This topic has been debated and discussed for a very long time. With some urging from local resident and history buff, Karl Von Dollen, we decided to use this important month of military recognition to bring the subject to you, the residents of El Paso De Robles and see if there is any more light that can be shed on the subject. At the same time, perhaps provide a slice of Paso history.
Like all towns and cities across America, when war begins, patriots go off to serve. Men and women from our community gave their lives for the sake of protecting our freedom in all wars but here, I’ll focus primarily on WWII. Just as it always happened some gave all since Sept. 1, 1939, the day the war started, right to the very day you are reading this. WWII ended Sept. 2, 1945. So, wouldn’t you think that that there’d be a memorial-honor roll someplace here in town to eternally recognize them? Well, as a matter of fact there are several of them but two have been missing for about 50 years!
Karl has spent scores of hours in putting together everything he could find on the subject. The earliest piece he found dates to November 1943. With the war still ongoing and an end not yet in sight, the plan was to build a granite obelisk in City Park with the names of fallen soldiers on parchment and replace it with a permanent plaque after the war ended. That never happened.
Over the next couple years, the emphasis was on improving the high school stadium which is now Flamson Middle School. In the Spring of 1948, the Lions Club presented a flagpole and plaque to the school in memory of the fallen men and women. The stadium was named War Memorial Stadium in the same way that the old hospital, on the top of 15th Street, was named Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital. The pole and plaque at Flamson are long gone. Does anyone have any idea of what happened to them?
Meanwhile, another plaque was presented to the High School by the students from the class of 1945 to memorialize students and staff specifically from the school who served and died in WWII. That plaque somehow found its way to Pioneer Museum and hangs in the Museum’s Military Display area.
In May 1945, a Roll Of Honor was made and installed at the North entrance of City Park. Then, in 1950, a nearby Pioneer Drinking Fountain was constructed. That Roll of Honor tribute which supposedly had as many as 1300 names on it and the fountain seem to have stayed there until about 1967. The fountain was taken down and the Roll of Honor disappeared. There is no conclusive answer as to what the Roll of Honor actually was made of or, what happened to it. It’s reported to have been about a 4 x 8 foot sign or billboard with glass over it. There is a blurry newspaper photo still existing but nary a clue as to the Roll’s location or demise. Do you have any information about this one?
In 1947, The Lions Club built yet another drinking fountain, The War Heroes Drinking Fountain on the Spring St side of City Park. It too had (and still does) have a plaque honoring the fallen.
In 1967, a project was started by the Paso Robles Veterans Council to build a new monument in the park with a new plaque. That monument is gone too but the plaque was saved and now is at the bottom of the flagpole in front of The Carnegie Library (home of Paso’s Historical Society which contains the “paper trail” of Paso’s history).
At Pioneer Museum, outside by the schoolhouse, is a flagpole and the entire 15-ton concrete base that were moved there by the Lions Service Club in 1977. It came from the War Memorial Hospital grounds. In its time, Hospital District was much larger than the city limits of Paso itself…perhaps reaching as far as Shandon! On the plaque, donated by the American Legion, are the names of fallen soldiers from the Hospital District.
The Military is an important part of Paso’s history and remains a vibrant part of our local economy captained by Camp Roberts just up the highway. The museum at Camp Roberts is just phenomenal and under the direction of Gary McMaster, it is a destination you should absolutely put on your list of local things to see. The Camp Roberts Museum’s collection of artifacts begin with WWII and continues through all of America’s wars. The thousands of artifacts are so very interesting while being a constant reminder of the cost of wars. Pioneer Museum on Riverside has a unique collection of Paso-related and relevant military items. An entire display area is devoted to just those items.
Okay, gentle readers, I’ve covered a lot of years and subjects and just a wee bit of history. Perhaps it raised some questions or conversations with you. By our count, there are four remaining plaques and two missing ones. We’d love to have more information from you and certainly old artifacts, photos and press clippings that you’d care to share for all to see … well, they are most welcome. Contact me or anyone at Pioneer Museum if you can help or share information.
As a last personal thought, it seems past time to honor those who served and died in Korea, Viet Nam and the Middle East.