San Miguel - 1st Grade Class
Thanks to Don French and his wife, Anna Carl French for sending this photo of the 1st grade class at San Miguel Elementary School in 1951-52. Can you help with any names? Here's the story:
Maybe you can't remember what San Miguel was like in 1951, or maybe you can. Here are some of the things I've dug up. As with most of the small towns along US 101 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, there was no freeway bypassing the town, but instead, to get through town, all cars had to drive down mainstreet. There was no county park and swimming pool on the west side of town at the base of the hills. Instead, small wooden buildings housed the elementary school. And if you lived in San Miguel, you knew the town limits were "from the Mission to the mill, from the river to the hill."
Camp Roberts was
an active US Army base that helped staff the growing conflict in
and many of the soldiers who were stationed permanently on base had kids
who went to school in San Miguel.
Paso's Pet Lions
In the 1950's there were only four men hired by the state to hunt mountain lion. Steve Matthes was one of them. In the early 50's he lived just up the street from the high school football field on 24th Street.
Sandy Thixton has this great story to tell:
family and the Matthes family were best of friends. My family
and my dad had taken movies all along, and I have a copy of those
they took the movies, none of the mountain lions were contained in
it was decided by Steve that the cubs should be sold at the
I went into high
William Wimmer adds:
Dad & I used to go out and shoot ground squirrels and bring them back to feed Cleo. After a while Steve asked us if we would stop doing that. It seems that Cleo got balled up with the fur, and he had to have a Vet give Cleo an enema. I could think of no worse profession than being a vet and having to do that to a mountain lion !!!!!!!!!!!!
Dave Steaffens tells us:
My dad knew Steve quite well. I remember going to his house once and walked in the door, and the lion was laying on the couch like a house cat.
John Barclay remembers Steve as the man who kept a pet mountain lion named Cleo at his house:
I got in a lot of trouble and frequently for being home late to supper, because I was waiting for Cleo to eat the leghorn chicken walking around in her cage. She never would get interested in the chicken in front of me, and there would only be chicken feet left the next day. Steve Matthes would take her out into natural surrounding and film her; then he would sell footage to Disney to be edited into those lion movies that were popular for a while. Steve responded to a ‘Doggone Department’ piece from KPRL where we had contacted when we lost a parakeet. When I went to retrieve the parakeet from him, he filled me in on the history of Cleo as well as his Matthes Lion Hound breed that continues today.
Gary Smith remembers:
Steve Matthes told John he got the cub and another cub after killing the mother and backtracking to the den. The other cub went to a zoo. I also heard Steve would carry the cat around in the back of his truck and cause quite a reaction when he would stop for gas.
Jack Guffey chimed in when he remembered his experience with Steve:
Sure looks like the kitten Steve Matthes brought to the ranch my parents owned in the Adelaide. We were still commuting from that valley town and we had my Boy Scout troop over for the weekend, and Steve brought an orphan kitten for all of us to play with and handle while Steve talked about being a State lion hunter and showed slides. Had to be 1952 thru maybe 1954.
Apparently, after leaving Paso Robles, Steve moved to the Northwest looking for more adventure. Around 1960 he joined Tom Slick's Pacific Northwest Expedition and started tracking Bigfoot according to the book Sasquatch Legend Meets Science by Jeff Meldrum - 2007.
Steve Matthes died in 1995.
Bill and Emma Claassen
Jane Belmont sent the following information about Bill and Emma who owned The Mercantile department store at the corner of 12th and Pine Street.
According to old census records, Bill was in the "Merchant, Dry Goods" business during 1910-1930. Emma's parents were Alexander and Emma Monteith. Bill and Emma's sons were William, Arthur and Howard.
Jane's mom worked at the store, and Jane did the same during college breaks. At that time, Bill's grandson, Jimmy, was in charge.
Jane wasn't able to find out exactly when the Mercantile was established, and if anyone has that information please forward it to me. Thanks.
Unfortunately, Emma died in a car accident in 1954. Bill passed away in 1964.
This portrait was taken on Pioneer Day (probably early 50's) of Emma and Bill. The second picture includes Paul and Grace Reinke sitting in back of the fringed surrey.
Interesting asides: The 2009 Pioneer Day Queen, Maggie, was married to Howard Claassen. And Bill's second wife, Marian Pond Claassen, was also a Pioneer Day Queen.
Paul and Grace Reinke
In Paso's early car sales heyday, a number of notable dealerships spotted the landscape. In the mid-1930's Paul Reinke started selling Packards, Hudsons, Studebakers and Willys at 1130 Pine Street. The business lasted until 1960, when the building was sold, and Pioneer Auto Parts put their sign over the door.
These memorable photos were submitted by the Reinke's granddaughter, Jane Belmont, who says her mom "still lives on the 40 acres my grandfather's father bought and partially planted."
The following is the caption to a 1950 Paso Robles Daily Press picture of Paul and Grace at the Pre-Pioneer Day Dance. "Paul and Grace Reinke, residents of Paso Robles for almost 40 years, stole the show by winning the best old time costume award at the 1950 pre-Pioneer Day Dance. The Reinke's, who will soon be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, lent their talent to the dance and parade for many years. This year's pre-Pioneer Day Dance , sponsored by the Do Paso Squares and the Shandon Square Wheelers, will be held at the Shrine Club Saturday night, with dancing getting underway at 9 p.m. to the music by Ed Cary and square dance calling by Jack Osborne."
More information about the history of 1130 Pine Street can be seen in an article titled: A Dame With a History. Note that the link at the end of the article should be: http://www.studiosonthepark.org/
The Old Paso Robles Plunge
From Ray Bryant
The Paso Robles Swim and Tennis Club should be an asset to a growing Paso Robles and reading about it brought back memories of coming to Paso Robles in 1937 when my parents purchased the Paso Robles Auto Court on Spring Street between 9th and 10th street and included in the deal was the old plunge. The builders of the complex were far sighted and having a big plunge with an auto court was unique in those days. When we came the plunge was already in a declining state. The heating system had long died and the filtering system was a relic even in those days but it served faithfully until the plunge closed. It was operated as a public swimming pool during the summer months and was about 100 x 50 feet with two smaller pools at the end.
There was a pool of about equal size on the NW corner of 10th and Spring Streets that was part of the hotel health center. The water was from a warm sulfur spring and the bottom may have been slippery and the smell was always present but it was warm and enclosed. The plunge was torn down after the fire that destroyed the Paso Robles Hotel.
During WWII the plunge was operated by the USO as chemicals were not available to civilians. The plunge was closed to civilians and I couldn’t even get in.
My folks sold the property in 1946 and the buyer sold the plunge to the city of Paso Robles who operated it for several years. John McCord built a pool at Resthaven out Adelaide Road. It was a fun pool that McCord built free form along an old stream bed. It had slides, floats and lots of lawn making it a fun place. I remember I was swimming out there and I was kicked out of the pool for misbehavior of some sort. When I got home my Mother told me that McCord had called and wanted me to lifeguard that evening so back I went to Resthaven.
I taught Red Cross Swimming at the Plunge while in college. The configuration looked great but the depth made it difficult to teach beginning swimming classes. Before WWII there were several boys who were excellent swimmers and a couple of divers that might have done something with their skills except the war interrupted. I played water polo one year in college but my hands were too small to handle the ball quick and easy. The coach keep harping that I should come out for swimming which I finally did when I was a junior and I got my first varsity letter and repeated the next year. I bring this up as I was one of the last to be able to come out in college compared to now that you have to start training very young and do it all year. It takes good facilities, good coaching, and dedicated training to develop a swimmer at almost any competitive level. Let’s hope that Paso Robles Swim and Tennis Club will become a driving force in developing swimmers and tennis players.
The Moose on Park Street
From Don French:
My aunt, Flossie Gay, worked at the Park Pharmacy for many, many years. Even though she only worked behind the counter, she always wore a nurse-like white smock. The pharmacist was Barry Claybrook, and like many other Paso businesses of that time, he treated his employees like family. The pharmacy was on the corner of 12th and Park Street in the 1892 Clock Tower building that was destroyed in the 2003 earthquake.
Next to the pharmacy on Park Street was a barber shop where my Mom took me for haircuts, and on the wall was a huge moose head. The barber always told me that the moose was just sticking his head through the wall, and his body was in the Park Pharmacy. Little did he know that my Aunt worked there.
So one day I asked her and Mr. Claybrook if I could see the moose, and they took me into the back of the pharmacy.
Of course, there was no moose!
John B. Ward Research
I am doing research on the history of a Methodist mission to Chinese women and children in San Francisco (1870-1913), where my wife's grandmother was raised. From 1903-1913, the Superintendent of the "Oriental Home" as it was called, was one Carrie G. Davis, whose sister, Bella Davis, was married to John B. Ward. John apparently died before 1910, but Bella was still living in Paso Robles in 1925, when Carrie Davis died in San Francisco. I found a photo of John Ward in the following publication:
hundred years ago (Nov 5, 1908) Carrie Davis took a group of Chinese
children from this Oriental Home to visit president Theodore Roosevelt in
the White House, where the children sang for him. My wife's grandmother
was one of these children. By March 1909 the children were in Southern
California, where Carrie "broke down," and she spent some time
in Paso Robles recovering--apparently staying with her sister. I do not
know if the Chinese children sang in Paso Robles. John and Bella Ward had
a son Victor who was a veterinarian, and the Canadian family thinks the
Ward family may have been into horse racing.