About the Colony

Want to find out more about North County history? Check out this organization

The Mercantile/La Plaza building in Atascadero was part of the civic center of the colony. It was destroyed by fire September 13, 1934.
The Mercantile/La Plaza building in Atascadero was part of the civic center of the colony. It was destroyed by fire September 13, 1934. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Atascadero Historical Society, chartered in 1965, is the oldest historical association in North San Luis Obispo County. But it has help in spreading the word about its volunteers’ many efforts.

Along with 10 other similar groups, it is part of the North County Historical Co-op.

I was recently thinking of the co-op when I read a piece about its founding. It was written by Milene Radford, who represents the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum.

I have been a member from the beginning, which was in February 2005. Betty Miller from Estrella Warbird Museum and Joyce Herman from Rios-Caledonia Adobe realized they had common problems, such as how to get volunteers, how to determine which software is good for maintaining museum records and how to let the public know what they have to offer.

One of the group’s first activities was a treasure hunt held in the summer of 2005. Participants (some of them children) had to visit each of the 11 sites to answer questions in order to become eligible for a drawing.

The co-op has printed a full-color brochure describing the 11 historical organizations — Atascadero Historical Society, Cambria Historical Society, Camp Roberts Historical Museum, Cayucos Historical Society, Estrella Warbird Museum, Mission San Miguel, Paso Robles Historical Society, Paso Robles Pioneer Museum, Rios-Caledonia Adobe, Santa Margarita Historical Society and Templeton Historical Museum.

By sharing in the expense, members are able to print a larger number of brochures. What is amazing is that there have been at least four printings of 15,000 brochures. They get used up because visitors in the county are taking them. The committee agrees running out of brochures is just what they want to happen.

Currently, the group is creating a poster that contains a brief description of each of the organizations. Once again, the cost for the poster is being shared by all 11 groups.

It isn’t always easy getting the word out that we exist. For example, the Estrella Warbird Museum, a first-class museum featuring not only military aircraft and more, also has exquisite cars ranging from NASCAR to vintage and antique cars. But the museum can’t get a sign on Highway 46 until it can demonstrate to the state that it gets a million visitors a year. The last time I visited this museum was on a very rainy day after Thanksgiving, and the place was packed with visitors.

Although museums make a great place to go to on a rainy day, they’re great on a sunny day, too. And they’re good for the economic vitality of the county.

The majority of the 11 historical organizations are run by volunteers who serve on their respective boards. Docents are all volunteers as well. The organization’s website is www.nslohistory.org.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades. His column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.