Features and Information:
First-Person Historical Narratives
Where My Footsteps
by Ralph M. Bell
Ralyn Press/Heritage Quest Press, 1997.
[Note: The memoir "Where My Footsteps Wandered," by the late Ralph M. Bell, M.D., is a lively reminiscence of growing up in early Paso Robles. It easily qualifies as one of the best first-person accounts of long-ago life in San Luis Obispo County, and it deserves a much wider audience than it has had to this point.
Published in 1997, the book details the author's Paso Robles childhood from the age of four or five, up to his high school graduation in 1926. We see a small California town through the eyes of the boy that was, not of the man who remembers, and the effect is stunning.
Ralph Bell was an only child whose grandfather owned the general store at 13th and Pine Streets in turn-of-the-century Paso Robles. Ralph's father worked at "The Store"; Ralph's mother, whose health was fragile, had to spend the mornings resting, so after breakfast, young Ralph was allowed what he called his "wandering investigations," talking with adults, making friends about town as he plied people with questions about how their machines worked or their buggies were built, about who was staying at the "Big Hotel" (Hotel El Paso de Robles), or who was sick with the Spanish Flu. By careful observation and persistent questioning, he learned how the railroad's freight cars were unloaded, how the "Blue Light" worked, about differences between Catholics and Episcopalians, about who retained what ethnic allegiances as the Great War broke out, and why some people lived in town and others in "The Flat," down by the Salinas riverbed. Through it all runs a thread of lively curiosity and a generous intelligence-it is easy to see why Bell, when he became a physician, specialized in diagnosis.
Where My Footsteps Wandered is available at the Paso Robles Carnegie Historical Museum, tel. 805/238-4996, or directly from Ralph Bell's son Jay, who may be
e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be forewarned: This book is addictive. Do not start it unless you are
free to put aside other parts of your life and time-travel to the Paso Robles of a century ago.--Lynne
and his mother
(Photo courtesy of Jay Bell.)
Click here for the
Table of Contents
Where My Footsteps Wandered
Click here to read the excerpt
detailing the friendship
between young Ralph Bell and a man called Pompy.
Click here to read about
the ravages of tuberculosis within one family
a century ago.
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First-Person Historical Narratives.