Those of you who have been around a long time will remember that the La Moda Theater stood in the vacant lot in the 5000 block of El Camino Real, tucked between Ward’s Garage (built in 1928) and the J.A. Keetch Building (finished in 1929).
The La Moda quit showing motion pictures in the mid-1950s, a victim of television, and became a bowling alley. The theater stood empty, however, for most of the 1980s. After it closed, pigeons took up residence in the marquee that hung over the sidewalk and droppings from those flying rodents made a mess on the concrete below. The walkway was smelly and slippery, especially in the winter months.
Before that, the owners of the theater/bowling alley kept the sidewalks cleared of pigeon poop by sweeping or hosing down the area. All those droppings were just pushed into the gutter and into the downtown drainage system.
Now take a walk beneath the newly completed freeway overcrossing on Traffic Way near St. Williams Catholic Church, and you’ll see we have an emerging mess of pigeon droppings there, too, already becoming small piles of waste.
I wasn’t sure what could be done about it until I read an account of construction on the recently renovated city hall. We learned that 60 Dumpsters of pigeon droppings were collected from the upper rotunda of the City Administration Building.
Our city leaders are always looking for ways to make money.
So let’s combine the pigeon excrement with the duck dropping-enriched soil enhanced by dying fish and decaying algae at Atascadero Lake and bag it up and sell it.
After all, Atascadero began with a “back-to-the-land” philosophy espoused by founder E.G. Lewis to get local property owners to subsist on the smallest parcel of land. Produce a product and market it, he believed.
Lewis built a processing plant — he even experimented with solar heat — to market the freshly harvested fruit, flowers and seeds to be sold to the rest of the world. He came up with a can of pumpkin flour that could make 8 to 10 pumpkin pies under the “Caladero” name. He even secured a government contract to make dehydrated food products for the soldiers fighting in World War I. The end of the war led to the cancellation of that business venture and a big setback to the Colony’s financial health.
Extremely hot weather and the cost of delivering water sort of killed off the live-off-the-land experiment.
So here’s our chance to do it all over, to make a living from what we best produce here — pigeon, duck and geese doo-doo.
Too bad we didn’t think of it a couple of weeks ago. We could have kicked off the whole enterprise with a big fish fry.