Debbie Soto is a descendent of the Fiscalini family, who operated dairies in the Cambria and Harmony areas from the 1870s until 1970. Debbie’s parents, Kathleen Fiscalini and Wayne Gerhardt, met while he was an Air Force Staff-Sargent serving at the former airbase near Cambria, California. Her parents were married south of Cambria in Cayucos. After their wedding, they moved to the Midwest where Wayne had grown up, and purchased a farm near Tioga, Illinois. Since Kathleen was raised on a Central Coast dairy ranch, it was a natural transition to also set up a dairy on their farm.
Their children, Debbie and her brother, Gary, grew up on the dairy, helping their parents who milked 40 to 50 cows two times a day, seven days a week. There was no hired help. Besides having a year-round dairy operation, her father raised corn, beans, wheat, and alfalfa.
In spite of the heavy workload, Debbie and her family enjoyed many summer vacations visiting family in California. Debbie has been living on the Central Coast since her marriage to Cambria native, Robert Soto, in 1979.
Debbie always felt it was important to preserve local history. She became more serious about writing in 2005. Her interest in one-room schools and doing personal interviews with eyewitness accounts, led to her first published book in 2011, “Glimpses of a Bygone Era.” She has since written two more books, “Christmas Eve at Bethany,” a children’s book, and “Living in Harmony: The School, Creamery and Town.”