Hard work and no pay reward a vital job

The following article was first printed in the Wednesday, July 28, 1993 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page A-1.

Hard work and no pay reward a vital job
By
Mike Palmer


Needed are a few good men, any age, any occupation (even attorneys or bankers), on-call 24 hours a day, must provide their own equipment and be willing to work for no pay at all hours of the day or night.

Add to these requirements months of training, an extensive background check, the need for a unanimous vote of 20 other team members to join and you have the requirements for membership in one of Ojai’s most select groups — The Upper Ojai Team of Ventura County Search and Rescue.

According to team member Tom Farmer, “You have to be 100 percent committed. You have to be ready to instantly drop what you are doing and go out on a rescue. It takes strong family support.”

He said the hours required of team members may vary from just a few to over 100 per month depending on need.

Farmer went on eight rescues during five months and participated in many training exercises before he was voted team membership, he said.

Any team member has a veto power regarding new members as does the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

The Upper Ojai Team is composed of different occupations. Some of these include a banker (Farmer), an attorney, a medical technician, a landscaper, several ranchers, an insurance broker and numerous others. Ages vary from 20 to 70 in the Upper Ojai Team.

Although the team is currently all male, it has had female members. All are welcome that can meet the rigorous physical requirements for membership, according to Farmer.

The team’s last rescue involved an 18-year-old woman, lost while hiking in Santa Paula Canyon. The search started at 9 p.m. and she was found at 2 a.m. the next day, he said.

Lost hikers, plane crashes and missing children are the most common call-outs, according to Farmer.

Although each of the three Ventura County Search and Rescue mountain teams are somewhat autonomous, they are under the over-all direction of the sheriff’s Lt. Arv Wells in Camarillo.

All calls for search and rescue in the back country go to Wells or his assistant, and they make the decision whether to call out one of the teams.

All team members carry beepers and equipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Farmer said.

Wells said, “Most calls come from various watch commanders around the county.

“Our decision to respond when a person is two hours overdue, depends on many factors. The age, back country experience and weather will control if an immediate response is indicated.

“If there is any doubt, we would rather respond and cancel a search after someone shows-up, rather than wait.”

Wells supervises eight search and rescue teams and three helicopter units county-wide.

In addition to three mountain teams, there is a search dog team, an underwater team, a medical team, a mounted posse and an administrative support team.

He said the 180 volunteers who comprise the eight teams save the county $500,000 annually. Wells said most team members provide all their own equipment and devote hundreds of hours to training and rescues, all for the “self-satisfaction of helping others in adverse conditions and some times saving lives.”

Farmer said he got involved after he witnessed first-hand the many hours devoted by the team when his son, Troy, was lost in the back country last December.

Although, Troy subsequently came out without help, Farmer said, “I learned to appreciate what a victim’s family goes through. That is when I decided that I wanted to help.”

Farmer said the Upper Ojai Team is selling t-shirts to help finance the purchase of some new equipment. Shirts may be purchased for $12 at the Ojai Valley Bank, 1207 Maricopa Highway, Ojai.

UPPER OJAI SEARCH AND RESCUE team members are dropped off at the 5,000 foot elevation level northwest of Bluff Camp near Bear Haven by a sheriff’s helicopter. Team members then practiced rescue skills including rappelling off bluffs, terrain familiarization, and the use of map and compass. Ten members were dropped off in this exercise. They were Tom Farmer of Ojai, Mike Diaz of Santa Paula, Tim Gibson of Santa Paula, John Peakes of Ojai, Bill Slaughter of Ojai, Jim Wright of Santa Pauls, Chris Wilson of Santa Paula, Ron Dean of Santa Paula, Andy Hoffmeister of Ojai and Jesse Ridenour of Ojai. The 10 walked through the back country to Big Cone Camp where they were met by team members Carl Hoffmeister and Otto Reynolds, both of Ojai. Photo by Tom Farmer

CAMPING OUT AT PINE MOUNTAIN — IN 1887 STYLE

This article was run in the JUNE 2019 issue of “THE SESPE WILD” (the newsletter of the Keep the Sespe Wild Committee). It is reprinted here with their permission. It was placed in the newsletter by Alasdair Coyne.

CAMPING OUT AT PINE MOUNTAIN — IN 1887 STYLE


In an article first published in March 1887 in The Century, a popular quarterly publication of the time, “In these pages,” writes John Hassard, “I propose telling how we lived without hardship on a remote mountain, hunting, fishing, exploring the wild places, and idling in the shade of the pines.” Excerpts follow, from this lengthy story of two months’ camping —

“We were five comrades, including one lady, and we were served by a guide, Soper, and a Chinese cook.” And, as well as their horses, they took along a cow for fresh milk!

“Our point of departure and base of supplies was the little hamlet of Nordhoff” [now Ojai].

Their route went through Matilija Canyon and thereby up to near the summit of what is now Hwy. 33, before heading up to the Pine Mountain ridge. They enjoyed a leisurely two weeks camping out in Matilija Canyon.

“The Dolly Varden trout, which is caught in these California brooks, is named from the brilliant and varied colors of its sides and belly. No special art is needed to take it; worms, flies, grasshoppers, bits of bread or of meat — it swallows them all. I think with a few accidental exceptions we had trout with every meal as long as we remained in this camp.

Farther up we afterward found still finer fishing. There was a spot on the left fork of the Matilija where the doctor and the Chinaman, resting a day on the march to the mountain, hooked trout almost as fast as they could throw their lines. Here Ah Hing performed his great exploit of catching forty-eight fish with one worm, which has always seemed to me the most remarkable illustration of Chinese thrift in my experience.”

“We spent a week on the road from our first camp to the mountain. Once we set up our tabernacle in a group of bay-trees, and made our beds of the fragrant branches. Again we halted in a copse by the Sespe River, where we caught trout of prodigious fatness.”

Arriving at Pine Mountain, they “had no water; that had to be brought from the glen, about a mile distant, the trail comprising a breakneck ascent of five hundred feet which was much worse than anything we had passed on the journey. If we had realized the full extent of the water difficulty before starting, we should have directed our expedition elsewhere; and indeed I must confess that, in many respects, Pine Mountain, as a camping place, is open to objections. I will not rehearse them all, for I am more concerned to show how one can live comfortably in camp.” They let loose their horses, which fended for themselves during their six week stay.

At their camps, their set-up was magnificent: “In the midst of our grove we set up a capacious table, which not only served us for the meals but marked a place for social gatherings. We leveled a broad platform, raised a stout awning-frame, made benches of split logs, and built on the north, or windward side, a thick screen of wattled hemlock branches, which we hung with sundry housekeeping articles, and decorated, after a while, with deer-skins, and other trophies of the chase. At one side was suspended a vessel of drinking-water; at the other was a little covered fireplace; with a flue running so far back into the hillside that smoke would not annoy us. Here we made the coffee and kept the dishes hot, while Ah Hing held undisturbed possession of the kitchen.

That department was about [10 yards] distant, in a clump of fine trees, and was nearly surrounded by a wind-screen of hemlock boughs and odd pieces of canvas. With poles, and lengths of split pine, and a few empty boxes, the cook made a dresser and a set of shelves. We had and excellent stove of sheet-iron, highly effective and easily transported. It was about three feet long, eighteen inches high, eighteen inches wide; it had no bottom, no legs, nothing that would break; the pipe telescoped and went inside; the weight of the whole was eight pounds, and the shape was convenient for packing.”

“The greatest affliction of this savage existence is dirt, and the greatest comfort is a basin of water.”

“Our party hunted [deer] in moderation. Two of them took to the woods for the benefit of their health, and those who were better able to carry a gun did not depend upon shooting for their daily amusement. They read, they sketched, they strolled about the mountain in search of the picturesque, they made excursions on horseback to various parts of the long ridge and to the valley below, they lounged and chatted in the shade. The ordinary work of the camp and construction of chairs, tables, washstands, and innumerable little conveniences gave everybody some occupation. We had a few carpenter’s tools, and they were never out of use.”

Regular pack animals came up from Ojai — “rawhide bags which hung from the pack-tree were filled with parcels of tea, coffee, sugar, small groceries, powder, shot, nails, flour, and meal, can of honey, a ham, a pail of fresh butter, a peck of potatoes, onions and whatever young vegetables could be got, and on the load were a few young fowls in a sack, a box of eggs, a box of apricots, pears, and apples and a plethoric mail-bag.”

Their camp menu is worthy of description:
“Breakfast: Oatmeal porridge of cream; deer’s liver and bacon; broiled kidneys; hot biscuits; coffee and tea.
Luncheon: Lamb chops; canned salmon; honey and cream.
Dinner: Soup; haunch of venison; mashed potatoes; pudding.” The lamb was bought from herders in the valley a few miles below.

“We paid the cook $1 a day. We paid the guide $3 a day for his own services and the use of his two horses. Reckoning supplies, wages, and the rent of the cow, the living expenses of the whole party of seven, with the 8 animals, amounted for sixty-eight days, to $562.31, which, divided among five, gives a cost of $112.46 a head. Or $2 a day. As we lived like gourmets, and made no great effort to economize, this, we thought, was doing pretty well.”

Their full adventure is at this link: httlps://yankeebabbareno.com/2012/04/18/camping-out-in california-pine-mountain-narrative-1887/

Memories of times before freeways recall life as simple, safe

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, May 17, 1995 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page A-8. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author, Lee Strohbehn, was a longtime dentist with a practice in the Ojai Valley. The photo of Dr. Storhbehn was added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.

The Golden Years
Memories of times before freeways recall life as simple, safe
by
Lee Strohbehn

Before freeways, was it only the exuberance and vitality of spirit of young parents that drew us to downtown L.A.?

Some of the fondest memories I have are those when my wife and I took our family to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. How well I remember Richard Kiley and the Man of La Mancha at the Mark Taper Forum and Ingrid Bergman at the Amanson Theatre.

And the concerts — we were there to see Zubin Meta conduct and to hear the L.A. Phiharmonic. And afterward to take the family to dinner right there at the Music Center, or to a favorite, Edwards Steak House on Alvarado St.

Let’s do lunch
And then there were trips to the Hollywood Bowl. What a delight, to take a lunch and sit high up under the stars to listen to programs which, as a farm-bred Iowa boy, I never thought I or my family could be part.

As parents, we had a feeling of fulfillment to realize that our three children enjoyed these experiences as much as we did and that we could provide them.

Life was affordable
Admission prices at that time seemed affordable. Nor did I have the feeling the environment was unsafe, or that the drive home late at night was an ordeal.

How times change! How could I afford those adventures now for five people?

And if Edwards Steak House were still there, I wouldn’t dare take my family to a restaurant on Alvarado. Somehow to drive the freeways, especially at night, is daunting to me now.

As our family grew older and we began to rely more on local entertainment events, Frank Salazar came along and the Ventura County Symphony orchestra was born. We subscribed immediately as charter members.

How delightful it was to recognize Ojai’s Frank Roller and his violin, Dorothea Walker and her cello, and Lavonne Theriault and her drums down there among all the other Ventura County musicians. We truly felt linked to beautiful programs.

I’m one of those untalented people who knows nothing about music but enjoys it endlessly. There are times when I lose myself, when I’m oblivious to everything around me and I feel one with a composer who has struck the chords I like. I cherish those moments.

Oldies missed
I confess that I was confused when Maestro Salazar left the orchestra. I had, in a sense, matured with him musically and I must say I miss him. I understand there has been a parallel experience for those audiences who have been attending performances of the Conejo Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Now those two orchestras are undergoing further transition. The apparent objective of those behind the podiums is to produce a “World Class” orchestra by combining talent and weeding out those who do not perform to and exclusive standard. I have heard that they hope to attract excellence from outside the area.

My limited knowledge of music doesn’t allow me to discriminate the finer levels of quality. I always enjoyed Frank Roller’s violin but I seriously doubt that his talent would have allowed him to survive the judgments that must be made to seat one orchestra instead of two in Ventura County.

I love Ojai’s summer band concerts on Wednesday nights in Libbey Park. I like the sound and revel in the incomparable social ambiance.

Memories linger
I used to feel something akin to that when the Ventura County Symphony was young, especially when I could bond with Roller’s violin. Although Frank isn’t with us now, his memory still lingers and epitomizes a homegrown spirit I miss in the Orchestra.

“World Class,” if it means change in community participation, simply doesn’t mean that much to me. I’m sorry to see the Ventura County Symphony Orchestra elevated to a class conscious status beyond my ability to enjoy or afford.

Lee Strohbehn

Volunteer team is dedicated to helping Valley neighbors

The following article first appeared in the Ojai Valley News on Wednesday, October 21, 1992. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Volunteer team is dedicated to helping Valley neighbors
by
CANDACE LAWSON
OJAI VALLEY NEWS

Drew Mashburn, Carl Hofmeister, and Jim Wright are members of the Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team. The team’s 18 members are dedicated to helping their neighbors and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Since the 1950’s, Upper Ojai rancher Carl Hofmeister and a group of Valley volunteers have worked as partners with the Sheriff’s Department in an important capacity — as a trained search and rescue team that regularly finds lost hikers, saves victims of hard to reach accidents, and plucks drowning or stranded people from raging rivers or flood waters.

Hofmeister, a man of few, but well chosen, words only smiles and shakes his head when you ask him how long he’s been doing this kind of thing. Hofmeister organized the group “many years ago,” even before the Sheriff’s Department became involved, to help his fellow Valley residents. The Valley was less populated and more isolated at that time.

“If someone gets hurt, you can’t run off and leave them, you have to help them. It gets in your blood,” Hofmeister, the Captain of the Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team said.

Today the team is officially organized through the Sheriff’s Department, who supplies them with rescue equipment, including two trucks kept at Hofmeister’s Upper Ojai ranch, and monthly training.

The 18-member team is called in by the Sheriff’s Department when special rescue skills are required. Some examples of their work include being called if a car is over the side of a mountain road, if an organized search is required to find a lost or injured hiker, if a victim or body must be recovered and transported out of a remote location, either by helicopter or overland, or if a plane wreck must be located.

The Upper Ojai team is one of four in the county. Other squads include the Fillmore, East Valley and Dive teams. The Upper Ojai team is traditionally the busiest, with the Los Padres mountains close by. Hofmeister says the team can get called up as often as two or three times each month. But in slower times, for instance during the summer, calls can be fewer and further between.

Members’ training includes CPR and first aid. Some of the members, who come from all walks of life including ranchers, optometrists, attorneys, and county parks employees, are trained as emergency medical technicians.

But they all receive special training — from how to tie a proper knot to rigging pulley systems to lift someone out of a tight situation.

Drew Mashburn has been on the team for just over a year, and has been impressed with how much there is to learn. He says he’s just now getting more comfortable with his training and skills.

Mashburn said the team’s most common rescue results from people just not being prepared when they go out into the wilderness.

“Many times people bring these things on themselves. They don’t let people know where they are going, and they don’t wear proper clothing and get caught in inclement weather,” Mashburn said. “Even in Ojai in August, you should bring a windbreaker when you go hiking — you never know when you could fall and break a leg and get stuck overnight in bad weather.”

Many people don’t even realize the team exists, or that it’s a strictly volunteer enterprise, Mashburn said. But the team is now seeking community support so they can make an important capital purchase — beepers to notify members when they need to assemble for an emergency response.

“We are trying to upgrade our unit, and one of our biggest problems is slow response time,” Jim Wright, a 23-year veteran of the team said.

“When we have an emergency, the Sheriff’s department calls Carl, and then he goes through the phone list and calls everyone else. Than can take 20 or 30 minutes, but if we had pagers that went off we could respond immediately,” Wright said.

The pagers have been priced at about $2,500. And to help raise the funds in these days of tight county budgets, the Search and Rescue Team is hosting a benefit barbeque at the Upper Ojai’s Summit School this Saturday.

The $12 donation gets you top-sirloin steak with a soda and all the trimmings. Children under 12 will be served hot dogs and hamburgers free of charge.

For tickets and information call 646-2496 or 525-7943.

SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ORGANIZATION UNDERWAY

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Thursday, November 28, 1957 edition of “THE OJAI”. “THE OJAI” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ORGANIZATION UNDERWAY

The first steps in organizing an Ojai Search and Rescue Team to aid in searching for persons lost in Ventura County’s wilderness areas were taken Saturday evening by a small group of Valley men experienced in riding and hiking in the back country.

Prompted by the two recent deaths of persons lost in the Ojai area, the group met at the Sarzotti Park scouthouse to formulate the basic plans for an organization trained to cope with all types of search and rescue operations.

Although specifically designated as an independent team, not directly connected with any particular law enforcement or government agency, the unit would be at the disposal of any such agency needing its services.

The team would be divided into mounted (horse) and foot groups with each having a separate experienced and selected “special” unit.

The “general” groups would be open to anyone wishing to participate but would be used only for searches in the immediate Ojai Valley area during daylight hours. No special equipment would be required and it is expected that organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Ojai Trails Association, and Thacher School would join as individual units.

The “special” mounted and foot units will be limited to persons experienced in riding or hiking in the mountains and those with their own equipment for remaining in the back country from one to three days. This membership will also be limited to persons with their own trailering facilities and those who are prepared to leave their employment on short notice for a period of from one to three days.

These “special” units would be called upon for search or rescue operations in isolated areas, regardless of season or time of day or night and must be prepared to reach a base camp with their own transportation.

Neither group would operate as a “posse” or have any blanket law enforcement powers.

In any search and rescue operations in Ventura County’s huge unincorporated regions, the organization would work directly under Capt. Guy Fremlin of the sheriff’s office, who was recently appointed to head all such operations in the county.

Representatives of the Ojai Valley Search and Rescue team met with Capt. Fremlin earlier to work out details of cooperation between his office and the team.

The members of the “special” foot unit will probably be taken from experienced Explorer and Sea Scout groups and supplemented with adult leaders.

It is also hoped that a Scout mobile canteen, capable of feeding up to 300 people, will be made available for use at base camps, and that a separate Red Cross unit can be added later. All members of the “special” units will be urged to take or renew Red Cross first aid training.

The organization also plans to accumulate its own special rescue equipment and already has obtained a “basket-type” stretcher for carrying injured persons out of mountainous areas. Donations may be sought at a later date to help increase the amount of equipment.

A BASKET-STRETCHER of the type used to carry injured persons out of mountain areas is examined by a group of Valley men meeting last Saturday evening to organize an Ojai Search and Rescue Team to aid in hunting for lost persons n Ventura County. The stretcher was donated to the new group by a local scout troop. Applications are now being sought for membership in the Team and will be divided into mounted and foot units. An attempt is being made to organize the units on the basis of ability to provide immediate aid to any county agency needing help in search or rescue operations. From left to right are: Jack Huyler, Bill Bowie, Jesse Kahle, Frank Rio (behind stretcher), Ado Ruiz, Dwayne Bower, and Bud Bower. The Ojai Staff Photo

A series of practice drills for the “special” units will probably be held each year with simulated searches into the mountain areas.

Saturday’s organizational meeting resulted in creation of a table of organization for the team in which at least three persons were named to each office so as to guarantee uninterrupted operation should key personnel be unavailable at the time of a search.

Heading the overall operation of the team will be William Bowie, Ado Ruiz, and Bill Klamser, Jr. The mounted groups will be under Jack Huyler, Bud Bower, Gene Meadows and Jesse Kahle and Bowie said that leaders of the foot groups will be announced later.

A telephone system of relaying calls of members was established so that once the initial call from Capt. Fremlin or some other agency reaches the Ojai Police Department, a complete mobilization of the team can be made on short notice.

The team will also make itself available to Ojai area civil defense director James Alcorn, for use in the event of any major disaster in this area.

Application forms along with letters of information about the team will be distributed late this week and may be obtained at the Ojai city Hall or the Ojai Publishing Co. by anyone interested in joining the organization. Further information on the team may be had by phoning any of the three organizational directors listed above.

Ranger Bald was a man among men

The following article was printed in the Ojai Valley News probably in the 1960’s or 1970’s because that’s when the author (Ed Wenig) wrote for the newspaper. This article is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News.

Ranger Bald was a man among men

An erect, elderly gentleman riding a spirited horse down Ojai Ave. to the post office was a familiar figure to residents of the valley in the 1940’s. Dismounting, he would swing into the post office on crutches, collect his mail, remount, and ride away to his apartment in the olive mill on the street that today bears his name.

Industrious, hard-working Geo. Bald come to the Ojai Valley in 1886 at the age of 22. He found his first job setting out orange trees for Edward Thacher on the land which is now known as the Topa Topa Ranch.

In 1891 George Bald married Miss Catherine Clark, the sister of the famous stagecoach driver, Tom Clark. The two went to the state of Washington to make their home for a decade. Returning to the Ojai Valley in 1900, Bald became operator of the Ojai olive mill, a new and promising industry. In the few years of its operation it was estimated that 11,000 gallons of oil were sold.

About 1902 George Bald decided to become a forest ranger. His headquarters were in Nordhoff, and his territory included the Ojai Valley, Sespe Hot Springs, Mutah, and Sespe Gorge to the Lockwood Valley.

Three trails

For the next 19 years he carved out trails on the steep mountain sides in winter and patrolled his area for fires in summer. Three well-known trails he built were the Topa Topa Trail, the Ocean View Trail, and the Pratt Trail. The last-mentioned trail was financed by Charles M. Pratt, Standard Oil executive who lived on North Foothill Road, at which point the trail began. Sometimes a trail 10 miles long had to be made to reach a place only two miles distant “as the crow flies”.

Fire-fighting, too was a strenuous job for Forest Ranger Bald in the days before the development of modern fire control apparatus and improved systems of communication. When fire or smoke was observed from his lookout or camp, he would tie onto his saddle a bag of barley for his horse, lunch for himself, his fire-fighting tools, which consisted of a rake, shovel, mattock and axe, and ride off to locate the trouble spot.

For these duties he received about $60 a month from which he was expected to purchase his provisions and clothing, and grain for his horse.

In 1921 George Bald was offered the superintendency of the biggest, and often called the best, orange grove in the valley — the very orchard he had helped plant in the eighties. For the next 15 years he devoted all his efforts to the well-known Topa Topa fruit ranch. When his wife died in 1936, and the Topa Topa ranch was sold in the same year, George Bald retired and went to live in an apartment in the old olive mill.


Ranger George Bald riding in the center in the back country.

georgebaldothers19101