South County Beat

History of Pismo Beach is explored in local author's new book

Special to The TribuneJanuary 28, 2014 

Wouldn’t it be fun if Hedding’s Warm Plunge still graced the beach in Pismo Beach at the end of Stimson Avenue? It was owned by William and Genevieve Hedding. Or if the Ferris wheel still stood on the beach?

These and many more fascinating tidbits and old photographs fill Effie McDermott’s new book, “Images of America: Pismo Beach.” The book is another of the series of small-town books published by Arcadia Publishing, adding to several others in San Luis Obispo County.

McDermott, who graduated from Arroyo Grande High School in 1960, moved to Pismo Beach in 1968. She is a retired real estate broker who was working on her family genealogy in 1986 and loved it. She looked around and said, “I wonder what the history of Pismo Beach is.”

She went to the library and found no history but did find a biography of John Michael Price, the founder of Pismo Beach. One chapter is devoted to him and his family. Several incarnations of the Price House are shown, from shortly after construction in 1894, to its severely deteriorated state in the late 1970s, to its current restoration.

“It’s been a passion,” McDermott said. She began to research the Pismo Beach area, collecting old photos, articles, books, anything she could find. She went to the National Archives in Laguna Niguel south of Los Angeles. She trekked to the Bancroft Library in Berkeley.

“I wanted to know why is Pomeroy Avenue named” that way? Where did the street names Hinds, Stimson, Dolliver, Wadsworth, Hollister, Price and Harloe come from? Who were these people? Why are the streets in Pismo Heights named after Central Valley towns?

Going to numerous other libraries, reading old newspapers, constantly researching, McDermott began to write articles on Pismo. She published in the local historical societies, the Times Press Recorder, the Clam Chronicle, Pismo Beach newsletters, and the Friends of the Price House newsletter.

Pismo has a fascinating history. One person ran into embezzlement charges. Two retired as preachers. One was king of bootleggers. And much more.

Many people wonder where the name “Pismo Beach” came from. McDermott explains in the book that the name came from “Pismu,” a Chumash Indian village located near tar springs in Price Canyon. The name meant “tar,” an important substance the Chumash used to seal their baskets and canoes.

The name of Pismo Beach went through several incarnations, from Pismo Surf Landing, to El Pizmo, to Pizmo Beach, to the current Pismo Beach.

McDermott said she started writing in a traditional style with a lot of text and quoted sources. However, the formula for Arcadia Publishing is mainly photographs. McDermott is working on another book on Pismo Beach that will be more of a traditional history.

The book can be found at Barnes & Noble, Halcyon Store and more shops.

Two book signings are coming up for McDermott, along with other authors. For information, contact McDermott at 805-773-4854 or go to www.pismobeachhistory.com

Book signings

  • Pismo Beach: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 7 to 9 p.m. Moose Lodge, 180 Main St. Refreshments available. Other authors: Terry San Filippo, Jack San Filippo, Pete Kelley, “Images of America, Avila Beach.”
  • San Luis Obispo: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m. The History Center, 696 Monterey St. Refreshments available. Other authors: Jack San Filippo, Jack Kelley; Marilyn Darnell, “Anything But Dull — From Maine to California.”

Gayle Cuddy’s column is special to The Tribune. She and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or nightengayles@aol.com.

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