I was watching a PBS show on the big band era one night last week. As far as I’m concerned, there has never been a better time for music.
The opening of the program featured the casino/ballroom at Catalina Island. My folks said they often danced to some of the big bands that appeared there and at other locations in Southern California.
That landmark casino reminded me of another era, right here in Atascadero, when our own version of a big band performed at the historic lakeside pavilion. When Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and other bands were playing to packed crowds in Catalina, we had our own bands playing right here. I don’t mean the pavilion that is there now, I’m talking about the one that grew out of the platform taken from Stadium Park and relocated lakeside in 1926.
Saturday night dances were very popular there.
During the 1940s, Vern Bobsin and his orchestra played at the pavilion. Vern’s brother, Lloyd, was one of Atascadero’s postmasters. Vern was also a charter member of the Atascadero Rotary Club.
Many local seniors have told me that the lakeside pavilion was the place to be on a Saturday night.
In fact, the late Will Lewis, nephew of Atascadero’s founder E.G. Lewis, told me that he met his wife, Mabel Grace, at a dance at the pavilion when they were both very young. He said the setting was wonderful.
Will, as a young child, is featured in a number of early Atascadero publications. He was pressed into service when his uncle needed children to be included in photos. Will and Mabel retired to Atascadero in the mid-1970s and were Colony Days royalty in 1988.
The Pavilion on the Lake, as the current building is called, continues to be the single largest gathering place for Atascadero’s business and social functions. It was built through city funds and donations from local residents.
The woman who headed up Friends of the Lake Pavilion was Sarah Gronstrand, mother of the woman who chaired Friends of the Library, Grenda Ernst.
These thoughts and others flood my mind each year at this time as I begin to review Atascadero’s wonderful history. Colony Days is less than two months away, and committee members tell me the parade signup sheet — with this year’s theme “Our American Heroes” — will be available soon.