Jeffrey, age 4, with his older brother, Stephen
Growing Up in Working Class Meiners Oaks
This was a classic 1950’s working-class neighborhood where we played ball and did bicycle stunts on El Rio. Back then we also had the luxury of 24 hour-access to the school’s sports fields and courts, playground equipment, and even a covered picnic area. This is where I played Little League and there was also a Quonset hut where we held our Boy Scout meetings. For years when we visited my parents, my kids, used those recreation facilities every day. I was disappointed to learn when I moved back that this area is behind a locked gate. Meiners Oaks has no outdoor recreation park. I want to find a way to reopen our public school recreation area for use by the entire community.
One other interesting aspect of our neighborhood was how many children of janitors, carpenters, bread-truck drivers and factory shift foremen went on to graduate from college and graduate school and have distinguished careers. For example, my good childhood friend Leslie Faucet, now retired, served as the Associate Superintendent of the Schools for the State of California, the Associate Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, the second largest in the state, and the Superintendent of the Poway Unified School District. I have been asked many times why this was possible for working-class children of the 50s and 60s, but rarely happens now. First, Ojai had one of the best school systems in the state and most children from families of all income levels sent their children to their neighborhood elementary school. All those children then came together to attend Matilija Junior High and Norhoff High School. Also public colleges and universities were tuition free. Our parents and teachers had expectations for all of us, regardless of our parents’ socioeconomic status.
Today, District 2, which includes the communities surrounding both Meiners Oaks and Mire Monte elementary schools, is the most demographically diverse school election district in the valley. I see this as a strength. One third of the district residents are Latinx, which is about double that of any other election district in the school system. This district also has the highest percentage of English Language Learners and students from socio-economically disadvantaged families. While it was mostly working class when I grew up here, the neighborhoods today are a delightful mix of working and middle class families and residents. And the El Robler business district is the hippest and most eclectic shopping area in the valley.