Hiram Imboden Cromer and Anne Harris met in Galveston Texas and married in 1934. Hiram was a physical therapist who was fondly referred to as “Doc” Bodee by his patients.
Anne worked as a retail clerk and did some modeling. In 1939, Bodee and Anne packed up their belongings and their two dogs, Happy and Asta, and set off for California in response to an ad for someone to run the bath house and therapy area at Wheeler Hot Springs.
They arrived in Ojai, and the Wilcox's who owned Wheeler’s hired Bodee immediately. Bodee and Anne made friends quickly with everyone in Matilija Canyon.
After WWII began, Bodee went to work in the Long Beach Shipyards as a crane operator and Anne went to work at Douglas Aircraft as an inspector. In early 1944, Bodee accepted a position with The Island Company on Catalina Island. After his day job, he tended bar at the original Chi Chi Club in Avalon. In later years, Anne was proud to show a front cover of Life Magazine with her dancing in the Casino Ballroom in Avalon.
In 1945, their first and only child, Michael Imboden Cromer was born.
The future site for Bodee’s was purchased in early 1946. Bodee hired a dozer operator and developed the original site for Bodee’s Ranch. He pitched tents on the hill above the site, one for sleeping and one for cooking.
With the help of friends such as Pop Soper, Bodee began construction of their original facility. He purchased an old army barracks from the Ojai Valley Inn which had housed troops during the war on the Inn property. This was to be the living quarters in the original facility; today, it is the bar area. The kitchen and bar were in the middle of the facility. Bodee’s steam baths and physical therapy areas were at the highway end of the building.
Bodee’s originally opened on Washington’s Birthday in 1947.
It was a popular watering hole for many, including Hollywood actors Rory Calhoun and Zachary Scott, as well as boxing greats Jack Dempsey and Art Aragon who trained up the road at Pop Soper’s.
On December 15, 1951 the buildings caught fire in the early morning hours. Anne and Michael survived, but Bodee succumbed to smoke inhalation. Once the fire was extinguished, only the old barracks living quarters survived. With the help of friends, Anne rebuilt Bodee’s as a tavern and restaurant and opened for business on Washington’s Birthday in 1953. Anne worked hard and made many friends. She was always a good listener and willing to lend a helping hand to those in need.
Tragedy struck again in January and February 1969. A 100-year storm hit the county with almost 90 inches of rainfall at Matilija Dam. Bodee’s was deep in mud.
Anne and Mike lost vehicles and mud was to the window sills inside the buildings. Once again, family and friends responded by bulldozing the mud away and repairing the building’s storm damage.
Anne again re-opened Bodee’s in the later part of 1969 and Bodee’s became a tradition for many in the area under Anne’s proprietorship.
Many times parents brought their offspring to Bodee’s for their first beer at twenty-one years of age. Third and fourth generations have participated in this ritual.
In her later years, Anne only opened Bodee’s on Friday’s and weekends. On Saturday, August 23, 1997, many family and friends honored Anne with a 50th anniversary celebration. Anne continued to operate Bodee’s until June 23, 1998 when she passed away at the age of 85.
Anne & Bodee have left family and friends with many pleasant memories of times past. It is with this in mind that the Cromer family has decided to re-open Bodee’s.
Michele Cromer-Bentivolio, Anne’s granddaughter, is committed to providing you with a most unique and memorable dining experience.
Start your own tradition at Bodee’s…we look forward to making your experience with us a memorable one.