Old Paso: Paso Robles High School Initiation

by Harold Franklin

PRHS photo courtesy of www.pasorobles-usa.com

PRHS at 24th and Spring, photo courtesy of http://www.pasorobles-usa.com

This farm boy was scared to begin high school. The Senior class initiated the Freshman the third week of school. I was not very familiar with the school but had attended various community functions in the auditorium over the years. But I was not familiar with the campus.

The brick building had been built in 1924 in a camping park. The front faced  Spring Street which was busy Highway 101 with its diesel trucks and vehicular traffic. The walls were covered in ivy. The first high school was a three storied building built in 1892 at what is now the Marie Bauer School. The third story was removed after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. This new high school was two story on the half facing the Highway. On the north end on the second floor was the library and study hall and one large classroom on the south end. On the second floor one could walk down the enclosed hallway and look to the west over the roof of the first story rooms. Large pictures lined the second floor wall with classes from the 1920’s and 1930’s. The school cafeteria was the first room on the north second floor with the chemistry room next to it. The building had been strengthened with steel beams and ties after the large 1933 Southern California earthquake. During my Sophomore year in 1952-1953, the outer layer of bricks were jackhammered off, steel reinforcing tied on the walls and gunite concrete shot onto the iron grid to strengthen the building. The bricks and ivy look was gone.

I entered Paso Robles High School in September, 1951. My father had attended the school in 1927 and 1928. It was the first time we changed classes every period. Mr. Quade was our principal, a quiet, reserved gentleman. Miss Zaph was the freshman English teacher. It seems to me we spent a good deal of the time studying careers and determining what we wanted to be in life. She was a bear. Her room was upstairs. She sucked on candy all the time as she smoked and had a dry voice. She watched us students with an eagle eye to catch anyone chewing gum or sucking candy.


The “old” Paso Robles high school, circa 1892

I was on a college tract and had algebra with Miss Beeler. I never did get the hang of that math. I had her for bookkeeping my Senior year and enjoyed the class. My Spanish teacher was a Frenchman from Quebec. Learning Spanish with a French accent was difficult for us gringos. Band was a lot of fun and we met in the orchestra pit in the front of the auditorium. We played at pep rallies, half-time football games and concerts in the Spring.  Mr. Whitesides was my band teacher 10th through 12th grade. I played a trombone all the years except in 12th grade when I played the sousaphone. Our first parade each year was the Pioneer Day Parade in October. In the Spring we traveled to a band festival in either San Francisco or Fullerton.

I got a new trombone in 1954 and when playing at a mass band festival in the football bleachers at Fullerton, I happened to look down and a bee was sitting on my right thumb riding up and down as I moved my slide. I flicked him off and away went my slide, tumbling down through all the supports of the bleachers. I retrieved it but it had a small nick in it and was not real slick when sliding.

In 1953 my brother Donald, playing a baritone, and my cousin, Elaine, playing a clarinet, went to a band festival in San Francisco. I recall that the three of us rode a street car from downtown out to the Zoo in Golden Gate Park. That was quite an adventure for us country bumpkins. Our Grandmother Combs when 14 had worked for the owners of the streetcars in 1895.

Initiation began with a Monday assembly when we were told all that was expected of us that week. We had to carry the Senior’s books to their class and not be late to our own classes. We had to have a shoeshine kit and polish Senior’s shoes. We had to learn the words and tune to the fight song and the Alma Mater and sing them when requested.  I have never forgotten them. On Friday we boys had to come to school wearing a bra, swim trunks, a necklace with 3 onions, and 3 rings of one inch tape around the calves of our legs. The girls had to have an onion necklace, as well, and wear a burlap sack dress.

I had my revenge. I got a small box and got it full of the itchiest chaff I could find off our combine – wild oats, fireweed, and tecalote. I also got several bottles of shoe polish and added some crankcase oil to it. I went around and slightly blew chaff on Seniors when they were not suspecting it. Adrian Adams, a friend, asked me to shine his shoes and I told him what I had done.

Friday when  I got off the bus, I was greeted by dozens of eager Seniors with lipstick tubes in hand and was soon appropriately decorated. The onions were smashed and began their stinking. The tape on my legs was slowly removed and restuck. We had to roll peanuts and lipstick tubes across the lawn and sidewalks with our noses during recesses. But I had my little box of chaff and used it accordingly and discreetly. Some freshmen were sticking toothpicks in all the football cleat holes leading up to the football field. Seventh period we had an assembly on the football field and all sorts of acts were done, to the laughing stock of the rest of the student body and our embarrassment.   Ah, wait until we are Seniors and we will get our turn.

The first rainstorm came and for PE we had dancing in the gym with the girls. I did not believe in dancing, a form of public foreplay, and didn’t know what to do. Bill McKinnon, my cousin and a Senior, had me sit with him and we faced the wall. The next day I had a note from my parents excusing me and that took care of that the rest of high school.

Each year each class put on an assembly for the rest of the school. We could all sit in the auditorium with around 400 students. The Seniors were in front center, the Juniors behind them. The  Sophomores sat on either side at the front and the Freshman sat in the rear on both sides. It was about 1953 and the Seniors had a scary assembly. Then at one point a .30 caliber machine gun, with blanks, opened fire from up in the balcony. It was just a loud, short burst. But a girl jumped up and ran screaming out of the assembly. We all instantly felt badly as we knew she had survived WW II in France. It was very sobering and the school and Seniors apologized to her. Coach Barnhart, the Senior advisor, was in charge of the school rifle team and he did not know this would not be a good idea. Barnhart had the loudest voice I have ever heard. He had played pro football for the Detroit Lions. His wife was an RN, with my wife, at War Memorial Hospital.

Coach Barnhart taught Sophomore world history upstairs on the big south room. In January after Christmas Vacation, I was sitting in his class when I realized that I had some itchy bumps on parts of my body. Oh, oh. I knew they were signs of poison oak. We had been hunting pigeons in Willow Creek during vacation and I had been in poison oak. I missed a week of class. Man, that sure did hurt.

I played Junior Varsity football my Junior year. My mother did not want me to play football. I had lots of chores like milking cows by hand, changing sprinkler pipes and often driving tractor. Our family did not have much cash and we had to work hard. I worked out a deal to ride home with another student so I played tackle. My family enjoyed watching me play and my Senior year I played Varsity football. I played defensive end and on special teams. We won the league championship in 1954, and lost the last CIF game, 21 to 7. I was 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 210 pounds. Bert Rovenstein came to football practice late with his deer rifle and a freshly killed buck. Coach Thomas was a hunter and the team gave him a new shotgun when he left Paso Robles in the summer of 1955 for Santa Maria. We all carried pocket knives to school and fellows had their guns in the back windows of their pickups.

I was in a college prep plan, but really wanted to take Agriculture. My Junior year my parents relented and I joined FFA as a Greenhand with all the freshman boys. I really enjoyed that class and learned so many useful things from Mr. Parsons. I had another initiation to go through. We were all blindfolded and towed a car all over the campus in the dark prodded on with paddles. Then we were taken into the Ag building and went through the regular rigmarole blindfolded – feeling peeled bananas in a toilet bowl, hamburger in a science manikin’s skull, a bitless drill chuck turned on our spine. About that time Brimhall bolted for home. The furor raised with that deal caused all hazing to be stopped. Period. There went our Senior initiation of the Freshmen the next fall. Now the students do not know those songs.

Sophomore English teacher Miss Easterling, known since 1934 as Easterburg, was my teacher. I liked her, as well as Junior English teacher Miss Swanson.  Miss McPeak was an excellent geometery teacher my Sophomore year. Our Spanish II teacher was not a Frenchman, Mr. Moreno. Mr. Kinkead was my Senior Chemistry teacher, an outstanding teacher who I really liked.  Miss Bobson was our Senior health teacher. Being a Christian Scientist, she skipped any medical problems. While in her class, my parents were at a church business meeting and we could not get my baby brother, one year old, to stop screaming and crying. I finally took off his diaper and saw a huge hernia sticking out his lower abdomen. I phoned my folks and they were home in 5 minutes, normally a 12 minute drive. The doctor fixed up Roger just fine.

Harold Franklin giving a school tour in 2008. Photo courtesy of www.atascaderonews.com

Harold Franklin giving a school tour in 2008. Photo courtesy of http://www.atascaderonews.com

One late winter day in February we had a big hail storm pass over the high school during lunch hour. It left about 3 inches of hail.  All we students flocked out and began a big hail ball fight. The bells rang for 5th period but we ignored them. Mr. Quade came out and told us we could stay out that period and have fun. And we sure did get sopping cold and wet. About the time for 6th period, most of the hail had melted and we were ready for 6th period when the bells rang.

Our Paso Robles High School graduation was on June 12, 1955, my birthday. We had Baccalaureate the Sunday evening before. Graduation was on the football field, just like nowadays, but not with all the flags. The band played, the Salutatorian and the Valedictorian spoke along with an adult. We were passed out our diploma covers and later received our diplomas when we turned in our caps and gowns.

At the awards assembly, I received a Scholarship letter for being in the California Scholarship Federation the six semesters of my Sophomore, Junior and Senior years. The CSF Sneak Day was at Atascadero Lake with a picnic and swimming. The only incident was when Fred Woodlawn dove into the lake and punctured his abdomen on a sharp root and had to go to the doctor for stitches. Along with a football Varsity letter with a small football pin for winning the league title. I also received a band pin for four years in band. Our Senior sneak was a trip to Greenfield and the Arroyo Seco River for swimming, sunbathing and a picnic.

We had our Senior Banquet at the Paso Robles Inn. It was a grand time. We had a grand meal and a fun program. Charlie Blair even downed a whole bottle of A! Steak sauce on a dare. I have not missed any class reunions. Next year we celebrate our 60th reunion! Where have all the years gone?  Out of 72 graduates, over 45 of us are still alive.

Our high school was remodeled in 1980 to have a full second story for George Flamson Middle School. Then the 2003 Earthquake condemned the whole building and today we have a new Flamson Middle School and since 1980, a new Paso Robles High School on Niblick Road.

Old Paso: The Southern Pacific Milling Company

by Harold Franklin

TrainDepot 1890

The Southern Pacific depot circa in 1890. The original building still stands today and is currently the home of Anglim Winery.

Paso Robles was in the center of a huge grain growing area. It just needed an impetus to develop. This finally happened on October 31, 1886, when the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in  our town and the engineer blew a long, loud blast with his steam whistle that echoed and re-echoed through the hills and plains.

For eleven years the railroad had ended at Soledad. Then 1,500 Chinese laborers began laying track on the right-of-way behind the surveyors and grading personnel in the spring of 1886. The track ended at Crocker, now Templeton, for several years. Within a couple of days, railroad cars arrived loaded with redwood lumber and a crew to build a warehouse. The warehouse was a separate entity from the railroad, The Southern Pacific Milling Company. This company was set up quickly to get the farmers and ranchers wheat and wool. The company offered sacks, twine, insurance and all the necessities needed by the farmers moving into the area.

It was a monopoly. Offering higher prices than the ports of Cayucos, San Simeon and Port Harford, the prices were still low. The Blackburn Brothers and James had built a bridge across the Salinas River in 1887 and the Cliff Road, now South River Road, for the farmers. Along with all the necessary items needed for ranching and farming, soon a mill was set up to produce feed, as well as a planning mill for dressing the lumber offered by the company. They also offered all types of farming implements needed for working the soil.

The S.P. Milling Company warehouse was built directly east of the depot across the tracks. Special crews built the warehouse, the depots, and the 60,000 gallon water tanks required by the steam engines. The crew quickly set up in a few weeks the redwood warehouse that was 50 feet wide and over 660 feet long. The walls were 14 feet high with open rafters to the roof. Later the warehouse was extended to almost 1,000 feet long to handle all the business. The warehouse was 50 feet wide. Every 50 feet on the railroad side was a door through which boxcars could be unloaded and loaded.

On the Riverside Street side were doorways with side steps every 50 feet where the grain sacks were unloaded from the wagons and later years the trucks. These sidings were about 4 feet high so the hand trucks could be used to haul 5 sacks at a time into the warehouse. Wheat weighed about 140 pounds to a sack with barley about 120 pounds.  A hand truck with 5 sacks of wheat was about 700 pounds.

Continue reading

Paso Robles Pioneer Day Celebration Includes 125th Anniversary Elements

Pioneer Day Celebration Includes 125th Anniversary Elements

Beer garden, bake-off, old-fashioned kids’ games and more planned!
Funfair Graphic_Pioneer Day


With a theme of “Old Fashioned Funfair,” the Paso Robles 125th Anniversary celebration is
teaming up with Pioneer Day to bring a few new elements to the City Park during the 2014 Pioneer Day in honor of the city’s Quasquicentennial year.  The event takes place Saturday, October 11, 2014.

In addition to the local favorite parade and other activities, there are a handful of fun elements planned to keep people in the park after the parade, including a street dance, a beer garden, a bake-off for amateurs and professionals, old-fashioned kids games including a cake walk and tug of war, and more.

Beer and Ginger Ale Garden Oaktoberfest12oz
Just east of the gazebo you will find the first ever Pioneer Day Beer and Ginger Ale Garden. Firestone Walker Brewing Company, ever dedicated to supporting its community, has donated beer to this event to be sold as a fundraiser for the 125th Anniversary. Ginger Ale will also be for sale, donated by Pithy Little Wine Company. Bottled water will be available for purchase.

Bake Off apple pie
Are you an amateur or professional baker? Got a famous recipe for apple pie, cobbler or cupcakes? Bring your creation down to the park before the parade for your chance to win bragging rights and recognition in the local media. No charge to enter. Local “celebrity” judges to be announced. For more information contact Shonna Howenstine at 227.7236 or shonna@prcity.com.

Kids Games
Come introduce your kids or grandkids to the games you loved as a kid. There will be a cake walk, tug of war, sack races, hula hooping and more. Located east of the gazebo.

Street Dance Monte Mills
Let the good times roll! A street dance will take place on Pine Street between 11th and 12th Streets, adjacent to the beer and ginger ale garden. Local favorite Monte Mills and the Lucky Horse Shoe Band are the entertainment.

Antique Equipment Display
Select Pioneer Day parade entries including some of the finest antique wagons and tractors anywhere, will be on display on 12th Street from 1:00 to 4:00 PM for the public to view and take photos with.

Volunteers Needed
If you are interested in being part of this fun celebration as a volunteer, please contact Suzanne Robitaille at 237.7811 or srobitaille@prcity.com.

Paso-125th-Logo_webAbout the 125th Anniversary Celebration:
2014 marks the 125th Anniversary of Paso Robles incorporating as a city, and the community is celebrating the occasion all year, including the “Happy Birthday, Paso Robles” event held on March 11, 2014; the old-fashioned 4th of July celebration; an Old-Fashioned Family Fun Day in the park during Pioneer Day in 2014, a grand finale on December 31, 2014, and many more events in between. For a complete list of events celebrating the 125th anniversary throughout 2014, go to www.paso125.com.

About Paso Robles: Recently named Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Paso Robles, California is located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on Highway 101 and is roughly a 20 minute drive inland from the Pacific Ocean. This small farming town boasts 250+ wineries, a charming historic downtown and town square, comfortable lodging accommodations, farm-to-table dining, art galleries, shopping, hot mineral springs and friendly locals. For more information about Paso Robles, CA, please visit  www.TravelPaso.com.


Independence Day – 125th Anniversary Edition

Statue of LibertyAs a part of the 125th Anniversary of the City of Paso Robles, an old-fashioned 4th of July Celebration will be held in City Park on Friday the 4th of July. Offering something for everyone and all age groups, the Celebration will consist of a Children’s Parade at 11am around City Park, games, fun, and music in the Park from 12noon to 4pm, Concerts in the Park from 5pm to 8:30pm with a special patriotic program at 6:30pm, and a Fireworks show next to City Park about 9:15pm.

The Children’s Parade will be for all children and every participant is asked to wear or decorate in red, white, and blue. Every child is asked to be imaginative with their outfit and are welcome to bring their dog or wagon or bicycle as they walk in the parade around City park. This free event will begin at 11am at 10th and Park St and is sponsored by the Paso Robles Children’s Museum.

The fun and games for kids of all ages will begin at noon in City Park and they’re all free. Numerous traditional and new games, including sack races, 3-legged races, a watermelon eating contest, and lawn games, will be held. DJ and live music are planned for the afternoon and food will be available. There will be surprises for all thanks to Niblick Road Baptist Church, Calvary Paso Church, and other organizations.

At 5pm, a Paso Robles tradition, the REC Foundation’s Concerts in the Park will begin with the very popular rock group “The Usual Suspects” to perform at the Gazebo. Sponsors J. Lohr and Firestone will provide adult beverages and Red Scooter will have food available.

At 6:30pm, the band will take a break and a special Salute to America program will begin. All military retirees, veterans, and active duty personnel will be asked to come forward to form up, lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing the National Anthem. There will be a few surprises here, too. At 7pm, “The Usual Suspects” will return to perform until 8:30pm.
At about 9:15pm, a spectacular aerial fireworks show will begin with a ground display planned for the front of City Hall facing the Park.

This patriotic community event is funded entirely by businesses and residents with tax deductible donations. The Paso Robles 4th of July Committee needs funding and volunteers to make the celebration a success.

Contact: Al Garcia, Chairman, 4th of July Committee
805-226-9262 or cell 975-5165

Resurrecting a Monument – Almond Growers Building Remodel

April 10, 2014 a very special ribbon cutting ceremony will take place in Paso Robles. It’s fitting that it should happen in the year of our 125th anniversary, as the building being re-opened represents key elements of Paso Robles history and current success – agriculture, creative problem-solving and cooperation.


The newly restored, historically correct Almond Growers/Farmers Alliance building

The newly restored, historically correct Almond Growers/Farmers Alliance building

by Chris Weygandt Alba, originally run in the December 2013 edition of Paso Robles Magazine. 


A phenomenon happened on Riverside Avenue this year. A resurrection. Right here in Paso Robles. You can see it with your own eyes.

The corpse was a public spectacle for a generation of Roblans, abandoned at 525 Riverside Ave. for the elements to slowly decompose. Now, it stands boldly, blinking in the sunlight as if savoring this moment on the brink of charging into its new job.

Whatever this building knows about life and death, the old Farmers Alliance warehouse has experienced a resurrection. Continue reading

Old Paso: The History of the Paso Robles Farmers Alliance

(Editor’s Note: The Farmers Alliance was housed in the Almond Growers building at 525 Riverside. The building sat vacant since 1975 until a remodel was thoughtfully and carefully undertaken recently by Ray and Pam Derby of Derby Wine Estates. The ribbon cutting and grand reopening of the building happens on April 10, 2014.)

by Harold Franklin

Under construction in 1922. Photo courtesy of Derby Wine Estates

Under construction in 1922. Photo courtesy of Derby Wine Estates

The Paso Robles Farmers Alliance Business Association was organized June, 1891. A number of local farmers and ranchers had been meeting together for a few months talking about organizing a co-op. The Farmers Alliance had been organized in 1888 to serve farmers in the Midwest and West more efficiently in the light of the non-compromising railroad monopolies.

Some of the local men who organized the Farmers Alliance were Hans Iverson and his four sons- Mat- secretary of the Board, Iver, Chreston, and Clemen,  David Stockdale, Elias Brubakker, Amador Nevada Rude, William Tuley, Myron Brooke, Martin Hansen, J. Thomas Jones, Ambert Morehouse, Hansen True – President of the board from 1891 to 1914, Charley True, Niels Madsen, Patrick O’Donovan, Andrus Nelsen, Louis Lauridsen, John Hopper, Swan Nelsen, Knute Nelsen and many other concerned farmers. They were grain farmers from Willow Creek, Bethel, Union, San Juan, Cholame, Shandon, Estrella, Creston, Adelaide, El Pomar,  Cressy Grade, Linne, Sacramento Ranches, San Miguel and the Paso Roblers area. Continue reading

Hunter Ranch Celebrates 20 Years

While Paso Robles is turning 125, some of our notable local attractions are also celebrating milestone birthdays, some with fun promotions. Including this exceptional golf course.


Premier Paso Robles Golf Course Hits Milestone

April 2, 2014 (Paso Robles, CA) – Hunter Ranch Golf Course and Restaurant is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year in grand fashion. Starting with roll-back the rates this spring and finishing with a fall tournament, the 20th anniversary offers golfers the chance to celebrate throughout the year.

“It’s been quite a ride over the past two decades,” stated Managing General Partner Ken Hunter III, “we’re thankful the course has drawn a following with both locals and traveling players seeking out a premier course.” In 1994, Ken’s father, Ken Hunter Jr. opened the course on Highway 46 east before Paso Robles was a known destination. Hunter saw the need for a world-class public course, anticipating the area would grow into a celebrated region with its proximity to the coast, popular wines and small town charm.

20th Anniversary Celebration Promotions 

Beginning in March, the course will offer roll-back rates from 1994 on the the 20th of every month. Additional promotions include:
Hunter Ranch clubhouse

  • Special 20th anniversary coupon book of 20 rounds of golf
  • Weekly raffle for 20 straight weeks
  • 20th anniversary tournament in the fall

“We’re proud that 20 years later, we are still the place for world-class golf here in Paso Robles,” said Vice President and General Manager John Carson. “Celebrating 20 years in business gives us a reason to thank our long-time players and welcome those who are new.”

Prior to developing Hunter Ranch, the Hunter team also developed and built two other golf courses on the Central Coast, Sandpiper in Santa Barbara and La Purisima in Lompoc. The rolling hills and oak trees of Paso Robles inspired Hunter to create a course where players could be alone – away from homes and development. Hunter was a believer that golf courses need to incorporate natural terrain and fit into the landscape.

About Hunter Ranch Golf Course

Designed by Mike McGinnis and the late Ken Hunter Jr., the 18-hole public course features rolling hills, century-old oaks and stunning views of the neighboring vineyards and ranches that define Central California. The restaurant, the Grill at Hunter Ranch, offers exceptional dining – featuring breakfast, lunch and daily happy hour and an award-winning Sunday brunch. To learn more, visit www.hunterranchgolf.com or call 805-237-7444.