Title: Book offers Oceano pictorial history
Author: Mike Hodgson
Publisher: Times Press Recorder
Unless you’re a South County old-timer, you might not know that Oceano used to have a Celery Festival. Or that speedboats raced and people water skied on Oceano Lagoon.
Or that as late as 1961, country bands played in the last of the four Pavilions built in the dunes overlooking the beach.
Or that the closest thing to local government in the community at one time was the Oceano Women’s Club.
Those are just some of the discoveries awaiting those who read “Images of America Oceano,” a pictorial history of the community put together by Linda Austin and Norm Hammond.
The two are perhaps ideally suited to have assembled the book.
Austin, 57, is a fourth-generation Oceano resident whose ancestors moved to the area at the turn of the 20th century.
Her father, the late Harold Guiton, was among the community’s most prominent residents and responsible for saving much of the community’s historical artifacts.
“So my roots are deep, and I love the town,” Austin said.
Hammond, 72, who first came through Oceano in 1960 on a motorcycle trip while working for the railroad in Wyoming, returned to settle in 1967.
“I felt a magic in this place from Day 1,” Hammond said. “It’s hard to pull that out, to portray what it is here. But I can feel it. I think we caught a little of that in this book.”
Hammond is a photographer and the author of “The Dunites,” which recounts the history of the eclectic group that once lived in the dunes.
He also published “Oceano Atlantic City of the West,” a community history that Hammond admits is heavy on text and light on photographs.
Just released Monday, the new book provides a pictorial history of Oceano from around the turn of the 20th century to the present using 213 photographs, many never before published.
“If someone has the other book with a lot of text, then this one has the photos to go with it,” Austin said.
Most of the images were taken from the Harold E. Guiton Family Collection and the Oceano Depot Association archives.
The rest came from the Bennett-Loomis Archives, the Times-Press-Recorder and the South County Historical Society.
“We didn’t have a problem finding pictures because we have hundreds and hundreds of them,” said Austin, president of the Oceano Depot Association and curator of the depot museum. “The hard part was deciding which to include.”
Hammond said the pair used a large wrap-around table in the Oceano Community Services District meeting room to select and collate the pictures.
“We had to have a place to lay them out because we had so many photos,” he said. “We had boxes and boxes of stuff.”
Much of that is due to Austin’s grandmother on her father’s side who moved to Arroyo Grande in 1904.
“My grandmother loved to take pictures, and she saved everything,” Austin said.
Her grandmother was trained by noted early South County photographer Virgil Hodges, whose photos also are included in the book, and documented each picture she took.
“The fun part of the book was the resource material,” Hammond said. “It was fun to nail down the exact timetable of these things. We have names, dates, times and places to go with the photos. There’s not one fact in there I question.”
Hammond said he hopes the book will serve as a record of Oceano life over the past century for newcomers and generations yet to come.
“I also hope it will bring memories to people who lived here in the ’40s and ’50s,” Austin added.
They both hope the book captures the essence of the community back when the Oceano Women’s Club provided everything from public works projects to uniforms for the Oceano Elementary School marching band.
“Community spirit that’s what you get when you start digging through these old photos,” Hammond said.
Austin agreed: “When something needed done, they got together and did it. If something needed fixing, they just took care of it.