Most long-time I.V. residents are familiar with the Free Box, but for those of you who are just beginning your Isla Vista experience, take a peek some day in front of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) office across from the Cantina. You will probably see people merrily rummaging through clothes and other items in a partitioned plywood depository known as the Free Box. Don’t want it anymore? Drop it in the Free Box. And while you’re there, you might find something you like – for free.
For years, the Free Box has been a fun way to recycle and is a valuable asset to the community. According to a few real old-timers, the Free Box started in I.V. in the late ’60s on the south side of the building that is now the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic. There was a beautiful mural there of a freaky looking Uncle Sam smoking a big joint – if anyone out there reading this has a photo of this, I’d sure like to see it.
When I first encountered the Free Box in the mid-’80s, it was a shed-like structure right on the corner of the current IVRPD property at 961 Embarcadero del Mar. This was before the IVRPD had their office on that property. It was a pretty good-sized shack, at least 8×10 feet, with shingles and a shelf that stretched across its width. I believe it had been there since the mid-’70s. It was a perfect refuge in bad weather and over the years there have been many early morning “Free Box shoppers” surprised by sleepy-eyed bearded creatures covered with clothes. Unfortunately, it also became a hot spot to duck into to take a leak before the bathroom was built at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park. Partly because of this problem, and also a fire, a new smaller box was built, but the new design was no match for the slim bearded creatures who could squeeze through the nighttime drop slot. The existing box was designed and built by a local Boy Scout, with the help from a contractor, in 1998, and it has worked out really well.
Friends of the Free Box is a community group formed last year to help keep the Free Box going. This Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. we will be having a Free Box repair shindig on-site. We need to replace some plywood panels, as well as sand and paint it. Anyone who would like to help is welcome; we could also use some food for our potluck, and clothing and other small items are always appreciated. We may still be at it on Sunday, but we’ll be gone in time for the Super Bowl. Hope to see you there. For further information, contact Michael Bean at IVFreebox@yahoo.com, or call me at 805-685-2050.
Jenny Jett is a longtime Isla Vista resident.