Cambrian: Opinion

10th-generation Californian to speak at Cambria Historical Society dinner

Bob Soto displays his spurs as he describes cattle ranching.
Bob Soto displays his spurs as he describes cattle ranching. Special to The Cambrian

In keeping with our commitment to provide great quality speakers for events big and small, the Cambria Historical Society is proud to invite the public to our annual Recognitions Dinner on Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Cambria Pines Lodge. Local rancher Bob Soto, whose family has settled in California since they traveled to San Francisco with the de Anza expedition (1775-1776), will be the keynote speaker after the banquet.

The evening begins with a social hour and no-host bar at 5, sit down dinner at 6, and a brief informational meeting at 7 p.m.

The Sotos have been ranchers up Santa Rosa Creek Road for several generations and important figures in Cambria’s colorful history. Bob previously enthralled a small group on the Harvest Festival Farm Tour, not only about state and local history, but also how that has impacted the family businesses, as Cambria has had to reinvent itself even according to the vagaries of world economies. We are pleased to include a greater audience for Bob Soto during this special occasion.

Advance reservations for prime rib, chicken in basil sauce, or vegetarian ravioli medley dinners, $32 per person, are necessary before Feb. 15. Mail checks to CHS at P.O. Box 906, Cambria, with names, phone number, email, and dinner choice(es); or stop by at the museum during business hours (see below). For dinner information, call Consuelo Macedo at 927-3159.

While you are in the East Village neighborhood, take a look at the remaining Canary Island Palm tree (Phoenix canariensis) in front of the Burton Inn, formerly known as Rigdon Hall, home of state Senator Elmer Rigdon. In the early 1900s the palms lined Lee Street, which is now known as Burton Drive; they were sold to William Randolph Hearst and transplanted into the gardens of his grand hilltop home. Another specimen still stands by the Palms Motel at 2662 Main St.

At nearby Ollalieberry Inn is a majestic Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) planted about 1905 by Otto and Charles Manderscheid in the front yard of the their home, which served as the town’s first drug store. Several redwoods dot our village, namely the one just west of the Bluebird Inn, formerly the George Lull ranch house. It was lit in December as part of the Christmas Lighting project which was funded by a Cambria Tourism Board grant, a dream come true (and originally envisioned in 1984 by Millie Heath and a committee to decorate significant trees in Cambria).

That redwood and another across the street were likely planted by the Plaskett family. Growth in their early stages is rapid, as evidenced by the redwood planted in the back yard at the Cambria Historical Museum about 36 years ago. While visiting our heirloom gardens, take note of the original narcissus, unique spirea hedges close to the porches (which have petite double blooms), and heirloom dwarf double ruffled daffodils which are blooming, regardless of being stunted by the drought.

White calla lilies have emerged, punctuated by unusual black lilies named Arum Palaestinum, based on their Middle East origin. Fourteen plants were in the Center Street front yard of the former Guthrie-Bianchini house when the Historical Society bought it in 2001. Over the years, Project Manager Mike Rice has divided and replanted the bulbs to encircle the house; for the first time, they are now available for sale in our nursery out back, a gallon pot for just $15 (plus tax). Buy now to enjoy their unusual blooms, and plant just about anywhere for the future, since gophers and deer avoid them.

On March 6, we will feature the highly unusual Dawn Redwood, which deserves its own special attention. For other information, check out our website at, and “like us” on

The gardens are open all day every day; the museum is staffed by volunteers from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday. There’s no admission charge, but donations are gratefully accepted. For more information, call 927-2891.