LOOK BACK IN OJAI with Drew Mashburn

The following article first appeared in the Spring 2019 (VOLUME 37 NUMBER 1) issue of the “Ojai Valley Guide” magazine on pages 154 and 155. The magazine is published by the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

Want to know what it smells like under the Jack Boyd Center?
Drew Mashburn knows!
Drew Mashburn

I admit it! I’m addicted to coffee. I mean real coffee. Strong and black!

Several years ago, my dear wife bought my favorite coffee mug at Rains Department Store. On it there is a black-and-white photo of downtown Ojai, looking west, when Ojai was called Nordhoff. The photo is mainly of the then-new Arcade. How do I know this? Because at the far left edge of the photo is the post office bell tower as it’s being built. It has scaffolding all around it and the domed top has yet to be added. So, the photo was most likely taken in late 1916 or early 1917 because construction was completed prior to the first Ojai Day that was held April 7, 1917.

Edward Drummond Libbey of Libbey Glass had the common-looking, old, western-style downtown — with its wooden boardwalks and false fronts — made over to create the beautiful downtown architecture we have today. But, he didn’t mess with the Ojai State Bank or the Jack Boyd Memorial Club that were prominent structures on Main Street and east of his new and grand post office. I’m not sure as to why, but I suspect that they were simply too magnificent in appearance to justify changing, or he had a gut feeling that if he did, he’d get his new-to-town butt kicked by longtime Nordhoff folks who loved those old buildings.

The Ojai State Bank’s architectural style was neoclassical with tall, heavy columns that looked like Rome to me. I understand it was built of brick. After Libbey had the Arcade, Pergola and Post Office in the downtown done over in the plaster/stucco-sided Mission Revival style of his liking, the old bank must have really clashed with them in appearance. It was located where the public parking lot is at the east end of the Pergola.

The Jack Boyd Memorial Club sat on the east side of the Ojai State Bank and along Ojai Creek (aka East Barranca). It was a masculine-looking building with a dark roof of wooden shingles and its covered porches were supported by very thick wooden posts. The Craftsman Bungalow-style building was built in 1903 to be a clubhouse for men. If ol’ Edward had dared to change the appearance of this sacred-to-the-community men’s-folk clubhouse, I’m fairly sure his hide would have been stretched above it’s fireplace mantel.

But, change is inevitable. I’m not sure exactly when, but the Ojai State Bank was acquired by the Bank of America. It set up shop in the old building for a number of years and, somewhere along the line, the bank wound up owning the Jack Boyd Memorial Club. In fact, in 1956, the Bank of America decided to build a new bank on the lot occupied by the Jack Boyd Memorial Club. The bank needed to rid itself of the old clubhouse. The Lions Club offered to take it off the bank’s hands, but members changed their minds when they heard that the city of Ojai was tossing around the idea of building a community recreation center. Upon hearing this, the Lions suggested that the city take ownership of the old men’s clubhouse and have it moved to a suitable site. That happened in February 1957. It was decided the Jack Boyd Memorial Club would be moved to Sarzotti Park.

The “Jack Boyd Memorial Club” being moved from its location on the west bank of Ojai Creek (AKA: East Barranca) out onto Ojai Avenue in February 1957. The building was moved to Sarzotti Park.

I was a few months short of being 6 years old, so I wasn’t downtown to witness the Boyd Club being raised up off its foundation and onto the trailer and big truck used to move it east on Ojai Avenue. Believe it or not, Mom and Dad didn’t let me hang alone downtown at that age, but I was aware the Boyd Club was going to be headed up Park Road. We lived on East Aliso Street and our home backed up to Sarzotti Park. My neighborhood buddies and I rode our bikes down to the street and watched the crew move the old building from Ojai Avenue onto Park Road.

We probably drove the crew crazy because, as they ever so slowly moved the building, we kept circling around the truck, trailer and building to witness all we could. We were enthralled with what was going on. At one point, several of us youngsters ditched our bikes and crawled under the trailer because we wanted to see the bottom of the building. I don’t know what the heck we were thinking and some adult guy chased us out from under there. Kids!

The building was offloaded onto heavy, wooden-beam cribbing to where it sits today. I’m not positive, but I think it took two trips to get all of the building from Ojai Avenue to Sarzotti Park. I only recall the one section of building being moved. Guess what? As the building sat there for a few months being readied for lowering onto a new foundation, us kids got under it several more times! After all these years, I can still recall how it smelled. It had a strong smell of musty, old wood. Yet, it was a pleasant smell.

The building sat on that cribbing for what seemed like a lifetime to me. I could hardly wait to have it open into the new recreation center I had heard it was going to become. My buddies and I would go up there often to check on the progress of the building being permanently set in place.

One time, two of my East Aliso Street buddies (Mike Payton and Mark Kingsbury) were behind the building. I think it was Mike who climbed up a tall pine tree in the row of pines that ran from the western side of the park clear to the east side and just south of the building. Mike was throwing down pine cones to Mark and me. There was all kinds of scrap lumber scattered around the building. Mike flung down a pine cone from his lofty position. Mark and I stepped back in an attempt to catch it. I stepped onto a 16d nail that was protruding through a piece of scrap wood. When I lifted up my foot, the wood lifted up off the ground as well. It really freaked me out! I really buried that big ol’ nail into my heel. I think it went clear up to my tailbone. All I could think about was what Mom had told me about stepping on a a rusty nail . . . that being, you can get lockjaw from it! I pulled the nail and chunk of wood loose, then hightailed it for home at close to the speed of sound. Mark could usually run as fast as me, but he was no match for my speeding frame that day. I think I must have left a sonic boom.

I believe it was about April that the building was set onto its new foundation, then opened for public use that summer. My puncture wound had healed by that time and I didn’t get lockjaw because Mom made me get a dang tetanus shot. So, I was one of the first of the neighborhood kids to get to use the new recreation center, which became known as the Boyd Club, now the Boyd Center.

Oh, I almost forgot. Unfortunately, the Ojai State Bank building was demolished in 1960. I know that its big Roman-looking columns were saved, but I have been unable to locate them.

By the way, in case any of you know of a coffee mug for sale with the Ojai State Bank and the Jack Boyd Memorial Club on it, please let me know where my wife might purchase it for me.

Drew Mashburn is a volunteer at the Ojai Valley Museum.

Early Stories of Ojai, Part IX (Dog Fights)

Early Stories of Ojai, Part IX (Dog Fights) by Howard Bald

Note: Howard Bald was an early Ojai resident. His reminiscences were written in the early 1970s.

Another well known character of that day was a brawny, brawling Irishman named Tim Dundon. His main hobby was fighting bull dogs. His most famous fighting dog was named Sharkey. A fight was arranged between Sharkey and Fitz (named after the famous prize fighter of that time, Fitzimmons). The fight was held on a Sunday afternoon (about 1902) in a secluded oak-shaded dell in the neighborhood of the Highland Estates.

Fitz was from Oxnard, and most of his backers were from Oxnard. There was an abundance of liquor and the betting was heavy. Tim engaged a horse and cart from the livery stable, and I drove him down with Sharkey between his legs. Some spectators arrived on horseback, some in buggies and some with team and wagon.

I believe the Oxnard delegation arrived in Ventura via train, then rented livery horses for the rest of the journey. I remember that Tim had sixty-five dollars all in gold. He gave me a five dollar gold piece to bet on Sharkey.

After most everyone got pretty well liquored up and the bets were placed, the fight began. Some aspects of it are now rather dim in my memory, such as how long the rounds were and how many were fought. But each handler had a bucket of water, a sponge and towels. Sharkey was the smaller of the two dogs and got the worst of it from the start, but Sharkey was game. Some spectators tried to persuade Tim to throw in the sponge, but he refused.

It looked pretty hopeless for the smaller animal. He could scarcely stand, but he fought on. These dogs I believe were called English bulls, and were snow white. That is, they were white when the fight began, but soon became crimson.

Just when it seemed that Sharkey couldn’t last for another round, Fitz broke loose, turned tail and ran with Sharkey staggering bravely after him. With that Tim grabbed up his dog and claimed the bets. A near riot followed, for Sharkey was badly beaten dog, though he was willing to fight on when the larger dog quit and refused to fight.

Tim stood his ground and collected his bets. Several of those present in my knowledge later became leading citizens and law enforcement officers of Ventura County.

One more little anecdote before going on to happenings of a more lawful nature. It involves the robbing of the Ojai State Bank. George Downing was a widower with two young children. He had been a laborer on the Stetson Ranch, now Col. Frank Noyes’) but left, and moved to town and was working intermittently at the livery stable mostly driving winter tourists about the valley with a team and surrey.

The Ojai Bank had just two employees. The manager, and cashier was Edward Weist. Miss Mable Isenberg was teller and bookkeeper. This noon Mr. Weist was out to lunch and Miss Isenberg was alone when a masked man entered, displayed a gun and demanded the money. Miss Isengerg handed out quite a sum of cash, and the bank robber departed.

Of course the news soon spread, and there was great excitement throughout the valley. That afternoon, as usual, George Downing was driving several elderly ladies from the Foothills Hotel about the valley, and naturally the bank robbery was the chief topic of conversation. At one point George revealed a six-shooter and announced that he was prepared for the bandit.

But Miss Isenberg had recognized George behind the mask and told the men from the sheriff’s office. For several days they kept Downing under surveillance and then one night at Raddick’s pool hall, when he seemed unusually flush with cash, the officers walked in and said, “Well, George, show us the rest of it.”

Note: Other stories about the bank robbery have it that Miss Isenberg recognized George’s boots.