Boyd Center marks centennial
By David Mason
Boyd Club is an excellent example of what may be done to make
country life interesting and profitable."
- The Ojai, Dec. 8, 1916
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of The Boyd
Club. The club opened on April 7, 1903. This anniversary brings
about thoughts of the two boys that have been memorialized by
the building. Though from two different generations, they will
always be remembered by this community - one a popular Nordhoff
graduate and the other a young Thacher student.
In the beginning, when the community was young, The Thacher School
was already making quite a name for itself. Its respect was spreading
across the country and the school was growing fast. One of the
younger students was a boy by the name of John Franklin "Jack"
Boyd Jr., and he happily joined in all the school activities,
including horseback riding over the trails that led into the
mountains from the school.
In 1902, while on one of the many rides into the surrounding
hills, the students were caught in a sudden rainstorm and were
thoroughly soaked. They raced back to the school at a gallop
to find a dry place and to rid themselves of their wet clothing.
Only one student was to come down sick, and it would be a tragedy,
his heart, which was weak, could not stand the strain, and the
young man, Jack Boyd, died.
Boyd had been so well-liked by the other students and was so
happy at the school that his parents decided to honor him with
a memorial. Sherman Thacher, the school's founder, suggested
that perhaps they might wish to construct a building in the village
for the use of the people of the valley, as he felt that the
community needed many improvements and that the Thacher students
"had too much already."
The Boyds were reluctant to take Mr. Thacher's proposal and established
an English literature prize at the school instead. Finally in
1902, after continued insistence by Mr. Thacher, the Boyd family
gave $2,500 toward the memorial structure, to be built in the
small village, and Mr. Thacher raised the remaining amount needed
to construct the Jack Boyd Memorial Club building.
Jack Boyd's father, John, had become wealthy when he and his
two partners struck gold at the Bonanza Mine in Bodie, Calif.
John Boyd and his wife, Louise, had three children. The first
child was named Seth, the second boy was John, named after his
dad and called Jack, and the third child was named Louise after
When Jack Boyd was a small child, his mother inherited her bachelor
uncle's estate. The estate included 4,700 acres in Diablo, mining
interests in the Sierras and considerable property in San Francisco.
The Boyds built a large Italianate mansion with a separate gaming
house, now the Diablo Country Club, and a mile-long race track
for their 400 trotting horses.
The perfect life of the Boyds changed when, without warning,
young Seth died in his sleep. Eight months later John Franklin
"Jack" Jr. died while at The Thacher School. Both had
damaged hearts as a result of rheumatic fever as children. Young
Louise Boyd was left the only child of the devastated parents.
In 1905, Boyd Park was given to the city of San Rafael as a memorial
to the two young boys.
Parents John and Louise Boyd
died in 1919 within a few months of each other. The daughter,
Louise Boyd, was left the sole survivor of the family.
In 1924, Louise took an ocean voyage to the northern ice pack
and was so inspired by the grandeur, she financed an expedition
to the Arctic. During her first expedition she began to see the
majesty of the unexplored icy wilderness and became interested
in the lives of the native Eskimos.
Louise was the first woman to cross the rugged dangerous ice
caps of the North Pole, and she was called by a London newspaper,
the "Girl Who Tamed the Arctic." During the 1930s,
she led several ship and dog-team expeditions along the east
coast of Greenland and ventured farther north than any other
American explorer. During her life, she made eight Arctic expeditions.
During World War II, she served as a chief advisor to the U.S.
War Department on the terrain of Greenland and Spitsbergen. In
1954, at the age of 67, she chartered a DC-4 and made the transpolar
trip, and in 1960, she became the first woman to be elected to
the American Geographical Society's chief policy-making board,
and also served 20 years as a director of the San Francisco Symphony.
Denmark awarded her the King Christian X Medal and she was elected
a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. She was also a fellow
of the Royal Geographical and Royal Horticultural societies.
In 1972, Louise Boyd passed away in San Francisco at the age
The men's clubhouse in the town of Nordhoff, now Ojai, that was
built in honor of Jack Boyd was the center of activities for
the young community. The building had a large reading room that
was supplied with books, magazines and newspapers. It had a room
for card playing and a pool room, a writing room, well-stocked
with free stationery, bathrooms and a committee room.
In June of 1904, The Jack Boyd Memorial Club initiated "Ladies'
Night." It was voted to observe this special night on the
Friday evening of each month preceding the full moon, and to
continue until further notice. The ladies were also given free
and exclusive use of the billiard and pool tables on these occasions.
In 1913, a gymnasium with showers and lockers was built through
the generosity of Charles Pratt. The club membership dues were
50 cents a month.
From the start, the clubhouse was a popular meeting place. The
valley men would go there to discuss the town's problems, hear
lectures and play games.
In 1915, there was a movement
to allow poker playing, with the stakes being paid in cigars,
but Mr. Thacher once more stepped in and said of the building
rules, "almost the only restriction being that there should
be no gambling and no drinking, so that it might be a place where
every decent member of the community might feel at home."The
poker idea was dismissed.
The Boyd Club played a big part
in the development of the town. During the flu epidemic of 1918,
the clubhouse was used as a local hospital. It was a disaster
center during the floods of 1938 and was used for the U.S.O.
during the early stages of World War II, operated by a group
of valley residents wishing to do their part.
In 1945, local teenagers took over The Boyd Club, since the men
of the valley had gone to war and were no longer using the building,
turning it into the Topa Topa Club and referred to it as Teen
They conducted many fund-raising
events to keep the club open, and they took over the responsibility
of maintaining the building. Reluctantly, within the year, the
young people had to give up their ideas. Their fund-raising efforts
were just not paying off, and the valley residents were unable
- or just did not want - to help.
For the next decade, The Boyd Club on Ojai Avenue was a reminder
of another era. The laughter and the support gained through its
walls were silent. The need for the Bank of America to build
a new and larger building finally decided the fate of the clubhouse.
In 1957, The Boyd Club building was moved down Ojai Avenue and
up Park Road to Sarzotti Park to find its final resting place
and became part of the Ojai Parks and Recreation Department.
The building attracted another
era of local residents, the children in the surrounding neighborhoods
found a new place to "hang out." The Boyd Club became
once more a happy environment of healthy activities.
In the late 1960s, one ambitious young man, Chad Charlesworth
found the ideal summer job, working at The Boyd Club.
Chad was born in the Ventura
Community Memorial Hospital on Jan. 5, 1948. He was raised in
the Ojai Valley and was well-liked by everyone who knew him.
He had been a popular student at Nordhoff and graduated in 1967,
then continued on with his education at the Junior College in
Chad loved working at The Boyd Club, he was especially interested
in the children who arrived each day, for he knew that while
they were enjoying themselves at the center, they were staying
out of trouble. Chad and the children had a mutual respect and
love for each other.
Chad continued to work at The Boyd Club until his country needed
him to help with the Vietnam War, and he was drafted.
He was a good soldier, practicing the same mutual respect and
love he had shown the children, except that this time it was
for his fellow servicemen, working diligently and conscientiously
to do the best job he could.
In February of 1970, the news that a family and a community dreads
the most, was received in the valley. The popular and well-liked
Chad Charlesworth had been killed in savage fighting on the Ho
Chi Minh Trail. He was one of the first valley boys to be lost
in the war. The sadness was felt by everyone in the community
and a group of his friends decided that they wanted to create
some type of memorial.
To honor Chad, for all the love and inspiration he had brought
to the many children that he had come in contact with during
his years at The Boyd Club, the city of Ojai's Recreation Department
was pleased to have The Boyd Club's Recreation Room dedicated
in his memory.
The final letter that Chad wrote to his family, included a beautiful
poem he wrote to his mother.
"A soldier's mother worries when he goes to war.
She wonders if he is safe and happy,
or if she will see him anymore.
She knows he doesn't want
But she can realize
He is fighting for a freedom Their lives.
I don't want this war, but
people hear my voice.
I am fighting for something special,
my mother's right of choice.
So if I should die in combat,
Mother, please don't weep.
For I would rather die protecting you,
than die while I am asleep.
If God should take me onto
him during hate,
hostility and war.
Remember, Mother, I love my country,
but I love you more."
2003 The Ojai Valley News
to the news