South County Historical Society
San Luis Obispo County
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Between the towns of Oceano and Arroyo Grande is the small township of Halcyon. Halcyon is comprised of farmland, the Halcyon Temple, a quaint Post Office (the Post Office also serves as the official town building) and a residential area.

Halcyon was founded in 1903 by Dr. William H. Dower and Francia LaDue who left New York, heading west with the goal of establishing a non-denominational Temple based on Theosophy which began in the last part of the 19th Century on the East Coast.

They also purchased a three-story Victorian house which was called Halcyon Hotel and Sanitarium. People from around the world came to be treated for drug addiction, tuberculosis, alcoholism and other disorders. 

FLASHBACK . . . . . . .
A Book Report

Excerpts from the Preface, "......the schoolage sons of John (and Agnes Dickson Varian) often could be observed working away in the back garden....on some typical boy's project such as a cigar box model airplane.  Sigurd, the younger boy, usually wanted to make some particular gadget but sometimes didn't know how to go about it. His older brother Russell would figure out how to do it and Sigurd then would happily put it together.  Sigurd liked to make things and was good at it; Russell was more interested in the design of the device and how it worked." 

Russell was the inventor and Sigurd was the barnstorming pilot who flew without instruments throughout the United States, Mexico and Central America. "If only Russell could invent some method of landing with greater certainty when visual aids were not enough," Sigurd often said. Eventually Russell did and Sigurd built it.

The innate skills of each brother became the foundation of a new technology through the invention of the power amplifying, oscillating klystron. The klystron helped make possible the early airborne radar which was instrumental in winning the Battle of Britain in WWII, and subsequently became responsible for the growth of the field of microwave engineering. Though the klystron was the most significant of Russell's inventions, it was only one of more than a hundred patents held by him during his lifetime. The brothers formed Varian Associates in 1948 in a small San Carlos, California, factory building, later moving it to Palo Alto near the Stanford labs of Russell's early research projects. Russell had attended Stanford University, studying physics while Sigurd had attended Cal Poly. Both schools provided assistance or resource materials throughout the early years of struggle. Younger brother Eric was an electrician, raising his family in the small community of Halcyon, California, where the family retains property today.

Their story is an interesting one. Parents John and Agnes Varian emigrated to the U. S. from Ireland in 1894, settling in San Jose in 1903. John, an emotional young man with bushy red hair and beard, interested in theosophy, music, and poetry, struggled to make a living. John and Agnes, now with three young sons, came from a background of musicians, writers, artists, craftsmen and tradesmen. Their families included religious free thinkers who worked for social betterment, especially through the temperance movement. They were also the descendants of the rapparee, Irish guerilla fighters who were determined to make Ireland unsafe for any British subject following Cromwell's bloody sweep through their country in 1652. They crept silently through forests down to the estates of British landlords, killing cattle and burning buildings, then silently returned to their villages. Gathered around their fires, these Irish patriots told the legends of Ireland's greatness, the stories of the High Kings, Brian Boru, Red Hugh O'Donnell and other famous chieftains. Impoverished, their books destroyed, schooling forbidden, their Gaelic language banned, they told the stories of the greatness of the past.

These stories became the means of educating their children, exchanging information and was a principal form of entertainment during much of the 1700s and 1800s. This family background, genetic pool and social environments would influence the lives and personalities of the three Varian boys. Some 275 years following the conquest of Ireland, Russell Varian regaled his Stanford University friends with tales of his rapparee ancestors whom he obviously admired. When asked by an English student how he could be so proud of common outlaws, he showed his wonderful sense of humor by replying, "Why not! Had they lived another generation, they would have become Lords." The Varian boys had been raised on the stories of Ireland's heroes becoming great storytellers themselves.

By 1910, the family had arrived in Halcyon, California, a small community of theosophists in the Arroyo Grande Valley. Money was never plentiful around the Varian household, but the family had a fond dream that is recorded in Agnes Varian's diaries. "Russell will invent something that Sigurd can make, and this will guarantee the family fortune." Halcyon was the home base, no matter where the boys were.  Their mother had a rule - "write once a week even if it's what the cat had for dinner." They did and their letters were circulated through the family unit allowing all to feel a part of each other's events. Those letters provided a comprehensive primary source for Russell's wife, Dorothy, as she wrote this book.

These gifted men, whose conversations and writings inevitably were peppered with such terms as rhumbatron, bunching principle, nuclear magnetic resonance, Fluxmeter, Boomatron, remained loyal to their roots, humble and true to their principles throughout their lives. Sigurd died in an airplane accident in Mexico in 1961, two years after Russell's death in 1959. Russell had traveled with his family to Alaska to promote his conservation efforts. Both men established foundations. Sigurd's has helped to support a hospital in Puerta Vallarta where he and his wife kept a home. Russell's has provided funds for a physics laboratory at Stanford and, due to his commitment to the outdoors, land acquisition to create Castle Rock State Park in California.

If you would like to read this book, it is available at the William Quan Judge Library. The Temple of the People maintain this 10,000 volume library located on the first floor of the green two story building at 906 S. Halcyon. Eleanor Shumway, Guardian of the Temple and a member of our South County Historical Society, welcomes everyone to visit the library. The book is also available on Amazon.
















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