Old-timers gathered in the newly renovated San Miguel Park on August 27 at the annual Old-Timers Picnic. The day was hot and sunny but they were not wilted by the heat as there were smiles, laughter and excited conversations everywhere.
Families and friends enjoyed the excellent chicken barbecue hosted by the San Miguel Lions Club. True to tradition, every person 80 years old or older was treated to a free meal. The honors of oldest man and woman in attendance went to Ruth Von Dollen, 91, and 2013 Pioneer Day Marshal Norm Bridge, 92.
Previous queens present included Maggie Vandergon, 2009, and Norma Moye, 2013. Belle Riley Coelho representing Adelaide was introduced along with three of her attendants — Julia Aurignac representing San Ardo, Katie Smith representing Bryson Hesperia and Jadyn Steaffens representing Indian Valley.
The other five attendants are Mollie Batrum representing Hog Canyon, Mattie Lindsey representing Geneseo, Alexandrea Minnis representing Willow Creek, Victoria Smeltzer representing Estrella and Payton Tucker representing Shandon/Cholame.
Names of the pioneer families from which the Belles are descended were announced and several of those names resonate in the history of San Miguel. Many of these pioneers were farmers, arriving in the area in the late 1800s — Von Dollen and Atkins (Mollie), Wolf and Root (Katie), Azbell and Atkins (Payton).
In 1926, the Franklin family (Alexandrea) arrived in San Miguel. The couple were both Methodist ministers assigned to take over a circuit of churches including San Miguel, Estrella and Shandon. George Davis (Jadyn) helped build the first schoolhouse in 1886.
In 1946 The Witcosky family (Riley) purchased a market on Mission Street that had first been established in the late 1880s.
The Van Horn family (Riley) still owns the historic Flouring Mill downtown, which has been a family business since it was built in 1892. Don Wolf served on the Pioneer Day Committee for many years.
Candlelight Tour of the Haunted Adobe
The next event in San Miguel is the Candlelight Tour of the Haunted Adobe on October 28 this year, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Rios-Caledonia Adobe, 700 Mission Street. It has become a tradition of its own.
The adobe was built in 1835 by Petronillo Rios, who was sent to oversee Mission San Miguel following its secularization by the Mexican governor in Monterey in 1834. In 1868 George Butchard opened it as the Caledonia Inn, a stagecoach stop and tavern. In 1923, it was purchased by Charles Dorries who built the Gift Shop to attract tourists. Later, it fell into disuse and began to crumble. SLO County purchased the property in 1964.
In 1968 Friends of the Adobes was incorporated to restore the building. Today is it a county park, funded and operated by Friends of the Adobes. The Candlelight Tour was the inspiration of Adobe manager Joyce Herman and well known teacher and historian Wally Ohles. He took great delight in relating spooky ghost stories, some based on lore from both the Adobe and the Mission. Today the mantle has passed to Paul Burkle who thoroughly enjoys sending chills down the backs of his listeners. Paso Robles high school students will set the stage in costume and the Mystical Ray-Anne will do Tarot readings. You might hear ghostly noises if you go upstairs. Resident ghosts and refreshments are free! Donations are gratefully accepted.