This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ojai Revisited

            One of the things my father liked to do when I was growing up was to take us out for a Sunday drive. We’d leave our home in Glendale (or, earlier, Altadena) after breakfast and spend the better part of the day on the road, typically heading up north and getting into the countryside.
            In the 1930s my father had driven a gasoline tanker truck, bringing fuel to Shell Oil stations between Ventura and Paso Robles. A lot of the places we visited on these drives were places he used to cover in his fueling routes. It now occurs to me that he was revisiting scenes from his past and trying to get a sense of how things had changed.
            The rest of us were along for lunch. If we were around Ventura at lunchtime, it would often be at a coffee shop called Loop’s. Again, I’m guessing, but it was probably a regular stop for him back in the day.

The Road to Ojai

            If we were up in Ventura, we might keep going to Ojai (pronounced OH-high). Originally a farming valley with a lot of citrus and avocado trees, it became, early in the 20th Century, an artists’ colony and vacation getaway for people from Los Angeles. In fact, the first vacation we took as a family was to a place in Meiners Oaks, which is just up the road from Ojai, and we went there on a couple of weekend getaways as well.
            It’s probably been 45 years since I was last in Ojai, but this week Linda and I are there for a short vacation. After a foggy summer along the Santa Cruz coast, we wanted a spell of dry heat, and we’re getting what we bargained for. As I write this, it’s 97 degrees outside.
            We’re staying at the Ojai Retreat, which is on a hilltop just outside of town. Looking out the window of our room, we can see the Ojai Valley below us, and next to the building, with the same view, is a patio area that ends at a stone fence and almost sheer dropoff. We are very quickly getting very relaxed.

Not How I Remember It

            Given how long ago the last visit was, my memories of Ojai are more than a bit sketchy. I had definitely forgotten how high and steep the surrounding mountains are. The town itself is fairly nice, in a Carmel-touristy sort of way, and the powers that be seem to have done a reasonably good job of keeping sprawl and cookie-cutter development from getting too out of hand. Judging from the signs by some of the open areas, there is an active land conservancy at work.
            And already, I’ve had one case of sudden recall. Yesterday, when we were going for an afternoon drive around the area, we took State Route 150 east out of town and over a hill to the next valley, then the one beyond that. Something about it seemed familiar, then a memory came back.
            It was a Sunday in October or November in the early to mid 1960s that we were driving on that same road in the middle of the afternoon, with the car radio tuned to KMPC Los Angeles, where Bob Kelly was calling the Los Angeles Rams football game. I’m sure of it. My mother and sister were no doubt not as enthralled by the football game as Dad and I were, but they raised no objection. And however boring the game may have been for them, they at least had some pretty scenery to look at.