By Bill Buchanan
My first visit to the Ojai Valley was almost exactly 10 years ago. My wife and I came into town in June of 2000 to look at the area while we considered the purchase of the Ojai Valley News and Visitors Guide from Ren and Victoria Adam. My immediate reaction was, “Wow — this is the nicest small town I have ever seen.”
And I have seen plenty of small towns. My wife and I are both from small towns. The newspaper company I used to work for at one time owned and managed 50 newspapers in 20 states. I worked at eight of those newspapers, and I eventually visited all but two of the markets in which we did business. So I know something about small towns and small-town life. In all that time I have seen nothing that compares to Ojai.
Ava and I immediately took a liking to Ojai, Vic and their dog, Maggie. The jury is still out on Ren. OK, I guess we liked him, too.
After we bought the newspaper, Ren and Vic took us under their wing and introduced us to a several local people. We met great people like Bill Monot, Lori Wyatt, Anne Williamson, Bill Moses, Patsy Turner, Bruce Holley, Bob Kemper and sweet Betty Crosby.
I learned that “Southern hospitality” was alive and well in Ojai. People were friendly and welcoming from the start. In fact, the people of the Ojai Valley are friendlier and more open to “outsiders” joining the community than any place I have ever lived. I guess people here realize what a good deal it is to live in a cosmopolitan town, yet not have to suffer the crime, traffic and general grief of a large city. They share a “Can you believe we are actually living here?” mentality, and can certainly understand why someone would visit, fall in love with the place, and then want to move here.
We immediately felt at home here, and have been back several times to visit. But now, I am not just visiting. I have become the editor and publisher of the Ojai Valley News and Visitors Guide, and will be here on a daily basis.
I am energized at the prospect. I look forward to meeting the people of the community and enjoying the many amenities that Ojai offers. I was able to get a little bit of a head start on that the other night. Kathy Eicher, who works here at the newspaper, left me a note about the chamber mixer last Thursday night. Her husband, Scott, who is the chamber’s chief executive officer, was nice enough to come by and personally invite me. I was about to call Ren to see if he was going when I heard a booming, “Where is he?” from outside my office door. Ren had come by to take me to the mixer and once again came through admirably introducing me to as many people as he could. Vic couldn’t come along as she was home packing for a class reunion trip, where I am sure she wowed them.
Among those I met (please forgive me for leaving some of you out) were Shareen Torres, who did a lovely job of hosting the event at 52 Weeks of Peace, Pete Kaiser, Gayle Bertsch, Geoff Wells, Joan Roberts, Rikki Horne, Andi Bloom and Kathy Hartley.
I also ran into a couple of people I already knew, Sheila Cluff and Bob Kemper. They both looked great. Of course, Sheila always looks great. I have known Bob for 10 years and have never seen him looking fitter. I need to drop some weight, so I asked Bob about his regimen. Unfortunately, it apparently includes watching what you eat and lots of exercise. Like the rest of America, I was hoping for the easy way out.
So I got acquainted with a lot of people in a short amount of time. The quickest way for me to get acquainted with the readers of the newspaper is to abuse you with my newspaper column, which I plan to write weekly.
Writing a newspaper column is somewhat akin to raising a child. When it is good, you are proud of it. When it is bad, you are mortified. And since you are raising this “child” in front of thousands of readers, you want it to behave in a way that reflects positively upon you. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. So please bear with me.
I look forward to getting to know each other.