explore ojai

Our Institutional Memory

by Bret Bradigan

“When the great lord passes, the wise peasant bows deeply, and silently farts” — Old Ethiopian proverb

We dedicate this issue to the memory of David “Mr. Ojai” Mason. He was an occasional OQ contributor, a frequent fan and occasional critic, a joy to know and full of insider information about Ojai that was often slightly naughty. That’s what made him so fun, and why he will be missed so much. The opening quote above captures his irreverent humor.

He was deeply interested in the goings on in Ojai — the lives and loves of its citizens. There’s a misconception about gossip. It isn’t always bad and, in fact, it most often is not bad at all. It’s a form of social grooming that shows our interest in each other. We are social creatures. David Mason exemplified this deep and caring interest in each other and we can only hope that his example will be emulated. We at Team OQ promise that we will do what we can to keep that spirit of care, concern and community and institutional memory alive.

That spirit was only display across a wide spectrum of opinions on the issue of tourism. After a group of citizens concerned about Ojai being overrun by tourism started organizing a ballot measure, the City Council voted to end funding for the Visitors Bureau. These debates are nothing new for Ojai. In fact, among Patricia Clark Doerner’s extensive collection of family correspondence is a letter from a frequent winter visitor to an Ojai friend. “We are so conservative we hate to have the charming simplicity of the place changed,” wrote Alice B. Chase, of Lynn, Mass. The offense? A bridge was built over San Antonio Creek, so now a stagecoach from Ventura’s railroad station could make it all the way to Ojai in less than one day. The date? Oct. 25, 1916. Times change, but the sentiments — that this place is special and deserves preserving — never do. This dynamic, creative tension is key to understanding our appeal. We care because Ojai is worth it. Because people feel such a deep and personal connection to this “smiling vale,” you’ll find as many different Ojais as they are people who love this place. Yesterday’s tourists are tomorrow’s activists.

There is a scarcely a moment to catch our breaths between Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekend. Not coincidentally, we time our Fall issue to cover this busy season.

This issue marks two important anniversaries, Monica Ros School turns 75 and the Ojai Valley Museum turns 50. Check out Sarah Howery Hart’s and Misty Hall’s respective stories on the meaning of these institutions to our community.

Another institution is Dennis Shives, as profiled by Mark Lewis. If you were seeking an artist who embodied Ojai’s spirit you’d never find a better example than Dennis Shives. His art is his life, and vice versa. The Ojai Valley Museum’s exhibit of his work debuts Oct. 14th. For key, comic insights into Ojai’s particular pecularities, check out Jesse Phelps’ cover profile on Kim Maxwell’s “Townies” Podcast. As usual, our unusually talented columnists Peter “Badger” Bellwood, Ilona Saari and Bennett Barthelemy, help us understand this community with insight and grace, and maybe even a laugh or six. Jerry Dunn’s story on one architect’s quest to restore a George Washington Smith house to its original grace, integrating modern function ties together the often-contrasting strands of Ojai life — our need to preserve the past as we shape the future.  Please read on. We hope you’ll come away with common understandings with your fellow readers. This is what we do, and why we do it.