Rod Lathim

Rod Lathim, “The Spirit of the Big Yellow House”

Celebrating our Spiritual past

Most locals know that Summerland was founded by Spiritualists. It was just before the turn of the twentieth century when the novel idea of communicating with the dead had a grip on the continent. Founder Henry Lafayette Williams laid out the town laid in tiny tent-sized lots to encourage campers to attend revivals and séances.

Now Leslie Person Ryan, proprietor of Letter Perfect in downtown Summerland, will be staging an event that pays tributes to the town’s colorful past. On April 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., she will be hosting author Rod Lathim, who has just released a new edition of his book “The Spirit of the Big Yellow House: A History of Summerland’s Founding Family.”

Lathim will sign copies of his book and talk about his close encounters with a spirit named Hector who haunted the wine cellar of the building now known as the Big Yellow House.

Joining Lathim will be the Reverend Pamela Bollinger of the Church of the Comforter in Santa Barbara. The Church of the Comforter, founded by Summerland Spiritualists more than a century ago, moved to Santa Barbara after Summerland became an oil town.

According to Ryan, Bollinger will be “calling all Summerland Spirits that will be available to visit us.” Hmm, I wonder if my old column “The Summerland Spirit” that I wrote for The Carpinteria Herald will answer the call?

This promises to be a fascinating evening—one locals should be sure not to miss. Ryan warns that seating will be limited, so it might be a good idea to reserve a seat now,

Oceans Bound

Letter Perfect is currently in the process of hanging a new show in its beautiful upstairs gallery. With a marine theme, Oceans Bound will feature art inspired by the sea and Summerland and will be up from April 1 to April 30. Proceeds from sales will benefit Summerland Beautiful. Receptions will be held on April 12 and 13 at the gallery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Successful aging

I attended a fundraiser last week for the Center for Successful Aging and got to hear legendary pianist Gil Rosas perform an hour of his piano wizardry. The non-profit CSA promotes the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health of seniors and their families through counseling, connecting seniors with service providers and other programs. For more information, contact

Now in his 80s, Rosas spent years tickling the keys at Montecito’s Somerset Restaurant and the Olive Mill Bistro. Alternating between two different pianos, he regaled the gathering with medleys chosen from the several thousand pieces he knows by heart. As an example of successful aging, Rosas rocks!

Grand Jury anyone

A friend currently serving on the Grand Jury informed me that applications are now open for next year’s jury. FYI, the jury functions as kind of a watchdog over local government agencies, cities and special districts. Jurors also inspect detention facilities and review county financial records.

Grand Jurors pretty much decide every year what their focus will be, and this may include several different areas. One of the things the 2017-18 jury investigated, for example, was the use of Measure U funds at Carpinteria Children’s Project at Main School. Their conclusion was that funds were properly used.

Applications can be submitted from April to May 3. Nineteen jurors are chosen, and the only requirements are that applicants be county residents, citizens, at least 18 years old, with sound judgement and sufficient English. Oh yes, and no felonies. Go to to learn more.

Train deaths

After the Amtrak we were on hit two people last month, I looked into how common these “trespassing casualties” are. I was astonished to learn that in the U.S. a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours.

The website Operation Lifesaver, which is dedicated to rail safety education, has statistics on grade crossing collisions and casualties by state. In 2017 California topped the list with 214 casualties, 123 deaths and 91 injuries.

From a San Jose Mercury News’ article, I learned that the two hit by our train were a man and woman in their 50s, identified as transients. These fatalities are so traumatic to train engineers and crew members that the entire crew has to be replaced before the train can move on.

One good thing: Turning off the digital buzz and listening to the birds, which are in full spring throttle.

Fran Davis is an award-winning writer and freelance editor whose work appears in magazines, print and online journals, anthologies and travel books. She has lived in Summerland most of her life.

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