John Sarber, reporter and later city editor at the then Telegram-Tribune, had a column that regularly ran on the front page called “Chance Glances”.
The first part of this column from March 15, 1958 covers a diary of guests transported to Hearst Castle by a local cab driver.
ECHOES OF THE ENCHANTED PAST
A DOCUMENT or real fascination is before us, a list of distinguished guests at the Hearst castle at San Simeon some 28 years ago in 1929 and 1930.
The little booklet was kept as a diary by a former cab driver who made the Hearst run for 14 years, Whistle McAninch, who brought the matter to our attention.
He not only recorded the exact date he made the runs to the castle, but he also made a notation about the weather and tips.
For instance, it was a rainy day on Feb. 25, 1930 that Whistle left San Luis Obispo at 10 a.m. driving a Packard taxicab.
His fares —the ex-president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, and the former first lady of the land.
True to form, Coolidge had little to say on the long trip up the coast to San Simeon, where he was greeted by William Randolph Hearst.
The Coolidge party remained at the castle for a week, and were brought back to San Luis Obispo on March 2, where they boarded an early afternoon train.
The cabbie carefully recorded several incidents which he observed on the castle beat.
On the night of August 29, he took a passenger up the enchanted hill. It was a clear night.
At precisely 9:37 p.m. the “Graf Zeppelin passed over the ranch. Flashed hello with searchlight. Was answered by flashing of lights on castle tower.”
A few days later, the commander of the German dirigible came up to the San Simeon castle as a Hearst guest, without Zeppelin.
To tease the memory of the oldtimers and to recall the old silent movie days, here are just a few of the famous visitors.
John Gilbert, Greta Garbo, Bebe Daniels, Lili Damita, Ruth Taylor, Eleanor Bordman, Buddy Rogers, George K. Arthur, Charles Chaplin, Phyllis Haver, Aileeen Pringle, William S. Hart, Dorothy Sebastian and Adolphe Menjou.
Reflecting a festive occasion is the entry in the diary — “April 29, 1930 —four members of Gus Arnheim orchestra to ranch at 2 p.m. Clear weather. Returned to San Luis Obispo at 4 a.m., same party.”
It was a birthday celebration for the fabulous publisher, it was recalled.
John Sarber also worked as news director at KVEC radio and KSBY television and spent some of his early career in the mid-west with another fledgling broadcaster, Ronald Reagan.
John’s son Bob is self-employed in media production and is based in Atascadero.
If I can find confirmation of the cab driver’s account that would bring the score to
Republicans 6 – Democrats 0.
The category? Number of U.S. presidents who have visited San Luis Obispo county documented in PFTV.
William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt traveled through by rail while in office. Richard Nixon campaigned for governor on the courthouse steps with the Nixonettes. Ronald Reagan came here often as governor and appointed local talent to his cabinet in Sacramento and Washington D.C.
George W. Bush turned back the clock a century when he campaigned via train through the region on his first presidential run.