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Updated: 1 hour 35 min ago

9 local Albertsons, Vons stores set to be sold

3 hours 18 min ago

A Washington state-based supermarket chain plans to buy nine local Vons and Albertsons stores in a transaction linked to the $7.6 billion sale of Safeway to the investors group that owns Albertsons.

In the Ventura County area, Haggen Inc. plans to buy seven Albertsons and two Vons in Camarillo, Newbury Park, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village. They are among 146 under the umbrellas of Safeway, which owns Vons, or Albertsons that the company plans to buy in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona and convert to the Haggen name.

The Bellingham Herald reports the sale of the 146 stores is required under federal review of Safeway’s sale to an investment group that owns Albertsons and that’s led by Cerberus Capital Management.

According to The Herald, the deal calls for Haggen to purchase:

  • Albertsons, 2400 Las Posas Road, Camarillo.
  • Vons, 2100 Newbury Road, Newbury Park.
  • Albertsons, 920 N. Ventura Road, Oxnard.
  • Albertsons, 2800 Cochran St., Simi Valley.
  • Vons, 660 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley.
  • Albertsons, 5135 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley.
  • Albertsons, 1736 Avenida De Los Arboles, Thousand Oaks.
  • Albertsons, 7800 Telegraph Road, Ventura.
  • Albertsons, 5770 Lindero Canyon Road, Westlake Village.

 

Haggen said it plans to retain the current store management teams and give other employees the opportunity to become employees of Haggen as their stores are converted.

If Haggen’s plans, which were announced Friday, get Federal Trade Commission approval, the company based in Bellingham, Washington, would expand from 18 stores and 16 pharmacies with 2,000 employees in Washington and Oregon to 164 stores and 106 pharmacies with more than 10,000 employees in five states.

Details of the Haggen deal haven’t been released.

“With this pivotal acquisition, we will have the opportunity to introduce many more customers to the Haggen experience,” said John Caple, chairman of the Haggen board of directors and partner at Comvest Partners, which owns majority stake in Haggen. “Our Pacific Northwest grocery store chain has been committed to local sourcing, investing in the communities we serve, and providing genuine service and homemade quality since it was founded in 1933. We will continue our focus on sourcing and investing locally even with this exciting expansion.”

Haggen said the expanded company would be led by CEOs John Clougher and Bill Shaner. Clougher primarily would be responsible for Washington and Oregon operations, while Shaner would oversee operations in California, Nevada and Arizona.

After the close of the transaction, the purchased stores’ transition to the Haggen name would occur in phases during the first half of 2015.

“We warmly welcome these new employees and stores into the Haggen family. The stores are well run and very successful, thanks to the dedicated store teams,” Clougher said. “We want to retain these existing teams while allowing our growing company to build on their past successes. We plan to adopt the best practices of our new stores to offer a superior shopping experience for our valued customers in all of our stores.”

Added Caple: “We committed to this acquisition because we knew we had the experience, talent and drive to get it done. The strength of our management and store support teams, combined with the talent of the store teams at each of the new store locations, will enable Haggen to be a successful West Coast grocer.”

Founded in 1933, Haggen Inc. is Washington the state’s sixth-largest private company, with most shares owned by Comvest Partners, according to the company’s website. Comvest Partners is a private investment firm providing equity and debt capital to middle-market companies across the U.S. Since 2000, it has invested more than $2 billion in capital in more than 140 public and private companies, according to Haggen.

The Haggen deal is the largest of several sales related to the sale of Safeway to the Albertsons investors. Others include Associated Food Stores’ purchase of eight stores in Montana and Wyoming, Associated Wholesale Grocers’ purchase of 12 stores in Texas and Supervalu’s purchase of two Albertsons stores in Everett and Woodinville, Washington.

Make resolution to prevent stormwater pollution

4 hours 31 min ago

The end of the year is nearing, which means it's time to reflect on accomplishments of the past year and set goals for the coming New Year. It's a good practice for self-improvement for everyone, including large, multiagency government programs.

The Ventura Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program does that in its 2013-14 annual report. The program is a collaboration of the 10 cities in Ventura County, county government and the Ventura County Watershed Protection District.

These agencies have joined to more efficiently implement state requirements to reduce pollution in urban runoff and improve the water quality of Ventura County's creeks and shorelines.

When it rains, water runs off streets, roofs and driveways into storm drains that direct it to local creeks and the ocean. The runoff picks up pollution along the way. These agencies are responsible for any pollution leaving their storm drain systems.

The annual report is a complete accounting of all these agencies' urban runoff pollution prevention efforts over the past year. The word "complete" is not an understatement. At almost 2,000 pages, it's an extremely detailed examination of what we know about the quality of stormwater runoff countywide.

Beach water quality in Ventura County is still among the best in the state, but that doesn't mean we've solved all the problems. While bacteria are rarely found at levels that could cause health problems at our beaches, there are always much higher and potentially harmful levels in storm drains and creeks during storm flows.

Exactly where all the bacteria come from is a mystery, so the stormwater program has embarked on cutting-edge science of analyzing bacterial DNA in the water to narrow down the sources. If it turns out the bacteria are associated with human activities, then the stormwater program can focus on those.

Detergents have also been identified in stormwater, usually during small rain events. Not surprisingly, if anyone is washing equipment in the gutter, or even their car in the driveway, that sudsy water will leave a residue of detergent (possibly along with automotive fluids and metals from brake dust) that will be washed off by the next rain.

Another new initiative is unifying digital storm drain maps of all the cities and developed areas of the county. This will smooth the way in determining the best locations for projects that can infiltrate runoff to remove pollutants and save that water for future use.

Great strides can be achieved if everyone keeps an eye on the environment and remembers their homes are part of the watershed and their actions affect the quality of our creeks and beaches. Make New Year's resolutions to pick up after your pets every time, never wash equipment outside unless it can drain to landscaping, and make life easier by taking your car to an automated or self-service car wash to keep the soap out of the gutter.

If you are not one to take the easy road, then please read all 2,000 pages of the Ventura Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program 2013-14 Annual Report and learn how everyone can keep an eye on the environment by protecting our watersheds.

On the Net: http://www.VCStormwater.org; http://www.cleanwatershed.org

Arne Anselm is stormwater resources manager for the Ventura County Watershed Protection District. He can be reached at arne.anselm@ventura.org. Representatives of government or nonprofit agencies who want to submit articles on environmental topics for this column should contact Goldstein at 658-4312 or david.goldstein@ventura.org.

Police look for suspect in Ventura iPad robbery

December 20, 2014 - 10:55pm

Police search for suspect who robbed a man of two iPads Saturday in Ventura, officials said.

A 34-year-old Ventura man reported at 5:17 p.m. that he had been robbed of the devices outside his business in the 60 block of West Main Street.

The suspect notified the victim he was interested in purchasing the iPads after seeing an ad on Craigslist and the pair arranged to meet outside the victim's business. The suspect took the devices from the victim and got into a vehicle waiting nearby driven by a male, police said.

The victim reached into the car to take back the iPads, but the vehicle drove off and dragged him several feet before letting go of the car. He suffered minor scrapes to his legs and arms during the incident but declined medical treatment, authorities said.

The suspect's vehicle, described as a dark-colored sedan, was not found. The suspect who responded to the Craigslist ad was described as a 35-year-old man, officials said.

Local Roundup, Dec. 20

December 20, 2014 - 10:12pm

BOYS BASKETBALL

OXNARD 46, ST. BONAVENTURE 44

At Pacifica Triton Classic

Oxnard: Tournament MVP Matt Rodriguez scored 20 points and all-tournament selection Taylor Kirkham had 14 as the Yellowjackets won the championship game.

St. Bonaventure: Daruis Vines had 11 points, five rebounds and a block. All-tournament selection Jake Todey had 11 points and seven rebounds. All-tournament selection Thomas Frank had eight points.

Records: Oxnard 7-4, St. Bonaventure 5-6.

 

VENTURA 69, LOMPOC 44

At Pacifica Triton Classic, third-place game

Ventura: Dustin Houck had 21 points and five rebounds. Shea Stuart recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Bryce Fausset scored 11 points.

Record: Ventura 6-4.

 

PACIFICA 55, SANTA CLARA 48

At Pacifica Triton Classic

Pacifica: Deondre Vines scored 20 points and Diego Lopez added 10.

Santa Clara: Larry Grefalda had 16 points and five assists. Jake Mejia added 11 points and five rebounds. Brazil Sullivan recorded nine points and seven rebounds.

Record: Pacifica 4-4, Santa Clara 2-7.

 

CAMARILLO 66, CLEVELAND 47

At San Fernando Valley Invitational

Camarillo: Brandon Adair scored 18 points. Jonah Cottrell had eight points and 10 assists.

Record: Camarillo 5-5.

 

SIMI VALLEY 58, NORTH HOLLYWOOD 55 (OT)

At San Fernando Valley Invitational

Simi Valley: Kaden Young had 13 points. Kyle Fisher and Eric Arave each had 11 points. Kyle Hamilton had six points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.

Record: Simi Valley 4-4.

 

AGOURA 65, GRANT 42

At San Fernando Valley Invitational

Agoura: Hudson Miller scored 24 points and Ky Feldman had 11.

 

RIO MESA 67, BISHOP DIEGO 33

At Carpinteria Tournament

Rio Mesa: Ryan Abraham had 20 points. Garrett Bilby recorded 13 points and Rajon Martin added 12.

Record: Rio Mesa 2-6.

 

SANTA YNEZ 43, HUENEME 25

At Carpinteria Tournament

Hueneme: Osbaldo Andrade and Albert Perez each had seven points.

Record: Hueneme 0-3.

 

THOUSAND OAKS 62, HERITAGE WOODS 48

At Lahainaluna Tournament, semifinals

Thousand Oaks: Josh Hauser scored 22 points and Matt Hauser added 15. Derek Ludlow had nine points.

Record: Thousand Oaks 11-1.

 

NORDHOFF 52, CHANNEL ISLANDS 42

At Channel Islands

Channel Islands: Tim Burgess had 12 points, Luis Rizo had 11 and Sal Gonzalez had six.

Record: Channel Islands 1-4.

 

GRACE BRETHREN 60, GARDEN STREET ACADEMY 32

At Santa Barbara

Grace Brethren: Joey Gist and Jonathan Aguilar both scored 13 points.

Record: Grace Brethren 3-3.

 

GIRLS BASKETBALL

OXNARD 48, WESTLAKE 45

At Dos Pueblos Tournament

Oxnard: Alexis Salas had 17 points and five steals. Janesa Arenas added eight points, six assists and five rebounds.

Westlake: Ranika Guiton had 21 points.

Record: Oxnard 4-8.

 

ST. BONAVENTURE 45, BIRMINGHAM 42

At Dos Pueblos Tournament

St. Bonaventure: Crystal Altman and Clarissa Magallon each scored 11 points. Shelby Apostol had 10 points and seven rebounds. Adriana Clemons had five points and 14 rebounds.

Record: St. Bonaventure 6-7.

 

BUENA 61, ST. JOSEPH 40

At Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions

Buena: Amy Jameson recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Aaliyah Staples-West added 11 points, five rebounds and four steals. Rachel Jamroz had eight points and two rebounds.

Record: Buena 8-2.

 

EDISON 48, RIO MESA 42

At Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions

Rio Mesa: Bridgette Smith had 17 points, five steals and two assists. Cecelia Lucas scored 12 points.

Record: Rio Mesa 7-3.

 

SANTA YNEZ 61, NORDHOFF 46

At Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions

Nordhoff: Mikyla McGhee scored 18 points. Morgan Giove had 15 points and eight rebounds. Nina Miller had eight points and six assists.

Record: Nordhoff 4-7.

 

VENTURA 59, VISTA MURIETTA 51

At Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions

Ventura: Aubrey Knight had 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. Barbara Rangel added 12 points and five rebounds. Kyleesha Green had 10 points and five assists.

Record: Ventura 10-1.

 

OAKS CHRISTIAN 51, MISSION HILLS 45

At Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions

Oaks Christian: Roxy Barahman had 16 points and five rebounds. Savannah Lewis added nine points and six rebounds. Katie Campbell scored nine points.

Record: Oaks Christian 8-3.

 

GIRLS SOCCER

ROYAL 1, BUENA 0

At Buena Tournament

Royal: Zoe Hasenauer scored off assist by Ali Krause-Saravia in the 18th minute as the Highlanders won the tournament championship game.

Record: Royal 7-2-2.

 

ROYAL 2, MOORPARK 1

At Buena Tournament, semifinals

Royal: Jackie Morales scored off assist from Erin Sakamoto. Zoe Hasenauer scored the game-winner in 65th minute from pass by Ali Krause-Saravia. On Friday, Royal beat Valencia in penalty kicks after regulation ended in a 1-1 tie. Krause-Seravia scored in the 25th minute off an assist by Megan Henderson. Samantha Little, Bree Pilkington and Katie Kingsmore converted penalty kicks to seal the win.

 

OXNARD 2, MOORPARK 1

At Buena Tournament

Buena: In the third-place game, Jannelle Garcia scored the game-winner on an assist from Emily Neilan. Daisy Cervantes scored on a free kick. Oxnard lost to Buena 3-0 in its first game of the day.

Record: Oxnard 7-2.

 

PACIFICA 1, ST. BONAVENTURE 0; PACIFICA 5, HUENEME 0

At Buena Tournament

Pacifica: Against St. Bonaventure, Jacky Espinoza scored off an assist from Ashley Hernandez. Against Hueneme, Michelle Pena netted a hat trick. Sienna Magdaleno and Karen Gomez each scored a goal.

Record: Pacifica 3-3-2.

 

CAMARILLO 3, SAUGUS 1

At Buena Tournament

Camarillo: Courtney Apodaca, Annika Degenna and Jordan Centineo had goals.

 

SANTA PAULA 2, SAUGUS 0

At Buena Tournament

Santa Paula: Bailey Van Buren and Jazmin Ambriz each had a goal. Lizbeth Garcia and Jazmin Rostami had assists.

 

GRACE BRETHREN 2, HERITAGE CHRISTIAN 1

At Heritage Christian

Grace Brethren: Joana Schimmel scored off an assist by Sammi Fisher. Kalyn Lattimer scored off an assist by Avery Smithson. Kaity Halstead played well defensively.

Record: Grace Brethren 5-1.

 

BOYS SOCCER

ROYAL 4, GOLDEN VALLEY 0

At Moorpark High

Royal: Jonathan Martinez scored two goals off assists from Thomas Hogan and Anthony Manzanares. Carlos Vela scored a goal off an assist from Angel Rubalcava. Hogan also assisted on an own goal scored by Golden Valley. Angel Perez played well in the midfield. Fernando Lanuza and Conner Lott combined in goal for the shutout win.

Record: Royal 6-2-3.

 

GRACE BRETHREN 3, HERITAGE CHRISTIAN 3

At Heritage Christian

Grace Brethren: Caleb Funk scored two goals and Ryan Delaplane had two assists. Jake Denton scored a goal.

Record: Grace Brethren 0-1-1.

 

HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING

BUENA TAKES THIRD

At Channel Islands 10-way

Buena: Anthony Ross (220 pounds) and Juan Gutierrez (106) won their divisions. Paul Munoz (152) took third. D’Angelo Jones (113), Marquis Moreno (120) and Mina Morkos (145) each placed fourth. Adrian Munoz (160) finished fifth. The Bulldogs (14-2) finished third.

Rio Mesa: David Anaya (132) went 9-0 to win his division. Ricky Anaya (120), Mike Anaya (112), Zac Morris (170) and heavyweight Luis Gonzalez each went 8-1 and finished second.

 

GARLAND TAKES THIRD

At Ed Spring Holiday Classic, Brea Olinda

Thousand Oaks: Brendan Garland (152) finished third. Cameron Metcalf (126) came in fourth, Ryan Nelinger (195) was fifth and Scott Smith (132) came in eighth.

 

COMMUNITY COLLEGE MEN’S BASKETBALL

MOORPARK 73, ALOMAR 64

At Glendale Tournament

Moorpark: Reggie Dixon recorded a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Joshua Brooks scored 16 points. Austin Howell had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Larry Bush finished with 15 points and seven steals.

Record: Moorpark 9-7.

 

SAN BERNARDINO VALLEY 60, VENTURA 56

At College of the Sequois Tournament, semifinals

Ventura: Robert Hunt poured in 26 points and grabbed six rebounds. Elijah Brown had seven points and five assists. The Pirates play Pasadena on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the third-place game.

Records: Ventura 6-8, San Bernardino Valley 14-2.

 

COMMUNITY COLLEGE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

VENTURA 53, LONG BEACH CITY 49

At Ventura

Ventura: Makenna Murray had 16 points and six rebounds. Aubri Smith finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three assists. Brooke Zamora had eight points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Records: Ventura 10-5, Long Beach City 6-9.

Traditions are part of holiday baking

December 20, 2014 - 10:01pm

Name: Elizabeth Manning

City: Ventura

Specialty: Baking

Secret: Traditional recipes that have been handed down

It’s a wonderful life: In Elizabeth Manning’s household the holidays don’t begin until early December, when she christens the season with her monumental batches of Christmas cookies. She bakes nearly a dozen varieties, many recipes courtesy of her grandmother, Oma. For years, Manning and her mother have baked these delicate butter cookies — decorated with bright hues of royal icing — that friends and family affectionately call “Manning cookies.” “Although we bake them primarily for Christmas, we also make them for other holidays and important occasions,” Manning said. But the most cherished tradition is when the entire Manning family — including her parents and siblings, Katie, Brian and John — bakes a special batch of cookies Christmas Eve, and then decorate them together. “It’s a wonderful time for everyone,” she said.

Magical kingdom: When her brother John moved to San Francisco, Manning made it a point of sending care packages of his favorite cookies — chocolate chip and cookies ’n cream — and some brownies. Manning works at the headquarters for Kaplan International in Santa Barbara, but still manages to dedicate a large portion of her weekends to baking. “Baking is very relaxing, so I always make the time to do it,” Manning explains. Then there’s the satisfaction of preparing something special for her friends and family to enjoy. There’s something else, too, something she calls “that bit of magic.” “You begin with a list of ingredients,” she says, “and what you end up is something totally different. If you change things, it turns out differently.”

Right brain creativity: Last summer marked the second year she entered baked goods at the Ventura County Fair. Her frosted butter cookies nabbed first place in 2013 and earned second-place honors in 2014. But it was her gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that received a blue ribbon this year and generated the greatest buzz. “Because my friends require gluten-free, I have been working with gluten-free recipes to challenge myself,” she noted. “It’s been a wonderful learning experience.” Manning prepares a gluten-free version of her signature butter cookies, as well as a gluten-free chocolate wine cake and gluten-free banana chocolate chip muffins. “Baking allows me to be creative and use a different part of my brain,” she said. “When it’s been a rough week, some people put on the TV. But I bake.”

‘Manning Cookies’ (Butter Cookies)

Ingredients

3 cups flour

¾ cup sugar

1 cup butter

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

1½ teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons cream/milk

Directions

1 Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla and egg, mixing well.

2 Slowly blend in the dry ingredients. If desired, chill the dough for 1 hour.

3 Roll out the dough on a floured surface, one-third at a time, to about 1/8-inch thickness.

4 Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters.

5 Bake at 400 degrees for 5-8 minutes, until edges are just lightly browned.

6 Once cooled, frost the cookies with royal icing and decorate as desired.

Royal Icing

Ingredients

3 tablespoons meringue powder

4 cups sifted powder sugar

6 tablespoons water (plus extra to thin frosting as needed)

Directions

1 Beat all of the ingredients until the icing forms stiff peaks (about 10 minutes on high speed).

2 Scoop out about half and use extra water to thin until the frosting can be easily spread.

3 Dye the frosting using food coloring. (I recommend using concentrated color paste).

4 Use this frosting as a base coat on your cookies. Once the base coat is dry, use the remaining frosting, dyed to desired colors, to decorate.

To nominate an amateur cook to be Cook du Jour, email DeAnn Justesen at dajustesen@vcstar.com.

Crews respond to report of shock at Ventura mall

December 20, 2014 - 9:53pm

Rescue crews responded Saturday night to a report of a serious electrical shock at a department store in Pacific View mall in Ventura.

The call was received at 8:26 for the incident in the 400 block of South Mills Road, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Police and rescue crews said no one was transported to a hospital.

1 extricated in Simi Valley crash

December 20, 2014 - 9:19pm

From staff reports

One person was trapped after their vehicle hit a parked car Saturday in Simi Valley, officials said.

The crash was reported at 8:58 p.m. in the 1300 block of Hartley Avenue.

Both cars overturned in the crash, trapping one person.

The person was extricated 9:07 p.m. and suffered minor injuries.

Small businesses want a piece of holiday action

December 20, 2014 - 8:30pm

Like most small retail businesses at this time of year, Ashley Pope is doing everything she can to get people to buy holiday gifts from her store.

The owner of Spicetopia — a spice, tea and gourmet food shop in downtown Ventura — has brought in new inventory, set up Christmas displays, hired extra staff, hosted a wine tasting, volunteered to collect gifts for needy children inside the store, and is offering custom holiday gift baskets.

Because November and December account for about half of her store's annual sales, Pope knows she has to make the most of the holiday season.

"It's everything," said Pope. "We have to have a good holiday season in order to be in business. The season is the time when we make money to make improvements to the store next year and bring in new products. We really depend on the community to shop local."

While big-box retailers and online megastores are often the default choice for holiday gift buying, people who spend their dollars at smaller, independently owned businesses like Pope's can have a much bigger impact on their community, small business advocates say. Studies show that dollars spent at small, locally owned businesses are more likely to circulate back into the area's economy and support local jobs.

A study by private research firm Civic Economics on a neighborhood in Chicago found that small businesses returned $68 of every $100 in revenue to the local economy, compared with only $43 by large chains. Another study in San Francisco showed local businesses created almost twice as many jobs as large chains with the revenue they received.

"The profits from (local) business cycle in the local economy," said Marsha Bailey founder and CEO of Women's Economic Ventures, an organization that helps area entrepreneurs. "When you have a big business that's located somewhere else, the profits go back and are distributed to the shareholders and go back to the company headquarters."

Small retailers are a large part of the Ventura County economy. The county has 2,396 retail firms, which represent over 10 percent of all area businesses, according to information provided by the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County. These firms employ 37,940 people, about a sixth of all payroll jobs in the county.

Shopping locally isn't just good for small retailers' bottom lines, it can benefit consumers too. Because small stores are competing against much larger retailers, they have to offer shoppers something they can't find at a big-box store. Usually that's more unique and local products, and personalized customer service, said Ray Bowman, director of Ventura County's Small Business Development Center.

"In order to survive as a small retailer you really have to be able to differentiate yourself, and put a lot of service and effort into your shopping experience," he said. "You can go from one city to another and the big retailers are almost identical, but you go into small retailers and find gifts and items that you're not going to find in other stores. That's part of the fun."

Trudi Friedman, owner of Just Trudi's Boutique, a gift and shipping store in Simi Valley, prides herself on offering unique items and "outrageous" customer service to her shoppers. This year she's hosting parties at her store, and offering a different discount on each of the 12 days before Christmas.

"You've got to make it fun and you've got to keep it creative," she said. "When you come in, we joke and kid with you and make you feel like you're part of the family."

While buying all of your holiday gifts from small stores might not be feasible, Bailey says even just making a few purchases at locally owned businesses can help boost the vitality of community stores.

"People who really favor buying local aren't saying every dollar you spend needs to be spent at a local store," she said. "But if you just really make an effort to shift your habits so that at least 10 percent of your spending is done at a local store, it can make a significant difference in your own local economy."

John Muir remembered a century later

December 20, 2014 - 8:00pm

A hundred years ago this Christmas Eve, the great naturalist John Muir lay alone in a Los Angeles hospital bed. The mighty lungs that for decades had propelled him like a gazelle through mile after mile of wilderness had at last betrayed him, as the grippe that had plagued his last years became pneumonia.

Around 10 a.m. he took a sudden turn for the worse, and 20 minutes later he died. He was 76.

It was not the death Muir likely would have chosen. During his first summer in the Sierra 45 years earlier, Muir had a recurring dream in which he surfed an avalanche of water and rock to the floor of Yosemite Valley. As he later described it: “Where could a mountaineer find a more glorious death!”

Muir’s unbridled enthusiasm for wilderness, revealed through a poetic gift unmatched among his contemporaries, made him a living legend in the conservation movement. He was a wilderness patriot who embodied our highest aspirations as a people, a mystic whose vision of nature seemed to arc like an electric charge through the medium of his prose: “We are now in the mountains and they are in us,” he once wrote, “kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”

Muir manned the ramparts to defend nature at a pivotal moment in American history. After more than two centuries of our efforts as a people to subdue the wilderness, the very idea of its survival was at stake. That Muir and his compatriots were able to slow the momentum of that national imperative bears witness in large part to his unshakable vision. And he had no illusions about the magnitude of the struggle:

“The battle we have fought and are still fighting for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, ” he told his followers. “We cannot expect to see the end of it.”

Today, we take for granted thousands of square miles of national parks and pristine wilderness, but a century ago preservation was hardly a foregone conclusion. In his day, the “Father of the National Parks” was as maligned as any idealist with a righteous cause.

Muir was dismissed by rapacious resource-grabbers as a sentimentalist. He was derided as a “faker,” “radical amateur” and “nature lover” — a smear roughly equivalent to today’s “tree-hugger.” Yet nothing deterred him. In his last great cause, the fight against the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite, he thundered like an Old Testament prophet: “Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.”

The loss of Hetch Hetchy broke Muir’s heart. He even lamented that perhaps, if a railroad had been built into Hetch Hetchy, exposing the valley to tourism, it might have been saved. He died a year later.

Early years

Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, on April 21, 1838, the third of eight children. The Muirs emigrated when John was 11 and settled on a Wisconsin farm. John displayed an early, lively intelligence that somehow survived the beatings his father administered in forcing his son to memorize the Bible. Muir attended the University of Wisconsin for a time, excelling in botany and geology.

Contrary to his later reputation as a starry-eyed opponent of progress, Muir was no Luddite. As a young man he designed many useful contraptions, including a machine that fed horses, a barometer, and his famous “early rising machine” — an alarm clock that put the sleeper out of bed in the morning. He did not believe in “blind opposition to progress,” he later wrote, but rather “opposition to blind progress.”

“Blind” progress was almost his fate. Some years after leaving the farm, an industrial accident temporarily robbed him of his sight. When he regained it six weeks later, he committed his life to studying nature, and set off to see the world. He arrived in San Francisco Bay at age 30 and left immediately, on foot, for Yosemite, where his eyes were opened to his life’s purpose. “This is true freedom,” he wrote of the mountains that would become his spiritual home, “a good, practical sort of immortality.”

He explored relentlessly, traveling alone and carrying “only a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, and a copy of Emerson.” He became so well known that visitors to Yosemite Valley were soon asking to meet the eccentric Mr. Muir. His storytelling, familiarity with the terrain, and knowledge of natural history drew tourists and scientists alike. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people,” he later wrote, “are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.”

Not long after his idol Ralph Waldo Emerson visited him, he began to take writing more seriously, penning accounts of perilous assents of Sierra peaks, the joyous scamper up a tree during a storm to feel the fullness of nature’s power, the terrifying yet exhilarating crossing of a glacier in Alaska — not to mention treatises that argued for the glacial origins of the valley that first met with derision.

By 1892, the year he helped found the Sierra Club, he had become a celebrity. In May, 1903, at age 65, Muir spent several days virtually alone in the back country with President Theodore Roosevelt, a stay that resulted in the consolidation of Yosemite National Park under federal control.

Over the course of his life, Muir’s spiritual growth eventually led him away from his father’s harsh Calvinism to a kind of trickle-up theology, wherein the divine was derived from nature instead of the other way around, with Yosemite Valley as its grand cathedral.

“In God’s wildness,” he wrote, “lies the hope of the world.”

Biographer Donald Worster bestowed a kind of secular sainthood on Muir, writing that the Scotsman tried to save “the American soul from total surrender to materialism” at a time when materialism was every bit as alive as it is today.

The problem with saints is that they are also human beings. Muir was a Civil War draft dodger. He left a mixed legacy in his dealings with Native Americans. And he had entirely too cozy a relationship, by some lights, with E.H. Harriman, head of the Union and Southern Pacific railroads.

Saint or not, John Muir was first and foremost a mountaineer. He once wrote to his sister that “the mountains are calling and I must go” — which sounds today like an epitaph. But perhaps the Los Angeles Daily Times got it right, in the headline of its Christmas Day obituary: “Earth He Loved Reclaims Him. John Muir, Apostle of the Wild is Dead”

John Yewell is a writer based in Ventura. Like many young people, he was introduced to the life and work of John Muir as a boy, on a family trip to Yosemite. He is a lifelong Sierra backpacker and supporter of conservation causes. Contact him at johnyewell@gmail.comc

CONSERVATION ANNIVERSARIES

The anniversary of Muir’s death caps a year of notable conservation anniversaries:
June 30 marked 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant legislation into law in 1864, protecting a national treasure and setting the precedent that would lead to the first national park eight years later.
Six days later, on July 6, 1864, Clarence King and Richard Cotter, members of the Whitney Survey, made the first crossing of the rugged Kings/Kern river divide. It was the first foray into the High Sierra by a survey team, and led to the creation 15 years later of the U.S. Geological Survey, headed by King. From the summit of Mt. Tyndall, King identified Mt. Whitney in the distance, declaring it “probably the highest land within the United States.”
Sept. 3 marked 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed The Wilderness Act, which stands as the hallmark law preserving America’s wild lands. In his 1964 signing statement, Johnson described wilderness as “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Muir could not have said it better himself. Written into the Act was the establishment of the John Muir Wilderness, along the eastern escarpment of the Sierra.

County crews help fight Agoura Hills attic fire

December 20, 2014 - 7:54pm

Crews with the Ventura County Fire Department assisted their counterparts from Los Angeles County in battling an attic fire Saturday night in Agoura Hills.

The fire was reported at 7:10 p.m. in the 28500 block of Conejo View Drive.

The Ventura County Fire Department was not the lead agency, since Agoura Hills is in Los Angeles County. At least some members of the Ventura County team were working on the roof of the building, which was in a neighborhood of multifamily dwellings.

At least some Ventura County crews were released from the mission at about 7:41 p.m.

Worldly pen pals together in Newbury Park

December 20, 2014 - 7:30pm

Over a half-century, from opposite sides of the globe, Cathy Pallitto and Yvonne Hocken have forged an unshakable bond along a lifeline that now stretches from Newbury Park to New Zealand.

They've been pen pals for so long that snail mail is now a fossil; they exchange emails steadily and once a week hook up via Skype.

"Now, we're awaiting …" Hocken began, and without a hitch she and Pallitto finished in unison, "… teleporting!"

Their friendship just might last until that type of space travel materializes. So might their second-nature, easy humor and lively spirit that once again were on display as the two decorated the Christmas tree and hearth in Pallitto's Newbury Park residence on a recent weeknight.

Hocken was in town again, up from the underside of the equator in part to celebrate their 50th anniversary as long-distance pen pals. They've been together through all kinds of social weather — births of kids and grandkids, as well as the tragic early deaths of their husbands, both from cancer.

It all began when Pallitto walked into a Parker Pen pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City and watched a computer spit out a name and address at her. She still remembers the design layout and the way the computer lights lit up, noting, "I don't remember much these days, but I can certainly picture that."

A couple weeks later, a letter arrived at Hocken's New Zealand sheep farm. "My husband Barry said, ‘You've got a letter from America,' and I said, ‘I don't know anyone from America.'"

She'd forgotten she signed up to be a pen pal. They were matched up by interests on the forms they'd filled out, and the computer hit the bull's-eye.

Being there

Both were 21-year-old brides at the time (Pallitto then lived in New Jersey). Both would go on to have three kids — two sons and a daughter. Hocken has six grandchildren, Pallitto five and a great-grandchild. Both lost their husbands to the same disease, Pallitto's Greg in 1983, and Hocken's Barry in 1992.

"Even though it was long distance, the emotional support was good," Pallitto noted.

They've cried and laughed together, mostly the latter.

When told that the passage of time made both 71 years old now, Hocken replied in mock indignation, "Hush your mouth!"

Chimed in Pallitto, "That's 71 with a 3 and a 9."

Hocken pulled a popular New Zealand holiday dessert called Pavlova out of the oven, which consists of meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit, in this case blueberries. (Kiwifruit also is a frequent choice.)

Soon, Hocken was hanging a deep-red homeland ornament depicting a pohutukawa tree, also called "the Christmas tree of New Zealand." The coastal evergreen flowers brilliantly this time of year (their summer) in a blazing crimson; the tree is revered by the country's Maoris.

They both know a good zinger and a better comeback, the same kind of natural banter they had in a 2004 Star story when Hocken ventured up to share their 40th year as pen pals. (She also visited in 1995 and 2009).

Four trips here, Hocken remarked, "and I still haven't got used to being on the wrong side of the road. It frightens me." By the time she leaves, she continued, "I'll have figured out the light switches — we go down for on and up for off."

Pallitto scoffed and said, "That's wrong," to which Hocken replied, "It's as natural as the nose on your face." Shot back Pallitto, "That's because she's from Down Under."

This led to another hilarious lightning-fast exchange, the topic being toilet water and how it circles the bowl clockwise here and counterclockwise in New Zealand.

They have similar lifestyles — neither is rich, neither is poor — and similar experiences.

"We're ordinary people … but I just love her," Hocken said, turning to Pallitto.

TREE CHATTER

They tease each other a lot — "because we can," noted Pallitto.

Pallitto calls Hocken "Kiwi," after the bird that is New Zealand's national symbol. Hocken calls Pallitto "SAL," the AL always standing for "American Lady" and the "S" for silly or stupid or special or as Pallitto put it, "S for whatever I've done lately."

This time around, they went to Tucson, Arizona (where Pallitto worked for years in a hospital emergency room before retiring) and visited the Gene Autry museum in Los Angeles as well as the Museum of Tolerance, the latter last Sunday on Hocken's final day of her three-week stay.

Hocken came this time in part to take in an American Thanksgiving. She loved how everyone went around the table and said what they were thankful for; she and Pallitto are thankful for each other and "for Parker Pens," — again, that unison thing.

They lamented that neither saved the original 1964 letters, though Pallitto said she once wrote the Parker Pen company and told them their story. She never got a reply.

As the Christmas tree got stuffed with ornaments, the talk drifted to Hocken's stint on the volunteer community police patrol in Feilding, the small town on New Zealand's North Island where she now lives.

Cracked Pallitto: "That's New Zealand's answer to Barney Fife."

Fife, played by Don Knotts, was a character on "The Andy Griffith Show." Like Sheriff Andy Taylor on that show, Hocken doesn't carry a gun.

Once, she and a partner noticed a car at a ball field parking lot late at night and decided to follow it. It parked; they watched for a while. When they flashed lights on it, two furtive heads popped up in the now-steamy windows. "I guess that's international," Pallitto joked.

She and Hocken are quite the pair.

"If we'd have been married…," started Hocken, cut off in a nanosecond as Pallitto answered " … we'd have got divorced." The place again was awash in gales of laughter.

After they recovered, Pallitto smiled and said, "I think if we were more serious people, we wouldn't still be together."

Plenty of warmth wafted through this living room, none of it coming from the hearth.

Starshine Roshell: Message to bullied children

December 20, 2014 - 7:30pm

I can’t take this anymore. I can’t read one more news story about a child who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied.

Bullying is the new smoking: The bad kids do it, and always for terrible reasons. The schools are wallpapered with posters urging you not to do it. And apparently, bullying kills — far faster, in fact, than lung cancer does.

But I don’t want to talk about bullies, those cowardly cretins who think they can deflect attention from their own festering failures by kicking around someone who’s simply less inclined to be mean. It’s obvious; no one should harass or humiliate another person. But do you know what else shouldn’t happen? Children should not kill themselves. Ever. And that’s what I want to talk about.

This is a message for the bullied — a missive for kids who’ve fallen prey to some loud-crowing schoolyard tyrant or cackling clutch of neighborhood creeps.

Dear Bullied Kid,

Yeah, you. The one wearing that mantle of shame. I’ll be honest: It doesn’t look great on you. It’s not your color, not your size. I see you in something more colorful — something lighter.

Word has it you’re being pestered by the local toughs. Do they say you’re weird? Call you a freak? Insist that you don’t fit in?

Joke’s on them because you’re in great company: Nearly a third of American students say they’ve been bullied this year alone. That means one in every three kids on your block, your bus, your team feels the same way you do at any given moment.

As a once-bullied kid myself, I have a secret for all of you: You’re going to be just fine.

Right now you’re surrounded by the voices of a few particularly loud jerks who never learned how to be comfortable in their own skin. The only way they feel safe in the tiny world you both share is to label someone else as a target. And for no rational reason, you’re the flavor of the month.

When you’re at the center of a pack of yipping coyotes, it’s impossible to hear the friendly voices, or see the welcoming smiles, of the world just beyond that unnerving circle.

But I’m here. I live in that world just past your classroom door, your school walls, your oppressive neighborhood in your too-small town. And I promise we’re all waiting to marvel at the fascinating, not-exactly-like-everyone-else package that is you. Out in the real world, we love people who fly an unexpectedly-hued flag — especially survivors: Hi, there, unique person who’s overcome unfair struggles. Come sit by me and tell me what it’s like to be you.

Before long, you can wing out of your frustrating, soul-crushing coop and join us — alighting wherever you want. The world is mind-bogglingly bigger — and kinder — than you know. Can you imagine anyone in Montana, Brazil or Iceland giving a hot howdy-do if you have a lisp, or grew up in a rundown house, or prefer cheerleading to football, or wore the same clothes two days in a row, or liked a boy who didn’t like you back? No one will care. It’s a fact, my friend.

Your bullies have only a little time left to try to convince themselves that they’re powerful and you’re afraid of them. Meanwhile, focus on what’s fantastic about you — the thing you’re great at, the quality that makes you remarkable. Heck, maybe it’s your ability to be picked on daily without collapsing in a pity puddle. Now say that thing aloud, like this: “I am terrific at — fill in the blank. Man, I’m amazing at that.”

Here’s another fun tidbit: Bullies grow up to be losers. It’s true. Having worked so hard to clamber atop their tiny little bubble, they can never muster the chutzpah to leave. They wind up trapped in stifling jobs and humdrum marriages, and spend their nights Googling all the people they used to point and laugh at — wondering how come you wound up so successful.

The best part? You won’t even have time to feel smug because you’ll be so busy sharing your sparkly you-ness with a grateful world. See you there, kid. I’m counting the days.

For help dealing with bullies, see this HelpGuide at www.helpguide.org. And if you’re considering harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-8255 anytime, day or night. They totally get what you’re going through.

Starshine Roshell is the author of “Broad Assumptions.”

Toys bring out smiles in Nyeland Acres

December 20, 2014 - 7:20pm

Nyeland Acres is a hardscrabble unincorporated community northeast of Oxnard that needs a little respect, said Mike Barber, organizer and founder of the Santa to the Sea half-marathon that was held last weekend.

And Barber has made it his mission to foster pride in the neighborhood that is bordered by Highway 101 to the south and agricultural fields to the north. That’s why he stepped up in 2003 to move a 5-ton Santa statue that once sat atop a strip mall 30 miles away in Carpinteria to a small park area alongside the highway in Nyeland Acres.

That Santa was the site Saturday of Barber’s annual Christmas toy giveaway.

Looking at the line of thousands of children and their parents who were waiting for toys along Ventura Boulevard during the 11th giveaway, Barber said one thing has led to another.

First, he decided to give the Santa statue a new home.

Then he wanted to give presents away to the children of the impoverished neighborhood that he’s called home since 1975. That spawned the idea for the running event, with participants each contributing an unwrapped toy worth at least $10.

This year, with more than 3,000 people running in the event that started at the statue and went across the highway and through Oxnard before ending at Channel Islands Harbor, there were plenty of gifts for the children.

“The people of Nyeland Acres for the most part are very family-oriented, hardworking, decent people. But this is a very low-income area where two to three families live together in a home because that’s the only way they can afford it,” Barber said.

As she waited in line with her sister for a toy, Rosie Diaz explained that the annual toy giveaway is something she looks forward to each year.

“It’s very important. It gives the kids something to look forward to,” Diaz said. “It also helps parents who are too poor to afford toys.”

Nancy Lopez, who lives in south Oxnard, explained that she was bringing her three children Karen Anguiano, 6, Celeste Lopez, 3 and Joel Lopez, 6, because Nyeland Acres her home.

“I brought my kids because I used to live here and I wanted them to see where Mommy grew up,” Lopez said.

With Santa working his way through the crowd and posing for pictures with the children, Christmas music and free pastries after the toy giveaway, the annual event is a festive favorite of Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza, who stood alongside Ventura County firefighters and California Highway Patrol officers, handing out the presents that had been sorted into two piles — one for girls and one for boys.

After receiving an small toy, each child got a raffle ticket that put them in a drawing for bigger presents that included a television, bicycles, a skateboard, electronic tablets and more.

“This is just wonderful to see. We have over a thousand kids in line waiting. It’s great to have gifts, thanks to the runners all bringing gifts,” said Zaragoza, who participated in the 5K portion of the Santa to the Sea race. “This helps the parents who can’t buy gifts get the opportunity to share the wealth of the community.”

As Barber showed off a 300-foot mural painted on a wall along Ventura Boulevard that depicts the Santa to the Sea run and all of the local landmarks participants pass as they run to the harbor, he said such projects allow the people of the area to feel pride in their community.

“This took 1,050 man-hours and 50 gallons of paint,” Barber said. “I don’t want to jinx it, but no one has touched it.”

Santa helps puppy wish come true for Venturan, 6

December 20, 2014 - 6:50pm

Santa came early on Saturday to the home of Paige Salazar, a kindergartner with a life-threatening illness whose wish for a puppy was granted by Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties.

“I got your letter and you said you wanted a pug puppy, so look what I found: Cooper, a little puppy for you,” said Santa, who hand-delivered a purebred pug to Paige at her home in Ventura.

“I don’t always deliver puppies to little children,” Santa said. “But this was a special wish, and I was very happy to bring this puppy this to you.”

For the past year and a half, Paige has kept a small, tattered stuffed animal pug named Puggy at her side through all her treatments, which have included chemotherapy, shots and medications, said her father, Richard Salazar.

“He goes everywhere. ... Even Grandma had to sew his tail when it fell off,” Salazar said. “This dog’s been with her since the first day we were at the hospital. It’s her little soul.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wished for children diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties has granted the wishes of more than 1,200 children in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties since 1985.

Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties made Paige’s wish come true with the help of volunteers Jeff and Laura Corsello, of Ventura, who interviewed the girl and her family to ensure all the details were put in place.

The Corsellos and Make-A-Wish officials joined Paige’s grandparents, cousins, teacher and brother to witness the surprise Saturday. Dan Long also played a pivotal role in delivering the dog.

Before Santa’s arrival, Paige, 6, remained in her bedroom surrounded by pug stuffed animals and pictures of pugs on the walls.

When Santa entered her room with Cooper on a red leash, the girl’s eyes lit up with a beaming smile.

“We hope to make her forget about everything that she’s going through,” said Jeff Corsello, whose eyes filled with tears as he watched Paige receive her gift.

Jeanie Salazar, the girl’s cousin, said the puppy will add to Paige’s positive attitude.

“When you see someone so little go through that and they want something so bad and they get it, I think it will make her happy inside,” Jeanie Salazar said. “I don’t know if she’s covering her pain and everything she’s going through, but this is going to be like a therapy dog for her.”

Elizabeth Arellano, development coordinator for Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, hoped the wish gave Paige something to look forward to, “turning those bad memories into hope and strength and giving her that joy.”

Cooper, a purebred worth $2,500, came from breeder, Karen Rivera.

Before Cooper came into Paige’s life, Puggy helped the girl through monthly treatments in Los Angeles, said the girl’s mom, Brenda Salazar.

“Puggy was her motivation to continue because it was hard when she would go in for infusions; that’s what motivated her for tons of meds,” she said.

Ever since Paige became ill, she has asked for a dog to be part of the family.

“She’s very positive; she’s been such a trooper through all this,” her mom said. “Cooper is just the cherry on top.”

Crews respond to massive Santa Paula crash

December 20, 2014 - 6:24pm

Crews have responded to massive multicar crash that injured at least six people and affected both directions of Highway 126 in Santa Paula, officials said.

The crash was reported at 5:27 p.m. Saturday on eastbound Highway 126 half a mile east of Orcutt Road.

The California Highway Patrol said a vehicle came from the eastbound lanes into the westbound lanes and hit two vehicles before rolling onto its side.

Crews on the scene said at 5:36 p.m. that two vehicles were off the side of the freeway.

According to crews at the scene, at least six people were being transported to area hospitals — two to Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, two to Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks and two to Santa Paula Hospital. Crews said one person refused transport to a hospital.

Crews from the Ventura County Fire Department, the Santa Paula Fire Department, the Fillmore Fire Department and possibly Los Angeles County were called to the crash, with a triage area, command post and repeated calls for additional ambulances. Extrication equipment was requested, and crews appeared to be having a hard time getting to the site due to traffic that was backed up on the highway as a result of the wreck.

The patrol said at 5:45 p.m. that only one lane on each side of the freeway was open.

The patrol reported a second wreck in the area. At 5:40 p.m., a vehicle was reported to have hit and killed a horse in the Piru area in the area of Telegraph and Torrey roads. It was unclear whether that was the second crash to which the patrol was referring.

This story will be updated.

Bill Nash:Rubber bands not the same when you pay

December 20, 2014 - 6:03pm

A rubber band. A simple elastic loop. I think it’s one of the greatest inventions of all time and I confess to a slight obsession with it.

Before my wife and I downsized about two years ago, we had a drawer in the kitchen we called the junk drawer. For the most part, it was aptly named but, in reality, we could have just as easily called it the rubber band drawer. At least a third of the drawer was filled with rubber bands.

Although there were a variety of sizes and colors, most of the rubber bands in the drawer came to us wrapped around my morning newspapers. We used them for hundreds of things around the house and never thought twice about it because we had a seemingly never-ending supply. And then we moved. At our new house, my morning papers come in plastic bags.

Slowly our supply of rubber bands has dwindled to the point that, now, I’ve begun to hoard them. We have so few that I’ve gotten to know them and have actually quizzed my wife on what she did with the red one because I couldn’t find it.

Rubber bands have an interesting history. The properties of the rubber plant have been known and used for thousands of years, but the rubber band as we know it wasn’t invented until 1845. Two men, Stephen Perry and Jaroslav Kurash, both invented and patented the rubber band on the same day in 1845.

In 1923, William Spencer began mass-producing rubber bands at his house in Ohio using discarded rubber products. Now, companies like Arrow Rubber Products in Connecticut manufacture rubber bands conforming to 10 pages of specifications issued by the United States government, including one requiring the breaking strength be a minimum of 1,200 pounds per square inch.

Apparently, I’m stronger than I thought because I seem to break them with great regularity. And rubber bands are used for a lot more than keeping your newspaper folded. They are used in orthodontic work, toys, holding lobster claws closed and as many other uses as can be imagined.

Out of necessity, we started buying small bags of rubber bands from Staples and other retailers. That gave us an adequate supply, but it felt like a hollow victory. Buying them wasn’t like having them delivered to your driveway and saving them. Even so, our current junk drawer contains only junk. Our rubber band supply now resides in a small bowl on the kitchen counter. But recently, it received a significant infusion.

I was visiting my in-laws’ home in Northern California when I made a wonderful discovery; two, actually. First, my father-in-law’s newspapers still come wrapped in rubber bands and, second, he saves them.

In fact, he has a junk drawer that made me nostalgic, because it is full of rubber bands. Well, not quite as full as it was prior to my discovery. I don’t think my father-in-law will miss the rubber bands that headed south with me — at least not until he reads this — but he should feel better knowing they’ve gone to a good home where they will be appreciated.

Sometimes the simplest things — mousetraps, shoehorns, rubber bands — are simply the best they can be. They can’t be improved upon, so they remain pretty much as they were first imagined. In today’s technological and digital world we’ve seen many once everyday items made obsolete, or nearly so. I’m just glad rubber bands aren’t one of them.

Bill Nash is a Star columnist. Contact him at bnash805@aol.com.

Comic store opens in Camarillo

December 20, 2014 - 6:00pm

Sterling Silver Comics

Name of owner: Mike Sterling

Product or service: Sells comic books — both new releases and back issues, as well as graphic novels, toys and other related merchandise.

Address: 2210 Pickwick Drive, Camarillo

Date established: November 2014

Hours open: Noon to 6 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays

Telephone: 484-4708

Email: mike@sterlingsilvercomics.com

Website: http://www.sterlingsilvercomics.com

Number of employees: One

What prompted you to start your own business?: I’d been in the comics retail business for quite some time, managing stores for other people, and finally decided I wanted my own shop to run my way.

What is your educational and career background?: While I have a mostly-unrelated-to-this-career college degree, I do have literally decades of experience in this field, so my schooling in this business mostly comes from learning on the go.

How much research did you do before starting your business?: My research was primarily focused on the actual setup of the store — learning what business and tax forms I needed, where the best location would be and so on. What I needed to know about the actual running of the shop, such as which vendors to use, I already knew from my previous experience.

What were the most helpful sources, including websites?: That would have to be my previous employers, Ralph Holt of Ralph’s Comic Corner and Seth Bradley of Seth’s Games and Anime, who were very generous with their time and support with helping me get my own shop off the ground.

When were you the most discouraged?: There were never really too many discouraging moments, mostly just minor frustrations in getting the store’s interior prepared for business, filing paperwork, obtaining a credit card processor ... Just the usual growing pains!

What company or individual do you admire?: My former employer, Ralph Holt, started Ralph’s Comic Corner in Ventura 35 years ago, and kept that shop running through thick and thin. His hard work has been an inspiration to me and I hope the lessons I’ve learned from him will lead to my own store’s success.

What will make your business stand out from competitors?: As stated before, I have many years of experience in the comics retail business. That, combined with my extensive knowledge and deep appreciation of the medium, along with my customer service skills and my cleanly-organized and, if I may say so, visually-appealing store, should provide customers with a pleasant and informative shopping experience.

Who is your target client base?: Anyone who loves comic books because I love comics, too, and want to get them into the hands of as many people as possible.

Businesses less than one year old can be profiled in Who’s New in Business. Businesses older than one year can be profiled in Company Spotlight. Those owning franchises in the region can be profiled in Franchise Focus. Only businesses that have never been profiled in The Star may participate. For more details or the questionnaire, email freelancer Maria Saint at mcsaint73@yahoo.com. Please put the word “Questionnaire” in the subject header.

Brownley and family OK after Fillmore crash

December 20, 2014 - 5:49pm

U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley and her family are OK after being involved in a car crash Saturday in Fillmore, her chief of staff said.

Brownley’s daughter and son-in-law were in the area over the weekend and the Westlake Village Democrat was driving them around Ventura County when a car rear-ended her black Prius, said Lenny Young, Brownley’s chief of staff.

The crash, which occurred just after 2:05 p.m., pushed the Prius into the truck in front of her car, causing major damage to her vehicle, Young said.

The family members suffered some bruises from the seat belts but were not seriously injured, Young said.

Fillmore Fire Department gives away 1,500 toys

December 20, 2014 - 5:34pm

In an annual event, the Fillmore Fire Department handed out about 1,500 toys Saturday to children in the community.

The toy drive and giveaway started 15 years ago, Fire Chief Rigo Landeros said.

The giveaway was held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the department headquarters and benefited more than 300 families.

“Every kid in line received a toy,” Landeros said.

Most of the toys were donated through the department’s annual chicken dinner toy drive a week ago. At the event, fire personnel cook a chicken dinner and side dishes that members of the community can enjoy if they donate a toy worth $10 or more, Landeros said.

During the giveaway, Santa was brought in on one of the department’s ladder trucks and the children were able to sit in his lap for a photo to be taken. Bags of food also were given to the families, Landeros said.

The Sespe 4-H Club made cotton candy and Fillmore FFA members made popcorn for the children to snack on while waiting in line. The Rotary Club of Fillmore, officers from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office’s Fillmore station and members of the Fillmore search-and-rescue team also showed their support.

The fire chief said the event was “well-attended.”

“It was heartwarming for the city of Fillmore Dire Department to accommodate that need that often goes unnoticed in the holiday season,” Landeros said.

Holiday train tradition chugs along in Fillmore

December 20, 2014 - 5:18pm

For the past several years, Natalee Morgantini and her children have had a tradition of driving from their home in Bakersfield to Fillmore to ride the North Pole Express train.

This year was no exception for Morgantini and her kids Chancee Lucio, 12, and Cade Lucio, 11, who came Friday to take the holiday-themed train ride, one of several offered each year by the Fillmore & Western Railway.

“We watch the movie ‘The Polar Express,’ bake cookies, and then we drive out here to take the train,” Morgantini said. “It’s fun to get to experience what the movie is all about, and it gets you into the holiday spirit.”

Several themed train rides were offered this year, including the Christmas Tree Train, which takes visitors to a tree farm to get a fresh tree, and a Dinner With Santa Train. Also offered is the Santa Shopper Train, which stops at the Loose Caboose Garden Center & Gift Emporium, where visitors can shop for antiques, gifts and Christmas decorations.

While many of the rides were sold out in advance, there were still tickets as of Saturday for the Santa Shopper at noon Sunday and the North Pole Express at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday. A New Year’s Eve Dinner Train is also available.

“It’s magical around here,” volunteer Radene Wilkinson said. “It’s joyful.”

Wilkinson said the North Pole Express is one of the most popular train rides, with many people coming from across the state.

“Many are repeat customers who’ve been here multiple times,” Wilkinson said.

Simi Valley resident Brandi McCaskill was there for her first ride on the train with husband Kurtis and son Jacob, 6.

“I’ve been talking about doing this for years, so we finally came out,” she said. “We’re excited.”

On the North Pole Express, the McCaskills and other visitors sang Christmas carols, had cookies and chocolate milk, listened to holiday stories, and visited with Santa and his elves before returning him to the “North Pole.”

Visitors on the North Pole Express are encouraged to wear pajamas on the train. Wearing their pajamas were Shaina Sadler, of Camarillo, her husband, Richie, and their children, Ryan, 6, and River, 3.

The family has come out to ride the train every Christmas for the past six years.

“It’s a family tradition with our best friends,” Sadler said.

A legal dispute between the railroad and the Ventura County Transportation Commission is on hold until at least February, allowing the railroad to continue the holiday train rides this year.

“We would be very devastated,” Shaina Sadler said, if her family couldn’t ride the trains for the holidays.

On the Net: http://www.fwry.com