You just never know who may be reading

Special to The TribuneJuly 9, 2012 

As most of us who write a column will tell you, we never know where our words will land.

Many months ago, I wrote a piece about the City Administration Building and mentioned that, in addition to the Moran Junior College that opened in the structure in 1928, the private school eventually came to be owned by Col. Benjamin McCall Aldrich, a retired Army officer who had last been assigned to Camp Roberts.

He and his wife, Dorothy, operated their school from 1943 until 1951. The private preparatory high school was first known as the Amerivet Memorial Institute and was eventually renamed the Acheson Polytechnic Academy.

When Col. Aldrich passed away in February 1951, the school operated until the end of the academic year and then closed its doors. Mrs. Aldrich sold the building to San Luis Obispo County in 1952.

She included Sunken Gardens in the deal.

She also sold the Printery to the local Masonic lodge in 1952.

The domed four-story building became known as the Veterans Memorial Building, a name that is still above the door, but it was officially renamed the City Administration Building in the 1980s by the City Council.

I received an email from Andrew Aldrich a few days ago. He said he had read a story I did on the building and added that it was, “A peek into the past, indeed, you have found my long-lost grandfather for me.”

Andrew’s father had lost contact with his father, Benjamin, long before the elder Aldrich’s death. Andrew wrote that all he knew about the man was that he had “lived in San Luis Obispo and that he had run some kind of military school.”

“Your two sentences now constitute the sum total of information that I have on my grandfather’s life.”

Andrew, who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1974, said he now plans a trip to the Atascadero-San Luis Obispo area, which he adds, “is never a bad thing.”

I learned from Andrew that Col. Aldrich was born Aug. 3, 1891, in Michigan, and in 1916, he joined the Canadian Army and fought in World War I.

“He was gassed at the front, and this ruined his lungs for the rest of his life,” Andrew wrote about his grandfather.

Col. Aldrich’s widow later married Buell Tunnel, who donated a painting to the Atascadero Historical Society in 1999 that had been painted by one of the school’s instructors, F. Frandsen.

I look forward to meeting Andrew Aldrich when he visits the Central Coast.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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