Chapter 13 – The Culture of Simi Valley

 

This turned out to be the hardest chapter to complete because I never really thought about Simi Valley actually having a cultural identity.  Whenever I am out of state and people ask me where I am from, I tell them I am from Los Angeles; for all intents and purposes I am, and it’s easier than explaining what Simi Valley is all about.  But I figured Simi Valley had to be more than just a bedroom community of middle-class working stiffs who live in cookie-cutter houses, work “over the hill,” and attend an annual “Simi Valley Cajun Festival” that has been going for nearly two decades and still doesn’t have a single, recognizable picture on the internet to prove it. 

 

There is the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, built inside of an old building that served as a Methodist Episcopal church, a Jewish temple, and a mortuary.

 

 

Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center

 

Simi Valley has one public library.

 

Hmmmmm.

 

Okay, well the past has some pretty colorful examples at least. 

 

There was Grandma Prisbrey who covered a third of an acre with buildings, shrines, and fountains made completely out of bottles.  Her masterpiece, called “Bottle Village,” was wiped out by the Northridge Earthquake, time, and vandals.  She is remembered as an important folk artist, but for me, childhood memories of her, as well as her bottle wall capped with doll heads, still cause a small shudder of fear.  Remnants of Bottle Village still remain at the Simi Valley Public Library, and you can still see what it looked like at the following web site: Bottle Village

 

Bottle Village

 

Simi Valley was also the site of the Spahn Movie Ranch, the summer home of the Charles Manson Family.  There’s Charlie on the left. 

 

Spahn Movie Ranch and the Arrest of the Manson Family

 

Of course, the Manson Family wasn’t the first group to use the caves in the Susana Knolls to house a new religion.  Before them, Krishna Venta (AKA Francis Pencovic) ran his WKFL (Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love) Fountain of the World cult from Simi Valley.  Venta claimed he was the returned Christ.  He was later killed in 1958, when long before it came into vogue, two of his former followers attacked him with a suicide bomb.  There is no indication that Mr. Venta was resurrected. 

 

Krishna Venta

 

Before him was the Blackburn Cult, headed up by May Otis Blackburn in the 1920’s.  She and her followers, also known as “The Great Eleven,” were known for animal sacrifices, sex scandals, and an attempt to resurrect a dead girl.  May’s days as a Simi Valley cult leader ended with her conviction for fraud in the 1930’s. 

 

But wait, of course, I got it!

 

Today, Simi Valley is the home of over 80 Christian churches covering all denominations (including two Korean Christian Churches).  As you enter Simi from the east, you cannot help but notice the bright lights and manmade boulders surrounding the sign of “The Church at Rocky Peak,” and as you leave it to the west, if you look up on Mt. McCoy above Madera Street, you’ll see a giant concrete cross that was erected in 1941.   The city has two Jewish Temples and is the home of the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of the American Jewish University as well.  Perhaps Simi Valley is the Bible Belt of the Los Angeles Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area!

 

I’m pretty much counting on the fact that no one will read this page this late into the class.   J