Shandon is a little town about 18 miles east of Paso Robles. The population hasn’t grown much the last few years — approximately 1,365 residents, give or take a few. It’s a small close-knit community of folks who have lived there most of their lives. Our Queen for the 87th Annual Pioneer Day is Ellen Mae Hansen Schroeder. Born in Paso Robles on July 25, 1933, Ellen has lived in the Shandon area mostly in Shandon Heights her entire life; always involved and loving her community.
“I grew up in Shandon and attended all 12 years of school here. Wonderful times!,” Schroeder said, “In those days, you knew everyone. I graduated with the Shandon High School class of 1951. There were nine in our class. Now there are six still living plus one who moved to San Luis Obispo when we were freshmen. Most live in the North [San Luis Obispo] County and we stay in touch.”
“I have a lot of people in Shandon ask when I’d be chosen to be Queen. I said, maybe never. I don’t know. When I got the call, I was pretty surprised!”
For Pioneer Day through the years, Ellen says, “We’d always come to the park like so many other people did, with our picnic basket with fried chicken and potato salad. My husband Milton had several uncles who were Marshals in the parade. His parents Ada Rebecca (Heaton) and John David Schroeder attended the first Pioneer Day parade in 1931 with all the kids — Milton Lee, Floyd, Elvira, Alice, Aileen, Mildred, Esther and Vernon.
Ellen’s ancestors began arriving in the Shandon area in 1885. Her maternal great grandparents Daniel Bozley Shaw (who was born in Tennessee) and Lucinda Ann Riggins Shaw (born in Illinois) homesteaded in Shandon as did seven of their eight children. While most farmed their land, one daughter and her husband owned a drug and sundries store. Ellen’s maternal grandparents, Alpha Farris Shaw of Shandon and Dora Ellen Maze Shaw of Paso Robles were married in 1901 and lived on their homestead which was on Highway 41. They raised two children, Ellen’s mother, Nona Vivian Shaw Hansen and Uncle Ralph Farris Shaw.
Ellen’s paternal great grandparents were Jens Peter Hansen and Petrenella (Madsen) Hansen of Stege, Moen, Denmark. Ellen’s paternal grandfather, Morten Peter Hansen was born in Stege, Moen in 1863. In 1881, he traveled alone to the United States from Denmark when he was 18 years old. His plans were to go to the Dakotas, but he met Hans Hansen who convinced him to come to San Luis Obispo County after living in Cedar Falls, Iowa for four years. He decided that was where he needed to be. He lived and worked in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo for a while before moving to Creston and Shandon in 1886 where he homesteaded land, built a cabin, improved the farm and built roads. The next year he cut hay and the next he sowed 60 acres by hand and traded grain for three horses. The fourth year, he raised 2,100 sacks of grain on about 200 acres of land. Seven years later, he had 480 acres. After that, he bought the original homestead of George Pfost on Clark Road near Shandon.
Ellen’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth May Boring Hansen came from Mill Creek, Pennsylvania to visit an aunt. She met Morten and married him on December 30, 1897. Morton P. Hansen did quite well for himself; owning several properties and became known as the “unofficial” Mayor. Elizabeth and Morten had six children; all born in Shandon. Their second child, Edgar Morten Hansen was Ellen’s father.
Her parents Nona Vivian Shaw and Edgar Morten Hansen were both born and raised in the Paso Robles and Shandon areas. Edgar farmed the original family homestead. They were married on September 5, 1926 in Oakland, Ca. Ellen adds, “I am their only daughter born at Wiedman’s Maternity Home at 1940 Park Street in Paso Robles. Dr. A.H. Wilmar was the attending physician. Very warm days with no air conditioning! I have relatives who still call me Ellen Mae to this day. This is what happens when you live in the same area forever. My name is the middle names of both my grandmothers.”
Ellen married Milton Lee Schroeder on April 26, 1952 at the Shandon Methodist Church, 10 months after graduating from high school. They started their family with the births of their son David Morten Schroeder in 1953 and daughter Connie Jean Schroeder Duncan in 1954; both born at Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital.
Milton is a Paso Robles native, graduated in 1944 and spent 20 years working on ranches; then joining the Shandon school district in 1970 where he spent 17 years as Head of Maintenance, Operations and Grounds.
Sharing many years of service to the Shandon school with Milton, Ellen recalls her long career, “I started working as a substitute employee for Shandon schools in 1964,” Schroeder said. “I did laundry for the cafeteria, filled in for the secretary, classroom aides and cafeteria workers. I was cafeteria manager for one year before I got my bus driver certificate. When I retired after 34 years, I had become a management employee serving as transportation supervisor, California state school bus driver instructor, student driver trainer and safety coordinator.
“In a small school district, I had the opportunity to learn and cover many tasks since there was never enough money to allow each position to be covered. The challenge of doing each new task was very rewarding. I retired in 1996 but kept working for two years after that to train new people. My mom drove school bus for Shandon for 32 years. Times were different, so I had the opportunity to do a lot more. Since I drove bus and trained student drivers for 15 years, I see people all the time that say, ‘You taught me to drive!’”
Ellen said, “We lost Milton on January 30, 2016. We’d been married for more than 63 years. I have a wonderful extended family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. My son David’s children are Dawn Ellen (Schroeder) Tarr (Rick), Kari Evalyn (Schroeder) Parrish (Chris) and Tawna Kay (Schroeder) White. His stepsons are Jared Fountain and Dustin Fountain. His grandchildren; my greatgrandchildren are Thomas White and Kara White, Cierra Mae Parrish and Wynter Fountain. My daughter Connie’s children are Lisa Kay (Duncan) Smith, Wyatt Allen Duncan (Shannon) and Rawley Lane Duncan (Jasmine). Connie’s grandchild and my great grandchild is Brooke Lynn Duncan; parents Wyatt and Shannon. Ellen’s family names are Maze, Shaw, Boring and Hansen. Her husband Milton’s family names are Gaylord, Heaton, Franz and Schroeder.”
Ellen is associated with groups and organizations that cover several North County communities: The Paso Robles Area Historical Society, Bethlehem/Estero Pines 95 O.E.S, Native Daughters of the Golden West (2nd Vice President) San Miguel Parlor No. 94, SLO County Farm Bureau Women (membership/treasurer), North County Happy Trails R.V. (Sunshine), Shandon United Methodist Church (bookkeeper/treasurer) and Shandon Schools School Bond Oversight committee.
Having fun in hometown Shandon, Ellen added, “The Bunco Babes group is a great group because I have 3 generations of my family going; another lady has 2 generations; plus, we get acquainted with others who are our neighbors we wouldn’t know otherwise. I have a bunco friend in Shandon who’s been here for 33 years. I couldn’t believe it. I still call her a newcomer.”
Escorting Ellen to the Pioneer Day festivities and riding the Queen’s carriage are her attendants; daughter Connie Schroeder Duncan and granddaughter Lisa Duncan Smith. Lisa’s parents Pete and Connie Duncan attended Shandon schools, both graduating in the early 70’s. In 1994, Lisa was a Belle Attendant. Living in this area for her entire life, Lisa carries on the tradition of working in ranching, cattle and horses. Ellen as the matriarch of her family and our Queen proudly preserves her family legacy, Shandon’s history and the Pioneer Day tradition.