Ranch owner August Rübel and his eldest son, Gerald "Jerry" Rübel in Army uniform, at Rancho Camulos, 1942. 4x6-inch print (probably color photocopy).
Gerald Richard Rübel was born May 31, 1921, in Boston, shortly before his parents, August and Mary Rübel, moved the growing family to Santa Paula in Ventura County. They moved to
Rancho Camulos after 1924. Gerald enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army on Jan. 6, 1942, in Los Angeles. His enlistment record indicates he had one year in college
at the time and worked in civilian life as a driver. After the war he lived in Auburn, Placer County, Calif., where he died Nov. 24, 1997.
He is buried in nearby Newcastle Cemetery.
Little did he know at the time of this photograph that his father was the one who wouldn't be coming back. August, who had driven an ambulance for the American Field Service in France during
World War I, re-enlisted in the AFS later in 1942. He died when his ambulance hit a German land mine in North Africa in 1943.
According to Triem & Stone (1996) — and to his two surviving daughters in 2013, Shirley Rübel Lorenz and Nathalie (Rübel) Trefzger —
August A. Rübel was a New Yorker born in Switzerland while his parents were traveling there. (Despite the umlauts, he didn't speak German, according to his daughters.)
He grew up on the East Coast and served with the
American Field Service during World War I, driving an ambulance in France from the fall of 1917 until 1919.
Rübel attended Harvard University and came to Ventura County in 1922,
first living in Aliso Canyon, four miles west of Saticoy, where he and his bride, the former Mary Colgate McIsaac,
purchased a 400-acre ranch.
In 1924, Rübel also purchased Rancho Camulos (pronounced kə-MOO-lōs) from the heirs of Ygnacio del Valle. The Rübels moved to the property in 1925.
In April 1925, intent on developing his Aliso Canyon ranch into one of the finest bovine breeding farms in the United States (Los Angeles Times, 4/26/1925), August Rübel paid the highest price
on record — $110,000 — for a 4-year-old Holstein bull named Prince Aaggie from the Berylwood Stock Farm at Hueneme. At the same time, he purchased the entire Berylwood
herd (179 additional head) and gave his outfit the name "Billiwhack Stock Farm." The herd's manager, J.W. Snodgrass, came along with it.
"Billiwhack" was World War I Army slang for "the place where one hangs his hat" (Oxnard Daily Courier, 4/21/1925). It's a derivation of "bailiwick." Think of it this way:
If something is not your bailiwick, it is not your thing, not your place, not something you're comfortable with. Conversely, if something is your bailiwick, or billiwhack,
it is your place; as a physical location, it's a place where you're comfortable.
Prince Aaggie was California's undefeated champion and the world's highest yearly record butter bull. Thus his death from a twisted intestine in June 1926, just one year after his purchase by Rübel,
sent shock waves throughout the livestock community and devastated his owner (Oxnard Daily Courier, 6/15/1926). Prince Aaggie was uninsured at the time of his death. Rübel
had just spent an estimated $1 million on new reinforced concrete buildings, a modern refrigeration plant, refrigerated delivery trucks, and his livestock; and he had other improvements in the works when his prize bull died (The Piru News, 8/30/1928).
He sold off the herd and shut down the dairy farm, which sat fallow for two years until 1928 when he sold the property to Ben Fratkin's Valley Dairy Co. of Los Angeles and El Monte. Fratkin reopened it and
continued to operate it under the Billiwhack name until the early 1940s.
Rübel taxidermied Prince Aaggie's head and mounted it on the southern wall of the main adobe at Rancho Camulos, where he and Mary raised five children.
The AFS ambulance service was reactivated in 1939. American volunteers drove ambulances in France, North Africa, the Middle East, Italy, Germany, India and Burma,
carrying more than 700,000 casualties by the end of World War II.
August Rübel returned to the AFS in 1942 and was killed in Tunisia on April 28, 1943,
when the ambulance he was driving hit a German land mine.
He is buried in an American military cemetery in Carthage, now a suburb of Tunis. (After the war, in 1947, AFS transitioned into a student exchange program.)
Mary Rübel married Edwin Burger in 1946, who continued as the resident manager of Rancho Camulos after Mary's death in 1968.
Subsequently the ranch has been managed by descendants of August and Mary Rübel.
The Rübel family continues to own the ranch. In fact, only two families — the Del Valles and the Rübels — have owned Rancho Camulos since 1839, when it was granted by Gov. Juan B. Alvarado
to Mexican Lt. Antonio del Valle as part of the Rancho San Francisco.
Today it makes a lovely setting for a wedding. The historic buildings are operated by the 501c3 nonprofit Rancho Camulos Museum, and they're open for tours on weekend afternoons.
Rancho Camulos is located located just 10 miles west of Interstate 5 on scenic Highway 126. For more information visit RanchoCamulos.org.
And fear not: Prince Aaggie's head is no longer on display.