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Looking Back to 1941: Housing shortage, classroom shortage and trailer camps 

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, January 8, 1941, The Paso Robles Journal:

Housing situation still big problem

While building permits granted by the city council show a total of $204,876 worth of construction during 1940, the highest figure in the city’s history, the local housing conditions are a problem which at present still required solution.

Construction of a 24-bed dormitory addition at the Hotel Taylor is be begun at once, it was announced last week, and will be an aid to the relief of congestion. But needs of newcomers being urgent, it is to be hoped that a few more of our residents can find it possible to provide quarters for workers and their families in private homes.

Housing for school pupils grows acute

Additional evidence of the seriousness of the school housing shortage in Paso Robles was revealed at the regular meeting of the school boards Monday night when it was disclosed that enrollment in Paso Robles schools has increased approximately 150 pupils since Thanksgiving. The most serious problem is in the elementary schools is 100 additional pupils have enrolled in that time.

Looking Back Paso Robles history

Click here to read the full front page of the January 8, 1941, Paso Robles Journal

Editorial summary: Eight grade enrollment reached 97 students, causing those students to be split into three groups resulting in the county superintendent of schools securing an emergency teacher for the new section of the eighth grade. The emergency funds relieved the pressure on local funds. Other funds were also acquired for emergency teachers for San Miguel, Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach. A $60,000 bond issue for construction of a new school was held on the January 21, 1941 ballot. A survey of 1600 local residents showed that 90% were in favor of the bond measure.

The article continued on page 4.

Trailer camps mushroom along local highway

Driving along the highway between Paso Robles and Camp Nacimiento one finds plenty of evidence of day-to-day change. Already the big camp is taking shape. A short detour near the campsite became necessary to allow laying of track into the camp. Buses make stops at the entrance, disgorging workers, job hunters, officers and officials, even women and children. But most noticeable are all of the tents and trailer camps which have sprung up overnight on both sides of the highway. Here live many employed in camp construction who were unable to find homes for themselves and their families.

Constant increase

These camps, some in open fields others near town, increase visibly in size from day to day. Where only one trailer stood yesterday, four or five can be found today, and double that number tomorrow.

The occupants of these little tent and trailer communities must move on when their work is done. A few perhaps, will find permanent jobs here after construction work is over, but many own homes elsewhere and will find it necessary to return to them.

Meanwhile the merchants are glad of the increased business that the workers and their families have brought to this vicinity, and tourists passing along the highway can tell the folks back home that there are things besides scenery to be seen along the Mission Trail.

Camp Nacimiento payroll exceeds $200,000, employment expected to reach 5000

Editorial note: Camp Nacimiento was established in 1940 as Camp Nacimiento Replacement Training Center and renamed to Camp Roberts in 1941, in honor of Corporal Harold W. Roberts, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient.

Employment figures and the payroll at Camp Nacimiento are scheduled to reach new heights this week. The payroll to be made Friday is estimated at $210,000. This, of course, is only for the approximately 3600 field workers and excludes the 400 administrative employees who are paid on a semi-monthly basis. Plans call for an additional thousand employees to be added within the next seven days. When this increase is complete there will be approximately 5000 field and administrative workers at the camp, the employment has not as yet reached its peak.

Editorial summary: Troops were scheduled to start arriving on February 10. A total of 26,000 troops were scheduled to train at the camp when it was completed.

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, (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,, (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.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

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