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Looking Back to 1956: Atascadero locals survive airplane crash 

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 Research Director Jan Cannon. Newspaper photography by GiGi Green.

Excerpts from the Thursday, March 8, 1956, Paso Robles Journal:

Two Atascaderans escape injury in plane crash

– Two Atascadero men miraculously escaped death or serious injury when their one-engine Taylorcraft plane crashed Sunday morning on a knoll on the Smith Ranch a few hundred yards northwest of Templeton near the east bank of the Salinas River.

Francis Elmo Calkins, 22, and Kenneth John Guy, 23 were taken to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital and treated for facial cuts and bruises after a Templeton housewife heard the crash and telephoned Paso Robles police, who in turn notified the California Highway Patrol.

Calkins, the pilot, was released after treatment. Guy was still confined to the hospital Monday morning, but California Highway Patrol officer Bob Garrison reported that the injured man will be released within a day or two.

Garrison and Sgt. Ernest Tripke hurried to the scene of the accident after being notified by the police department. Arlin Gambel, of Templeton, was on hand when the officers arrived, and took the two injured men to the hospital.

Mrs. Ellen Hargis was the first to spot the wreckage. She told Garrison and Tripke that she heard a loud crash at about 11:30  a.m. and ran into her backyard and spotted the wreckage a few hundred yards away. She returned to her home, she said and phoned Paso Robles police.

Calkins told the CHP officers that the engine of the high-wing monoplane quit suddenly, but that he was able to maneuver the craft well enough to avoid a nose-dive. The plane was totally demolished, however.

Paso Robles history 1956

Click here to read the full front page.

Seven injured in two autos

One woman was killed and seven other persons were injured when two automobiles crashed head-on two miles north of the main gate at Camp Roberts approximately 100 feet south of a bridge over the Salinas River. The crash occurred at 8:20 Tuesday night.

Loretta Munn, 24-year-old waitress from Bradley, was pronounced dead on arrival at Paso Robles War Memorial District Hospital after the 1954 Mercury in which she was riding with William Laizure of King City, smashed into a 1950 Chrysler driven by Jack Asbury, Navy enlisted man enroute to Alameda Naval Air Station for assignment.

The injured were Asbury, 31; his wife Carol, 29; their four children—Donald 9; Martin 7; Dale 5; and Carol Lynn 3; and Laizure, 29.


Asbury was treated for a fractured left femur and multiple bruises. Mrs. Asbury sustained lacerations of the scalp and knees and possible head injuries. The four children were shaken but not injured, and Laizure received lacerations to the face.

Laizure, an employee of the Exploration Drilling Co., of Santa Fe Springs CA and Miss Munn were traveling south on U.S. Highway 101 and had just crossed the bridge when the crash occurred. The Asbury family was moving its household goods to Alameda pulling a half-ton trailer behind the car.

Asbury’s car was totally demolished and the front end of Laizure’s auto was smashed.

Officer Milo Silacci of the California Highway Patrol in King City, investigated the crash as did CHP officers Vic Froberg and Ronald Nelson. Photographs were taken to determine which car had been on the wrong side of the white center line.

Funeral arrangements for Miss Munn are pending at Kuehl Funeral Chapel.

A bad week for car crashes

Two cars collide at 15th and Olive

Automobiles driven by Mrs. Carolyn Ragsdale and Leonard Weber, both of Paso Robles collided Monday afternoon at 3 o’clock, causing extensive damage to both vehicles. Neither driver was seriously hurt.

Mrs. Ragsdale was traveling south on Olive Street and Weber was going west on 15th when the two cars collided at the intersection. Paso Robles policed were called to investigate.

Mrs. Rutledge struck by car, hospitalized

Mrs. Lucy Rutledge, 38, of Paso Robles, suffered a broken arm and possible other injuries Wednesday afternoon when she was hit by an automobile while crossing the intersection of 13th and Pine streets.

The driver of the car was Melvin H. Casteel, 41, also of Paso Robles. Casteel was travelling west on 13th at the time of the accident.

The injured woman was admitted to Paso Robles War Memorial District Hospital at 6:16 p.m., approximately 45 minutes after the mishap occurred.

Paso Robles police are still investigating the accident, and no charge has been made.

Read previous Looking Back articles

Thank you to the sponsors of Looking Back

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

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