Friday, May 25 , 2018, 9:11 pm | Fair 60º


The Working Life: Jack Look

He just might be the go-to source for information about all things Santa Barbara

Jack Look’s family has been in Santa Barbara for six generations, making him an informal keeper of history on many fronts — and right at home at the venerable Santa Barbara Club.
Jack Look’s family has been in Santa Barbara for six generations, making him an informal keeper of history on many fronts — and right at home at the venerable Santa Barbara Club.  (Jenn Kennedy photo /

Every city has informal ambassadors — those people who just seem to know everyone. They can name generations of local families, have seen the comings and goings of decades of politicians, and know where to eat every style of food at any hour of the day or night. Meet Jack Look, Santa Barbara’s ambassador.

We recently talked over breakfast at the Santa Barbara Club, and he shared some stories.

Born in Santa Barbara, Look’s family relocated with the military to Tokyo for 10 years, where he lived until he was 14. He then returned and attended The Thacher School in Ojai. While his Japanese is rusty, he recently officiated a wedding for his Japanese niece and admits to dreaming and sleep talking in his secondary language.

Look, a Vietnam War veteran, was stationed in Africa with the U.S. Army Security Agency in communication intelligence.

After considering a career in the Foreign Service, Look instead moved to San Francisco for 20 years. He tried real estate, but walked away.

“Both parties have a disconnect with reality,” he said. “The seller thinks they have more than they do, and the buyer needs to be convinced to accept less than they think they deserve.”

He shrugs and acknowledges that he’s also not a competitive person, so the cold calling involved in real estate made it difficult.

He received a call one day from a friend in Santa Barbara, asking him to put his aunt’s estate in order. As a neutral, organized third party, Look did so, and 23 years later has remained part of the fabric of his hometown. His family has been here for six generations, which has made him an informal keeper of history on many fronts.

During our meal, Look was a whirlwind of information, interjecting various historical references into our conversation. He mentioned how many of the families who are large in banking came to California for the Gold Rush, then made the transition to selling the hardware for the miners, then opened banks for everyone to protect and save their money.

He also mentions the colorful start of Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice celebration, which began in 1974, as a birthday celebration for popular artist and mime Michael Gonzales. The parade is the largest, single-day arts event in Santa Barbara County, drawing crowds of more than 100,000 spectators from around the world.

Look then talked about the Santa Barbara Club, which was founded in 1892 and is believed to be the oldest social club between Los Angeles and San Francisco. He explained the difference between his club and the University Club a few blocks away.

“University Club members run Santa Barbara, while Santa Barbara Club members own the city,” he explained.

These days, Look works as a night auditor at San Ysidro Ranch. His great grandfather, the appointed mayor of Santa Barbara at the time, was one of the first guests at the ranch. In fact, he had the road to the ranch originally built over his property, to ease his travels. After nearly seven years working the graveyard shift, Look says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work.

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