Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kunkle Recalls 68 Years In Oak View

Zelda Kunkle, at home, arrived in Oak View during the Great Depression. She remembers when the community boasted two businesses, Thomas’ Grocery and the Hill Top Roadhouse.

By Laignee Barron

On July 19, Zelda Kunkle celebrated her 92nd birthday and 68 years in Oak View.
When she and her husband arrived in Oak View in 1939, it was a quiet town with only a few hundred residents. Little did they expect at the time that they would remain in the town for nearly seven decades and establish much of what residents today take for granted.
Kunkle was born and raised with her older sister Hildred in San Luis Obispo, where their parents owned and ran the local store, Del Monte Grocery.
“I never was into sports but I loved the outdoors,” Kunkle recalled. She discovered a passion for art while at school, particularly still life oil paintings, a love that has continued to this day. At the time she cherished ambitions of attending art college, but out of high school she ended up marrying her childhood sweetheart, Chris Kunkle, and they moved together to the valley.
The tiny town of Oak View had few merchants or stores when they arrived. In fact, Kunkle recalled just two; Thomas’ Grocery on Olive Street and the Hill Top Roadhouse, which remains today.
“We could’ve gone anywhere I guess,” she said. “But we liked the quietness here.”
Shortly after they moved here, Kunkle’s husband got a job working for the new water company. They counted themselves lucky for the opportunity because it was around that time the Great Depression started to affect the valley.
“During the Depression there weren’t a lot of the really nice homes like you can see now, but there were a lot of little shacks,” she said. “It dragged on for a while. It wasn’t something that you could just snap your fingers at and have fixed.”
When the Depression ended the Kunkles bought the Oak View water company. She recalled they were able to check the water tanks from their house by looking through a pair of binoculars. They also had an unorthodox method of billing customers, going door to door and asking how many dogs or chickens or other animals people had, and then adding the approximated cost of each to a flat rate.
One of the original 30 or so members of the Oak View Civic Council, originally United Neighbors, Kunkle has always loved the community spirit of Oak View and has looked for ways to help out. In 1947, the Kunkles saw the need for a post office when mail was often confused, coming to residents through both Ojai and Ventura. The Kunkles didn’t hesitate, but created the first Oak View post office.
“It was a challenge but always really interesting,” Kunkle said. “We started it and eventually hired two or three others to help when the town was growing.”
One of the big town changes occurred when Lake Casitas was built. “There weren’t too many homes destroyed down there, but there were a few,” she said. “The old Santa Ana School is in the middle of the lake now. We used to have to drive by it all the time and I still have a painting of it.”
In honor of their dedication to the community, in the 1960s the Kunkles had a street named after them.
Now, after nearly 70 years of service to the town, several members of the community have expressed that appreciation for the hard work Kunkle has put into the community

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