through our beautiful valley.


Fred Volz — Publisher and editor of the Ojai Valley News from 1962 to 1987. (Courtesy of Ojai Valley News)

Meet the Mansons

The following article was first printed in the Summer 2020 “Ojai Valley Guide” magazine. The magazine was published by the “Ojai Valley News.” The article is reprinted here with their permission. The photo of Mitch Mashburn eating a potato was added by the Ojai Valley Museum.

DREW’S ENCOUNTER WITH THE MANSON CLAN

Meet the Mansons

“X” marks the spot!
I’ll explain this in a bit.

LOOK BACK IN OJAI
with Drew Mashburn
Contributed on behalf of the
Ojai Valley Museum

I’m unable to recall the exact dates of this adventure because it was over 49 years ago, but it was definitely in March of 1971. That’s when the five of us, Mike Payton, Mitch Mashburn, Jimmy Mitchell, Genemarie McDaniel, Heidi Sommers, and myself took a trip back into the remote Sespe Hot Springs in Los Padres National Forest. I drove my 1964 Chevy pickup with my motorcycle in the bed. Genemarie and Heidi rode in the cab with me. Mitch and Jimmy rode in the bed. Mike rode his motorcycle.

We left Saturday morning from Ojai. We drove up Highway 33 to the Rose Valley Recreation Area. Sespe Creek Road was dirt and wound for about 16 miles back to the hot springs so we crossed the Sespe Creek many times. The first crossing was at Lion Campground. We had zigzagged many times when we came upon a Volkswagen van and a Ford Mustang stuck in the middle of the wide, deep, creek. There must have been at least a dozen vehicles waiting to cross, but their drivers were leery about it. All of the vehicles lacked four-wheel drive, including my pickup.

4WD problems were not going to stop us; we figured we had enough able bodies to push the pickup to the opposite bank should the high water flood the engine. We pushed the van and sedan out of the creek, then offloaded my motorcycle. Mike and I rode our motorcycles across the creek in a shallower spot than the main crossing. Then, we waded back across the creek. We loaded into my pickup and I attempted to drive across it. No luck! The wet engine stalled about midpoint in the creek and I was unable to get it started again. We wound up pushing the pickup onto the far bank.

As we were hoopin, hollerin’, generally congratulating one another and wringing out our wet socks, I happened to look back towards the high flowing creek. There was a short, young lady and a fairly tall, young man wading across with heavy backpacks. The water was about chest deep on the gal, and I was fearful that, should she fall over with the pack on, she’d be swept under the water. I hurriedly headed in her direction, and as I extended my hand to her, I noticed an “X” engraved into her forehead directly above her nose. The gent had an engraved “X” too. I was only 19 years old and was more interested in camping, chasing girls, riding motorcycles, and the like than following the news; but, I immediately knew what those X’s meant. These two were, without a doubt, part of the Manson Clan. Now, I didn’t know much about Manson and his clan, but I’d certainly heard about them and the horrific deeds they had committed.

I assisted the young lady to safety. The gal did all the talking. I swear the dude had an I.Q. of a turnip. I suspected he might have blown his mind with drugs, but he didn’t seem under the influence at the time. The gal told me that she and her partner were in search of attorney Ronald Hughes. Hughes had been Charles Manson’s defense attorney in the Manson Clan trials but went missing after he switched to co-defendant Leslie Van Houten’s attorney. I knew that Hughes was considered missing in the Sespe Wilderness. The gal asked if she and her buddy could ride with us. I had her sit next to me in the cab. The turnip-brained friend of hers rode in the bed, and we put my motorcycle back in the bed too. None of my friends asked them about the X’s. Everybody loaded up and off we went with Mike leading the way on his motorcycle.

Ronald Hughes, Manson defense attorney.

The gal and I chatted. I decided that she was a pleasant, but odd chick. She told me she was Hughes’ “girlfriend.” That seemed odd to me at the time. We didn’t have any more difficulties crossing the creek on the rest of the journey. About a mile or two away from the hot springs, I stopped and told the gal this was as far as I intended on giving them a ride. She told me that she wanted to “camp” and “party” with us. I knew enough about the Manson Clan that I didn’t want these two hanging out with us, so I told her that I didn’t want her and her friend showing up at our camp. They got out of the pickup and that was the last we saw of them.

We traveled on to the hot springs, enjoyed them and spent the night. At some point the next day, we decided to head partially out of the Sespe Wilderness. We spent one more night at a campground. It was dang cold the following morning; I was extremely happy to have my down-filled sleeping bag. After a nice breakfast that included potatoes that Mike had boiled before the trip we decided to head for home.

Mitch Mashburn downing a boiled potato for breakfast.

My heavy motorcycle sliding around the pickup’s bed made it unsafe for Mitch and Jimmy riding with it. We offloaded the motorcycle and I rode it. Jimmy began driving my pickup. We had trouble crossing the one deep crossing again, but got the pickup unstuck and kept going.

“The wet engine stalled about midpoint in the creek and I was unable to get it started again.”

Mike and I were quite a ways in front of the pickup. Mike was ahead of me and we were crankin’ and enjoying the bumpy, curvy road. Mike rounded a curve, and a few seconds later, I rounded it with dust a-flyin’! There was a long straightaway after the curve. Mike should have been on that straightaway, but he wasn’t. I quickly braked and flipped a U-turn. Back to the curve I went. I found motorcycle tracks that led over the edge of the cliff at the curve’s midpoint; I feared the worst. I got off my bike and called for Mike before I looked over the edge. I didn’t want to look over and see my lifetime bud laying dead. I called a second time and Mike answered. I quickly moved to the edge and saw Mike about 40 feet below me. There was only one large bush at the base of the cliff and it was next to the extremely rocky riverbed. Mike and his bike had landed in the bush. It broke their fall. One LUCKY dawg! Mike was not injured and he’d only broken the bike’s mirror.

The rest of our group soon caught up with us. We were stumped as to how we were going to get the motorcycle up to the road. Soon, another pickup stopped. The guy driving it asked if he and his passengers might assist us. This guy was in his late 30s or early 40s. He told us he had a rope and suggested we tie it to the motorcycle, then everybody grab the rope and pull it up the steep cliff that was made of very loose shale. Mike and I kept the bike upright and pushed while all the others pulled on the rope. We were successful!

The gent informed us that the lady in his party was a “psychic.” He told us they were looking for Hughes using the lady’s mental powers, but had been unsuccessful. Now, it was necessary to return to their New York residences.

This gent told us they intended to return in the near future to continue their search. He asked me if I’d be willing to rent camping equipment, buy food and organize whatever else would be needed for a second attempt to locate the missing attorney with the psychic. I jumped at the opportunity. He asked me to immediately start locating what would be needed and that he’d send me the money to buy the supplies. We exchanged phone numbers. My group again thanked his party for their assistance and off they went. Soon, we were back in civilization with a sense of having a terrific adventure.

The next week, I searched stores selling camping and expedition equipment. The gent called me. He asked if I had acquired everything and I told him I had compiled a list with the places to get everything. He asked me to buy it all with my own money. I told him I didn’t have that kind of money. He told me he’d arrange to get me the money and call again. I never heard from him.

Undoubtedly that was because on March 27 two fishermen stumbled across Hughes’ dead body in the middle of the creek. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department conducted the investigation. It’s never been determined if Hughes’ death was accident or murder. Some speculate Manson had placed a hit on Hughes because Manson didn’t like Huges’ trial strategy. In fact, some people suspected the reason Hughes was in the Sespe was to hide from Manson and his clan.

I’ve wondered all these years … did the couple we gave a ride to with the X’s knock off Hughes?

Spreading Grounds Receive Surplus Matilija Water

The following article first appeared in the Thursday, January 24, 1952 edition of “THE OJAI” on the front page. “THE OJAI” is now the “OJAI VALLEY NEWS”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

Spreading Grounds Receive Surplus Matilija Water

Water from Matilija dam was again being dumped into Ojai Valley spreading grounds this week as county officials gave their go-ahead to the opening of the conduit leading from the dam to land near the junction of Carne and Thacher roads.

Supervisor R. E. (Sam) Barrett said Tuesday that the water is surplus flood water which has been flowing over the spillway of the dam at an estimated rate of 900 million gallons per day. The cascade over the dam has somewhat lessened in the days since last week’s storm, but Barrett stated that the conduit would remain open until there is no longer surplus water in the dam. He added that the supervisors hope to continue to send water to the spreading grounds for several months.

Some doubt was expressed earlier in the week as to whether or not the water would be free enough from debris and siltation to allow its passage through the pipeline to the east end of the Valley. An inspection of the spreading grounds Wednesday noon revealed a good flow of water, only slightly discolored.

The conduit was first opened early in May last year when the county dumped some 300 acre feet of water on the spreading grounds. It was reported that some well levels in the area rose during the period the water was released.


WATER OVER THE SPILLWAY OF MATILIJA DAM, filled last week for the first time since its construction in 1947, has drawn crowds of eager sightseers to the structure following last week’s deluge. Surplus flood waters are now being released from the dam through a conduit to spreading grounds in the east end of the Ojai Valley. —Photo by Ron Reich

New firebreak shields valley

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Wednesday, May 1, 1963 edition of “THE OJAI VALLEY NEWS”. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

TO PREVENT DISASTER

New firebreak shields valley

Ojai was partially swept by a brush fire in the 30’s and again in 1948. A project aimed at preventing repetition of such disasters is now underway in the mountains along the city’s northern boundary.

The project is a firebreak—or fuelbreak, as it is called by the U.S. forest service—to check any fires which might threaten the city.

When completed, the fuelbreak will extend all the way across the county from the Santa Barbara to the Los Angeles county lines. A 16-mile section of the break from Santa Ana canyon, across highway 399 to the Topa Topa bluffs already has been completed. This includes the portion directly north of the city of Ojai.

A second four-mile section from San Cayetano to the Sespe along the southern border of the Sespe wildlife area also has been completed.

Portions from Santa Ana canyon to the Santa Barbara line, from Topa Topa bluffs to San Cayetano and from the Sespe crossing to the Los Angeles county line are still incomplete but work is proceeding on these sections. When the project is complete, it will form a continuous fuelbreak about 60 miles long.

The break consists of a strip of land cleared of brush for a maximum width of 500 feet where the terrain permits and a minimum width of 200 feet. Once cleared of the heavy brush the strip is seeded to rye grass and blando brome grass, hardy and fast growing varieties which require a minimum of moisture.

The object is to have the grass take over, providing a good cover and a minimum of fuel for a fire crossing the strip. The project provides for a continuous program of maintenance of the break, which includes keeping down the brush after it is removed.

The work has been done by tractors and bulldozers in areas where these machines can work; in other areas such as canyons and gullies, the grubbing out has been done by men with hand tools.

The job has involved the gathering of large piles of brush. Some of this has been burned on favorable days. In other cases the brush has been shredded by tractors and worked into the soil of the fuelbreak.

The total area cleared is about 24 acres to a mile, but the brush has been cleared from about 384 acres in the 16 miles of fuelbreak already constructed.

North and east of Ojai many fingers and rectangles of privately owned land extend into Los Padres national forest, and in most cases north of the city the fuelbreak has been constructed across these lands. Forest service officials reported good cooperation from owners in getting their consent to build the break across their property. “We had to do some talking to get their consent in a few cases,” said Fred Bennett, Ojai district fire control officer, “but once they understood why we were doing it, and that it was for their own protection they were cooperative.”

The break has been constructed above the homes on these private lands to afford them the greatest protection. Another reason for crossing the private land was that the terrain becomes too steep to the north of these private holdings.

Chemical sprays and hand cutting will be the means used to keep down undesirable growth and permit the grass to take hold.

Deer have been of assistance in “maintaining” the break because they frequent the cleared area in considerable numbers and feed on the young shoots.

As part of the fire control program, water supplies in Gridley, Cozy Dell, Senior, Horn, Stewart and other canyons will be considered as available in case of need. It is also planned to develop other water storage together with access roads.

As an additional control factor, the fuelbreak has been planned to run as straight as possible considering the sometimes very rough terrain. Object of this is to allow borate bombers as straight runs as possible to spill their fire quenching chemical.

The project is a cooperative venture between the U.S. forest service and the county, with the county supplying the funds.

The break north of Ojai has been carefully planned to avoid a scar on the mountain which would be visible from the valley. The break in this area lies behind the geologic overturn—the row of small rounded hills which are such a conspicuous element of the northern view. The fuelbreak follows a swale or valley behind the hills and it cannot be seen from the valley except for a short distance at Gridley canyon and at highway 399.

FOREST SERVICE officials view portion of fuelbreak. This view is looking east from the head of Thacher canyon.
FUELBREAK to protect Ojai from forest fire is shown on this map. Solid line shows the portion of the 200 to 500-foot wide break which has been completed. Dotted line indicates the uncompleted portion. Map was drawn by Dean Price of U.S. forest service.