Cambrian: Opinion

Many have ties to Cambria history they don’t know about

The Dragon Bistro on Center Street in Cambria used to be a private residence.
The Dragon Bistro on Center Street in Cambria used to be a private residence.

Not only is Cambria a small town, but sometimes SLO County as a whole feels cozy. How many times do you run into familiar faces at Costco or the gas station or wherever? On a recent visit to the Toyota dealer, I ran into not one but two friends, one of whom I was able to pass most of my two-hour wait with. I told you, Consuelo, I was going to write about you!

You are likely familiar with Consuelo Macedo, writer for The Cambrian, driving force in the Cambria Historical Society, and I believe she has judged a pie or two in her day. I hadn’t known that her dear late husband, Richard, had family here for many years before he and she settled in town. That, her sunny and inquisitive disposition and a background in teaching, seem a natural order of things that she might be so involved in Cambria’s history.

I’m not even sure how we got on the subject, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stories. (I’m pulling bits from the Historical Society’s website here because, despite her verbatim retelling, I could not recall specific details like she can:

“In the late 1890s, Joseph and Mary Fernandes Mariano purchased that house across from the Dragon Bistro where GOWA is now and moved there where they and their younger son, Tony, operated Mariano’s Saloon, which was located where Mozzi’s Saloon is today. Tony was well liked and was the bartender. Later, he and neighbor, George Allen, got into an argument over a common fence line on West Street, resulting in Tony slapping George’s face and ordering him out of the saloon.

“George went home, got his shotgun and returned. He killed Tony in front of the saloon! And he got acquitted for it because in the early 1900s a slapped face was ‘just provocation for retaliation in defending one’s honor.’ Can you believe that? How could you live in town after that?” I asked the population at that time. “About 800.”

I love a good sleuthing as much as anybody else. The story went on. “So, according to records, he in fact wasn’t here much longer but kind of disappeared. Melody Coe dogged it and found his (son/nephew/some family member) had moved to Southern California and sure enough, their names were listed as living with them! Mystery solved!”

Cool. Indeed, Consuelo, Dawn Dunlap, Melody Coe and others at the museum are good bird-dogs, flushing out facts and photos and wonderful pieces of history that help make our town so much richer.

I realized after my conversation with Consuelo that I myself, after living here for more than 36 years, have become a part of the history, remembering vividly when they moved the Westendorf/Dickie house from the corner of Burton Drive and Center Street. My friend, Walt Hale had been living there until he died. It was an eventful evening to watch the move. Its most recent incarnation is the Dragon Bistro. And I was there.

As it says on the Historical Society’s website, “Why History Is Important — The Cambria Historical Society maintains a Paul Squibb collection and the recollections of many other Cambrians — priceless artifacts that give us a sense of place and provide a source of pride for our community. They impart the lessons of America’s heritage and values and inspire us with the tenacity and energy of the early pioneers. They give us reason to cherish the homegrown flavor of our town and give Cambria its distinctive personality.”

I wish more folks would steep themselves in this town’s local history to maintain its flavor (not that we should be shooting each other to settle our differences! Now, there would be a town hall meeting…). Anyway, it was lovely chatting with you, Consuelo. I look forward to more conversations sooner than later.

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at