The following article first appeared on Wednesday, June 28, 1967 in “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. The article’s author was Nick Robertson. Robertson was only a high school senior at Happy Valley School at the time he authored the article. The photo of Robertson was added to this article by the Ojai Valley Museum.
Sentimental malcontents who prefer fresh air!
Happy Valley Senior
Whether the State of California has a right to rip a freeway out of the Ojai valley is another important issue. The State has lost before, and is probably tired of having to deal with sentimental discontents who prefer fresh air and trees to 15 minutes.
The best thing about the freeway is that almost everyone in Ojai hates it, regardless of political persuasion. People who consider many of their neighbors slightly better than the black shirts sign petitions below their neighbors.
It might even pave the way for a healthy round of civil disobedience if the State decides to go along in spite of the will of residents.
Of course, the most important thing is that people are getting visibly upset and concerned over these two things. Generations, all of them, are continually flinging the epithet “the non-involvement generation” at the others, but at the first city council meeting on recreation, people of all ages attended. Petitions against the freeway, or, if you will, the scenic highway (it doesn’t matter, I guess. We got used to “Defense Department” too), are signed by everyone. People are getting as delightfully disgruntled with police as the post-war French.
It only takes a moment to consider all the advantages of local politics. You are there, you know the people involved, no FBI and investigations and phone taps, no federal troops, never an interpreter problem. You can be heard, and read on every local issue no matter how trivial.
True, there are disadvantages, such as an occasional lull in issues. But there are ways, friends, to remedy this. (Just ask Mrs. Gilman!) Send your mayor on a junket, which not only broadens the scope of civic politics, but also gives you a chance to have him slammed and possibly even censured. Attempt to hold a non-middle-class festival, of any sort. Force an investigation. Pull for statements on pressing issues.
And, just for a joke, maybe we can even get enough people to secede.
While it is doubtful that either of the major political summers – the long hot and Vietnam – will be likely to reach Ojai, it appears that anyone interested in politics can apply themselves with fervor to one of several local issues which are generating interest.
Local politics concern very few people. Bill Donovan of the Stewpot Restaurant tells of a college town in New England, which was governed, of course, by town meetings, where the college students out-numbered the populace. The state, in an attempt to obtain more revenue, decided to charge a $2 poll tax to the non-resident students. The students, naturally indignant, found that this enabled them to attend town meetings. They did – en masse. The students, tremendously out-numbering the town residents, passed two resolutions: first, that the city should build a tower a yard square and a half a mile high, and second, that they should build a covered moving sidewalk to the nearest girl’s college, well over 50 miles away. The poll tax law was, needless to say, repealed, and the citizens were left to spend their nights arguing about water districts, taxes, and school boards again.
Civic politics have a reputation for provinciality, a reputation a recent article in Esquire claimed, stemming form the European tradition. But in my mind, local politics gives everyone a chance to participate, a privilege reserved for actors and millionaires normally.
While it might be true that a youthful Trotskyite, or for that matter, even a young Republican is not likely to be terribly concerned about school boards, water districts and such, it is definitely satisfying to actually be heard above a telegram to a congressman. It almost helps to take away some of the numbness of a bureaucracy.
But Ojai’s current recreation versus budget struggle smacks of political philosophy: it might be a good cause if only for the moral. More conservative groups can clamor about god, or the city council, helping the – excuse me, those – who helped themselves, while at the other pole, people can keep prodding socialism to get up and run in lieu of creeping.
2 Replies to “Sentimental malcontents who prefer fresh air!”
Nick went on to work in the State Department. Here is an oral interview with him about his life in the foreign service, which includes memories of his time growing up in Ojai.
I just finished reading the 120-page interview of Nick. I never knew it existed. So, sincerely, thank you.
It might interest you to know, Nick and I lived across the street from one another when we were kids in about 1961 to 1963.
Nick was a year older than me. In fact, he was probably the eldest of the neighborhood buddies. Because of his age, but, mainly because of his truly imaginative mind, he dreamed up all kinds of fun things for us kids to do. Here’s an example: A bunch of us went to the local movie theater and saw Charleton Heston in “Ben Hur”. It wasn’t long afterwards that Nick had us all building chariots. We had tremendously fun and way to competitive chariot races in his parents front yard. Nick’s father shut them down after we began putting blades (like in the movie) on the wheels to cut up the other chariots. I’m not certain, but, most likely, it was Nick’s idea to install the blades.
In 1965, our parents took me and my siblings on a month long summer vacation in Dad’s 1961 Chevy pickup and slide-in camper to, primarily, visit relatives in Missouri and Indiana. Along the way, my little brother (Mitch) and I bought a slew of fireworks. We still had bunches of the fireworks when we got home. We decided to have a fireworks display in Nick’s parents (Carmen & Jack) backyard. Of course, we invited our families and friends. Some of the fireworks were those cones that look quite similar to volcanoes when they go off. At the end of the event, Nick took Mitch and I aside. He told us he knew how to reload those volcano-like fireworks because he knew how to make gunpowder. So, we traipsed down to the eastern end of the Arcade to the pharmacy that used to me there. We bought the three components for making gunpowder from the pharmacist without a hitch. I’ll bet if one tried to do that nowadays, the pharmacist would immediately call the police and you’d be quickly surrounded by S.W.A.T.!!!
Our government was extremely lucky to have Nick. I miss the guy.