Saturday is the 85th annual Paso Robles Pioneer Day celebration. This year the Pioneer Day Parade has a theme: “The Great Depression of 1931, 85 years later.” So I guess we Roblans should consider whether we’re better off today than we were 85 years ago.
We certainly can’t help noticing our town has expanded. In 1931 Paso Robles covered about 2.3 square miles. Today it covers 19.9 square miles. It’s now nearly nine times bigger than it was 85 years ago. But it didn’t start expanding at all until 1952. That was also the year when Paso Robles started spreading east across the Salinas River.
By the way, 1952 was when I first came to Paso Robles. But I wasn’t part of the growth. I spent just one night in a Paso Robles motel before reporting for duty at Camp Roberts. Also around that time, my future wife, Mamie, was transferred to Paso Robles temporarily by her employer, the telephone company.
Paso Robles has also gained a lot of population since that first Pioneer Day. In 1931 its population was around 2,600. Last year it was about 30,450.
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But Mamie and I do have to plead guilty to adding to the Paso Robles population. In 1962 we moved back with our two children. They’re now in other states, but we’re still here.
But, getting back to the Pioneer Day theme, I think we’re better off in some ways today than we were in 1931 but worse off in others. Certainly here in the North County we’re better off when it comes to health care. We have a large, modern hospital and many skilled doctors and nurses.
And they have the knowledge and medicines to treat many conditions that were untreatable in 1931. But can we afford the ever increasing costs?
And our farmers seem to be doing better than ever with their modern irrigation techniques, but how long will our water last if we keep pumping more from the ground than Mother Nature replaces?
There’s no doubt, however, that Pioneer Day has improved steadily since 1931. That first year there was a parade, music and games, but no free food. The first Pioneer Day Poster said, “Basket Dinner at Noon; Bring Your Own Lunch. Free Coffee: Milk for the Children.”
By 1935, though, the volunteer firemen were cooking 600 pounds of meat, 3,000 pounds of potatoes and 300 pounds of vegetables in a huge stew, paid for by the city’s merchants. About 3,000 people ate it. After about five more Pioneer Days, the stew was replaced with the present Lions Club bean feed.
My hope for the future is that members of the current text-messaging generations will step forward to join the Pioneer Day Committee. It’s fun and rewarding to be part of a successful program. To learn more about Pioneer Day, go to pasoroblespioneerday.org