Ninety-eight-year-old Isla Vista resident Nora Finley has lived in the college party community for a lot longer than most people, seeing myriad changes throughout the years.
Finley moved to I.V. in her forties, after her husband died, to take one of the first teaching positions at the newly built Isla Vista Elementary School. I.V. in the late 1950s was very different than now-Camino Pescadero was a dirt road surrounded by trees and a few houses, and the current UCSB site was a military training facility.
Living on Camino Pescadero in the ’70s, Finley was in the heart of the riot. She remembers students throwing mattresses into dumpsters, and the police chasing them into houses, breaking down the doors, and firing warning shots. When embers from the flames burning the Bank of America started to land on her roof, Finley called the authorities. She remembers being told, “Lady, we can’t come out there. There’s a riot going on.” They said she’d have to wait until morning before they’d come to her aid.
Finley-who has lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, and the Isla Vista riots-knows what it’s like to go through hard times, but she never let it kill her spirit. “If you’re grateful for what you have, then you’re blessed with more,” Finley said, sitting in a chair in the I.V. duplex she has lived in for about 50 years.
Finley remains an optimist, talking fondly of her son Larry, her friend Olivia-who lives in the adjoining apartment and comes over to chat or bring her butternut squash soup-and of the things she plans do. Finley can’t play piano or write music anymore because of eyesight loss, but she still intends to use the new Apple computer her son bought her. When asked how she’s lived such a long, full life, Finley summed it up with, “It’s due to pasta, pizza, and polenta, corn meal.” So bring it on.