About the Colony

Lon Allan: Swingin’ spirit will help honor local veterans

During World War II an unknown person hung a sign on the marble statue that graced the median between the city hall and high school hill that read: "Three wives fighting over an apartment."

There was a housing shortage as soldiers and their wives came to the Central Coast to train at both Camp San Luis Obispo and Camp Roberts.

About the same time, a USO-type show was being held a few blocks away in The Printery. By this time, the building served as barracks for U.S. Army personnel stationed at Sherwood Airfield in Paso Robles.

Atascaderans eagerly volunteered to help entertain the soldiers stationed at Camp Roberts, especially for those USO functions.

That spirit is being celebrated in part Saturday night with a USO-style benefit dance to be held in the National Guard Armory, a culmination of the weeklong 2006 Colony Days Celebration.

This year’s theme is "Swingin’ and Dreamin’ in the Colony." And there’ll be plenty of swinging as the second annual swing dance competition is held in the community. In fact, Saturday night’s USO dance, featuring the big band sounds of the Jonathan Stout Orchestra from Southern California, will be interrupted for a brief period to stage an amateur and professional Lindy Hop competition.

Even if you don’t dance, it’ll be worth the ticket price just to hear some great big-band sounds.

Proceeds from the USO-style event are going to benefit the proposed Veterans Memorial, planned for somewhere downtown. The memorial will honor those men and women from the Atascadero school district boundaries who died in past conflicts.

Col. Bill Hatch leads the Memorial Committee, which has the names of eight servicemen who died in the Vietnam War and nine killed in World War II. Research is under way to find names of those killed in World War I and the Korean War.

The Veterans Memorial Committee will have a booth in the Sunken Gardens following Saturday’s parade for those who want to sign up for a commemorative brick. For $100 you can have your name, rank and years of service printed on a brick paver. You can have a brick with your family name, or even one in memory of a loved one.

Those bricks will line the walkway to the memorial. The sale of the brick pavers will help finance the completed memorial, featuring a life-sized bronze sculpture by local artist Mark Greenaway.

I’ve let my old Navy uniform out, so my wife and I can experience Saturday’s USO dance. Come in uniform or "civvies" (or 1940s-era dress) to the National Guard Armory to not only benefit a great project but soothe your soul with some of the greatest dance tunes ever written.

If you can’t make it to the dance, enjoy some swing dancing for free Saturday in the Sunken Gardens as part of the 33rd annual Colony Days celebration.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades.