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The Mature Traveler

Glen Tavern Inn: A Spirited History

December 21, 1986|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks.

Mature travelers looking for a country getaway might want to consider the venerable Glen Tavern Inn in Santa Paula, which claims two resident ghosts and boasts of a guest room named after a dog.

No ordinary dog, mind you. This was Rin Tin Tin (or perhaps one of his three offspring), who stayed at the 75-year-old inn with his master while filming a movie that used the inn as a backdrop.

"Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were guests here too," said Kathy Hernandez, who with Dolores Diehl operates the inn. "We're just not certain which room was theirs. We're still researching and we hope to have a sign up in their room as soon as we're sure."

Hernandez and Diehl are both nursing home professionals and enjoy working with older adults. They wanted to work with a more active senior audience, so they formed Senior Health Resorts Inc. and took over Glen Tavern last May.

Getting Word Out

Neither had much hotel experience or understanding of advertising and promotion; consequently, word of their desire to work with mature travelers and tour groups has been slow in getting around.

"We have been doing pretty well with our regular bed-and-breakfast offering, which is $65 a night for two with full breakfast," Hernandez said. "We've also had a few senior tour groups, which we've loved and we would like to draw more.

"We're working up a series of theme weekends or parties," she said, "like murder mystery weekends, historical tours of the many Victorian homes in the area, even seances and perhaps a ghost weekend such as we had for Halloween.

"Oh yes, the ghosts--we have at least two, and both quite friendly. At least no guest has complained," she said.

Cheryl King, Ojai psychic, has spent time in several of the inn's rooms and said she has communicated with two of the spirits.

Hidden Gold Cache

One, according to King, was a wistful woman of 34 named Helen, dressed in a flowery print dress with a white eyelet collar. The other is more fanciful: a Buffalo Bill look-alike who was obsessed with what he thought was a cache of gold hidden somewhere in the hotel's rafters.

The inn's top (third) floor, was a speak-easy during Prohibition, according to Hernandez, and local tales of wild nights with cavorting and gambling lend a frail but legitimate link to the gold cache ghost story.

No gold was found during the inn's recent restoration, which now has all 41 guest rooms individually furnished, many with antique beds and brass overhead fans and some with Jacuzzis.

Glen Tavern Inn was built in 1911 to serve the now historic train depot nearby and the hotel has achieved historic landmark status. It is of Tudor design with peaked gables, rich woodwork and has a distinct European decor of the early 1900s.

It rests on a nicely landscaped site in the center of Santa Paula, which once was in the center of an early oil boom area but today is a pleasant town surrounded by lemon and avocado trees. It is just east of Ventura on California 126, roughly an hour's drive from central Los Angeles.

Things to See, Do

In addition to planned activities and facilities at the inn, pool included, there are things to see and do in the area, reports Hernandez. There's the nearby 18-hole Mountain View golf course and an Indian museum and shop; the hotel staff is always willing to help arrange walking and bike tours.

"Many guests, especially aviation buffs, are fascinated by the Santa Paula Airport," Hernandez said. "It dates from the 1930s and still has the flavor of that period.

"Most important, the more than 325 private planes parked there comprise one of the largest selections of antique and vintage aircraft in Southern California.

"There are also a number of what are called experimental planes at the airport," she said. "It's a free, do-it-yourself walking tour. And we provide free transfers from the inn."

Regular room rates at Glen Tavern Inn range from $55 to $90 a night for two, with the Rin Tin Tin room going for $85 (no extra charge for ghosts). Senior or other groups should be sure to ask about special tour rates, Hernandez said. And chef Randy Summerford has brought the inn's pleasant dining room a fine local reputation.

For more information contact Glen Tavern Inn, 134 N. Mill St., Santa Paula 93060; phone (805) 525-6658.

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