The modest beginnings of a restroom

phild2008@sbcglobal.netJune 14, 2012 

I believe “restrooms” is the accurate word for public facilities. Many people say “bathrooms,” but most restrooms don’t have bathtubs or showers. I consulted my Associated Press Stylebook. It’s the reporter’s rulebook for language, but it’s silent on “restrooms” vs. “bathrooms.” Maybe AP editors feel it’s uncouth. Of course, my book was published in 1987. Today’s versions may be less inhibited.

I, myself, wouldn’t have mentioned it if I hadn’t read an article in the June 9 Tribune. Its headline said, “Paso begins accessibility upgrades.” It tells how my hometown is going to spend $2.2 million to make people with disabilities feel welcome on our downtown streets and sidewalks, and in the downtown park’s restrooms. I’m pleased it never said “bathrooms.”

The proposed restrooms building should make us Roblans proud.

It better; it’s expected to cost almost $550,000. It will be larger than the present restrooms building, will have more fixtures and be much handsomer.

But we mustn’t be too critical of the present building. It had a humble beginning. It’s led a hard life, on its own in a busy public park where visitors are occasionally ill-mannered, untidy, or even mentally off-balance. But it’s survived and still serves one and all.

An unpolished plaque on its wall says, “Erected by Kiwanis Club of Paso Robles in Cooperation with The City Council, Lions Club, Jaycees, and Merchants of the Community. Dedicated 2-6-73.”

It was built the same winter that Paso Robles bought the Paso Robles airport from the county for $1. The airport was then served by a regularly scheduled airline, Hughes Airwest. A few weeks later, city officials learned Hughes would soon quit stopping at Paso Robles.

Also that winter, the Paso Robles Hospital District Board was seeking to entice big hospital companies to build a hospital in the North County, in return for which the Paso Robles hospital and Atascadero County Hospital would close.

Also, William Clark of Shandon was appointed that winter to the California Supreme Court. And the Paso Robles population was maybe 7,300.

Since then, we’ve awakened to the needs of our disabled fellow human beings. And we’ve learned how to make restrooms more durable, more attractive and more likely to welcome visitors to our delightful park, rather than repelling them.

And last year, before the state dismantled all redevelopment agencies, the Paso Robles Redevelopment Agency provided the financing for these street, sidewalk and park improvements.

Reach Phil Dirkx at or 238-2372.

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