Santa Maria Valley Facts: CURIOSITIES
Fascinating facts that most locals don’t even know about!
-The Legend of Zorro was based on the life of Solomon Pico, a murderous bandit who camped in the Santa Maria hills. To this day, people climb the Solomon Hills looking for treasure that Pico allegedly buried.
-The Minerva Clubhouse in Santa Maria was designed by Julia Morgan, famed architect of Hearst Castle.
-From 1962 - 1963, John Madden was head coach for Santa Maria’s Allan Hancock College football team. He was also Assistant Coach in 1961. He is currently the commentator for Monday Night Football.
-The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex boasts the highest beach dunes in the Western United States, with some towering as high as 500 feet. It is also the second largest stretch of dunes in California.
-The 1923 Cecil B. DeMille silent movie, The Ten Commandments, was filmed in the Guadalupe/Nipomo Dunes Preserve. The set was gradually buried beneath the sand due to weather and wind, however, an effort is being made to begin its excavation.
-The Santa Maria Public Airport stands at the site of a U.S. Army Air Base used during World War II.
-Named after G. Allan Hancock, Santa Maria’s Hancock College of Aeronautics was the primary training center for fighter pilots during World War II.
-In 1904, Old Maud, Santa Maria’s first oil well, produced one million barrels in its first 100 days of operation.
-After more than 53 years of semi-pro baseball, the Santa Maria Indians Baseball Club is California’s oldest semi-pro club in continuous service.
-In 1874, Santa Maria was originally named “Grangerville,” after The Grange—the first store in town. Later, the name was changed to “Central City,” due to its location between Sisquoc and Guadalupe.
In 1882, the arrival of the narrow gauge Pacific Coast Railroad coincided with the city’s name change from “Central City” to “Santa Maria.” Mail meant for the township kept showing up in Central City, Colorado.
-Cottonwood Canyon Winery was the first vineyard in Santa Barbara County with wine caves.
-In 1990, Robert Mondavi purchased Byron Winery, famed for its Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir.
-Some of Santa Barbara County’s first vineyards were planted in the Tepusquet region of Santa Maria Valley in the early 1960s. Soon after, vineyards were planted in several parts of the Santa Ynez Valley.
-In 1978, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce copyrighted the Santa Maria Style Barbecue recipe in order to protect the genuine article.
-The Santa Maria Valley town of Guadalupe is home to the oldest Buddhist temple in California.
-Santa Maria boasts an ideal sunny, coastal climate for growing strawberries where mild winters and moderate summers produce a long growing season. All in all, Santa Maria produces 20 million trays of strawberries annually. These are transported to supermarkets across the United States.
-Most of Santa Maria’s strawberry fields are replanted every year. This practice is more costly, but produces a better quality fruit and higher yields.
-In the early 1900s, the clams at Pismo Beach were so plentiful that farmers in the Santa Maria Valley brought truck loads home to use as crop fertilizer and feed for their hogs.
Famous People Who Called the Santa Maria Valley “Home”
George Aratani, founder of Mikasa China and Kenwood Electronics, was born in Guadalupe.
Pioneer journalist Rona Barrett owns a lavender farm in Santa Barbara County.
Mark Brunell is a Quarterback for the NFL’s Florida Jaguars. His parents reside in the Santa Maria Valley.
Paul Edwards is a Grand Prix Formula Ones racecar driver and currently drives for sponsor, Red Bull.
Lisa Estrada is a cheer advisor for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.
Blaine Johnson’s drag racing career included seven championships and 53 NHRA national event victories. His racing career ended tragically in August 1996 when he crashed at the U.S. Nationals.
Gary Leffew was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2002.
Billy Simas played with the Chicago White Sox and was a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Robin Ventura is third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Bryn Smith has played with the Orioles, the Expos, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Colorado Rockies.
Actor Terry Maratos has appeared on Sex and the City and ER.
Steve Patterson played basketball for the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers.
Phillip Young is a world-renown pianist.
Scoop Nunes, Santa Maria’s “Mr. Baseball,” was inducted into the National Semi-Professional Baseball Congress in 1997 in Wichita, Kansas.
Actress Jane Russell lives and sings locally.
Actress Kim Myori (Cheryl Utsunomiya) visits her family who still reside locally.
Famed Alumni of Santa Maria’s Allan Hancock College
Brian Asselstine is a retired major league baseball player for the Atlanta Braves.
NBA player Mike Bratz was with the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.
Gunther Cunningham was assistant head coach-linebacker for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and former head coach of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
Kenneth Kring was founder of the world’s leading executive search firm. He was also the 1999 national champion and U.S. record holder for the men’s Master Indoor Pentathlon.
John Marshall was the assistant coach-defensive line for the NFL’s Detroit Lions and former assistant head coach/defensive coordinator for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
Chuck Negron was the lead singer for Three Dog Night.
Phillip Norwood is a Hollywood storyboard artist specializing in special effects and live-action sequences (True Lies, Terminator 2, The Abyss).
Owen Siler was formerly the commandant for the U.S. Coast Guard and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter.
Milford Zornes is an artist whose work can be seen in the White House, the Pentagon and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) Distinguished Alumni
Kathy Bates, Academy Award-winning television, stage and screen actress (Misery; Fried Green Tomatoes; Night, Mother; Roe v. Wade; About Schmidt).
Jeffery Combs, stage, screen and television actor and Robie Award winner (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
Boyd Gaines, three-time Tony award-winning stage, screen and television actor, (The Heidi Chronicles; Cabaret; Contact; Heartbreak Ridge; Evergreen).
Jim Grce, cinematographer and lighting director (The Patriot; Austin Powers-The Spy Who Shagged Me).
Harry Groener, three-time Tony nominated stage actor (Oklahoma; Cats; Crazy for You).
Harry Hamlin, stage, screen and television actor (L.A. Law; Clash of the Titans).
Mark Harelik, stage, screen and television actor and playwright (Wings; The Hollow Lands; The Heidi Chronicles; The Immigrant).
Winifred Hervey, Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning television producer and writer (The Steve Harvey Show; Golden Girls; The Fresh Prince of Bel Air).
Kathleen Lloyd Jenvay, television and screen actress (Magnum, P.I.; The Missouri Breaks).
Tim Kring, television executive producer and writer (Providence; Chicago Hope; Crossing Jordan)
Jeff McCarthy, Broadway and movie actor (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast).
Kelly McGillis, award-winning film and stage actress (Top Gun; Witness; A Seagull; Twelfth Night)
Leslie Parsons, Emmy-nominated production designer and art director (Murder She Wrote; Falcon Crest; Star Trek: Voyager).
Cynthia Lauren Tewes, television actress (“Julie” on The Love Boat).
Robin Williams, actor and comedian (Good Will Hunting; Hook; Mrs. Doubtfire; Jumanji; The Birdcage; Good Morning, Vietnam).