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Looking Back to 1956: Plan to bale five acres of old autos, folks complain about dump 

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 Thursday, July 12, 1956, Paso Robles Journal:

What would you do with more than five acres of old auto bodies?

That was the question that was facing Bill Kuhl and Forest Bryden, owners of the Paso Robles Auto Wreckers and the A & B Auto Wreckers.

The question was solved somewhat last January when the two got together and decided that it was time that they moved some of the scrap to the Bay Area steel mills.

Offered only a $1 a ton for un-baled scrap tin the two started looking for a solution. It was found in Oakland.

The George Colaen Scrap Company had a baler that was no good. They were having trouble with it was costing them more than they were able to make by using it, so a deal was made involving a few thousand dollars and the two local men had themselves a scrap baler.

Paso Robles history 1956

Then the work started. The machine itself weights about 45 tons and needed repairs.

It was moved to Paso Robles and work started. A foundation was layed, the machine was put back together after being knocked down for transportation. Two hydraulic specialists were hired from Los Angeles and the machine was assembled.

Early last week the finishing touches were being put on and the baler was scheduled for its first test run this week.

Powered by hydraulic pressure, it is motivated by a large diesel engine.

A large box is filled with about a quarter of an old auto body. Then a five-ton door is closed over the box. This is when the two rams start working. One ram pushes the scrap to one end of the box, under 100 tons of pressure.

Scrap is all gathered to one end, the second ram packs the tin in one corner with more than 150 tons of pressure. The bale measures about two feet thick and about four feet long.

This process of compressing a quarter of a body is the first cycle of making the 400 pound bale that will bring the sellers about $20 a ton, a profit of about $19 when it is sold at the short iron price.

With the five acres of car bodies, each weighing about a half ton, the estimated number of tons is somewhere around 800.

After the machine is in good working condition, it should only take the two about three minutes to make one bale. But, as Forest Bryden said, “It is the loading and cutting of the bodies that will take time.”

If the venture works out this will be the only scrap tin baler within 200 miles of Paso Robles according to Bryden and Kuhl.

Citizens protest board laxity on Atascadero dump

Again Monday the county board of supervisors was called on the carpet by the people for alleged laxity in follow-up methods and supervision of the garbage disposal area near Atascadero.

Heading the group was Gordon Davis, who was hit by the 380-acre blaze that, last week, threatened outlying homes of the community. Davis, who is a partner in the Davis-Biaginni Cattle Company, lost about 80 acres of stubble feed land, fences, posts and gates to the fire.

The property owners who were hit by the fire focused their campaign on John Ruskovich who according to Davis, was on the defensive. According to the group who visited the dump with members of the board, there is not a thing that resembles a ‘sanitary fill.’

Old cars

Inspecting the sanitary fill grounds the group found old car bodies on the surface of the area; papers and other debris forming a mat on the ground with trash heaped next to an old frame shanty and many other eyesores that violate the sanitary fill regulations.

Davis said he had asked Ruskovich about the operation Saturday and Ruskovich said it was none of his concern.

Davis also said that the county planning director, Mel Bakeman, had assured them it would not be an eyesore. Said Davis, “He and others told us that they would not mind having it next door. How I wish he had this mess next door.”

After repeated attempts to have the dump taken care of, the group was never able to find who is responsible for the mess. All boards claim one of the other agencies is responsible, Davis said.

A number of letters were displayed with one letter dated April 3, 1956, that gave the garbage company 20 days to comply with the rules of correct sanitary fill procedures or be closed down. “It has been over 90 days and no action has been taken as yet,” said Harold Biaggini.

Davis said, “The man on the dump told us that the smoldering fire which was covered with dirt exploded and caused the fire.” Davis continued, “The supervisors were warned a year ago that a fire would result, and we knew it was only a matter of time until it occurred.

“We have gone around in circles trying to get to the responsible board or agency, but now we are going to get this mess cleaned up,” he declared.

Davis said that “attorney W.W. Eschwig of Paso Robles has been employed to press suit against the garbage disposal district for damages. This should bring out some action after all other attempts have failed.” The meeting with the attorney was scheduled at 1:30 p.m. today.

At Monday’s supervisors meeting, the District Attorney’s office was directed to investigate the garbage dump fire and conditions and make a report.

Read previous Looking Back articles

Thank you to sponsors of Looking Back

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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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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

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