Flipping through a folder of old articles about the Arroyo Grande Harvest Festival, themes emerge: kids in the parade, old-timers sharing memories and businesses showing community pride.
Nearly 50 years ago, Kay Ready wrote about the history of the Phoenix family, which moved to Arroyo Grande in 1922 after homesteading near Casmalia.
The family included Margaret Harloe, namesake of the Lucia Mar Unified School District elementary school.
Here are excerpts from that story, which was published in the Telegram-Tribune on Sep. 23, 1975.
It’s 1890 and Main Street is a dirt road
It’s now 1975. A portion of the original family homestead still stands. But it sets on one of the city’s busiest paved roads, among a string of car dealerships, churches and other businesses.
The Phoenixes are still in the area too.
Five of the six living Phoenix children will be the center of attention during Arroyo Grande’s annual Harvest Festival. …
Georgia Conrad is the oldest surviving sister — she’s 91. Then there’s Margaret Harloe, age 90; and the twins Bernice Canning and Dorothy Phelan, the youngest at 74.
The four women, who all live in Arroyo Grande today, will be joined by their brother Harry, as they share grand marshal honors for the 1975 Harvest of Heritage parade Saturday. …
The four Phoenix sisters reminisced about old Arroyo Grande a few weeks ago, in the front room of the remaining house of the Phoenix homestead — built in the 1920s.
Only Margaret Harloe lives in the house now. It’s a comfortable place, filled with mementos of the old and new. An antique clock graces the fireplace mantle; the sofa and occasional chairs are generously overstuffed.
Mrs. Harloe, a fragile but determined-looking woman, talked about her 40 or so years of teaching. Most of her time was spent working in Arroyo Grande schools, but she vividly remembered a one-month stint at Rinconada, near Santa Margarita.
“It was a small one-room school,” and an experience, she recalled.
While in Arroyo Grande, she only taught higher grade levels. “Never could teach those young ones,” she said.
Bit, ironically enough, she was chosen the namesake for an elementary school — Margaret Harloe School — on Fair Oaks Avenue.
Georgia Conrad is the only Phoenix sister who wasn’t a school teacher. The tiny, wispy white-haired woman, who called herself the “runt” of the family, was a secretary.
Some of Mrs. Conrad’s more vivid memories surround the hose races — a weekend activity during the 1920s and ’30s on the Horrihan Ranch, beyond Newsome Springs Road.
The Phoenix family had a horse named Babe, she remembered. “Oh we were noted for our fast horses and fast women,” she said with a chuckle.
Dorothy Phelan and her twin Bernice Canning were both teachers. Along with most of the Phoenix children, they attended college in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
It was rare for that many children, let alone women, from one family to afford the privilege of going to school, but their mother seemed to have her heart set on it.
Even as children, Mrs. Phelan recalled, we always lived around good schools. “You see, Mother was very educationally minded,” she said.
All four women had nothing but praise — and deep admiration — for their parents — the people who had pioneered into the Arroyo Grande Valley so long ago.
“If someone wanted to do something — they could write a love story of our mother and father,” Mrs. Canning said.
“It would be great reading.”
The lives of the five Harvest Festival grand marshals would make fine reading too.