The following article was first published in the Winter 2018 (VOLUME 36 NUMBER 4) issue of the “Ojai Valley Guide” magazine that is published by the “Ojai Valley News”. With their permission, the article is reprinted here. It ran on pages 154 and 155 in the magazine.
LOOK BACK IN OJAI 1969 Beautification Month
Contributed on behalf
of the Ojai Valley Museum
In October 1969, the Ojai Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a “Beautification for Better Business Campaign.” I had graduated from Nordhoff High School only a few months before and must tell you, at the time, my business was chasing after beautiful women and cars. I could not have cared less about sprucing up things around the valley, except for a good wash and waxing of my 1961 Austin Healy “Bug Eye” Sprite to, hopefully, impress beautiful young ladies.
So, moving on, I was ignorant of this cleanup drive.
Mr. Libbey, of Libbey Glass Co. fame, was a proponent of the “City Beautiful Movement” featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. At the original Ojai Day, April 7, 1917, held in Civic Park (now Libbey Park), Libbey said in a speech: “There has been too little attention paid to things aesthetic in our communities and in our homes. The time has come when we should encourage in ourselves thoughts of things beautiful, and the higher ideals which the people fostering of the love of that which is beautiful and inspiring.”
Libbey’s speech includes the word “beautiful” twice. His words and actions emphasized improving Ojai’s aesthetic qualities. As a lifelong resident (67-plus years) of the Ojai Valley, I truly believe that Libbey’s ideals have been ingrained in our town, even inspiring the 1969 beautification campaign and valleywide cleanup drive decades after his speech.
On the evening of Oct. 30, City Building Inspector Ken Swift and Hal Mitrany of the Chamber of Commerce chaired a meeting at the Ojai Woman’s Club to organize the cleanup. Thirty-eight groups were invited and about 40 representatives attended. The PTA, American Legion, Chamber of Commerce, Boy and Girl Scouts, Retail Merchants Association, Jaycees, Woman’s Club, Garden Club, Retired Men’s Club, East Ojai Valley Associates and the Committee to Preserve the Ojai were among the groups participating.
Harrison’s Rubbish Service volunteered to place collection bins throughout the city and dates were set for free trash and junk removal.
City, county and state agencies were on board. The City Council proclaimed November Cleanup and Beautification Month. The county allowed a main trash-collecting station to be located behind Libbey Park and the state furnished a truck and driver to assist groups that picked up litter along the highways.
A city beautification conference was held at the Ojai Valley Inn, attended by about 80 planners and planning commissioners from all the cities in Ventura County. Featured speakers were Camarillo officials who touted their community’s beautification successes.
In November, the Ojai Architectural Board of Review decided to demolish the Pergola’s two large arches that had been bombed in October 1967 and December 1968. In addition to removing an eyesore, they wanted to open up the view of the park from Ojai Avenue. The Ojai Planning Commission, City Council and Ojai Civic Center Park trustees agreed.
The city also decided to work with business owners to help pay for sidewalk repairs as some sidewalks were not only unsightly, but dangerous. Sidewalk repairs and installation of planters were coordinated with the state repaving Ojai Avenue. In addition, the city repaved 12 residential streets in the western portion of town.
Despite the fanfare and ambitious goals, Inspector Swift reported at the end of November that the beautification and cleanup campaign had fallen short, as participating organizations failed to develop, propose or implement plans. Little had been accomplished beyond some improvement at private homes. He did, however, report two successful beautification projects:
+ The Civic Center Park Board of Directors voted to demolish the bombed arches at the front of the park.
+ The Chamber of Commerce purchased and planted a permanent Christmas tree at the “Y” intersection.
That very same Christmas tree has grown into a mighty fine tree that we all continue to enjoy during the holidays and all year round.
The following article first appeared on the front page of “THE OJAI” in the Thursday, March 14, 1957 edition. “THE OJAI” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article appears here with their permission. The author is unknown.
–Auto Club Report– PARKING IN OJAI A GROWING PROBLEM
A meager handful of Ojai citizens, including only four or five local businessmen and merchants, showed up at the Ojai Elementary school auditorium Tuesday evening for a town-hall type forum on the city’s parking problems and an extensive parking survey report compiled by the Auto Club of Southern California.
The survey, prepared after careful study of parking facilities and related problems in Ojai’s business district, was presented by Auto Club engineering and technical services director Joseph Havenner, and in brief brought out the following points:
1. Ojai, in Havenner’s opinion, is not yet ready for a parking district, such as proposed by a Chamber of Commerce Committee. 2. Ojai has an exceptionally poor street and traffic circulation setup and this must be corrected through a master plan for streets and a similar plan for installing curbs, gutters, and sidewalks in the shopping area before any actual parking program is undertaken. 3. Ojai should have a plan for controlled development of its business district, primarily to the north, and should not deviate from it. 4. Parking meters, in Havenner’s opinion, would not be practical in Ojai. 5. The rear of the Arcade district offers the best opportunities for expanded parking areas. 6. Two hour parking limits should be established in the city parking lot. 7. All possible off-street parking areas should be preserved and improved. 8. A parking committee should be established. 9. Businessmen should help police themselves and their employees on better parking habits. 10. New business buildings should be required by city law to provide certain amounts of off-street parking space.
The Auto Club survey was conducted at no charge to the city at the request of city manager J. Julien Baget last December when the question arose as to whether or not the city should participate in the C of C parking district plans.
The study was deliberately made during the pre-Christmas rush when parking facilities would be taxed to peak loads.
Careful records were made of daily usage of parking spaces, origin of cars as to whether they were local or out of town, number of parking violations, and the overall flow of traffic in the business area.
In the central shopping regions, Auto Club surveyists tabulated a total of 281 parking spaces — 198 at the curb and 83 off-street lots. Most of these were kept in use during the two day count, reaching the peak occupancy about 11 a.m. each day, and the primary demand was found to be for a short time (one hour or less) parking spaces rather than all-day or part day usage.
It was found that 67 per cent of the cars parked in the business district were registered residents of the city; 19 per cent to be Valley and county areas, and 14 per cent to outside visitors.
To the city council and planning commission officials and about 15 citizens present, Havenner emphasized that proper street alignment, continuous traffic circulation, and adequate curbs, sidewalks, and gutters were problems Ojai must solve before it tackles the actual parking situation.
“The longer you delay, the more severe the problem will get and the more its solution will cost you “, Havenner pointed out. “Your present system could not serve a greatly expanded business area because the streets are not properly aligned to handle traffic circulation.”
Illustrating the report with colored slides of Ojai traffic and various parking locations, he noted that a large potential parking area behind the Arcade buildings is not being put to use.
Havenner said he did not think Ojai would ever experience the development of major shopping centers but that business places to accommodate local needs would be ever increasing.
Asked by Lynn Rains about the parking district plans, he said that such districts are not easy to form because often the property owner is not the same person who operates a business but merely leases the site. “It can be a fair and equitable solution in some cities but I don’t think Ojai is quite ready for that kind of operation now,” Havenner added.
Summing up before a brief question and answer period. Havenner, told the small audience, “The factual findings of the study indicate that the parking problem in Ojai is not so difficult to alleviate as outward appearance would lend one to believe. The problem appears to be one of traffic management which has not kept pace with the growth of the area and the changing character of parking demand and traffic movement.
“To improve the efficiency of off-street space will require the understanding of the problems by businessmen and citizens and calls for the formation of organized leadership.
“It must be recognized that off-street facilities to be attractive to customers must be located within the block of the customer’s designation and on the same side of the street.
“Appearance is an important factor in the successful operation of off-street parking facilities. Paving and marking , cleanliness, and improvement of store access by attractive rear entrances are most important considerations.
“An immediate halt should be placed upon the establishment of new businesses without adequate provision for off-street parking needs generated by them. For the present all-day parking demand special study and local leadership must be given to locate adequate parking both off-street and at the curb in areas where this type of parking will cause a minimum blight upon the area.
“The physical obstructions caused by the arches and high curbs on the north side of Ojai avenue in the Arcade compel motorists to egress from their cars from the left side into the street, causing a traffic hazard.
“Angle parking is not advised at the curb and should be used only in low speed urban areas where parking requirements take precedence over smooth operation of through traffic.”
Havenner concluded, “Ojai’s growth had had and will continue to have serious impact on the traffic and parking problems and on the general economy of its established business district.”
During the course of the meeting he also praised Ojai’s police department for its excellent enforcement of traffic and parking regulations and commended the city for its cooperation in assisting with the survey.
A limited number of copies of the published survey in book form will be available at the city hall for merchants or others interested in the parking situation.
The following article first appeared in the August 27, 1999 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission. All photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum. Those photos are of items that the Oak View Civic Council possess and which Barbara Kennedy and Leanna Kennedy graciously arranged for the museum to photograph.
Pony Express Day will be held at Lake Casitas
OVN staff reporter
Oak View’s Pony Express Day, the annual event staged to supplement operating costs for the community’s civic center, has found a permanent home at Lake Casitas.
Pony Express Day reflects the long-gone days when Oak View staged similar events in honor of the unincorporated community, which was a stop on California’s Pony Express route.
In 1995, members of the Oak View Civic Council created Pony Express Day while searching for alternative sources of income to support the recreational and other programs it offers.
After three years of moderate success at the Oak View Community Center, organizers moved the event to the lake in 1998 in an effort to lure more people from Ojai and beyond, according to honorary mayor Barbara Kennedy.
“Having it at the lake is a big advantage,” Kennedy said. “We’re expecting 200 to 300 entries for the car show alone and have already received calls from people in Los Angeles who want to enter.
“The Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce is involved and hopefully we’ll get a lot of the Ojai people there.”
Last-minute entries for the 12-category car show, at $25 each, will be accepted until showtime. Trophies will be presented for first and second place, best of show and for the mayor’s favorite entry.
“That’s what they tell me — I just pick the one I like,” Kennedy said.
The Ojai Band, which recently concluded its 1999 Wednesday night summer concert series at the Libbey Park bandstand, is scheduled to perform, as are the crowd-pleasing Frontier Gunfighters who stage a series of comical mock shoot-outs against a western-style backdrop.
Also returning is emcee Rick Henderson, the Miss Chili Pepper and Mr. Hot Sauce competitions, the Bronk Vreeland Ojai Ford-sponsored International Chili Society chili cookoff, the Old Time Fiddlers, the Ojai Valley News-sponsored horseshoe tournament, KHAY Radio personalities with live periodic broadcasts and other entertainment yet to be determined.
For kids of all ages, sno-cones will be provided by the Oak View Lions.
Pony rides and game booths featuring carnival-style competitions will be evident throughout the day, as will Sheriff Department exhibits, including Ojai’s K-9 unit and representatives from the Police Activities League (PAL) and the Ojai Valley’s DARE program.
Kennedy said the availability of booth space is running out for commercial and non-profit vendors. However, there are still some available at $25 for non-profit and $50 for commercial vendors.
There is no charge to attend Pony Express Day, but parking at Lake Casitas is $5 per car.
For additional information or entry forms for any of the events, call Kennedy at 649-2232 or Oak View Civic Council president Leanna Kennedy at 649-9720.
This story is from Walter W. Bristol’s 1946 book, “THE STORY OF THE OJAI VALLEY.” It is assumed Bristol authored this story.
Walter W. Bristol
The fist civic organization in the Ojai Valley so far, at least, as my research went, was known at the Committee of Fifteen. It was organized in October, 1903 as a response to a need for law and order. The Committee was headed by Sherman Thacher and included the well known names of that day. The work of the Committee was that of vigilantes in a mild way. No gallows was erected on which to hang miscreants, but they did have a struggle to stay the illegal sale of liquor in the community. In their rather infrequent meetings the Committee discussed a variety of matters connected with the welfare of the valley.
The Committee of Fifteen, wishing to change its complexion and enlarge its scope so as to invite the world to share the wonders of the Ojai Valley, appointed a committee on November 21, 1906, to perfect arrangements for the organization of a Board of Trade, and “moved to insert a notice in ‘The Ojai’ calling a meeting of the citizens on November 28th to effect the said organization.” Forty members signed up after paying fifty cents initiation fee and one dollar in advance as dues for the year. The first board of directors was E. S. Thacher, H. Waldo Forster, C. E. Gibson, E. F. Baker, W. C. Hendrickson, Joseph Hobart, F. P. Barrow, Dr. B. L. Saeger, J. J. Burke. The first officers were E. S. Thacher, president, H. W. Forster, vice-president, J. J. Burke, secretary, and E. F. Baker, treasurer. Advertising and Transportation Committees were appointed. Booklets were prepared with which to contact the world and were paid for by the county.
At one of its first meetings the board asked the merchants to write letters to the Southern Pacific Co. asking for better freight and passenger service, and suggested that “the merchants have all their freight come by water, which might be used as a lever to bring the So. Pacific Co. to time.” I wonder how many nights’ sleep the S. P. Co. officials lost over that dire threat.
In 1907 the possibility of getting electricity in the valley was discussed. The artesian wells along Ojai Avenue were deemed a menace to health. Four kerosene street lamps were ordered placed from the railroad station to Ojai Ave. and $25 was voted for this improvement. In 1908 subscriptions were taken to build a bridge across the San Antonio river near the Gally cottages. On April 1st, 1910, the Board of Trade directors favored unanimously the bonding of the county for good roads to the extent of $1,000,000, providing the Ojai Supervisorial District got its share. T. S. Clark was then our supervisor. The subject of building a high school, the minutes read, brought out the statement from Principal W. W. Bristol that a building built in the bungalow style, exclusive of the grounds could be constructed for $15,000. He thought it would be ten years before the school would have 100 pupils. (There were about 70 in 1920; the great fire of 1917 played havoc with any increase in population.) The last minutes of the Board of Trade were on October 11th, 1911.
In the meantime the new high school was built and opened in the fall of 1911. The struggle over the site of the school was rather strenuous as between the east and the west side of town. When the people expressed their will at the polls the present site was chosen and like good Americans the fight was soon forgotten.
One day in the fall of 1912 Mr. Frank Weir called upon the writer and proposed a new organization whose purpose was the welfare and growth of the community. He proposed to call it “The Ojai Valley Civic League” and asked me to undertake the secretaryship. Mr. Weir was a very sick man, but energetic and full of enthusiasm for the Ojai Valley. He had in mind the opening of an office in Los Angeles to contact tourists and direct them this way. We collected from both men and women about $400.00. The matter of the Los Angeles office was out of the question. The money was spent mainly for 12 electric lights and their upkeep so long as the money lasted. Mr. Weir and the organization perished with him.
While we are waiting for another civic organization to spring up I wish to give you a picture of the rather crude conditions of living in the valley in the first decade of the twentieth century.
We had a telephone system. It was very intimate service. Central was the clearing house of the whole community and the operators were most patient and gracious in giving information. The time of day, the location of a fire, the time of Jones’ funeral, the time the mail arrives, has Mrs. Scott had her operation? have you seen my dog on the street? and so on. Sometimes we had to wait a good while to get our number, but on the whole it was a good service. There was no electricity in the valley. Kerosene and acetylene gas were used. In 1913 a local electric plant was set up. There were frequent break downs and the service closed at 10 o’clock. All evening affairs were regulated by that arrangement. The water supply was so uncertain that the householders had to have settling tanks to insure a constant supply. Joe Berry, walking up Ojai Ave. to the pump followed by his dog, was a familiar sight. Transportation was by stage and train. The stage came form Ventura via Creek road with no bridges to span the many crossings. In winter the valley was often completely isolated—sometimes for days at a time. The train had a morning leaving time, but there was not certainty as to when it would get back. Main street in Ojai was a mud hole in winter and terribly dusty in summer. There were very few automobiles owned locally. The stores were all wooden and some of them mere shacks. The wooden sidewalks were on different levels.
About 1914 Edward Drummond Libbey came on the scene in a magnificent way, but that is another story.
On April 24, 1914, a great meeting of the men of the valley was held at the village hotel— the Ojai Inn. Eighty-seven men were present. Sherman D. Thacher presided, and speaking and music was the order of the evening plus the memorable dinner arranged by Manager Joe Linnell, E. S. Thacher, J. J. Burke, L. R. Orton, Judge Wilson, E. D. Libbey and E. L. Wiest took part. The purpose of the meeting was to formulate some kind of a civic organization in succession to the Board of Trade. Since the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club was very helpful along civic lines, it was thought best not to ask them for support, hence the name Ojai Valley Men’s League came into being. Seventeen directors were elected on that night. The directors in turn elected Sherman D. Thacher, president, and Walter W. Bristol, secretary-treasurer. The directorate changed more or less every year, but the above named executive officers remained the same until 1927 when Mr. Thacher resigned and the writer was elected in his stead. At that time also the name was changed to the O. V. Chamber of Commerce.
To discuss the work of the Men’s League in full would be out of place here. Aside from lighting and cleaning the streets it stood ready to take the lead in every worthy enterprise. I will cite the year 1917. On April 6th of that year the Men’s League planned a day of celebration in honor of Edward D. Libbey, who had done so much to put the Ojai Valley on the map. The plan was to make it an annual affair to be called “Libbey Day.” Mr. Libbey did not accept this suggestion and it was thereafter celebrated, but was designated “Ojai Day.” It took the form of a basket picnic and was held in the Civic Center.
On this particular day in 1917 people came from all over the county. There was band music and community singing. A speaker’s stand was erected near the tennis courts. Mr. Libbey spoke and T. C. Stevens of Los Angeles, a warm friend of Mr. Libbey, was the principal speaker of the day. the climax of the celebration was a procession of about one hundred cars (quite a sight for that time) which, starting from the civic center, wound over the roads of Arbolada.
Just a few days before this celebration, March 30, 1917, the community met in the high school auditorium to honor Charles M. Pratt for the splendid gift to the community of manual training and domestic science buildings at the high school with complete equipment for each. The speakers were County Superintendent J. E. Reynolds, Felton Taylor, president of the student body, Principal Bristol and Sherman Thacher who presided.
The League under the able direction of its president, Sherman Thacher, did a good work in providing for the victims of the Spanish influenza. The Boyd Club was taken over for a hospital. Loring Farnum and Miss Sarah McMillian should be remembered for their services in this strenuous time.
In 1918 the League collected $374.00 for the purpose of a curb to curb pavement through town. About this time the directors of the League began agitation for the incorporation of the village. The boundaries were determined, the election called and incorporation was successfully carried in 1921.
It was the custom from the first for the League to have an annual dinner meeting. As I look back over the years these meetings stand out not only as one of the most important and enjoyable events of the year, but as a means of promoting a sense of unity and good feeling. The Chamber of Commerce still exists and should be a constantly greater agency for community betterment.
We today cherish the memory of the men and women who in days past established in the Ojai Valley a tradition of culture and local pride. This tradition must be carried on if this community is not to lose its distinctive qualities. Eternal vigilance is the price of such an achievement. “Where there is no vision the people perish.”