August 1949 photo of the main section of the Veterans Memorial Hall on ranch land donated by Lucy Fiscalini. The name “Pinedorado” was chosen in a contest won by Bea Becker of Los Angeles. Weekend events provided fun for everyone as school began. From Cambria Historical Society archive.

The year is 1955, and a “Special Souvenir Issue” of The Cambrian carries the headline “Veterans’ Memorial Bldg. Is Dedicated in Cambria.”  Today, residents know the “Vets Hall” as the primary public meeting place and events venue in Cambria, but how many know the history of the building?  That story begins in 1948 with the Lions Club of Cambria.  Serving the needs of youth is a primary mission of Lions International, and in 1948 the newly formed Cambria chapter of Lions International recognized that the community lacked a center focused on the interests of youth.  The Club decided that year to develop a permanent facility in Cambria dedicated to youth activities and organizations.

     The first task for development of a center was to locate and obtain a site for a building.  When the community learned about the Club’s project, support was immediate.  The Fiscalini family donated the land to the Lions Club where the Vets Hall now sits (as well as the land extending west to what is now PolyPro Windows).  The Club planned for a total cost of $15,000 for the project and planned to raise the funds by sponsoring a yearly community celebration.  (Yes, Pinedorado Days, which will be another story in this series.) Before planning had begun for construction of a new building, the Club learned of a war surplus sale of buildings at the Army’s Camp San Luis Obispo, and, borrowing $1,500 from a Cambria resident, the Club purchased the first structure, a 37×100-foot Hall, which included the stage facilities we know today.  Moving the building from Camp San Luis Obispo to Cambria was no mean feat.  The building was cut into eight pieces, hauled to Cambria and reassembled.  That initial project also included a new foundation and roof. The “Cambria Youth and Recreation Center” was dedicated on November 17, 1949.

     The Lions Club borrowed additional funds for improvements to the building, and from 1949 to 1954 the Club raised funds to repay the loan by renting use of the building to individuals and community organizations. With the “Youth and Recreation Center” well established by 1954, the Club decided to deed the property to the County, which rededicated the facility on May 1, 1955, as the “Veterans Memorial Building and Community Recreation Center.”  The County immediately began a $50,000 improvement program that included the addition of a new kitchen, dining hall, and lounge, creating the facility we know today.  Years later, the County deeded the facility to the Cambria Community Services District – the current owner.

     The Lions Club of Cambria has a long and proud history serving the community, and future articles will tell the stories of the Pinedorado Days Celebration, the lighthouse lens, and the first ambulance serving Cambria.