Creig P. Sherburne/Atascadero News · Shirley Moore’s home has a room decorated entirely in memoribelia from her days with the Wranglerettes. Here are photos and drawings of previous horses, students and friends. • Atascadero News Photo courtesy of Shirley Moore · Shirley Moore stands at the door to her plane. She took lessons meant for her son, who turned out to be too young, and took off from there, so to speak.
Shirley L. Moore moved to Atascadero in 1957 when her father, who worked for the state, was moved to a position in Paso Robles. Since then she’s put down roots, flown away, raced back, rounded up a posse and wrote a book about building the house she lives in.
The year she moved to town was, coincidentally, the year Don Moore was discharged from the Navy.
“I met a real good-looking guy with a good looking car,” Shirley said.
The car was a 1946 Plymouth convertible. The two were married within a year. Shirley and Don, not Shirley and the Plymouth.
Together, the couple started Moore’s Nursery, which they owned for more than 20 years.
The two also bought a home on Curbaril Avenue around the time they got married. Today, they live next door to that home on land that used to be a horse pasture. That pasture, the Moores said, has seen many a horse over the years. In fact, Shirley is a founding member of the Atascadero Wranglerettes.
Shirley said that it formed the way so many similar organizations do: it was just a fun thing to do. She said it started with seven girls riding in the Pioneer Days parade in 1955.
“If we were going to be an organization, we were going to look like one,” Shirley said.
So the crew wore checkered shirts and sported a homemade banner. Then they sort of never stopped. Along the way, Shirley said, the group bought land from the Heilmann brothers and that land is now the Wranglerettes arena, toward the end of Tampico Road.
After 20 years, she retired from the Wranglerettes. Now in her early 80s, Shirley said she still gets visits and greeting cards from that first group of girls, not to mention the army of young ladies she trained with in intervening years. At one point, she said, she had 50 members.
Upon retiring, she picked up another big hobby: aviation.
At the age of 15, Shirley’s youngest son, Scott, built a hang glider. The idea of their son flying a homemade contraption high enough in the air that a fall would kill him didn’t set well with them. So they took him to the Paso Robles Airport to get airplane lessons.
Unfortunately for Scott, he was too young for lessons. So Shirley took the lessons slated for Scott instead.
(Shirley said that Scott did go back and get his lessons. He and a friend went up once and that was enough for Scott. He never flew again.)
From that first time in the air, Shirley said she was hooked.
“It was love at first flight,” she said.
She said that her first solo flight was slightly harrowing in that she flew with her instructor doing “touch-and-goes,” taking off and immediately flying back to touch down again. After enough practice, Shirley said that without warning her instructor hopped out of the plane.
“He said ‘go,’” Shirley said, and she went. And went and went and went.
The Moores went in thirds to buy a small Cessna-style plane, which went everywhere and was used to ferry stuff for the nursery.
“There was one guy who said, ‘I never thought I’d load potatoes on an airplane,’” Don said.
Don added that he never learned to fly.
“Somebody had to stay on the ground and earn money,” he said with a hearty laugh.
In 1977, Shirley met Morro Bay resident June Cunningham when she, Shirley, went to a meeting of the 99s, the international organization of women pilots. June needed a copilot for the last Powderpuff race of its kind. Shirley raised her hand, and the two have been friends ever since.
Cunningham had story after story about flying with Shirley. One time, Cunningham said, the duo was flying in a race that took them through Mexico. They got slightly lost and also had some equipment failure. They didn’t know it at the time, but their generator died. No electricity meant no instruments or radio. They found a small airfield and flew across the runway dipping their wings, the signal that a pilot’s got a problem and can’t communicate.
They had a hard time slowing the plane’s speed, so had to circle and circle the airfield, shedding speed. When they finally went in to land, Cunningham said, the tower managed to convey to the ladies that their landing gear wasn’t down. They had to continue circling while manually lowering the landing gear using the crank between the seats.
But there was nothing to indicate the gear was down, let alone locked into place. So when they made their final approach to land, the two strapped in tight as could be, but with hands poised to run quick as could be the second the plane stopped moving. After all, if the landing gear wasn’t down, they’d make their landing by skidding hundreds of feet on the bottom of the plane.
Well, the landing gear was down, and the two walked away with little more than frayed nerves.
“I didn’t even feel the wheels touch down, Shirley was so good,” Cunningham said.
“We landed in Paso one night,” Don added. “They didn’t have any runway lights. [Shirley] made a perfect landing by moonlight.”
She ended up selling her plane to help pay to build the house she designed. She said she had to have a licensed architect draw up the actual plans, but the house was her design and she acted as superintendent while building it, scheduling the different contractors so they wouldn’t have to work on top of each other.
The only issue she ever had with that was with her own son, who showed up a day late to do the plumbing.
“He was the only one that messed up,” Shirley said, laughing.
The house was built in 1990 in that horse pasture mentioned earlier.
And if all that isn’t enough, along the way Shirley raced cars at Atascadero Speedway. She got her start painting the cars, then borrowed a car for a powder-puff race. The car’s driver was a very tall man, so for Shirley to drive his car at all required they attach blocks to the pedals so she could reach them.
“The other women, they all braked in the curves,” Shirley said. “But my step-father taught me how to drive, how to brake before the curve then put on the power in the curve.”
She didn’t race for too long, but said she had an absolute ball while doing it.
Shirley was also on Atascadero’s very first planning council; she and Don were the Colony Days king and queen in 1998 on their 53rd anniversary; she was on the airport land use commission; she was asked to run for Atascadero City Council, and is at least partially responsible for different California law-enforcement agencies talking to each other when it comes to drunk driving convictions.
Most recently, though, she was instrumental in raising funds to get the Faces of Freedom Veterans Memorial built, something she said she’s very proud of.
Shirley’s said that her plans for future include remaining focused on recovering from an injury she sustained in a fall and enjoying her life with her husband and sons. She’s had a full life and is happy to enjoy a recliner.