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Lions Club of Cambria: Looking Back (Part IV)

This final article in the four-part series presents the story of the lighthouse lens that proudly stands guard at the entrance to the Pinedorado Grounds at 940 Main Street.  In early 1949, the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse beacon was lowered from the lighthouse building because a crack had developed in the supporting masonry. As the owners of the Lighthouse, the United States Coast Guard sought a local partner to maintain and display the old lighthouse beacon (also referred to as a lens).

     Since the Lions Club of Cambria was eager to promote its newly inaugurated community venue (Veterans’ Memorial Hall and surrounding grounds), the two parties met and reached an agreement, giving custodial responsibility to the Lions Club and maintaining ownership with the Coast Guard.  On September 8, 1949, the beacon was moved to its present location and placed on a concrete pedestal, where it remains to this day. The metal enclosure for the lens was designed by retired architect and Lions Club member Bob Lane in the 1980s.

     The history of the beacon is an interesting international story.  It was placed on top of the 100-foot tower at Piedras Blanca in 1874 by the now defunct United States Lighthouse Service.  Originally, the emitted light was given by burning kerosene vapor, magnified by the glass prisms that enclose the beacon.  Heavy weights hanging in the tower operated the clock mechanism, as well as rotation of the light. The beacon is a French Fresnel lens and dates to the 1850s.  The clock mechanism, also French, was crafted in 1872. The beacon is truly an installation of historic significance.

     The Lions Club established a nonprofit foundation responsible for the maintenance of the beacon, but after many years of exposure and use (the light is in operation on some nights), the Lions Club sought to transfer responsibility to another entity. Today, while the Coast Guard maintains ownership of the beacon, the United States Bureau of Land Management—which manages the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse property—is responsible for maintaining the beacon.

     The Lions Club has a long and proud history serving the community through scholarships, programs for children, the weekly farmers’ market, community eyeglass and vision support, and Pinedorado Days.  To learn more about the Club, visit

Posted inLocal History

Lions Club of Cambria: Looking Back (Part III)

The annual Pinedorado Days celebration began in 1949, when the Lion’s Club initiated a project to establish a community recreation center for the local youth.  The project culminated in the purchase and reconditioning of a surplus building from Camp San Luis Obispo which had been owned by the Army.  Borrowing funds from a community member, the Club created a community celebration to raise funds to pay off the loan and to engage other organizations in raising funds to support youth activities in Cambria.

     Although intended from the start as a celebration over Labor Day weekend, the first Pinedorado Days celebration took place in November of 1949 because the roof on the acquired building was not ready.  However, that first Pinedorado Days celebration did raise $1,000 – a good start for paying-off the loan.  By 1953, the original loan was retired, and in 1954 the Lions Club donated the building to the County.

     The name Pinedorado was coined through a contest conducted during the first celebration.  The judges he the Central California coastline.  For the second Pinedorado Days celebration in 1950, the Lions Club added a calliope and began the tradition of a parade down Main Street that continues today.

     From its earliest years, Pinedorado Days has engaged and benefitted many local groups and organizations that share in the proceeds raised through the celebration to support their community service projects.  The largest share of proceeds, however, goes to the Pinedorado Fund (now the Pinedorado Foundation, administered by the Lions Club) for youth recreation and education.

     The Lions Club is committed to continuing the tradition of Pinedorado Days and, although the pandemic has resulted in cancellation for the past two years, planning will begin soon for the 2022 celebration, bringing back the parade, follies, food, and fun.

Posted inLocal History

Lions Club of Cambria: Looking Back (Part II)

The first installment in this series on the history and community contributions of the Cambria Lions Club presented the story of the Veterans’ Memorial Hall, but that contribution to the community was not the first for the new Club, which was chartered in December of 1945.  The first project initiated by the Club concerned healthcare in Cambria or, more specifically, the lack of available health services.  In the late 1940s, Cambria had no resident physician and no ambulance service, so the Club took up that challenge and developed a project to bring ambulance service to Cambria.

     In creating a special subscription program for ambulance service, the Club raised over $600 and purchased a used ambulance from an ambulance company in San Luis Obispo.  Initially, the project was controversial in the community with some voices arguing that Cambria did not need such a service and, therefore, should not subscribe (pay a fee for service).  The objectors lost the argument and, ironically, one of the loudest voices to object was one of the first to need an ambulance ride – a life-saving experience that silenced his objections.

     The Lions Club assigned operation of that first ambulance to the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, because the Club was not then incorporated and not legally authorized to provide ambulance service.  However, as enthusiasm grew for the service, the Lions Club also was instrumental in forming a “hospital district” (now the Cambria Community Healthcare District), and the Club then donated the first ambulance to the newly formed District.  Subsequently, the Club, collaborating with the “hospital district,” purchased and moved a building to house the ambulance.

     The Lions Club of Cambria has deep and supporting roots in the community, and future articles will tell the stories of the Pinedorado Days celebration and of the lighthouse lens.

Posted inLocal History

Lions Club of Cambria: Looking Back (Part 1)

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.