Paso Robles Six Decades Ago: People and Places

By Robert Flood
Author  of “Where the Old West Still Hangs Around”

Thanks to Harold Franklin, an old PRHS schoolmate, and other contributors for their anniversary postings. Let me add a few other memorable people and places.


Downtown Paso in the 1950’s

The Canary Cottage.  The café that long stood on the northeast corner of 12th and Spring. During the closing years of World War 2, our family–in from the Cholame Valley for Saturday shopping– would watch out its windows, as we lunched, the bumper to bumper traffic on Spring Street that stretched  from one end of town to the other.  Most were soldiers from Camp Roberts in town for the day.

Orcutt’s Market.  On 12th Street, the town’s modest “Albertson’s” of yesteryear. It’s where our family stocked up for the week before a 40-mile run back to our ranch. If you forgot an item you didn’t “run back to the store.” As a kid I eagerly collected bottle caps left by those who had opened pop, the copper-colored Hires root beer ones my favorite. I eventually nailed my collection  upside down on a rectangular board to create a foot scraper.


Paso Robles Mercantile

The Paso Robles Mercantile. The town’s main, if not only, general department store. The vacuum powered money transit tubes fascinated me.  J.C. Penney also had the system.

The Paso Robles Pharmacy. On 12th St. a few doors east of the Acorn Building.  The main attraction was its scales. We’d routinely weigh ourselves each week or so. The day my short-statured mother hit 149 pounds, she panicked and went on a diet.

The Paso Robles Inn. The mural of early California on its restaurant’s south wall fascinated me. As a kid I vaguely understood that a grand hotel once stood on this site, but I would have thought it a joke if someone had told me then that Jesse and Frank James had once hid out on this property. Or that it had also lodged the Premier of Poland and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Did Paderewski ever play “Take Me Out to the Ball Game?”

Some notable people:

Coach Roy Thomas. The early 50s were Bearcat football glory years. A great coach, but he seemed to wear a frequent scowl. I was afraid of him.

Martha Swanson, journalism teacher. Under her I decided my career.

JoAnn Shetler, my assistant as editor of the yearbook. In later years she and an associate translated the New Testament in the jungles of the Phillipines and that gospel transformed an entire tribe. Years later when she spoke at a triennial student missionary convention hosted at the University of Illinois, 17,000 delegates gave her a standing ovation.

Tom Barry, his dad publisher of the Paso Robles Press. He edged me out as valedictorian,

Norma (Della) Moye,  Bearcat head cheerleader.  She’s still a mover and shaker.

George Work of the Work Family Guest Ranch in Ranchita Canyon and late rancher Kent Hansen. Kent went on to Stanford. We all ran track together.

Dave Barlogio, rancher. At my recent book signing in Carnegie Library during the Olive Festival I saw him for the first time in 61 years. Later in the week at his ranch west of Templeton he had me board his long abandoned 1929 combine and grab the header wheel to get the feel once more of the grain harvest.

Gayle (Taylor) Kattar, cousin of local real estate figure Wade Taylor and an early-day Bearcat cheerleader. We also both attended Parkfield’s one-room school built in 1888. She’s lived for 31 years now in Massachusetts. Marlene Heaton sent her my book. Thrilled, she ordered two more.

Old_West_Front_Cover.pdf_largeWhere the Old West Still Hangs Around is carried by the Pioneer Museum, Carnegie Library, the Paso Robles Inn, the Cuesta College bookstore and other local retail stores. I now also have a website for your holiday gift shopping. Order on line at


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