Wilfred Lyons

One of the founding members of Cambria Historical Society, Wilfred Lyons once held the unofficial title of “Historian Emeritus” because he knew more about the history of Cambria than practically anybody. This is no surprise considering that he lived in Cambria for 97 years.

Wilfred’s grandfather worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and he was developing black lung disease so he and his wife and five children sailed around Cape Horn to Gaviota and they settled in a small town in the Santa Ynez valley called Ballard. Wilfred’s father was born in Pennsylvania in 1872 and was a school teacher in Cayucos while his mother was born here in San Luis Obispo County in 1882.

Wilfred and Hazel’s house on Center Street

Wilfred, one of four children, was born in Cambria in 1912 in the manse of the church on Bridge Street which is now The Bridge Street Inn. He graduated from Coast Union High School in 1931 and, in 1935, Wilfred married his wife, Hazel, and they moved to a small house at 2164 Center Street which later became  Cambria Bicycle Outfitters and then Wise Owl & Co. Wilfred payed $2,000 for the seven year old house. They lived in that house for 29 years before they moved to the house on the west side of Bridge Street almost across the street from the house he was born in.

Wilfred and Hazel pretend to be in Hawaii at a themed event sponsored by the Women’s Athletic Club.

For most of his life Wilfred worked for his father in the Red and White Store located where The Sow’s Ear is today in a two story brick building owned by Senator Rigdon.

Wilfred’s father’s store in the early 1930s. Soto’s market can be seen next door.

Otherwise, Wilfred said, there were only two places to work in the area and they were Hearst Castle and the Oceanic Mercury Mine. The elder Lyons bought the store in 1909 and sold it in 1948. In 1951 the building burned down. Wilfred remembered his father’s white truck which was used to haul merchandise from San Simeon wharf to the store. In the early days, Wilfred said, we had gas jets for lights and the store had a carbide plant in the back that manufactured the gas. Wilfred was a member of the local school board from 1944 to 1959 and was a member of the fire department for 33 years. He was a good friend of Paul and Louise Squibb who lived on Lee Street (now Burton Drive). He was also a friend of the Bianchini family who owned the house that is now the Cambria Historical Museum.  In 2003, he remembered “…Jimmy, we’d call spider and Walter who we called weasel and Bill who was a World War I veteran and then Palmira and Elvira.” Palmira married Rocco Rava and moved into the “Blue House” next door to the Guthrie-Bianchini House.

Wilfred Lyons in 2006

Remembering the early days of the Cambria Pines Lodge, Wilfred said they had an arena in the center and on Saturday nights they built a bonfire there and had amateur acts and community singing organized by Robert Waltz who started The Cambrian. This was a major event in Cambria. Later they built log cabins around the perimeter and rented them out for a dollar and a half. Hazel died in 1994 and Wilfred passed away in 2009.

7 Responses to “Wilfred Lyons”

  1. Blueysrn says:

    Thank you for sharing the history of your families!

  2. scott davis says:


    I’m Wilfred grandson… thank you all for the kind words. I have more stuff to give to the Cambria’s museum. but, no one will call back.

    I will tell my mother (Kathleen) about everyone’s story’s…


  3. Ken Boettcher says:

    I worked for Willy across the street at Sotos Market while attending Coast Union from 1956-1960. One of my good friends was Willys daughter Kathleen. My dad, Otto, purchased the Old Cambria Chevron about 1951. My mother , Margaret, worked for Pam Martin Realty in the 1950’s. We knew all 1200 residents in Cambria during those years.

  4. B&J says:


    We agree. We always enjoyed talking with him. You must have more information about Wilfred you can share with us. How about it?


  5. Bridget says:

    Oh how I miss talking with Wilfred. I spoke with him almost everyday in the last year or so before he passed. I loved all the wonderful stories about his time at Hearst castle. I only wish I had known him longer. He was truly a kind hearted man.

  6. B&J says:


    Thanks a lot for those insights about the Red and White Store. We know very little about it.


  7. Roland Houtz says:

    How I remember the Old Lyons Red and White Store. The old Pickle Barrel behind the cash register, the lines of most interesting things to a 5 year old such as the bags of Bull Durham Tobacco right next to the aisle. (At about 4 I swiped one off the counter and stuck it in my mouth so my mom couldn’t take it away from me. Boy did I learn both from the tobacco and from my mom that that was a no-no). Then there was the balcony in the store. In the back of the store was a steep old stairway going up to the narrow balcony that went all the way around, loaded with clothes and shoes and other interests.
    Then there was the back room. This was my first job. Back here I “candled the eggs” (checking them to see if they contained no chicks), and do I ever remember the bags of rotten potatoes I would have to haul out.
    Mr. Lyons was so patient with me by Mrs. Lyons could sure be scary. However, she also was the one who bought my Lemon Pies as I got into my teens. Not for sale in the store, but for her own table. Was that ever a lift to my pride.
    And Wilfred was always a joy. He was so friendly. Often he would give me a ride if he was on delivery and going my way. He was always joyful and had something good to say.

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