In 1913 the towns of California were still very rustic. They were mostly new towns. Even the old towns like San Francisco or San Diego were still relatively young, going back to the gold rush years just sixty years earlier.
Photo courtesy of the Oxnard Public Library
Oxnard was a new town, just barely ten years old back then. It was founded by Henry Oxnard who started a sugar beet factory in the farmlands between Hueneme and the settlement called El Rio. The factory was a success and the town grew around the factory.
The caption on this hand tinted postcard says: “largest beet sugar refinery in the world”
It was still a frontier way of life. Families used to visit each other and there really wasn’t much else for decent people to do for entertainment. There were the usual beer joints and gambling rooms downtown. China Ally had its own particular vices.
When it was dark, people went to sleep. Reading by lamplight was an expensive luxury. One of the things the grown-ups did for their children was tell them stories. I remember my mama telling us about the Thousand and One Nights. I could almost see these places in my mind as my mama told us her stories.
The old ones, John’s people had their own set of stories. They told us about a man named Joaquin Murrieta and how he once robbed their father of his fortune in gold.
We spent many evening hours listening to these and other stories. I remember the story of La Llorona and El Cucúi. Sometimes I was scared, sometimes I thought they were funny.
As I grew older and I learned how to speak English, I discovered that there were many stories to be told. Many stories that were frightening and many that were all true. I wanted to hear them, I wanted to read them, and so I wanted learn to read. By the time I finished high school I had read nearly every book there was in our public library.
For many years and this was the old library building in downtown Oxnard. It was a classic Carnegie library. It is a museum nowadays, I’m told.