I’ve been watching some scary movies lately. I guess ’tis the season, as Halloween is just around the corner. Most scary movies have little impact on me with two exceptions — spiders and basements.
We had a basement in a farm house when I was growing up. I never wanted to go down there. The light switch was at the bottom so you went down and down and down into the darkness until you found the switch, which if I remember correctly consisted of a string you had to find. So, you kind of had to wave your arms around to find it. What better way to make it easy for a monster to grab you than waving your arms all about in a dark place.
I would have been about 9 years old when we had that basement.
Now I’m 70 years older. But I’m still scared of basements. Of course, I’m an adult and must go bravely into that dark hole when necessary.
A number of Atascadero’s Colony Homes have basements. I’m still reluctant to venture down, but, after all, this space is/was and important piece of the whole house above. Some basements are still dark and dreary. Some smell musty. Some of the homeowners admit they don’t even go down there. There are a few Colony Homes with basements that are well lighted and ventilated and very much in use.
Some businesses in the downtown have basements. There is a basement beneath the building that’s home to a pawn shop across the street from the Police Station. I have had attended meetings there in the past.
There are a couple buildings in the same block with basements. One even contains a bomb shelter. I inched my way through these spaces armed with a flashlight over the past 40 years.
The granddaddy of basements has to be the City Administration Building. In fact, the space was so creepy it made frightful Halloween venue at the hands of Atascadero Jaycees, who had a meeting room in the basement. If you crawled around deep enough below the City Hall, you came upon dirt. This area was used as an indoor shooting range for many years.
All those dark spaces and corners were the perfect setting for a tomb or a guillotine. What made the setting extra frightening for the children was that you had to descend stairs to get to the basement floor. You heard lots of screams from those ahead of you on the tour. I remember the Jaycees wouldn’t let real young children go down there. I wish they had the same cautious restrictions for newspaper reporters.
The basement beneath City Hall now has a new clean concrete floor and lots of lighting.
Another downtown basement is the one in The Printery. It isn’t too deep and it isn’t very large. My memory of it is that there was a lot of industrial equipment here that has long been removed. At least it has a light bulb.
But then there is the old swimming pool in The Printery, which was filled with dirt and who knows what else. No one has explored that area (the pool) for more than a half century.
Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every other week. Reach Allan at (805) 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.