By Kevin Newhouse
On the east side of the Aptos Creek Bridge, directly across the street from the Parish Publick House, there is a sign that reads “Entering Aptos Village.” I have always loved this sign. It is simple, yet beautiful and makes me think of an era when Aptos was a quaint and quieter town. I recently embarked on a project that inspired me to learn about the sign. Its history is actually quite interesting!
Some of you may be familiar with the name Lucile Aldridge. Lucile was a founding member of the Aptos Ladies Tuesday Evening Society, which was formed to celebrate the women who battled against plans for building a cement batching plant in the middle of Aptos Village. The ladies were successful and decided to have a parade as part of their celebration. That parade would become known as “The World’s Shortest Parade” and became an annual tradition on the 4th of July!
They were also responsible for the creation of the first Aptos Village sign in 1964. However, it has been replaced multiple times over the years due to wear and tear from weather, vandalism, and accidental damage.
The original sign was similar to the one we have today except for a few small details. The bottom of the original included information stating that Aptos was established in 1851 and the population was 87. Seems like valid information right? Well this is where Lucile’s witty sense of humor makes an appearance. Let me explain.
In 1964, Aptos was still a small town. In fact, there was a standing joke that the first Aptos baby of the year was born in August. To play along with that joke Lucile decided to list the population of Aptos at 87, when in fact the population was much larger! This joke would eventually come back to haunt Lucile.
Lucile was very active in the Aptos Chamber of Commerce, whose purpose is to support and promote local business. However, in 1972, business in Aptos Village was stagnant and in dire need of a boost. Lucile believed that the population number on the sign might be discouraging potential business development because the business owners see “Pop. 87” and come to the conclusion there are not enough customers to open a business in the village.
In 1972, the Aptos Ladies replaced the original sign with one that reflected an updated and more accurate population of 16,957. However, this new sign still maintained the “Est. in 1851” date. Let’s take a look at that next.
There have been several significant events that played a part in the formation of our town but nothing really sticks out about 1851. So where did that date come from? This is once again a situation where Lucile’s sense of humor makes an appearance.
The story that was told to me is that Lucile noticed signs popping up around Soquel that claimed it was founded in 1852. Lucille said, “1852 huh? We can do better than that!” and decided to declare a date of 1851. One year older. Take that Soquel! The truth is, “Est. in 1851” doesn’t really mean anything but it certainly makes for a great story!
In 1985, the sign had to be replaced. It was hit by a truck and damaged beyond repair. Chuck Holcomb was responsible for replacing the sign. This time around, the population was left off but “Est. in 1851” remained.
In 2000, the sign was replaced again. Jack Suter, a local artist donated his time and supplies to create the new sign. Jack maintained the integrity of the original type and design but also added a few touches of his own. He added a Victorian border and used a golden color to replace the white background that the previous signs had. Once again “Est. in 1851” was included.
About a year ago, as I was driving over the Aptos Creek Bridge, I noticed the sign was starting to look aged and needed to be replaced. I decided to do something about it.
I told a friend of mine, Scott Lesan, who I’ve known since our freshman year at Aptos High, about my desire to replace the sign. He was immediately on-board and volunteered to help. Scott is incredibly talented and knew exactly what we needed to do.
We cut the board to match the old design, sanded the edges, and used several coats of protective paint. We decided to go back to the classic look of a white background. We also decided to get some professional help with the lettering. Kris Kirby at Sign Wave was very helpful in finding a font that was as close to the original as possible and she was also able to scan the Victorian border design that Jack Suter had added to the previous sign. It truly was a team effort!
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, what about “Est. in 1851”? Let me assure you, this was not an easy decision to make. As someone who lives in Aptos and loves the quirky stories of the past, I was totally okay with keeping the “Est. in 1851.” However, as a historian, I feel responsible for presenting information that is verifiable and true. I asked the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and the Aptos History Museum Committee for advice. It was voted that we update the sign to include dates that makes sense.
We decided to use the date of the Rancho Aptos land grant to Rafael Castro, 1833, which represents the earliest and first private ownership of land in the area. And since Aptos is a town, not an incorporated city, it also made sense to include the date of township, 1893.
As we were mounting the new sign for its public debut, my friend Scott said, “It’s really cool to see a project through and to do something to help make this town a better place rather than just talking about it.” I couldn’t agree more.
For more information about the Aptos History Museum, upcoming events, or becoming a member of the museum, please visit www.aptoshistory.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @aptos_history_museum.