Over the Hill

Remembering a local blacksmith

Special to The TribuneJuly 25, 2013 

Robert Tullock Sr.

TRIBUNE STAFF — File photo

A long-dormant blacksmith shop in Templeton now literally belongs to history. The smithy at Third and Main streets was sold this month to the Templeton Historical Museum Society, whose museum stands next to the shop.

The shop was last operated by Robert Tullock Sr. from 1950 until he died in 1996. I interviewed him in 1987. His frankness was refreshing.

I know almost nothing about blacksmithing. I’d heard that blacksmiths shoe horses so I asked about that. He said he wouldn’t shoe horses.

“There are three reasons why I won’t,” he said. “I don’t know how, I’ve got a bad back and I don’t want to.”

But he would do many other things. He heated steel red-hot in his forge and shaped it and fastened it. He made branding irons for cattle, horses and wine barrels. He put steel tires on wooden wagon wheels. He sharpened plows and did much more.

At one time, even the smallest village in America had at least one blacksmith shop. In 1918, Templeton was much smaller than now, but Tullock said it had three blacksmith shops that year. Today, the AT&T Yellow Pages for the county don’t list any blacksmiths.

When I interviewed Tullock, he was 76 and had survived triple coronary-bypass surgery. But he still worked four hours a day. I asked why he didn’t quit.

“Well,” he said, “Most shops are too busy to piddle with welding somebody’s lawnmower handle. I can help somebody out. It helps pay the expenses, and I enjoy doing it.”

Tullock learned his trade from older blacksmiths. During World War II, he learned to weld in San Francisco shipyards. After the war, he worked in a welding and machine shop in Paso Robles. He was taught by one blacksmith there and by another who owned his own shop.

In 1950, he bought the blacksmith shop at Third and Main in Templeton from Joe Cressio, who had started it in 1918. Cressio also continued Tullock’s education.

Cressio’s wooden shop building is still contained inside the larger corrugated metal building that Tullock built over it. He retained the old building because its stout redwood framework supported the overhead wheels and belts that powered the old machinery.

The Templeton Historical Museum Society bought the shop and property this month from Tullock’s son, Robert Tullock Jr. The society’s chairman, John Hoopes, wrote that the purchase “was made possible by a very generous offer from Bob on the purchase price.”

Robert Tullock Jr. said he hoped his father and all old-time blacksmiths would be remembered and appreciated.

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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