Until about 1924, George F. Bell and son ran a store on the northwest corner of 13th and Pine streets in Paso Robles. The store had three departments: a hardware store adjoining Pine Street, next going west, a clothing department, west adjoining the alley, a grocery store. They were all in the same building, and you could go from one to the other and stay inside the building. Where Vic's Cafe is located would have been about the center of Bell's Store. They also had a store in Creston and Shandon.
Dick Arajuo was in charge of the grocery store, and a Mr. Biehl was in charge of the hardware store. Mr. Biehl also was the agent for Studebaker automobiles and Studebaker wagons. He drove a Studebaker car which also served as his "demonstrator' for selling cars. On the vacant lot north of the hardware store he kept a sample of each size Studebaker wagon which was considered one of the best of wagons. Wagons were the sole means of transportation of farm products to market in that day. When Bell's Store closed, Mr. Biehl became a long-time judge of the Paso Robles Township Court, with an office in the "city hall" on the ground floor of the Taylor Hotel.Paso Robles had three big warehouses for grain storage and a flour mill all beside the railroad tracks. San Miguel and Bradley each had Southern Pacific Milling Company warehouses beside the railroad. Wheat, oats, and barley along with small dairies along the Salinas River and cattle in the steeper country were the big producers at that time. The farmers would have been without transportation if it weren't for wagons of various sizes: the buggy, spring wagon, a two-horse wagon to the big grain wagons, one of which would haul a hundred sacks of wheat, weighing one hundred and forty-five pounds each.
The warehouses took care of an area of up to thirty-five miles away. A typical farmer's vehicle for transporting his grain that distance were two of the biggest wagons hauling fifteen tons, pulled by fourteen horses, guided by a "jerk line" and having a feed cart hitched to the rear wagon with feed for the horses.
There were wagons of the size for two, four, six, or eight horses to pull. The needs of the farmer and the distance from town determined the size.
The biggest wagon, the distance of the load to the ground, was about five feet. The loading space, about five and a half feet wide and twenty-four feet long, used two wagons and a feed cart and took a space about seventy-five feet long plus the fourteen horses. The typical wagon had two rear wheels, five feet high, and two front wheels, four feet high, made of hardwood spokes with a heavy steel band around them. The hub had a built-in oil container in the center with a snap-on lid for a heavy oil. There was sheep wool in it to saturate the oil and keep it from running out. The heat from the axle turning on the hub governed the amount of oil used. Filling this container in the hub lasted for a day's work.
For brakes there was a heavy hardwood cross member, suspended from the underside of the wagon bed which had hardwood blocks bolted to it. They were also bolted to the hardwood liners that were replaceable when worn out and were made to fit about eighteen inches on the wheel. They were attached to an iron rod extended to a brake ratchet on the wagon seat so the driver could pull the handle and slow the wagon when necessary. The drive of the jerk-line team rode the left rear horse, and had a rope from the brake on the wagon to the driver's saddle so he could work the brake when needed.
The average trip with one of the two-wagon loads with fourteen horses from a farmer's ranch thirty-five miles away to Paso Robles or San Miguel was four days.
The John Rude family of Paso Robles ran a feed yard for the horses and boarded the drivers. When stopping overnight in San Miguel, Cy Braffet ran what was called a livery stable and fed the horses overnight.
The various parts of a wagon include: the bed, wheels, seat, tongue, neck yoke, stay chains, hounds, pull rod, breast straps, reach, trailer hitch, brakes, tuning circle on the front wheels, all odd names, but made a wagon, the only transportation of that day.
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