A Little History Of Atascadero, CA

Lot Of History In This Town

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Arlyne’s Flower Shop

It is February 1950. Turn back the pages of history and take a stroll down the alley off Traffic Way turn right and enter the Carlton Hotel. Here’s the place to buy a Valentine bouquet for your sweetheart. Chances are Charlene Bliss and her daughter Arlyne Highfill Casper will be there to assist you. This unique mother and daughter team had a fine garden at their Curbaril Avenue home and shared a love of flowers. This provided the impetus to open a floral shop in downtown Atascadero.


In the mid-fifties, the duplexes on Palma Avenue were built by Charlene’s husband, John Bliss and the business was moved to 6485 Palma Avenue. The shop occupied one side of the duplex and the Blisses lived in the other. The present owner of the shop, Jaynee Casper Orcutt recalls, “I remember the Western Union machines in the shop, the ticker tapes and the process and smell of the machines.” She confessed that as a child she used to play with all that ticker tape, although some moments were more usefully spent potting small plants and watering the flowers. At that time there was only one supplier for the shop and the flowers were brought from northern California in a big refrigerated truck drive by Chin, an Asian man. He would continue south from Atascadero, making more deliveries until he ran out of flowers. In those days fashion shows were held in the Carlton Hotel and in the Rotunda of the Administration Building. Fritzi Ann’s Dress Shop on Traffic Way provided the apparel and Arlyne’s Floral Shop made sure that all attendees had corsages to wear.

After her husband died, Charlene spent some time in Europe before returning to Paso Robles where she opened a second business.

In 1957 Al and Arlyne Casper and their children Jaynee and Edward moved into the duplex on Palma. In 1960 the family moved to Paso Robles, but continues managing the business with Charlene. Since that time structural changes have been made to the building. Both sides of the duplex and a porch were incorporated to provide more room for this rapidly growing business. A huge walk-in refrigerator was acquired, but the old original cedar box is still functioning and can be seen in the main part of the shop. A line of ceramics was added.

In 1973, Jaynee Casper Orcutt and her husband Jack took over the business.

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Looking back: New Museum in Atascadero

Looking back: New Museum in Atascadero

The Atascadero Historical Society will once again have a place to display riches from the Atascadero Historical Society Museum city’s past.capture.jpg

The artifacts have been tucked away in boxes in a storage unit since the San Simeon Earthquake in 2003 damaged the Rotunda Building, where the collection was originally displayed.

With the Rotunda Building still years and millions of dollars away from being restored, the society’s board of directors decided it was time to move forward. Portions of the society’s collection are now on display for public perusal at the Colony House – across the road from the former City Hall.

Volunteers have labored since January to ready the Colony House – adding a fresh coat of paint inside, installing a security system, and hammering nails into the walls to hang its collection of historical photographs.

“It is so important to have a museum,” said Ann Lewis Wright, the collection’s curator. “We were just fading away.”

The society plans to move the collection back to the Rotunda Building as soon as it is restored.

“We’ve been talking about finding a temporary solution for years now, and we are finally moving forward,” said Jim Wilkins, board president.

“It took a while for the board to agree that some of the special things in the collection will be OK in the house.”

The display includes an information/reading room containing newspaper archives dating back to the early 1900s. New to the collection is an E.G. Lewis oak dining set that dates back 100 years.

The museum will be open Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. with plans to increase the hours based on demand – likely to two or three days a week.

“We’ve been down for a long time,” Wright said. “Quite a few docents kept the Rotunda collection open to the public and we have to resurrect that.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.

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A-Town

Marjorie Mackey, a former Atascadero City Council member and ardent lover of her city’s oaks, streams and history, died at her home May 22. She was 88.

Known as a straight shooter who spoke her mind, Mackey was also widely admired for her self-effacing sense of humor, which came to the fore whenever she might absent-mindedly misplace her keys or other items.

Born in Lewiston, Mont., Marj (as she preferred to be called) moved to Atascadero in 1961 with husband John and children Candy, John and Dean. In short order, she was involved in Girl Scouts as a troop leader and president of the Lewis Avenue Elementary School PTA.

Around that time, she also started working for the county library system and the county elections office as a registrar.

As an outspoken advocate for Atascadero’s rural ambience who was aligned in the slow-growth camp, she helped found the Atascadero Historical Society in 1965 after the colony home of the community’s founder, E.G. Lewis, was torn down.

“She was real instrumental in getting The Printery and Administration Rotunda named as historical landmarks,” said Historical Society President Jim Wilkins, whose father, Bob, served on the city’s first council with Mackey.

By 1968, Mackey was involved in public service as a member of the county advisory council that was drawing up the then-unincorporated town’s general plan.

That platform of 11 years of service — as well as the thousands of voters she registered — gave her a high-enough profile to win a council seat in 1979 after the community opted to become an incorporated city.

She would eventually serve 11 years on the council, two of those as mayor, and take a measure of pride in the fact that she never spent more than $500 on a run for office, didn’t take campaign contributions and never bought an election ad.

“It’s a terrible thing when money can get the job — City Council or federal,” she told a reporter in 1995. “It should go to someone who has proven himself or herself in the community.”

Her time on the council was marked by a couple of characteristics: Her colleagues always knew where she stood on an issue, and although they may not have agreed with her stances, she was highly respected.

“I was on the Planning Commission for the last two years she was on the council,” said former mayor and councilman George Luna, “and I found we agreed on history and the natural environment. She was really a kindred spirit. She was a real lady.”

“She was very fair in her dealings,” said Lon Allan, who, as the editor of Atascadero News, knew her personally and professionally for more than 40 years. He once called her a “fuzzy-minded environmentalist.”

“She was as liberal and to the left philosophically as you could be,” Allan said, adding, “She never let that rule her judgment on projects. And she never carried a grudge: once the vote was taken, it was on to other topics and issues.”

To call her a tree-hugger was an honorific to Mackey. She helped found the Atascadero Native Tree Association, which was the seed for the Atascadero Land Preservation Society, and pushed for tough city tree ordinances, creek setbacks and open space — issues that still simmer within the community.

In later years, she firmly affixed her sights on Stadium Park, a 26-acre parcel that features hillsides, oaks and a natural amphitheater.

Created in 1915 by Lewis as the spiritual center of the colony, the community’s first Christian church, the Atascadero Community Church, held services in the park.

The city bought the park 30 years later, but is in a quandary as to what to do with it. For Mackey, one option was simple: plant more oaks.

She led groups and individuals in planting and watering the striplings, using milk jugs as their watering cans. The month before she died, she founded the Friends of Stadium Park while bedridden.

Mackey is survived by her sister and brother-in-law, Nancy and Fred Wagner; her children and their spouses: Candy and Jim Hood, John and Rosann Mackey, and Dean and Larry Young; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is set for Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Community Church of Atascadero United Church of Christ, 5850 Rosariove.

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