A new book about the history of Oak Park has just been published by Arcadia Publishing, the leading local history publisher in the United States. Written by residents , Harvey Kern, David E. Ross and Derek Ross, the book tells the pictorial tale of Ventura County's largest unincorporated community.
"Our goal was to uncover the unwritten history of Oak Park and to celebrate its unsung heroes," said Ross. "We live in an amazing community, and for the first time in book form, we wanted to tell the story of how it got that way. We hope that residents will never take for granted what these pioneers did to make our quality of life so special."
Though Medved, co-author of another Arcadia book, Location Filming in Los Angeles, grew up on the west side of Los Angeles, he and wife, Michele, decided to find a family-oriented community in which to raise their two daughters, ages 7 and 9. "I didn't think anything existed beyond Calabasas," said Medved,
Ultimately, they discovered Oak Park and "fell in love," he said. They've been local residents for three years.
"After moving here I began asking a lot of questions," he said. "I'd look up at the Simi Ride, for example, and wonder if this were a backdrop for old westerns."
After doing some digging, he discovered that over 40 classic films have been shot there, dating back to the 1930's. "We've had stars from Jimmy Stewart all the way up to Adam Sandler who've shot movies here," he said.
He would wonder about some of the area's founding pioneers like Mae and Lou Boyer, who donated funds and land to help build the community.
"The more digging we did, the more startling facts we'd find that have never before been published," he said.
They discovered that Oak Park was one of the first communities in Southern California to be built with an Environmental Impact Report. The area was also historically significant to the Chumash Indians, and it was part of a major trading route that continued out to Malibu.
With his new-found material, Medved called upon long-time Oak Park residents Harvey Kern, David E. Ross and Derek Ross to co-author a book.
"I lived in Oak Park from 1968 to 2009," said Kern. "It is a wonderful, safe and happy place to raise a family with outstanding schools, beautiful parks, and great supportive neighbors. I was very active in the community. Given the opportunity to share its history, I gladly participated as a co-author."
The authors agreed at the outset that all profits from the sale of the book would be donated to local charities: Rancho Simi Recreational Park District, St. Max (which feeds the homeless), Oak Park Community Library and Friends of Oak Park Schools.
On May 31 at 7 p.m., the authors will hold a book signing at Barnes and Noble at the Westlake Promenade. All proceeds from book sales will go to the school district.
According to Medved, prior to the Oak Park school district being created 35 years ago, many of the resident children were bused to Simi Valley each day, a 46 mile roundtrip.
Pat Manning, the founding president of the district, will be onhand at the book-signing to meet and greet the community.
The month of June is considered Oak Park History Month, and from May 31-June 6, proceeds of all school-related books will go to Friends of Oak Park Schools, the district's fundraising foundation.
"Just mention Oak Park at checkout," said Medved.