Public Elementary

The following story was taken from W. W. Bristol’s 1946 book titled, “The Story of THE OJAI VALLEY – An Intimate Account.” It was printed by The Ojai Publishing Co., Ojai, California. There’s a section in the book called, “THE SCHOOLS” under which this story was included.

by W. W. Bristol

One of the first institutions in any American community is the public school. The earliest public school in the Ojai Valley was opened in 1869 at the foot of the grade about where [Boccali’s] is now.

It was taught by H. J. Dennison—a rancher in the neighborhood. The school facetiously dubbed “The Sagebrush Academy.”

Along about 1875 the first school in the village began its career. It was located on what is now Matilija Street between Montgomery and Signal. To house the school a one-room brick building was constructed—the bricks being made at the south end of what is now the Civic Center.

It was at this school that Dr. David P. Barrows learned his A.B.C.’s—a man who became president of the University of California.

The brick school eventually became inadequate and in 1895 a contract was let to build a two-story frame building on Ojai Avenue. Clara H. Smith was the principal of this school from 1900 to 1902. C. L. Edgerton presided over the school from 1902 to 1912. Roscoe Ashcraft and W. A. Goodman were two principals who served the community before the coming of Mrs. Inez Tarr Sheldon in 1925.

The need for more room to accommodate the growing population became imperative. Consequently, in 1927 the old two-story frame building was moved to the back of the lot and a new school building was started with at first eight classrooms. In 1929 three more classrooms were added and in 1937 three more. In 1938 a large, handsome auditorium with cafeteria facilities was built.

Lloyd Emmert in 1939 succeeded Mrs. Sheldon as superintendent of the elementary school district,–Oak View Gardens and Casitas Springs having been added to the Nordhoff district. In 1941 Albert A. Herman was appointed superintendent. He is a good man in the right place.

Mrs. Sheldon should be remembered for her splendid work in instilling in the minds of her pupils and in the community also…the idea of world fellowship in the promotion of peace. Her pupils exchanged letters and pictures with other pupils in all parts of the world and 32 portfolios embodying this educational effort make an interesting display.

“Good Will Day” was celebrated each year on May 18—the little girl of eight said to her teacher, “Good Will Day is a day to learn how to get along with people.”

The Dennison Family

The Dennison Family by Richard Hoye

The Dennison family is seen here gathered at their ranch in the Upper Valley in 1897, possibly for the celebration of New Year’s Day. The younger members are prepared to play tennis, while the older members are seated on chairs alongside the court, well-wrapped against the chilly air. Seated at the rear center is a bearded man, Henry Jackson Dennison, head of the family. He looks old in this picture, but he lived another twenty years. He and his wife had many children, grand-children and inlaws, as this photograph attests.

The Ojai Valley Tennis Club had been formed about a year earlier, and its first Valley-wide tournaments were played in 1896. Nina and William Soule were the first mixed-doubles champions that year. It seems probable that some of the persons seen in this picture participated in those first tournaments.

Three of Henry Jackson’s sons stand at the rear, from left to right: Rapp, Schuyler and Waldo (behind the net). At the far left is Henry’s daughter, Lulu Dennison Mallory, holding her daughter Margaret on her lap. The infant was born in October 1896. At the lower center of the picture is a young woman who romantically holds a bouquet of flowers on her lap. At the far right is a smiling young woman wishing us good luck by displaying a four leaf clover constructed of tennis rackets. Note that the Dennisons seemed to have had trouble properly trimming their palm tree.

Tennis anyone? Can you find the tennis ball in the picture?