Be like Dolly: Step up, help your town

phild2008@sbcglobal.netAugust 9, 2012 

Pitch in and chip in. When Americans do that, our nation is strong and successful. A past master at pitching in and chipping in died Sunday. She was Dolly Bader, of Paso Robles, who would have been 102 on Oct. 4.

She was born on her family’s ranch in Creston. She became a feisty girl who got into fights and hung from trees, so her mother made her wear bloomers that matched her dresses.

Dolly’s family moved to Paso Robles when she was a sophomore in high school. After graduating, she completed a secretarial and bookkeeping course at San Jose Business College.

In 1931, she joined the Paso Robles Business and Professional Women’s club, later becoming local president and coastal chairman. BPW opened many opportunities for pitching in and chipping in.

In 1932, she married Bill Bader. After a few years in the Midwest, they returned to Paso Robles and operated a poultry and egg business for 25 years. They also raised quarter horses on their ranch west of Paso Robles.

Bill died in 1984. Dolly had two daughters, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

During World War II, Dolly did lots of pitching in. She volunteered as a Civil Defense airplane spotter and for the Red Cross Motor Corps. She joined the Paso Robles USO and was its president for a time. USOs provided entertainment and gathering places for armed services members.

In 1941, the commanding officer of the newly opened Camp Roberts also told the BPW that off-duty soldiers needed a place to gather in Paso Robles and girls to dance with at Camp Roberts. So the second floor of the fire station was opened for soldiers to play cards, hear phonograph records, and eat free sandwiches and cake. A USO was soon built at 10th and Park streets.

Bader also signed up 200 girls, 16 or older, for dances at camp. They were chaperoned by older women from the USO. The Army provided buses and live music.

After the war, in 1946, Dolly and Bill and 21 other families chipped in $1,000 each as seed money to start what is now the California Mid-State Fair. In 1948, the BPW put on the first flower show at the fair, and Dolly was in the thick of it. In 1968, the fair itself took over the flower show and picked Dolly as flower-show superintendent. She held the job for 25 years. The fair’s floriculture building is named after her.

And I still haven’t mentioned her 12 years on the Paso Robles school board or the many other examples of Dolly’s pitching in and chipping in. Hers was a life fully lived. America needs more Dolly Baders.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than four decades; his column appears here every week. Reach him at 238-2372 or

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