The Cambrian

80 is the new 50 for Pinedorado Parade marshal Marjorie Sewell

Marjorie Sewell serves on the Cambria Historical Society Board of Directors. She’s seen here inside the museum Tuesday, Aug. 23.
Marjorie Sewell serves on the Cambria Historical Society Board of Directors. She’s seen here inside the museum Tuesday, Aug. 23. sprovost@thetribunenews.com

Historical docent and perpetual volunteer Marjorie “Marj” Sewell, Cambria’s 2016 Pinedorado Parade marshal, said being selected for the honor was “a big surprise and really, really special” for her because this year is Cambria’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary).

Area history is a motivating force for Sewell, who lives in Cambria but is often considered to be a symbol and representative of San Simeon, where she was raised, since her birth in 1932.

Sewell, 84, is the epitome of the “80 is the new 50” trend, with an energy level to match that of people half her age and a commitment to volunteering that has won her accolades, awards and profound respect from many.

In 2014, she received State Parks’ “Volunteer Medallion for Superior Achievement” in recognition of her “extraordinary volunteerism and significant contribution toward the agency’s missions and goals.”

Her parks coordinator described Sewell as a “dedicated, knowledgeable and multitalented volunteer.”

Perhaps it’s her own interesting background that drew her toward a fascination with area history.

“Growing up in San Simeon was an absolutely fabulous experience,” Sewell said in an earlier interview. “It was such a very special place to be, such a community. Talk about kids being raised by a village!”

From first through eighth grade, she attended the tiny, one-room 1870s-era Pacific School, which is still in San Simeon, and from which the often-daydreaming young lady could look out and see Hearst Castle.

She went on so many daydreaming “magic carpet rides,” Sewell said, “the teacher would say: ‘Marjorie would get a lot more done if she didn’t daydream so much.’ But I think daydreaming is important,” especially when there’s something so spectacular to trigger the imagination.

San Simeon’s youngsters “hiked all over the place … on the ranch, where the airport is now, on the (San Simeon) Point.”

In fact, Sewell said her heart still believes “the point is mine. I love that point.”

The teacher would say, ‘Marjorie would get a lot more done if she didn’t daydream so much.’ But I think daydreaming is important.”

Marjorie Sewell, 2016 Pinedorado parade marshal

William Reid, Sewell’s father, a gardener, managed the greenhouses at William Randolph Hearst’s hilltop estate, including babysitting Marion Davies’ orchid collection.

Sewell said “one of my father’s favorite guests was (Hearst gossip columnist) Louella Parsons, who was an avid gardener,” and frequent guest at the estate.

The veteran teacher still has strong connections to San Simeon. A State Parks history docent, she dons period costumes to portray a Hearst guest during the monument’s seasonal night tours.

Being a historical docent probably is her favorite volunteer activity, she said, which includes being a docent for the Cambria Historical Museum. She also serves on the Cambria Historical Society Board of Directors.

“Also” seems an apt word when describing Sewell’s assorted volunteer activities.

Sewell also teaches new castle tour guides about San Simeon history, including the fact that there was an entire town there during the whaling and dairy-shipping days in the late 1800s, with “about 45 houses, two hotels,” San Luis Obispo County’s first commercial pier, a saloon, livery stable, stores, blacksmith shop, butcher shop and lots of people.

She’s also a volunteer at the Coastal Discovery Center. She also makes scarecrows to display in San Simeon locations during the October Scarecrow Festival in Cambria and San Simeon. And she also serves on the North Coast Advisory Council.

Asked how she’ll find time in her busy schedule to be Pinedorado’s 2016 parade marshal, she laughed and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll find a way.”

Want to know more?

Marjorie Sewell’s memoir, “The Reid Family’s Journey to San Simeon: Memoirs of Marjorie Reid Sewell,” is available at the Cambria Historical Museum, on Amazon and other outlets. It was written by Michele Oksen of Cambria.

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