Less talk about hippies; more talk about change

The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, November 1, 1967 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Page D-6. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission. PLEASE NOTE: Nick Robertson wrote the article when he was only a Senior in high school.  The photo of Robertson was added by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.  

Less talk about hippies; more talk about change
by Nick Robertson
Happy Valley Senior

A “church in change” is a phrase which might draw a strong reaction from both those who think it is perfected and those who think it incapable of facing change. But to a majority of people, it is probably one of the greatest blessings to come from the institutionalized church for a long time.

There are many, myself included, that think that a religious and moral institution should lead the way for social reform, not fight it. There are, of course, arguments which slow the more impatient of us down to a walk: namely, that the church should consider social change carefully before either opposing or supporting it.

What an institution cannot afford to do is avoid facing social changes, and with this in mind, the United Presbyterian Church of So. Calif. sponsored a conference on Theonetics (a catchy, expressive and convenient if undenfinable word) with the subject “Under 21 in California.”

Aside from the word, which sounds much more active than theology, the subject is particularly attractive to someone under 21 in California. It was, as a matter of fact, even more attractive when I found I could be subsidized by the conference if I went as a “conversation starter”: one of the few times I have ever heard the axiom that children should be seen and not heard put to better disuse.

The idea of having a host of youths at the conference was necessary, not only because of the topic, but because over half of the speakers were well over 21 anyway (it was decided that 21 really meant nothing and it was youth that was being discussed). The formal parts of the meeting tended to be discussing youths rather than discussing with them.

As I have an admitted bias to being discussed rather than heard from, I think that I will speak primarily about being heard from.

Hippy topic

The hippies, whoever they may be at the moment, were the predominant topic of discussion for the first two days.  It seemed to me that most of the people attending were unduly hung up on long hair and acid, and the program scheduled two speakers on the hippies.  The first was the editor of a Los Angeles underground newspaper, “The Oracle”, and in keeping with the spirit of the times, he was well over 40.  The second speaker did not show up for some reason, and by the second day it struck me as good luck that the emphasis (we youths had discussed threatening a walk-out unless emphasis was taken from the hippies) was shifted.

The first evening featured three young speakers under the heading of “Youth in Action”. They were all participants in some sort of social welfare program (Inner City, VISTA, and a function of the Presbyterian church called Caravaning). The church establishment came under a certain amount of fire from all of them, as the church is bound to. The message: do something!

I think that as far as I was concerned the most impressive speaker of the entire affair was introduced as “The Minority Youth.” He was Johnny Scott, a product of Budd Schulberg’s writer’s studio in Watts, and one of the most eloquent voices to come out of the ghetto (some of his poems appeared in both the L.A. Times and Time Magazine). Scott, a student at Stanford, spoke stirringly about the plight of the black man in a lily-white America. Being predisposed to such talks, anyway, for I feel that most of us WASPS (White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestants) have created a lot of our own problems, and having the guilty conscience of the typical white liberal, I don’t think anyone left the conference not duly impressed and saddened by the demand, not plea, for understanding of a black youth.

More discussion

The entire set-up of such an event makes it possible for all in attendance to either take or leave the insights presented as well as enrich them by informal conversations.  It is only fair to admit that I approached the hall with somewhat the attitude of an extremely angry (and extremely) young man, and I think that hard-headed , angry revolutionists pale after a brief exposure.  Were it mine, I would keep more time unstructured:  I felt that the talks provided a tremendous stimulus, but a stimulus that could have been matured better by more freewheeling discussion.  Our table talks were probably as important to all involved as any other single part of the conference, though I could have relaxed a little more at them.

One decided hang-up most young people attended with was the idea of communicating for result. We are an impatient breed. While we speak of the necessity of communication rather incessantly, there is, so to speak, method to our madness. Most went not with the idea of learning so much as to prod, to force a confrontation on the church, speed up a committee or two, and get what many young people in the church feel is a necessary involvement out of their congregation.

While adolescents are almost by definition a state of change, the church has often been a leader in social reaction, and it seems that there is now a tremendous impatience within the younger membership of the church that now demands action and acceptance of change.

But when one can obtain enough objectivity, it is seen to be a creative, worthwhile, and effective means of dealing with a problem (assuming that a younger generation is a problem). Perhaps we can attribute the tremendous concern for the younger generation to the long-haired, barefoot element. We beat the “seen but not heard” axiom by looking fully as obnoxious as we sound.

Ojai resident Nick Robertson when he was around 14 years old.

Our Town, Part 2-Social Life in Early Nordhoff

Our Town, Part 2 by Helen Baker Reynolds

Among the valley’s residents even in earlier times were families whose interests were not provincial. A reading club and a Chautauqua group had been formed for the purpose of study, and when mother started a Shakespeare Club it too became a focus of studious effort. The members even, from time to time, enacted Shakespearean plays. Mother, herself, in the role of Lady Macbeth, attained a degree of local acclaim. She was troubled by the necessity of saying, “Out, damned spot,” but salved her conscience by saying “damned” very quickly and almost inaudibly.

A center of community life was our Presbyterian church. Unimposing in design, it was nevertheless a joy to the eye because of the masses of climbing roses that transformed it into a bower. It stood cat-a-corner from our front gate and across from the grammar school. Church bells and school bells punctuated our days, and both rang out in the event of a fire.

In addition to regular Sunday services, many other worthy activities were centered on sound local charities: the Ladies’ Missionary Society; and a local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. All I remember about the WCTU is that each member wore a small white ribbon bow pinned to the front of her dress, and the Ojai group sometimes sponsored a program denouncing the Evils of Drink.

Besides church and temperance and study club activities, there were other events of importance scattered throughout the year. In very early times just before the turn of the century a festive event for the young social group had been an all-day tally-ho ride around the “Triangle” to Ventura, to Santa Paula, and return. Mrs. Lord’s musicales had become quite a social feature. Mrs. Lord was our teacher of music and one who would have graced the life of any larger community. She maintained and developed her own technique as a versatile musician while giving devoted care to her family and inspired instruction to pupils.

Mrs. Lord’s classes and her recitals enriched the simple life of our valley. (Editor note: Mrs. Lord’s daughter, Agnes Gally, carries on the family tradition today, as a violinist in the Ventura County Symphony and a local string quartet.)

An afternoon tea at the Thacher school was always a gracious event, and once every year the school invited the whole valley to a reception. In the era of taffeta petticoats there would be a great deal of rustling, and the white kid gloves were everywhere in evidence. Children attending with their parents would be starched and scrubbed and on such good behavior to be almost unrecognizable. Madam Thacher, as she was always called (the mother of the headmaster) presided at all such affairs with the utmost charm and dignity. Whenever I would be led up to greet her I would have the dazzled sensation of being presented at court.

The Tournament was a tremendous event in our otherwise quiet valley. Flowers lent an added note of gaiety; backstops and grandstands were bedecked with massive bunches of lupine and California poppies.

On Saturday evening at the close of the tournament, the Thacher school held a dance. When I was a child, no one from our family attended these festive gathering, for mother disapproved of dancing. Later, when I was in high school, I questioned mother about her scruples with a good deal of tearful emotion. Why was the dancing wrong, I wanted to know? How about mother’s own Grandmother Day, who danced the mazurka so beautifully?

Mother was sympathetic. She was not forbidding me to dance, she explained; I might dance if I thought it was right. But she felt it her duty to tell me (here she showed a great deal of embarrassment) that modern dances such as the waltz, and now others she had heard spoken of as the one-step and two-step and fox trot, were likely to rouse the baser impulses in men and boys. Of course, when her grandmother was young, dancing had been quite different. There seemed little reason to fear the moral effect of the mazurka.

Living close to the village center, mother’s scruples perhaps were confirmed by the character of the public dances occasionally held in the grammar school assembly hall. For all I know, these dances may not have been quite innocuous. They were noisy, however, and to judge by the sounds, not excessively refined. The Hoodlums, who either attended or looked through the windows, uttered rowdy whoops and catcalls above the sounds of music and uproarious shouts of laughter.

Immured in our Snug Little World nearby, we heard the sounds of revelry as echoes straight from hell. No one of us, as I recall, ever commented on the noise from the schoolhouse. Mother would have felt embarrassed to take open cognizance of such goings-on, and from her, our mentor, the rest of us took our cue.

Early Stories of Ojai, Part VII (Downtown Nordhoff)

Early Stories of Ojai, Part VII (Downtown Nordhoff) by Howard Bald
Written in 1972 by longtime Ojai resident Howard Bald.

Main Street of Nordhoff

Nordhoff (now Ojai) has generally been described as a quiet, peaceful little place, and generally it was. Several oak trees strung along Main Street from Tom Clark’s livery stable [Ojai Village Pharmacy] to Schroff’s harness shop [Ojai Cleaners] furnished the only shade, for there was no arcade until 1917.

There were three gaps in the row of buildings on the north side of Main Street. One was between Lagomarsino’s saloon and Archie McDonald’s blacksmith shop at the east end of the business block [the Hub], and Barrow’s hardware store stood alone. There was an alley on both the east and west side of that building, which I think was the site of the present hardware store [Rains].

Corner of Montgomery and Main looking west.

The east alley was used by pedestrians. I think the board sidewalk prevented vehicles going through. But the sidewalk ended at the west corner of Barrow’s hardware, so that alley was quite generally used by horsemen as well as pedestrians.

West of that alley was Bray’s plumbing shop, and from there on to Signal street was the livery stable with its buggy sheds, corrals, and hay sheds. West of Signal on the site of the Oaks Hotel stood a small, whitewashed, clapboard building where Chet Cagnacci was born at the turn of the century and later, I believe, Tommie Clark.

Corner of Signal and Main, looking east.

Across the street about the site of Van Dyke’s Travel Agency [Library Book Store] stood Dave Raddick’s residence, then easterly a break then the meat market [The Jester]. On the southwest corner of Signal and Main was The Ojai newspaper printing office where the theater now stands and easterly across the street, where the present post office is located, was Charley Gibson’s blacksmith shop. There was a gap between the blacksmith shop and Lauch Orton’s plumbing shop, the barber shop and post office. Through that gap could be seen the Berry Villa, which is now the Post office employee parking place.

A little distance east of the post office, briefly, stood C.B. Stevens little grocery store, then the entrance and exit to the Ojai Inn, which is now our city park. A leaky, redwood horse trough and a hitch rail extended onto the barranca. It was always shady, and teams of horses and buggies were customarily tied there while the out of town folks did their shopping.

The Ojai Inn.

I once had a Plymouth Rock hen who would bring her brood through the alley between the saloon and blacksmith shop to scratch around where the horses were tied. Sometimes she would miscalculate and be overtaken by darkness, so hen and chicks would simply fly up on a vacant spot on the hitch rail and settle down for the night. Our stable and chicken coop was just back of Dr. Hirsch’s office [Dr. Phelps], and more than once at about bedtime, I would carry them back to their own nest.

Schroff’s harness shop east of the barranca stood high enough from the ground that one could step from a saddle horse onto the porch, which was convenient for ladies riding sidesaddle to dismount and mount.

The corner of South Montgomery and Main was open and was used mainly by Thacher boys to tie their

Presbyterian Church on southeast corner of Main & Montgomery.

horses while attending services at the Presbyterian church, which then stood where [Jersey Mike’s] parking lot now is. That building is now the Nazarene Church [Byron Katie’s headquarters] on N. Montgomery and Aliso.

I could go on and on and on with details of the village of Nordhoff at the turn of the century, but I fear that would become too boring, so I will get on with some of my memories of the activities of the time.