First we get the drought, followed by severe water shortages and unending hullabaloo over prospective remedies. And now — street sign discrepancies on Park Hill? Yikes!
Is it “Guilford Dr” or “Guildford Dr”? Is it “Huntington Rd” or is it “Huntignton Rd”? Residents walking their dogs on the quiet, pine-shrouded streets on the east side of Park Hill might think their eyesight is playing tricks on them.
But this is not an eyesight issue: Someone flubbed back when these signs were made. I am assured by Google maps that Huntington and Guilford are the correct spellings.
And how much English language savvy does it take to produce signs that correctly spell the name of the street on which the sign is to be posted? We’ll postpone that discussion, but the question is worthy given that there is another badly maligned sign in our seaside settlement — a town that is pronounced two different ways but is nearly always spelled “Cambria.”
The most blatant spelling discrepancy in town is the Historical Landmark (No. 939) sign on Main Street near the new library, renaming NitWit Ridge, “Nitt Witt Ridge.” I suspect that divergence from fact was not a gaffe on the part of the person who produced the sign, but an apparent decision by the landmark applicant to modify history.
Why am I so certain “NitWit” is accurate? Forty-six years ago, I was studying English and Journalism at Cal Poly and a friend suggested I contribute an article to a new monthly feature publication called “Alternative.”
He further suggested that I visit, interview and write about a fascinating yet controversial gent in Cambria named Art Beal.
Indeed, I did interview the bearded and riotously opinionated Beal (also known as “Dr. Tinkerpaw” and “Captain NitWit”), and published an article on him in 1967. Subsequently, I wrote several other pieces on Captain NitWit — and built a friendship with the “turbulent terdhead,” as he called himself — through the years.
I also helped organize a fundraising whale-watching excursion out of Morro Bay to help pay Beal’s back taxes in the 1970s. The featured guest on that boat was “Saturday Night Live” luminary Don Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci), who blessed a pod of California gray whales that appeared near the starboard side of our boat, using pungent incense from his swinging thurible that wafted eerily over them. The sold-out event was promoted as “A Benefit for NitWit Ridge.”
I spearheaded another benefit to pay back taxes for NitWit Ridge, a fundraiser prominently featured in the April 24, 1975, version of The Cambrian. “The infamous Dr. Tinkerpaw of NitWit Ridge was benefitted Sunday afternoon…” the story began. Note “NitWit Ridge,” not “Nitt Witt.”
Meanwhile, back to the imprecise street signs on Park Hill; I spoke with Michelle Matson in the county’s Public Works department, and she pulled up the Google image from the corner of Guilford and Huntington, and could see that the “g” and the “n” had been reversed, causing Huntington to be misspelled.
“I can have that changed for you,” she said. I pointed out that I wasn’t requesting a new sign; I just wondered how long ago these signs were put in place. She wasn’t immediately able to locate the history of those street signs, but a resident walking his dog nearby on Worcester Drive said he has lived on Park Hill for 18 years and the same signs have been there all that time.
Another sign whose accuracy is open to discussion is just north of Cambria, off of San Simeon Creek Road, on Van Gordon Creek Road. Local historian and Cambrian columnist Consuelo Macedo explains that the correct spelling of the pioneer family that lived here was Van Gorden.
Indeed, Ancestry.com lists the passing of Ira Van Gorden — “a member of one of the pioneer families of Cambria” — on March 9, 1929. On the other hand, Macedo made clear, if descendants of Mr. Van Gorden prefer to change the “e” to an “o,” that is certainly their prerogative.
But as to “Huntignton” and “Guildford,” are those boo-boos simply signs of the times, or just signs in the pines?