Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Saturday in Ventura: History and Community

In addition to the round-robin budget workshop, I attended three other community events on Saturday. They ranged the gamut from delightful to sad, but all were reminders of what a wonderful city Ventura is – and how lucky we are to have such a rich history.

Before the budget workshop, I was honored to throw out the first ball at opening day for the Montalvo Little League As with the Tri-Valley Girls Softball League, it was great to see more than 300 boys and their parents all excited about opening day. But this opening day was special – because it was the 50th anniversary of the Montalvo Little League, and some of the folks who were there at the beginning were present on Saturday.

Montalvo Little League began in 1960 when Montalvo resident Mickey McLean got it going and worked to construct a field on Bristol Road next to the packing plant. On Saturday, not only were 300+ Little Leaguers present – so was Mickey’s widow Pat and their two boys, Mike and Mark. The boys are now in their fifties, but Mike was the first Little Leaguer in Montalvo.

I warned the 10-year-old catcher that I’m a lefty and he did a great job. The ump generously called a strike, giving me far more benefit of the doubt than most of my constituents usually do.

After the budget workshop, I traveled – along with most of the other councilmembers – to Community Presbyterian Church for a memorial service for the beloved Hank Brokaw, who with his wife Ellen founded Brokaw Nursery at just about the same time as the Montalvo Little League was founded.

Around City Hall, Hank was best known as the father of our community services director, Elena Brokaw. So it’s a little easy for us to forget that Hank – who grew up in Whittier, went to Harvard, and studied cultural anthropology at the University of Chicago – was one of the true pioneers in the Southern California avocado business. Among other things, Brokaw Nursery revolutionized the avocado rootstock business in the 1970s, helping the industry to grow. Hank and Ellen have truly been mainstays in the agricultural community here in Ventura County, and Ellen continues to have more dedication and energy to agriculture and its people than anyone I know.

My heart goes out to Ellen and her children and grandchildren, but this sad event was also a kind of a celebration of one man’s wonderful life and also the industry that is so deeply rooted, one might say, in our community.

Finally I stopped by Barnes & Noble to pick up Glenda Jackson’s new book, Ventura Then and Now, which has just come up from Arcadia Publishing.

I’m sure many of you have purchased some of Glenda’s previous books about the history of Ventura. This one’s got terrific photographs comparing historic and current buildings and locations throughout Ventura. I really like flipping through the book to see not only the contrast between then and now, but also the change and growth in our community over the decades. Thanks to Glenda for continuing to care about our history.

All in all, a pretty wonderful Saturday afternoon in Ventura.

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