The idea of constructing a highway from Carmel to San Simeon originated with Dr. John Roberts shortly before 1900 but funding for what would later be called Highway One was not approved until 1919. The construction was fraught with difficulties and the project took 18 years to come to fruition. At last, on June 27, 1937, the oiled and graveled highway was completed, at a cost of approximately $9,000,000.
The celebration marking the opening of the highway began with a banquet held at the Cambria Pines Lodge on Saturday June 26, which was attended by such luminaries as Mrs. Frank F. Merriam, wife of the governor; Mrs. Rigdon, widow of the late State Senator Elmer Rigdon; three members of the Highway Commission and their wives; members of the California Department of Highways; representatives of the Chambers of Commerce of San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cayucos and the State Chamber of Commerce; Manuel Sebastian of the San Simeon Merchant’s Association; and George Gillespie, Deputy Grand President of the Grand Parlor of Native Sons of the Golden West. Governor Frank F. Merriam was unable to attend the banquet due to a previous speaking engagement in Los Angeles. Speakers at the banquet included Ray W. Shamel, president of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce; Harry E. Jones, toastmaster; Mrs. Merriam; Phil Stanton, Paul Jasper and W. T. Hart, State Highway Commissioners; Mrs. J. L. Marquardt, Chairman of the Rigdon Memorial Committee; Mr. Lundborg of the State Chamber of Commerce; Mrs. Frank Gyorgy, Mayor of Cambria; Gus Thiebaud, President of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce; and R. L. White, President of the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce.
The following morning, June 27, 1937, a caravan departed from the Cambria Pines Lodge led by a car carrying Governor Merriam who had arrived during the night. The caravan arrived at San Simeon at 10:00 AM and the dedication ceremonies began there including speeches by Governor Merriam; Earl Lee Kelly, Director of Public Works; Senator Chris Jespersen; State Highway Commissioners Harry Hopkins, Judah, Phil Stanton, W. T. Hart, and Paul Jasper; Justus F. Craemer, assistant director of public works; Harry E. Jones, President of the Cambria Development Company; Lester Gibson, chief highway division engineer; Frank Booth, chairman of the County Planning Commission; Mrs. J. L. Marquardt, chairman of the Rigdon Memorial Committee; Mrs. Frank Gyorgy, mayor of Cambria; and Ray W. Shamel, president of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Joyce Matheson, Miss Cambria Pines, and Barbara Edmundson, San Luis Obispo outdoor girl attended.
From there the procession of dignitaries, accompanied by hundreds of other vehicles, moved up the coast to a place about four miles north of Lucia to dedicate a roadside park and drinking fountain (which still exists) to the late Senator Rigdon. Tributes to Rigdon’s memory were given by Judge A. S. Gay, Margaret Soto and Ray Shamel. Mrs. Rigdon dedicated a silver fir to her husband’s memory and officers of The Grand Parlor of the Native Sons dedicated two sequoias. Mrs. Marquardt, with the help of her committee consisting of Margaret Soto, Henry Minetti, Mrs. Minetti, J. D. Campbell and M. L. Waltz, sealed into the monument a current issue of The Cambrian, pictures of the senator, copies of the bills passed by the legislature in 1917 and 1922 making the San Simeon to Carmel portion of the road part of the state highway system, an engraved scroll containing the names of all of the donors to the memorial and mementos and business cards of the officials present. The plaque (which is now missing) on the front of the fountain read:
“This Fountain is dedicated to Hon. Elmer S. Rigdon of Cambria, California, Born 1868, Died 1922, State Assembly 1915-1917, State Senate 1917-22, His foresight and efforts made possible the Carmel-San Simeon-Cambria link of the Roosevelt Highway. A token of esteem from his San Luis Obispo County Friends”
After that, Governor Merriam and Earl Lee Kelly symbolically pushed a boulder off of the highway utilizing the help of a stick of dynamite and a bull dozer at Pfeiffer Redwoods State Park. This act formally opened the highway to traffic and was followed by the release of thousands of carrier pigeons and a pageant of the road depicting the Indians, the Spaniards and the early pioneers and paying tribute to Dr. Roberts. Dignitaries present at this ceremony included Senator Ed Tickle, Mayor Emmet McMenamin of Monterey, and City Manager William Pardee of Monterey. Dr. John Roberts, who started the entire idea of the road, was present at the ceremonies but evidently did not make a speech.