In discussing his newly released book of Cambria’s history, Wayne Attoe tells a tale of two towns.
“Cambria was two very different communities: the historical section that is now the East Village and the real estate development that is 20 to 30 times larger that is called Cambria Pines,” he said. “And there was friction between the two.”
That friction went right down to something as basic as how to pronounce the town’s name.
“KAM-bree-uh is the pronunciation for the original community,”Attoe explained. “When the real estate development was initiated, they used the pronunciation KAME-bree-uh Pines, and it was advertised on the radio out of Long Beach.”
Some of the listeners from Southern California who heard those ads drove up the coast to take a look, liked what they saw and settled in the growing North Coast community — bringing the pronunciation they’d heard on the radio along with them, Attoe said.
To this day, the two pronunciations exist side-by-side, and sometimes, Attoe said, he’s heard people switch back and forth between them without even realizing it.
There’s a lot more history to be found in Attoe’s book, titled simply “Cambria,” and published this month by Arcadia Publishing as part of the “Images in America” series.
The volume checks in at 128 glossy pages and features nearly 190 black-and-white photos, the compilation of which proved to be a challenge. Attoe’s initial concept for the book was to focus on Cambria from an ecological perspective, which makes sense considering he’s the president of the nonprofit preservation group Greenspace, The Cambria Land Trust.
“I did an outline and started looking for photographs,” he recalled. “I enjoyed the search very much for a number of months, (but when) I was trying to put the images and the outline together, I found that I had very few images that talked about ecology. I had my theme, and there basically weren’t enough images to support it.”
Attoe did wind up finding the photos he needed, turning to a number of sources. The largest among them was the Cambria Historical Society, and he obtained others from the History Center of San Luis Obispo County and from the collections of Alice Phelan Nock and the late Wilfred Lyons. Brad Seek, a local resident, provided contemporary nature photos to “fill in the blanks where there are no historical photos of the forest.”
Meanwhile, local historian Dawn Dunlap helped out with some interesting stories from presentations she had given and offered considerable fact-checking prowess.
Still, Attoe wasn’t out of the woods — or forest — yet. When he submitted the photos, his publisher informed him some couldn’t be used because they were low-resolution images.
But he persevered, and “Cambria” was published May 11. It’s available on Amazon and, locally, at the Historical Society and the Cookie Crock.
The book’s format is similar to others in the series, most of which bear sepia-toned covers and contain photographs accompanied by extended captions. Instead of the photos illustrating the text, the text narrates the significance of the photos.
A retired professor of architecture, Attoe has written or co-authored six other books, most of which are heavily illustrated.
Inside the present volume, readers find images of such diverse bits of Cambria history as a Swiss Independence Day celebration, a long-gone airstrip and the town’s first gas station (selling Mobilgas). There’s also a photo of William Randolph Hearst on horseback, several shots of the town during the first half of the 20th century, and a smattering of maps and other illustrations.
But the forest remains the centerpiece of the project, and the opening chapter is titled “The Forest Before.”
Of the project, Attoe said: “I wanted it to help make more people aware of the significance of this forest as a rarity and to see the forest in conjunction with life rather than as something that’s a backdrop to life.
“As it happens, it’s being published at a moment when there’s a great deal of discussion about the forest and it’s future. At one point, I thought the book might be interpreted as an epitaph, but instead, I hope it will inspire people to look to the future of the forest.”
- What: A book launch hosted by the Cambria Historical Society and Greenspace, The Cambria Land Trust; the author will talk about his experience writing the book, and refreshments will be served. The Cambria Chinese Temple will be open.
- When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6.
- Where: Greenspace Creekside Reserve, 2264 Center St., followed by book signing across the street at the Cambria Historical Museum, 2251 Center St.