In the fall of 1965, I was a senior at Carpinteria High School (CHS). We had an exciting football team, always a good thing for what was once a football-crazed town. And, there was a hotly contested election going on. Would Carpinteria be incorporated into a city, yes or no? The yes vote won, and Carpinteria would have a mayor, city council and a police force of its own, the key issue in the election. As the fates would have it, our government teacher at CHS, Allan Coates, was the top vote-getter in the election, and was installed as the city’s first mayor.
Now that Carpinteria was a city, the Carpinteria Unified School District (CUSD) decided to have its students bone up on the history of the Valley. “From Grove to Cove to Grove,” published in 1962, was chosen for that purpose and distributed in Mr. Coates’ government class. It was written by Arthur Miller Clark, former owner, editor and publisher of the Carpinteria Herald.
Clark’s book was a curious read. It opened with an account of the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria and how they related to our Carpinteria paradise. In a brief 93 pages, Clark meandered through events and stories. Some, like the first chapter, were zany, and some were filled with questionable source material. Two chapters were given the same number (Chapter Four). Dates for events were rarely cited. There was no bibliography. And, worst of all, no index was provided to help the reader look up key names and events. David Griggs, Carpinteria Valley Museum of History curator, remembers reading it before interviewing for the curator’s position and thinking “What in the world is this?!”
Actually, Clark played an important role in the annals of Carpinteria history. In 1913, he bought out Carpinteria’s first real newspaper, the Carpinteria Valley News. Because he was in the military service at the time, involved in the Great War, WWI, he assigned two people in 1917 to edit the newspaper in his absence. Upon his return, the paper was in disarray. He changed its name to the Carpinteria Herald in 1920. The Herald would be Carpinteria’s main news source for the next 75 years, although Clark exited in 1953 in a battle over ownership that he lost.
Clark’s attempt at writing about Carpinteria fell woefully short in “From Grove to Cove to Grove.” However, earlier he had published a one-of-a-kind Carpinteria-Summerland Directory, and history, in 1940. In it, he demonstrated that he was fully capable of writing a solid and informative account of Carpinteria history.
For those wishing to read comprehensive histories of Carpinteria, “From Grove to Cove to Grove,” notwithstanding, there is relief. One can turn to Georgia Stockton’s “La Carpinteria,” published in 1960, or Jayne Cravens Caldwald’s two-volume “Carpinteria As It Was,” published in ’79 and ’82. These are wonderful accounts, fully detailed and with indexes. As for Mr. Clark, we can only wonder what might have been.