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Looking Back to 1931: Fatal accident results in lawsuit, man to parachute into town 

Looking Back Paso Robles

This look back at Paso Robles history comes from local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. News for this column is selected with the assistance of the society’s Vice President Nancy Tweedie and Research Director Jan Cannon.

Excerpts from Wednesday, May 12, 1931, The Paso Robles Spotlight:

Sturgeon faces suit

Parent of Iris Woolman to act for other folk

A statement that he “will institute suit to collect damages to the fullest extent of the law” was made here today by Lou Woolman, father of Iris Woolman, 20-year-old crash victim who up until Saturday morning was considered at death’s door following the Bakersfield highway auto crash which caused the death of Lillian Olsen, 17, popular Paso Robles girl.

Not bitter but seeks protection

“It is my intention to prosecute young Sturgeon to the limit of the law,” Woolman declared. “I have no bitterness in my heart for the youngster whose driving caused the death of one young girl in full bloom of life, and injured another sufficiently to cause the most intense anguish of mind pending conflicting opinions of her recovery.”

Looking Back Paso Robles

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I don’t expect, nor do I seek, to recover actual damages. I seek merely a judgment against the young man. So long as a judgment hangs against him he may be deprived of the use of his car or any car.”

“I believe,” said Woolman, “that a driver is entitled to but one chance to properly operate a motor car. I believe operator’s licenses should be revoked permanently in cases where serious physical damage is sustained and where deaths are caused by driving.”

Woolman declared himself satisfied that Sturgeon was not safely driving his machine at the time of the fatal accident which robbed one family of a daughter and nearly brought the spectre of death into the threshold of another. He points out the damming evidence of skidding wheels, deep furrows plowed in the soft earth and the fact that the curve at which the accident occurred is safely negotiated at 30 miles per hour. He takes the stand that the death machine was traveling in excess of a speed normally safe for the curve. Although the speed feature of the case may never be proved since there were no eye witnesses to the crash the physical evidence, condition of the ground near the scene and other factors, tend to show that the car was being rapidly driven.

Example for others and parents; averse

“In prosecuting Sturgeon, it is with other parents, other girls and boys in mind,” Woolman said. “I believe that a man who has driven one person to his or her death has no place behind the wheel of a motorcar. In forcing his permanent revocation of right to drive I am sure, so far as he is concerned, one more menace to life and property has been removed. I am doing it for other parents, other daughters, other sons. My own is safe now. I propose to aid in making safe the lives of other young women.”

Woolman plans to make his suit a test to apply generally, if possible.

Read more news about this accident here.


Veterans and businessmen stage gala day

‘Suicide Slim’ parachute jump onto Spring Street feature of area bargain day

Under auspices of the American Legion and in behalf of Paso Robles merchants, who have set aside the day as gala bargain period, “Suicide Slim” intrepid skyrider and one of America’s foremost parachute jumpers will thrill Paso Roblans and district residents this coming Saturday.

The aerial marvel will be taken to a height of 2000 feet by a member of his company.

At a point above the city he will leap from the plane, after first staging a series of thrilling acrobatics from the landing gear of the plan, and attempt to land in the vicinity of Eleventh and Spring streets.

Expects greatest crowds in history

Paso Robles streets are expected to be jammed with the greatest crowds in the history of the city to see Suicide Slim make his attempt. Simultaneously the crowds will take advantage of countless bargains to be offered by Paso Robles merchants.

The jump is the most dangerous the aviator has ever attempted.

“Although I have made over 200 successful jumps,” Slim said today, “it is with a shudder I contemplate the jump before me. I shall be hard put to it to avoid high tension wires and other hazards in the course of the swiftly dropping chute.”

Editorial summary: Prizes were offered to members of the crowd, donated either by Slim or by the downtown merchants who prepared their shelves with attractive bargains. The prizes will be handed out personally by Slim. Merchants hope that “crowds will be thronging store aisles in quest of bargains.”


Read previous Looking Back articles


Thank you to sponsors of Looking Back

Paso Robles Pioneer Museum – Come take a real look back into local Paso Robles history. Open Thursday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 2010 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles, CA 93446, www.pasoroblespioneermuseum.org (805) 239-4556.

Estrella Warbird Museum is an aviation museum dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles, and memorabilia. Woodland Auto Display is also open. Hours: Thursday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. 4251 Dry Creek Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446, ewarbirds.org, (805) 227-0440.

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1800 El Pomar is the site of a historic Templeton ranch located just three miles east of town. The property features an iconic, aged redwood barn, 3 story tank house, original farmhouse with an outdoor garden, original water tank structures, and many other original ranch buildings. Set on 20+ acres of vineyards, the 360-degree views of rolling oak-studded hills and surrounding vines are a photographer’s dream. A prime ceremony location exists in the vineyards behind the barn between two beautiful oaks. The northwest-facing location creates plenty of shade for your guests in an early to late afternoon setting. A perfect venue with plenty of open space to customize your wedding or event. www.1800elpomar.com.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.