High Above Santa Paula with the Oddfellows

I had been looking longingly at the scaffolding on the Oddfellow’s Clock Tower for  what seemed like months.  What was going on up there?  I mentioned to Paul Skeels and Carlos Juarez that I would love to climb up on that scaffolding and take some portraits of the Oddfellows at work.  On a recent Thursday morning I was on my morning walk when my cell phone rang.  It was too early in the morning for telemarketers so I answered it.  Carlos was calling to invite me to climb up with his fellow Oddfellows as they put the finishing touches on the restoration.  That day would be my only chance as the scaffolding was to be removed pretty darn soon.

“Bill Behind the Drill”

“Paul and Wes”

I quickened my strides home to shave and shower and put on my hiking boots.  Then I loaded up my backpack at the gallery with the camera and lenses I might need and tried not to knock pedestrians down as I took my longest strides down Main St. to the IOOF Hall.  I could see the boys up on the scaffolding so I called Carlos on his cell phone.  He instructed me to go up the stairs, into the meeting hall, turn right, go up the stairs, find the small door and half crawl half climb up through the hatch opening onto the roof.  There I was at the base of the scaffolding on the silver roof.  A narrow ladder led me up to the thick boards forming the platform of the first level.

“Touch Up Painting on the Clock Tower”

I handed my backpack up to Paul and felt like a volunteer fireman as I climbed higher and squirmed through the narrow opening onto the boards.  The planks had a little spring to them as I walked that made me feel like my weight was going to crack the stout planks and I’d fall to the pavement below.  I soon got used to the plank walking like a sailor gets used to the rolling seas.  In one hand I held the camera and with the other gripped the scaffolding where and when I could.

“Linked Rings”

“Very Secret Symbol”

“The Hands of the Clock”

“Paul Inspecting the Hands of the North Face”

I’m used to working on 20 foot rolling scaffolding at the Monterey Jazz Festival.  The IOOF scaffolding was literally a step up from that experience.  I quickly developed a few rules.  Always know where you are placing your next step.  Always know where the closest cross bar is to grab in case of a misstep.  Don’t move around while looking in to the viewfinder of the camera.  Plant your feet and take the photo, then carefully move to the next location for the next photo.  A wide angle lens helps because there is not much room to move back for a shot.  I also could not ask the subject to move back.

“Rabalais’ In the Shadow of the Clock Tower”

“Bikes at Rabalais’ Bistro”

“My Favorite Bank”

“What Time Is It?”

As I climbed back down the scaffolding and reached the silver roof on the south side of the clock tower the Oddfellows asked me to take a shot of all of them standing on the scaffolding with the south clock face in the middle of the group.

“Carlos Juarez”


After that shot Paul Skeels climbed down and had a few minutes to show me the bell and the huge iron clapper.

We then stooped and went into the low door below the south face and into the little room with the clock works.  The original clock works were powered by the pull of gravity like a huge tall case clock.  A relatively small electric motor now powers the mechanism.

“The Works”

Gears and shafts turn and the rotation is transferred up a central shaft and then out in four different directions to turn the hands on each face of the clock.  It looks a little like the differential on an old car only there are four of them.

From the inside of the clock tower there is a soft glow of light as the sun shines through the translucent clock face and the numerals all appear backwards.

By the time the Oddfellows next need to set up scaffolding I’ll be too old to climb it.  I had a unique opportunity to climb up with the Oddfellows and take some photos from a seldom seen vantage point.


About John

John Nichols is owner of John Nichols Gallery in downtown Santa Paula, Calif. Since 1984. Vintage, vernacular and contemporary photography and art services
This entry was posted in Portrait, Santa Paula Activities, Santa Paula Portrait Project, Uncategorized, Writings and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to High Above Santa Paula with the Oddfellows

  1. mimici06 says:

    Love these pix! I was in Santa Paula the other day, saw an absolutely stunning painting by Gail at the Agriculture museum….pretty much fell in love with the town.

    • John says:

      Gail and I are co-founders of the Ag Art Alliance. The exhibit you saw was part of the larger exhibit. The major portion was in the Santa Paula Art Museum. This year was the 4th Annual. We are also working on the Santa Paula Portrait Project.
      Hope to meet you in person.


  2. Karen says:

    These were amazing!!!

  3. Annelie says:

    Enjoyed your write-up and the BEAUTIFUL pictures. Thank you!

  4. Michael Adams says:

    You’re my hero, John. Loooooooooooove your work!

  5. Jeanne Dickenson says:

    Great story. Wonderful and effective presentation. Thank you for sharing your passion.

  6. Daniel Molina says:

    Awesome photos!

    This town has so many hidden beauties! Its nice to get the chance to see them!

    Danny Molina
    Santa Paula High Campus Security

    • John says:

      Hi Danny, Glad you like them. Have you seen the Growing UP in Santa Paula Facebook page? My gallery is on the second floor of the Santa Paula ARt Museum. I have lots of photos old and new.


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