About the Colony

Atascadero history gets a new look

Steve Martin
Steve Martin

I first met Steve Martin when he walked into my high school advanced speech class. Steve, along with a dozen other students, wrote, recorded and produced a 15-minute radio show that was broadcast over KPRL on Wednesday nights.

It was the only positive thing I ever did as a teacher. Fortunately, I remain friends with many of those students, but more so with Steve. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Fresno State and spent much of his adult life in broadcast and print journalism and public relations before being hired as the executive director of Atascadero Main Street eight years ago.

Often, we covered the same news event.

Sometimes, Steve was the news event.

Having grown up in Atascadero, Steve knows a lot about Atascadero’s rich history. As an adult, he’s become a local history junkie. He is a former director of the Atascadero Historical Society and has written many pieces on the city’s history in his capacity to promote tourism here.

On Jan. 23, a new book on Atascadero’s history will make its debut. As a result of Steve’s energy and passion for Atascadero, close to 200 photos and 17,000 words have been put together in a book called “Atascadero,” which is a part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America.

Atascadero was the only community in San Luis Obispo County without an Arcadia history book, and it was Steve’s goal to write one.

Although the book is mostly photos, there is intelligent text written beneath those black-and-white images, along with more details chronicled to set off each of 10 chapters on such subjects as E.G. Lewis, Tent City, Atascadero Speedway, Commerce in Utopia, The Cloisters built on the beach at Morro Bay and more.

Of Lewis, Steve writes: “He was a man of immense energy and creativity,” adding, “and while many schemes and public relations strategies mainly paint him as a con man, in his passing, he left a record of grand achievements that include the development of a major publishing business, banking by mail, the founding of three cities, the construction of beautiful municipal buildings and the forging of a road that would become a major state highway.”

The photos in this newest book were provided by the Atascadero Historical Society, the Kent Kenney collection, Joyce Rabellino (Atascadero Speedway) and others.

But it is Steve Martin’s (in this case, author S.W. Martin) well-written text that makes this book a wonderful addition to a very small list of books written about Atascadero in the past four decades.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears on the Local page every Tuesday. He can be reached at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.