2012 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.

Marin’s Top Gun: Part II

December 19, 2012

Frank Lloyd Wright cut quite the dashing figure in his cape and hat as he walked beside another dashing figure, that of Sheriff Louis P. Mountanos, exploring the ranch in northern Marin that would one day become the site for the Marin County Civic Center. Mountanos remembered that at one point, Wright pointed to a lone tree standing on the hill. “We’ll save that tree,” he said… and they continued on.

Sheriff Mountanos at his retirement.

IJ staff photo by Scott Henry

Sheriff Mountanos was re-elected to office 4 times, from 1958 to 1978, but his first place of office, Sausalito, would always be special to him.  At one point as Chief of Police of Sausalito, he was called to investigate an assault case in which the celebrated union leader Harry Bridges was punched in the nose in the restroom at controversial madame Sally Stanford’s Valhalla restaurant.  By the time he arrived, Sally had settled the matter and no arrests were made.

Then there was that morning in 1955 when the movie crew from the new John Wayne film “Blood Alley” was filming a scene on the waterfront in Marinship.  They were making fog with an old Liberty airplane engine resting on a sea mule in the harbor and burning diesel fuel.  It looked like the real stuff and when it wafted up to Waldo Grade, it blocked the morning traffic.  After inspecting the scene, Chief Mountanos went down and told the crew that they would have to figure out a way to control their fog.

Chief Mountanos would later tell the story of how the new John Wayne film had once been the new Robert Mitchum film.   Wayne had been flown out from New York to replace Mitchum after he had been fired because of a dunking incident in which a picture company staff member was pushed into the bay off of Angel Island.  Wayne and Mountanos got along well and the Chief always described Wayne as a big and friendly fellow.  Both the Chief and Wayne hoped that Mitchum would learn from this folly, but Wayne assured the Chief that this incident would not hurt Mitchum’s career.

Being involved with the community was always one of Sheriff Mountanos’s greatest achievements, but as time went on and he watched the surge in Marin’s population, he saw his duties change as Sheriff.   Now he was involved with the courts, the jail and other facets of official business.  One of these was to bring him into a relationship that he later would have to defend, that being his connection to the group Synanon.

The group was founded in Santa Monica, in 1958 as a drug rehabilitation program by one Charles E. Dederich. In 1971, he moved part of his organization to San Francisco.   The Synanon approach to drug rehabilitation was at that time one to be proud of and the Synanon community had as one of their biggest supporters, governor Ronald Reagan. 

So when the group made their move to Marshall, Sheriff Mountanos supported them.   It was later in 1977 that the group would prove to be a cult with alleged criminal activities including attempted murder and Federal and Civil problems with the IRS.

It was also around this time that the development of Waldo Point Harbor on the Sausalito waterfront erupted into out and out war.  As Sheriff of Marin, Mountanos felt that he had to protect the rights of the owners of the property who wanted the people living there to leave and open up the area for development.

Those people had other ideas, and when officers were sent in they were met with waterfront resistance that was shown on the 5 o’clock news and around the world. 

Later critics would say that the Sheriff had been soft on Synanon and much too hard on the residents of Waldo Point Harbor.  Mountanos would say that’s “baloney.”  Yet in 1978 he was defeated, and after an awesome 20-year career in law enforcement, he had to step down.

The Marin Independent Journal reported that his retirement celebration, in November, 1978, drew over 500 friends, associates and family members.  Among the accolades were tributes from the California Legislature, the Marin County Police Chief’s Association, the Marin County Board of Supervisors and many others.

That Sheriff Louis P. Mountanos, held office for so long (1958 -1978) was a strong indication that he was doing his job and as a Greek with that warrior background …what else could he do but a job that would make his ancestors proud.

Louis P. Mountanos, Marin’s Top Gun

December 12, 2012

By Steefenie Wicks

Louis Mountanos when he was police chief of Sausalito
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

There were three of them, Frank Lee Morris, the brains of the outfit with an IQ of 133, and the Anglin brothers, Clarence and John W. … would their plan work?  Sometime in the early hours of June 13, 1962 they put their plan to work and escaped from Alcatraz.   Their bodies were never found but in Sausalito, the escape raft washed up at the foot of Johnson Street and was discovered by artist Barney West.  The police were called and the scene took on a life of its own.
Arriving in his vehicle and known for looking quite dashing was Sheriff Louis P. Mountanos, who ordered patrols all along the Marin waterfront.  Sheriff Mountanos had been named Sausalito’s Police Chief in 1955, when he was only 27 years old.  At that time he was one of the youngest police chiefs in California and with his youth came daring that would one day make him a political leader in Marin County.  Mountanous, elected sheriff in 1958, would run for re-election four times and win.  One hears of individuals who become legends in their lifetime, and it is safe to say that Louis P. Mountanos was one of those individuals.

Mountanos was the son of Greek immigrants born and raised in the tight Greek community of the San Francisco Mission District. He attended Mission High School and served in the Navy during WWII.  After the war he returned home and became a member of the San Francisco police force, then found his way across the Bay to Sausalito, where his destiny awaited.  

In his career as Sheriff, the escape from Alcatraz would be only one in a list of world news events his name would be connected with.  In 1953, it was written in the local Sausalito newspaper, that Mountanos, “decided that he could not let the Greek royalty pass through these parts with out a personal greeting.”  The article went on to mention that Mountanos, whose parents came from Sparta, spoke in Greek to Frederika, the German-born queen when she and the King visited Muir Woods.  He reported that her English and Greek were “out of this world.”
In 1963, Mountanos, as Sheriff of Marin County, told the Sausalito Board of review that things had been very different in Sausalito when he was Police Chief. “The Chief of Police should be the City manager… meaning that all decisions should rest with him and not some City Manager who wants to write memorandums.”  Never one for memorandums, Mountanos the maverick went his own way.  Then, in 1970, an event that rocked Marin County took place in a shoot-out at the Marin County Civic Center.

On the morning of August 7, 1970 a call came over the police scanner about a possible gunman at large in the court area of the Marin County Civic Center.   News photographer James J. Kern would later testify that he had been on a call at Marin General when he heard the call come over the scanner.  

When he arrived on the scene, Kern said he saw Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, a shotgun taped around his neck, and convict James McClain, holding a jurist in a tight grip, another gun at the judge’s head, and also holding something that looked like a “home made bomb.”    Sheriff Mountanos and two deputies were standing against the wall, their hands up.   Mountanos, is quoted as telling the convict McClain, “if you blow his [the judge’s] head off I’ll blow yours off.”  To this day no one is sure who yelled “fire,” but as the inmates tried to drive away from the Civic Center, when the smoke clearedall you could see were bodies.

This event became known as the attack to free the “Soledad Brothers” and would result in the death of Judge Haley, 17 year old Jonathan Jackson and convicts James McClain and William Christmas.  In 1972, a young woman named Angela Davis went on trial for this event.  But it would be the career of Mountanos that began to crumble.
Because by the late 1970s the “House Boat Wars “ on the Sausalito waterfront would challenge his authority with what was filmed and reported as an out and out “war”on the waterfront houseboat dwellers by the local police and Sheriff’s departments. Mountanos defended his department’s handling of the Waldo Point Harbor houseboat “riot” and felt that his job was to move his department toward more modern crime fighting technology.

But in 1978 he was defeated and left his position in Marin to become part of the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company.  In 1982 he ran for Congress as a conservative Democrat and lost to Barbara Boxer. 

Mountanos was a graduate of the FBI academy, a Greek with a heritage that led back to Sparta, and he led his life as a warrior who faced the challenges of his world with the spirit of his ancestors. 

Victory For Deaf Chippers

December 6, 2012

The following article is excerpted from a January, 1943 issue of  The Marin-er, a newsletter for workers at Marinship. 

Standing in front of a stern frame, five deaf chippers spell out VICTORY in sign language.
Marin-er photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society.

Chippers prepped and painted steel plates in Marinship’s Plate Shop, often using loud pneumatic tools.  THEY are deaf mutes—unable to hear a word spoken to them—yet they are doing a BETTER job than many other workers can do. They are the chipper gang in the Plate Shop, working on all three shifts. With them deafness is a blessing, an occupational aid which makes them better fitted to help our nation build the ships for Victory!

Several months ago Ray Brown, head man of all riveters and chippers in the yard, thought of using deaf mutes as chippers.  So he spoke to John “Dutch” Philes, chipper leadman in the Plate Shop, and they got hold of Frank Dentici, who is entirely deaf.

As an experiment Dutch put Frank to work in the Plate Shop as a chipper, and the results were favorable.  So, Frank got some of his pals, who are also handicapped by deafness, to join him. They all went to work under Dutch on the day shift.
After all, it was a natural. The toughest thing about chipping is the terrific noise, enough to drive normal chippers into a case of the jitters if they aren’t careful.

Chippers who can’t hear aren’t bothered by the noise. Of course, there’s still plenty of vibration and plain hard work in chipping—but a deaf chipper is still ahead of a chipper who can hear it all.

One big problem was communication. Dutch didn’t know any more about the sign language than any of us do.  So he had to learn how to be a deaf mute while hisbuddies were learning how to be chippers. Now, Dutch can speak with his hands with the best of them. It has worked out—not as a handicap—but as a big help. Now, it doesn’t matter how noisy the double bottom Dutch and his men are standing on. They can talk to each other with a literal flick of the wrist!

Almost from the beginning it worked like a charm. More deaf chippers were added, so that they are now on duty in the Plate Shop around the clock.  And maybe you think Dutch isn’t proud of his unusual gang! They are good workers, don’t beef, and have a fine record on production, absenteeism, and War Bonds.

What are these deaf mutes like? Well, they are just like you or me, except they lack the ability to hear or talk as we do. They are a swell, game bunch. Here are some typical ones. Charles Martucci is happily married and mighty proud of his three children. Frank Dentici has two children. Both met their wives while they were attending school for deaf mutes in Berkeley. Nick Kanihan will be remembered as a star fullback for Santa Rosa High School in 1934. Paul Auteri is a basketball player, and others of the gang like football and bowling.

So when you pass the Plate Shop and see some of the boys wiggling their fingers at each other through a curtain of chipper noise, you’ll know that it is some of the 14 deaf mutes who are doing a swell job building ships.
Say hello to them. . . they won’t hear you, but they’ll recognize your smile!

Copies of the Marin-er and other Marinship publications are in the archives of the Sausalito Historical Society.

Larry Moyer, A Sausalito Waterfront Original 

Friday, November 30, 2012

By Steefenie Wicks

The following is excerpted from an oral history recorded for the Historical Society.

The Sausalito waterfront has always attached itself to the concept of freedom, a dream that is part of the California culture.   As Larry Moyer says, “A lot of artists and everyone else are looking for freedom and for some reason people are attracted to the waterfront because of the freedom it presents.”

Larry Moyer at home on the ‘Evil Eye’

Photo courtesy of Steefenie Wicks

Larry Moyer is a 40-year resident of the Sausalito waterfront. He has worked as an artist, filmmaker, photographer, union organizer and at one time he taught dancing at the Arthur Murray Studio in Los Angeles.  During the late 1970’s he would become one of the Sausalito waterfront organizers to help fight the development that was taking place at Waldo Point Harbor and changing the lives of all who lived there.

“I’m a transplant,” Larry says. “I was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1924 and all I ever wanted to do was be a gangster.  They had cool cars and lots of women and growing up I thought, hey that’s what I want to be.  Then one day there was a shoot out on my street and I saw this gangster lying in the street with blood running down into the gutter; it was at this point that I decided I did not want to be a gangster.  My father and uncles were part of the old Bolsheviks and had fought in the Red Army so it was only natural that I would be involved in civil rights long before the Civil Rights movement.
“When I grew up we hung out with Blacks and Black culture was what we associated with, it was just part of my life, a natural part. But then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and if they hadn’t, I doubt if you and I would be sitting here talking.  Because that’s what brought me to California.” And with that he blows out a cloud of smoke from his cigar.

“It was after Peal Harbor that I came to California. I worked on the submarines at Mare Island and we were sent on a big convoy to Hawaii.  It was during my time in Hawaii that I tried to help organize the working girls.” I can see the twinkle in his eyes as he continues. ”You see, the girls were only getting $3 for 3 minutes of service and they wanted to get $4 for that 3 minute service, so I helped them get organized; to this day I’m not to sure how that worked out,” he says with a laugh.  “World War II was a horrible war and it served to screw up a lot of people but for me I had a great time. 

I traveled all over the world and in 1957 I was standing in Red Square in Moscow and I looked over at this guy that was looking at me, we approached each other, his name was Shel Silverstein and we became great friends.  We lived together and traveled together, later we both worked for ‘Playboy’ magazine.  This was from 1957 to the middle 1970’s.  I was working as a photographer and did some film stuff.   But I was ready for a change and Shel and I ended up here on the Sausalito waterfront and that was back in 1967, ‘the summer of love’ … 45 years ago.”

We are conducting this interview from Larry’s home on board the ‘Evil Eye’ a floating home that shelters Larry and his wife, artist Dianne Kasden, and their 6 cats.

I asked him how he liked living on a houseboat.  “In the old days there were a lot of artists here, they were all here because we paid no rent.  It was like living on a movie set and we were all in costume and every day was different from the last.”  He shifts in his chair and looks past me as he continues, “Yeah, I can remember those days when you could shop at the Mohawk gas station and get anything from girls, dope, guns to alcohol and gas at that spot.  It was the old days when you wore cowboy boots and carried a big buck knife, you knew everyone and you hung out together … you felt good just hanging out together.”  As he moves to pet one of the many cats that have joined us, he continues, “Yeah, this is Shel’s boat, Dianne and I are now the care takers for the Shel Siverstein Trust.  Shel was a great guy and I had many an adventure with him but a lot of them…you can’t write about.”

I ask him if he could say anything about his years on the waterfront and the changes that he has seem and his response was: “We may have lost the battle but we have won the war.  When we came we paid no rent but we fought for the right to stay.  Buckminster Fuller was one of our champions and he wrote many a piece in favor of what we were doing.  Alan Watts was another champion who came here to live the freedom that he spoke of and taught.  There is a certain spirit about the place that will always attract artist, writers and thinkers.“  As he rises from his chair and walks to a window overlooking the Bay he turns to me and says, “Whatever you want to do it’s out there and you can do it.  There is always a way of going and doing and with that … I think this interview is over.”

Who’s Waldo?

November 23, 2012

By Larry Clinton

If you’ve ever wondered who the Waldo Tunnel, Waldo Grade and Waldo Point were named after, here’s one theory. The source is Louise Teather’s 1986 book, Place Names of Marin.

“A street called Waldo appears on the first map of the Sausalito Land & Ferry Co. in 1869. It is believed to have been named for Waldo, Oregon, then a prosperous mining town where gold had been discovered in 1852.

William Waldo: his name lives on in Sausalito

William Waldo: his name lives on in Sausalito

“Waldo was located just over the state border. Until 1854 the miners there thought they were in California so they named the town for William Waldo, Whig Party candidate for governor, and voted for him.”  In 1853, Waldo had campaigned in Sailor's Diggings, mistakenly believing the town to be part of California. Official records noted that the names Sailor Diggings and Waldo were used interchangeably.

“The town thrived until after World War I,” according to Teather, “and then gradually died. By the late 1930's most of the townsite was mined away. Today it is a ghost town with only a marker placed by the Josephine County Historical Society to remind visitors of its past. In Sausalito, Waldo Street has disappeared from the map, but the name is perpetuated with Waldo Point, at the foot of Waldo Grade; Waldo Court in Marin City; and the Waldo Tunnels. During the days of the railroad a station called Waldo stood opposite the point.”

Place Names of Marin is part of the collection of the Sausalito Historical Society, and may be perused during the Society’s public hours, Wednesdays and Saturdays, between 11 AM and 1 PM.

The Nunes Brothers Boat and Ways Co.

Friday, November 2, 2012

By Annie Sutter

Photo Marin Scope

Photo Marin Scope

The Nunes brothers, Manuel and Antonio, came from the island of Pico in the Azores. They emigrated to California in the late 1800s and began boatbuilding on the Sacramento river circa 1898. In 1925 the brothers made the move to Sausalito, taking over the Reliance Boat and Ways Co. at Second and Main. Over the next 35 years they designed and built a great variety of vessels. Power cruisers, sailing yachts, luxury yachts, fishing boats, large commercial vessels, runabouts and race boats were launched regularly.

In 1927 they built the yawl Truant, a 66-foot racing yacht. In 1928 they took on the construction of two huge tuna clippers, the 112-foot Funchal and Greyhound. In 1929 they were commissioned by the banker, Templeton Crocker, for a yacht so large it had to be built in the street alongside the shop, the 127-foot schooner Zaca.

The son who would eventually carry on the business was Ernie, who was 15 when the yard moved to Sausalito. He built his own boat, a 30-meter racing sloop Teaser, and raced in regattas with Myron Spaulding, Joe McAleese, and Herb Madden, to name only a few of the Sausalitans competing on the bay in the early 30s. Star Boats, Bird Boats and Golden Gates were popular.

#24 Frolic's Launch in 1943 at the Nunes Brothers Boat & Ways Company.

#24 Frolic's Launch in 1943 at the Nunes Brothers Boat & Ways Company.

It was during the ‘30s that most of their successful class racing boats were designed. First was the 23-foot Bear; the boat was immediately popular and remains active in class competition today. The company brought out a larger version, the Big Bear; only a few were built, and it would be redesigned into the popular 30-foot Hurricane. In 1938 Ernie designed the Mercury, which would become a great success a decade later. Only a few were built at that time, for the war made production of pleasure craft impossible. Production continued, but it took a new direction; Coast Guard vessels, government contracts, and two 88-foot tugs were constructed for the U.S. Army.

After the war, the yard expanded to include a “do it yourself” area, and it was then that the building of Bears and Hurricanes began. Sailors could buy a boat in any of a number of stages of completion and finish it in the yard. The yard laid the keel, and then the builder followed the design from a mold. Two sailors who built Bears there recall: “You’d buy the hull and the mold — for $10 a month you’d get the use of your space and the use of tools. They were the most generous people with help and equipment. If there was ever anyone who helped people to go sailing it was them — they’d sure give you advice if you had the sense to ask for it.”

It must have been a busy scene in the mid ‘40s. The long narrow shop had expanded to include a shed to the south where Bears were built, and another shed on the beach for Hurricanes and repair work. There was an office in the front of the long building, and a machine shop with a big, powerful band saw. Manuel’s design loft was upstairs.

Launchings were an excuse for a party. “They’d blow the whistle and everybody’d drop what they were doing and come running,” one wag reported. Fishermen docked at nearby piers always came running for the parties, too. Parts of the movie “Lady from Shanghai” with Orson Welles were filmed there.

In 1946 Ernie set up his own shop across the street in a large tin shed at Second and Main and went into production of Mercuries — the boat he had designed in 1938. It was a kit boat, built of plywood. The purchaser bought the plans and precut plywood pieces and put it to together himself. It was a very popular design, and Mercury fleets sprang up all over California.

In the mid 1950s they built a harbor in the cove. They drove pilings and installed piers and slips, and for breakwaters towed in barges that had been used as navy targets. Unfortunately winter southerlies are common at the cove, and they played havoc with the harbor. One winter a barge got loose, and the Coast Guard had to tow it back. The harbor was fated to be short-lived, and by 1962 the boats were all gone. In 1959 the yard closed. A complex of apartments called Portofino rose on the site. Across the street at Second and Main Ernie continued a limited production of Mercuries. He closed that shop in 1962, and all that remains today are the rusting shed and a few signs.

Today at high water, waves lap at the front of the Portofino apartments, and at low tide you can see the old ways on the beach looking like railroad tracks going into the water. The pier at Valley Street used by the fishermen is gone. Two of the old target barges are still there, and at low water their twisted and rusted spikes are visible. The old Nunes pier sags and tilts, and it’s fenced and off limits. That’s all that’s left of the yard — but there are a lot of yachts sailing on the bay today to stand as testimonial to the quality of workmanship and the skill of the builders at the Nunes Brothers.

Richardson’s Bay: What Could Have Been

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

By Mitch Powers

Can you imagine Coney Island in Richardson’s Bay?  It might have happened if Joseph Strauss had his wish. This and other off the wall bay development schemes are described in Mitch Powers’ new book, “A brief history of Sausalito and Richardson’s Bay.”  Here are some excerpts:

Joseph Strauss  Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Joseph Strauss

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

In December 1935 Joseph Strauss, chief engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge, proposed filling in the northern half of Richardson’s Bay to create an amusement park, coliseum and airfield, among other things. Fortunately this idea never materialized. Prior to the 1939 World's Fair officials considered dumping fill in a large section of the northwestern bay, thinking that once filled and leveled the area could be used for an airport after the fair. In the end, they selected Goat Island shoals next to Yerba Buena Island, filled the area in and created Treasure Island.

In 1912 there was a proposal to cut a four mile channel from Tennessee Valley Cove (the channel being located on the west side of Richardson’s Bay Bridge) over to Richardson’s Bay, thus creating a backdoor shipping canal into the Bay. This idea came up again in 1936 when the Navy was eyeballing Richardson’s Bay as a potential submarine base. The idea was to avoid the treacherous Potato Patch off the coast as well as the fog drenched entrance at the Golden Gate. The Sausalito City Council liked this idea because for some time they had wanted to dredge out a deeper channel so ships could travel farther up into Richardson’s Bay In conjunction with building the canal the Navy would also have to dredge a deeper route along the waterfront. However, the Navy scrapped the whole plan.

One reason for the construction of the Bay Model in 1957 was that in the 1940s John Reber, a local theater producer, devised the Reber Plan to build two dams in the Bay to create freshwater reservoirs. The dams were to be built where the San Rafael Richmond and Bay Bridges are today. Congress allotted $2.5 million to study the proposal. The Bay Model, at a cost of $400,000, was constructed to run tests to help determine the validity of the Reber Plan. Reber died in 1960 before the tests were finished in 1963, determining his plan unfeasible.


Mitch Powers’ book is currently available at the Ice House.  It also contains tour itineraries of the Sausalito waterfront, either by foot, by car, or by boat.

The Last of the Lassen

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

By Annie Sutter

This story is from the MarinScope of 12-20-83 - a time when the old Sausalito waterfront was rapidly changing.

Two pieces – literally pieces – remnants of Sausalito's old waterfront were hauled out of the water’s edge where they resided and placed back on shore in the little stone enclave at the foot of Johnson St. that houses the remains of the old lumber schooner Lassen. In this case, it wasn’t a wrecker or a developer that took away yet another of our historic old ships; the storm and high tides of Dec. 3 tore the stern apart, floated the decking away and flung the pieces into the mud at the bay's edge. Volunteers with tow trucks winched the remains of the bow up on shore at high tide and they will be imbedded in concrete to prevent their being carried away again.


Built in 1917 at Hoquiam, Washington, the 180' Lassen was the second built of a new type lumber ship, one with an oil-driven engine which revolutionized the steam driven engine of the standard wooden coastwise lumber schooner. For years, the Lassen carried lumber up and down the coast for her owners, quietly and uneventfully going about her business. In 1932, in Oakland, there was a fire in engine room, serious enough to end the lumber schooner’s working career, and she was towed to the Arques Shipyard at Johnson Street, to the place where the remains lie today.




 Then began the Lassen's nearly three decades as waterfront home and headquarters for an art community born when Ed and Loyola Fourtane, who were to become renowned for their exquisite jewelry, chartered the Lassen in 1936. "Chartered," for then she was still considered a sea-going vessel, one of many old ships in the Bay area destined to be dismantled, scrapped, burned or sunk. But then in the 1930s, historic vessels had been beached all over Sausalito. The bay went further inland than it does today, and Sid Foster's yellow harbormaster's office stood like a tiny train station across from today's Flynn's Landing restaurant, and you could cross a plank to a long shed and walk out through the boatyard to a motley and wonderful assemblage of houseboats and aging vessels; a happy community with geraniums, snoozing cats; sculpture and driftwood and a comfortable assortment of dockside debris, flotsam and marine junk.

The Fourtanes set up shop to make and show hand-made jewelry. They used the pilot house on the old ship for a showroom, with their workroom below. It took no time for discerning buyers to find them, and the rickety wharf and salty surroundings only added to the glamour. Since there were lots of spaces on board the ship, they soon had other artists working aboard. The Lassen became like an early day art commune... lots of space, delightful sea surroundings and friendly camaraderie. One of the artists who lived on board described the lifestyle, “I lived in the focs’l- at high tide I could drop a line through a hatch and catch a fish – there were so many perch their backs were sticking out of the water," he said. "The Lassen became a gathering place for artists and waterfront people …very impromptu parties, everyone brought a jug. Living was cheap, and artists stayed as long as it remained so. There were a great many painters, but no one seemed to be making much of a living. When tourists come here today they ask 'where are all the artists?' They suppose that artists will be lined up at their easels wearing berets. It was never like that.”  

In 1959 the City began condemnation proceedings, but the sea was taking its toll from Lassen. By the late 50s, storms had broken her back and the stern had begun to droop. Still, life on board went on. A rickety plank gangway occasionally dropped a tenant into the mud; holes in the hull became large enough to fish through; furniture slid sideways as the sagging increased and the forepeak filled with water at high tide. But in spite of   condemnation efforts, the Lassen remained right there and the tenants continued to move on and off until the mid 1960s when she became uninhabitable. In 1968 another fire finished most of what remained.

In the late 60s the muddy place that had been a shipyard was filled in, and today it’s a parking lot with pleasant landscaping. Old pieces of the Lassen lie sprawled at the water’s edge, thanks to the volunteers who thought it was a piece of our past worth saving. And so we still have those historic old pieces to look at; the last remnants of a working lumber schooner of 50 years ago, and a reminder of our own past when artists (who didn’t wear berets) created, partied, drank jug wine and lived an easy lifestyle that was too soon to pass. 

The Marin Fruit Company: A Peek into the Past

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

by Annie Sutter

This story ran in the Marin Scope in 1998 when the store closed after 83 years in Sausalito.



Last week a Sausalito landmark, the Marin Fruit Company, closed its doors, and its owners bid their customers and friends an emotional goodbye. "We are retiring" read the announcement taped to the window, "after all these years it is with great sadness to end an era of 83 years of a family run business. Please join us for a good-bye tea to reminisce, January 31, 1998. Nathan - Theodora Yee and Laura Jen. "And the people flocked to the store to say good-bye. Even before the tea began, well wishers began arriving, bringing cookies and scones and little sandwiches and a huge cake inscribed with "we will miss you." Trays of canapes donated by local restaurants, chocolate covered strawberries and tarts and flowers piled up on top of the freezers and the check out counter. People strolled past the bins where produce once was stacked, now filled with photos, newspaper clippings, memorabilia of several lifetimes. A big shiny cash register "not for sale, we've had it since the 30s," presided at the check out counter, still ringing up purchases throughout the day.


After 83 years of doing business in the same location, things can pile up. And what a "peek into the past" these things afforded those who passed through the store that day. The Yees displayed items found while they were cleaning out, saved and hidden in all the little out of the way places that things sneak into over the years. Bottles, boxes, tins, containers, and cartons on the rear shelves contained Wings Cigarettes, McCorrrick gelatin, Phenix bouillon cubes, and Schrader's ant powder. A grim female face frowning from the label of "Mrs. Stewart's Liquid Blueing" indicates that one must be serious, indeed, to spend time "blueing," the bottle cost 26 cents. We find that Major's Cement "is good" for repairing, among other things, "bisque statues and for tipping billiard cubes." Fifty cents will get you a can of Swift's Cleanser, $1.25 for a carton of cigarettes, 15 cents for a loaf of bread. Nathan's memory spans many a company change. "These are the tops of Uneeda cracker box tins - that became Nabisco, here is a Lucas Dairy milk bottle, that became Stornetta, and this one, a Marin City Milk Company bottle, was before my time" said Nathan. He pointed out a package of Ivory Snow showing a mother cuddling her baby, "a collector's item," he said, "because that's Marilyn Chambers, the Ivory Snow girl." Chambers, you may recall, went on to find fame in a very different field.

Alongside the register were stacks of receipts. In 1933 Aschoffs Bakery billed $14.25 for 95 loaves of bread - and 40 cents for two dozen rolls. Mondavi Burgundy delivered by the case in 1967 had a suggested retail of 45 cents a bottle - the price had escalated by 1970 to $1.89 a bottle.


People kept dropping in, and soon the wake-like atmosphere brightened as they moved through the store, admiring a little embroidered grocer's apron made by Nathan's mother when he was a boy, seeing two clocks that must've spent decades on the rear wall, one advertising Dad's Root Beer, and a Proctor & Gamble clock featuring "electric time." There was the ever familiar Coke sign, stacks of wooden milk cartons, rows and rows of red packaged boxes 'American fruit jar rings for canning,  and a large sign warning that "this store is equipped with Theft Detector Equipment."


People shared memories from over the years. "I remember a pole with a grabber on top that they used to reach high on the shelves, Willie would do that." And then Willie's daughter, Jackie Yee Choy, heard that and added, "It had a hook on top and a string, and you had to maneuver the box so you could get the hook on it and then squeeze the box. My father invented that contraption." A couple came in and handed Theodora a pink rose and said that they bought a basket of strawberries twenty years ago and took it across the street to eat, and that night he proposed to her, and she said "it's all because of you, and we're still together." The Ward family's recollections of the store span many generations. Ann Ward said that her mother-in-law remembers Yee Toc Chee, the Yee's grandfather, walking the streets selling produce from a basket on his shoulders, and Ann said that her son Jay "hung out there after school." What constitutes hanging out? I inquired. Jay answered, "Oh, sitting on the stool, twirling around, filling our faces with candy, bothering Willie. It was really special to be invited into the back room and see the old guys sitting around a card table." Another former schoolboy remembers a big fiber drum out on- the sidewalk full of dog biscuits - about five flavors designated by color. I'd walk by on the way home from school and dip into the barrel on the run, hoping to bring up my favorite color (it was charcoal, so I tried to grab a black one) but you had to go by fast so Willie wouldn't catch you." Then I asked him if the family was so poor that he had to eat dog biscuits, and he said "oh no, I just didn't have a Baby Ruth in my pocket."

Those who couldn't attend the tea sent notes, and they were taped to the front window. This one says it all. "I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Willie was so good to us. We all relied on him to carry us - sometimes months at a time when we were too broke to pay him. The closing of the store is like a death in the family to us. The last remnant of the golden age of Sausalito."


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

by Annie Sutter



The following article appeared in the Spring 1980 issue of the SHS Quarterly publication. It is about the first use of the building on Bridgeway where Scoma’s Restaurant currently resides. It has been lightly edited.

Mathias Lange was born in Norway and appeared in Sausalito in the late 1880s. By 1904 the enterprising young man had several boats at work around the Bay including the paperboat which delivered the San Francisco newspapers to Marin County. In 1907 the building which now houses Scoma's Restaurant became headquarters for his business and his advertisement proclaimed; LANGE'S LAUNCH CO - LAUNCHES FOR HIRE AT ALL HOURS.
And work aplenty there was for the few engine driven boats around Sausalito in the early 1900s; towing, water taxi, deliveries, fishing trips, private party cruises. "If you missed the ferry you called Lange; he brought the morning papers and late Sausalitans home from San Francisco."

He must have meant the "at all hours" on his slogan, for he left Sausalito every night at midnight to pick up the Chronicle and Examiner from San Francisco. He left there at 1:30 a.m. and delivered the papers first to Alcatraz, then to Angel Island,  Tiburon and Belvedere, and on to Sausalito, arriving at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. Three times a week he took papers to Mile Rock lighthouse outside the Gate. The lighthouse keeper would lower a bucket and Lange would deliver the papers to the bucket.  
According to his daughter, he was as faithful to his rounds as the proverbialpostman. "He nevermissedthe route, no matter how stormy. He would rope the steering gear, andsometimesthebow would be under water. He would go forward and throw oil to break the waves."

As the years went on his launches, the Marie L and the M. Lange were always hard at work, towing barges and anything that needed hauling, running yachtsmen out to boats moored in Richardson Bay, taking liveaboards home to laid-up sailing ships and freighters, and taking servicemen to their ships (fare 50 cents). These launches were in service for at least 30 years, for we find Lange taking the crew to and from the Zaca before she left Sausalito on a round-the-world cruise in 1930.

In the 1930s the sign changed, the new one featured CRABS AND HOT DOGS, and Captain Lange was known as Pop Lange. He sold bait, soda pop and beer, made sandwiches, took fishing expeditions, and advertised fresh crab. This building survives today, and in 1926 was moved slightly south. It has been a bar and a restaurant, notably the Tin Angel and the Glad Hand, and finally Scoma’s. It has been pushed out, added to, remodeled and redecorated, but underneath, it is still the same building.

The Bars and Saloons of Early Sausalito

Sunday, August 26, 2012

by Annie Sutter

Do you think poolrooms are places where you play billiards? Not in the Sausalito of the 1890s; they were places where people went to gamble by "pooling" bets on horse races. Do you think you get soda pop at a soda pop parlour? Not in Prohibition era Sausalito where "soda pop and cigar" stores sprang up to cover what everyone knew were speakeasies. Sausalito was a town where San Franciscans went to gamble, where local elections were swung by votes from the barrooms; a town that in its first beginnings sported a hotel and bowling alley before a church, a school or a post office.

reelsf.com   The Lady From Shanghai - Two Murders


The Lady From Shanghai - Two Murders

The first establishment believed to have been a bar in Sausalito was the Fountain House. Little is known of the Fountain House, and we can only presume that they sold liquor, for we have no ads, menus or firsthand accounts. The Fountain House was built in 1850 by a Mr. McCormack and was sold the next year to Capt. Dickenson and E.T. Whittlesey who operated it in conjunction with a bowling alley. In 1852 a hotel of unknown name was put up by "Bill the Cook" and it is never mentioned again. In 1854 Capt. George Snow built the Saucelito Hotel in Old Town; it burned in 1873.

The Buffalo Hotel was built sometime in the 1880s on the waterfront near what is now Scoma's. Little is known of the Buffalo's early days but we can be sure this one served liquor for it sported a sign saying, "Pabst Beer, 5cents". It was probably built by J. Lowder who sold it in 1893 to build the Walhalla. In the 1890s, political manipulating centered around the Buffalo. In those days poolrooms were centers for gambling and drinking and San Franciscans flocked to Sausalito on the ferries to bet on horse races. The City Councils of 1893 and 1894 prohibited poolrooms, the ordinances of 1896 licensed them, and in 1897 the licenses were revoked. Of course the attitude depended on who had been elected. The Buffalo Hotel played a big part in the elections. Anyone could vote in Sausalito who had been a resident for two weeks. Politicians went to San Francisco and gathered bums and barflies and put them up for two weeks at the Buffalo, all food and drinks, in exchange for votes.


By the time a large fire in 1893 wiped out many of the downtown bars, Sausalito had become a gambling center and a rowdy place where "a decent woman didn't like to pass through Water Street to get to the ferry. The whole town smelled of stale beer"; a town where 25 saloons clustered around the ferry docks and the railroad tracks. We can name some of them from a. newspaper report about a fire which began on the 4th of July 1893. "Guests at the El Monte Hotel were setting off fireworks and fire started on a roof below. The following saloons were destroyed: George Ginn's, M. Beiro's Saloon, the Ferry Cafe, the Lisbon House and the Tamalpais Hotel."


Three downtown establishments that were not destroyed in the fire were across the street. Then the Bay came right up to Bridgeway and the bars stood on stilts. There was the Arbordale, a beer garden, where the owner, Mama Kirstenmacher, sang opera for the patrons, and across the water on stilts was Claudino's Yacht House. It disappears from the records after placing an ad in the year book in 1900. The Walhalla was out toward Ft. Baker, and it was a loud and rowdy place with sawdust on the floor. They served seafood and had clambakes, and during Prohibition it was a bootlegging center. The No Name Bar, which had been called the Lisbon House, was rebuilt after the fire of 1894. It was variously called the Oak Grill, the Pine Lodge, and Herb's Club Cafe.

Today people still flock to Sausalito on the ferries and there are still many watering holes for those so inclined. Perhaps it is not as exciting as when you had to peek through a hole in the door and say, "Joe sent me," but perhaps not. In Sausalito the fun has always been where you make it.

History Beneath Your Feet

Sunday, August 26, 2012  

By Annie Sutter 

When you drive to the Spinnaker Restaurant, or walk along the southern edge of the Sausalito Yacht Harbor, you’re treading atop a treasure trove of nautical history. Enroute to the Spinnaker, you’re walking over an accumulation of Bay mud, shells, rocks and dredging spoils gathered over many years as fill for the street and parking lot. If you park at the yacht brokerage or the store next to the harbor, you’re walking over old ships, some with their engines still there.

Three vessels lie in a roughly east-west line beneath the parking lot at Bay and Humboldt. They were the steam schooners Mazama, Wellesley, and Santa Barbara, brought in by Herb Madden Sr. in the early 1940s to create the south bulkhead of the Sausalito Yacht Harbor. The area, says one resident old-timer, was just mudflats and a muddy basin where the Bay shallowed just east of Bridgeway. “My father bought three ships,” says Herb Madden Jr., “the Mazama, the steam schooners Wellesley, and Santa Barbara, vessels like the Wapama. These ships were all over the place then, and available because the building of the bridges made coastal steam schooners outdated.” The Mazama, a World War I wooden steam vessel, was much older than the others, and had been anchored offshore for years. Its engines and probably most of its gear had been removed, but the Wellesley and Santa Barbara, smaller lumber schooners, still had “engines, furnishings, everything,” said Madden. The three ships were towed in, filled with sand and then burned. Jack Tracy, in his historic book on Sausalito, Moments In Time, tells of an unexpected turn of events: “On the night of November 17, 1944, the old schooners were burned near the Madden and Lewis Yacht Harbor to clear the sand spit of hulks. Hundreds watched as the Mayor ignited an oil soaked rope leading to the ships. To everyone’s surprise, one of the vessels contained thousands of gallons of fuel oil, which burned fiercely throughout the night. Cities around the Bay watched in horror as they assumed Marinship or all of Sausalito was being consumed by flames. The next day as the fire continued, Sausalito was criticized in the San Francisco press for neglecting to inform others of the bonfire.”

Kids Keep Sausalito History Alive

Monday, July 23, 2012 

By Larry Clinton

he Sausalito Historical Society Schools Program again provided living history lessons to students from Bayside Elementary School and Willow Creek Academy this spring.   Third graders received workbooks with biographical sketches of noteworthy individuals, families and merchants who lived or worked in Sausalito around the turn of the 20th Century.  Then they visited the Historical Society research facility in City Hall touncoverphotographs and background information on how these people lived and what they did in Sausalito 100 years ago.
The program involved approximately 40 third grade students, third grade teachers Anne Siskin (Willow Creek) and Jim Scullion (Bayside), over a dozen SHS docents, numerous parents, school administrators and local businesses. Participating students received plaques including their photos and their research reports at a joint ceremony on June 4.  
Another Historical Society schools program is being planned for this fall.


Willow Creek

SHS volunteers Bob Woodrum, Vicki Nichols, Jeanne Fidler, Margaret Badger, Robin Sweeny, Roland Ojeda, Susan Frank and Larry Clinton (l. to r., top row) are joined by the head of Willow Creek Academy, Carol Cooper (bottom l.), teacher Ann Siskin (bottom, fourth from right) and Willow Creek students.

The Early Boatyards of Sausalito

Monday, July 23, 2012

by Annie Sutter 

Boatbuilding in Sausalito has been an ongoing activity from William Richardson's time to the present. The cove in Old Town provided an ideal site for the construction and repair of boats. Photographs of the 1880s show fishing feluccas in the cove and elsewhere along Sausalito's waterfront, when boatbuilding was mainly a family affair. A Sausalito Land and Ferry Co. map of 1873 shows two wharves at the foot of Richardson, probably used by fishermen. But the first mention of a boatbuilding business is found in the Sausalito News of 1890 which reports that "the California Launch Building Company is building a tugboat and a number of fine steam launches."

Shelter Cove was the home of the California Launch Building Company, and Bixen and Munfrey Boatyard circa late 1890—1900.

Shelter Cove was the home of the California Launch Building Company, and Bixen and Munfrey Boatyard circa late 1890—1900.

A boatyard called Brixen and Munfrey was in the cove about 1900, and was destroyed by fire in 1908. In 1920 William Hynes founded The Reliance Boat Company on the little beach, a spot described by his son as "A labyrinth of old docks with crab and salmon boats moored against ancient pilings - there were ways but no pier." This yard would be taken over in 1925 by the Nunes Bros. who would become famous for their tugs, barges, yachts, sailing vessels and Bay class designs.



Four men in front of wooden boat

Menotti Pasquinucci, an Italian immigrant, (holding hand saw) with newly built vessel and boatwrights, circa 1907.

Not the first, but a very early boatbuilder in Sausalito was Menotti Pasquinucci. He left his home in Viareggio, Italy in the early 1890s and set up shop in Sausalito in 1894 or 1895 at the foot of Turney Street. This business would remain at the same location for some sixty years. Early photos show an extensive family, cousins, brothers, and uncles at work in the yard, and the business would pass on to Menotti's son Frank as the years went on.

Although the yardremained in the same location at Turney St., the building burned down several times. A photo of the first building in the early 1900s shows a sign "New Sausalito Boat Builder - P. Menotti." Turney St. was then in the area called "New Sausalito," as opposed to "Old Town" which was around the cove at the foot of Valley. And the name is reversed. Menotti Pasquinucci, who was known as "Mr. Menotti," used the old country style of presenting his name, with his initial "P" coming first.

The Pasquinuccis built mostly small fishboats. A news­paper account credits them with building "more than 700 craft of one type of another" and people say "there goes a Pasquinucci" when a little fishboat resembling a Monterey chugs by. But they did build a few yachts, some for members of the San Francisco Yacht Club, and a 1907 photo shows a graceful sailing yacht, the Pagan Lady, alongside the shop. A note on the back of another photo says "a Pasquinucci hull design for a sail powered fishboat similar to a cat boat rig," also circa 1907.

By 1920, after another fire destroyed the building, a photo shows that P. Menotti has changed his name to M. Pasquinucci and the business to "Sausalito Boat Bldg Wks". By 1939 son Frank has taken over, has changed the name to F. Pasquinucci and has added Marine Ways, phone number 40. This building also burned, and, as evidence of the growing population, in 1946 the Sausalito Boat Bldg. Works phone number has become 970.

"The Spaulding Wooden Boat Center is one of the last remaining wooden boat yards on the West Coast. It is a working boatyard and a maritime museum, and has been described as a “cathedral of wooden boats.”  The filtered light, the sawdust and wood chips on the floor, the smell of paint and varnish and the rows of hand tools tell you that this is where boats are still being built the traditional way, with skilled shipwrights using natural materials. The mission of the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center is to restore and return to active use significant, historic wooden sailing vessels; preserve and enhance our working boatyard; create a place where people can gather to use, enjoy, and learn about wooden boats; and educate others about wooden boat building skills, traditions and values."


Six passengers, a captain and a docent from the SHS boarded the little Casco Bay lobster boat Dixie, pulled out from the dock at the end of the Wooden Boat Center and turned south into the channel. The docks of the Sausalito Shipyard and Marina came into view, berths filled with an assortment of vessels; modern houseboats, fishboats, pleasure craft, and a large tugboat tied to the outside. This was once called Jerry's Yacht Harbor, filled with little Monterey fishboats, many beautifully restored with their working Hicks engines still intact. Nearby is the spot where the famous Forbes Island was built, which slid down the ways on a high tide in the early 1980s to become a luxurious and controversial anchor-out in Sausalito; today the island is a high-end restaurant at Pier 39 in San Francisco. We are passing a historic jumble of docks and haul lifts, marine ways, boatyards and vessels in all stages of repair. This is the old Arques Shipyard, long a place where many old vessels, ferryboats, sailing ships, barges and scow schooners were hauled up onto the beach and left to rot or to be recycled. In the 1940s and 50s, when ferryboats were taken out of service on San Francisco Bay, this is where many ended up to be used as floating homes, studios, restaurants. There are working boatyards here, and Aquamaison, which builds concrete hulls for houseboats, and where houseboats can be hauled out of the water and repaired. The old Lefty's pier was used by fishermen, and once upon a time locals could go right down to the docks and buy fresh seafood off the boats.

This entire area of the waterfront was once occupied by Marinship, when Bechtel Co. was commissioned in 1942 to build Tankers and Liberty ships for World War II. Between 1942 and 1945, this huge complex built 93 ships for the war effort. Farther south Marinship Park marks the spot where the finished ships slid down the ways, and the Army Corps of Engineers docks and the Bay Model are located nearby. Commercial fishing vessels unload their catches at these docks, and it is a busy scene when the herring fishing season is open.

Then we pass Schoonmaker Point Marina, where hundreds of sailboats and powerboats are berthed and luxurious visiting yachts are side tied on the outside of the marina, some up to 200' long. This is the home of Gaslight, a replica of a working scow schooner of the 1800s, and Transquest, a modern research vessel. Schoonmaker Marina features a sandy beach, well used by families, dogs and picnickers, and a kayak and paddleboard rental agency.


Immediately adjacent is Galilee Harbor, named after the old sailing ship Galilee whose hull still lies in the mud, an active liveaboard community on a site long used for maritime activities. This was the site of the Napa St. pier, where in the 1870s and 80s fishermen and boatbuilders lived; then various boatyards flourished over the years; the Atlantic Boatbuilding Works in 1880, Oceanic Boatyard in the early 1900s, to Bob's Boatyard which opened in 1945.


Then Dixie turns around in the channel, and heads north. We pass Clipper Yacht Harbor, where seals are hauled out on the breakwater, enjoying the sun. Nearby we can just see the yellow stack of the ferryboat Vallejo, resting on the shore at Varda Landing, once home to artists and philosophers and the center of a free and easy lifestyle that characterized Sausalito. On to the houseboats of Waldo Point Harbor, the docks and piers built in the late 1970s , now occupied by elegant, colorful and well kept homes on the water, some new and modern, some restored relics of the assorted vessels that found their way to the houseboat communities. Most of the ferries have been lost, but the yellow vessel in the next harbor is the 1888 ferryboat the City of Seattle, now the flagship of the Yellow Ferry Harbor. With Richardson Bay Marina and Kappas Gate 6 1/2 ahead, we were getting in to the shallow end of the bay, so it was time to turn around in the channel and return to the Wooden Boat Center.


The next Open Houses and tours on Dixie will be held on June 9, July 14, August 18 and September 8. The Center is located at the foot of Gate Five Rd. For more information: www.spauldingcenter.org.

The Humming Toadfish Story

Monday, July 23, 2012

by Annie Sutter

A houseboater reports that he has again heard the mysterious humming sound that made national news and had the waterfront buzzing with theories several years ago. “Right on schedule,” he said, “It’s July and here they are. Kinda sounds like a refrigerator humming…” So, for those of you who were not around, or who may have forgotten some of the outrageous explanations of the source of the sound, here’s the story recycled from the Scope of December 1985. It turned out that it really was an amorous toadfish singing to attract a lady toadfish.

Do Singing Fish Do It?


Or is  the  nocturnal humming sound that’s been disturbing our houseboater’s sleep due to a less romantic source than an amorous plainfin midshipman buried in the mud of Richardson Bay, and singing to attract a lady toadfish? Many are the alternative explanations that have been proposed: a singing sewer outlet, the secret signal of a Soviet spy ring, a submarine sneaking around in SF Bay, some defunct railroad switching gear, and a giant electric razor. Now, however, we have it straight from the fish’s mouth, so to speak, an opinion from Dr. John McCosker, Director of the Steinhart Aquarium, who went out into Richardson’s Bay on board Charlie Merrill’s Cimba to solve the mystery of the nighttime hummmmm.

Mc Cosker, despite his impressive titles, has both the appearance and the enthusiasm of a college kid; the likes to swim with great white sharks, makes films about sea creatures for PBS, and researches exotic species such as the revolting slime eel. Now he’s delving into the mysteries of the singing toadfish, a singularly ugly little fish with a protruding chin, whiskers, and a spiny backbone. “I know what that noise is,” he said. “We’re gonna go out and prove that it’s the romantic hoo-hooing of the male toadfish during mating season.” “I saw it with my own eyes,” added Merrill, “I’ll tell you, there’s no question in my mind.”

There may be, however, questions in the minds of the many houseboaters who’ve had to live with this liquid buzz that’s heard only in the summer and which goes on and off as though a switch had been turned. Doubters offer: “Perhaps it is an orchestra of toadfish,” said Hugh Lawrence, “when you show me the leader in his little tuxedo and baton lining up the chorus and starting them all at the same time, I’ll believe.” Others deny that it could be a fish making such a steady sound without variation – “it’s some kind of electrical device,” said Tom Watson, resident of Yellow Ferry Harbor. But houseboaters’ opinions vary as much as do their abodes, and Chris Tellis, long time resident, is convinced that it is fish. “I’ve been listening to it for fifteen years,” he said, “and the sound matches their migratory patterns. Besides – anything THAT ugly would have to make a sound like that. The problem here is not singing fish, it’s the yuppification of the waterfront. The fish have always been here – it’s just the reaction that’s new. They finally got a press agent.”

Speaking of the press, the voyage on board Cimba put the houseboat community and its mysterious buzz into national news as McCosker, a couple of divers and staff from Channel 5 ventured into Richardson Bay to peep into the sex life of fish buried in the mud. At first they uncovered other items indigenous to Richardson Bay; tires, a boat’s rail, and mattress springs. Finally, following the humming sound with hydrophones, they zeroed in on the singing fish, dropped a net and brought it up caked with mud and containing ten specimens of  toadfish which were whisked off to the aquarium for observation. And yes, they sang, “and out of the water they go whoof – whoof,” said Merrill.

Whatever may be causing Sausalito’s buzzing hummmmm, theories about its source continue: a Japanese container ship loaded with vibrators ran aground and sank off Sausalito, masses of cuisinarts kicking in just after a Julia Child cooking class on PBS, from Phil Frank cartoons; other ideas were giant Magic fingers and low flying B52s; and “the only animal capable of filling an entire Bay with obnoxious sound is man,” vs “people have become so urbanized they don’t realize how much sound Nature can make – think about how much noise one little cricket can make in your house." One sure thing – residents will just have to chalk it up to one of the charms of living on the Bay.

The Queen aboard the ‘PACIFIC QUEEN’

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

bySteefenie   Wicks

Her name was Rose Kissinger and she became the only woman to spend 22 years of her life aboard the last full-rigger ship to fly the American flag … the ship’s name was the‘PACIFIC QUEEN’ aka the ‘BALCLUTHA’.

Christened the BALCLUTHA when she was launched in Glasgow in 1886, the 1500-tonner would carry cargo to India, South America, Australia, Africa and other ports for 15 years. In 1899, the vessel arrived in San Francisco waters, making frequent runs to the northwest as a lumber carrier. In 1904 she was added to the fleet of the Alaska Packing Corporation renamed the STAR OF ALASKA.  The last voyage of the ‘STAR’ came in 1929, and she would remain idle until her purchase in 1933.

Frank ‘Tex’ Kissinger and his wife Rose, chose the STAR OF ALASKA out of eight ships docked at Alameda, the remains of a fleet of 17 that had plied between Alaska and San Francisco.  The Kissingers had the ship rechristened the PACIFIC QUEEN in 1934 and then sailed her to Long Beach.  Rose Kissinger would later comment on how the Golden Gate Bridge was just going up and they could see the south tower as they sailed out. They had purchased this great ship for $5,000.00, and once Rose set foot on her the adventure began.

‘Tex’ Kissinger was known in the carnival circuits as a daredevil bike rider and Rose had worked as a phone operator at a hotel that catered to the entertainment industry. They had dreams of turning the ship into a floating showboat museum and ocean aquarium in the Los Angeles area.  So the PACIFIC QUEEN became the ship that was rented to film companies. The Kissingers were receiving $1,500.00 a day for renting the ship that would appear in more than 40 films.  The most famous film was ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, which starred Clark Gable and Charles Laughton and was filmed in 1935.   The Kissingers would set sail for Mexico in 1936 only to find that they would run out of wind for 67 days which left them drifting toward Hawaii.  This adventure would eventually lead to the vessel being towed into San Pedro by the Coast Guard when it became stranded 675 miles from land.   In 1939 the PACIFIC QUEEN would return to the Bay Area for the Golden Gate International Exposition held on Treasure Island.  The ship was docked at Fisherman’s Wharf and Rose and Tex charged adults 25 cents and kids 10 cents to come on board and view the vessel.  During this period they were making over $1,000.00 a week and were able to make long overdo repairs to the ship with these funds. They did this for two years before WWII started when the vessel was moved first to Islais Creek and then back to Sausalito. 

Tex and Rose ran a school on board the vessel for the navigational training of merchant marine offices.  Rose was one of the first women to teach navigation in the US during WWII.  While Rose and Tex, with the help of Herb Madden, berthed the vessel in Sausalito, it was after the war in 1946 when they applied to the City to turn her into a floating casino.  They were turned down by the Sausalito City Council and once again sailed the PACIFIC QUEEN back to Long Beach.  But this move was not to be a successful one and Tex and Rose found themselves heading back to Sausalito in the spring of 1952. Imagine how Sausalito residents must have felt on the Sunday morning when the fog lifted and there was the Pacific Queen sitting in the waters off of Sausalito.   For the past few years she had been used as a museum in Long Beach, but the problem of mooring had them looking for a new home for this gallant vessel, and back to Sausalito she came.

Then in November of 1952, while tarring the decks of the PACIFIC QUEEN, Tex Kissinger complained of dizziness and later succumbed to a heart attack. Rose Kissinger announced after her husband’s death that she would continue with his dream of making the PACIFIC QUEEN into a maritime museum because Tex had spent his life as a showman and she wanted the ship to continue in that tradition. Two days later a gale wind would hit Sausalito and the drama aboard the PACIFIC QUEEN would continue.   As Rose tried to handle the lines on board the PACIFIC QUEEN, she attempted to tie down a 40-ft piece of canvas which was ripping from the stern of the ship during the storm.  The fierce wind wrapped the canvas around her, picked her up and repeatedly banged her against the stays which held up the mast. She had to be rescued and later decided to not go to the hospital until after her husband’s funeral which was held the next day.  Rose suffered a broken nose, broken finger and cuts and bruises but this incident did not make her leave her home aboard the PACIFIC QUEEN.

In 1952, Rose Kissinger was approached by the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce with plans that they had for turning the PACFIC QUEEN into a Marine Museum.  A committee had been formed and was led by Luther (Bill) Conover and Herb Madden.  Madden said that he was 100% for the museum and the ship was now located on his property.  He felt that the ship should be moved to a more public spot so that access would be easy.  But it is interesting to note, that these plans were made without the input of Rose Kissinger who was out of town when this action was taken.

In January of 1953 an article appeared in the Sausalito News about plans for the PACIFIC QUEEN under the direction of a Mr. Julius Rodman, who would later marry Rose Kissinger.   His plans for the ship called for a dramatic departure from the old out-moded carnival museum atmosphere, which obscured the finer assets of the vessel.  The morbid and unfitting wax pirate figures, keystone of the old displays would go.   The antique fittings and gear once rusting in display cases would now be put to functional use in restoring the ship to her natural state. Rodman’s plans for the PACIFIC QUEEN included restoring the authentic atmosphere of the ship and that every inch of her would function as a museum.

She would become in his reincarnation, the most authentic museum possible. But he and Rose were now facing the cold necessity of capitalizing the ship and deriving an income from her. Rodman had fast become the spokesperson for the ship while Rose took a back seat, or so some thought.

By July of 1953 the San Francisco Maritime Museum was eyeing the PACFIC QUEEN for purchase.   A spokesman for the association said that negotiations were in a preliminary stage but no definite action would be taken for another few weeks.  Rose had now taken back the helm and was steering the PACIFIC QUEEN back to San Francisco.  She had somehow come to terms with Rodman and dropped him and his name and once again she was Rose Kissinger, the sole owner of the PACIFIC QUEEN, and she would be the one that would either sell or keep the ship.

Then something went wrong and negotiations with San Francisco went bad.  Rose wanted to be paid for the PACIFIC QUEEN and felt that she had at least a $75,000.00 investment in her.  But this amount was not what San Francisco wanted to pay and they came back with another offer.  The last meeting Rose had with the San Francisco committee she had lowered her price to $50,000.00, still this was more than the committee had in their account and the meeting ended in angry on all sides, which may explain Rose’s next move.

The headlines for the 1954 March issue of the Sausalito News read:  "PACIFIC QUEEN … Maybe Sunk!  Rose Kissinger has announced her plans to have the U.S. Navy tow the PACIFIC QUEEN out into the ocean and use her as target practice and blow her up.    The historic vessel with the colorful past was being considered by the San Francisco Maritime Commission museum, but unless negotiations for a satisfactory sale are completed soon, Rose Kissinger, the ship's owner would sink the PACIFIC QUEEN."

Rose went on TV and announced her plans to sink the vessel and she began to sell the rights to who could film the event.  She had plans to sell the footage to TV and motion picture rights for the filming of the sinking of the ship.  She had wanted to keep “Tex’s dream alive but in the end she found that she was faced with too many money troubles to continue with the idea of establishing a museum.  She watched as those who wanted to profit from the PACIFIC QUEEN plotted against her and when her last effort to work with the San Francisco group became a game of how will you support this project without us, she decided she could and she would … she’d sink the PACIFIC QUEEN, her Queen and see her in a watery grave.

Three months later in June of 1954, the San Francisco Maritime Museum which had spent nearly a year in negotiations with Rose came to a deal which let them have a 60-day option to buy the vessel.  Then on July 13, 1954, the PACIFIC QUEEN had her last voyage to her new home in San Francisco.  Rose Kissinger was there the morning the tugs came to tow her to the Bethlehem Shipyard.  She commented that the surveyors were surprised at the excellent condition of the hull.  As she watched the PACIFIC QUEEN leave Sausalito for the last time she waved to the Captain A. J. Moyes who as a personnel friend had been asked to take the helm one last time by Rose.  Rose, who preferred to stay on the land watched as the ship was tied to the Crowley tugboats and began her long last voyage to San Francisco.

On June 9th, 1955 the ship BALCULTHA opened to the public on the 67th anniversary of the arrival of the square-rigger in San Francisco on her maiden voyage.

In 1983 a very spry Rose Kissinger at the age of 81, stopped by to see her houseboat at Pier 43 and to tell the tales of the ship that sailed under three names and starred in 40 movies before it became a floating museum. It was the answer to the dreams held by her and her husband Frank ‘Tex’ Kissinger … because his dream and her dream …came true and the ship is still with us today.  This story is dedicated to Rose Kissinger and her determination to keep a maritime dream alive.  The true Queen of the PACIFIC QUEEN, Rose Kissinger.

The First Car Across the Bridge

Monday, June 25, 2012

By Larry Clinton

Workers like Frenchy Gales lived dangerously on and off the Bridge.  Photo by Dulce Duncan            Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Workers like Frenchy Gales lived dangerously on and off the Bridge.

Photo by Dulce Duncan            Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Frenchy Gales was one of many young Sausalito men who found work building the Golden Gate Bridge in the depths of the Depression. In an oral history conducted for the Historical Society by Liz Robinson, then-91-year-old Frenchy recalled, “A tea leaf reader told my mother, ‘In the near future they’re going to build a red bridge and your son’s going to work there and he’s gonna get killed on it.  So don’t let him work on it.’  That was about 1928, and there hadn’t been a mention of [the bridge project] before that.”

Frenchy also declared, “A structural bridge worker couldn’t get any insurance, their lifespan was too short. So they lived it up while they were young.” Some workers found interesting ways to escape from work-related stress, as Frenchy details in the following excerpt:


 It was very dangerous, no training.  All you had to do was be nimble and keep your fingers out of the way.  A guy showed you in 10 minutes what to do. 

In the rain they sent us home.  One day we came down out of the tower.  It was raining, and there were four guys who had to go on a ferryboat, so they asked for a ride into town.  I had a Chevy sedan.  So naturally we went into a bar.  At one o’clock in the day, and for about four hours, we were shaking dice and fooling around, and one of the guys said,  “Take us back to San Francisco.”


The roadway wasn’t paved --  they had beams across it and boards [for construction vehicles].  So I says, “Sure, they don’t watch it at night.”  So we went on the boards almost all the way to San Francisco; then there was a space of about 10 feet where the irons go across, but they had taken the boards up.  [Frenchy’s passengers] ran out and got two boards and laid them out there and I drove across the 12-inch boards.  They walked across. 

The guys got in and we went to the first joint we come to buy a drink.  They guys started to get out and I said, “Wait a minute, now, this is the first private car to go over the Golden Gate Bridge, and it’s not gonna be free.  You gotta pay me a toll.”  I charged them 50 cents and I had to buy the first drink. Cost me two dollars, so I was out.

But, anyway, I had the first car across the Golden Gate Bridge.  We were there until about 9 o’clock at night.  I wasn’t drunk, but when I came [back] to where the boards were I don’t remember going over them boards.  I thought somebody might be working on them.  In the morning, I thought, “How’d I get home?”  And I looked out the window and my Chevrolet was there.


Frenchy’s full oral history can be reviewed at the Historical Society, which is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM.

The Jackals vs. the Banker

Saturday, May 19, 2012

By Larry Clinton

We recently reprinted a memoir by Sausalito legend Swede Pedersen about his boyhood adventures in the bootlegging trade.  Here’s another first person account of those days, including a run-in with local nabob Charles Templeton Crocker:

Swede Pedersen just before his jackal phase.  Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Swede Pedersen just before his jackal phase.

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

The old town gang, consisting of 10 to 12 kids, had our headquarters in a well-built and secluded tree hut in Hurricane Gulch. It was here with the foghorns moaning in the background that we planned our early morning escapades.

In our days all deliveries of dairy products, bread and pies and newspapers to homes were done around 4:30 a.m. The newspapers were brought daily by tug from San Francisco.

Our system was easy. The kid living up hill had the delivery route. He would awaken and head down hill. Along the way he would stop at various houses, tug on a fishing cord hanging from a bedroom window tied to the toe of the sleeper. On awakening the kid would pull in the cord and hide it, then stealthily sneak out the house.

We would then proceed to our next venture since we were always earlier than the arrival of the newspaper tug. By this time the milkman had delivered his products to his customers’ porches and the bread and pie man had delivered his wares in the large wooden bread box sitting alongside the grocery store.

We then silently approached the houses and would borrow a quart or so of milk, some butter and cream. We were very tactful borrowing only from houses with large orders and did not pursue the same homes too frequently.

While the milk-nappers did their job, the rest of the gang approached the bread box, borrowing a large loaf of milk bread, a loaf of dark bread and a pie.

We all met back at the tree houses and enjoyed our breakfast until paper delivery time. Of course we lit up our hand rolled Bull Durham cigarettes along with some tailor-made snipes we found on the street and gave a sigh of contentment.

Later we thought it was best to lay low from this borrowing game until the milk company took down the $15 reward signs for information leading to the arrest and conviction.

Just as jackals, we watched the fishermen when they played their game of subterfuge with their illegal activi­ties, especially where they hid their sacks of undersized crabs, etc. When we got caught raiding regular-sized and undersized crabs, we plea bargained to clean barnacles and seaweed off the bottoms of the boats. The fishermen couldn’t turn us in because of their undersized crabs.

We borrowed rowboats, rowed with fence posts to Fort Baker where the army dumped trash. We salvaged the brass, lead and copper and rowed back, sold our junk to the junkyard which made weights out of it for fishermen.

We learned how to enter the storm drain pipes at low tide into the army bunkers used by bootleggers. We learned the people, the timing and the fog.

The most satisfying bootleg job we enjoyed happened in 1930. Across the street from the Walhalla, Nunes Bros. Boatyard contracted to build a schooner for Charles Templeton Crocker, a wealthy San Francisco hotel owner.  He paid $450,000 to have an 118 foot, two-masted schooner named Zaca built in Sausalito for a world cruise.

On April 14, 1930, the movie actress Marie Dressler was to christen the yacht at the big launching festivities. Marie Dressler, bless her soul, had a few drinks too many. When she swung the bottle of champagne at the hull during the launching, she missed! The bottle landed on the beach at our feet.

Charles Templeton Crocker yelled to the crowd, “Twenty-five dollars to the person who brings me the bottle of champagne!”.

Six of us jackals in bib overalls ran to the launching platform and handed the champagne to Crocker. We immediately were escorted back down from the platform without a thank you or twenty-five dollars! Our overalls clashed with their evening wear.

Revenge is sweet! On Captain Langer’s Dock was stored ingots of lead weighing fifty and one hundred pounds to be brought out to the Zaca by tug boat for ballast.  On the first night with the foghorns blowing, during the wee hours of the morn could be seen six forms (in bib overalls) pulling homemade wagons loaded with as many ingots as could be carried.  The caravan silently wended its way in the fog to the junk yard where the ingots were destined to be melted into fishing weights and lures.  With pure lead paying premium prices, the jackals of the fog smilingly counted their shares bidding Charles Templeton Crocker to enjoy his twenty-five dollars and his bottle of champagne and a rocky cruise.

Swede’s Dark Side

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

By Larry Clinton

Two weeks ago we presented a story about hometown boy Swede Pedersen, a Sausalito fireman who saved so many lives in and around town that one survivor dubbed him a “blonde angel.”  But there was another side to Swede, born out of the hardscrabble Depression years, when he and a gang of kids who dubbed themselves “Jackals of the Fog” tried to weasel in on Sausalito’s rum running scene.  This first person account is excerpted from the book “One Eye Closed The Other Red” – the California bootlegging years.”


Federal Prohibition officers, know as “prohis,” dogged young Swede Pedersen and other Sausalito bootleggers.  Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society.

Federal Prohibition officers, know as “prohis,” dogged young Swede Pedersen and other Sausalito bootleggers.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society.

At the beginning when bootlegging wended its way into the area, everyone seemed to have gotten into the game. The natural coastal approaches, the multitude of fishing and pleasure crafts, the depression era and the lack of law enforcers to cover such a wide and isolated area, everyone had a try at bootlegging.

Across the Walhalla tavern was Nunes Bros. Boatyard. We would gain entrance to a boat and use it as an outpost. We would not take anything and were careful to leave the boat as it was when we left it.

Approximately 4:00 a.m. one foggy morning with numerous fog horns moaning in the background, our lookout heard noises.

A large rowboat barely visible in the low fog was working toward the Walhalla beach. At this early hour and with such dense fog there were no problems being observed. We heard the keel of the rowboat beaching on the sand so we watched the unloading, which was quick and professional.

After watching the boat pull out and making sure no one else was around we crawled along the beach and under the boathouse ways to the beach side of the Walhalla.

The Walhalla porch area was on pilings with the basement closed with planking down into the beach sand. The old driftwood door was padlocked as usual. We dug down into the sand along the plank about four feet deep. We made sure we wouldn’t have a cave-in, then all but one of us slid into the entrance and inside the basement.

With matches we located the booze cache. This wasn’t local homemade product. Here were cases of first grade liquor wrapped in straw.  Rum, scotch, bourbon, cognac and gin. We could tell rumrunners brought this load through the Golden Gate off the mother ship from Canada or South America.

We were smart enough not to touch this load. We dug under and extracted a dozen bottles from broken cartons of a previous load.

After wrapping the bottles in our jackets to avoid any clinking noises, we passed them up through the entrance hole. We smoothed and covered our tracks in the sand and got the hell out of the area.

We laid low for a few days getting the feel of things. No one was aware of our two-bit hijacking job!

Not knowing how to properly cash in on our possession we tradedbottles to the movie operator at the Princess Theatre for free passes (in the back door) and for watermelons and other fruit from the produce man.

By playing it cool and not trying to flood the market we didn’t run into much trouble. Although we were just drops in a bucket full of water, we felt big!

It didn’t take long before the syndicate entered the game. This was where we got off. The syndicate played rough and for keeps.

My buddy and I overheard that a cache of booze (not imported) was under a garage foundation next to the Princess Theatre. We checked out the area and saw two gunnysacks below the garage floorboards.

This was a quick drop so we crawled under the narrow foundation opening. We finally pulled the booze out into the open but we were looking up at a couple of mean, mad individuals at the same time.

We had no excuse, we were way off base. We knew better. They bruised us up plenty where it didn’t show.

Other times we would fill our lunch packs with several bottles and wait for the hay trucks heading through Fort Baker, Fort Barry, and Point Bonita to get to Sam Silva’s ranch and Jolly’s ranch by the ocean. We would hop the hay truck on the last steep grade out of Sausalito. As we stopped at various points, the soldiers, Coast Guard and ranch hands would claim their goodies. When pickings were scarce we would walk along the beaches gathering whiskey bottles floating in from passing ships and with the tides from San Francisco. Whiskey bottles being a premium, we were paid from two cents for a half pint to 25 cents for a gallon jug.

While visiting up in new town, I was taken down in the basement of a home and shown a full working still by my school friend. While looking and sampling we heard cars stopping along side the house.

As footsteps were pounding in our direction my friend pulled me by the belt and we both crawled into and behind a false-built wall near the retain­ing wall.

You guessed it! It was a raid! I was sweating behind that wall copying my friend giving Hail Marys and anyone else’s name who needed hailing as long as we wouldn’t be discovered.

The still was smashed, the equipment knocked over. After what seemed forever, the prohis left and we crawled out, not lingering long enough to inhale the potent fumes.

I found I wasn’t built to get involved with the hard core crowd.

Bootlegging became a serious game. Floating dead in the bay, a ditch or wasting away in a jail cell, these were the top choices. We all settled down to safer and better things like avoiding getting hit by a speeding car.

“One Eye Closed The Other Red” by Clifford James Walker, is part of the Sausalito Historical Society collection. 

Swede Pedersen: The Blond Saint

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

By Larry Clinton

You’ve probably heard of Swede’s Beach, the small secluded hideaway on Shelter Cove down some rickety stairs at the end of Valley Street in Sausalito’s “old town.”  The man the beach is named after, Ralph “Swede” Pedersen, was quite a local legend.

According to the January, 1960 issue of Marin This Month magazine, “Swede grew up in Sausalito and once reminisced that when he was a youngster there wasn’t much for boys to do -- except scaring bootleggers who used Shelter Cove for rum running. ‘It’s a wonder we weren’t killed,’ he marveled.”

But Swede could take care of himself at an early age, winning a Golden Gloves light heavyweight trophy when he was 18. After duty during WWII in the Pacific with the Army Engineers, Swede worked as a rigger at Marinship, and after the war ended began his fireman car­eer under Sausalito Fire Chief Matthew J. Perry. He served as a fire­man and first aid specialist, and his work on the ambulance drew the respect and gratitude of “hund­reds of Southern Marinites and unfortunate accident victims on Highway 101,” according to the magazine, which reported: “It was one of these who called him a saint. A woman phoned the Sausalito News to ask, ‘Who is that huge blond saint on the Sausalito ambulance?’ She con­tinued: ‘It was an awful acci­dent, and when I came to that great man had hold of my hand and was talking to me so calmly and so surely that all the screams I had ready just died away, and I knew I was going to be alright’.”

Marin this Month added: “When Swede Pedersen was told that someone called him a saint it knocked him put. ‘Saints are getting mighty pe­culiar if I’m supposed to be like one,’ he retorted. And he didn’t look pleased or modest. As far as he was concerned someone had made a fool remark.”

Santa Swede at Vina del Mar Park fountain circa 1960.  Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society 

Santa Swede at Vina del Mar Park fountain circa 1960.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society 

Swede married Patricia Elk in 1944, and they had three children.  But, noted the magazine, “more than any other one person in Sausalito, his spare time is devoted to all the youngsters of Sausalito.

“He has been with Little League since it started and he is in the middle of every phase of its op­eration. He is on the local com­mittee for the Boy Scouts of America and was one of the first to be called upon to assist in the formation of the new Sausalito Committee for Teenagers.

“Despite all his activities, Swede has become decidedly portly, which makes for a more authentic Santa Claus that flies into Sausa­lito every Christmas season. Greeting this Santa Claus who works for them about every day of the year, are most of the city’s youngsters, a few of whom he has delivered himself when the stork’s wings caught up with the ambu­lance .

“But wherever he is his ear is stretched towards the fire horn that has hauled him for 16 years out of parties, movies, bed and church.

“We didn’t interview Swede for this article - - he would have laughed us down the street - but his wife Pat told us with assur­ance, ‘Swede would hear that whistle if he were in Sacramento’.”

Fritz Crackers Returns

Friday, March 30, 2012

By Larry Clinton

Under the nom de plume Fritz Crackers, Phil Frank produced a weekly comic strip in the Marin Scope from 1977-1984, gently lampooning the local scene. This installment was triggered by the rerouting of the Golden Gate Transit Bus Route 20 in September, 1983.  The 20 was shifted from Sausalito to Marin City to pick up passengers going to Central Marin during the daytime, resuming service on Bridgeway in the early evening.

Many Sausalitans were infuriated that the decision to eliminate daytime stops along Bridgeway was made without their input.  As the Marin Scope reported:
“At the request of City officials, the Marin County Board of Supervisors (sitting as the Marin County Transit District Board) has agreed to discuss the Route 20 service and how it has affected bus patrons at its Tuesday, December 6 meeting, which begins at 9 am.

Despite repeated requests from the City and the Chamber of Commerce, the Bridge Board and the Marin County Transit District Board have declined to accept an invitation to attend an evening public hearing in Sausalito to hear from residents regarding the reduction in daytime service to Sausalito.

“Since it will be impossible for many people to attend the early morning weekday meeting, residents and concerned citizens are invited to complete the questionnaire which appears on page 6.

“The Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors has told the City it needs to hear from bus patrons affected by the route change in order to make changes in its policy.

“Anyone who is interested in attending the December 6 meeting can request transportation. Car pools will leave the Civic Center at approximately 8:30.”

Phil’s imagination ran wild with what might happen to an unsuspecting passenger who got caught on the rerouted bus without warning.

In conjunction with Phil Frank Day in Sausalito, the Sausalito Historical Society presents a new exhibition ofFritz Crackers. strips, many of which are surprisingly relevant today. This exhibition encourages visitors to discover the man behind the humor. Exhibition sponsors include the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation, the Sausalito Lions Club, and Historical Society members.

An opening reception will take place on Saturday, March 31, from 6-8 PM at the Society’s newly renovated Exhibition Gallery on the second floor of Sausalito City Hall, 420 Litho St. The exhibition will be open to the public through Labor Day. Call the Sausalito Historical Society at 415-289-4117 for more information.

Coastal Miwoks were peaceful hunter-gatherers for perhaps half a millennium before the Spanish arrived.

Coastal Miwoks were peaceful hunter-gatherers for perhaps half a millennium before the Spanish arrived.

What follows is a continuation of the journal of Father Vicente Santa Maria, aboard the San Carlos, the first Spanish vessel to explore San Francisco Bay in 1775.   AfterFrigate-lieutenant Juan de Ayala found a safe anchorage for the ship, he began dispatching a longboat to explore the nearby coastline.  Father Santa Maria records a number of distant encounters with Indians (whom he sometimes calls “the Heathen”).  Although the natives appeared friendly, hailing the Spanish sailors and leaving gifts on the beach, both groups were wary of making actual physical contact.  After a few days of sizing each other up, the captain gave permission for Father Santa Maria, two sailing masters and the ship’s surgeon to “communicate at close quarters with those poor unfortunates who so persistently desired us to do so, and by easy steps to bring them into close terms with us and make them the readier when the time should come for attracting them to our Holy Faith.”  Here are the priest’s recollections of that first encounter.

“As we came near the shore, we wondered much to see Indians, lords of these coasts, quite weaponless and obedient to our least sign to them to sit down, doing just as they were bid. There remained standing only one of the eldest, who mutely made clear to us with what entire confidence we should come ashore to receive a new offering which they had prepared for us at the shore’s edge.

“Keeping watch all round to see if among the hills any treachery were afoot, we came in slowly, and when we thought ourselves safe we went ashore, the first sailing master in the lead. There came forward to greet him the oldest Indian, offering him at the end of a stick a string of beads like a rosary, made up of white shells interspersed with black knots in the thread on which they were strung. Then the rest of us landed, and at once the Indian mentioned above (who came as leader among them) showed us the way to the place where they had made ready for us a number of baskets, some filled with pinole [maize flour bread] and others with loaves made with a distinctly sulphurous material that seemed to have been kneaded with some sort of oil, though its odor was so slight that we could not decide what it might be. The sailing master accepted everything and at once returned the favor with earrings, glass beads, and other trinkets. The Indians who came on this occasion were nine in number, three being old men, two of them with sight impaired by cataracts of some sort. The six others were young men of good presence and fine stature.

“They were by no means filthy, and the best favored were models of perfection; among them was a boy whose exceeding beauty stole my heart. One alone of the young men had several dark blue lines painted from the lower lip to the waist and from the left shoulder to the right, in such a way as to form a perfect cross. God grant that we may see them worshiping so sovereign an emblem.

“It would have seemed natural that these Indians, in their astonishment at our clothes, should have expressed a particular surprise, and no less curiosity; but they gave no sign of it. Only one of the older Indians showed himself a little unmannerly toward me; seeing that I was a thick-bearded man, he began touching the whiskers as if in surprise that I had not shaved long since. We noticed an unusual thing about the young men: none of them ventured to speak and only their elders replied to us. They were so obedient that, notwithstanding we pressed them to do so, they dared not stir a step unless one of the old men told them to; so meek that, even though curiosity prompted them, they did not raise their eyes from the ground; so docile that when my companions did me reverence by touching their lips to my sleeve and then by signs told them to do the same thing, they at once and with good grace did as they were bid.”

The translation of Father Santa Maria’s journal, complete with illustrations and early maps of the Bay Area, is available for viewing at the Historical Society, which is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm.

Spanish Explorers in S.F. Bay


By Larry Clinton

This tale of the first Spanish vessel to visit San Francisco Bay has been excerpted from a translation of the journal of Father Vicente Santa Maria, aboard the supply ship San Carlos under the command of Frigate-lieutenant Juan de Ayala in the year 1775.  It provides a glimpse into how precarious such explorations could be:

It was thought impossible that His Majesty’s supply ship San Carlos should make an expedition. Though sailing under orders on other occasions, she was never to be counted on since her mission could never be accomplished as the orders called for. The best that could happen to her was to escape being wrecked or to have a few days’ relief from danger. Even on this voyage there was no confidence in her at the start, since the first moves she made while yet at San Blas [Mexico] were omens of bad luck; just as she was getting to open water she ran aground, and as she kept pounding on the sand she was in danger of breaking up.

Even the least fainthearted were terror-struck, so many and so great were the alarms that popular rumour scattered abroad; but as matters turned out, without dire mishaps the San Carlos arrived in a hundred and one days at the harbor of Monterey. We stayed as long as it took to unload cargo, renew our supplies of water, get firewood, and do other things needful for the farther part of our journey.

On the morning of the 27th of July, favored by a southwest wind, we set sail from the harbor of Monterey for that of San Francisco. We went on so well that by the 31st we had made six leagues. This was owing not so much to the ocean currents, we thought, as to our holy father St. Francis, in whose honor we were holding a novena.

The same good luck continued, so that neither rough seas nor strong contrary winds were enough to put us in desperate case by disabling us, or to vex us by holding us back.

So it was that on the 5th day of August, at 8 o’clock in the morning, the captain decided that the first sailing master should take the longboat and make a reconnaissance of the shore and the entrance way to the harbor so that the ship might enter safely. The long-boat was thus employed all that day and the night following.

At sunset we lost sight of the longboat. This made the captain feel anxious and exposed to danger, and with good reason. The wind favored and he wished to take advantage of the clear night to enter the harbor; but he feared that the longboat, in changing direction from going northerly along the shore of the San Francisco peninsula to easterly in the Golden Gate,  had lost sight of us, and with that the chances of success were not good at all. Nevertheless, his fears could only be allayed by reaching his goal, so the captain decided on following with the utmost caution the course indicated by the direction the longboat had taken. A great help to us in doing so—and we were now at the entrance way to the harbor—was a crescent moon that could be seen ahead of us above a high and distant shore.

Neither the very strong currents nor mistrust of striking a submerged rock could check the captain’s resolve not only to make his way into an unknown harbor, but, even more worth remarking, to go in as far as to the place where we should best be anchored. The next day we observed an odd thing, which was that as we were proceeding broadside to an island beyond which, further ahead, there was not much depth, the current and a dead calm stopped us, and it was as if we dropped back. So as not to lose headway it was decided to cast anchor opposite the island of Santa Maria de los Angeles [Angel Island]. Thus we passed the night in anxiety from not knowing the whereabouts of the longboat.

At half past 6 o’clock the next morning the longboat came to the ship. When the captain asked the sailing master why he had not returned the preceding evening, he answered that (after having reconnoitered a good and safe anchorage for the ship)  he had tried to go out to meet her and guide her in but was prevented by the strength of the current against him. He had therefore decided to anchor and pass the night in a cove near the mouth, on the south side.

Bloody Fight in Sausalito


By Larry Clinton

The following excerpt is from the Sausalito News of February, 1952.

Many Sausalitans coming home from the bustling city to relax in this picturesque and peaceful community, will be surprised to know that Sausalito saw a bloody battle around the turn of the century.

The story is told in an article clipped from the new magazine “Gentry.” According to the “Gentry” clipping – a reprint from an eastern publication of that era -- this particular Corbett-Choynski bout was “a most bloody and brutal encounter.”

James J. Corbett, a year after his epic Sausalito boxing match.  Photo: Wikipedia public domain image

James J. Corbett, a year after his epic Sausalito boxing match.

Photo: Wikipedia public domain image

Corbett defeated Joe Choynski of San Francisco in one of the most “grueling, rough and dirty” fights ever staged.  The battle was reported to have actually taken place in two acts in spring, 1885.  Corbett met his opponent in a stable loft in Sausalito, crowded with more than 100 “hysterical” spectators who expected a police raid at any moment.

A check with old-time Sausalitans who well remember the two fighters, disclosed that the barn – a 26x29 foot structure – was either located on the present site of the downtown park or between the Chinese laundry on Bridgeway, just south of Princess Street.  It is believed that the stable which was located on the present plaza was the one, however, since it was the largest in town.

An ex-pugilist Patsy Hogan refereed and Corbett and Choynski wore two-ounce gloves.  The article describes how Corbett made a gory mess ofChoynski’s “countenance” for almost four rounds, while the latter retaliated with “ponderous thumps” to the mid-section. 

At the start of the fourth round, Corbett broke his right thumb on the side of his opponent’s head.  And at this point, the Marin county sheriff could stand no more.  He stopped the bout.  If memories of Sausalito’s long-time residents serve them correctly, Frank Haley was the sheriff at that time.

The account of the fight goes on to state that the second act of the fight was resumed six days later, on Tom Williams’ barge anchored off Suisan Bay.  Skin-tight gloves were used and under a broiling sun, “the two plug-uglies belabored each other for 27 rounds.  Finally, a stunning left by Corbett broke his opponent’s proboscis, causing unconsciousness.”

The writer of the eastern account of the west coast fight left no doubt he frowned on this “savagery” in the art of self-defense.  Contending that Corbett, an erstwhile banker, stick to his banking, despite the fact that he was then being eyed as a possible opponent for the great John L. Sullivan.

In addition to his banking job, Corbett was boxing instructor at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.  He had three sisters living on Cazneau Avenue and visited them frequently.  He trained in Sausalito for a great many of his fights, taking on his sparring partners in the Dexter apartments, which were located opposite the old San Francisco Yacht Club building on Bridgeway, then known as Water street. 

Corbett also had a few pupils in Sausalito whom he instructed in the art of boxing.

As the editor of the “Gentry” article points out, Corbett no only became the world’s heavyweight champion less than three years after the bloody bout with Choynski, but is revered as the father of scientific boxing and the inventor of the art of shadow boxing.  Many claim he was the most adroit boxer of all.

All this may leave the reader wondering what was what.  Was the bloody battle actually staged here or was Corbett actually a scientific boxer?  The Sausalito old-timers have a simple explanation for this one.  The bloody battle, or at least nearly four rounds of it, took place in Sausalito and Corbett was adroit enough, but “there was just bad blood” between him and Choynski, a Golden Gate baker boy.

A Waterfront Way of Life: Galilee Harbor


By Steefenie Wicks

The history of Galilee Harbor is rich in fact that sometimes sounds like fiction.  This small waterfront community has spent the last 31 years trying to educate the public about life on the water and what that means to them and their community.   The community has always been involved in the argument that living on the water is the most traditional way of keeping the waterfront alive.  This idea however is not one that was favored by the Bay Conservation and Development Commissionin 1991.  An article written by historian Carl Nolte and printed in the San Francisco Chronicle in June of 1991 takes on the plight of the Galilee Harbor community as they sought permits to become the first all live aboard harbor in California.
The following is an excerpt from the beginning of that article, “Way of Life In Peril on Galilee Harbor”:

The law and a lifestyle are engaged in one of those guerrilla wars that no one wins on a muddy corner of the Sausalito waterfront.

This one is over Galilee Harbor, a collection of 50-some small boats in various stages of genteel retirement that serve as floating homes.  About 65 or so people live there, the kind of people they used to call artists, or Bohemians, or maybe just colorful types.

Choice Waterfront Land

The Galilee people, who pay an average rent of $250 a month for their berth space, are living on some of the choicest waterfront land in the world: rich habitat for animals and birds and shore life, and, by the way, worth a fortune.

 So naturally, there is a problem.  In the old days, the Sausalito waterfront was administered by a policy of what Galilee resident Joe Troise calls ”benign neglect.”

But now it’s neither benign nor neglect.

The Galilee Harbor people, who have been organized since 1978 into a nonprofit community association, are no fools.  They and their allies used federal funds, private foundation money and their own initiation to draw up a big, new plan for an all-new Galilee Harbor.  The plan would replace the funky piers and rickety walkways that are both charming and a bit unsafe.”

 The “Peril” that Nolte refers to in his article is the Bay Conservation and Development Commission or BCDC, as they are known. This organization considered the Galilee community to be illegal.   At that time the current members of the community were being fined by the state for occupying the space. This was also a time when the community was being told to leave or they would be removed. It was only through political changes in Sausalito that would allow the Galilee Harbor Community to obtain their Conditional Use Permit(CUP), from the Sausalito City Council.  Although, this was a major victory for the Harbor, the looming fear of BCDC hung heavy in the air. The next hurdle would be to submit the form for a BCDC permit to remain at this location .

Nolte’s 1991 article continued:

“The next, and the hardest, trick was to get a permit from the BCDC, the guardians of San Francisco Bay.  A flinty-eyed organization that takes its work seriously, BCDC decides what can or cannot be built on the Bay Shore.  Last month, the BCDC staff, which has wide discretionary power, filed a suit against the Galilee Harbor and its members.  The thrust of the suit is that the Galilee community is living on the waterfront illegally.

“’From our point of view, what they are doing now is illegal until the commission issues a permit, if it ever does,’ said Alan Pendleton, BCDC’s executive director.

“Just you wait, say the Galilee people.  Even now, they are getting ready to submit an application to the commission for Sausalito’s first ‘officially sanctioned live-aboard marina.’

“But Pendleton and the BCDC staff are standing by to blow the plan out of the water.  ‘The rules say that new houseboat marinas should not be established in the bay and that is what this is,’ he said.  ‘The issuance of a permit does not seem very likely.’

“In the romantic view of the Galilee people, the existence of the harbor is in the best traditions of Sausalito. If it is driven away, Troise says, it will be another waterfront victory for ‘fake plastic boats that just sit there. People will wonder where did all the real life go?’

“In the realistic view of BCDC, Galilee should get a permit or get out.  The chance of getting a permit? ‘Not very good,” said Pendleton’.”

In closing, it is interesting to note that the Galilee Harbor Community, signed its settlement agreement with BCDC in 1996 and is the only legal all live aboard harbor in California.


On January 26 Steefenie Wicks, founding member and resident photographer, will share images and stories of Galilee Harbor’s Community Association.  She will be joined by waterfront historian Susan Frank, as well as Galilee Harbor Manager Doreen Gounard and Project Manager DonnaBragg-Tate.  This event, starting at 5 PM in Council Chambers at Sausalito City Hall, includes refreshments and is free for Historical Society members. It’s $10 for non-members. For information on this program and the Historical Society, check www.sausalitohistoricalsociety.org or call 415-289-4117.

Charles Botts and “Old Saucelito”


By Larry Clinton

William Richardson always dreamed of a city that would spring up in Sausalito. Charles Botts actually did something about it. Botts, born in 1809, son of a prominent Virginia lawyer, came to California with his wife Margaret in 1848 on the ship Matilda. He became the naval storekeeper in Monterey, a position of considerable influence and prestige. During the gold rush, he set up law offices in San Francisco.

The earliest known photograph of Sausalito, c. 1852, shows Charles Botts’s metropolis at its zenith, with perhaps thirty inhabitants.  The center of the little cluster of buildings is located where Second and Main are today.   Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society.

The earliest known photograph of Sausalito, c. 1852, shows Charles Botts’s metropolis at its zenith, with perhaps thirty inhabitants.  The center of the little cluster of buildings is located where Second and Main are today.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society.

Botts raised $35,000 in gold to purchase 160 acres in Sausalito’s cove from financially desperate William Richardson in 1849. Botts was also a delegate to the California Constitutional Convention that same year, where he was one of the more vocal participants.
During the 1850s, Botts sold portions of his Sausalito holdings, being careful to retain water rights on the property.  
After Mare Island was selected as the United States Navy shipyard for the West Coast [over Sausalito], Botts lost interest in his local real estate venture and sold his remaining property to others. In 1858 he moved to Sacramento where he tried his hand in the newspaper business and also became a judge in Yolo County.

In 1862 a traveler passed through what was left of Charles Botts’s “Old Saucelito.” William Henry Brewer recorded these observations in his diary:
“... It was long after dark before we found Sausalito where we stopped at an Irish hotel. We ate a hearty supper, then sat in the kitchen and talked.
“Hogarth never sketched such a scene as that. The kitchen with furniture scattered around, driftwood in the corners, salt fish hanging to the ceilings and walls, lanterns, old ship furniture, fishing and boating apparatus, Spanish saddle and riata — but I can’t enumerate all. Well, we stayed there all night and for several hours the next morning, then took a small boat for San Francisco along with a load of calves and pigs piled in the bottom.”

Brewer also couldn’t resist a dig at Sausalito in general:
“Sausalito is a place of half a dozen houses once destined to be a great town ... $150,000 lost there; City laid out, corner lots sold at enormous prices, ‘water fronts’ still higher ... for a big city was bound to grow up there and then these lots would be worth money. The old California story, everybody bought land to rise in value but no one built. No city grew there. Half a dozen huts and shanties mark the place and ‘corner lots’ and ‘water fronts’ are alike valueless.”

Moments in Time and other local historical books are available at the Ice House (780 Bridgeway) and at the Historical Society’s headquarters on the top floor of City Hall.