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Proud to Live in Orcutt...a Proud Orcutteer

Page 3, Arajuo.heic

          Standing in front of his home, looking out towards the Orcutt hills to the east, long-time Orcutt resident, Garth Arajuo, proudly remembers an Orcutt of an earlier day and time.

          Arajuo, now 76,  has so many memories of his beloved community. Growing up in Orcutt was “complete freedom. Everyone had a bike and you rode everywhere. You’d take your dog with you and keep one eye out for the dog catcher. We didn’t even know what a leash was,” he says, laughing. 

A Vietnam era veteran, oil field “roustabout” and OUSD custodian (retired 2009), Arajuo has family ties to Orcutt going back to the early 1900’s and the original Orcutt oil fields.  His father, Robert (Bob) Arajuo, a WWII army veteran was an oil field worker as was his grandfather, Louis Arajuo. Interestingly, his three generations of family in the oil industry helped create the community spirit in Orcutt today. 

          Garth remembers that in the early 1950’s there was one kindergarten through 8th grade school, Orcutt Union School (OUS); the Green and Gold, the Mighty Mustangs, located where Orcutt Junior High stands today. As an elementary school student, Garth fondly remembers Joe Nightingale as his principal. “Everybody liked Joe,” he mused. Adding, “In fact, I went to school with his kids. I grew up with them.” OUS was a quintessential small town school.  Yet amazingly, OUS can boast about a cool sidenote from the play book of none other than coaching legend, John Madden, who was a Super Bowl winner in 1976 and had a successful career as a sports commentator.

In the early 1960’s Madden, who went on to coach the Los Angeles Raiders, was the head football coach at Hancock College. But Garth remembers that he worked for OUS as the boys P.E. coach from 1960-62. He said, “When he first showed up, he was one of biggest men I had ever seen.” Madden’s large frame and larger personality were augmented by his red hair, and huge hands. Garth remembers, “He was always the coach; always the teacher.” He remembers Coach Madden saying, “Look, if you want to play football in high school, here’s what you need to do.” And then he’d list off half a dozen things. “But he commanded your attention with his big, booming voice.” adds Arajuo.

          Other notable OUS personalities included his former teacher May Grisham. “Oh, she was strict!” laughed Arajuo.  Alice Shaw was also there as the school nurse. Mr. Don Black, former superintendent of the Orcutt School District, was a teacher then. According to Arajuo, he would bring in a black and white TV set and watch the World Series with his class. Arajuo enjoyed that and loved the personal touch. “Those were different times.” he quipped.  

The 1960’s brought much growth and expansion to the town of Orcutt. Housing tracts began popping up as well as new schools.  But despite the changes, one thing Garth will treasure to this day are the connections he’s made with the Orcutt community. “Whatever you needed, Orcutt could provide.” he said. Old Town Market was the Old Scolari’s where he would get candy after school. You could get also get a pair of Levis 501s there then walk down the street and get a haircut at Earl Jenning’s barbershop past where Homestead is. Where Kay’s Country Kitchen is there used to be a Walker’s Variety 5 & 10 where you could get a pair of Converse tennis shoes.” 

            Garth’s love for the Orcutt community also includes his love of sports. One final proud moment he mentioned was about local youth baseball. He said, “Up until 1959, if you wanted to play baseball you had to go to Santa Maria. In 1959, the Orcutt Little League was founded and my parents Bob and Elsa Araujo were on the first board.” Garth went on to coach his own kids and many, many others.

Whether it’s sports, his Alma Mater OUS, being coached by John Madden or teachers and friends he’s had long ago, Garth Arajuo has a real sense of pride today about being an “Orcutteer”. Going back six decades to his elementary school days at Orcutt Union School, Garth can still chant a school fight song from memory and with energy.

          We’re, the mighty Mustangs!
          No one could be prouder.
          And if you don’t believe it
          We’ll yell a little louder!

Not many people are yelling louder about their Orcutt Heritage than Garth Arajuo. 

                                                                                                                                                            John Chamberlain reporting

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