Page 5 - R.G. Percy

In 1905 he and K.P. Grant in acquiring the first Ventura County Park. They each put up $5000 and bought what had been known for years as Camp Comfort. It was located on the San Antonia Creek a couple of miles below the town of Ojai, in a beautiful grove of live oak and sycamore trees along the creek, and was often used for campers. They presented Camp Comfort to Ventura County.

After I graduated from High School, Mr. Foster got me my first job, as time keeper for a Southern Pacific Railroad Construction crew, in 1906.

I believe that it was 1908 that Mr. & Mrs. Foster bought the property now known as Foster Park on both sides of the Ventura River and presented it to the County as the second County Park, in memory of their son who had died. It was named the Eugene P. Foster Memorial Park. Later they bought what is now the Ventura County Fair Grounds, but was named Seaside Park.

I well remember when one Christmas, Mr. Foster received a book about the life of Andrew Carnegie. He also gave me the book to read later. That was what gave him the inspiration to present the town of Ventura with a library. After Carnegie had made his millions in the steel industry he had begun to present smaller cities with library buildings, and Ventura did not have a satisfactory library. Mr. and Mrs. Foster decided to give Ventura a library building. They bought the property where the Ventura Library is today. This was after Mr. Foster had retired from the Bank, when it was sold to the Bank of Italy. The new library building which they had built, in my opinion, was a more beautiful one than the present one. It was of red brick, and still stands behind the present building, and is now used for storage mostly. Mr. Foster took a great deal of interest in the planning and the construction. The stone fountain which was made of stone was mostly done by Mr. Foster, and was in front of the building.

I am ahead of my story, and had better back up a little to my own association with Mr. Foster. In 1911 my brother Earl and I decided to follow Mr. Foster's idea of growing fruit trees, and eventually starting a business of our own. My brother had a job in a grocery store in town, and I was working on the Selby ranch for Mr. Selby, both working ten hours a day, so we could only do like Mr. Foster had done when growing his apricot trees. We began planting our seeds before going to work and on Sundays, just as Mr. Foster had done to make a new start. Eventually we had the Percy Brothers Nursery on the Avenue. By a bid to the County we received the sprinkling contract of seven miles of Ventura Avenue. That gave us the opportunity to quit our jobs, me to drive the sprinkler wagon and Earl to work in cur nursery. The supervisor of the District, Tom Clark of Ojai, asked me one day if I could also take charge of the road work in the southern half of the District. Although I was only 23 at the time I told him yes. This is immaterial to your story, but not to my connection with Mr. Foster.

Prior to 1912 there had been only two ways to travel from Ventura to Santa Barbara. One was by a narrow, winding mountain road through the Casitas Pass, which in the winter was impassable - the other along what was little more than a cowtrail along the beach. In four places this beach road was impassible except at low tide on the wet sand. Neither roads were usable for automobiles. Money was raised by subscription by Ventura County and Santa Barbara County to build three causeways at the impassable places on the beach road. As I have said before Mr. Foster was an influential man in the County, but was always interested in civic affairs, and he had helped to raise the money for the causeways. Ventura County had built a concrete bridge across the Ventura River, but from the bridge to the first causeway was still only the cowtrail road.

The Automobile Club of Southern California agreed to put up $1000 towards making the Cow trail road usable for automobiles at the first causeway.