“Our biggest bank was the Bank of Italy. An automatic teller in those days was the town gossip in the bank at the counter. It was such a small town that you had to lock your car to keep your friends from giving you zucchini.”
At the age of 91, William Tardif of Paso Robles told of the way we were during the 1920s and ‘30s. You can still visit many of the sites referred to in Mr. Tardif’s narrative.
“The fire station was in the middle of town, and the siren was sounded at noon and was called Ferdinand. People who walked by as it sounded got a hearing loss!”
“Across the street was the J. C. Penny store, where you could buy an up-to-date suit for $23, or you could buy your attire at Green Brothers’ Clothing at a little more. The Bee Hive Restaurant on Monterey between Chorro and Morro Streets was the place to get a good meal and all the gossip.
“If you wanted to fill up your car with gas, you drove out to Stowe’s service station across from the Southern Pacific Roundhouse. Gasoline was 16 cents and the best oil was 35 cents. They filled your car with gas, checked the oil, washed your windshield, checked your tires, and if they knew you, told you a lot about what was going on around town.
“Gilmore Gasoline came to town and erected a station on Higuera, doing a land office business. Everyone enjoyed their jingle in their radio ads. I remember the one that went, ‘If you use Gilmore gas, there isn’t a car on the highway you can’t pass!’Then their lion roared.
“North of town, situated on the old highway at what was known as Death Curve, runaway trucks leaving the Cuesta Grade made things exciting as they roared by on Monterey Street through the middle of town. One truck didn’t make it and plowed through the Gilmore station, almost hitting the attendant who was sitting in a chair in front. They closed down the station.
“If you wished, you could go around the next bend to the Last Chance roadhouse for drinks and dancing, a very popular place for us young people to have fun.
“We hadn’t heard of drugs in those days. You’re only young once but if you work it right, once is enough, and I’m saying that as I enter my 91st year.
“Monterey Street was called the Devil’s Wash Board it was so rough. The other streets weren’t much better.
“Working in the building trades, I drove a First World War solid tired chain drive Stanley, a dump truck capable of speeds up to 20 mph if the chains driving it didn’t break.
“If you wished to travel by bus you took the Pickwick Stage. If it didn’t break down along the road, you would get to your destination, maybe shaken up a bit.
“We had a race track named Exposition Park south of town (near today’s Meadow Park) with bleachers. The highlight of the racing season was the day Barney Oldfield raced. He won with an astounding speed of 50 mph.
“Trout Hampton, the engineer on the narrow gauge Pacific Coast Railroad, let me ride in the cab on the way to Sisquoc, east of Santa Maria, and sometimes to Port Harford (Port San Luis). The engine swayed and bumped, at times it even was derailed.
The train was used in the movie, ‘Diamond Jim Brady.’ I was hired along with others as an extra. It was quite a thrill and well paid. I was earning $2 for every action, a goodly sum in those days and bought a lot of groceries. Of course we had to go up to the counter and have the clerk select the groceries from the shelves in back.”