Jan 09

Guy Crabb author of San Luis Obispo: 100 Years of Downtown Businesses: The Cross Streets

Hotel Andrews from the 1920s, now the location of the City/County Library. photo courtesy Guy Crabb.

Guy Crabb, a teacher of the year for San Luis Coastal School District, and history author has published the third book in his series on downtown San Luis Obispo. The latest book covers the cross streets connecting the longer commercial streets of Higuera, Monterey and Marsh.

Perhaps the most lurid headline in Telegram-Tribune history. The murder of Helen King, a onetime countess from Portugal. July 9, 1947.

One of the stories in the new book recalls the Hotel Andrews. Built at the corner of Osos and Palm Streets, it is today the location of the City/County Library. Constructed in 1910 the hotel was known for fine dining and modern rooms. On July 9, 1947 it became the subject of one of the most lurid headlines in Telegram-Tribune history. A murdered woman found in a trunk. Her estranged husband, now missing, who told people to stay out of his trunk. A manhunt was launched for former dining room manager Morley King who had been married to the victim, Helen King, though they were said to have been separated for the last 10 years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation eventually picked up the suspect.
The building would be demolished in 1966. It shows up in the background of this photo from 1965.
Fortunately most locations in the city do not have such dark secrets in their past and the book will help you remember where Hana’s Farm Supply and Equipment was located or Burriss Saddlery.

Guy was kind enough to answer a few questions about the books. It is clear he loves to explore the region’s history.

Do the cross streets have a different story arc than the previous streets covered in earlier books, Higuera, Monterey and Marsh?

The Cross Streets book has been my favorite because I became comfortable to not only give the business history of each address, but I was able to include more stories about people and the buildings they built. I also included pictures of different artifacts I have bought over the years. Some artifacts include a menu from Farley’s Family Restaurant, bus tokens, a great picture of Richard Chong’s Candy Store, a Harmony Valley milk cap, and loads of old ads. The Cross Streets book encompasses not just one or two streets but 7 different streets in downtown San Luis Obispo. In addition to the “seven sister streets”. I have included several different long-time businesses that are located in the city of San Luis Obispo such as Paul’s Dry Cleaners, Gus’s Grocery, the old electric building on Pismo, and many other old time businesses.

How has writing this trilogy changed your understanding of San Luis Obispo?

Now that the third book is finished and I have had the wonderful experience of years of research, I have realized that our city has always had a rich and proud history. This city was built on the courage and determination of a group of strong minded entrepreneurs. One of the most interesting facts is that our city was founded by Europeans from countries such as Spain, Italy, England, Scotland, Portugal, China and many other far away countries. It seems that every 50 years there is a new group of community minded citizens who guide the city and honor the wishes of the voters. I also learned many families have continued to live in San Luis Obispo and have been part of the city for over 100 years.  Surprisingly, many of these long-time families still are running businesses in town.

How much of your book came from conversations and how much came from looking through various archives?

The reason I started writing the Higuera Street book was out of curiosity for the history of downtown, but the other two books were because I was having fun doing the research.  My wife thinks I’m crazy and wonders how anyone can have fun doing research.  When I find something really cool from some newspaper article from 1947, my wife is always the first one to hear about it. I think she secretly loves hearing my stories.   Most of the information in the books comes from some form of written material.  I use old yearbooks, newspapers, magazines, internet, directories, and lots of articles and programs.  I have also had the opportunity to talk to lots of people who have lived in the city for many years.  Their stories have given me a flavor of their life in San Luis Obispo during the various decades.  I have gotten to hear stories such as kids during the 1960’s sneaking into the Obispo Theater or people who used the creek as a sewage dump from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.  One of the most interesting people I had the opportunity to talk to was Howard Louis on a few occasions, and it was always wonderful hearing his varied and colorful stories.    He never minced words and was very opinionated, which was always refreshing to hear.  Over the years I have also heard stories of people’s favorite places to eat, shop, drink, and buy food during their respective decade.  Often times one person’s recollection did not match another person’s memory.  I remember one day I was downtown and happened to run into two ladies who had both lived in town for over 40 years and they proceeded to have an argument about the location of Delite Bakery.  One lady said it was on Higuera and the other lady swore it was on Marsh Street.  They were both sure of their memory.  After talking to people over the years, I take note of what they say and verify it by using one of my printed resources.  The internet has also been a valuable source of materials for my books.  I recently purchased a cancelled check from 1894 and it is signed by J P Andrews.  I bought it from someone in Nevada.  Many of the artifacts I buy are dated and that gives me more factual information to verify places and businesses.  The cool thing about research is that you often times find answers to questions, but sometimes research creates more questions.  Do you see what I’m saying?  See how much fun research can be?

Is there another project on the horizon?

I have several projects on the horizon.  My most recent project has been developing a set of playing cards with 54 different pictures on the cards that come from all of my books.  It is a really cool set of cards and I just released them for sale in Boo Boo Records and Antiques on Monterey.   I also have plans to update the Higuera Street book and am considering a book on Morro Bay and Pismo Beach.  We are also offering matted prints of some of our favorite pictures in the books.  I have also had lots of request to do private tours of downtown and it’s something I have been doing for years with my elementary classes.
It sounds like a fun idea.  Yikes, it sure sounds like I’m busy.

Where can people find your book?

People can find my books in Barnes and Noble, Boo Boo Records, Antiques of Monterey, The History Center, Crushed Grape, Apple Farm, Volumes of Pleasure, Amazon, online Barnes and Noble and will hopefully be in more stores in the future.  People can buy autographed books from Boo Boo’s, Antiques on Monterey, and Crushed Grape.  People can buy the matted prints and playing cards at Antiques on Monterey and Boo Boo’s.  It has been great working with local businesses and I encourage people to go into the local businesses and check out my books and look over the rest of the store.  We also just updated our website, so I would encourage people to check out www.slo100years.com.
I have enjoyed writing these three books and I hope that they will not only provide people with great memories but provide a sense of the rich history of San Luis Obispo.

Related posts:

  1. New book by Guy Crabb
  2. Cruisin’ San Luis Obispo ends, the birth of Farmer’s Market
  3. Laughery Hotel, Higuera and Morro Streets
  4. 1910 era San Luis Obispo saloon
  5. 1968 San Luis Obispo at night