Classic movie clips filmed in Oak Park flickered onstage at the Oak Canyon Community Park Sunday night as part of a special event celebrating the rich history of the community.
The program also featured a book-signing by the authors of and a discussion with famed actor Norman Lloyd, who also provided an introduction to the film clips.
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks was on-hand to introduce the evening by giving a bit of trivia about the region. She said that since the county doesn’t like to develop in unincorporated areas, Oak Park was originally going to be a city.
“I’m glad it was scaled back,” Parks said. “It’s such a beautiful community, particularly because of all the beautiful space around it.”
She also presented three of the authors of Images of America: Oak Park–Harry Medved, Harvey Kern and Derek Ross–with a certificate of achievement for writing a book detailing the little-known history of the area. Co-author David E. Ross was away on vacation.
Lloyd, 97, whose Hollywood career spans five decades, first came to Oak Park with director Lewis Milestone when they filmed Walk in the Sun. They would go on to film The Red Pony and Of Mice and Men in the area as well.
Looking around the audience, Lloyd laughed as he took in the setting.
“Have all of you had the experience of coming back to a place that you knew very well and it is unrecognizable? I feel I have been displaced,” he said. “At that time there was nothing here, just fields and hills.”
During his speech, Lloyd took questions from the audience and shared vignettes about his local filming experiences, like the problems they ran into when they filmed The Red Pony.
“This pony had an amazing personality and one of the troubles we had with this picture, a result that no director could foresee, was that the pony took a disliking to the boy, who in the story, was [supposed to be] in love with this pony,” Lloyd said, with a chuckle. “I think it is because of that we never quite got the relationship with the boy and the pony that Steinbeck got in the original story.”
To write the book, Medved, who co-authored Location Filming in Southern California, gathered Derek Ross, past chairman on the Municipal Advisory Council and editor of OakParkNow.com; David E. Ross, who has served on the Board of Education and was the president of the Community Foundation in Oak Park for many years; and Kern, an “Oak Park Pioneer” whose lived in the area for over 40 years, to collaborate on it.
The authors previously held a history night at the Oak Park Library, inviting community members to come and share their stories and pictures, many of whom turned out to support the book at Sunday's event.
Kern said the willingness of the community to share their own histories was very gratifying. “People who live in Oak Park love Oak Park. It was great to see such a spirit of community,” he said.
Kern said he was thrilled to have had the opportunity to write about a place so close to his heart.
“I raised my family here, I raised my daughters here, I love the great schools, the peace and quiet and the trails to walk throughout the community,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place to come to at the end of the work day, relax, and be safe happy with family.”
"Oak Park in the Movies" is the fourth book-signing for the authors and the proceeds from each of the programs have gone to benefit a different institution of the Oak Park community.
Proceeds from Sunday's signing will go directly to the Rancho Simi Parks and Recreation Center.
Sina Martel heard about the event on the radio this week driving to San Diego and made it a point to attend.
“I was listening to Jim Sveijda and got sucked into the interview with Norman Loyd. I took note, looked up the website and said, 'I want to come to this,'” she said.
Esther Pullman, who has lived in Oak Park for 19 years with her husband, said she came to the event to hear Lloyd speak and also to buy the book.
"Not growing up here, [I] can really appreciate the beauty of it," she said. I love that next to every school there’s always a park. I love that the schools are so good. I love being able to feel safe when I walk at night."