A ‘Nunsense’ of Place

If any of you remember the Timbers Restaurant at the north end of town as old and tired, think again. The Arfaei family purchased it two years ago and have gutted the building and replaced virtually everything except the thick timber walls and massive fireplace. Do you remember where those timbers came from? They were the “shelled” timbers during World War II from the pier in the Ellwood part of Goleta.

Rewind to the late 1930s when a Japanese ship docked in Santa Barbara. It either stopped for crude oil from one of the offshore wells or to load or unload cargo. While in port, the ship’s captain, Kozo Nishino, went on a local sight seeing tour. While admiring some hillside scenery he slipped into a bed of cactus! When the Americans with him burst out laughing he didn’t think it was funny and felt ridiculed, losing face. He had his chance at revenge as a Japanese navy sub commander. On February 1942, he surfaced his submarine near an oil field pier north of Goleta, shelling it and the land around. No one was injured since it was mostly farmland but several wealthy bi-coastal residents of Montecito sold their estates and retreated back east.

Enter Tex Blankenship and wife, Emma, who in 1953 bought 21 acres of land in Ellwood hoping to build a Knott’s Berry Farm-like theme restaurant. Blankenship bought the shelled timbers from the pier and used them in the restaurant, but he never finished his dream. Ten years later, Sam Velliotes and his three sons finally served the first meal. The restaurant was bought and sold two more times until the Arfaeis came in.

What a lovely surprise going to the Timbers Supper Club for dinner, finding great ambiance and a dynamic, fun, toe-tapping show called “Nunsense.” The cast is stellar with the absolute best of local talent: Kelly Ary, Jennifer Gimblin, Holly Ferguson, Katie Thatcher and Julie Anne Ruggieri, who played the hilarious singing nuns.

Producer Glenn Novack greeted us at the door. Glenn and I knew each other way back in Le Petit Cabaret days (a small dinner theatre on the Mesa in the strip mall). When my husband, Don, asked, “What’s the difference between the director and the producer?” Glenn joked, “The director leaves after everything is staged!” Director was Peter McCorkle with David Potter as musical director and executive producer Hadi Arfaei.

You can still catch “Nunsense” on Saturday, March 17 or for Sunday Brunch on March 18. Look for the next production: The Santa Barbara Silver Follies and the Razzle Dazzle Dancers in “Cottontail Revue” on March 31, April 1, 7 and 8. Performers average age is 65. Watch out for Palm Springs Follies.

The Timbers is also open for breakfast and lunch every day. Call 968-2222 for reservations.

The Italian Renaissance

To celebrate the centenary anniversary of the founding of Dr. Maria Montessori’s first school near Rome, Italy in 1907, Montessori Center School invited parents and guests to don festive Renaissance attire and come to the Bacara Resort & Spa. Maria’s vision of “a new education for a new world” has grown to 20,000 schools in more than 100 nations. Renaissance or rebirth was the perfect theme. The school has more than 300 students and is nearly 50 years old.

I didn’t see many “lords and ladies” but everyone gathered in the Silent Auction room, which was anything but silent. Allan King’s singing added to the lively atmosphere. There were two bars and lots of conversation over cocktails about what to bid on. The wall opened into the Grand Ballroom illuminated by candelabras on all the tables surrounded by a bounty of fruits and vegetables. The stunning room was the design of food and décor chairs Tricia Fountaine and Pascale Beale-Groom.

Event chair Caroline Harrah had eloquent praise for her team. “You skipped lunch breaks to help, made calls while the baby napped and burned the midnight oil planning, organizing and brainstorming,” she said. Among those recognized were: Lori Cappello, Randi Miller, Marisa Koke, Amal Zeini, Christy Condon, Hilary Diskin, Melissa Birch, Michele McGovern Gilbert, John Roshell, Alisa Haley, Chris Martinich, Larry Trager, Polly Gallimore and Mary Anne Weiss.

Bryan and Lisa Babcock donated all the wines. The Bacara’s seabass and filet seemed especially delicious as well. Cheers went up all around the room as parents such as Robin and Bob Fell, Victoria and Joseph Harvey and Ella and Scott Brittingham identified their kids on the big screen in different scenes from the school. The background music was “Every Day Miracles Happen All The Time.” The live auction platform was right in the middle of the room and paddles flew as Kent Massey kept the auction moving.

As Head of School Nelda Nutter intoned, “Your bidding paddle may not be Michelangelo’s chisel, Galileo’s eyepiece or a four-year-old’s paint brush, but it can be life-changing nonetheless.” According to President of the Board of Trustees Melinda Staveley, the evening proceeds will help fund scholarships, capital improvements and the future site for the school.

If you’d like a tour of the Montessori campus in Goleta call 683-9383. Kelly Conerly is director of development and marketing.