Campgrounds, Churches and Outhouses

by Harold Franklin

My father, Harold J. Franklin , was 14 when his family camped overnight in Resthaven, 3 miles west of Paso Robles up Adelaide Road. The springs in the canyon kept the swimming pool in Resthaven full the year round. It was November 1, 1926, and his father, Rev. Joseph Franklin, had been appointed by the bishop of this district to pastor the San Miguel Methodist Episcopal Church. He was also pastor of the Shandon and Estrella Methodist Episcopal Churches. They would live in San Miguel at the end of K Street in the purple parsonage still there across from Lillian Larson School.

Rev. Franklin was 54 years old and he suffered from a bad heart, the result of the 1918 flu epidemic. Not able to stand the cold, harsh winter weather of South Dakota any longer, the family had left Elk Point, South Dakota, in their 1923 Dodge Touring Car. They camped along the way with the running boards full of their camping equipment. Sixteen year old Howard drove the car to Long Beach where my grandmother, Ethel’s brother George Combs, was living with his family, working as a city fireman. Rev. Franklin attended the West Coast Methodist Episcopal Conference and had received the two year appointment to San Miguel. The family had camped the night before at Gaviota. The next night they were in the church’s parsonage in San Miguel. The three boys, Howard, Harold and Wesley and little sister Lois were told by their next door neighbors, the Wilmer’s, Dr. Wilmer’s parents, to pick almonds from the orchard across the street as they were not knocked that year. That was a new experience for them. That orchard became Almond Acres. Mr. Wilmer was in charge of the San Miguel Southern Pacific Railroad Station.

Motels did not exist in those days. Folks camped or stayed in hotels, if available. The first motel in the United States was the Motel Inn at the very north end of San Luis Obispo started in the 1930’s.

Paso Robles had several campgrounds when my father arrived. As one entered the south end of town, there was a large campground on the right where the present Post Office, Wells Fargo
Bank and other businesses are located. Behind them was the Pittsburg Pirates Spring Training Field and the tall city natural gas tank. In the 1940’s to 1970’s it was the large Stowe’s Trailer Court with the Masonic Hall building beside 4th Street.

Across Spring Street from the Robobank and Melody Ranch Motel was a nearly 2 block campgrounds bordered by Spring and Park Streets. The city plunge was on the southeast corner of 10th and Spring Street facing east. On its south was a small motel. The plunge faced east and was the delight of us kids from the 1940’s to 1960’s. Bob Osman was the lifeguard after WW II. Polar Freeze was along Spring Street near 8th Street in the 1950’s to 1970’s.

Flamson Middle School was originally the Paso Robles HIgh School.  A heated election in1924 between San Miguel and Paso Robles ended with the high school being built in Paso Robles. A high school had been here from the early 1880’s on the south side in the present playground of Marie Bauer School. The new high school was built on the site of a large campground used especially by area farmers doing business in town. Taking a good part of a day to come to town by horse, they camped over night before returning home. In 1980 it became Flamson Middle School named after a long time former principal and schools superintendent, George Flamson.  The new Paso Robles High School was beside Niblick Road. He was superintendent in 1959 when I first became a fifth grade teacher. The First Mennonite Church was built on the northwest corner in 1904 when the 1882 Adelaide Methodist Episcopal Church by the Adelaide Cemetery was disassembled board by board and reassembled on the corner by the Estrella Mennonites. In 1924 the school district moved it cattycorner across Spring Street where it is located today.

My father attended 8th grade in San Miguel and entered Paso Robles High School in September of 1927.  Some of the San Miguel students, including Mr. Range, tried to pants my father at school. Howard came to his rescue, a small but absolutely fearless fighter. The Franklin boys had changed schools every two years so they were very excellent defenders of themselves.

 When Wesley was in Paso High School in 1834, a group of students were standing by the front door one morning when English teacher, Miss Easterling was walking inside. The elastic band on her bloomers broke just then and her panties fell out of her dress to the ground around her ankles. She calmly stepped out of them, picked them up and walked on in. I was afraid to ask Easterburg about it when I had her exactly 20 years later as a Sophomore student..

In the 1960’s I was sitting on a desk in front reading to my class after coming in from lunch recess to calm them down for the afternoon’s work. After a while a girl raised her hand and told me my pants were split! I looked down and to my absolute horror, I was split open from my belt in back to the zipper. At least I had good briefs on. I wrapped my coat around my slacks and my wife brought me in a change of pants after I called her. But I still played hard with my students, in slacks and tie.

When Mr. Speck hired me in August of 1959, he told me I was expected to dress every day in a shirt and tie with slacks. We teachers were professional and we were to dress professionally. I did that for 38 years. He also told me I had to make my own paddle for classroom management. A student was not to be sent to Mr. Butler, the Georgia Brown School Principal, unless it was something really awful. Today that paddle is in the Pioneer Museum School House hanging by the blackboard as usual.

Today we have lovely motels and inns. And no outhouses.


Murder and Farming in Paso Robles

by Harold Franklin

The big news of 1915 for our area was the trial of Charlie Reynolds. It seems rough Charlie had left his farm and family on the north side of Creston and South El Pomar Roads. In the fall of 1914 he had spent a month or two fooling around with the wife of William Jardine over on Jardine Road, one of the two farming Jardines living along that road. They had come to that area by 1890. But then Charlie returned to his family and wife and put in his crop.

According to the local newspaper accounts, the two men had had some hard times with each other, including Charlie’s bunkhouse being blown up with him inside. Charlie was out harvesting on his farm in the summer of 1915. Jardine came riding into the farm’s yard on his horse, blood in his eye and his gun loaded. He set out to find the combine with his arch enemy. The header tender yelled to Charlie that Jardine was coming. Reynolds had his gun with him.

Old Paso over riverShots rang out in the field and Jardine lay dead. The jury ruled the shooting was justified and acquitted Charlie Reynolds of the murder. Enough said!  Some time later Reynolds lost the farm in debts. Jim Wilshusen bought the farm and farmed it until the 1980’s. Today the Roots live in Reynold’s house and 40 acres of the original farm of  800 or more acres.

Charlie moved near Paso Robles living several blocks west of the present Centennial Park in the farm’s house and barns on what is called Red Cloud Street. Charlie farmed all the land along the Airport Road, now Creston Road, and Niblick Road, then an un-named dirt track. It was the 1930’s and on the west side Coates had 20 acres or so, Lyell had his house and barn and sheds alongside South River Road with his alfalfa field across the road down to the river, now Albertson’s lot. There was no electrical substation. Capitol Hill Drive was off what is now Creston Road with the deep gully and canyon separating Coates property from the Capital Hill Drive and running up behind the Trinity Lutheran Church with its trails, once a deer route to the river. Tom Cropper had his house and property across the road from Bryans Beef slaughter house west across the road next to the river.

Charlie Reynolds farmed barley until the late 1950’s. Charlie also farmed the 241 acre E.C. Livingstone property on the east side of Spanish Lakes. Livingstone was the Allis Chalmers tractor dealer for many years in the metal building beside the railroad tracks at 13th Street; Cuendett’s blacksmith shop was across the street with the Lundbeck Brothers Blacksmith Shop on the south side, the original site of the first elementary school in Paso Robles in the 1870’s. The Pioneer Museum’s front façade is a copy of Lundbeck Brothers shop. Paso Robles High School vineyard is on part of that Livingston property. Harold and Wesley Franklin bought the property in 1947 and owned it until the 1990’s.

Different folks began buying parts of the farm in the late 1940’s including Paul Borkey along now Niblick Road.  Paul also bought what is now the Golf Club land from Mrs. Sharon about the same time. Mrs. Sharon’s house was back a quarter mile just north across the Shack Creek springs from Creston Village. She gave me a ride in her buggy about 1940. Clarence Wakeman bought the 200 or so acres from Borkey in the late 1950’s and the Schwartz brothers bought it in the early 1960’s and developed the Paso Robles Golf and Country Club. Jeff Nickerson bought the part of the Reynolds farm including the house and buildings about 1960. Trigo Lane was the first part developed about 1961 of the whole tract

With the building of the Golf Course, the dirt road was named Niblick Road and paved. One house on the road was Bill and Anna Cuindette Brown’s house about where  the School’s Administration Parking lot is now built.

Today Charlie Reynolds place is five schools, five churches, Centennial Park and hundreds of houses. The old olive orchard was located at the high school playing fields. Lyell’s house and barn are gone along with Tom Cropper’s house. In 1948 Tom Cropper used his CAT D7 and a carryall to realign Creston Road from South El Pomar all the way to Sherwood Acres and Niblick Road.  The road was renamed Creston Road from the Salinas River bridge to the original Creston Road past the big bend at Charolais Road. Tom was killed when his D7 rolled over on him when clearing land on the Erickson place past Creston a couple years later. Maurice Coates passed away two years ago and now his land is the last being developed into houses. Time marches on.

Harold Franklin

City Library celebrating 125th birthday party with kids

kids-decorating-cupcakesIn honor of the City of Paso Robles’ 125th birthday, the Paso Robles City Library will host a birthday celebration for children ages 3-8 on Saturday, September 13 at 2:00 p.m. in the library conference room. Guest of honor, local author Elizabeth Spurr, will read to children from some of her best-selling picture books including a perennial favorite, The Biggest Birthday Cake in the World. Following the special birthday story time, children are invited to decorate their own birthday cupcakes using goodies that will be provided.

Elizabeth Spurr“Children love to celebrate birthdays, and the library wanted to be sure that the youngest Paso Roblans had a wonderful way to celebrate their city in style during this 125th anniversary year,” said Heather Stephenson, Children’s Services Librarian at the Paso Robles Library. “We are planning a fun-filled afternoon at the library, and while we may not have the biggest birthday cake in the world, there will be plenty of sprinkles and icing on hand.”

There is limited space to attend the birthday event, so those who wish to attend will need a free ticket which will be available at the children’s desk of the Library thirty minutes before the start of the 2 p.m. program.

Biggest birthday cakeMs. Spurr’s many picture books including one of her newest titles, Monsters Mind Your Manners, will be available for autograph and purchase during the program. To learn more about Elizabeth Spurr visit

The Paso Robles City Library is located at 1000 Spring Street and is open Monday – Friday 10-8, and Saturday 10-5. For more information on library programs and events, , please call the
library at 237-3870 or visit

Old Paso: Paso Robles High School Initiation

by Harold Franklin

PRHS photo courtesy of

PRHS at 24th and Spring, photo courtesy of

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. 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

Old Paso: He Shot Our Bus

by Cliff Tucker

1935 Ford School Bus

1935 Ford School Bus

With the recent occurrences of school shootings going on around the country in this day and age, I recall an incident of this type happening right here in our little town of Paso Robles when we numbered around 2,000 people. Yes, someone shot at one of our occupied school buses.

My first awareness of the event  happened when Mary Kirkland, a fourth grade classmate of mine, rushed into Miss Lenora Edgar’s classroom on the morning of April 10, 1935 and shouted, ” A man shot at my school bus”.

The bus was occupied by forty-five  Paso Robles High School students that lived in San Miguel and a few grammar school students that lived south of the Wellsona Crossing. The driver of the bus was long time driver, Price Haynes. As the bus stopped at the Kenny’s Auto Court, located at the north end of town on the long sweeping curve near the Mud Bath House and the Berta farm, an automobile pulled up behind the bus and a man got out with a twenty-two caliber revolver in one hand and waving a machete in the other while firing a couple of shots at the rear of the bus and shouting, “Why are you going to school on Sunday”?

Price put the bus in gear and headed to the high school campus that was located at 24th and Spring Streets. The school had been alerted of the incident so when the bus pulled up to the west side of the school, with the shooter still following, they were met by  C. C. Carpenter, the superintendent, Chief of Police, Claude  Azbell, Constable Walt Traeger and several teachers – Frank Porter, Ilas Dean and George Flamson. The three teachers went to the automobile of the shooter and opened the door and yanked him out with no resistance. The man was cuffed and taken away by the law officers.

The deranged shooter, Merle Smith, was a one-time deputy  in Tulare County. As Price Haynes described later: ” He looked and acted to be as crazy as a loon”.  Mr. Smith was held in the county jail for some time  and after several hearings was declared insane and was sent to the California State Hospital in Agnews.

I guess history will always keep repeating itself.

Old Paso: Vineyards, Charcoal, Dusi’s, Busi’s and Pesenti’s

This is part of a continuing series of stories of Paso’s past from local storytellers.  The names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

by Don Campbell

Sylvester Dusi and the vineyard at Highway 46 intersection.

All the land in this area was once covered with a thick stand of blue oak and small scrub oak trees with some white oak trees, too thick to farm the soil. In 1919, Bob and Joe
Busi, with hired help, began clearing the white and blue oak trees off this field opposite where OSH and Target now sit where one sees the grape vines now owned and tended
by Benito Dusi.

Janell Dusi farming the vineyard that Sylvester planted

Janell Dusi farming the vineyard  in 2013 that Sylvester Dusi planted

Brothers Bob, Joe, Jim Busi where charcoal makers in northern Italy that came to Shadow Canyon in the York Mountain area in 1913. They immediately began clearing land and making charcoal in the Italian method of covering a dome of wood with dirt and cooking the wood. Brothers-in-law Peter and Frank Pesenti, stonemasons in northern Italy, with their wives came to the Oakdale area in 1914 where they also began making charcoal to clear the land of the oak trees.

All the landowners had land to be cleared for farming; very few asking and getting stumpage fees of$1 to $2 a chord. Four foot long wood delivered at the Templeton railroad depot for shipment to wood yards and charcoal makers in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas paid $6-8 a cord. Charcoal was worth $18 -$22 a ton. A cord of wood weighs 3 to 5 tons, usually
about 4 tons. Two cords of wood makes about 1 ton of charcoal. Three men working together with a hand saw, ax and black powder, could cut, split and haul 3 cords of wood a day.

Up through 1935, a man was paid $1.50 to $2.50 a cord. Only the straight wood that was easy to split, if too heavy, was kept; anything hard to split or with crotches, was burned up with the brush piled on the stump.

Bob and Joe Busi began clearing this field in 1919 and finished in 1920.

The 40 acre field was planted to zinfandel grapes in 1923 and Sylvester Dusi, recently from Italy, bought the vineyard in 1924. The zinfandel grape vines seen today in this vineyard are owned and tended by his son Benito Dusi. Behind his house on the slope of land to the railroad tracks is a charcoal oven that holds 30 cords of wood that Benito used in the 1950’s to make charcoal from wood he cut on Albert Anderson’s farm on Live Oak Road. The 30 foot long by 30 foot wide by 8 feet high oven was the largest Japanese style pit in the area when Paso Robles was producing 80% of the charcoal in California, 1948-1964.

Dusi Vineyard old vine Zinfandel today

Dusi Vineyard old vine Zinfandel today

Sylvester Dusi also bought the land a mile south that is beside the Templeton Cemetery. As it was cleared of its oak trees, that land was planted in grape vines. The last land cleared was beside the present freeway and Templeton Cemetery. Sylvester’s son Dante owns and operates this vineyard with his children. (Janell Dusi opened the first tasting room in the family’s long grape history in 2013, the winery is called J Dusi Wines.)

Son Guido, who for many years owned Paso Robles Electric, had just returned from fighting on the battlefronts of WW II. Sylvester hired Joe Busi to help him and his sons, including Dante and Benito, to make a pit of charcoal under one of the big oak trees beside the cemetery. One could only burn wood in the summer when it did not rain, so they did the pit under an oak tree for shade.  The normal-sized dome of dirt -covered wood about 15 feet high and 25 to 30 feet in diameter would contain 30-40 cords of wood, yielding 15-22 tons charcoal.

Frank Pesenti, another famous name in Paso Robles viticulture, in 1918 near Oak Dale School was renowned for a pit 6 tires (25 feet) high that contained about 120 cords of wood yielding about 60 tons of charcoal.

Editor’s Note: If you want to taste some current Paso Robles Zinfandels, join us March 14-16, 2014  for Vintage Paso: Zinfandels and Other Wild Wines (formerly known as the Zinfandel Festival). For more information, go to  


About the Author:

Don Campbell  has been Vice Chairman and Founding Director of Heritage Oaks Bank, a Pioneer Day Committee member since 1964, a Paso Robles Rotary Club member since 1979 and Past President, Director of the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association, is a Charter Member in the California Mid-State Fair Heritage Foundation, a SLO County Farm Bureau member, a Paso Robles Trail Ride member for 30 years, and a California Mid-State Fair Junior Livestock Auction volunteer for 47 years. In 2012 he and his wife Gail were named Roblans of the Year.