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

Name most valuable of Ranger gridders

This article first appeared in the Sunday, December 18, 1966 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page A-5. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

Name most valuable of Ranger gridders
by
Tim Tuttle

All Tri-Valley League tackle Jim Sandefur was honored along with the Nordhoff football squads and cross-country team in their annual banquet last Tuesday night. He won the Rangers most valuable player and best lineman award of the Tri-Valley league champions. The voting was done by his teammates.

Sandefur actually took home three awards, as he was also voted team captain along with all-league center Steve Olsen. Other special awards went to senior halfback John Hodge and junior tackle Bill Shields. They won the most valuable back and most improved awards this year.

The Mainstay

Tackle Sandefur was the mainstay of the Ranger line this year at 6′ 1″, 200 pounds and named all-Tri-Valley league honorable mention last year as center. He was one of three Tri-Valley leaguers who made both offensive and defensive first teams. Besides playing basketball, Jim lettered in varsity baseball last year when he won most inspirational player and was a starting catcher on the Ranger baseball team. One of the highlights of the season, in which Nordhoff compiled a 6-0 league record, was when he drove all-league tackle Chuck Herman all over the field in the game with Bishop Diego.

Hodge didn’t start playing regularly until the fourth game of the season against Carpinteria, but once he started rolling there was no stopping him. He ran 21 yards for a score against Carpinteria, plunged for one against Santa Ynez while he rushed for 92 yards in both of the games, averaging 9.2 against Santa Ynez. He scored three touchdowns against Channel Islands and ended the season with 10 scores. One of the more crucial scores came in the Bishop Diego game on a short run on the third down.

Shields played guard last year on the junior varsity, but when it looked that Nordhoff didn’t have many tackles, Bill shifted over to there. 6′ and 170 pounds Bill has another year at Nordhoff and many people are looking for him to fill Sandefur’s vacated spot.

Sophs

Winning their first varsity letters in football were sophomores Larry Reynosa and Mike Vail, juniors Steve Holley, Craig King, Marty Jensen, Bobby Hill, Ron Brandolino, Gerry Waddell, David Cain, Gary Morrow, Rick Kambestad, Clem Kenriksen, Bob Hardy. Srs. winning their first letter were Jan Colenbrander, Lee Mason, John Brown, John Higby, Terry Anderson and Richard Colman. Seniors winning their second varsity letter were Mike Cook, John Hodge, Clark Reams, Steve Olsen, Randy Moore, Charles Miller, Ray Bunch, Jim Sandefur and Mike Terry.

Coach Del Garst’s junior varsity took third place once again with a 5-4 record. Selected as best back was Tim Krout, best lineman Ken Hook, most improved player Larry Thomas and Dale Jenkins and Leroy Perry, captains. Coaches Lasley and Garst presented J. V. letters to Richard Price, John Sheltren, Jeff Norcott, Carl Silkett, Larry Thomas, Dale Jenkins, Dan Anderson, Kent Campbell, Steve Schaaf, Tim Krout, Bob Braner, Ken Hook, George Conrad, Casey Lasley, David Smith, Steve Gibson, Casey Mansfield, Drew Mashburn, Steve Milroy, Larry Sisk, Bruce Wolsey, Brett Cuthbert, Rick Love, Leroy Perry, Charles Howard, Randy Magner, Curt Fischer and David Rice.

Coached by Bob Heller, Nordhoff Thinclads took second place behind a strong Channel Islands squad. The special awards were presented to Mike Chambliss for most valuable player; Pat Harwell for varsity most improved; and Jerry Lindquist for most team spirit. Dan McKinney was awarded junior varsity most improved. Earning varsity letters were Mike Chambliss, Bill Borgeson, Scott Maggard, Dennis Clegg, Pat Harwell, Dan McKinney, Randy Isham, Greg Stafford and manager Luke Hall.

THE TRANSFORMATION HAS BEGUN

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, August 18, 1916 edition of “THE OJAI.” The author is unknown. Note: Reference is made several times to the town of “Nordhoff.” This was what the town’s name was before it was changed to “Ojai”.  All photos were added to this article by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

THE TRANSFORMATION HAS BEGUN

Just now things are doing in Nordhoff of such unusual character that the oldest inhabitant is constrained to sit up, or stand up, and take notice. In fact, the activity is being led by one of the oldest inhabitants — Thomas Clark, who, indeed, throughout all the past in Nordhoff’s history, has lived an active life, contributing his full share of the warp and woof woven into history’s fabric, which has grown threadbare in spots by the constant wear of time, and which he has started in to rehabilitate with new industrial threads and some patches.

Thomas Clark

No doubt the inspiration for greater and better things first surged in on the crest of the wave of sentiment for good roads, becoming a fixed purpose when Mr. E. D. Libbey arose to the occasion and gave added impetus to the vehicle of progress not alone in words, but in action. As a captain of industry and commercial achievement few men are better equipped than Mr. Libbey. With the wealth to humor any reasonable ambition, coupled with an inclination favorable to this locality. Nordhoff is indeed fortunate to have the right to lay partial claim to the citizenship of such a magnanimous benefactor and admirer of nature’s gifts so lavishly, of which Nordhoff is the commercial center.

Mr. Clark’s labors for betterments are closely linked with Mr. Libbey’s plans for civic or community improvements, the work of the former aiding the purposes of the latter, which are known to and being carried out by Mr. H. T. Sinclair. Mr. Libbey’s confidential agent in the matter of improvements contemplated or in progress on the beautiful park tract and the old Ojai Inn square, which is the expansive front yard or plaza of the business center of Nordhoff, to be transformed into a place of greater beauty by the hand of artifice, and to harmonize the scene, without a blemish, the property owners will obscure unsightly fronts behind an ornamental arcade of concrete and tile, the material for which already lines either side of the street, awaiting the labors of the architect and the builders.

LUNCH BREAK AT THE OJAI INN. Tourists stopped at the Ojai Inn for meals, particularly when they drove what was called “the Triangle,” from Ventura to Santa Paula and then through the Upper and Lower Ojai Valleys. The automobiles here date from about 1916, shortly before the hotel was bought by Edward Libbey and razed for creation of today’s Libbey Park. (OVM Collection)

After some parleying, and a small amount of worry as to the fate of the postoffice, Tom Clark cleared the way for a place for the old postoffice building to light, and Escovedo, the housemover, accomplished the rest, and the old Smith building has been transplanted — in two sections — across the street, and now rests intact on the east side of the Clark lot, with post office, plumbing shop, barber shop and Brady’s kitchen safely housed as of yore.

Corner of Signal and Main (AKA: Ojai Avenue) looking east. Clark’s old barn at left was razed to allow for the building of Clark’s Auto Livery. Some of the buildings at right of photo were moved to the opposite side of the street to allow for the construction in 1916 to 1917 of the new post office and tower.

To do this Mr. Clark wisely revised his plans and demolished his entire barn structure, to be replaced with a modern garage and auto and horse livery annex. The west wall of the garage, under the skilled hand of Philip Scheidecker, of Los Angeles, is rapidly going up, entirely constructed of rock, mostly moss-covered, above the rougher foundation.

Clark’s Auto Livery c1920. Note rock wall of building at left of photo.

The removal of the old building is the signal for activity on the Libbey side, but just what transformation is to take place is a matter of rumor or conjecture. A fine building, without doubt, is to replace the old, combining post office and public library — perhaps. Many other things are likely to happen that will add to the greater and more beautiful Nordhoff.

Edward Drummond Libbey

 

 

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

The following article first appeared in the Friday, November 24, 1916 edition of “THE OJAI” on the front page. The author is unknown. This was written before the town name changed from “Nordhoff” to “Ojai.”  The photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

ANOTHER BEAUTY SPOT ON MAIN STREET

Landscape gardener F. C. Fassel, on the annual payroll of Mr. E. D. Libbey, is now grading the vacant lot between the Ojai State Bank and the Boyd Club, which within a year will be styled the “Garden of Rose,” which in beauty will outrival Eden — perhaps — with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve looking in instead of looking out.

Edward Drummond Libbey

The ground is to be artistically embellished for the reception of all the more popular and beautiful varieties of rose bushes. All of the fine specimens so carefully nurtured by custodian Achelpohl of the Club will be transplanted in the plot, without retarding their bloom. This beauty spot will serve to add to the power of the magnet that will surely attract outsiders to the Ojai valley, adding still greater charm to Nordhoff’s civic center.

It is to be regretted that the wheels of the vehicle of progress shattered and tore out the great trailing rose bush at the corner of Clark’s deposed livery barn. In full bloom, with the rich colorings gleaming from the lower and upper branches of a live oak that served as a trellis, it was the marvel of all the tourists and the pride of the valley. It, however, still survives to bloom perpetually in thousands of “snap shots” by the ladies and knights of the Camera.

But there is some recompense for its loss. A handsome garage, built of moss covered native rock and tile adornments, is nearing completion on the corner, which furnishes an attraction less dainty, but more useful.

Clark’s Auto Livery (circa 1920). Note rock wall of building at left of photo.

The new post office building of hollow tile construction, with its massive tower, is now going up. The memorial fountain, after being torn down, is assuming its former shape in a position four feet further back from the street.

The Arcade is just completed and work has commenced on the Post Office Tower, 1917. The tower is at the left of the photo. (David Mason collection)

The park wall and pergola is lining up handsomely.

Colorized post card of the pergola with fountain. The park’s name was changed from “Civic Center Park” to “Libbey Park”.

The big park is taking on more beauty daily, and the million gallon reservoir is nearly completed.

Ojai was ‘torn apart and rebuilt’

This article first appeared in the August 26, 1970 edition of the Ojai Valley News. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is Ed Wenig.

Ojai was ‘torn apart and rebuilt’

(Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of articles by historian Ed Wenig on Civic Center Park and the man responsible for its gift “to the people of the Ojai Valley” — Edward Libbey).

On September 1, 1916, THE OJAI printed an editorial from the Ventura Free Press, written by Editor D. J. Reese, who had attended the Men’s League Banquet in March at the Foothills Hotel:

“Some morning, not far distant, the village of Nordhoff is going to wake up and find itself famous. The work being done in that section just now would make the man who has known Nordhoff of old rub his eyes in astonishment if he was brought into the place suddenly. Great things are in store no doubt. The town has been torn apart and several sections have been removed hither and yon. There has been a general clearing up of everything, and everybody has an expectant look as though wondering what will happen next. The main street has been piled full of terra cotta brick, and no one seems to know what is doing. Old landmarks like the Clark stables and the Ojai Inn have vanished as before a Kansas cyclone. Only the beautiful oaks, and here and there a substantial house like the bank or the clubhouse or the Nordhoff fountain and splendid Ojai atmosphere seem to be left. Something is surely doing. Ask what it is and the Nordhoffite will throw up his hands and mention the name of Libbey. You hear about Libbey every time you ask a question. Everywhere you go you note that somebody is working hard at something or other in digging ditches or burying water pipe or clearing underbrush or building massive and magnificent cobble walls. Why, it is to be another Montecito, you are told . . . “The people there are to be congratulated that they have a Libbey who has taken an interest in their affairs. It is to be hoped they will give him free rein.”

Vast Land Holdings

At an Ojai Valley Men’s League banquet at the Foothills Hotel J. J. Burke, speaking of improvements, told of a well of Mr. Libbey’s which “will pump at least 65 inches, and if Mr. Libbey’s plans materialize he will spend $20,000 in getting the water to his ranch. . . . The old Ojai Inn and all but one of the Berry Villa buildings have been torn down or moved away, making room for more extensive improvements in the future. Through the generosity of Mr. Libbey, Signal Street was cut through and graded to the railroad.”

In the spring of 1916 Libbey was reported to be visiting his friend, H. T. Sinclair and discussing with Mr. Thacher, Colonel Wilson and W. W. Bristol “sundry matters of importance to the community.”

On June 9, 1916 it was announced that E. D. Libbey had bought 200 more acres to add to his previous 300-acre property. “Among the early improvements will be the laying of a water main from his well on the Gally tract to his large holdings. And that is not all, as the entire square upon which once stood the Ojai Inn, is to be improved in a manner that augurs well for the future of Nordhoff, which is good news to the entire community. Mr. H. T. Sinclair has been taken into Mr. Libbey’s confidence and will be the directing head during his absence. Let us be glad, as well as thankful for so generous a promoter as E. D. Libbey.”

On June 16, 1916, we are told that Mr. Libbey has bought the last parcel of privately owned land in what is now the Civic Park. In the local paper, “The plans Mr. Libbey is making to benefit both the town and the Valley has met with the highest approbation of the committee and the cooperation of the League in every way is assured.”

It was reported on June 30 that the Berry Villa, “an historical step-sister of the Ojai Inn, now a demolished antiquity,” had been torn down and the lumber hauled away.

By July 14, fifty men in one crew were working on the Libbey pay roll. Tom Clark destroyed his barn north of his livery stable and constructed a rock wall for a modern garage. This wall can still be seen as part of the Village Drug Store.

Early in November, Architect Requa, of the San Diego architectural firm of Mead and Requa, went to Toledo and got full approval of the plans for the renovation of the main street of Nordhoff. The local newspaper reported, “The post office tower, penetrating the lower heavens 65 feet is to be a reality. There are many features that we shall be delighted to prattle about when fully assured that the architect has removed the censorship.”

In March, 1917, representatives of the Men’s League met with Mr. Libbey. A corporation was formed under the name of THE OJAI CIVIC ASSOCIATION. The incorporators were E. D. Libbey, S. D. Thacher, J. J. Burke, Harrison Wilson, H. T. Sinclair, A. A. Garland, and H. R. Cole. Said the editor of the paper: “The initial purpose of the corporation is to assume title to the valuable property acquired by gift from Mr. Libbey . . . This beautiful park and the tennis courts, covering more than seven acres, is to become the property of the people of Nordhoff and the Ojai Valley.

Concurrent with the changes in the appearance of the town of Nordhoff came a popular move to change the name of the village to Ojai. A petition was circulated under the auspices of Supervisor Tom Clark requesting the name change, and received so many signatures that it was five feet long by the time H. D. Morse, manager of the Foothills Hotel, sent it to Washington D. C. In March, 1917, Senator James D. Phelan sent the following telegram: “You may announce the change of name from Nordhoff to Ojai.”

Early School Days in Valley Recalled for Clara Smith’s Party

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, May 24, 1935 edition of “The Ojai.” “The Ojai” is now the “Ojai Valley News.” It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

Early School Days in Valley Recalled for Clara Smith’s Party

A committee of the grammar school Junior Red Cross attempted to compile a history of the schools of the Nordhoff district, for inclusion in the memory book to be presented to Miss Clara Smith a the banquet celebrating her 50 years of teaching Tuesday evening. But Mrs. Inez T. Sheldon, principal of the school, reports the task a difficult one because memories conflicted. However the following was put together as the best record that could be secured:

First School in Valley

In the extreme east at the foot of the grade on the left going toward Santa Paula H. J. Dennison taught perhaps a dozen children even earlier than 1869. A path up the grade led to the spring just beyond the present first sightseeing stop (Lookout Point) almost to the top of the grade. The big boys carried water if the barrel became empty before the appointed time to haul the next barrel full.

The district then comprised all of the present Matilija, Upper Ojai, and Lower Ojai valleys. The school was laughingly called “The Sagebrush Academy.” The last teacher there whose name no one seems willing to recall was at any rate a very loyal Democrat. He presided strictly—chastising the children of Democrats lightly with a pure white ruler, while little Republicans suffered under the strokes of a very black longer ruler.

In 1895 Mr. Van Curen circulated the petition to divide the district. Inez Blumberg (Mrs. J. B. Berry) and Miss Nina Soule remember Miss Skinner vividly. Earl Soule was too young but learned “his letters” in the second school, the one-room brick.

Brick School

On the present Alton L. Drown residence property, 244 Matilija Street, then an unoccupied tract, was erected the first Ojai School. The sagebrush academy was removed to the Dennison ranch, and later again to the present Upper Ojai where Mrs. E. P. Tobin is now teaching.

While the bricks were being made near the present tennis courts of the Civic Center, a small temporary shed was hastily put up on the same lot to house the school. Rough boards stood straight up and down. Horizontal boards for the roof kept out the sun. On planks facing the wall the children sat using planks against the wall for desks. But this was necessary only a short time. And the little brick school seemed verily a palace, laughingly recall the Soules, Piries, Bakers, John Larmar, and others. A. W. Blumberg made the bricks, and his daughter has an interesting souvenir—a brick on which a lion left his track. The hole from which the clay was taken may be seen to this day in the Civic Center near the railroad.

Noted Pupil

In the biography of David P. Barrows, former president of the University of California in Berkley, it is written that he learned his “ABC’s” with his little bare toes dangling over Mother Earth from rough wooden boxes in which nails had been surreptitiously placed as seats. At least this is found to be historic!

Steepleton Private School

On the present Y-T ranch, just off Grand Avenue, a mile and a half east of the village, in 1874, Mrs. Joseph Steepleton, who later taught in the new brick school, kept private school. Also in the same location as late as 1928, Frank Gerard established a private school. Both private schools were short lived. Mr. Barrows recalls many funny experiments in the old brick school. It is suggested that he be asked for his “wart yarn” when next he visits Ojai.

The Fruit Pickers

Mr. Buckman, the first county school superintendent of Ventura, was one of the first teachers in the brick building. He planted the first orange tree in this now famous valley. Also he grew strawberries to help maintain his financial independence. By getting permission from home, his pupils were permitted to go from school during school hours, to the Topa Topa ranch, (then his home), and pick his strawberries for him. Great was the jealousy of those whose parents would not permit them to stop studying their three R’s long enough to go up to the ranch to pick berries.

So few of the school registers are to be found of the old brick days that only an attempted list of the teachers there can be recorded. Miss Allen, Miss Haight, Mr. Goodman, Mr. Alvord, and Miss Hawks taught before Miss Agnes Howe, who was probably there the longest time of all. She was Miss Clara Smith’s first teacher in California.

Miss Smith had taught in Ohio but here more education for a teacher’s certificate was required so for a short period in 1884 she was a pupil in the old brick school. Thompsons, Clarks, Robinsons, Hunds, Ayers, Spencers, and others already mentioned remember those “old days.” After studying in Santa Barbara, Miss Smith returned and taught in the same brick building. Eva Bullard Myers, Bill Raddick, the Gally brothers, Sam Hudiburg, and others, were some of her pupils.

After teaching in the Ventura schools at the same time that Miss Blanche Tarr taught there, Miss Smith worked her way through the State University at Berkeley and returned to Ojai to teach three years in the new building at the corner of Montgomery and Ojai Avenue. Fred Linder, S. Beaman, and Clark Miller were pupils of hers at this period.

Brown Bungalow

When perhaps as many as 60 pupils were enrolled, it became necessary to add a little brown school, one room, on the same lot as “the new brick.” Miss Pellam taught the little people there until it was moved. George Black, Ventura County School Superintendent, and later the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, married her sister. In 1895 both schools on this site were purchased, the brick building vacated, and the little brown school moved to its present location, 570 North Montgomery, on the Snow property between Millard’s and Lafkas’.

It is interesting to note that the present Drown residence was built by J. E. Freeman in 1911, on the same brick foundation as the old school building. Captain Sheridan of the old Ojai Inn, grandfather of the Sheridan brothers, was responsible for the laying of these bricks.

The Wolf Family

The Wolf family had the first good pictures of this section. Mr. Wolf acted as a trustee of the district, and interested himself considerably in the work. Quite tragically one day his son fell from an oak on the school and was killed.

San Antonio School

Mrs. Lillian Bennett Carnes, Mrs. Margaret Hunt, the Mungers, and Ryersons, tell many fascinating stories of the first San Antonio school, located on Ojai Avenue on what is now the Edward L. Wiest property.

Thacher School

Sherman D. Thacher was refused a position there, being told to go on with his little orange grove. Thus in 1889 with only one pupil this now famous Thacher School was begun.

The Present Wood Building

The wooden grammar school building was first occupied in 1895. It was moved back on the northeast corner in 1927. The sum of $1,250 was paid for the lot. The bond issued failed by one vote at the first election, but was carried for $9,000 at the second one. Mr. Zimmerman was awarded the contract for $7,825. However the building of the assembly hall with the other incidental expenses brought the total cost to around $10,000. It was necessary to use the money obtained from the sale of the “brick school” and the “brown bungalow” plus the building fund, plus the school bonds, to meet this debt.

Miss Mabel Pendergriss was presumably the first teacher in the new school. Amy Hamlin, Eleanor Hammack, Anna Cordes, and others are recalled, but C. L. Edgerton is always remembered when anyone is asked regarding the history of the building. For ten years following the time Miss Smith taught there, Mr. Edgerton was principal.

First High School

The year 1909-10 was W. W. Bristol’s first year as the first principal of the first high school in Nordhoff. School was held with Miss Maybyn (Mrs. Howard Hall) assisting, in the upstairs of the grammar school building. Miss Ruth Forsyth assisted Mr. Bristol the second year. School was so crowded it was necessary to send some freshman to the lower floor under Mr. Edgerton’s supervision.

High School Building

May 17, 1909, there were 108 votes cast for establishing a high school, and six votes against. Of the 25 pupils that first year Edna Leslie (Mrs. Edna Grout) rated as “the best citizen”, and Grace Hobson (Mrs. Fed Smith) as “the best scholar.” The bond issue voted the following year was 151 to 8 for $20,000. Words fail to express the hot times over the proper location of what is now known as the Junior high school. The first trustees are all deceased: S. D. Thacher, F. H. Sheldon, Frank Barrows, Mr. Hobart, and Dr. Saeger. Irma Busch (Mrs. William T. Frederick), Abbie Cota Moreman, Carolyn and Thornton Wilson were in this pupil group.

Old Grammar School Building

When J. F. Linder was first trustee of the grammar school (1912-13) there were 82 children enrolled, and four teachers using all the rooms. Queen E. Kidd was principal, with Katherine Donahue, Olivia Doherty and Celia Parsons as teachers. The principal received $810, the teachers between $675 and $712.50. W. A. Goodman, Mrs. Canfield and E. L. Kreisher, up to 1919 earned $1,200. Miss Abbie Cota and Miss Edna Leslie were teaching during this period; also Mrs. Fred Burnell as Mrs. H. S. Van Tassel and as Mrs. Louise Thompson.

Miss Iris Evans graduated in the first eighth grade held in the old grammar school. In 1924 the 7th and 8th grade books were transferred to the Junior high. Her brother Jim in June, 1925, was in the first sixth grade graduating from the grammar into the Junior high school. Roscoe Ashcraft was principal both years. Miss Anna Gilbert (Mrs. Sexton) preceded him. Mrs. Hathaway and Miss Agnes Howe returned and both were principals during the time the old wooden building was in use.

Matilija

By private subscrition in 1890, W. L. Rice, carpenter and liberal contributor, built the first little Matilija school near the river bed in a lovely oak tree setting. Anna Stewart was the first teacher. The three Soper children, three Rice girls, Blumbergs, and Lopez children were the first pupils.

There were 20 different teachers in the 24 years before February 20, 1914 when in the flood the building was completely washed down stream. A small building was immediately erected on this side of the river, high and dry. It was located on the Meiners’ property a half mile from the Rice residence at the corner. Miss Mary Freeman taught here, and Mr. Krull of the present Johnson place was the Matilija trustee until his death. Four years later the building was sold to the Matilija rancho and removed while the lot reverted to the Meiners’ estate. Miss Pope leaves a very complete record of this period.

In 1918 Matilija united with Nordhoff Union grammar school district. This district averages 10 to 15 children to educate and great was their rejoicing when the school bus in 1919 regularly transferred the children to Ojai.

Nordhoff Kindergarten

In 1920, ten pupils attended the first kindergarten established in the Valley with Miss Clara Newman as the teacher. The next year, in 1921, the name was changed to Ojai Kindergarten.

Miss Matilda Knowlton (Mrs. Joe Misbeek) taught in the Boyd room at the Woman’s Club for four years with an average daily attendance of 25. Then, in 1927, Miss Ruth M. Hart (Mrs. John Recker) moved across the street into the corner room of the present stucco building.

Following is a record of the teachers and the number of kindergarten pupils since that time:

Mary A. Wharton (1928-29) 26; Alice Connely (1929-30) 26; Mrs. Gladys Raymond (1930-31) 31; Elizabeth Pell (1931-32) 23; Elizabeth Pell Wellman (1932-33) 23; Mrs. Mildred Rodgers, present teacher.

Arnaz School District

Dr. Jose Arnaz of the large Arnaz land grant in 1877 gave to the County Superintendent Buckman (formerly of the Nordhoff brick school) the use of one room in his home for a school. His second wife was Adolph Camarillo’s sister, Pet Seymour, who later became Mrs. Drake, was the teacher. Mrs. Ventura Arnaz Wagner recalls how comfortably several years were spent until John Poplin arrived and agitated for a new school building. He hauled and donated lumber as well as contributed labor to the new plant. It was, and still is (what is left of it) a mile from the cider mill (Fergerson or Arnaz home) on the Creek road a few steps down off the present highway (Fergerson grade.) During heavy rains the footbridge washes out and of course it was impossible to hold school.

Young Dick Haydock was the first teacher in this new schoolhouse. He boarded with Poplin who became clerk of the board, until Mr. Healy moved in. Very soon he “ran the school” and the teachers boarded there. His children were the only American children in school at that period.

T. O. Toland’s wife taught this school in 1888 so it probably had been opened three years. Little of note occurred after Mr. Welsh’s resignation until the fall of 1926.

By the fall of 1926 the school had grown to such extent that it became necessary to expand into the coat room. Mrs. Hubbard was the teacher in the school room while Gretchen Close taught in the coat room. However very shortly, Miss Close’s room was moved to Laidler’s grocery store in Casitas Springs. This was the living room in which were housed for a time 37 school children.

Arnaz united with Nordhoff Union grammar school district in 1927. Mr. Nye was their representative on the union board of five members. This section is in the unique position of being part of the Nordhoff Union grammar school district and the Ventura high school district. At the present time, May 1935, Arnaz uses two school buildings, the Casitas Springs buildings, and the Oak View Gardens building.

Casitas Springs School

Mr. Nye in 1927 gave the present school lots to the district with the request that the building be known as the Casitas Springs school. A one-room school was built by Mr. Hitchcock at the contract price of $2,407. Miss Hattie Conner was the first teacher with 43 children in the three grades. All the children of grades four to six were transported by bus to the Nordhoff building.

Mr. Nye was succeeded as school trustee in 1928 by Charles G. Crose, who was succeeded by Victor McMains, and now I. V. Young is trustee for the district.

The teachers in the Casitas Springs school were Hattie Conner, Mrs. Paul Woodside, and the incumbent, Miss Ruth McMillian who has held the position since January, 1930.

Nordhoff Stucco Building

The stucco building of Nordhoff grammar school was built by Johnson and Hanson of Santa Barbara. They were awarded the contract for $34,982. J. R. Brakey had the $1,600 contract for moving the old building back on the northeast corner. Heat, lights, plumbing, blackboards and furniture increased the cost to around $48,000. During Mrs. Inez T. Sheldon’s first year as principal it was found necessary to add a teacher (Mrs. Estes, the wife of the principal of the high school). The assembly hall held two classes and the next year Mrs. Murphy taught in the Boyd Club where the Little Theatre now is. Then in 1927 after the uniting of the Arnaz with Nordhoff, eight rooms of the present building were filled to overflowing. It was two years before the last three rooms were added.

The old building is entirely occupied now and there is a faculty of 18. From 150 pupils in Mr. Ashcraft’s last year, the school has grown to 589 in 1934-35.

THE ROAD TO OJAI

The following article first appeared in the Thursday, Sep. 11, 1958 (Vol. 1, No. 35) edition of THE SENTINEL. THE SENTINEL was purchased by the Ojai Valley News. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News. The author is Percy G. Watkins.

THE ROAD TO OJAI
by Percy G. Watkins

(continued from last week)

THE ROAD AT THE ARNAZ GRADE

As the road to Nordhoff (Ojai) in 1900 passed La Crosse, (near Casitas Springs), it followed the railroad tracks to pass the home of Ed Goodyear, son of the man who owned part of the Arnaz Ranch at that time.

Here the road split. The Nordhoff Road turned to cross the railroad to go up the San Antonio Creek Valley. The other road went straight up the Ventura River Valley.

After passing the Goodyear home (built like so many of the houses that were here at that time) the traveler passes a large barn which was across highway 399 from the present Rancho Arnaz Cider Mill. West of it, the road wound up to the top of the hill to the farm land of Ed Goodyear (which now belongs to Henry Olivas). Mr. Goodyear was killed on this grade a few years later after being run over by a wagon loaded with corn.

The road then proceed up the Creek past a house which belonged to a man named Amesbury. He was, I think, one of the members of the crew who was drilling the oil well Van Epps managed. This house, and the land which belonged to it was sometimes known as the Harmison Ranch. Alfalfa grew on this land. (It’s now known as the Littlefield Ranch).

The road again leads to Ranch No. 1, with its No. 1 well flowing sulphur water. Beyond the barn and shop stood the house Tom Bard built to house and feed the men associated with him in drilling California’s first drilled oil well.

Across the Creek was the Arnaz School (Oak View’s first school), which was built in 1883 and is still standing. (It is now occupied by the N. Amescua’s). Not far from this point, the road forked and the Creek Road continued on up the San Antonio Creek Valley. And the other one went up the old grade to what is now the central part of Oak View.

At this point was a row of mail boxes which marked the end of the Ventura Star Route. An old fashioned steel-perforated sign indicated the distance to Ventura and to Nordhoff by both routes. A U.S. Geodetic Survey marker stood at this point.    (to be continued)

Intolerant of intolerance

The following article first appeared in the Ojai Valley News on July 22, 2011. It is appears here with their permission.

Passing the Buck
Intolerant of intolerance
by
Bill Buchanan

The worst case of poison oak I ever caught was from climbing a hill to throw black paint on a Ku Klux Klan billboard. On a chilly evening in the fall of 1971, my senior year in high school, three friends and I left in the middle of a football game to deface a sign that we felt was an embarrassment to anyone with any sense.

The sign had been posted at one of the gateways to the town. It featured a hooded rider on horseback, and read, “The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan welcome you to Fort Payne, Alabama.” That was our hometown, and that sign had to go. So we devised an elaborate plan that involved two of us hauling four cans of black paint up a steep hill to the billboard. With our hearts beating loudly enough to be heard in the next county, we happily dropped our bombs on the offending target. The sign was never replaced.

Afterward, the four of us were jubilant. We were terrified when we thought about getting caught by the police, or revenge that might be visited upon us if it was discovered who defaced the sign. But the pride I felt in doing something I knew to be right outweighed my fear.

My disgust for racial prejudice came as a result of playing basketball. My school had been integrated when I was 9 years old. In my little town, integration went smoothly and without incident. I had classes with African-Americans, but did not have much interaction with black students. That changed when I joined the basketball team in high school and acquired some black teammates.

I came to know and like some of the black guys on the team. We shot baskets together, practiced together, ran sprints together, and joked in the locker room together. Later, when we became comfortable with each other, we sometimes cruised around town together. These were good guys. So when someone said something negative about African-Americans, they weren’t just talking about a nameless group of people. They were talking about Donnie, Ralph, Sam and Robert — guys I knew and liked.

The current crusade by some against gay rights reminds me of the civil rights struggles in the ’60s and ’70s. Some, including a few presidential candidates, are attempting to make political hay from bashing gay people. This prejudice and marginalization of gay people is as wrong now as the abuse of African-Americans was then.

While I joined the fight against racial prejudice early on, I was late to the game on gay rights. For too many years I used gay slurs and told derogatory gay jokes. For this, I am deeply ashamed.

Acquiring gay friends changed my attitude. Perhaps my prejudice was fueled by the belief that people had a choice in their sexual preference. But I learned that belief was mistaken. Every gay friend with whom I have spoken told me that they knew early in life, even as small children, that they were different. I realized that you are either straight, or you are born gay — and nothing is going to change that.

A significant percentage of our population is gay or lesbian. They are our friends, our co-workers and members of our family. No matter how you view homosexuality, gay Americans are citizens and deserve the same rights afforded everyone else under the law.

Anything less is morally indefensible.

“DEATH VALLEY DODGE” AT THE ISIS

This article first appeared on the front page of the Friday, February 4, 1916 edition of THE OJAI. THE OJAI is now the Ojai Valley News. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News. The author is unknown.  The photos have been added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  

“DEATH VALLEY DODGE” AT THE ISIS

Through an arrangement made by S. D. Nill, it is now possible to see in Nordhoff, the nationally celebrated “Death Valley Dodge”. This unusual car has battled its way through every noted desert of the Southwest, has climbed inconceivably steep mountains and holds the unique double record of having been driven from below sea level to the highest point ever reached by an automobile on the Pacific Coast. It has conquered all sorts of obstructions, defying the laws of equilibrium and gravitation.

1915: Death Valley Dodge car at unknown location during 1,000 mile drive around the California desert including Death Valley.

In the motion pictures you will see a car actually turning corners on two wheels with passengers in its tonneau, racing the “Owl” a mile a minute, tearing up 35 percent grades with ease and speed, fighting its way through an inconceivably rough country where there are no roads, and climbing down rocky bluffs so steep and rough that a mountain goat would find difficulty in doing what “Death Valley Dodge” actually does before your eyes. It flashes its way through grease-wood, cactus and yucca growing to twice the height of the car, conclusively showing to what extreme limits of strength the master builders of this latest motor product have been able to install into a motor car.

These unusual pictures will be shown at the Isis Theatre of this city on Monday, Feb. 7th, from 2 to 10 p. m.

You can get free tickets by calling on S. D. Nill, the local Dodge Brothers dealer.

This ad was on the front page of THE OJAI in its Friday, February 4, 1916 edition.

Ojai’s first jail still exists near Santa Barbara

This article first appeared in the Wednesday, December 13, 1989 edition of the Ojai Valley News on Page A-7. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is Barbara De Noon.

Ojai’s first jail still exists near Santa Barbara
by
Barbara De Noon
Special to the News

Would you believe that Ojai’s first jail, built in 1873, is sitting in Santa Barbara County?

Let me tell you the story.

In 1873, the 50 peace-loving settlers in the Ojai Valley, tucked below some beautiful mountains (where there were more horses than people), felt the need for someone in the township to represent the law.

About the same time, a prominent lady of the town was sitting on a log one day watching her husband erect a canvas hotel (where Libbey Park is now). She was Mrs. Abram Blumberg and she said to her husband, “You know, our settlement should be call Nordhoff” (reportedly meaning Wayside Inn or Northern Hole). [But actually named for author Charles Nordhoff.]

And so it came to pass that Ojai’s first name was really Nordhoff (always remembered by our only school).

Right afterward, the residents of this infant town hired Andy Van Curen (1848-1923) as its first constable.

Andy, as everyone was fond of calling him, had an unusual appearance. He had sparkling brown eyes, “wore” a white beard, and his head was completely bald except for one fringe of hair.

The first location of the jail was close to Ojai Avenue in front of what used to be Loop’s Restaurant. Then it was moved [west] to what is now the southwest corner of Ojai Avenue and Blanche Street (later the space of Security Pacific Bank’s parking lot).

Immediately after being hired, Andy personally built the jail, using 1-by 4-inch sideboards laid flat on top of one another.

The timbers were nailed together by iron spikes, one inch apart.

There were two cells, each with an iron door, one with the capacity for four prisoners and the other for seven.

Windowless, there was a six-inch slot in each cell for air.

The jail provided extra storage for Van Curen’s coffins and tombstones as he was the only undertaker in the valley.

Prominent ladies of the town made doll dresses out of the scraps from the linings of the coffins.

Actually, Van Curen was a livery stable owner and made an unusual constable.

He was described as a man who accomplished his duties in a kindly and sympathetic manner, keeping peace in the Ojai Valley.

He arrested an occasional operator of a “blind pig” (an establishment that served illegal bootleg whiskey), but, most of the arrests were participants of violent quarrels, drunks and horse thieves.

A great-grandniece of Andy’s wife, Mrs. Charles Phillips, remembers seeing her Uncle Andy taking trays of food prepared by his wife to the prisoners arrested and participants in violent behavior.

No one, however, ever escaped from the jail, a veritable fortress.

When Van Curen had given his services for many years, there was a movement among some of the local citizens to elect a younger and more active man to replace him as constable.

Commenting on this situation in her memoirs of the period, Helen Baker Reynolds writes, “Andy was hurt and incensed.” He let it be known that if he were replaced no one else could use his jail. And so the movement for replacement promptly collapsed.

After a half-century of being constable, and before leaving the valley to move to Pasadena, Van Curen offered the little wooden jail to the city, realizing it was a relic of the Old West and of early Ojai history.

Unfortunately, the offer was turned down and the jail was sold.

It was moved on a flatbed truck and became an attraction 14 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, off San Marcos Pass, on a horseshoe bend (once deep in the forest) behind an old stage coach stop called the Cold Springs Tavern.

The old tavern, genial remnant of 100 years ago, featured refreshing drinks and exceptional food for people who traveled the pass and to this day, still does!

And you can still see the first wooden jail of Ojai, sitting in a dark corner nestled in the trees at the rear of Cold Springs Tavern.

Drawing of the jail built by Constable Andy Curen as it looks at the Cold Springs Tavern in Santa Barabara County.

There are those of us who think the genial relic should be returned to its home, Ojai.

Anyone interested please contact Bob Browne, curator of our wonderful local museum.