During its formative years, Salinas was just a sleepy stagecoach stop, where whiskey was served and locals would place bets on which coach would arrive the soonest.
Since those early years, the town has grown into a worldwide agricultural force that barely resembles those quaint times. But the history of those humble beginnings, from the rustic brick buildings and dirt roads to the portraits of well-to-do gentlemen and Asian immigrants in the town's square, have been captured in a picture book,
"Early Salinas" ($19.99, Arcadia Publishing) is a collection of vintage photographs documenting the town's origins, horse-drawn carriages and all. The book was written by Gary Breschini and Trudy Haversat, a Salinas couple who have devoted their time to local archaeology and prehistory efforts. Monda Gudgel, executive director of the Monterey County Historical Society, served as a co-author.
"It's just fascinating to try to figure out the past and figure out what the people were doing in the old days," said Breschini, a lifelong Salinas resident.
The book features more than 200 images from the Monterey County historical archives, chosen from a selection of "thousands and thousands," said Breschini. The society has collected private photos over the years as a means of preserving the area's history.
"Early Salinas" begins with images of the original Boronda Adobe in what is now West Salinas, and the El Sausal Rancho, which was in North Salinas. A brief introduction gives an accessible recount of the town's origins, which included the coach stop story, a famous narrative that Breschini was picked up from a century-old newspaper story.
"That one was classic. I just love that one," Breschini said.
It is divided into sections that speak to the town's legacy, including agriculture and rodeo. One chapter is devoted to Spreckels, another offers a glimpse into the town's early schools.
And of course, no recounting of the town's history would be complete without some reference to John Steinbeck. The book devotes a page to the Nobel Prize-winning author, and a timeline of his early career.
The book is available at local bookstores, independent retailers, on-line bookstores or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.