The Pigs of the SS Kalorama

The smell of barbecues filled ventura.

by Richard Senate

In the days before the coming of the railroad, and paved roads, the only dependable means of transportation in Ventura was by sea. The Ventura Pier was built in 1872 so ships could land here to take on cargo and passengers.  But, the plan was to have breakwater to make landing at the pier safe but the breakwater was never built (too expensive). Ships had to  come in at their own risk, especially in the winter months when tides could change and storms come in fast off  the  Channel Islands.

On February 25th, 1876, the coastal steamer SS Kalorama came in to take on a cargo of pigs. As she was leaving the pier, an errant wave hit the ship and sent her into the beach. Here the pounding waves slowly broke the ship apart. Her cargo of frightened pigs escaped, leaping into the water and swimming for shore. and then into the community!  The crew of the stricken ship tried to recapture the animals but only a few were caught. The rest ran up California Street and into all neighborhoods of Ventura.

People came out of their houses to catch the pigs, rich and poor, all took part in the wild adventure. The escaping porkers were rounded up only to vanish into barns and back yards, never to be returned to their rightful owners.   It is said that when summer came, the smell of barbecues filled the town and most citizens feasted on pork ribs. It was a festive July 4th that year.  

Some enterprising Venturans risked their lives by going out to the wreck and pulling off souvenirs and mementos from the wrecked ship.  The Ventura County Museum of Art and History has some of the artifacts from  the SS Kalorama in its collection. One of the downtown streets was named Kalorama for the lost ship. Two other streets are named for ships that were beached here and lost, the schooner Ann and steamer Crimea.

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