2010 SHS MarinScope Columns
Weekly history columns in the Sausalito MarinScope are provided from the archives of the Sausalito Historical Society. Stories from the past are shared with the general readership of the newspaper.
A Look Back at December, 1910
By Larry Clinton
A century ago, long before Herb Caen popularized three-dot journalism at the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sausalito News entertained readers with pithy items on local characters and institutions. Here are a few excerpts from the issue of December 24, 1910. Note how life went on as usual during the holidays.
P. Holstein, formerly of Holly-Oaks, was recently in Ottawa, Canada. The formal opening of Hotel Holly-Oaks under the management of Mr. Henry B. Russell, an experienced hotel man, will take place next Wednesday evening. Invitations have been issued. Mr. Russell announces he is going to have it strictly up-to-date and he is having the place thoroughly renovated.
Congressman-elect William Kent was a luncheon guest of President Taft at the White House on Monday. Mr. and Mrs. C. H. F. Peters, after an absence of several weeks, are again domiciled in their pretty cottage on Lower San Carlos Avenue. The Bank of Sausalito was tastefully decorated with evergreens.
The Northwestern Pacific Railroad Company, after a lapse of several months, resumed work of putting in new timbers in the Corte Madera tunnel.
Sausalito Aerie No. 676, F.O.E., will hold a public installation of its officers in Eagles’ Hall on Thursday evening, January 5th. Dancing will follow. Invitations will be issued for the occasion.
William English spent Thursday evening in our bastille, and was released the following morning. Wm. had been imbibing very freely and used vulgar language on Water Street near the park. The language was far from being select and that which you would not like your children to hear or use.
We are glad to notice the progressive spirit of A. F. Broad, better known as Teddy, who is replacing the old steps from Bulkeley Avenue to Harrison Avenue with concrete steps. Mr. Maddock and his son, former residents of Sausalito, are doing the work.
Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue Joseph C. Pohley of Santa Rosa was here Thursday on official business. He surveyed the still for the manufacture of denatured alcohol and of molasses at Pine Station.
C. Buhman swore to a complaint charging Frank Salinas with robbery. Salinas was arrested by Constable Cramer and brought before Justice Renner who released him on $500 bail. Salinas claims that Buhman owes him a bill of long standing and that his appeals for payment have been met with by Buhman flashing a deputy sheriff star from inside his vest and pointing a revolver at Salinas. Monday evening a similar exhibition took place in the presence of several men and Salinas for his own protection grabbed Buhman by the neck throwing him to the floor and no attempt at robbery was made. Both men are from Tiburon.
Invitations are out for a Full Dress Military Hop at the Post Gymnasium at Fort Baker on Thursday evening, Dec. 29th, under the auspices of the Fort Baker Athletic Club. All enlisted men will be in full dress uniform. The gymnasium will be tastefully decorated for the occasion with festoons of different colored incandescent lights and evergreens. Government Steamer leaves Folsom street wharf at San Francisco at 7 30 p.m., touching at Alcatraz and Ft. McDowell, returning at midnight. Bus service between Sausalito and Fort Baker from 7:30 p.m. until midnight.
You can access and search 1885-1923 issues of The Sausalito News from the Historical Society website (www.sausalitohistoricalsociety.org). Go to the Links page and click on Sausalito News. When a new website opens up, scroll down to the last of the newspapers listed in the window. Commands at the top of the page allow you to search entire newspapers by date, or to make keyword searches, as on Google. When you find an article that interests you, left click on it and use the commands that open up in a black drop-down menu to view the entire page of the paper, to zoom in or out, to “clip” a printable copy of the entire article, or to view the article as scanned text, which then should be saved to your word processor and proofread against a printed clip for accuracy.
The Day the Bridge Flatlined
The following column is excerpted from Kevin Starr’s book, “Golden Gate, the Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge”:
On Sunday, May 24, 1987 . . . as part, of the fiftieth anniversary celebration of its opening, the Bridge was closed to automobile traffic, and pedestrians were encouraged to walk across the Bridge from either the San Francisco or Marin side in the early morning hours, to be followed later that morning by a parade of vintage cars: all this reminiscent of the two-day opening ceremonies of May 1937. As it was, some of the zaniness of the 1937 walk reccurred. A young woman in a Stanford sweatshirt, for example, planned to somersault her way across the Bridge. Four young men walked across on stilts. One young man in leopard-print underpants, a San Franciscan most obviously, stood in contrast to more modestly garbed Marinites; others wore signs around their necks indicating they had walked the Bridge as youngsters in 1937.
The pedestrian walk was scheduled to begin at 6:30 A.M., but by 5:30 A.M., the crowds on either side of the Bridge, swollen to unmanageability, spontaneously passed the restraining barriers and began their walk, sweeping along with them the San Francisco and Marin County officials who were supposed to preside at mid-Bridge ceremonies, which were never held. At mid-Bridge the San Francisco and Marin phalanxes met. Instead of passing each other on either side of the roadway as planned, the two phalanxes ran into each other head-on and came to a standstill, and the crowds behind them were brought to a halt in an increasingly impacted environment. By certain later estimates, the gridlocked crowd numbered some 250,000 pedestrians, which translated to a weight of roughly 4,800 pounds per lineal foot, for a total estimated weight of 31 million pounds of humanity on the basis of 125 pounds per person. Fortunately, a lighter roadway installed the previous year had increased the capacity of the Bridge to 5,800 pounds per lineal foot over its previous 4,000-pound capacity. Thus the Bridge held, although it flattened out and lost its characteristic arch. Winds of thirty to thirty-five miles per hour, meanwhile, were producing a decided sway in the roadbed, unnerving the crowd.
It is virtually beyond comprehension to contemplate what might have occurred—possibly the greatest manmade accident in human history—had the Bridge not been strengthened the previous year. . . On the contrary, aside from one or two alcohol-fueled fistfights on the margins of the crowd, not at the center, people behaved beautifully, and a disaster was avoided.
With the exception of one confirmed heart attack and one slightly serious bicycle accident during the dispersion phase, there was next to no report of serious health crises that could have proven disastrous, given the inability of medics to penetrate the crowd. A total of twenty-two children were reported separated from their parents, fifteen of them recovered or accounted for by mid-day: a source of terrible stress for parents, most obviously, but no children were reported hurt during their separation ordeal. Midmorning the long-delayed parade of vintage cars began, led off by the same 1937 burgundy Cadillac convertible that had carried San Francisco mayor Angelo Rossi and California governor Frank Merriam across the Bridge fifty years earlier, now conveying San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein and her husband Richard Blum. . .
Thus was the urban pedestrianism of the Golden Gate Bridge brought to unexpected extremes. No one—neither the District directors nor the staff of the Bridge, the Friends of the Golden Gate Bridge sponsoring the event, or for that matter the California Highway Patrol or the sheriffs of Marin and San Francisco counties—had come close to forecasting the size of the crowd that would show up for the commemorative ceremonies. In a sense, the size of the crowd came as an unwelcome surprise, as did the million-dollar debt incurred by the District for cleanup overtime and related expenses. Yet the overwhelming turnout, for all the problems it created, testified to the popularity of the Bridge as civic icon and pedestrian destination. Across one hectic, perilous, yet joyful morning, a million people celebrated their identification with a Bridge that conferred upon their metropolitan region its most compelling of urban achievement, its City Beautiful, shared and triumphant.
Just in time for holiday gifting, Mr. Starr’s book is now available for purchase at the Ice House (780 Bridgeway) and at the Historical Society rooms in City Hall. You can also select from a line of Phil Frank greeting cards and – exclusively at the Ice House --history-related Christmas cards, the 2010 Arts Festival poster, and a new line of note cards featuring photographs of Sausalito andparticularly appealing shots of harbor seals and sea lions off our waterfront.
How Whiskey Springs Got Its Name
This article is excerpted from the Sausalito Historical Society Newsletter, Summer 1978.
After a long and grueling journey around the Horn, John Mason and his wife landed in San Francisco in 1849 — almost with the first wave of gold-seekers.
A shrewd businessman, Mason quickly realized that there was more money to be made in selling whiskey to the miners than in becoming one himself. So he established San Francisco’s first brewery. It did so well that he was soon a ranking member of the business community and on the city’s Board of Supervisors.
But by the late 1800s San Francisco’s explosive growth was outrunning its supply of fresh water. Since this was an essential element in the fine spirits Mason had built his name on, it was time to look for another location for his brewery.
Whaling ships had been stopping off at Sausalito since the early 1820s to fill their casks with water. It was considered so pure that it actually “stayed” longer before spoiling during long voyages. That was good enough for Mason. By 1892 the Mason By-Products Company was making quality Irish Whiskey and scotch at its new distillery at Whiskey Springs (then called Waldo Springs).
At least until January 1, 1920 when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution put an end to the whiskey business. Prohibition dealt Mason By-Products a mortal blow. Almost immediately, the company was sold to its financial backers — including famous San Francisco entrepreneur Adolph Spreckles.
Under the unlikely banner of the Industrial Solvents Corporation, the new owners struggled to survive by producing industrial alcohol. But after several years of operating in the red, the company was about to fold.
The American Distilling Company of Pekin, Illinois, was looking for a plant site in Northern California. Whiskey Springs was an ideal location. So on December 5, 1933, the very day that Prohibition ended, the company bought Mason’s old brewery.
American Distilling then spend $12.5 million to make their new plant the most modern west of the Mississippi River. Before long, it was the largest independent producer of whiskey, gin and vodka in the United States. With a work force of 200 people, it was a major source of revenue and jobs for depression-ridden Sausalito.
But it all came to an abrupt end on the night of May 4, 1963. Alcohol fumes caught fire and turned the entire complex into a raging inferno. Sausalito residents were treated to a pyrotechnic display that rivaled any July 4th extravaganza as barrels of the company’s stock exploded 300 feet into the air in bright blue flashes of thunder.
Several hours and $4.5 million later, the estern division of the American Distilling was no more. Whiskey Springs was once again an empty piece of land.
But not for long. Presently 47 condominiums are under construction on the site where the Miwok Indians had a village and John Mason built his distillery. Just as soon as the Water District gives them service, another 156 units will follow. And thus begins yet another chapter in the three thousand year story of man’s occupation of those 13 acres at the north end of town.
The Earliest Settlers of Whiskey Springs
This article is excerpted from the Sausalito Historical Society Newsletter, Summer 1978.
Nobody knows for certain just when the Coast Miwoks (pronounced Mee-wok, meaning “person” or “people”) first set foot on Whiskey Springs. But there is evidence that they were in Marin County three thousand years ago. It’s estimated that, at the height of their civilization, there were at least four thousand of them living in villages spread throughout the county.
There is almost no specific data on the village at Whiskey Springs, but from the size of its garbage dump (called a “midden”), and the artifacts found in it, archaeologists suspect that it might have been a small community. One of three subsidiary, or seasonal, villages in Sausalito located near a much larger “central” settlement (on what is now Pine Street, beside the Marin Theater).
In 1579, when Sir Francis Drake spent five weeks repairing the “Golden Hinde” in a bay somewhere between San Francisco and Point Reyes, he had an opportunity to study the Miwoks closely. His diary gives us a good description of what they wore:
“The Men generally go naked, but the Women combing out Bulrushes, make with them a loose Garment, which ty’d round their middle, hangs down about their Hipps: And hides what Nature would have concealed. They wear likewise about their shoulders a Deer skin with the Hair thereon... The Common People... whose long hair tied up in a bunch behind, was stuck with Plumes of Feathers, but in the forepart only one Feather...”
Drake also describes a Miwok house, which no doubt fits those at Whiskey Springs too: “Their Houses, which are dug round into the Earth, and have from the Surface of the ground, Poles of Wood set up and joined together at the top like a spired Steeple, which being covered with Earth, no Water can enter, and are very warm...Their beds are on the hard Ground strewed with Rushes, with a Fire in the midst round which they lye, and the roof being low round and close, gives a very great Reflection of Heat to their Bodies.”
The Coast Miwok Indians were a peaceful people whose environment provided everything they needed to grow and prosper. Yet the only ones left in Sausalito today are buried beneath a vacant lot that is about to be paved over for parking.
Behind those first explorers who ventured into the Miwok’s territory came others who stayed permanently. They brought with them two things the Indians had no resistance to: A religious fervor that destroyed their tribal unit and diseases like smallpox and cholera.
By the time William Richardson settled on Rancho Saucelito in 1841, there were only a handful of Miwoks left — barely enough to take notice of. In a letter to a friend, he briefly mentioned the “few Indians” still living on his property. Soon there were none, and Whiskey Springs became grazing land for his cattle. And so the land remained until John Mason built his brewery on it in 1890-92.
How the Bridge Changed Water Street
The following story is excerpted from Jack Tracy’s book, Moments in Time.
On January 5, 1933, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge when steam shovels chewed into Lime Point where the Marin anchorage would be. An official ground breaking ceremony in February raised hopes of Sausalito residents that prosperity might indeed be just around the corner. Sausalito’s contribution to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge over the next four years was small compared to the enormity of the project. Yet each participant felt a part of the historic project. Many Sausalitans found work on the project at various stage of construction, although the large contractors usually brought their own work force.
The California Highway Commission announced that the Redwood Highway would be extended into Sausalito, with a new road from Napa Street south to the intersection of Water Street and San Carlos Avenue. Caledonia Street merchants were not excited about the main street through New Town being rerouted. They were assured, however, that it was to their benefit. Motorists hurrying to and from the ferryboats were seldom customers; they just made Caledonia Street dangerous for pedestrians. With a new highway outboard of Caledonia near the NWP tracks, Caledonia Street would become a comfortable, resident-serving street.
When the new state highway was under construction in 1935, Sausalito’s postmaster Robert Frost asked the City Council what the name of the new street was to be. A discussion led to the proposal by postmaster Frost that whatever the name, it should apply to the entire length of Sausalito to avoid confusion on mailboxes. A five-dollar prize was offered for the best name for Sausalito’s new street. A year later when the new section of highway was complete, few names had been submitted. The best of these were Portal del Norte, Rolph Way, Golden Gate Boulevard, and Frost’s suggestion, Bridgeway Boulevard. The prize was withdrawn due to lack of interest, and a motion was made and unanimously approved to drop Water Street in favor of Bridgeway Boulevard all the way from the northern city limit to Richardson Street. Mayor Herb Madden said that Bridgeway “sounded like ‘the way to the bridge’ and that motorists will be more likely to drive into town rather than take the mainline approach.”
As of July 7, 1936, reported the Sausalito News, “Water Street, symbolic of a lower stratum in Sausalito’s social life, quite uncouth for such an aesthetic community, is no more.” By 1938 Bridgeway Boulevard seemed a bit pretentious for such a small town, and the name was changed again, simply to Bridgeway.
Last week we profiled one of Sausalito’s more colorful law enforcement officers, Constable Manuel Menotti. This week, to mark the opening of the new public safety building, we’ve excerpted the early history of the fire department, from Jack Tracy’s book, “Moments in Time.”
The Sausalito Fire Department can trace its roots to February 6, 1888, when twenty-five prominent residents met at Arthur Jewett's blacksmith shop at Caledonia Street. At that meeting it was determined that a permanent volunteer fire department with modern equipment was a community necessity, and wheels were set in motion to accomplish that end.
Prior to that date fire protection was largely a matter of personal ability. Those with sufficient means built large water storage tanks next to their homes and kept fire hoses for personal use. Those less fortunate had to rely on bucket brigades or whatever means at hand, including a hasty exit if necessary. The North Pacific Coast Railroad maintained a rudimentary hose cart and salt water pump at the ferry landing, and the ferryboats and smaller vessels relied on sand-filled pails stored on board. The municipal water supply was insufficient for firefighting. Before 1914 it was common practice to shut off domestic water from 7 a.m. to evening due to short supply.
It was decided by the self-appointed committee to levy a special property tax within a new fire district to raise $1,000,000. A new horse-drawn Babcock steam pumper was purchased in March, 1888, in anticipation of future tax revenues. But too many property owners within the proposed district felt the assessment was too steep, and the vote to establish a fire department failed by six votes in June, 1888. It would be another sixteen years before Sausalito again attempted to establish a permanent fire department.
The big fire of July 4, 1893, that raced unchecked through Sausalito's business district changed many minds concerning the need for firefighting equipment and trained men. By 1904 the Board of Trustees was concerned enough to take some positive action. Arthur Jewett, the blacksmith, was appointed the town's first Fire Marshall. Along with his title, Jewett also got the job of building the hose carts.
Because the 1906 San Francisco fire convinced the Sausalito Board of Trustees that it was time to get serious about fire protection, they enacted an ordinance in 1909 creating a permanent Sausalito Volunteer Fire Department. Arthur Jewett was appointed Fire Chief at twenty-five dollars a month, and five more hose cart stations were established. The city bought a fire wagon and horses and by 1914 made plans for an actual firehouse. Residents were informed of the new fire alarm system, utilizing church bells to call volunteers from their homes.
The new station, housing both firewagon and horse, was built next to the San Francisco Yacht Club on Water Street (it was moved across the street in 1931, where the building stands today [539 Bridgeway, ed.]). To get the most out of its investment, the city later added jail cells in the station house, and to keep the chief busy when there were no fires, he was made official dogcatcher and poundmaster. There was never a shortage of stray dogs and horses wandering through backyards.
Menotti and the Mob
By Larry Clinton
In his book “Moments in Time,” Jack Tracy reports that local boy John Paul Chase had established a reputation for toughness and reliability as a bootlegger by the early thirties. Tracy writes: “In the summer of 1932, Chase befriended Lester Gillis, who turned out to be an escaped convict. Gillis apparently fooled his Sausalito neighbors and his employer at the Walhalla, where he worked as a part-time bartender. Even his neighbor on Turney Street, constable Manuel Menotti, didn’t suspect that the quiet young man was the dangerous Baby Face Nelson.
“Gillis grew restless in Sausalito and through San Francisco gangster Joe Parente was introduced to John Dillinger’s gang. After a series of bank robberies and the murder of a federal agent in Wisconsin, Gillis gained nationwide notoriety as “Baby Face Nelson,” feared even by Dillinger himself. Gillis and his young wife Helen returned to Sausalito briefly, and then took John Chase back to Illinois where they were cornered one night by federal agents.
“After a furious but brief gun battle, two agents lay dead, and the fatally wounded Baby Face Nelson was sped away by Chase and Helen Gillis. The two dumped his bullet-riddled body by the wayside and went their separate ways. Chase was later captured near Mt. Shasta in California in December, 1934, and later sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in the Chicago shootout. Sausalito’s constable Manuel Menotti flew to Shasta City to assist in the identification and capture of Chase when it was learned he was hiding there.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Menotti was thanked by no less than FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover for his help in the arrest of Chase. The Chronicle also reported: “John Paul Chase, Sausalito boy who ‘made good’ in gangland and shoulder-to-shoulder with Baby Face Nelson traded machine gun bullets with government agents in Nelson’s last stand, is to spend the rest of his life within rifle range of his boyhood home. But the prospect isn't pleasing to the 33-year-old hoodlum, who was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted under one of the new federal gangster-laws. ‘I think I'd rather dangle,’ he told he Associated Press. Chase's sentence will be carried out at the new escape-proof prison Alcatraz, after he has been taken first to Leavenworth for ‘seasoning.’”
Tour a Fantasy on the Water
By Annie Sutter
This story about Forbes Island appeared in the November 25, 1986 issue of the Marin Scope. The island left Richardson's Bay in 1991, and today is an elegant restaurant at Pier 39 in San Francisco.
One of the formerly best kept secrets in Sausalito is now an open door, so to speak. Forbes Island, the mystery shrouded, very private domain lying a mere 1/4 mile off our shore has just been opened for public tours. The host, a tall, dark haired and affable man with a penchant for luxurious surroundings, champagne and matters nautical has even let it be known that he has a name longer than just ''Forbes'' - it's Forbes Thor Kiddoo, reveal his latest brochures. For just $25 per person, visitors can be transported out to the island, share a glass of champagne with Forbes, enjoy the sandy beach, (800 tons of it), lounge beneath palm trees (planted in 120 tons of soil), and stroll through the Nemo-esque, opulent quarters below.
To go back to the beginning briefly, Forbes, whose business is building concrete barges for houseboats, began building his 100 x 50 foot concrete floating dream home in 1975. After nearly six years on the ways at Gate 3, Forbes, a skilled woodworker, had put in uncountable hours of labor, and over $800,000. By the time it was finished and furnished in his nautical-elegant-bronze-and-shine flamboyant style, the island was finally floated off the ways in December of 1980. This took a super-high tide and three days of pushing by a bulldozer and pulling by a tug. Finally the 700 ton barge splashed into its new element and was towed out to where it lies today offshore from Schoonmaker marina, anchored by several two-ton anchors.
It wasn't long before the media discovered this private nautical retreat. The Wall Street Journal, referring to Sausalito as a "chic and languid community," revealed the pleasures of Forbes Island, "expensive Persian rugs, a glass encased fireplace, a polished wooden bar, a wine cellar, a profusion of mirrors, and portholes that cast ethereal light."
It's all true. Passing a waterfall and a little stone cherub guarding the entrance, the visitor descends into a subterranean living room with bright sunlight shining through stained glass in the upper ports, and greenish, water-filtered light coming from the submerged ports. One port lies above an organ and Forbes often can be talked into playing the theme from "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea," a bit of spine tingling proposition down below the Bay in such elegant surroundings.
The long, varnished, wooden bar supports a profusion of polished silver candelabra, flowers, champagne glasses, decanters and a cask with a pipeline direct to the wine cellar. Appropriately for an undersea habitat, there is an assortment of dolphins captured in bronze, glass and wood atop the bar. The carved teak bar stools came from the salon of the mail steamer Mongolia, built in 1895, and sport bronze dolphins gliding around the backs. The floors are teak parquet, though you can't see much of them for all the Persian carpets. A chandelier, a round, glass enclosed fireplace, bookcases, an inlaid chess table, a grand piano and paintings of the sea and of ships grace the main salon. Another room contains a gallery of George Sumner's impressionist-marine paintings. In the dark, mirror lined wine cellar, a candle burns, making it seem one is seated in a vast cavern of wine bottles among an infinity of burning candles. The galley? Well, there's a large stove behind the bar, and that's the galley, along with a freezer and ice-maker, of course. Forbes, a bachelor, eats out a lot.
Back up on the beach, you can sip champagne in a glass enclosed gazebo if the usual winds are kicking up, and watch an endless string of sail and power craft zooming by for a closer look at the island. Privacy has become a thing of the past, and Forbes seems to be having a great time hosting the tours as they arrive.
Where is The Dock of The Bay?
By Larry Clinton
It’s widely known that Otis Redding wrote his signature song, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” on a Sausalito houseboat, but which one? Conflicting accounts by two historians have fueled a mini-controversy on the docks. On the one hand, Derek Van Loan presents what he calls an eyewitness account in his book “Sausalito Waterfront Stories”:
In 1967 Otis Redding and his band and road crew were driving past the Heliport on U. S. 101 in a couple of dusty old black limos. The aged Caddies were so loaded with musicians, roadies and equipment that they’d scrape bottom on a shadow across the highway. Otis and his band were fed-up with touring; they’ d been on the road for months. For them life had become an uninspiring series of bland motels. And now they faced additional months of bookings in San Francisco.
As he drove, Otis just happened to look over and spot three large letters in the band practice room windows above the airplane hangers. “LSD farout!” Otis exclaimed, “Let’s go there.” And that’s how Otis Redding and his band came to live on a houseboat behind the Marin County Heliport.
It was a long, gray spring that year, and the modem, plastic houseboat they rented did little to dispel the damp, gloomy atmosphere that pervaded everything around them. The big Sikorsky commuter helicopter landed and took off throughout the day, marking the hours. The tang of jet fuel in the chilly air mingled with the muffled cacophony of several acid rock bands jamming simultaneously in practice rooms at the head of the dock.
At the other end of the dock lay a sunken bay freight boat, a relic of the 1920s, and the time before modern paved roads connected the delta cities around San Francisco Bay. The tired hull of the old vessel reclined in the mud, the salt tides washing in and out through her wooden bones. She was dark green, with flecks of white showing beneath her paint, which had cracked and flaked in the sun and salt air. The main deck was covered by a huge deckhouse and above that, on the upper deck, was a neat, glassed-in cabin, surmounted by a traditional pilothouse. The tall, skinny smokestack now served as a steel fireplace below. The signboard across the front of the pilothouse proclaimed “South Shore,” in genuine gold leaf letters… Aboard the old “South Shore” lived a collection of people, and some of them got to know Otis. It wasn’t long before Otis developed the habit of leaving his shiny, modern houseboat after he got up in the mid-morning, to saunter down to the old “South Shore.” And there he’d sit on the back deck in a creaky wicker chair and stare out over the bay as the salt water ebbed and flowed across the mud flats.
And, of course, as we all know, the song “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay” tells the rest...
But longtime Chronicle music critic Joel Selvin tells the story somewhat differently in the following excerpt from his book “San Francisco: The Musical History Tour”:
THE DOCK OF THE BAY, Main Dock, Waldo Point Harbor, Sausalito
In August 1967, Otis Redding played a six-night engagement at San Francisco’s Basin Street West. When some female fans discovered his hotel room, Redding decided to move to a more remote location, according to road manager Earl “Speedo” Sims. They rented a houseboat on the main dock of the Sausalito houseboat community and holed up.
Sitting not actually on the dock, but inside the houseboat’s living room, Redding, under the spell of the Beatles’ recently released “Sergeant Pepper” album, strummed guitar, while Speedo slapped the tempo on his legs, sketching out a song. On his return to Memphis, Redding underwent surgery to remove polyps from his throat and for some time couldn’t speak above a whisper.
When he finally returned to the studio in November, he was taken with a burst of creative energy, and recorded more than two dozen new songs in a few weeks. The last song he cut was that piece that had begun to take shape on the Sausalito houseboat: “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.”
The next day, he left for a Midwest swing starting in Cleveland. He left Cleveland for Madison, Wis., but never arrived. His twin-engine Beechcraft crashed into the chilly waters of Lake Monona, just short of his destination. When “The Dock of the Bay” was released in January, the record became the first No. 1 hit of his too-brief career.
The Sausalito Historical Society is attempting to resolve this controversy, in cooperation with the Marin History Museum’s upcoming Marin Rocks exhibition. If you can shed any light on the matter, or know of any photographs of Otis Redding on a houseboat, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walter Kuhlman: Sausalito Abstract Expressionist
By Peter Arnott
"I was there during the heyday -- when it was really jumping. There were lots of poets, writers and painters. Abstract expressionism was gung-ho. We didn't care if we were famous.” (From a Walter Kuhlman interview.)
When you’re a pioneer, sometimes you may not be aware of it. All you know is it’s an exciting time, and you’re surrounded by exciting people -- creating what will be later acknowledged by art historians as the first specifically American art movement to achieve worldwide influence.
We’re in the 1940s and ‘50s, and there’s something new happening in New York and San Francisco that has turned the eyes of the Art World away from Paris. Abstract Expressionism. In this case, American Abstract Expressionism.
Just as, following WWI, avant-garde writers like Ernest Hemmingway and Ezra Pound flocked to Gertrude Stein’s salon in Paris to take part in a renaissance of American literature, so, following WWII, avant-garde artists flocked to San Francisco to take part in a renaissance of American art.
One of those avant-garde artists is Walter Kuhlman, the son of Danish immigrants, who left his native Minnesota to enlist in the Navy, where he served as an illustrator in the Medical Corps, prompting a later art critic to observe that Kuhlman’s contact with the dead and wounded may be responsible for “the fearful shadow side of human nature” found in his paintings.
Now, out of the Navy, he moves to San Francisco, where he takes advantage of the G. I. Bill to join other veterans at the California School of Fine Art in what is considered “the golden era” of that institution. Many students have already been to art school, and some, like Kuhlman, have already worked as professionals before the war. For Kuhlman, the school is not so much about “instructors and students” as it is about “older artists and younger artists.” And the thrill of -- together -- creating something new.
Kuhlman remembers... “It was not like the organized art schools today where everybody is degree-nutty. In those days, the school was so free. You’d come in in the mornings, paint until two o’clock, then go down to Bruno’s and drink wine.” Kuhlman continues, “I never even got a certificate from the school. I guess they gave them, but it didn’t matter. We were painting. We didn’t care if we were famous. We were all out of the war -- and survived. We didn’t look to tomorrow. We just painted.”
It was during those years that Kuhlman built a house in Sausalito. It’s still there, on Glen Court, still in the family. He built it himself at a cost of $5,000. In 1950, Kuhlman left the school to spend a year in Paris, after which he returned to Sausalito -- there to spend the next 58 years.
In 1955, Kuhlman was the first artist to rent a space in the Industrial Center Building -- beginning a tradition that continues today. You’re welcome to drop in to ICB Room 335, and visit the Kuhlman Gallery.
Over the years, Kuhlman has been honored with many distinguished awards. “But,” he says, in his quiet, self-effacing way, “you can’t find happiness in the minds of others.”
Today, examples of Kuhlman’s ground-breaking work hang in major museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the British Museum in London.
And he has graced the faculties of several Bay Area institutions, such as Stanford University, Santa Clara University -- and Sonoma State University, where he taught for two decades.
After a long and distinguished career, Walter Kuhlman died in March of 2009 at the age of 90. During his lifetime, when asked to comment on his art, Kuhlman typically looks inward. “I just get the canvas dirty,” he says, “and then dream into it.” And he continues, “It’s the emergence of life ... living things coming out of a shadow ... I never know what happens.”
And finally, the confession of the truly talented: “How do I know?” Walter Kuhlman says, “I just do it.”
Two Walter Kuhlman monotypes are included in the exhibit “Artistic Sausalito,” along with original works by other artists from the 1940s and ’50s who gave Sausalito its reputation as an art colony. The public is invited to view the exhibit on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 2 PM at the Historical Society Gallery, Sausalito City Hall, Second Floor.
Sausalito, Then and Now
by Larry Clinton
The Sausalito Historical Society concluded our pilot schools outreach program last week with a recognition ceremony for third grade students at Willow Creek Academy and Bayside School.
The program was the brainchild of SHS board member Susan Frank who wanted to give local students the opportunity to see themselves as a part of Sausalito’s history. It began in March when Historical Society docents visited the classrooms of teachers Anne Siskin at Willow Creek and Ellen Franz at Bayside to share “then and now” photos, maps and artifacts. The children were each encouraged to pick one of a dozen historic buildings to research in Sausalito’s Downtown Historic District, and in April, docents led students, teachers and parents on a field trip to see how the buildings have changed over the years. Students had their photos taken in front of the buildings they had selected to research, then wrote reports on what they had learned. At last week’s ceremony, students received a framed photos and copies of their reports, courtesy of Bob Woodrum of Sausalito Picture Framing.
Since introducing new generations to Sausalito’s rich history is the best way of keeping that history alive, the SHS is especially grateful to the participating teachers and their assistants, Principal Carol Cooper from Willow Creek Academy, Principal Jonnette Newton from Bayside School and Sausalito Schools Superintendent Debra Bradley. The docents, who made this pilot program such a success, include Jeanne Fidler, Susan Frank, Ann Heurlin, Roland Ojeda, Jesse Seaver, Robin Sweeny, Bob Woodrum, Margaret Badger, Vicki Nichols, Randy Berner, Doris Berdahl and Julie Warren. We also deeply appreciate the cooperation of participating downtown merchants, especially Lappert's who provided ice cream for all the students, and the Chamber of Commerce for their help with the field trip. But most of all, we’re grateful to the children for their interest in Sausalito, past and present.
A report written by Mia Krueger of Willow Creek and a poem composed by all the Bayside School third-graders illustrate the level of creativity the students brought to this project.
Next fall, the Historical Society will conduct a similar program focusing on Marinship.
by Albert Haas, Jr.
Sterling Hayden rented the pilot house of the retired Sausalito ferryboat “Berkeley” where he lived during the ’60s while writing his autobiography, Wanderer. He has been described as “actor, author, sailor, model, Marine, and OSS agent.” All true, but by no means complete.
Though he often professed contempt for movie-making as well as money-making, Paramount Studio viewed him as a valuable property, sometimes referring to him as “The Most Beautiful Man in the Movies.” When their publicity department sought a more lyric description, they called their 6’5” actor “The Beautiful Blond Viking God.” He married his first leading lady, Madeline Carroll, but that was only the beginning of that aspect of his life. Hayden was married five times, three times to the same woman. He had six children.
Hayden had roles in thirty-five films. Perhaps his most memorable was in 1960 when he played the psychotic “General Jack D. Ripper” who ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. In addition to his autobiography, Wanderer, his most ambitious writing endeavor was Voyager, a 700-page novel about the sea.
When only fifteen years old he ran away to sea, and not long after took his first job on a schooner en route to California from New London, Connecticut. A spell as a fisherman on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland followed. As a fireman aboard a steamer, he made eleven trips to Cuba. Awarded his first command in 1938 when he was 22 years old, Hayden skippered a square rigger from Gloucester to Tahiti. Twenty years later, after a bitter divorce, and in defiance of a court order, he was to return to Tahiti with four of his children.
As an OSS agent during World War II, he ran guns through German lines to Yugoslav partisans and parachuted into fascist Croatia. He established air crew rescue teams in enemy-occupied territory and parachuted behind enemy lines.
Sterling Hayden died in Sausalito in 1986.
This memory of one of Sausalito’s most famous characters is from a privately-published booklet by Albert Haas, Jr. called “Tales from a Hillside Hamlet.” Albert did much of the research for the book at the Sausalito Historical Society, and a copy of his limited edition booklet is in the Society’s collection.