Greg Baker: Sausalito Waterfront Citizen

By Steefenie Wicks

Greg Baker: Sausalito Waterfront Citizen

Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Greg Baker has been part of the Sausalito waterfront since 1962.  The City employees of Sausalito, along with the personnel from both the Fire and the Police departments, recognize his name, which for them stands for security.  Because for many years Baker was part of the security force for the Sausalito waterfront that involved both the Marinship and the Schoonmaker area.   He worked for Myron Spaulding at the location that we now call the Spaulding Marine Center, where he recalls that Spaulding was a meticulous man t known for saying, “You don’t use the vacuum until the big pieces have been picked up.”   

Baker, who lived or worked on most if not all of the collection of old ferryboats purchased and brought to this area by Donlan Arques, recalls, “If it were not for Arques, the ferries would not have had a life after their death in service.”  Baker also worked for Harold Sommers, of the schooner Wander Bird along with boat sitting the yacht Freda with then mate Bill Martinelli for Sommers when he went traveling in Germany with his wife Anna. 

Baker was raised in the little costal town of Inverness, on Tomales Bay.  He remembers that during the winter months the town’s census would go down to 40 residents, which left only 14 students to be taught in the old one room schoolhouse in the middle of town. He was given his first boat when he was around 10 years old -- a little row boat that he would paddle up and down the shore line with his mother, who did not swim but always watched for the bottom of the bay.  

His father, along with most of the men in the town, worked for RCA; most were amateur radio operators.  After his father got his first car, Greg would always ask him if they could go to Sausalito, to look at the boats.   Even as a child, Sausalito was always the place he wanted to come to, to be part of.  He remembers that after he got out of the Navy in 1962 he found himself working a job handling lights for a jazz club in Los Angeles.  Later, that fall, he found himself back in Sausalito where -- by coincidence -- he ran into a friend from the jazz club.  His friend was now working a local jazz venue, and he needed a man on the lights, so Baker took the job at the Yacht Dock, which was soon to become the Trident restaurant.  “In those days, some of the real jazz greats came to play in San Francisco, then found their way to Sausalito,” he continued. “In Sausalito the jazz scene was quiet, almost low key compared to what the club would become once it became the Trident.”  He recalled the time that comedian Bill Cosby took over the stage and entertained the audience until closing time.

Like others who arrived on the Sausalito waterfront, Baker lived in various locations, including aboard the Oakland, a 120-foot-long potato barge, which housed several apartments along with artist studios.  He recalled that at one point the City had complained that it was sitting on City property, so the residents got together, floated that part of the barge that was in conflict, then moved it over so that it was now in the county not the city area.  Baker recalls that those were the real days of freedom on the waterfront. He feels that today one of the best things taking place on the waterfront is the tall ship project; this is the type of restoration project that keeps the history of the waterfront alive. Whereas yesterday there were only 20 boats anchored in the Sausalito anchorage, today you have over 200.  Today, instead of having someone doing waterfront security you have security cameras, which take away from the human contact which was part of the waterfront.  

For many years not only did Baker do waterfront security but he was also known for his boat called the ‘Tug Kent’ which was a little 24-foot tug boat that he rigged for fire fighting duties.  It was referred to by the Coast Guard and emergency services as the vessel that supplied “mutual aid” in urgent situations.  He was written about in the Floating Times newspaper for an incident that took place on Strawberry Point before it was developed.  A grass fire started near shore, inconveniently located for access by land -based fire-fighting crews.  Baker arrived, successfully attacking the blaze from the water’s edge.  Years later he would assist Marin fire personnel combating flames while providing water protection during a Strawberry house fire.

Baker no longer has the fireboat, nor is he employed by the waterfront to provide security.  Now he lives anchored out on his 41 foot boat the Marcy, taking in the changes that are happening in the anchorage as well as in the town itself, knowing that he will always be a citizen of the waterfront, one who offers help and directions for others while still providing a secure environment for the many.

Thanksgiving 1896

By Larry Clinton

Reading the following Thanksgiving poem, from the November 21, 1896 Sausalito News, makes it clear that folks back then were concerned about many of the same international issues that trouble us today: oppression, human rights, religious freedom and class warfare:

As the earth grows old, and clearly to the view

New roads to truth and power as their course pursue—

Leading far on to the long-promised day,

When war and fear shall stop their baleful sway

And Man, victor at last o'er Ignorance,

’Gainst all but death shall fear his sure defence —

Something there’s lost of sweet and simple Faith,

That like a luminous and tender waith*

In early days shed peace and sweet content

Where all was rude with toil and danger blent

They asked not much, those sons of Freedom old—

A home of logs, where boundless forests rolled

And dally bread, wrenched from the unfriendly soil,

Or from the woods and waters needed spoil;

And the bright hearthstone, kept by woman's love

And laugh of children in the virgin grove;

The right of manhood these to prize, defend

To guard 'gainst savage foe or tyrant's end;

And then, who fled from Superstition’s rod

The freeman's first, best right—to worship God!

These granted, though 'mid savage war's alarm

Or wasting storm, or summer’s fervid harm,

The harvest gathered, and the woodland store

Ranked for near use about the rustic door.

Their hearts swelled full with gratitude for all

The benefits conferred to pious call.

And fain they sought in public way to show

The faith in aid Divine they claimed to know.

So rose Thanksgiving Day! Simple the ways,

Simple the men and women who could praise

For benefits so scant and sorely wrung

From meagre soil! And yet the songs they sung,

Simple in faith, were the sure seed that grew

Into the great republic! Checkered the view

That lies before us! In a cynic age

Restless with discontent and jealous rage

Of class 'gainst class, of rich who grind the poor,

Of poor whose curses heap the rich man’s door,

There opens now no virgin continent,

Home of the fearless, haven of uncontent,

Where restless souls may seek a refuge kind

Near Nature's heart, for the rebellious mind

In struggles with the savage forest brood,

Or pious praise amid her solitude.

Fair Freedom's fight must now be carried

As man 'gainst man, till breaks the final dawn 

Of Peace and Liberty, when Time shall see

The world-wide brotherhood that is to be.

Need we not Faith against the coming day –

Faith such as in our father's hearts held sway?

Tho savage foeman lurk, and storms may lower.

And dark the gulf 'twixt Anarchy and Power.

Welcome the festival our fathers gave.

The day of thanks, when all may fitly crave

Help from on high, and grateful praises give

That still our nation, 'mid all trials, doth live.

Welcome the solemn praise, the grateful feast.

The hand of bounty both to great and least,

And still guide on, O Faith, unto the end,

Our bark of State, where'er its course may tend.

— Q. H. Benedict.

Here’s hopes for a happier Thanksgiving season this year.


*Scottish wandering minstrel

Cowland To City In 75 Days

By Larry Clinton

New Historical Society Board Member Eric Torney has unearthed a collection of past issues of

The Marin Citizen, a newspaper published by and for the first residents of Marin City during WWII.  Beginning in July, 1943, the paper provides first-hand glimpses of what life was like in a brand-new city created to house shipyard workers.  The following article appeared in Vol. 1 No. 1:

Marin City housed 6000 workers and families during WWII              Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Marin City housed 6000 workers and families during WWII              Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Probably no one has ever measured the cost of a city, because most cities are never finished, and few people can remember when they began. It is somewhat different with our town, because many of us remember "when.”

There simply was not a city here on June 8, 1942 — 75 days later there was. It happened as fast as that.

Old-time commuters sometime shake their heads as they go by on the bus and think it all must be a dream. Well, we are a dream city in some ways, but according to some, it's no dream; if this is the li'l old gray home in the west, the west can have it. But that's another story

Cows and Goats

Waldo Point a year ago had the astounding population of 17 cows, a few dozen chickens, two or three goats. There had been a few homes at Waldo Point for years, but mainly the 400 acres which are now Marin City were simply marshland and pastures.

The Marin County Housing Authority, whose chairman at that time was Ernest White, Sausalito resident and head of Marin County's Central Labor Council, got word from Washington that homes had to be built for 6000 war workers and their families. The authority took on the job. Guy A Ciocca, Executive Director of the Marin authority, was put in charge of completing it in record time.

Wartime Speed

Speed in itself is not a virtue, but the thousands of men at Marinship needed places to live —and fast This then is what the authority was able to do:

On June 16, bulldozers, carry-alls and trucks moved in to break ground. From the hills, half a million yards of earth were brought down to fill the marsh to a height of three feet. On August 18, one month later, Glenn Steel and his wife moved in, the first tenants for the war apartment

The apartment-city for 700 families was finished in 44 days. On November 14, the first 20 houses were ready. About the middle of May this year, the last of the houses was completed and occupied. That is a war-housing record.

Getting accurate facts and figures on the money spent on Marin City is a job calling for a staff of research assistants. Estimates of the cost were originally placed between seven and ten million dollars. It is estimated now that Marin City has cost more than ten million dollars. The school buildings were planned to cost $101,000. Landscaping was let at contract for $16,500 for the apartments, $16,240 for the houses. The city is not finished; money for the improvements necessary to bring facilities up to top-notch standards win run into the thousands.

We’re Big Time

The brief history of Marin City's building is one of the rapid building of houses.  It is the hope of the “Marin Citizen” that during the next year it can report the rapid building of a community, and the sense of the development of citizenship and responsibility of the members of the community to the community.

Eric is digitizing the Marin Citizen as a permanent addition to the Historical Society’s collection.

Drinking and Gambling—When Two Cultures Met

By Doris Berdahl

The following is excerpted from an essay Doris wrote in 2006 for the Sausalito Historical Society newsletter, Moments in Time:

In 1918, William Richardson’s 87-year-old son dictated an oral history of his time in early Sausalito. A persistent theme running through Stephen Richardson's 1918 memoir deals with consequences, good and bad, of the juxtaposition of Anglo and Latin cultures in Alta California in the mid-19th century. A man of fair-mindedness and balance, he faults the Californios for being self-indulgent and careless in their failure to protect the area's abundant resources and its rich and unique culture. At the same time, he's severe with the avarice and arrogance of the newcomers, once gold was found. Some of the gold miners were Asians, Europeans and South Americans, but most were Americans representing the expansionist, entrepreneurial forces from the east — in particular the brash, rapidly developing colossus from beyond the Sierra, the United States.

While Richardson assigns blame fairly even-handedly — pointing to the gullibility of the one group and the greed and opportunism of the other — he's unequivocal in his indictment of John C. Fremont, the American military commander who, in his drive through the North Bay in the 1840s to claim Alta California for the United States, poisoned relations for years to come between the resident population and the Americans.

Two social vices that flowed from these often harsh early contacts were excessive drinking and addictive gambling. Since the Latin people were, Richardson claims, highly susceptible to these temptations, the results were predictable. The more predatory of the newcomers, those who came into the region expressly to exploit the natives, came out winners. And the established Spanish/Mexican community largely came out losers. Many prominent families suffered economic ruin, and the culture in general experienced widespread deterioration.

Richardson was unsparing on the subject of drinking: “I have always had my opinion about the disorder that cropped up in nearly all the centers of the State from the earliest gold days ... It was due to an almost unbelievable use of hard liquor. This was nearly universal and only the strongest constituencies could stand it long ... the sad truth is that most of them died of a hob-nailed liver."

Not that there weren't robust drinking rituals among the Californios before the gold seekers arrived. But the forms it took were relatively benign, meant to promote comradeship and conviviality. According to Richardson: “Every good fellow carried a concealed bottle about his person, equally for his own reflection and to allay the thirst of casual friends. You couldn't enter the best regulated home without having the red liquor poured down your throat."

As for saloons, "It was considered extremely bad form to pass one without entering and having a few. ... I came to consider it rather a noteworthy event when I met anyone cold sober. Men of high position considered it no disgrace to lie in the streets in broad daylight dead drunk."

A large part of the drinking was done on credit. "When a gentleman entered a saloon he very seldom paid in cash. It was looked on as vulgar. It was deemed far more dignified to keep ... the transaction out of sight. There was just a pleasant nod to the bartender and his grateful nod in return, as he recorded the trifling obligation in his book of bills receivable." Such bills were settled monthly, and "... a particular sanctity was attached to the obligation." In short, a gentleman felt obliged to pay his bar bill.

But things changed with the coming of the Americans — a people, in Richardson's view, that "preserved few of the chivalric virtues of the early days." True, cantinas had been common in the pueblos before the Americans came, and drunkenness had become a familiar sight. "But it was as nothing compared with what I might properly call the reign of whiskey from 1840 on."

Richardson's description of the ravages of alcohol among certain nationalities at that time ends with this elegiac conclusion: "All the Latin races—Spanish, French and Italian—are peculiarly susceptible to the toxic effects of strong liquor, and in the prolonged orgy of those years, Californians probably suffered most of all."

Next week, we’ll present Richardson’s view of the gambling mania in those early days.

Kenneth Andresen: Maintaining History and Tradition

By Steefenie Wick

Kenneth Andresen at Harbor Point
Photo by Steefenie Wicks

In the mid to late 1920’s it was billed as “The Lighthouse -- a Beacon for Pleasure Seekers.” At that time the Lighthouse was part of an eighteen-hole miniature golf course designed to give “full-size thrills” to all who stopped by.  Today the Lighthouse is a very inviting café that has served the residents of Sausalito for the past 20 years.  Under the careful eye of Annette Andresen it has become a Sausalito tradition.  Annette’s husband Gerner Andresen runs the Lighthouse Café in Corte Madera while their son Kenneth has taken over the Lighthouse Grill at Harbor Point in Mill Valley, keeping the tradition of good food and good service in the family.

The Andresens came to Marin in the 1990’s when Kenneth was 12 years old.  He says he sometimes feels like he was born in the restaurant business.  He attended school in Mill Valley, graduating from Tam High.  “One of the best things that I get to do now,” he says, “are the reunions, those can really be fun. Then there are the wedding receptions, those are a lot of work but very rewarding when you see how happy you can make people.”  This year Kenneth is helping the Sausalito Historical Society produce its annual fundraising event at his Lighthouse Grill at Harbor Point. 

Lighthouse Cafe  Sausalito CA    Pinterest

Andresen says that the facility has been very successful with local groups planning events that tend to draw folks from the neighborhoods of Mill Valley, Sausalito and Tiburon.  He goes on to say that what people want from a local restaurant is good food and good service, something his parents taught him as the most important factors in running a successful establishment.  When asked how he makes up his menu his answer is quite understandable: his mother has provided much of the inspiration for his menu.  “Although I have the freedom to set my menu it’s still good to have something on the menu that seems familiar,” he says. “Take our Danish meatballs; to my knowledge; there is no restaurant in Denmark that has them on a menu.  The whole idea of the Danish meatball was the wholesome aspect of it as comfort food.  In Denmark it is cold and the diet consists of meat and potatoes but the Danish meatball, that you can only get in America, my mother’s recipe.”

When asked if he and members of his family were always interested in cooking, he says not really but his father Gerner became interested in the food industry when as a young man he worked the ferries in Denmark. Which is interesting because the theme of the Historical Society fundraiser this year is “Sausalito Ferry Tales.”  On hand for the event will be Annie Sutter, whose book “The Old Ferryboats of Sausalito,” has become a classic volume on ferries that were beached on our waterfront.  Their history continued as they went from floating power machines to artist studios, marine stores and in some cases restaurants.  Joining her will be longtime Sausalito waterfront resident Chris Tellis.

Tellis as a young man growing up on the waterfront, has lived on many of the old ferries mentioned in Annie’s book.  He has also lived aboard the City of Seattle. Built in 1888, it is the oldest wooden hulled ferry on the West Coast. It was purchased by his family in 1960, and he has maintained this vessel for the last 50 years. Annie Sutter writes in her book, ‘The City of Seattle was the lucky one, for she was bought by people who continued to care as the years went on, and it’s not an easy task to keep alive a 72-year-old ferry that had almost been scrapped way back in 1913.”

Tellis has also been very active in waterfront politics. at one time heading the group Art Zone which was set up to bring social change to the waterfront after years of what was known as the houseboat wars. Annie Sutter and Chris Tellis possess a vast knowledge of the old ferries as they gave up one part of the past to claim another.  When dealing with history it is always rewarding to be able to have the people who were part of the period tell their stories about that time, sharing their own personal experiences.

Annie Sutter   Marin Scope

Kenneth Andresen can tell you first-hand about tradition and sharing the knowledge, which is what his family did with him.  He is the first to tell you about the importance of being known for good food, along with good service; these things become part of a tradition.  A tradition that has its place in our local history, like the old ferries. On Sunday night November 6, these two speakers will come together in the elegant setting of Kenneth Andresen’s Lighthouse Grill, where once again history will be made and shared for an evening.

The Sausalito Historical Society would like to invite you to this fundraiser on Sunday, November 6, at the Lighthouse Grill at Harbor Point, 475 East Strawberry Drive, Mill Valley.

For information: 415-289-4117 or

Saucy Sausalito

By Jack Tracy

The following excerpt comes from Jack Tracy’s book, “Moments in Time.”

Sausalito in the 1880s generated considerable interest among San Francisco's rich. Saturday or Sunday excursions to Wildwood Glen or Damon's Grove had long been popular with the bourgeoisie. But now it became fashionable to be included on the guest list for a weekend at Hollyoaks or Hazel Mount, Casa Madrona or Alta Mira, the villas of Sausalito's aristocracy. However decorous these weekends might be, there was always something deemed slightly racy about Sausalito that livened up newspaper accounts of parties.

San Francisco started off early in a curious relationship with Sausalito. The natural beauty of Sausalito, its pure water and sunny climate were obvious, but it was seen as somehow "foreign," or at least European, filled with British, Portuguese, and French people, a place where protocol and convention did not quite adhere to the rough-and-tumble but God-fearing standards of San Francisco. Perhaps it was jealousy over the imagined (and sometimes real) lurid goings-on in the romantic "pleasure suburb" across the bay.

The founders of the Sausalito Land & Ferry Company were, for the most part, conservative San Francisco businessmen who worked hard to overcome Sausalito's reputation as a place of slight impropriety, where, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1889, "Undoubtedly there is a considerable amount of quiet deviltry carried on in the snug little cottages." In an article that year entitled "Saucy Sausalito, A Motley Colony of English and Portuguese," a Chronicle writer revealed the popular conception of Sausalito, and in the bargain something of his own repressed fantasies.

"A number of English-Americans have made their home in the place, and it needs but the merest glance at the throng on the landing pier of a Saturday afternoon to decide that the 'blarsted Britishers' have found in Sausalito something that reminds them of their own 'tight little island,' for they swagger about in a pretentious style that would be highly unpolitic, not to say risky, in a typical American city. The Portuguese and the English colonies at Sausalito get along quite well… They are not prone to interfere with each other, or to inquire into their neighbors’ affairs. A New England hamlet of the same size as Sausalito would be the scene of as much scandal and gossip as would furnish the local paper with half a dozen columns of spicy locals every week.

“But the Sausalitans have so many glass houses around them that they do not encourage stone-throwing. They are told that well-bred people do not inquire how much champagne finds its way on board a certain yacht every week. The Sausalito gossip would never dream it worth-while to speak of little mistakes made with latchkeys by belated husbands returning from a club-meeting in the wee small hours, [or question] why a new Juanita or Phryne or Belladonna has taken up her quarters at one of the mansions on the hill.

"The demure-looking damsels who come across in pairs on Saturday evening by the 5 o'clock boat from San Francisco could tell some interesting anecdotes of champagne suppers and altogether unanticipated stranding of yachts on convenient mud flats just before midnight. It is perhaps for this reason that discreet parents are rather shy of trusting their daughters out on these evening yachting trips, for it curiously happens that though provisions run short the champagne is sure to have been thought of as the retiring tide leaves the stranded yacht in the blue moonlight.

"The Sunday yachting parties are comparatively select affairs, and many promising matrimonial flirtations are inaugurated this way. Once a month or thereabouts a ball is given at the El Monte Hotel, and here again there is a great gathering of sighing swains, laughing belles, and weary chaperones, whose chief pleasure is supposed to consist in accumulating evidence that their own youth has forever flown away."

In an attempt at praise, the reporter continues: "The artist and the camera fiend are wont to count Sausalito as a happy hunting ground. Wildwood Glen, when not invaded by a hoodlum picnic party is an exceedingly romantic, albeit damp and rhumaticky spot." He goes on to describe the town jail as "a crazy cage which would not hold a healthy school boy in durance vile for half an hour. It might be used for drunkards, but, as a resident explained, the law of sobriety can be very liberally construed. Just as old Joey Miller said, he never considered a man drunk as long as he could hold on to the grass."

“Moments in Time” is available for purchase at the Historical Society’s Ice House visitors center, 780 Bridgeway.

Rod Pinto: Sausalito’s Electric Past

By Steefenie Wicks

Rod Pinto, now a retired lawyer residing in Mill Valley, grew up in Sausalito during what he calls its Electric Period, from the mid 1960’s through the 1970’s. Sausalito was the place where everyone who was anyone wanted to be seen.   Pinto recalls, “I started working at the Trident parking cars, eventually, as I got older I moved inside to become the bartender.  The Trident at that time was full of lawyers defending drug dealers.  Then there were the dealers, the musicians and the beautiful people who wanted to be seen.   No one ever seemed to come there for lunch or dinner; there was food, it was served, but not a lot of it was eaten.” 

He remembered Dr. Hip, a psychiatrist who wrote a local newspaper column that went nationwide.  “He was the Dear Abby for people with sexual problems who had no one to talk to; you could meet him, he was in the bar most nights,” Pinto recalls. Another regular was Shel Silverstein, who wrote music for a rock group called Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show.  Pinto saw them sometimes-jotting things down on napkins at the bar.  But it was Sterling Hayden with his rugged good looks who could make the room go quiet when he entered. Pinto explained,”He always looked like he had just got out of bed and thrown on some clothes, then came down to the bar, but he always looked like someone you wanted to know.  There were times when you might have Sterling on one end of the bar and Mick Jagger on the other. This could just be typical day at the Trident.” Pinto felt that groups like the Rolling Stones, The Kingston Trio and Janis Joplin all had places in the area, they made their presence known when they were in town at the Trident.

When the Trident was originally a jazz club, Pinto was a teenager parking cars on the lot.  He remembers some of the jazz names who played there, one being the jazz great Willie Bobo.  Then things changed when the club was sold and the new owner hired what he called a group of visionary carpenters who were set lose on the project.

Pinto got to know the carpenters as they arrived each day.  The work that they did still stands today as some of the most creative wood working ever done inside a restaurant.  These creative carpenters were all part of a group called the “Druids from Druid Heights,” a counter-culture community that existed just above Muir Woods.  Pinto continued, “The Druids were part of what was called a bohemian society.  People pretty much did what they wanted to within reason.  I was told that Alan Watts lived there, also that people rode horseback at night naked in the moonlight.  It was said that many a night when the jazz clubs closed in San Francisco and Sausalito, that the music would continue there at Druid Heights.”  When he thinks back on those times, Pinto regrets that he did not know what was really going in the creative world because some of the greatest poets, writers and musicians of our times were working in Druid Heights.

“I dated a girl who was living there but I never visited the place,” Pinto concluded. “But things were like that.  Here I was living around all this energy but somehow remaining the straight man, the kid in school studying to be a lawyer.”

Pinto remembers growing up in Sausalito, the small classrooms that held maybe 80 students for each grade.  “We were a mixture of hill kids, flat land kids, waterfront kids, kids from Marin City, we were a good mix of kids.  We all went to school in Sausalito, then on to Tam High where we got to mix with the kids from Mill Valley.

 Some of the kids I went to school with in Sausalito I’m a still friend with today, which is a wonderful example of small town relationships.”

Pinto also remembered the waterfront as being one of the most colorful places.  When he grew up he just figured that everyone who lived on a boat was somehow colorful. When he was 16 he dated a girl he thought was the daughter of artist Jean Varda.  “I remember meeting Varda,” he recalled. “He was a small man but he wore brightly colored clothes and necklaces.  But, I think that the one thing that still stands out in my mind were the turtle races.  You see, the Trident’s competition in town was the bar Zack’s. The turtle race was started between the two bars as a friendly competition, so on Wednesday night everyone would bring their pet turtles to Zack’s.  They would be placed on the floor; the race was to see which turtle could make it to the other side. The turtle race was part of Sausalito’s vibrancy; I feel lucky to have been a witness to this electric period.”

Read another column, “The Great Trident Frogman Heist” from 2013, on the SHS website:



Colonel Slinkey and the El Monte Hotel

By Jack Tracy

In his book Moments in Time, Jack Tracy calls the El Monte Hotel “One of the oldest and most widely known hotels in Sausalito” in the 19th century.

Ad for El Monte Hotel, “the nearest COUNTRY RESORT for families outside of San Francisco.”  Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

According to Tracy, the El Monte began its hotel life as the Bon Ton around 1878, although parts of the structure may have been built prior to 1869. It was like many grand hotels of the era, catering to the wealthy class with accommodations for servants in adjoining small rooms. The suites were designed to encourage lengthy stays, and the management frowned on overnight guests. But like many "wooden palaces" of that time, the Bon Ton struggled financially while keeping up a facade of gracious standards for the likes of Claus Spreckels, the Crockers, and Robert Dollar. Under different manage­ments over the years, the hotel was called the Clifton House, the El Monte, the Terrace, and the Geneva Hotel, and became a boarding house shortly before it was de­molished in 1904.

It was under the ownership of Australian Col. John E. Slinkey that the hotel, then known as the El Monte, ac­quired its greatest fame. Slinkey may not have lived up to his name literally, but he was crafty and energetic. He had a hand in almost everything that happened in Sausalito in the 1880s, and his El Monte was a gathering place for political and social groups. The guest list read like a Who's Who of San Francisco, and Slinkey catered to the guests’ every whim. He even installed a bowling alley exclusively for the use of ladies. Many British and other visitors stayed at the El Monte as the first step to becoming permanent Sausalito residents.

These British merchant-class homeowners in Sausalito and their wives set the social style of Sausalito. The British Benevolent Society (the first of many such ethnic organizations), open to all those born under the Union Jack, was formed in San Francisco in 1865, and by the early 1870s Sausalito was well represented in the society.

Rebecca Dixon Chambers, a long-time Sausalito resi­dent, recalled the town's earlier days. Although her recol­lections were of the turn of the century, they applied in many respects to the 1870s. "When the Dixons moved to Sausalito, it was still an unspoiled British colony. There were more British people on the hill than Americans. The English crowd worked together, and the American crowd had their set. They mingled in a friendly way, but the English set the tone and quality of general life, informal and natural; but when there was a formal party, it was properly conducted."

In a 1976 MarinScope article, Tracy described the most dramatic incident involving this historic landmark:

In 1893, the majestic El Monte Hotel above Water Street (now Bridgeway) planned its annual display of fireworks.  Colonel J.D. Slinkey, proprietor of this fashionable 1890s resort, purchased fireworks with several hundred dollars which had been raised by local residents.  The selection promised to be spectacular:  parachute rockets, willow tree rockets, twelve star Roman candles, Saxon wheels, Chinese musical candles, Japanese night shells, large surprise boxes, and some 15 union bombshells.

Perhaps it was the package labeled “surprise boxes” that started things.  At any rate, the residents of Sausalito were in for quite a surprise that night.

No one was ever sure what happened, but around 9:30 p.m. on July 4th an inferno broke out.  George Ginn’s saloon, the Hunter’s Resort, located directly below the grounds of the El Monte Hotel (where the former City Hall building now housing Gene Hiller’s menswear stands today) was engulfed, flames bursting out of doors and windows throughout its upper story. 

There was not much wind at the time, but the flames spread northward roughly from Excelsior Lane to the building which today houses the Casa Madrona hotel. Ten buildings were destroyed and the fire damage totaled $30,000 – quite a sum of money then.  Fortunately, no lives were lost.

According to reports of the time, everybody pitched in to save the town.  Mayor J.W. Sperry was on hand and Counselor Reade stood by his post of duty, even if he did soil his trousers.  Commodore C.C. Bruce lost an axe belonging to his yacht, the Rover.  To save the El Monte Hotel, Sausalito’s willing hands pulled down A. Brendeau’s one-story shanty, and another serious loss was averted. 

Nearly 1000 people witnessed the fire.  A headline in the Sausalito News of July 7 declared: “MOST OF BUSINESS PORTION OF TOWN CONSUMED BY DESTRUCTIVE ELEMENT.”  The San Francisco Examiner blamed the El Monte Hotel fireworks display.  But nobody knew for sure.  Whatever the cause, it was a 4th of July not easily forgotten. 

Sausalito’s Airport Bid -- 1979

By Margaret Badger

The following is excerpted and lightly edited from an essay Margaret wrote for the Historical Society Newsletter, Moments in Time, in 2012

From Fritz Crackers by Phil Frank Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

From Fritz Crackers by Phil Frank
Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Cartoonist Phil Frank harvested the content for his Marin-Scope cartoons from the colorful social and political goings-on of Sausalito and Marin County in the late '70s and early '80s. Certain issues lent themselves especially well to the satirist’s wit, particularly those that polarized public opin­ion. In 1979, one such issue was the Sausalito City Council's bid to buy Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato from the General Services Administration for $1.

That action, satirized in the accompanying Fritz Crackers cartoon reproduced above, was one of several attempts to get Marin County behind the idea of having a civilian airport included in the Hamilton Field after the Air Force left for good in 1976. When the land was put up for public sale by the GSA, Marinites passionately sided for or against perpetuating aviation activity at the site. After two-and-a-half years of research and, the Supervisors scheduled a vote on the aviation proposal for May 15, 1979.

At the time, a majority of the Sausalito City Council enthusi­astically supported the pro-airport position. They realized that this valuable infrastructure resource could probably never be reproduced, and that the county should keep all options open by retaining the property. Mayor Buddy DeBruyn, Peter Van Meter, Sally Stanford and Fritz Warren voted 4-1, Robin Sweeny dissenting, to support county purchase of the airfield for civilian aviation.

Of all the cities in Marin only Novato and Sausalito took a stand on the county's controversial take-over plan. In so doing, Sausalito hoped to influence anti-aviation members of the Board of Supervi­sors not to kill the airport option, but, "to go to the market place and see what kind of deal can be obtained from major developers."

But despite the Sausalito City Council vote of support, the Su­pervisors voted not to proceed with acquisition of the base for civilian aviation. Financial risks were cited as the main rea­sons for backing away from their own proposal. This left the ma­jority on the Sausalito City Council (and other supporters around the county) with the task of trying to keep the airport option alive. Mayor Buddy DeBruyn immediately proposed and got passed a mo­tion to ask city staff to explore the possibility of Sausalito applying to the GSA to purchase Hamilton Field at the $ 1 price. If the county wasn't going to do it, Sausalito would!

While DeBruyn’s motion appeared absurd to some, to others it was considered an effective delaying tactic to prevent the Board of Supervisors from proceeding with a negotiated sale that would forever prohibit an airport. Airport backers figured that given more time to organize support from Marin's cities and/or the overall county electorate, the county's original bid to buy the airport could be resurrected and civilian air access at Hamilton Field could be­come a reality.

It proved to be an uphill battle. And on further investigation, Van Meter, an income property specialist, learned that the city could not by law own (e.g. annex) non-contiguous land, so the original proposal for Sausalito to buy Hamilton became moot anyway.

As the debate moved into the summer months, four ballot measures were put before county voters to determine what de­velopment should occur at Hamilton. One environmentalist vision, Measure B, stood out dramatically from the other plans by suggest­ing a Solar Village should be built at the air force base. Designed by former California State Architect Sim Van der Ryn, the Solar City would be capable of generating its own energy food, housing, services and jobs. These ideas sound familiar today: solar-heated housing, restored wetlands (flood the landing strips), independence from fossil fuels, and privately supported en­vironmental research centers housed in former hangars.

In October, 1979 a debate was held among eight representatives both pro and con the four proposed ballot measures. Hosted by the Sausalito Citizens Council, presenters included Supervisor Barbara Boxer, Sausalito City Councilman Peter Van Meter, John Nelson, Execu­tive Officer of the Marin Solar Village Corp, and other main players in the debate.

As it turned out, Sausalitans made their wishes emphatically clear in the fall election. A headline in the MarinScope after the election read: "Sausalitans don't like airports, but might go for a solar village." A ballot measure favoring a solar village won and measures favoring the airport lost.

Hamilton Field was eventually incorporated into the City of Novato. But what about an industrial-commercial complex? A Solar Village? An airstrip?

Several structures have been removed and replaced with a housing subdivision known as Hamilton Landing. Some of the hangars have been converted into offices, retaining their façades while being renovated on the inside. But the vast acreage of the former airfield has become one of the biggest wetland restoration projects in the country. Standing on top of the levee, lots of birds can be seen landing and taking off, but not a single small plane sets its wheels to the buried tarmac

Willie and Tessie in Sausalito

The following is excerpted from Jack Tracy’s book, “Moments in Time”:

Young William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. ca. 1904

William Randolph Hearst was born in San Francisco in 1863 and passed his childhood years there in the rarified atmosphere of the affluent. Why he became fascinated by Sausalito is not recorded; perhaps even he never knew. As a child he no doubt heard stories about the new town and possibly even met Charles Harrison or Maurice Dore, who knew his father. After a three-year stint at Harvard, when he was expelled for his incessant pranks, William worked for two years at the New York World, his father's newspaper. He returned to San Francisco in 1887 in complete control of the San Francisco Examiner, another of his father's newspapers. Before long he was dazzling the journalistic world with his transformation of the sickly Examiner into “The Monarch of the Dailies."

When the twenty-three-year-old William rented a house in Sausalito overlooking the yacht club, it caused little stir among the British colony. He was just another millionaire's son, not the first or the last to seek refuge in Sausalito. Tall and slender, Hearst was shy in manner but possessed a strong will. His mistress from Harvard days, Tessie Powers, was soon ensconced in his Sausalito bachelor house, much to the chagrin of his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst. Sausalito society remained aloof from Hearst and his San Francisco friends. He was not invited to join the yacht club, and Tessie was ignored on the streets. It was not so much that Hearst kept a mistress, but that he made no effort to conceal it and was outwardly indifferent to criticism.

But in any case, the energetic Hearst had little time for Sausalito's social protocol. He had become fascinated by photography and was determined to perfect the process of reproducing photographs in newspapers.

In 1887 Henry Cartans, a local distiller, built a magnificent home on a promontory near Hearst's rented house. Sea Point, as Cartans called it, appealed to Hearst, and he leased it with an option to buy. He had the entire second floor of Sea Point converted into a photographic studio, complete with darkroom. Tessie Powers was also installed in the new quarters. Through a family-owned firm, the Piedmont Land & Cattle Company, Hearst bought Sea Point and gradually all the other lots around it—in effect, isolating himself from his Sausalito neighbors.

Since early childhood, when he first saw the palaces and museums of Europe, Hearst had dreamed of possessing a luxurious "castle" filled with the finest art and sculpture in the world. It would become a lifelong obsession. In April, 1890, construction began just below Sea Point on what was to be Hearst's castle, the first of many attempts to give form to a vision. But for reasons not entirely clear, work was stopped with only a retaining wall on Water Street and the foundations of the gatehouse completed.

In 1891, he left for an extended tour of Europe and Egypt with Tessie Powers and his comrade in photography, George Pancoast. When he re­turned, Phoebe Hearst finally had heard enough about Tessie Powers and her hold over William. She "persuaded" Tessie to leave with the promise never to return. William was heartbroken, but obedient to his mother's wishes. His response to these do­mestic and public defeats was to move out of Sea Point.

In 1910 Hearst returned briefly to Sausalito. With a wife, two children, and a New York architect in tow, he announced plans for an elaborate $250,000 Spanish-style home on his Sausalito property. Again he was distracted, and nothing was built. And when Hearst had Sea Point demolished in 1922, Sausalito thought it had heard the last of him. But in the 1930s when the city's pro­posed zoning ordinance listed the Hearst property as resi­dential, he stepped forward with plans for a luxury hotel on Bridgeway that would rise to the crest where Sea Point once had stood and for a cluster of apartments along Atwood Avenue. The City Council accommodated Hearst by extending the commercial zone along Bridgeway to North Street, but no project was forthcoming. By 1943, with five "castles" including San Simeon, William Ran­dolph Hearst surrendered his dream of a Sausalito palace, and the Sunical Land & Packing Company, a Hearst en­terprise, sold his promontory overlooking the bay.

Judith Bang-Kolb: Sausalito’s Headmistress

By Steefenie Wicks

Judith Bang-Kolb outside the Sparrow Creek School
Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Sausalito’s first school was established in Old Town in 1869.  It was a modest schoolhouse with a small group of children who lived on the hill as well as along the waterfront.   The Sparrow Creek Montessori School keeps with that tradition of being a small establishment that serves the young students of Sausalito, Marin City and Mill Valley.  Established in 1973 but not fully opened to students until the 1980’s, this was the dream of Executive Director Judith Bang-Kolb, the Headmistress of the school.

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Manhattan, Judith found herself relocating to the Sausalito waterfront in the early 1970’s.  She lived anchored out in Richardson’s Bay for a number of years while she was beginning the process of building the school.  She is the first to tell you that living anchored out was one of the most creative periods of her life.  That creativity is still very apparent when one visits her school.  Built into the structure of the building is one large window that takes up the entire side of the building.  Bang-Kolb explains, “I had this dream about what it should look like, I wanted to have a window that was like our writing, how the straight line connects with the curved line.  I also wanted to include basic shapes like circles, rectangles and so on. Finally, after much thought, this is what I came up with.”  She continues, “This creation was the masterpiece of a lot of really brilliant artists who came to help my dream come true.”

Bang-Kolb assures me that in today’s world she would never be able to have this school the way she designed it.  In the beginning she set about teaching herself how to saw wood, how to screw and glue.  “I could never really swing a hammer but I could use a screw gun and I knew how to glue, so most of the structure of the school is screwed and glued,” she admits. That’s how the building was put together by Bang-Kolb, her friends and those who wanted to help see the project succeed.

But before she was able to open her doors she had to get approval, not only from the City but from neighbors of the school.  So she set about writing up her own petition in two versions.  While both explained the project, a children’s school and day care, one was to be signed by those in favor of the project, and one by those opposed.

Bang-Kolb went from house to house, knocking on doors to get the residents to sign the petitions; in the end only one family objected to the project. 

Today the Sparrow Creek Montessori School is a well-established institution of diverse students in Sausalito.  Over the decades that the school has been opened, Bang-Kolb has seen students come back with their own kids, wanting them to experience what they had as small children.   The school’s program has a special emphasis on the arts, music, yoga, movement and gardening.  Bang-Kolb explains that when she first saw the property she was impressed that this location was the last remaining orchard of fruit trees on Caledonia Street.  Over the years she has done her best to preserve what she could with the help of her students who tend to the garden, keeping the plants and trees alive.  She believes that the Montessori method of practical-life materials that involve children in precise, purposeful movement, allows them to concentrate on their work as they move at their own pace uninterrupted.  Her success is exhibited each year in the growth of her class population.  Bang-Kolb feels that the investment she made back in the 1970’s was well worth the gamble because it just keeps getting better.

“But believe me,” she continues, “there were times when I truly doubted that this would ever happen.  There was a time in Sausalito when if you wanted to stop a project then you just proved that they did not have enough parking. Traffic, that was the key.  So one night I had been called before the City Council to prove that I had the right amount of parking and drop off space for the school. It was a full council; Sally Stanford was there but I swear I think she was sleeping.

“Her head was down; every now and then she would kind of ‘snort.’ I had just about given up as one of the Council members led another verbal attack on my project, when all of a sudden Sally looked up and said, ‘Christ, two and a half year olds don’t park cars!’ After that meeting, till this day I have not had a problem with the City of Sausalito – a place that I personally feel is as close to paradise as one can find.”


Bob Kalloch: The First Anchorout

By Larry Clinton

Bob and Laurabell back in the day.
Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Longtime waterfront resident, activist and historian Bob Kalloch passed away in May, leaving an eclectic legacy in Sausalito.

In 1994, Bob recorded an oral history for the Historical Society, describing his discovery of the Sausalito waterfront.  Here are some of the more colorful excerpts from that oral history:

Bob, a New England transplant, arrived in San Francisco in the late 50s, and soon befriended a number of beat poets and artists. “In 1960, I decided the 60’s were going to happen, I guess,” Bob told interviewer Dorothy Gibson, “so I moved to the Haight Ashbury to manage a house for a friend of mine.  I wound up bringing my ‘bunch’ to that house.”

In time he was joined by the free-spirited Laurabell Hawbecker, who became his constant companion for the rest of his life.  Later, they moved briefly to Skyline Ridge in San Mateo County, near Ken Kesey’s digs in La Honda.   

When Bob’s job with PG&E job ended, he and Laurabell decided to stop punching timeclocks, and rented a friend’s Sausalito houseboat for a month.  During that time, he bought a sunken WWII landing craft for $300.  Calling on his experience as a merchant seaman, he refloated and restored it, with the intention of anchoring it out in Richardson’s Bay.  “No one else was doing that,” Bob recollected. “We had no idea about anchoring out, whether you could do it, whether it was legal.  We checked with the Coast Guard and they said, ‘If you’re not underway, you don’t need to register it’.”  The lifestyle appealed to Laurabell’s sense of adventure, and allowed them the opportunity to travel, one of Bob’s passions. “We had more of a boat orientation than a stick-in-the-mud orientation,” Bob said.

Bob noted that the couple was “Part of the founding generation of the Haight,” then among the first to move to the country as many did later “when the Haight went belly up” after the summer of love. “Moving to the middle of the Bay was just a continuation of that same idea,” Bob declared. “We didn’t feel there was any kind of establishment that was going to take care of us, so I decided that instead of a normal career, I would try to become proficient as a jack-of-all-trades. I can’t say I was all that successful at that, but that was the orientation.”

In 1968, they took a trip cross country, during the build-up to the tumultuous Chicago Democratic Convention, which deepened their anti-establishment feelings.  But when they got back to Marin, and compared life here to other parts of the country, Bob found, “I didn’t feel I had to be so ‘revolting,’ you might say.”

When they moved back into their boat later that year, the Charles van Damme, which had been operating as a night club called the Ark, had just closed down due to a fire, ironically following a performance by The Flaming Groovies.  Joe Tate, who was was living on the ferry with a band called Salvation, wished they could play for a live audience, says Bob, “So Laura took a hammer and broke the lock on the door, declared the place open, got in the ticket booth and charged a dollar a head” to hear the band. “There was nothing commercial about it.”

To keep the atmosphere mellow, Bob recalls, “Sometimes Laura was the bouncer and sometimes I was.”

When Bob and Laurabell had left on their cross country jaunt in early spring, he remembered, “There might have been a half-dozen anchor-out boats.  When we came back in August, there were 10 times as many.  When the County said, ‘This is really getting out of hand, and we have to clamp down on this,’ I went to a couple of hearings and that was the start of my political involvement.” For several years, Bob served as a community spokesman in hearings before the County and Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

After a big winter storm, several anchor-outs moved into a cove that had been abandoned by a dredging operation, and that area became the Gates Co-Op. Eventually, the Co-Op became a subtenant of Waldo Point Harbor, and today, after decades of legal wrangling, 38 Co-Op boats are being placed on code-compliant docks, with all the shore side amenities such as utilities and plumbing.  Most are going on the brand new Van Damme Dock, just off Gate 6 Road.

Eventually Bob and Laurabell moved onto A Dock at Waldo Point Harbor, where they lived for many years before resettling in the California desert.

The Legacy of the Coast Miwoks

By Maureen Foley

The following is excerpted from a 1998 MarinScope article by staff reporter Maureen Foley:

Marin's coastline defined much of the diet and lifestyle of the Miwok, in the same way that people in this area grow up surfing, wind surfing, sailing or fishing and taking for granted fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. In Earth is Our Mother, Dolan H. Eargle, Jr. writes that the indigenous tribes that lived along the coast shared more similarities in their lifestyles than with their closer, inland neighbors.

"The coastal hills, marshes, and valleys of the San Francisco-Monterey Bays...were abundant sources of both sea and land plants and animals for food and shelter. Lifestyles of these coastal people tended to be somewhat similar to one another and different from their inland kin," Eargle writes.

A certain coastal mindset, characterized in Marin by a more mellow, laid back way of life, was also established by the Miwok, although not with the same features or for the same reasons. In The Coast Miwok People, by Ruth. Leseohier, Governor of Russian California F.P. Von Wrangell writes in the 1800s of a possible reason for this variance in attitude.

"The [primarily] vegetarian diet, the mild climate, their mode of life itself, have molded the temperament of these Indians into an easy-going one," wrote Von Wrangell.

While living near the water may have changed certain attitudes for the Coast Miwok, it certainly affected what foods they ate and that differentiated them from tribes without coastal access. California sea lions and several types of whales were among numerous types of sea creatures eaten by the Miwok, along with various plants that thrived in the milder, coastal climes.

The Coast Miwok had numerous sites across Marin County, including villages near modern day Sausalito, San Rafael, Bolinas, and Tomales. Both Bolinas and Tomales are names that are thought to be variations on Miwok words. Marin was the name of great Indian chief, but Marin is not actually a Miwok word.

According to a 1941 article in the Mill Valley Record written by Jeanne 0. Potter, Marin was a shortening of the name El Marinero that was given to Chief Marin by Spaniards because of his skill as a sailor.

Miwoks lived in houses like this recreation at the Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Miwoks lived in houses like this recreation at the Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes National Seashore. 

The Miwok had an oral language and tradition, and because of this many details of their past, religion, and myths are obscure. Accounts by early explorers differ in their description of what the villages were like, but artifacts have survived to fill in the holes. In A History of the Coast Miwok, Beverly Ortiz briefly describes a few aspects of a Miwok tribe.

"Each tribe had at least 200 people and each had two leaders, one male and one female, both of whom were chosen based upon personal characteristics rather than heredity. Tribal members spoke dialects of at least two closely related languages – Marin and Bodega Miwok,” Ortiz wrote.

One of the few remaining myths that have survived is the story of where souls would go after someone had died. In a teacher's resource packet from the Marin Museum of the Modern Indian called The Coast Miwok Indians, the story is outlined.

"The Coast Miwok believed that the dead would leap into the ocean at Point Reyes. From there they went out through the surf, following a string which took them west to a road leading to the setting sun. There, Coyote greeted them in the afterworld and they stayed there forever," explains the resource guide.

For a variety of reasons, the Coast Miwok were decimated when the Spaniards and Pioneers invaded the land. Foreign diseases, inhumane treatment, and prejudice persisted from the first days of the Mission in 1769 through the time of Ranchos and settlement by the U.S. in the late 1800s. The effect of the numerous hardships inflicted upon the Coast Miwok cannot be underestimated, as Tomales Miwok Greg Sarris points out in Ortiz's A History of the Coast Miwok.

"We're all feeling the effects of attempted genocide, even if we don't realize it. It's like a song that lives for generations, and you don't know where it comes from. A lot of our insecurities come from generations of prejudice and mistreatment by invaders. You don't have to be affected by it directly. It can be passed down," Sarris said.

Jeanne Billy spoke about the problem rediscovering a lost past in Ortiz's book of Miwok history. "Grandmother kept the language silent. The older children were told not to speak the Indian language. The younger ones were not taught it. My mother did not know enough of the language to speak it and would not let father speak it either. They did not want to appear different from the community where they lived...." Billy said.

Regardless of their unofficial status, some Coast Miwoks continue to feel connected to Marin, their ancient home.

In A History by Ortiz, Bodega Miwok Kathleen Smith said, "My people have lived on the coast for at least 8,000 years. To live in spiritual and physical balance in the same small area for thousands of years without feeling the need to go somewhere else requires restraint, respect, knowledge and assurance of one's place in the world." The same mystic pull that kept Smith's ancestors in Marin for thousands of years, binds its modern residents to this paradise.

Tahoe Boaz: Sausalito’s Own

By Steefenie Wicks
Tahoe Boaz: Representing Sausalito’s Best.Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Tahoe Boaz: Representing Sausalito’s Best.Photo by Steefenie Wicks

The Sausalito Fire Department can trace its roots back to February 6, 1888, when 25 prominent citizens decided that Sausalito needed its own Fire Department with modern equipment.  One of the citizens who took part in this meeting was Arthur Jewett.  However, it was not until after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire that Sausalito established its own permanent volunteer fire department. Arthur was appointed Fire Chief.  He also married Margret Jewett Budworth, and they had five children together. 

Tahoe Baez, today a 45-year-old fireman, knew Mrs. Jewett, who operated a school supply and candy store in town. “She was great,” he recalls.  “She always made sure that the kids could turn in empty bottles so they could get another full bottle of pop.” Tahoe Boaz is one of those rare kids who was born and grew up in the area where he now works.  When we first met, he was a 14-year-old who helped his dad save my life.

It was a dark, stormy night in 1986.   Our 40 ft. boat was tied to the old Napa Street Pier.  My husband had loosened the ropes so that the vessel would swing out, keeping her safe from knocking into the pier when the waves hit her.   I came home late from a meeting, called out to my husband, he was not on board; my daughter came up on deck, terrified by the boat’s movement. She yelled “Mom, I’m frightened!”  I remember grabbing the ropes, pulling the boat toward me; just as I went to step on board the vessel swung out and I went into the water between the boat and the floating dock. Try as I could I could not pull myself out.  Somehow my neighbor Grover Boaz heard my yells; he jumped out of his boat, berthed behind ours, onto the dock, over to where I was in the water.  Tahoe was right behind him.  As they both got down on their knees, I could hear Grover telling me to let go of the ropes, turn around in the water, then grab the dock.  I did as he said.  Then he told me to swing my body from side to side. As I did this, he said bring your leg out of the water, place it on the float. 

Just as my leg came up out of the water Tahoe grabbed it and flipped me out of the water, onto the dock.  I was so grateful, that I remember asking Tahoe what he wanted to be when he grew up; his Dad was quick to answer. “A fireman, what else could he be!”

When he was a little kid Tahoe would have his father take him to the fire station to meet the firemen. This is also a dream he shared with his friend Margret Jewett Budworth.  Their friendship stretched beyond the candy store, for he would go to her home, do odd jobs for her, helping out as she got older. But his desire to become a fireman was always present.

“I feel really lucky to be working at what I always wanted to do in the town where I grew up,” he continues. “Right now there are three of us on the patrol who grew up in Sausalito.  If we get a call we don’t need maps or directions because we know the area, we know the short cuts, where things are located.”

Tahoe is not only lucky to work in Sausalito but he was also lucky enough to buy a home here.  “I feel really special to be able to live and work in Sausalito,” he begins. “When I was a kid I would come by to help Mrs. Jewett with small jobs.  She would always bring me inside this house to do things or just to have a cookie.  As a kid I would tell people one day that’s going to be my house.” 

As he rose from the couch where we had been sitting, he wandered over to the large window in the living room and said, “I always wanted this house and when Mrs. Jewett died, it went on the market.  There was a bidding war going on, chances were I’d never be able to compete with what was being offered, so I wrote a letter to the family because I knew them.  I told them that it would be wonderful to have the house that was owned by the man who had started the Sausalito Fire Department because I was a Sausalito fireman. I was born here, raised here, this is my town,” he turns, smiling as he resumes his thought, “I wrote this down in a letter, gave it Mrs. Jewett’s daughter, then I walked away, I let it go.  A week later I was contacted by the family, they told me, the house was mine. Now that’s a Sausalito story.”

Water Squatters

By Leon Elder

The following is excerpted from Leon Elder’s foreword to the 1975 book “Water Squatters The Houseboat Lifestyle” by Beverly Dubin:

Beverly Dubin has that gift of getting there, and surely could drive her van through the eye of a needle, twists through Sunday traffic like somebody's version of Neal Cassidy.  It was a clear October Sunday and she was taking me to see with my own eyes the water squatters of Sausalito.

I saw, not a few isolated craft, but a whole world in faint motion— hundreds of dwellings stretched-out as far as I could see—all of them listing in unison with something that goats, Capricorns, and landlubbers don't usually think about—water. We parked, got out and began to walk. I slowly absorbed this marvelous madness, this floating city where the lids were off, where the conformity levied by building codes, taxes and developers, by planners, officialdom and cosigned rubber stamps; where all these things, including sidewalks, gutters, parks, playgrounds and streetlamps, had been totally disavowed. Floating people, living their own ways—in revolt, madness, triumph and freaky improvisation.

These were the water squatters who either despise, hate or can't afford pavement, and who seek a last freedom in being afloat, and use air [encapsulated in hulls and oil drums], instead of concrete, to give them a hold. Air and water. I was awed. I saw transplanted two-story frame houses gently rocking, leaving towers, and an array of architectural spectacles, mutant structures, nightmares and glories, slipshod here, triumphant there, globular, boxy, wild, humble, absurd and shanty cozy. It was the most disparate cluster of dwellings that could ever be, and all of it, because it was a calm day, in the very scarcest motion.

The Owl has been an iconic houseboat since the 1970s.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

A houseboat bulging with plexiglass eyes stared at us with Martian inscrutability. Unnerving. I was startled. Not that some of the places didn't look like garbage dumps, but that directly alongside would be something majestic, proud, weird or poetic. Water is amorphous, so is the cosmos. Not easy for a goat to admit, or to feel at ease with.

We reached a heavy old cargo ship with a pair of weather-beaten masts, knotted and checked like old telephone poles. The hull was white, the caulking and planking rough and calloused. The schooner Isabel. She sat heavy and strong in the water, not in the light, dainty way that yachts have.

This turned out to be the home of Steve and Judy Siskind, their three children, a dog and cat. Steve appeared and invited us below. We listened to his ideologies. He is an architect and planner.

"In the first place," he said, "anyone who lives on water is a bit unusual. The ocean offers our last freedom. Land has been assaulted and insulted. Man has brought ruination upon it. Now we're beginning to exploit the sea and make the same mistakes we made on land. Territorial lines are being drawn further out at sea as though each country has the right to dredge it to death, or use it as a garbage dump. Along the shore, slums are being created by haphazard marinas. Look up the road at Gate 5. There're 400 houseboats jammed together there without privacy, their sewage spilling onto the mudflats. You need a gas mask when the tide is low. No one is taking responsibility for sanitation or space or the survival of the sea itself. What freedom is there when we are infecting the very element we live on? Yet with a little foresight, cooperation and simple technology, it could be a paradise."

Steve was obviously an intense and dedicated man, a "bit unusual", and with the courage to raise his family on this aged cargo ship. His neighbor, moored alongside, was a true houseboat aristocrat, his hold stoked with the best wines and brandies. When he came for dinner, he brought along a whole case of good vintage cabernet.

This is Beverly's book. It is entirely her vision of a way of life that may vanish in the next decade. She wanted to document it while it still flourished. But after meeting Steve Siskind, she sees that houseboat living may well proliferate, that more of mankind will settle on this watery frontier, as pioneers once filled the valleys of our land. She has an eye for the flamboyant, for the bizarre flowers from inventive minds. She saw too the patriarch in Steve, the stern wisdom. His cautions may contain the answer to the perpetuation of the very marvelous things that Beverly looks for.

If we think of the sea, and all that lives and grows in it, as an enormous mammal, we'll be considerate of its meanest mudflats and harbors, for these are the edges of its being. If it suffers our poisons, it would die under our hulls. It is entirely within our means to live well with her, and catch lively suppers off our decks.

Water Squatters, and two other vintage books on floating homes around the world, were recently added to the Historical Society collection through the generosity of long time Society member Ken Smith, who received them as housewarming gifts when he moved aboard his floating home at Commodore Marina in the mid-seventies.  The books are also available from used booksellers online.

Marin’s Holy Mountain

By Karen Nakamura
This piece was written by MarinScope staff reporter Karen Nakamura in 1999:

She was a beautiful young Miwok maiden in love with an Indian prince. When he abandoned her, she walked to the top of the mountain nearby and died of heartbreak. As she sobbed, the mountain heard her intense sorrow and took pity. When she finally died, the mountain was so moved it changed its form, taking on the supine shape of her body and becoming the Sleeping Lady, our dear Mt. Tamalpais.

Watercolor painting of Mount Tamalpais, by William McMurtrie, 1855.
Source: Wikimedia

Mt. Tamalpais is an everyday presence to Marinites. It is the ground we walk on, whether on its peak, its foothills or its lovely meadows and beaches. It supports and nourishes us, giving us protection from the onslaught of numbing fogs and shading us from fiery heat. Its cooling water quenches our thirst. Its soil feeds our bodies. Its beauty sustains our souls.

Mt. Tam is more than a provider, a mother, a servant to our petty needs. To the Lakota Sioux, Mt. Tamalpais is the Holy Right Eye of the Great Turtle. Many tribes have a legend that we all live on the back of a Great Turtle which forms the North American Continent. The tail of the Great Turtle is Florida, the mouth is the San Francisco Bay. The "holy" right eye is Mt. Tamalpais. The left eye is Mount Diablo in the East Bay.

For this reason, great leaders of the Lakota were dragged on pole litters across the country and buried in Mt. Tam's foothills. This tradition is part of the reason there are so many burial mounds in Marin.

The Fairfax Pavilion, for instance, sits directly on top of one of the mounds. There was a bitter debate about this problem in the late seventies. It was finally resolved when the pavilion was awarded unofficial caretakership, both the mound and the pavilion being historical social sites.

The San Geronimo Valley also has burial mounds on the west side of White's Hill. San Geronimo is interesting in other aspects. While the valley is actually named after the Catholic Saint Geronimo, in the hearts of many of its longtime residents, it's the valley of Geronimo, the proud and defiant Apache who stood up against the onslaught of the United States military, San Geronimo's Valley.

The Hopis from Arizona used to travel up the West Coast gathering supplies. They always tried to make a stop at Agate Beach in Bolinas to gather Kachina shells. These are the pyramid shaped white mussel shells found in the area. These shells were considered very religious and worn only by the Kachina dancers and dolls. Grandfather David Monongye, the Hopi elder and holder of the Prophesies, gathered the shells as late as 1973 by offering prayers and sweet grass offerings to the Goddess of the Ocean to deliver up a good supply. Needless to say, that while on other occasions the beach offered few gifts, on this occasion the beach was filled with little white mounds of shells.

During the 1980s, as more and more people from all over the world discovered the quiet beauty of the woods surrounding the peak, several momentous religious events happened on the Mountain. The Dalai Lama of Tibet paid a visit to the mountain several times, to stay at the Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm and another time to pray for peace with others at the very peak.

The highly publicized Harmonic Convergence of 1989 had Mt. Tamalpais as one of the center points of the convergence. People gathered from around the West to meditate in its woods and held ceremonies for the healing of the earth.

Even today, loved ones will carry the ashes of their loved ones deep into the forests of redwood to bury their dead. That the mountain has given solace to more than the Sleeping Lady is evident to all who have walked her paths and shared the quiet peace of her lakes.

Richard Graef: Galilee Harbor’s Ace

by Steefenie Wicks

 Richard Graef
Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Richard Graef is known in Sausalito as the ace behind the design company ACE Design, which was located on the waterfront in the old ICB building from 1972 until recently.   He has also been a member of Galilee Harbor since 1980, making him one of the elders of the community.  He was trained in many different design principles, including graphic design, fashion and industrial design in which he finally took his degree. 

“Life had taken a turn for me; I was in the process of looking for a place to live while camping out in my studio,” Graef says. “I was getting to know people here in town, including Chris Hardman and Annette Rose.  I remember, it was the 4th of July; we were attending the event in Dunphy Park, when I mentioned that I was looking for a place to live.  Annette said ‘We have a boat; do you want to stay on it?’  Right then we walked over to the old Napa Street Pier where the boat was docked; after taking a look at her, I decided yes, I could live there.”   He smiles and adds, “It’s funny but later they would sell me the boat. I have been here ever since”.

Graef has worked many different jobs in his profession, from designing a museum in Texas to designing a pavilion in Japan for IBM.  He explains, “I was asked to design some of the first interactive displays. You see, this was the beginning of the computer age, the signage, the graphics all had to be interactive so as to encourage the user to take part.  I would travel to Japan several times before we completed the project.  But the best was working with Quincy Jones.  Jones had been asked to do the musical layouts for the interactive displays.  It was very interesting and exciting working with him, watching how he approached the exhibits, how his mind worked to turn them into music, it was a very special experience.”

Graef’s very special experiences would continue when he was asked to design an aquarium in Monterey.  He would end up working with the Packard family, who had decided that this is what they wanted to have constructed as an environmental tribute to the California coast.  Although the job was exciting in the beginning no one knew if it would be finished.  He worked alongside architects and biologists to ensure the correct procedures.  Graef explained, “This would be David Packard’s legacy so he insisted that everything be done right, top of the line. I was able to experiment with design on tanks, displays, interactive exhibits with never a worry about cost.  Then I was asked to do the logo. At that time, no one had any idea that the project would become as big -- also as progressive -- as it has become:  the Monterey Aquarium.”

Along with making trips back and forth to Monterey, Graef was becoming more involved with the Galilee Harbor Community where he lived.  “At this time in the early 1980’s,” he recalls, “there was this fear that we would all have to leave the Napa Street Pier, meaning the entire community would have to be relocated, so I started to attend meetings.  At the time there was talk of trying to keep the community together if they had to be relocated.  Susan Frank came on board and, along with the City, negotiated a deal with Schoonmaker to take in the Galilee Community. Then the group that owned the Napa Street property went bust and Schoonmaker bought the property.  But it soon became apparent that Schoonmaker was not going to be able to develop it the way they wanted so they turned around, sold it to the Galilee Harbor residents.  The rest is history.”

During this time, Graef became involved with a Maritime Day project that had to do with Marinship.  Before that maritime day, there was no mention in the Bay Model about Marinship or WWII.   So he crafted the logo and was asked to design a display in the lobby. What started out as a miniature exhibition grew into the permanent display on view today at the Bay Model.  He explained, “I managed, designed and helped build the exhibition.  During the process some reaching out was done to people who had been part of the Marinship, then Bechtel got involved because of their previous involvement with the shipyards. They put money into the project and we were able to hire people, turning this display into a real exhibition. I was able to hire a staff to work on this, helping it to become a real exhibition that today is informative, a link with history.”

When asked if he had any final thoughts on his life at Galilee Harbor, Graef says, “Galilee Harbor has had to make many adjustments but they have all been for the good.  The Harbor promotes participation, involvement that shows how people grow when they get involved with their community. In many ways Galilee Harbor is an amazing entity.”

Galilee Harbor celebrates its 36th Anniversary during Maritime Day on Saturday August 6, 8AM to 6PM, next to Dunphy Park in Sausalito

A Sausalito Boyhood

By Larry Clinton

Robert Williams being interviewed on NBC Bay Area in 2013.

At age 79, sixteen years ago, Sausalito native Robert Beresford Williams figured he had done everything of note he was going to do in his life, so it was time to write his memoirs. It had been a remarkable life: Eagle Scout, Naval Academy graduate, World War II veteran, highly successful insurance salesman and veterans advocate. Here are excerpts of his memories of growing up in Sausalito in the 1920’s:

Often, as a young boy, I would telephone home from a friend's house or from downtown Sausalito. I can still hear Mother's cheery voice or Dad's drawn out "Hello" on the family two-piece telephone, in answer to my operator-connected calls to Sausalito 306.

In the 1920’s and 1930's, Sausalito was primarily a San Francisco bedroom community, with a population of about 3000. Bounded by San Francisco Bay in front and with hills behind to the west, Sausalito was a small, picturesque village.

Sausalito seemed to be divided into three sections: "Old Town" at the south end -- ethnically mixed European; "New Town" at the north end -- primarily Portuguese, descendants of fishermen; and the "The Hill", where I lived -- totally white, Republican, a large British colony, predominantly commuters.

Social life revolved around the Sausalito Woman's Club, the San Francisco Yacht Club (then in Sausalito) and churches and various fraternal organizations, primarily Portuguese flavored.

Civic days, so very festive, were important in Sausalito: Flag Day in June, with the ceremony in the town plaza. Navy Day in October, often with a destroyer at anchor off "Old Town" — an opportunity for a small boy to get unlimited quantities of ice cream, free! Armistice Day in November, celebrating the end of World War I (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918) with its parade, wreath-laying in the town plaza, and other remembrances.

As a boy, I was comfortable in Sausalito. I was aware of who lived where, over large areas of the town. As one might in such a small village, I knew so many there -- Frost the Postmaster, Smith the Dentist, Barker the Insurance Man, Miller the Realtor, Ratto the Grocer, Ohlemutz the Butcher, Ellis the Jeweler, Smith the Ferry Boat Captain, Boyd the Theater Owner, Laroy the Druggist, St. George Buttrum, the Vicar. In 1996, while driving slowly around Sausalito, this memory of "Oh, that's so and so's house", was still so very clear in my mind! There was an atmosphere of friendliness in Sausalito. Saying hello with a smile as one passed, often going out of my way to say hello, became a way of life — one of the important lessons I learned in my hometown.

In 1922, I moved into our newly-built home, on the "down the hill" side of Sausalito Boulevard. The letters on the yellow front gate prophetically spelled out " The Anchorage".

Our home had a nautical theme. There was a long porch on the bay side, also a deck from which to admire the magnificence of San Francisco Bay, a large telescope for detailed viewing, room for me to entertain my friends, a play area for forts and battling armies of small lead soldiers and a dog run for Mac, my Scottie. There was a lower yard filled with narrow, mud-hardened roads painstakingly constructed by brother John and myself, for our miniature toy cars of the day.

Redwood tree with official city plaque outside Williams’ Sausalito Boulevard home

Photo by Larry Clinton

For a lower yard update, here is a story relayed by my daughter Cara about her 1994 visit. The 1990's owners, for reasons unknown, had brought in a metal detector to comb the lower yard. Unearthed were five of brother John's and my miniature, vintage cars of the day, restored and now displayed in a place of honor on the owner's kitchen front window sill. A small stack of fused-together coins was found, probably brother John's. Also unearthed were Grandfather's sterling silver cigarette lighter and, a thin oval-shaped medallion with Grandmother's name and address lettered thereon.

Our Sausalito home has been remodeled repeatedly and extensity since Mother sold it in the mid-1960's for the seemingly high price of $50,000!!!! What reminders might now be there of my happy boyhood years in Sausalito? Out front is a one-time 18" Mark West Creek, Sonoma County, redwood sapling, painstakingly transported to Sausalito and planted by me as a young boy, now grown into a mature, beautiful redwood tree. In the 1960’s, this redwood was judged to be a tree of such significance to Sausalito to be designated a city-dedicated tree. Affixed thereto is a plaque. Presumably, this redwood tree, with its protected status, will stand as a reminder for many, many decades to come. Long gone is the wooden street number sign, nailed to the back gate, so carefully crafted by me in my seventh grade Manual Training Class. Perhaps, if one rooted around in the lower yard, one might find buried, a small, old, rusted or disintegrated toy car or two of brother John's or mine.

Williams’ Sausalito memoir is in the collection of the Sausalito Historical Society, which is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM on the top floor of City Hall.

The Swing

by Jack Van der Meulen

Steefenie Wicks began writing for the Sausalito Historical Society in October, 2012.  It is now 2016 and she’s embarking on her 50th story for the town of Sausalito and the Historical Society.  It should be noted that she is not the first waterfront writer from Galilee Harbor who has written for the Historical Society; both Thomas Hoover and Jack Van der Meulen came before.  Both were founding members of the Historical Society, and like Steefenie, both were founding members of this 32-year-old organization called the Galilee Harbor Community Association.

Recently, Jack visited his old community and when he returned home he remembered this piece.  He emailed Steefenie, “Came across one of my old ‘Elephant Walk’ columns and fell in love again with the years spent at Galilee – so wandered around the harbor a bit last week and hence I had to send the column as an ode to the tenacity over the years of difficulty. “  

Galilee Harbor group shot 1986 (Jack Van der Muelen front left) Photo BY Steefenie Wicks

Galilee Harbor group shot 1986 (Jack Van der Muelen front left)
Photo BY Steefenie Wicks

The article, entitled The Swing, written and published in Marin Scope in December of 1986, recounts a whimsical tale of how an everyday swing was installed at Galilee Harbor, as told through the eyes of a writer/poet like Jack:

The Swing

Otto built the first community swing.  He banged up the support out of old but sturdy 2x8’s.  He used cheap poly-pro rope, which was knotted to hold up the seat board.  Subsequent adjustments and repairs were made by using a variety of knots.  As many kinds of knots as there were mariner fathers in the Harbor.

As can be imagined, over the years the many knots weakened the ropes so badly that about a week ago, the pleasant pastime began to unravel completely.

Little Jennifer said, “Fix my swing.”  Little Sarah asked, “When will my swing be fixed?”  Very little Rose burled, pouted and waved her hand where the swing board used to be.  Siri visited and inquired, “I was hoping to swing?”  Young Jonah declared, “I don’t want the swing fixed, it is more appropriate for a boy to be climbing well knotted hanging ropes.”

It was the Saturday of Jonah’s 8th birthday.  Also a neighborhood workday – a day for fixing swings.  We pointed out that there were more girls around than boys.  We reminded him that in the afternoon there would be a party in his honor with balloons, cake, songs of commendation and accomplishment.  Later there would be a bridge birthday party with fireworks across the evening sky.  We asked, “Surely a repaired swing won’t ruin such a wonderful day for you?”

Jonah returned with a gang – his gang.  We were in the middle of establishing galvanized eyebolts into the crossbeam.  We were splicing new rope around timbales.  Suddenly the boys began to chant in chorus,” We demand climbing ropes with massive knots.  We demand triple strand three quarter inch caliber Dacron rope for its strength the and durability – as we ourselves have been installed into a grim and fearsome world and have deep concerns about our individual and collective security.  We demand an opportunity to place a modicum of faith in at least playground equipment.  It is the very least the adult world can do.  It is at least something.”

But we went ahead and put up a real classic swing anyway.  We used five-eighths caliber triple strand nylon rope.  We seized all the splices and gusseted the seat bottom.  It was not quite all up spec, but the best we could do within the budgetary constraints.

When it was all accomplished, the little girls came by.  They asked if we might orient the swing in the most scenic direction.  “We have been installed into an ugly and chaotic world,” they cried in unison. “The very least the adult world can do for us is to orient our pastimes in the most pleasing direction possible – we have grave fears about overall ugliness and creeping chaos and confusion.  We expect a gesture of aesthetic concern.”

So we conscripted four strong fathers and we twisted the whole affair around so as to face the finest motif in the Harbor.  A motif favored by photographers and itinerant watercolorists.  It contained in order of diminishing perspective: An infant oak.  A handsome old Tugboat.  The open water of the bay.  The place on the horizon where the moon most often comes up.

Finally, on Sunday, we added a climbing rope for the boys.  We pooled personal resources and brought triple strand, three quarter inch caliber Dacron rope for its strength and durability.  We used galvanized hardware.  Then we cajoled the top marlinspike in the Harbor to tie elaborate but firm knots into the rope.

We were pleased.  Everyone seemed quite pleased.

Jack’s Note: As should be obvious, certain liberties of transcription have been taken in this column: particularly as regards the choral lyrics attributed to the children.  It has been done to protect innocence.

Steefenie’s Note: The history of a place is kept alive in the people who live and work there.   The Sausalito waterfront is rich in the heritage that it has been able to maintain.  Without the rich archives of the waterfront, stories like this would be lost forever.

Marinship and Civil Rights

By Larry Clinton

The integrated workforce at Marinship during WWII has often been hailed as a watershed in the U.S. civil rights movement.  But it took a California Supreme Court decision to make it happen.

Marinship had a closed-shop contract which required that all shipyard construction workers must be members of the union. According to the book “James vs. Marinship: Trouble on the New Black Frontier,” African Americans were forced to join Auxiliary A-41, an all-black unit controlled by Boilermakers Local 6.  In 1943, more than 200 African Americans who refused to pay the A-41 dues were fired.  One of them, Joseph James, filed a lawsuit in Marin County Superior Court to stop their dismissal. Among the points made in the case was that the threatened dismissals would constitute a breach of the anti-discrimination provisions in Marinship's contracts with the Maritime Commission. A summary of the case at points out that the shipyard was owned by the United States and operated by Marinship Corp. under contracts containing provisions that Marinship would not discriminate against any worker because of race, color, creed, or national origin. The Marin court issued a preliminary injunction against the union and Marinship Corporation, but those defendants countered by contending that a state court had no jurisdiction over a labor controversy in the shipbuilding industry, because shipbuilding affects interstate commerce, so “jurisdiction over labor disputes lies in the National Labor Relations Board.”  Eventually, the case wound its way to the California Supreme Court in 1944, where it was argued by notable African American attorney Thurgood Marshall, among others.  The unanimous decision in favor of James and the other workers rejected the jurisdictional argument, and held that if a closed-shop contract was in place and that workers must be union members in order to work, then unions cannot be closed to any members based on their race or any other arbitrary conditions.  True integration had come to Marinship at last.

Thurgood Marshall later distinguished himself by arguing before the United States Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, winning a decision that desegregated public schools. He was eventually appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

“James vs. Marinship” by Charles Wollenberg is in the collection of the Sausalito Historical Society Research Room, which is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays 10 AM to 1 PM on the top floor of City Hall.