The following article appeared in the Wednesday, February 15, 1989 Edition of the Ojai Valley News on Page A-10. It is reprinted here with their permission. Photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.
Just sniff the valley’s air to detect crisis
Special to the News
Emperor Hirohito of Japan was coming to visit this country but where would we put him up for the night?
Blair House in Washington, D.C. would not do for various reasons. But there was Williamsburg, the reconstructed colonial village, where the emperor’s safety could be secured and where His Divinity could taste something of early America and its charms.
Williamsburg is a national treasure and was restored through the generosity of the Rockefeller family. Another dream American treasure, the National Gallery of Art, was brought about through the generosity of the Paul Mellon family.
On a smaller scale but with generosity of spirit to equal those millionaires, we have our Edward Drummond Libbey, who drove West with John, his chaffeur, in his Packard limousine (Libbey sat in the front seat with his driver) and fell in love with the Ojai Valley. Our park, our post office, the Arbolada, to mention only a few, are because of this man.
And now the community and the valley that Libbey fell in love with faces crisis. The word crisis is not idly used. Just check out Ojai Avenue most any hour of the day or drive to Ventura in the morning or evening. Or take a good sniff of our air on certain days. Something quite deadly is happening to our valley.
They say that a frog placed in a frying pan filled with boiling water will jump out immediately. But put the frog in a pan of unheated water and slowly but surely heat it up and the frog will not seek to escape until it’s too late.
Are they turning up the air and the traffic in this frying pan of a valley? And are some of us frogs jumping before it’s too late, jumping to Oregon where, they say, the water is pure and the air clean? Or jumping to the Midwest where report has it that houses are cheaper and the neighbors friendlier?
Of course, the temptation to jump is there for all of us as our citrus orchards skyrocket in value or our homes come to represent small fortunes. (“Let’s leave, Gertrude, while we can still get through Casitas Pass.”)
Some nights, when I can’t sleep, I ponder the problem of our valley. What to do? Perhaps, we could get a present Midas, say a Donald Trump, to simply buy up the Ojai Valley and declare it off limits except to specially designated visitors who would have parking permits, like at the Getty Museum in Malibu. We natives, on designated hours, could engage in cottage industries for the benefit of the gawkers. (“Is he really writing a novel, Mummy?”)
Another idea that comes to me in the quiet reaches of the night is to bring back the old Burma Shave signs? Remember those? You probably don’t but either one of your grandparents can tell you about them. They were the literature of our youth.
The Burma Shave signs were strategically placed along the highway, where, traveling at a modest and legal forty miles per hour, they could be easily read. They rhymed and were pithy and pungent statements on a variety of subjects, all humorously presented. And with a final pitch for Burma Shave.
Here’s a “Burma Shave sign” we might place at staggered intervals along the entranceways to the Ojai Valley:
“Don’t be a frog and jump the pan; Be a pal and turn around and go home.”
Does that rhyme?