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Fertile Ground

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It must be something in the water.

No one can say quite why it happened, or how long it will continue, but on a single block of Jones Street in midtown Ventura, there has been a veritable baby explosion.

It is a short block--only 22 families. But there are six newborns 6 months or younger. And another one is due to pop into the neighborhood in September.

“My buddy won’t let his wife drive down this street,” said Robert Weiner, father of Brooke, 6 months. “He’s afraid she’ll get the fertile syndrome.”

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“It’s a prerequisite to living on this street,” said Sabrina McManigal, mother of 6-month-old twins Hugh Joseph V and his sister Madison Lee.

Laurie Weiner said the Jones Street baby boom started a little less than a year ago.

“I have an 11-year-old daughter,” she said. “We got pregnant, and I thought, this is great, but who is my baby going to play with? Some neighbors moved in, and I thought, I wonder if they are going to have a family? So I brought over some brownies . . . our babies were due a week apart.”

Shortly afterward, she was chatting with another neighbor and found out that she was pregnant too.

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From there, the pace accelerated.

Another couple moved in. And they had a baby.

Then the McManigals moved in across the street. And they had twin babies.

“It just moved on down the line,” said Lori Harasta, whose daughter Nicole was born a week before Brooke Weiner. “It’s heading south.”

When one family moved out, the Weiners questioned why. “We wondered, are you selling because you are afraid you are going to get pregnant?” Weiner joked.

Residents of Jones Street, a two-block street near Will Rogers elementary, had a vague sense that there were a lot of babies around.

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But Matt Mayta--father of the newest kid on the block, 2-week-old Hunter--said neighbors really started to realize the phenomenon was something remarkable when outsiders dropped by a block sale in early April.

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“People were asking, ‘Does everyone on this block have a baby?’ ” Mayta said.

Out on the sidewalk of this quiet, fertile street, the urgent cries and soft coos of babies drift out through open doors and windows.

Laurie Weiner said when she is out in the garden listening for her baby’s cry, she has trouble discerning where the cries come from and which one is her Brooke.

Dolores Kemsley, great grandmother of 4-week-old Sanoe Malia Kaaihue, has lived on the block for decades. During that time, she says, she has watched the neighborhood go from a quiet enclave of nine widows to a lively breeding ground for young families.

“When I came here it was all a bunch of widows. I was the youngest of the widows. Young families started moving in. And then . . . the baby boom.”

Parents are already pondering the untapped business opportunities. Laurie Weiner predicts area baby-sitter rates will go through the roof. And Matt Mayta speculates that a child-care center that opened on Jones Street could make a killing.

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As the mothers rock and coddle their newborns they ponder the quirk of fate that brought so many babies to a single block.

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“How can there be nobody and then . . . boom?” asked Laurie Weiner. “It’s like the Joneses are keeping up with the Joneses on Jones street.”


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