Grover Beach celebrates its 50th birthday

When Grover Beach fashion shop owner Cynthia Glenn moved to the community in 1949 with her husband, Corman, youth baseball was popular, White’s Milk Shop was a popular hangout — and the town was known as the “home of the average man.”

“It was a place where you didn’t need a lot of money to get started and make a life here,’’ the 83-year-old recalled. There was even a sign at the corner of Grand Avenue and Highway 1 touting its “average man’’ quality.

Now, as the city celebrates its 50th birthday today, it remains a place where citizens have a lot of pride, said former city manager Arnie Dowdy.

“The city still has a way to go, but the people here want easy streets to drive on, they want their water to be pure and to be able to enjoy their community and parks,” Dowdy said.

Grover City, as it was first called, was incorporated Dec. 21, 1959, by a two-to-one ratio by local voters.

Local attorney Clifford Clark remembers when he and his wife, Mary Lee, rushed to Sacramento on Dec. 31, 1959, to submit papers to meet a filing deadline.

“With tears in our eyes as we neared the clerk’s desk to process the contract, we met the deadline just prior to the start of their New Year’s Eve celebration,” Clark said. “As I recall, Mary Lee and I celebrated the New Year in the crummiest little motel in all of Sacramento, but it was a happy time.”

About 5,000 people lived in Grover City in the 1950s, compared with about 13,000 now.

The city changed its name to Grover Beach in 1992 to draw attention to the proximity to the ocean and market the community, City Manager Bob Perrault said.

In the late 1950s, the driving force behind the incorporation was a desire to create self-governance and local control over how their tax dollars were spent, said Clark, who performed legal work for the city in the early days. To meet those goals, a five-member City Council of elected officials was established.

Mayor John Shoals said the city now offers a host of services, including water and sewer systems and road maintenance, as well as a fire department and police force.

“Through cityhood, people in Grover Beach are getting a City Council that’s represented by their peers who live here and understand the community,” Shoals said. “They’re getting council members who are looking around on their behalf and making sure money is being spent wisely.”

Looking ahead, Shoals said, “This 50th anniversary is really a chance for us to not forget the past and to keep our goals in mind as we move forward.”

He cited the proposed beachfront lodge in the planning stages as a key future development that will bring tourists and needed tax revenue to the city.

Another goal is to finalize a joint powers agreement and officially unite fire services as part of the ongoing partnership with the city of Arroyo Grande and Oceano Community Services District, including sharing costs for the fire chief and fire equipment.

The agreement would create a new entity with an independent board of directors providing direction to the fire chief; personnel would be organized in a single unit with one system of salary and benefits that would share equipment owned by the authority.

“We’re really looking forward to another 50 years of accomplishments and building on this foundation,” Shoals said.