If you’ve ever walked past an old building in San Luis Obispo County and wondered what stories it could tell, you might want to ask Stephen “Steve” Provost.
The former Cambria resident was my editor for over three years at Cambrian, while also working for our big sister newspaper, The Tribune.
He is also a very good, extraordinarily fast writer, working across a wide range of eclectic subjects and genres. Keeping up with Steve’s recent book production has been dizzying.
A recent review of Steve’s bibliography revealed 20 books covering history, fantasy, horror, and children’s fiction. His non-fiction subjects have included highways, cities, sports, and shopping malls.
The prolific blogger, author, publisher and publisher of Dragon Crown Books has written most of these books in the three years since he and his family moved from Cambria to their new home in Virginia. And Steve assured me he had a lot more in class or on his to-do list.
For me, two of Steve’s most recent non-fiction volumes – “Cambria Century” and “San Luis Obispo Century” – have literally hit my home. Both were released in July by Dragon Crown Books as part of the Century Cities series.
Each book lovingly covers a hundred years of history, a subject the writer obviously loves.
Steve told me by email that history was his second choice as a college major after journalism.
“The more we advance in the 21st century that I have, he writes, the more I am nostalgic for the 20e. ”
Steve explained that “books are collections of short pieces about historical events,” which can be read as stand-alone stories or as a chronological retrospective. “The format shows how cities have evolved and developed over time, which I personally find fascinating. “
“I’m drawn to abandoned places that were once busy and prosperous,” he wrote. “I like to ask the question, ‘What happened here?’ “
“Cambria Century” and “San Luis Obispo Century” are part of Steve’s growing series of books chronicling small and medium-sized American towns in the 20th century.e century. Another in the series was due to be released and available in late August.
Both books offer beautiful glimpses of the past, with chronological tales to transport the reader through a remarkable century that ranges from horse drawn carriages to space travel.
San Luis Obispo
According to Steve, “San Luis Obispo Century” contains “a wealth of anecdotes, nearly 100 contemporary and historical images, and details of familiar stories you thought you knew.”
Steve explained that readers will discover a diverse collection of topics that made up the fabric of the growing city, such as the business pioneer of San Luis Obispo, Ah Louis, the development of Highway 101 and the Cuesta Grade and the Sunset Drive-In cinema.
Steve also writes about businesses such as Riley’s Department Store, Scrubby & Lloyd’s Burgers, and Foster’s Freeze, as well as the building that housed a garage, William Randolph Hearst’s personal taxi service, a hotel annex and offices of newspapers before it was demolished to make room. for Mission Plaza.
In addition, his book covers Exposition Park, once considered the fastest racing circuit in the West.
“Exposition Park, was built across from a hill where fans camped and watched the races for free,” Steve wrote. “The track couldn’t make any money that way, so they closed it. I don’t know if it’s funny, sad, or both.
In “Cambria Century” Steve explains “the quicksilver mines and old saloons that made Cambria part of the wild and wild west … rodeos of the past and the birth of Pinedorado, the annual celebration of the week. -end of Labor Day in Cambria ”.
It also highlights vignettes such as the missing Cambria Cinema and a small park on Main Street.
Steve wrote that despite the city’s aversion to national chains, Cambria for years had a small A&W drive-in, which grew into a quirky place called Calamity Jane’s and ultimately the Main Street Grill which is there today. hui.
This deep antipathy for national chains sparked an uprising decades ago, when McDonald’s was considering relocating to where the old Chuckwagon restaurant was located. Does not occur. There is a boutique hotel there now.
Cambria’s book, Steve wrote, “will take you to William Randolph Hearst’s Castle and Art Beal Anti-Castle overlooking the West Village. You will return to the Toy Soldier Factory, Pewter Plow Playhouse, Chuck Wagon, Exotic Gardens, Red & White Store in Lyon, Camozzi, Rigdon Building, Bank of America and Bluebird Inn.
Some of these buildings are still standing and a few businesses are still in operation.
Knowing the stories of the past can make visiting these places even more intriguing and enjoyable. In my mind, this is where one of the sheer pleasures of knowing the history of a place you are in lies.
Steve Provost amplifies these voices from the past and lets them tell you their stories.
All of Steve’s books are available on Amazon at amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B00UFWGMLY. Since some are pocket-sized, click on “all sizes” to see the full selection.
Read Steve’s blog at stephenhprovost.com.