For 360 days of the year, the Ojai Valley of California is a serene, 18,000-acre oasis of orange groves, retired millionaires and exclusive schools, 75 miles northwest of sweaty, bustling Los Angeles. But in the last week of April the place explodes. This is the week of the annual Ojai Valley tennis tournament, an event which brings cascades of youngsters from all over California onto the sleepy streets and the mountainside tennis courts for one of the oldest youth festivals in the world.
"The Ojai," as it is known in every corner of California where a tennis net is spread, has been in existence since 1896. It has grown from a simple tourney into a 20-event complex ranging from a tournament for boys and girls under 15 to the invitational men's and women's singles in which the finalists are very likely last year's finalists at Wimbledon or Forest Hills. And since the activities inevitably take on the tone of a week-long house party for the youngsters, the Ojai is also probably the most eagerly awaited event of the California social calendar. The entire valley of 16,000 throws open its homes and hospitality to the boys and girls, and the picturesque hillside courts come alive with the ping! of balls on rackets and the tinkle of ice in tea glasses. As the overseer of California tennis and new Davis Cup captain Perry T. Jones puts it:
"I always think of Ojai as the Oberammergau of tennis because it gives all of us, young and old, the opportunity of coming to this garden spot to pay our homage to the finest game in the world and to those developing players who represent the finest of our youth."
Presenting trophies, Reese H. Taylor, Union Oil chairman, honors the Marlborough schoolgirls.
TENNIS IN THE OJAI MANNER: On mountain estate of William A. Fairburn Jr., son of late president of the Diamond Match Co., two young hopefuls start a singles match.
LOVELY SETTING: One of many Ojai ranches and private houses which lend courts for tournament is that of Clement K. Quinn, owner of Quinn Iron Ore Co.
IMPROVISED BUSES: To reach courts scattered around the valley, players hitch rides with whoever has a car, such as young David Hopkins (at wheel of Buick).
WESTERN TRADITION: Many matches are played on courts of Thacher School, founded in 1888. Boys on horses have been known to line courts ogling pretty players.
OJAI'S MAGIC MOMENT: At Civic Center court Santa Catalina School girls (right) receive under-15 doubles trophies. Marlborough School runners-up in traditional violet sweaters watch happily.
For more on Ojai by the Footloose Sportsman, turn to page 58