Sunday Sails with Varda

By Betsy Stroman

    Jean (Yanko) Varda, the collage artist who moved onto the old ferryboat Vallejo on the Sausalito waterfront in the late 1940s, was an avid sailor. He built his first boat at the age of 12, while living in Smyrna, a port city in the ancient Ottoman Empire, and he liked to tell people that his first profession was that of a boatbuilder. During the more than twenty years he lived on the Vallejo, he built several sailboats. The larger ones all shared a distinctive design. He converted them from old metal lifeboats, readily available on the Sausalito waterfront at the time for about sixty dollars. Most of his sailboats had a lateen or triangular sail, mounted at an angle on the mast, commonly featured on the boats that fishermen in the Mediterranean sailed.

Jean Varda’s Cythera under sail
Photo from Varda family archives

   Varda frequently painted eyes on the hull of his boats. Some speculated that the eyes kept people safe on the boat, but many people thought that Varda himself had a protective magic. In an interview with Sausalito writer Annie Sutter, the artist Gordon Onslow Ford, who for a time shared the Vallejo with Varda, explained that Varda “was a Greek sailor from ancient times … a lucky person. … He was quite fearless and would put to sea with his cargo of beauties and they never came to any harm.” Friends who sailed with Varda claimed that, to the astonishment of proper yachtsmen, he could “whistle the wind,” by which they meant that when he whistled, he brought the wind, and the boat sailed faster.
    Varda built the first of these boats. the Chimera, in the early 1950s, a few years after moving onto the Vallejo. Writing to a friend, he reported, “My sailing boat is a marvel and with a crew of the choicest I spend my Sundays in the Bay. We generally go out 18 of us with gallons of wine, with tons of food, with singers & musicians.”
    The Chimera was followed by the Perfidia. Alan Watts, the writer and Zen popularizer who lived on the Vallejo with Varda beginning in the early 1960s, described the Perfidia as “the bravest boat on the Bay, with eyes on the prow, a broad band of vivid red below the gunwale, and a honey-colored lateen sail.“ As in the past, Varda and his friends would spend Sundays sailing on the bay, well supplied with bread, cold chicken, and gallons of wine. “Seeing this craft gliding in full sail by the wooded cliffs ofBelvedere,” Watts wrote, “it was impossible to believe that this was the United States and not the islands of Greece.”
    Varda refused to install a motor on his earlier boats, and there were times when the sailing parties ended up becalmed, or the tides were going the wrong way. When a motorboat came by, according to Varda’s friend Alexis Tellis, who accompanied him on many of these outings, sometimes Varda shouted, “Give us a tow and we’ll give you a girl.” Varda got a lot of tows, Tellis added, but he never gave them a girl.
    In the fall of 1966, Varda, along with some young helpers, began working on his last sailboat, the Cythera. By this time Varda had reluctantly become convinced that a motor would be a good idea and one was installed. The Cythera ended up much larger than any of Varda’s earlier sailboats. In addition to the customary lateen sail, red in this case, there was a yellow mainsail, painted with a sun, and a white American jib. “When the Cythera is fully rigged she resembles an exotic Chinese junk,” one of Varda’s friends wrote. “No one would guess the craft is a resurrected rusty iron-hulled lifeboat.”
    Sunday sails on the Cythera frequently included as many as 40 guests, who would board the boat, dressed in their most colorful garb, and scramble to find cushions in the hull.    Yanko sat on a box and give orders to the crew — friends who knew how to sail. In short order, two or three bottles of burgundy would be uncorked. An old piano top, hoisted across the motor, served as a table. It was soon heaped with cold marinated liver, French bread, cheese, and other delicacies. As the guests sat and enjoyed the food and wine, Varda would begin to talk about painting, or tell one of his fabulous stories.    
    Young women who boarded the boat in their colorful but filmy hippie garb in the early afternoon would soon find that they were freezing. Varda, the ever thoughtful host, kept a bunch of old coats, which he had bought at Goodwill, on board, and the young women would be very pleased when Varda came by with a glass of wine and draped a coat around them.     
    One of Varda’s friends from that era, Margaret Fabrizio, who sometimes joined the Sunday sails, later recalled that often fancy yachts sailing on the bay would make a special trip to the boat “to get Varda’s blessing.” People just wanted to have some kind of interaction with Varda, she said. There was something about the kind of energy and joy that emanated from his colorful homemade boats and its colorfully clad occupants that attracted those expensive yachts like a magnet.
From June 1 to July 13. The Historical Society is proud to sponsor an exhibit of Varda’s works at the Bay Model. 

Juanita and Her Galley

By Eric Torney

Juanita Musson was a restaurateur and social icon of the mid to late 1960's who existed on the Northern periphery of the Sausalito houseboat community. She had several restaurants, not all of them in Sausalito.

The following lightly edited excerpt is from Eric Torney’s video history: “Sausalito After the Bridge”:

Juanita with a chair probably broken after a biker rumble. From the book “Juanita!” by Sally Hayton-Keeva

Juanita with a chair probably broken after a biker rumble. From the book “Juanita!” by Sally Hayton-Keeva

Juanita was one of the most colorful entrepreneurs to ever open a restaurant in Sausalito. The other woman, also a restaurateur, who approaches and perhaps who may prevail over Juanita as the most famous, was Sally Stanford and her Valhalla. Sally and Juanita knew each other. Juanita would say “There is a Madam on one end of town and a drunk on the other.” Sally actually was the more proper of the two. But they did not necessarily get along. At one time there was an uneasy truce between them. In Juanita's words: “Sally sent me a fox. But, wait a minute, maybe she meant him to bite me. “

Her most famous restaurant was Juanita's Galley, a restaurant established on the decommissioned ferry Charles Van Damme, which was beached on the mudflats north of town. Besides a restaurant it was a night club. The floor was quite uneven. Patrons typically did not notice such unevenness as a warped floor, their own state of mind often being more warped than the floor. Access was by a flimsy ramp. Parking was on a dirt lot. You came before dark because there was no lighting outside.

There were numerous fund raisers (Save the Galley Rallies), attended by a host of luminaries. Sterling Hayden, Glen Yarborough, and Vince Guaraldi to name a few, all of whom had enjoyed the one woman side show and wanted the fun to continue.

Juanita's Galley was the most appropriately named restaurant she ever opened. In 1963 the place was closed down by the IRS for unpaid taxes and the contents sold for a measly $540. Not to be deterred, she soon opened another Juanita’s in Fetters Hot Springs, near Sonoma. Regrettably, that restaurant burned to the ground.

She was a large woman who typically wore a Hawaiian muumuu. Live chickens regularly roamed her establishment, as well as an occasional monkey, pig, or goat (Juanita loved animals). Patrons never knew what to expect. One thing patrons could count on was good food. Juanita knew how to cook. Service was the same as the food. Juanita had the inclination to hire cute waitresses, who were as much of a draw as the food. Regardless of the food quality and the service, the entertainment value of the place was unsurpassable and guaranteed.

If you complained about something you might end up getting physically thrown out (personally, by Juanita herself), or having your plate of food thrown onto your lap, whether you paid your bill or not. Juanita was not to be offended. If you stayed cool and got into the scene, your experience was guaranteed to be fine.
Juanita was not easy to work for. Her drinking interfered with good judgment. One cook's helper was fired one night. The next day,knowing Juanita well, he showed up for work as usual. It was as if nothing had happened the night before. 

Juanita's generosity was as legendary as her disdain for those who she felt did not deserve it. Juanita was as welcoming and supportive of individuals in genuine need as she was intolerant of those not deserving of it. In Juanita's words, “If she is wearing Patchouli perfume, out she goes.”

The evictions were not always only verbal. One of Juanita's favorite stories concerned a woman patron at her Glen Ellen restaurant about a dispute over some issue long ago forgotten. As Juanita would have told the story, “We battled head over heels through the dining room, through the bar, onto the porch and into the parking lot. And then she ripped my dress off.”

Juanita is now serving happily at the big restaurant in the sky. She passed away in February of 2011. Residents of Sausalito, both Hill and Boat people alike, held a raucous wake in her honor.

“Sausalito After the Bridge” is available at the Ice House on DVD, or may be checked out from the Sausalito Library.

On the Lam on the Docks

By Larry Clinton - Sausalito Historical Society

The Sausalito waterfront has provided refuge for many nefarious characters, including 1960s radical Bernardine Dohrn.

As a member of the Weather Underground, Dohrn helped create a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government and was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.  The group derived its name from Bob Dylan’s lyric: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Image from the film, “Weather Underground.” 

Image from the film, “Weather Underground.” 

On October 31, 1969, a grand jury indicted 22 people, including Dohrn, for their involvement with the trial of the Chicago Eight. She was indicted again in 1970, along with twelve other Weathermen, on conspiracy charges in violation of anti-riot acts. In the film “Weather Underground,”Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary in 2002, Dohrn reveals that back in 1970, she and Ayers sought refuge in Sausalito’s nascent houseboat community. “I knew we were going underground but of course I didn’t know how precipitously it would happen,” Dorhn recalls.  “My parents weren’t political… they didn’t have any way in which to put that into a framework. But I took a last trip to visit them, and I didn’t want to scare them more than they were already, but I did want them to think back and remember what I said, that I didn’t want to hurt them and that I loved them. So I have a vivid memory of saying goodbye to them at the airport, and of walking away and turning around and looking at them waving at me, and knowing that I wasn’t going to see them again.”

In the 2002 film, while strolling on Issaquah Dock, Dorhn says, “We’re in Sausalito, at the houseboats, right across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and we lived here when we first went underground. They were really looking for us.  There were pictures everywhere, and rewards everywhere, and indictments falling from the sky.” Looking around at the Issaquah Dock homes, she notes: “It was much less built up than this.”

The filmmakers then show archival houseboat footage, including shots of the iconic Owl and Madonna structures, while Dorhn continues: “For us it was perfect. There were dropouts from all walks of life – gay people fleeing Iowa, people fleeing the Midwest and the draft.  So there was a lot of outlaw culture.”

Following a decade in which Dorhn and Ayers moved around anonymously, Dohrn gave herself up in 1980. She recalls: “We had a new baby, and we immersed ourselves in a whole new life with parents and children, and moved to the East Coast, and sort of started over.  The baby was getting old enough that it was obviously getting complicated. To never have anybody know where we lived and never have anyone come over to our house.  So I made that decision in the summer of ’80, and once I made the decision – finally – it was just a matter of holding my nose and going through with the surrender.”

While some charges against her were dropped due to prosecutorial misconduct, Dohrn pled guilty to charges of aggravated battery and bail jumping, for which she was put on probation. After refusing to testify against another ex-Weatherman, she served less than a year in jail.

At the time the film was made, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn were still married and living in Chicago.  Ayers became an author and Northwestern University professor, while Dorhn was a Clinical Associate Professor of Law at the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law.

Creative Scrounging on the Waterfront

By Annie Sutter

Beginning in the 1950s, the area from Gate 3 to Waldo Point, already an established waterfront community of artists and craftsmen, working people and families, became inhabited by people seeking a new life, or at least, a different one. Once called bohemians and beatniks, then hippies, young people heard about the scene in Sausalito where it was said “the living was free and easy.” 1967, the year of the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, brought the flower children from the Haight­Ashbury scene, creative and footloose, to Sausalito. College dropouts, already rebels before they arrived, decided to hang out, a gal who came to visit liked the scene stayed, an engine mechanic or an out­of­work boatwright found lots of jobs available, paid and unpaid. A seemingly endless supply of materials left from Marinship, abandoned vessels lying on the shore, their owners gone or disinterested, provided the perfect venue for finding an alternative lifestyle. Slowly the newcomers moved in, left pretty much alone by the accommodating landowner, Donlon  Arques. They arrived in droves and settled in at Gates 3, 5 and 6. They built homes, or shacks, or just flop houses on top of anything that floated. And there were many things that floated to choose from.


Bizarre Building Materials

The newcomers floated new/old abodes on unfinished hulls, barges, tugboats, camels, lifeboats, landing craft; on Styrofoam blocks, net buoys lashed together, floats, scaffolding for servicing ships, pilings tied together. Even boilers from one of the ferryboats served as flotation. Living quarters placed atop the various flotation materials were built from construction boxes, old cars, motor homes, abandoned trailers, a VW bus, pilot houses from utility barges, the crow's nest from a crane barge, and even a chicken coop was put into service. An aging sailing vessel was fitted out with telephone poles for masts as it was being readied for a sea voyage.

Little communities sprang up, linked by loyalty to one another, and by labyrinthine walkways, rickety docks, and single board gangways. A loose confederation of groups and sub groups gathered around certain barges or piers and were often separated by intricate systems of catwalks, drawbridges and gates. A common feature was wacky architecture, dangling electric wires, pilfered electricity, and no sewage facilities.

Differing opinions of this growing community are not hard to find. From the Marin Scope in 1968:

“Waldo Point is an alternative community that came into being through a mixture of collective aberrations and spontaneous events. A warren of ramshackle junks, arks, hutches, rotting barges, battered ferryboats,...where the tidewaters slush over a graveyard of shattered hulls, abandoned marine gear, discarded bedsprings, tires, refrigerators, broken pots and rotting timbers.” A far more pleasant scene ... “Smaller boats gathered around the ferry, side tied and connected by planks or rickety walkways. Families with kids, dogs and cats and chickens were part of the little groupings tied alongside Issaquah. Activities included music, sea chanteys, puppet shows, mask making, boatbuilding, herring fishing,” and “sailing boats were floating playgrounds as kids shinnied up and down the lines to the tops of the masts.”

This story is excerpted from a forthcoming book by Annie Sutter titled “The History of Issaquah Dock.”

A tiny floating home perched atop a landing craft.   

A tiny floating home perched atop a landing craft.

Students explore local history

By Steefenie Wicks Sausalito Historical Society

Her mother brought her back to the center of town and dropped her off at her destination, the Sausalito Historical Society’s Ice House on Bridgeway in downtown Sausalito. 

Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

“Are you sure about this?” her mother asked. She looked back at her mother with determination and said, “Yes, I know this place. I’ll wait here for you.” With that, she turned and walked up the stairs to the front door, opened it and stepped inside. The young girl approached the docent on duty that happened to be Robin Sweeny former Sausalito four-time mayor, and announced forcefully, “I am here to see the artifacts.” She was one of over three hundred third grade students who have experienced the Sausalito Historical Society Schools’ Program about local Sausalito history.

Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

The idea to begin a schools’ program sponsored by the Sausalito Historical Society at Bayside/MLK and Willow Creek Academies was the brainchild of Susan Frank who, along with volunteers Bob Woodrum and Jesse Seaver and teachers Anne Siskin and Paula Hammonds put together a pilot program in 2010. The goal of the program was to encourage teachers and students to explore Sausalito’s interesting past asking two fundamental questions: what is history and what part do I play in history? The initial unit featured a then-and-now appreciation of Sausalito’s historic downtown buildings and businesses. The second and third units, developed in subsequent years, introduced colorful personalities and families from Sausalito’s past and the Marinship World War II shipyard.

Susan Frank and present-day co-director Margaret Badger both bring an educational background to their work. Frank graduated from UC Berkeley in History, started a child development center in Minnesota and on returning to California worked in the Ingram pre-Schools in Menlo Park. On settling in Sausalito, she participated in local school programs. Badger has a BA in History from Vassar College and a Masters in Education from Yale University, and is a California credentialed teacher with a career in teaching and curriculum writing. Working in concert with Bayside teacher Jim Scullion and Willow Creek teachers Anne Siskin and Kevin Breakstone, the program continues to challenge young students to learn about local history and to understand how they are part of it.

Kevin Breakstone, the newest teacher to take part in the program, sums up the experience this way. “Through hands-on experience, access to museums and displays, and roleplaying, the Sausalito Historical Society guided the kids into true conceptual and factual knowledge of Sausalito and Marin City history. The awareness that they live in a town shaped by history, and that they are part of that history will live with my students forever.”

Jim Scullion of Bayside Academy in Marin City writes that this program has given his students “an opportunity to learn about and research buildings and people of Sausalito from long ago. It also gave them insight into the importance of the Marinship and Marin City. The students talked for days about their visit to the Bay Model Marinship display. They never realized why this area was so important. They feel very special that the area where they live and go to school was such an important part of history.”

Photo courtesy of Gina Risso. 

Photo courtesy of Gina Risso. 

Finally, Anne Siskin of Willow Creek Academy writes, “as we looked carefully at the historical photographs, maps, newspapers, artwork, documents and artifacts collected and displayed at the Historical Society, Ice House and Bay Model, and visited historical buildings built in the downtown district on field trips, we could imagine what it was like to have lived in the past. Like the docents of the Historical Society, we too became historians as we learned about the history of the city where we live.”

The program has thrived because of the cooperation of teachers and administrators and the dedicated work of the docents who take information to the classrooms, reenact snippets of history, and lead field trips. Community support from Waterstreet Hardware, Lapperts Ice Cream and Bob Woodrum of Sausalito Picture Framing encourages us all to keep having fun and to keep asking, “What is history and where do I fit in?

Inquiries about becoming a docent should be directed to the Sausalito Historical Society at 415-289-4117 or and copies of the Marinship booklet can be purchased at the Bay Model in Sausalito.

Elizabeth Stroman on Varda: Leading an Ecstatic Life

By Steefenie Wicks Sausalito Historical Society

“The Art and Life of Jean Varda’ is the title of a new book by Sausalito historian Elizabeth (Betsy) Stroman. Her first book “History of the Sausalito Library: A Place of Innocent Recreations,” is the story of how the Library in Sausalito was founded.  This new book explores legendary local artist Jean Varda, traveling beyond his time in Sausalito to the very beginning of his life in the Ottoman Empire.

Stroman was born in Connecticut and educated at Stanford, where she became a litigation lawyer; she came to Sausalito in 1991.

 Her research training proved valuable after she quit working and started her career as a writer.  She has worked for many years as part of the Sausalito Historical Society, has done much research on the many artists who have lived in Sausalito.  It was while working on such a project that she came across some information on Varda that was very different from the knowledge she was aware of, so she decided to look into it. That became the beginning of a 10-year journey following Varda’s walk through history as he carved out his career in art.

Varda moved to Sausalito in 1948, where he took up residence on board the ferryboat  Vallejo. Stroman feels that all anyone in Sausalito knows about Varda is that he was this outrageous artist on the old ferryboat where lots of young women hung out.  Few knew about his background as a teacher, mentor, and philosopher. Varda felt he had to make his world bright, colorful and a place where all facts have been transformed or distilled.

Stroman’s research shows that no one really knew Jean Varda because he was full of myths.  He had this way of creating an alternate reality that she found herself becoming very involved with. “He was considered a European bohemian, which was very different from being a beatnik or a hippie.  As a European bohemian, he transplanted European cultural to wherever he was.  His love of big dinner parties and gatherings was part of this,” states Stroman.   She continues, “He saw beauty in forms, color, light; these were the elements he worked with. Varda painted joy, beauty … this was how he lived his life, who will ever know why his work did not really catch on with the general public?”

Stroman’s book explores the life of Jean Varda as well as the people who gathered around him.  People like English artist Gordon Onslow-Ford and guru, writer, philosopher Alan Watts. Writer Henry Miller along with his friend Anais Nin came to Sausalito to become part of Varda’s world.  He became a mentor to many, while the myths of his lifestyle grew, proving that Varda lived by his wits and his optimism.  Stroman states, “He transferred the ugly into the beautiful because he always saw the possibilities of what you could make out of what others had discarded.  


There were some who thought Varda was a much better teacher than he was an artist. These are the aspects of his life that I wanted to know more about beyond the myths that I had been told.  He taught in San Francisco, North Carolina and New York.  Although he did few museum shows, he did exhibit in galleries in Europe and the United States.”

Stroman feels that Varda’s is a good story because his life tended to be on the cutting edge of what was happening in the history of world events and the world of art.  Today few outside of Sausalito know or remember him, which makes his remaining works of art valuable, displaying his methods.

To Stroman, Varda’s story opens up the question of what is good art and what is important art.  She continues: “Varda painted joy and beauty; this was how he lived his life.  Why his work did not find a place in the world of American art no one will ever know, but his work found a home in Sausalito where he never had any money and where he never seemed to need any. He loved going to the dumpsters and finding things that he could take back, reshape, paint a bright color, give a new life to something that was not wanted by making it wanted again.  This is how Varda saw his world, a place where things and people could once again become useful. This was one of the reasons that people seemed to gather around him.  He became a great example of how one could live as an artist and live well.  In his lifetime, he was always meeting people who would help him if he needed a place to stay or elements for his artwork.  He could travel across the world and always find someone who would offer him a place to stay.  This is one of the myths about him that turns out to be true. In closing, you might say that Varda was a very interesting man who lived a very interesting life during very interesting times.”

Betsy Stroman will read from her book at a launch party at the Bay Model Visitor Center on Sunday, June 14, from 3-5 p.m. The event is free and complimentary drinks, and snacks will be available.

From June 1 to July 13. The Historical Society is proud to sponsor an exhibit of Varda’s works at the Bay Model.

Richard O’Keeffe: Shipwright/Docent, Matthew Turner Project

by Steefenie Wicks Sausalito Historical Society

Boat building in Sausalito has been a continuing activity from William Richardson’s time to present. The Sausalito Historical Society has photo images from over 100 years ago that show the productivity of this maritime trade.  

Now for the first time in 100 years there is a new tall ship being built in Sausalito. The design is that of the prolific boat builder Matthew Turner and is being fashioned after one of his fastest ships, the Galilee, which still holds the record for the fastest run between San Francisco and Tahiti. This new vessel will be called the Matthew Turner, and will be part of the Educational Tall Ship program. Founder Alan Olson has taken this vast building project on. When completed the vessel will be a two-masted brigantine rig that is 85-foot on the water line and 100-foot on deck (note: 32 feet shorter than the original ship) with a 25-foot. beam drawing about 10 feet underwater.  She will be fitted out with 38 births for cadet training, a galley, captain’s quarters, and toilets.

As a working shipwright and part-time docent on the ship, Richard O’Keeffe is quick to tell you that this is a “once in a lifetime project,” that he is lucky to be involved with.  

   Photo by Steefenie Wicks 


Photo by Steefenie Wicks 

O’Keeffe, born in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland, came to the US 15 years ago to look for work.  A carpenter all of his life, who spent a good deal of time working on boats, he found the Matthew Turner project an answer to a dream. He was attending the Arques Traditional Boat Building School with instructor Bob Darr, when he heard about the project.   They were just getting started so he turned up to volunteer.  After his skills as shipwright were recognized, he was offered a paying position that he holds down today.  He mentions that the volunteers on this project are awesome individuals who drive in each morning form different parts of the Bay Area just to work on this ship, being part of something that is very special, with a group of talented crafts people.

For O’Keeffe, this is his first time working on a project that is not only vast but has a real historical significance.  Watching something like this come together is exciting.  Using some of the same methods that were used 100 years ago in shipbuilding, then integrating them with the new materials that are produced today, is like watching history meet the present. “When she is finished, she will be a ‘beast,’” he says.” She is being built to go to sea, and trust me, this vessel is seaworthy.”  He continues, “She is built like a tank, a 190-ton vessel that is a good solid boat based on the design of another good solid vessel.  She has a soul; when you walk her decks, you can start to feel that aspect of her coming alive.”   

He continues, “Tall ships are great when they can be built for a town or city.  Because the idea of building a wooden boat is so unreal today, building one is historically significant.  To see a vast vessel like this come alive, gives you a chance to see the action that goes into a project such as this.   This vessel will now be part of Sausalito’s maritime history.  Each day someone stops by and wants to know what’s going on, so it’s great to stop and tell them what we are doing because the next time they stop by they want to be involved. The project as a whole is thrilling because you get to look forward to seeing the vessel finished, so she can begin carving out her own history on the water.”

O’Keeffe looks off into the distance as he continues, “With a project like this you always think, ‘will we be able to do this?’ Then you see all of these people, these volunteers, they come by every day to give their time and talented skills, and then you know this is going to happen.  We are building a tall ship.”

Welcome Aboard the Matthew Turner On June 7, you’ll have a unique opportunity to inspect the progress being made in the building of the Matthew Turner Educational Tall Ship.  Also to being able to tour the completed portions of the replica brigantine, several shipbuilders will be on hand to answer questions.

Tickets for this 4-6 PM fundraiser are only $50 per person, $40 for members of the Historical Society. Children under 12 free when accompanied by an adult.  Each ticket buyer will automatically be entered into a raffle with the Grand Prize being a sail on the Matthew Turner once she is launched.  Other prizes include additional outings on the bay, a seaplane ride, and use of a Southern California beach house for a week and many more.  Each ticket buyer also will receive a free drink and complimentary appetizers.  A no-host bar will be available for your enjoyment.  Support two great causes and attend the Sausalito Historical Society event at the Matthew Turner Educational Tall Ship.

Sausalito In The News – May 11, 1950

By Billie Anderson Sausalito Historical Society

Marin Schools Receive Nearly 4 Million

The California Taxpayers’ Association reported that local property taxes and support from State Taxes for Marin County School Districts this year has reached a total of $83,817,609, with $81,857,170 from State apportionments and $81,960,439 from local property taxes. High School and Junior College Districts in the County are receiving $8,835,257 in State apportionment for 1949-50, based on 5,567 average daily attendance.

Professional Survey Approved

Sausalito School Board of Trustees faced a little competition at Central School while conducting its business at the Monday night meeting. But despite the donkey baseball game in progress on the School grounds and the Boys Club Orchestra’s rendition of “Five Foot-Two Eyes of Blue”, the School Board session continued.

The Board discussed at length the proposed professional survey for school children in the Sausalito. School District. P.T.A. President stated that Sausalito should join Marin City in raising funds for the $2,250 survey originally proposed by a group of Marin City mothers because of the high percentage of children who were not promoted in the Marin City schools. Mrs. Hailing said similar problems existed in Sausalito, and an objective survey would aid in determining how to effect the necessary corrections and establish better relations between the town and the school. Mrs. John Ehlen suggested that the Rosenberg Foundation in San Francisco be contacted for possible financial aid. The Board agreed to do so. School Board trustees refuted rumors that South School will be abandoned.

Cancer Study Progress Underway

A new technique, which is still in the experimental stage, soon may provide medical science with a considerably improved method of diagnosing cancer of the stomach, one of the most difficult forms of the disease.

Training of diagnosticians and technicians in the new technique is being sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which is continuing its annual educational and fund-raising campaign. The research was financed in large part by the U. S. Public Health Service. Success and reliability of the test is dependent upon proper training of technicians.


Huge Illegal Striped Bass Catch Jails 2

District Attorney Edmund J. Pat Brown of San Francisco points to a huge illegal catch of striped bass. They weigh 514 pounds—more than 20 times the legal limit. The bass, all female full of spawn, were netted in San Francisco Bay waters, and allegedly bootlegged to a San Francisco cafe owner. He and a kitchen helper were arrested by a State Fish and Game Warden and await trial. Anglers and sportsmen are alarmed at the flagrant violation of laws protecting this game fish. Brown, a sports fisherman himself, will prosecute the case.


Independence Drive Starts May 15

The United States Savings Bonds Division of the Treasury Department has announced “Independence Drive” to begin on May 15 and continue through July 4.This Campaign aims at increasing the purchase of Series “E” bonds by urging individuals to buy bonds now and by emphasizing the benefits of regular year-round purchases. This is not a drive for contributions, but rather for the establishment of regular thrift. The campaign symbol is the Liberty Bell and the slogan is “Save for Your Independence.”


Mother’s Day Approval

May 14,1950 marks the forty-third anniversary of the struggle of the late Miss Anne Jarvis to have Mother’s Day incorporated into the national calendar and it marks the thirty-sixth year of her triumph when the Congress and the President of the United States first declared in a joint resolution that “it was fitting that America honor her mothers with a national holiday.



--Seventy percent of the area of San Francisco Bay is less than 18 feet deep.


--The Trade Fair offers two local outlets for the new series of Artists’ Post Cards just released in Sausalito. The cards carry the work of Jon Schueler, Jean Varda and L. Moholoy-Nagy.  


On This Date

11- First Netherlands U.S. Telex sent.

13- Diner’s Club issues its first credit cards.

15- Rodgers & Hammerstein receive Pulitzer Prize for South Pacific.

Spring in Sausalito

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society  

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society  

By Larry Clinton -  Sausalito Historical Society


As we enjoy another gorgeous (if parched!) spring here in Sausalito, here’s a poem celebrating the natural beauties of our town. It was written by Marin poet D. Wooster Taylor in 1908.


I will tell a simple story

That a poet told to me,

Of a lofty promontory

Bending down to kiss the sea;

Where the houses seem like flowers

Peeking out beneath the trees,

And the sweetest natural bowers

Fling their perfume on the breeze;

Where the roadways wind, half hidden,

‘Neath a net of evergreen,

And the hollyhock, unbidden,

Spreads its scarlet on the scene;

Where the rose and wild syringe

Bud and blossom on the slope,

And the evening sunsets linger

With the pink and heliotrope;

Where the fragrant oleander

In the terrace gardens grow

And you gaze from your veranda

On the snow-white yachts below;

‘Where the wide-winged gulls are flying

In the ferry’s silvery spray,

And you see the islands lying

Half asleep upon the bay;

Where a launch is proudly steaming

Near a mighty man-of-war,

And a fisherman is dreaming

Of his cottage on the shore;

“Where Mt. Tamalpais, terrific,

Holds the Fog King in his lair,

And the salt of the Pacific

Breathes its freshness on the air;

You have heard the poet’s story:

Sausalito, that is you! Just a crown of

natural glory

On a sea of azure blue.

Dr. Steven Egri; Waterfront Veterinarian

by Steefenie Wicks Sausalito Historical Society

Sally Stanford was a madam, a restaurateur and the mayor of Sausalito. In her memory, the City of Sausalito commissioned a drinking fountain in 1985 to honor Sally and her dog Leland. The fountain was constructed by local potter Eric Norstad, its basin inscribed with the words “Have a drink on Sally.” The runoff pours into a lower basin that reads “Have a drink on Leland,” for the dogs visiting the site at the Sausalito ferry landing.  

Photo by Steefenie Wicks 

This fountain pays tribute to the fact that dogs in Sausalito have real personalities. And so do the veterinarians who care for them.  The Sausalito waterfront has one of those veterinarians with a very distinct personality; his name is Dr. Steven Egri.

Dr. Egri was born in Hungary; he was raised in Buffalo, New York and went to veterinarian school in Italy. The university medical program in Italy was five years long with a series of oral exams that tested his knowledge of Italian, which he speaks, reads and writes.

Dr. Egri has been practicing his skills as a veterinarian on the Sausalito waterfront since 1990. He says that when he returned from Italy he ended up in Virginia, where he took his national boards, and then worked as a veterinarian for cats, dogs, cows, horses and chickens.  He returned to California to take the State Boards, and while staying with a friend in Mill Valley, he discovered that there was room for another veterinarian in Sausalito. Dr. Egri decided to stay in here, thus beginning his career as a waterfront veterinarian.

Listed in town as a Marine Veterinary Specialist, he finds that over the years he has worked on most of our 4-legged friends, but not many seals have made it to his door.

“I have worked on a few wounded seagulls that people will find and bring here,” he states,” but that’s nothing compared to the many times someone will come get me and say there’s a dead dog in the parking lot.  I walk back with them so that they can show me the dog. I walk over to the animal, lean down get close and say, ‘get up.’ Most of the time, the dog just sits up looks at me like ‘why did you wake me,’ then takes off looking for another quiet spot.  But it’s good that people come to get me because you just never know.”

Dr. Egri’s patients are not only from the Sausalito waterfront but also from San Francisco and the East Bay -- two locations where he worked before he opened his practice here. When asked what is the difference in a city practice vs. a waterfront practice he will tell you it’s the house calls, because house calls on the water mean that you travel by boat.  Most of his waterfront house calls have to do with sick or dying pets that can’t be moved so he goes out to see them.

“When you have a cat or a dog that can’t be moved, you have to go to them and tend to them along with the owner,” he said. “Compassion is a big part of what I do.  So if a pet needs to be euthanized, I’ll go out, administer the treatment, and then sit with the owner until I feel the time is right for me to leave.  It’s like you want someone to be with you when you have to say ‘goodbye.’”

When asked if he has seen any changes on the waterfront with people and their pets he smiles. “When I first came here the dogs roamed free.  They were not on leashes; they seemed to know each other’s territory.  Now that’s changed, I think for the good, because it could make for thrilling times if you got caught near a dog fight, with no owner to yell stop!”

Dr. Egri tries to make his services available 24 hours a day. You can phone his office or send him a text, which he will answer.  “The calls  vary from ‘my dog or cat has swallowed something strange’ to ‘my dog is stumbling around disorientated.’ To this I reply ‘please check and see if a pot stash has been left on the floor: if it has, pick it up and keep an eye on the dog if he continues his disorientation I’ll drop by.’  When I don’t get another call, I know they have taken the pot away so the dog can’t eat any more of it.”

He continues with, “The thing about being local is that you get to see generations of not only animals but also the people who have owned them.  Since I have worked here, I have seen some remarkable animals owned by remarkable people.  Take the dog named Little Bit who was this huge Doberman; or Wig Wag, who fathered many dogs on the waterfront that looked like him, short with stumpy bodies and legs, that are still around today.  Then there was Tess, a beautiful Samoyed/golden retriever mix that had 10 puppies; I took care of them after their delivery.”

In Dr. Egri’s office, the first thing you notice is the lack of advertisement.  He will be the first to tell you that he does not sell food or drugs nor does he advertize them in his office.  He feels that what he does is offer a service and try to answer questions, if he can’t answer people’s questions, then he wants to be able to point them in the right direction to find that answer.

Ode to Diversity at Marinship

By George Keeney, 

George Keeney was Employment Manager for Marinship, and he penned the following memoir describing the diversity of the workforce in the shipyard during WWII.  We are reprinting it here verbatim, including some of the slang of the day:

A diverse group of applicants lines up outside the Marinship Hiring Hall on Caledonia Street (now the site of Driver’s Market).
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

There were ball players and football players, wrestlers and boxers, golf pros, tennis pros, an ice skater, and a fencing master.
There were actors, singers, artists, cartoonists, composers, writers, carnival men, vaudeville stars, musical comedy stars, theatrical producers, night club entertainers, band leaders, and more than half the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
There were attorneys, teachers, newspapermen, chemists, nurses, tailors, insurance brokers, cameramen, veterinarians, morticians, and a puppet maker.
There was a casket salesman who was put on the graveyard shift, and a bulldogger who became a rigger.
There were assemblymen, former chiefs of police, ex-mayors, a fire chief, and a consul-general who became a shipfitter helper.
There were clergymen, and a rabbi who worked as a pipefitter helper.
There was the first American to join the Lafayette Squadron in World War I, and a man who took part in the Battle of Jutland.
There was an old Sourdough, and a relative of the Pope was a timekeeper.
There was an American Indian ballet dancer who became a slab helper.
There were over 300 Chinese, a large group of Latin Americans, and refugees from Europe.
There was a man whose first name was General, there was one whose first name was Colonel, and there was another whose first name was Baron.
There were ex-convicts who had got shipbuilding training from models in San Quentin.
There was the composer of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart," and there was a pie-eating champ who once consumed twenty-six lemon chiffon pies at one sitting.
There were men who were at Midway, Honolulu, Pago Pago, and Surabaya during Japanese attacks.
There was a man who had been torpedoed twice, a man who had spent eleven days in a lifeboat after Japs had sunk his freighter, and a former tail-gunner in a B-24. There was a welder called Miss Weld.
There were retired men who used their past experience in some related craft, and wives who replaced their drafted husbands.
There was a 72-year-old painter with twenty-one sons, step-children and relatives in the armed forces, and a 35-year-old electrical worker who had a son in the Navy.
There were fourteen deaf-mute chipper s in the Plate Shop, and a welder three feet eleven inches tall in the double bottoms.
There were a Mr. Dew and a Mr. Dont.
There were thirty Australian sailors, welding while their ship was being repaired, and fourteen members of one family: father, sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandson and granddaughter.
After helping to build the first Mission tanker one worker joined the crew and sailed away with her.
There was the man who reported for work but had to go back home to get his tools—and his home was in Oklahoma.
The man with the shortest name was Mr. Ng, and the man with the longest was Mr. Papachristopulos.
The shipyard personnel included: a scrap-paper baler, a traffic cop, a refrigerator man, label stampers, window washers, a keymaker, a man who recharged flashlight batteries, locomotive engineers, a hard-hat repairer, goggle repairers, a deep-sea diver, a saw filer, a boiler-petcock checker, a fingerprint taker, a rat exterminator.

Shel on the Beach in Sausalito

By Larry Clinton -  Sausalito Historical Society

Poet, cartoonist, songwriter playwright and bon vivant Shel Silverstein was one of the most famous early residents of the Bohemian Sausalito houseboat scene.  

In 1957, Silverstein was a cartoonist for Playboy Magazine, which sent him around the world to create an illustrated travel journal. During the 1950s and 1960s, he documented his own experiences at a New Jersey nudist colony, the Chicago White Sox training camp, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, and other destinations.  It was on his Haight-Ashbury assignment that Shel discovered the Sausalito waterfront.  In a recent interview, Shel’s longtime colleague, Larry Moyer, recalled how they first got here:

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

“In February 1967, when I lived in a Greenwich Village apartment, a friend sent me a birthday present: A woman named Nicki knocked at my door, delivering a hot pastrami sandwich and a pickle.” Having just returned from San Francisco, Nicki suggested that the blossoming Haight-Ashbury scene would make a great feature for Playboy.

“So Shel and I got sent out West. We spent three months in the Haight. While we were there, we visited a friend of Nicki’s—rock guitarist Dino Valenti—here on the Sausalito waterfront.”

Moyer and Silverstein liked what they saw. “There were a few hundred boats. It was total freedom. The music, the people, the architecture, the nudity—all we could say was, ‘Wow!’ So Shel bought a boat, and I bought a boat. And that was that.”

When Silverstein died in 1999, he had residences on Martha’s Vineyard, Key West, Greenwich Village, and a converted balloon barge on Liberty Dock here in Sausalito.  During WWII, these barges were anchored outside the Golden Gate Bridge, deploying tethered helium balloons as a sort of airborne submarine net. Shel’s  barge had been converted to a residence by legendary waterfront artist Chris Roberts and named “The Evil Eye.”  Today, it’s the home of Larry Moyer.

On Friday, May 1, Larry Moyer and Bill Kirsch of the Historical Society will present a multi-media show entitled “Remembering Shel Silverstein,” as part of the Sausalito Library’s speakers series.  After the presentation, which begins at 7 p.m., there will be a reception in the Historical Society’s Exhibit Room one floor above the library to introduce the Society’s new exhibit of Shel Silverstein works and memorabilia.

In the News April 1915

By Billie Anderson Sausalito Historical Society

Mountain Play site improvements begin

The Mountain Play Association is getting busy with the problem of opening up and improving trails from West Point to the Theatre, which is situated near Rock Spring, a distance of less than a mile from the Railway Station. Through the assistance of the Conservation Club and the Tamalpais Fire Association there is no doubt that patrons of Rip Van Winkle will travel over well-made paths.

Chief Forester F. E. Olmstead of the Fire Association and Harvey Elansen of the Conservation Club, who is also a Director of the Mountain Play Association, went over the grounds for a second time on Sunday. The fact that sections of the trail were in bad shape last year has prompted the Association to take particular pains to fix up the paths.

Marin boy on ill-fated submarine

Frank Pierard, son of Mr. C. J. Pierard, is one of the crew of the Submarine F-4 which has been lying in three hundred feet of water near Honolulu for the past few days. All hope of bringing them up alive is given up. He was well liked by all his acquaintances and was a very bright young man.

Clean up day

This is Marin County. Sausalito should do its duty by helping out in this work.

Oranges $1.35 per box

These are the real sweet and juicy kind that cost 40 cents per dozen. Send your personal check and we will ship to any Railroad point. We will refund your money and make you a present of the oranges if you are not satisfied. Each box contains about 100 to 150 fine sweet navel oranges. Order at once as the demand is big.

Washington needs to hear from home

Maybe you do not know it but it helps a whole lot when the legislators “hear from the folks at home”. Put yourself in the place of your Senator or Assemblyman for a little while and you will find there is a great difference being on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out. There are 120 members in both houses. There is every indication that the majority is working from an earnest conviction, right or wrong as you view it.

This great big republic was built by the gatherings in the country school houses, on the porch and the country newspapers. You have built this ship of state and time has only seasoned its staunch seniors. If you have any idea that this old craft is getting unseaworthy, get rid of that idea at once! Each voted his opinion, an opinion formed under varying conditions to the referendum.

At least two political parties are absolutely essential for the safety of our democracy. Now get busy and give the men who are trying to legislate for you the benefit of what you think.

In The Year 1915

14th- Dutch Merchant Navy Ship Katwijk sunk by Germany torpedo.

19th- 19th Boston Marathon won by Edouard Fabre of Canada in 2:31:41.2.

20th- The Armenians rise and seize the Turkish town of Van, which they held until Russians relieved them; thousands of Armenians were killed.

20th – 1st Military use of Poison Gas (Chlorine) by Germany.

Annie Sutter: Old Ferryboats of Sausalito

By Steefenie Wicks Sausalito Historical Society

In his book “Sausalito: Moments in Time,” Jack Tracy writes: “The waterfront north of Marinship became the final resting place for verteran ferryboats, once worked prodigiously, now abandoned. 

Here the City of San Rafael, Vallejo, Charles Van Damme, Issaquah and City of Seattle eventually were left to their fates. Ironically, these ferry boats had never been part of Sausalito’s past but served other Bay Area cities. Nevertheless, Sausalito is where they would live out their final chapter, in Sausalito’s future.”

Photo by Steefenie Wicks 

Photo by Steefenie Wicks 

Waterfront writer Annie Sutter would take it upon herself to continue this line of interest in 1987 with a little jewel of a book titled “The Old Ferryboats of Sausalito.” As she states in the forward of this 37-page book, “Again. It’s not a matter of age or where they worked … it’s what happened after that matters.”

Annie Sutter was born in Wisconsin and found her way to Sausalito working as a travel agent. In 1976 she began writing for Marin Scope in what she refers to as “the waterfront gossip column” called “On the Water.” In 1982, she interviewed movie star-turned writer Sterling Hayden for the Sausalito Historical Society. Her talks with Hayden are informative and humorous as in the following excerpt:

Hayden begins, “I set up shop in a garage, had a Chinese coffin maker set me up a little desk, and I started to write. That lasted about two weeks. I kept thinking, jeez, I’m sitting here and down there on the waterfront the girls are gathering and the music’s beginning and what am I doing in this garage? So I gave up the garage and went down to the ship. Put a surfboard across the cockpit and put my typewriter on that, and then I had the best of both worlds.” The book he was working on at that time became a best seller known as “Wanderer.”

Sutter’s keen interest in people gave an insight into the waterfront world that was so importantly part of Sausalito. It seemed only natural that she would see the destruction of the large ferryboats, the history that they represented and somehow try to preserve that part of Sausalito’s waterfront history. In her book she writes, “There are but a precious few representatives remaining of the rich maritime banquet that once rested along Sausalito’s shores. The sailing ships, square riggers, steam schooners, barges, tugs and ferryboats that over the years were beached along the waterfront are mostly gone, victims of assorted ailments: dry rot, erosion, decay, disinterest … simply the action of time.”

Her book offers a look into the history of the area, the people who at this time were in one way or the other trying to maintain some part of this waterfront heritage. She writes about the individuals who took on the enormous jobs of trying to keep these boats afloat.

She writes that one of the lucky ones is the City of Seattle, purchased by people who continued to care as the years went on. It’s not an easy task to keep alive a vessel that had almost been scrapped back in 1913. Chris Tellis, the owner of the City of Seattle, is quoted in Sutter’s book saying, “Owning a ferry is an incredible indulgence. You can’t keep it up, even if a ferry is the only thing you want to spend your money on. You are never done; it’s a full-time job just keeping even. And yet … it’s not drudgery bringing one of these boats back to life … it’s inspiring. It’s a lifestyle in itself.”

Sutter understood these feeling since she had purchased the classic 1907motor launch Cherokee, and spent many years restoring her. Resembling a small tugboat, the Cherokee became known as one gem of a small launch/yacht motoring on the waters of Richardson’s Bay.

It is no wonder that Sutter’s book would follow the enchantment and disintegration of these awesome ferries, along with the people who became part of their lives. Like Chris Tellis, artist Jean Varda, his friends Forest Wright and the Englishman Gordon Onslow-Ford purchased a ferry named Vallejo. Sutter writes that Varda first became aware of the vessel when she was docked at the Arques boat yard. The Vallejo had been sold for scrap to the Gardiner Steel Mill of Oakland, delivered to the Arques yard in Sausalito to be broken up. After Varda and his friends viewed the vessel in 1947, they hurried over to the Gardiner office in Oakland, announcing that they wanted to buy it. When asked how much money they had, Varda had none, Forest had none, but Gordon had $500.00. So it was agreed that this would be the down payment, they also agreed to pay at least $60.00 a month as rent.

Sutter’s book offers a brief history lesson of what happens when we let our maritime history disappear.

Today on the Sausalito waterfront only the City of Seattle and the Vallejo still exist. Annie Sutter’s little book is now out of print. It has become a rare volume full of Sausalito’s past, preserved by a waterfront historian.

Peter Strietman: Port Sausalito

By Steefenie Wicks - Sausalito Historical Society

In his book, “Sausalito: Moments in Time,” Jack Tracy wrote Sausalito is first and foremost a place with a rich history and residents who love and defend their town with uncommon civic pride and participation. This describes the many talented people who have worked and lived over the years at Gate 3, part of Sausalito’s working waterfront.

Courtesy of Steefenie Wicks

Courtesy of Steefenie Wicks

Peter Strietman has been part of that working waterfront for more than three decades. Recently, Strietman was given 30 days to move his 10-year boat restoration project from his shop space at Gate 3. The request for his removal resulted in his decision to destroy the vessel.

While he was working on the vessel, named Port Luck, he spoke with the Historical Society about his time on the Sausalito waterfront:

“I came to Sausalito in 1979. I lived aboard my boat, which at that time was an Adkins design double-ended ketch called Burma Girl. She was 42 feet on deck, 52 feet overall.

“I lived on the anchorage like everyone else at that time, but needed shop space so I could work on my boat. I had heard about the Gate 3 Co-Op through folks who were working on boats, decided to check it out, liked what I experienced there and became a member, that was in 1981.

“At that time, Gate 3 was like a small town within the City of Sausalito. The property was then owed by Donlon Arques, who was supportive of people living on their boats and working on their boats, so he had this entire community of boat workers living at Gate 3 on their boats. In those days, if you were part of the Gate 3 Boat Co-Op, then you were part of the elite boat builders working on the waterfront at that time.

“I should put together a list of the old members – people like Peter Lamb (he restored the whale boats onboard the tall ship, Balcutha), Dan Jones, John Belinski (he has re-built most of the rowing crafts at the San Francisco Dolphin Club), Peter Bailey (he built his boat the Bertie at Gate 3 and went on to design the ships for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), Dudley Lewis (he built and launched his boat at Gate 3), even Bob Darr was a member of the Gate 3 Boat Co-Op.

“The Co-Op was a sharing organization. Tools were passed back and forth and nothing was ever lost or stolen. At the high point, there were over 22 members. Then Argues died, the property was sold, then in 1986 the residential community was evicted. Things changed slowly, but they changed.

“Some of us at the Co-Op decided that we would try and stay. After all, our organization was over 25 years old and had always paid rent, but the lease that was put together by the new owner of the property proved to be an undesirable contract so the group was broken.

“The Sausalito waterfront is changing. The boat builders are leaving because there is no space for them to rent. Gate 3 was the last holdout as far as workable waterfront, but that changed. Working on wooden boats has changed, many people who worked on these wooden boats have left the area, and the support that the working waterfront community used to have is no longer there.”

When asked if he would continue to sail and work on wooden boats, Strietman revealed he has spent five years working on another boat. He’s been restoring an old traditional sandbagger, named Flirt, which was built by well-known Sausalito Boatwright Ralph Flowers.

Launched off Mare Island in 1919, the vessel is 29.5 feet long and 12 feet wide with no standing room in the cabin. Flowers once told Streitman about designing boats for the Treasury department to chase down the local rumrunners. But what the Treasury department did not know was that the guys who were designing their boats were also designing the boats the rumrunners were using. And somehow the rumrunners boats were designed to be faster.

Strietman said he went to Flowers and asked him for advice when he became interested in the Flirt, noting Flowers told him to “take the damn thing out and sink it.” He later reconsidered and helped him work on the boat.

By this time, Flowers was old and thin, according to Strietman, but could still be seen riding his old three-speed bike all over town until his death at the age of 95. In his honor and because he built most of the Arks, one was named after him.

When asked if he saw anything positive about the waterfront and the direction it’s heading, Strietman mentioned the Spalding Center, the Arques Traditional Boat Building School, the new Cass’s Marina project, Alan Olson’s building of the Matthew Turner and the Galilee Harbor Community.

Thus, there is hope that the heart and soul of the Sausalito waterfront will continue and maybe – just maybe – these new groups will be able to grow and pass on Sausalito’s waterfront heritage.

Portuguese Heritage in Marin

By Larry Clinton - Sausalito Historical Society

The first Portuguese immigrants arrived in Marin County in the early 1800s from the Azores, where they had been enlisted by Yankee whaling ships that stopped in the islands for water, food and other supplies. The young, skilled Portuguese sailors were brought around Cape Horn to pursue the whales off the California coast.

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

As described in a new self-guided walking tour that highlights the life, work and final resting spots of these early Sausalitans, this area reminded the sailors of their homeland. Taken by the arid but cool climate, they settled quickly. Soon to follow were anchovy and sardine fishermen, boat builders and, finally, scores of dairymen from the Azores.

From the Gold Rush era on, successive waves of Portuguese immigrants arrived. They carved out new lives, but clung to the traditions of their past. As late as the 1940s, there was a saying that a traveler from the Golden Gate Bridge to Petaluma would never be out of site of a Portuguese dairy.

Settling in southern Marin, these newcomers established tight-knit communities in Sausalito and other nearby towns. By the turn of the century, immigrant dairymen had transformed the local industry. The largest numbers of Portuguese immigrants were from dairy farms in the Azores, already famous for its cows and cheese.

The Ilha de São Jorge is the center of the Azores’ dairy industry, and many of West Marin’s families have their roots there. Lush pastures and the temperate climate of West Marin were nearly ideal for dairy herds, just as on São Jorge. For decades, Marin County was the leading dairy production county in the state, and its famous butter was eagerly sought by urban residents.

Marin’s dairy industry was largely built by the hard labor of these newcomers. Times have since changed and, with the creation of Point Reyes National Seashore and the emergence of the Central Valley as a dairy production center, Marin’s dairy industry has become a quieter way of life. Its Portuguese heritage, however, is still celebrated.

Descendants of the early immigrants continue to live in Marin, their Azorean names a reminder of their heritage: Afonso, Amador, Avila, Azevedo, Bello, Bettencourt, Boreiros, Brazil, Cunha, DeFraga, Dias, Francisco, Ferreira, Freitas, Lourenço (Lawrence), Machado, Martins, Mattos, Moraes, Paulino, Pedrosa, Lacerda, Ladera, Lopes, Nunes, Quadres, Regallo, Rosa, Sequeira, Silva, Silveira, Soares, Sousa, Teixeira, Terra, Vieira and many others.

Sausalito’s Holy Ghost Festa is a reminder of the cultural ties that bind and unite Portuguese immigrants and their descendants. Jack Tracy wrote about the festa in the seminal Sausalito history, “Moments in Time.”

“The Portuguese community’s observance of the festival on Pentecost Sunday is based on an event in the late 13th century. Queen Isabel of Portugal prayed to the Holy Ghost to end the two-year famine that wracked her country and her prayers were answered. A celebration was held that has been reenacted each year since. A feast symbolic of the end of famine is a central part of the festival. The traditional meal consists of Sopa, Carne e Vino (soup, meat, and wine) following Mass, a procession through Sausalito streets proclaiming the visit by the Holy Ghost.”

Sausalito In The News: Feb. 17, 1900

By Billie Anderson  

Wonderful Success in Photography

The development of photography during the past 10 years has been something remarkable and in no branch of science have such wonderful results been attained as in this.

The greatest and most brilliant achievements in the field of photography, as well as the most recent, are the sensational pictures of the Sharkey-Jeffries contest for the World Championship. This was the most gigantic photographic proposition ever attempted, and failure meant the loss of thousands and thousands of dollars to those interested in the affair.

To photograph this great battle, artificial light had to be employed. To those of our readers at all familiar with photography, the difficulties and obstacles to be overcome to make the experiment a success can be fully appreciated.

Never before had artificial light been used successfully in such a scheme, and photographic experts all over the country predicted absolute failure on this occasion.

Directly over the ring in the arena of the Coney Island Club, 400 arc electric lights were placed in a solid square, making a total of 800,000 candle power, enough to light an entire city. The great contest lasted for 25 rounds. Each round required nearly 2,000 feet of film. To reproduce the entire battle, the film used is 14 miles in length and requires over two hours of continuous work to run it off.

These wonderful pictures are on exhibit at the new Alhambra Theatre in San Francisco for two weeks, two performances daily. Every incident, every blow and move in the entire contest are shown with remarkable distinctness. Everything is so realistic that spectators become as excited as though they were at an actual ringside. This will be the only place the pictures will be shown in this part of the State.

Use of Vehicles at Night

The Sausalito Trustees have ordained as follows: It shall be unlawful for any person to drive any cart, wagon or other vehicle at night time, without having a light affixed on the front center of the body of the vehicle.

Any person violating the provisions of this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding 25 dollars or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 days or by both.

Marin Has New Industry

The Daybreak Rabbitry of Mill Valley, Calif., is in receipt of its first installment of stock. Rabbits were selected from one of the best known breeders in Southern California. A pureblooded, pedigreed rabbit named “Victoria,” along with her fine family of eight, about six weeks old, arrived today. The father of the family is a famous buck.

These bunnies are already almost as big as full-grown wild rabbits and surely are as pretty a sight as one could look at, with their large brown eyes, long straight ears and tiny brown feet. One of the little ones actually allowed himself to be taken up by my little daughter, his long ears being snugly laid down his seal-brown back.

It is our intention at once to add to our stock and even in a short time may have a few of this Yukon-Victoria litter for sale. The rabbits bred on the Livermore place at Waldo Point – the whole county is a natural habitat for such life. We may be able to exhibit some prize winners at the next State Exposition which will be held in San Francisco.

This Date in History: February 1900

Feb. 5: The United States and the United Kingdom sign Panama Canal Treaty

Feb. 14: Russia responds to international pressure to free Finland by tightening imperial control over the country

Feb. 16: First Chinese daily newspaper published

Feb. 22: Hawaii Becomes U.S. Territory


Feb. 8: Ivan Ivanov-Vano Soviet animator/animation director

Feb. 11: Hans-Georg Gadamer, German philosopher

Saving Old Town’s Shelter Cove

By Larry Clinton - Sausalito Historical Society
Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Can you imagine a high-rise apartment building in the middle of Old Town’s Shelter Cove? It might have happened if not for the efforts of two unlikely allies: city attorney John Ehlen and ex-madam turned restaurateur Sally Stanford.

The following was reported in the Sausalito News in February 1957:

An excited and vocal cross-section of all facets of Sausalito society crammed into the City Hall last Tuesday night to implore, castigate, deride and offer escape clauses apropos of the proposed waterfront apartments scheduled to start construction this spring.

Last minute rescue

It was City Attorney John Ehlen who emerged as the knight in shining armor to save the waterfront, at least temporarily, for the city. Ehlen, armed with the code of the State Lands Commission, disclosed that the builders of the proposed Cove Apartments are not entitled to their building permit because at the present time there is not the required legal access to the property they have purchased – the submerged tidelands off the Boardwalk, bounded by Main and Richardson streets. The State Tidelands Commission will have to issue a permit for building on that site before further construction steps can be taken. At the present time, under the State Lands Act, the City of Sausalito has only an easement to the lots.

Time to rezone

In the meantime, while the builders are applying to the State Lands Commission for their permit (which they have said they will proceed immediately to do), the City Planning Commission will consider rezoning the land for condemnation proceedings on aesthetic grounds. Ehlen also quoted a precedent set in the United States Supreme Court that cited public welfare as having spiritual and aesthetic principles as well as safety and sanitary aspects. After this rezoning or condemnation is established, the burden of proof on the validity of the zoning will be placed on the developers, according to Ehlen.

Sally offers bail

Prior to the city attorney’s factual solution to the hassle, Sally Stanford, present with her attorney, James MacInnis, again offered to buy the property at a fair market price and present it to Sausalito for recreational use.

In an oral history recorded for the Historical Society, long-time community activist Bea Seidler told how Sally eventually prevailed, along with several other citizens who raised enough money to make a down payment on the property, and then deeded it to the City, which put up the rest of the purchase price. “Sally I think was the one who got the whole thing going,” recalled Bea, “because she was going to lose her view.”

Back issues of Sausalito News from 1895 through 1957 are available via the Sausalito Historical Society’s website at

Sausalito in the News: Jan. 26, 1957

By Billie Anderson

Alcatraz Birdman starts 41st year

Famed Alcatraz convict Robert Stroud will be 67 years old next Monday and start serving his 41st year in solitary confinement – longer than any known prisoner alive in the world. Eligible for parole in 1936, he has never achieved release.

The oldest federal prisoner today, Stroud was sentenced at 19 years on a manslaughter charge in frontier Alaska in 1909, and was placed in solitary. President Wilson commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment.

The lonely convict tamed sparrows, bred canaries and studied bird diseases under a microscope. He became world-renowned as a bird doctor and authored two books on avian disease. After an altercation with prison authorities in 1942, Stroud was separated from his laboratory and birds and placed in Alcatraz.

His book, “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” published by Random House, has recently been released in England and in Braille. Dutch and Japanese publications will be out this spring. He has not seen his recently published book.

A movie about Stroud’s life will be produced by Joshua Logan this year.

Don’t put that gun away

The news has never been a house organ for hunters because we like our birds on the wing. However, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Fish and Game and ranchers, whose fields are taking a beating from thousands of mud hens, are imploring sportsmen to take a bead on the coots – otherwise known as mudhens, tulehens and whitebills.

The federal agency has raised the bag limit to 25 birds per day for coots and has permitted California to extend the season beyond the regular water fowl hunting period to March 1.

Christmas wreath sale a success

James Muldoon reports that Sausalito Cub Pack 8 sold a total of 480 Christmas wreaths within 24 hours.

Water plans to be discussed

California’s water resources will be discussed at the League of Women Voters general meeting and tea on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 1:30 p.m. Mrs. Charles Cross is the new president of the Sausalito League of Women Voters.

March on Polio

About 75 mothers will participate.

Snow trip

Boy Scout Troop 44, sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church of Sausalito, is getting a touch of snow at Chubb Lake this weekend.

At a glance

Yearly inflation rate: 3.3 percent

Average cost of new home: $12,220

Average monthly rent: $90.00

Average yearly wages: $4,550.00

Gallon of gas price: 24 cents

The King of Wolfback Mountain

By Steefenie Wicks - The Sausalito Historical Society

Courtesy of Julie Warren

Courtesy of Julie Warren

For years, the Sausalito Historical Society has recorded interviews with people who have added to the history of Sausalito. The following is taken from an interview that was conducted by Dorothy Gibson, a local historian and former member of SHS. A resident of Sausalito since 1954, Gibson is the author of two books, “Sausalito Paths and Walkways” and “The Marin Headlands.”

“High above Richards’s Bay, high above San Francisco Bay, high above almost everything God willing, we are at the home of Fritz Warren on Wolfback Ridge.”

This was Gibson’s opening statement on the interview tape, recorded March 26, 2008. Francis (Fritz) Wreden Warren was born in San Francisco in 1927. In the interview, Warren makes it clear he was on his own at a very young age. He shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant marine when he was only 17 and, by the time he was in his 20s, he had sailed most of the world.

At that time Warren attended San Francisco City College and decided that he would return to the Bay to go back to school. He later attended Hastings Law School, but dropped out when he started working for British Auto Parts, a job that he would hold for the next 10 years.

Warren spoke about taking a part-time job with Ernie Gain as a young student. At the time, Gain was fishing out of San Francisco on a 35-foot salmon trawler.

“In those days, there were public docks that the fishing boats could pull up to and sell their catch,” Warren recalled.” When we would get to the dock, Ernie would give me a dollar’s worth of nickels and send me to the nearest phone booth. There I would go to the restaurant page, start calling them, letting them know that we had just come in with a load of fresh rock cod that they had better come over fast before we sold out. Within an hour they would start to arrive.

“But soon I realized that this was not the way to make a lot of money. That’s when I got involved in auto parts sales.”

Part of Warren’s job was to travel to different areas, and, on one of his trips, he purchased his first boat. She was called the Truly Fair, a 72-foot yawl with what he called a “Sausalito” transom. He spoke fondly of his days aboard the Truly Fair and his life at sea with his wife, June.

“I met June in 1948, here on Wolfback Ridge,” Warren said. “I had come back to Sausalito. There was a listing in the newspaper about this piece of property at the top of Sausalito, so I came to see it. Walked around, could not get over the million-dollar views that this acreage offered, then saw a house, walked up to the front door and knocked.”

The door was opened by June, who, at the time, was living in the house with her soon to be ex-husband, Mario Corbett.

“Mario Corbett, an architect, had purchased most of this property in the mid 1940s,” Warren continued. “June had been part of his public relations team. When they married, they moved to Sausalito. They had purchased from Sausalito Boulevard to the top of the ridge, they owned upper Spencer [Avenue] on both sides of the freeway, also a road called Ridge Road.

“At that time, there were no houses or structures up here except for the castle that was built in 1939 by Rudolph G. Theurkauf, called, ‘The Tower.’ It commands a spectacular view of San Francisco Bay.”

June eventually divorced Corbett. He kept land, she the house. A relationship soon developed between Fritz and June. They married, had three children and became involved in the political structure of Sausalito.

In 1977, he constructed his dream house high above the rushing traffic of Highway 101. It was in this house that the interview with Gibson took place.

Warren spent a lot of his time at planning commission meetings and was eventually appointed to the commission on which he would serve two years. He ran for city council, was elected to office for four years in the 1970s, and served two of the years as Mayor of Sausalito.

He would become known as a strong-minded mayor who had his own issues with not only the Sausalito waterfront, but also the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

At one point in the interview, Warren breaks his train of thought as he spots a hawk out the window. As he gazes at the large bird, he comments on how they don’t move their wings; they just keep working the wind currents up and down.

One can almost see both Dorothy and Fritz in that 4,000-square-foot structure, looking out over the Bay as they sat and spoke. I think both would agree that people do throw stones at those who live on the sides of mountains.