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 http://scocal.stanford.edu 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.

Richardson Saga Part III

By Annie Sutter
This is excerpted from the final installment of a series Annie wrote about Sausalito during the years that founder William Richardson lived here.

Entertainments enjoyed by the Californios of Richardson's time ranged from gracious to brutal, from picnics in the hills while picking wild strawberries, to baiting a bull and a bear to fight to the death. And eating, drinking, dancing and competition were the mainstays of a social event -- be it one of county wide attendance and weeklong duration such as a wedding, or merely the occasion of the arrival of a visitor who, in the code of the early Californian, must be lavishly entertained. In the book Days of the Dons, a Bolinas housewarming, or fiesta, is described: "For the men, days were filled with competition in riding and horsemanship, the use of the riata, and feats of bodily strength, and much betting on this or that gave spice to events. Juan Garcia had brought his fighting cocks and staged a few bloody contests. But the favorite sports were those of skill ... and to a Frenchman whom they called Tom Vaquero fell the honor of being acclaimed the outstanding rider. He had offered to forfeit his horse, saddle, bridle and spurs if he failed to subdue the wildest mustang while holding a silver dollar with his feet in each stirrup. After the efforts of several men who lassoed and saddled the animal and placed coins under Tom's feet, he won his bet, retaining his seat easily...quite a time it took, the horse rearing, kicking, bucking...but at last the tired animal walked across the corral for the judges to inspect the stirrups and there rested the coins - firmly held just where they had been placed." Similar equestrian skill was exhibited in performing a particularly brutal sport in which live chickens were buried except for their heads. The game was for the riders Jo set their mounts to galloping headlong at the unfortunate chickens, and to reach down at full tilt to pluck their heads off.

Bull and bear fighting was a popular pastime in William Richardson’s day.

Then, triumphant, the vaquero could return to the hacienda for more placid sport; "two days of merriment and feasting passed. The moon was bright at night and in the courtyard a great bonfire lighted the pits where meats broiled and caldrons of beans and sauces simmered. Dancing in the sala, singing songs dear to them all, and flirting under the watchful eyes of the duennas - so passed the time."

One of the dances was called "La Jota." Stephen Richardson recalls, "It could be danced by any number divisible by four. The señors ranged themselves opposite the senoritas with a wide space between. Then a man at the head of the column began to sing a popular folk song, the lady opposite him took up the strain, followed by the new two forming a quartette of voices. Meanwhile the singers were pirouetting down the aisle, performing all kinds of intricate evolutions. The voices of the succeeding fours joined in order, harmonizing in a round; thus the volume swelling to a grand crescendo, reached a faint whisper of song as the dancers resumed their former stations. Another dance was called "La Son." It was a one lady dance, and always excited a heap of merriment. The danseuse executed a few pirouettes and singled out one of the dashing bucks as a challenged party. She danced up to him, saucy as you please, and it was his part to plant his sombrero on her head. She looked as she would make it easy for him, but when he made a swift attempt, Mira! she was a-dozen feet away. This was repeated with various caballeros present, and for each failure the fair dancer received a gift. But to promote variety, she was finally sombrero and surrendered to a lucky youth."

Richardson's daughter, Marianna, described a less gracious form of entertainment. "Bear and bull fights were always a great attraction. In 1835 when I was nine I saw my first fight of this kind. A large bear was led into an enclosure with a number of vaqueros on horseback. The bear was thrown on his back and a riata tied around his leg. The bull was led in and treated in the same manner -- they were then tied together and made to stand up. At, first they tried to escape, but soon discovered they had to fight. The bear stood up on his haunches, and the bull, seeing this, tried to run his horns through the bear but the bear was too quick and turned aside. Before the bull could recover, the bear had him around the horns and pulled him to the ground and deliberately, by brute force, thrust his paw into the bull's mouth and pulled out his tongue. The bull expired in a few minutes."

In 1851 a visitor wrote: "We all went to the rancho in evening and sure enough, all senoritas were there. Who would not fall in love with California girls? Dear creatures with raven locks and round shiny faces who meet you at the door with Buenos Dios! and oh ... what a smile. Such forms too -- none of your tall slender dames. We found the company seated on the floor. The brandy came fast, but who would think of those delicate throats swallowing brandy, so the senoritas drank strong beer instead. We drank three cases, and they two. How they could dance when that began to operate! It would enchant the ladies of New York to see of our belles step out alone on the floor, throw her head back, spread her gown out on each side to show her pretty legs, and then crack it down... their gowns were of crepe and calico, with gay and satin kid shoes. Necklace earrings were indispensable."

 

 

The Richardson Saga

By Annie Sutte

The only known photo of William Richardson, founder of Sausalito, was taken c. 1854.

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

After the 1820s, ships of many nations began calling at San Francisco Bay to trade goods: clothing, silks and velvets so loved by the California women, shoes, liquor and spices in exchange for hides, tallow, otter skins, produce, wood and water. [Capt. Wm.] Richardson set up a business on today's Valley St. beach supplying wood and water to visiting ships. In 1837 he had been appointed Port Captain of Yerba Buena (San Francisco) by Governor Vallejo, a position which provided the enterprising Richardson with an open invitation to continue profiting in the lucrative trading schemes he had already set up across the bay. Historian Clyde Trudell observed: “Capt. Richardson naturally couldn't support his family on the meager Port Captain's wages, but the name of the game was graft with a bit of smuggling on the side. What with knocking down some of the customs money, and conniving with ship captains to avoid port taxes, he was soon doing very well. By 1843 his mismanagement of his port duties had become so flagrant that the Administrator of Customs complained that with the connivance of General Vallejo, Richardson was making up rules to his own advantage. The result was that Richardson was dismissed from his post as Port Captain, but by then his cattle and hide business was thriving and he had made so many friends among ship captains that they no longer hove to in Yerba Buena but dropped anchor in the shelter of Richardson's Bay, where they provided a ready market for his beef and fruits and vegetables.”

Word had gotten round to most of the ship captains that if they fired a cannon twice outside the Gate, Richardson and his Indian crew would come out and pilot them into Sausalito, thus avoiding the undue strain and expense of dealing with the officials on the other side of the bay.

There, in what came to be called Whaler's Cove, he ran things according to his own rules, and the whalers and an increasing number of American ships found it expedient to deal with Richardson’s sensible approach to graft; get on with the trade, avoid the tax, and split the difference.

In his voluminous history of early California, the historian Hubert Howe Bancroft observed: “Any administrator who attempted to regulate whalers in San Francisco Bay was confronted by hard-faced captains bent on keeping their port expenses small, by merchants after cheap goods, and by rancheros who bartered their agricultural surplus for 'slop chest' goods.” In continuing head-on confrontations with the officials at Yerba Buena, Richardson usually came out ahead.

From the book Puerto de los Balleneros [by Boyd Huff, 1957], we learn that in 1844 a new receiver named Diaz was appointed at San Francisco, “a man of energy, but having only bluff, his efforts to enforce regulations against the whalers came to nothing. On taking office, Diaz proposed that a well be dug at Yerba Buena where the whalers could take on water under the scrutiny of an official. Here was a measure that might have made possible the enforcement of trade regulations.” This proposal was, of course, an attempt to keep the whalers away from Richardson's Sausalito water and tolerant jurisdiction. What happened? “...two more whalers passed over to the Sausalito anchorage... Diaz chartered a launch and sallied forth to enforce the port regulations. He crossed the bay to Sausalito to find the anchorage teeming with evidence of illicit trade. He noticed a large kettle on the beach... Richardson genially replied that it was his, that a whaling ship had left the kettle. Diaz seized the kettle and informed Richardson that the Monterey Custom house would decide the matter.” Then Diaz found that the Alcalde of San Francisco had brought his launch alongside a whaler and was unloading “a barrel of honey, salt pork and two sacks of ship bread.” Reports of the blatant disregard of Richardson and the ship captains continue, until poor Diaz “finally resorted to the tactics of making the Captain of the Port responsible for whatever might happen in Sausalito, and announced that he was withdrawing all guards, and informed Richardson that he was responsible for what might happen.” Richardson's answer is a grand-daddy of the bureaucratic response. “This Captaincy is not responsible for anything you may do regarding the whaling ships anchored in Sausalito, because of their having anchored by arrangement with orders which the Custom House gave; this is my answer to your Official Letter dated today.”

Besides open confrontations, Richardson had other means of avoiding customs duties -- use of the Sausalito shores as storage. Bancroft observed that Richardson was “more than suspected of smuggling with the support of his father-in-law [Ygnacio Martinez, commandant of the Presidio of San Francisco]... in debt and threatened with the calaboose if he did not pay within 24 hours.” When the whalers did submit to customs inspection, it was often with lightened loads. “A goodly amount of fabric, liquor, clothing, food and household goods were hidden -- beyond the beach at Whaler's Cove.” 

Liz O’Keefe: Community Starts Here

By: Steefenie Wicks

In 1911, when Susan Sroufe Loosley became the first president of the Sausalito Woman’s Club, she was a lady to be reckoned with. Trained as a painter in Europe, she led an independent life that kept her single until she was 39 years of age.  It was said that when she went out to paint, along with her paints and brushes, she carried her rifle, rod and shotgun.  It was her sense of independence that led her in life, along with her involvement with civic organizations.  When she became Woman’s Club president, her father worked in the liquor Industry and her husband at one time had worked as a bartender.  Yet this did not keep her from becoming a strong member of the group as they set about to close some of the 19 bars that had taken over downtown Sausalito.

“They called her ‘The Pistol Packing President’,” says current President Liz O’Keefe. “It didn’t matter that she was not an advocate of abstinence, what mattered was her desire to help change.”

Elizabeth O’Keefe worked for 40 years in the printing industry doing commission sales before she retired to Sausalito.  She was born in Exeter, California and attended the University of Utah where she studied ballet. Her father owned a small business and her mother was part of the Exeter Woman’s Club, so she grew up being very much aware of what the Club was about, the work that they did as volunteers, and how this affected the community. So when Liz moved to Sausalito it was not long before she became part of the Sausalito Woman’s Club, where she has been a member for over 20 years, becoming President this past year.  Now that her one-year term is coming to an end, she reflects, “The Sausalito Woman’s Club has always been very actively involved in the civic projects of the community.  Our members are dedicated volunteers who work to give back to the community.  The City in turn works with us on projects, making it a win win situation for all. We are so lucky to have this relationship with the City.”  She was able to reflect on the work that was done this year by the organization.  “Our goal this year was ‘Community Starts Here,’ she explained. “For instance this year the scholarship committee raised over $60,000 that will be provided to students from Sausalito and Marin City.” The Club has had a successful scholarship program for the past 60 years.

Like most Sausalito organizations, the Woman’s Club was founded on a single act of civic activism, in 1911.  It began one morning when resident Ella Wood was walking along Bulkey Avenue and came upon a group of workmen cutting down a row of mature cypress trees.  Outraged, she raced to gather her friends and neighbors to protest the cutting of the beautiful trees.  By the time the women returned only one tree was left standing, in front of the newly built Presbyterian church.  Ten of the women joined hands to encircle the tree while others rushed to help.  The town clerk, William Tiffany, joined the women and ordered the cutting stopped.  Today this tree is known as The Founders’ Tree.

Julia Morgan was selected as the architect to build the Clubhouse on Central Avenue in 1917.  At that time Ms. Morgan was already a famous architect with a very impressive portfolio of work, which included a number of building at Mills College.  She was particularly known for working with feminist organizations that favored female professionals.

Liz O’Keefe feels it’s important that people know that the members of the Sausalito Woman’s Club are an eclectic group.  “We have artists, writers, retired CEOs who all come to work together for the good of the organization, the community.  Our members are involved, they know how to get their hands dirty, complete projects, work with others; that’s what makes a strong community.” O’Keefe continues, “Members of the Club come together but they also work as individuals.  They volunteer and integrate into the community to see how they can be of help.  But when you state that ‘Community Starts Here,’ it is the actions of these individuals that prove the point.”

O’Keefe feels that her 20-year involvement with the Club, along with this year’s duties as president, has shown her how important the Club is.  She speaks of the closeness of the members, of how if something happens to one member it affects all members.  The Sausalito Woman’s Club has a reputation of being one of the most active in the nation.  While other women’s clubs are starting to disappear around the country, the Sausalito Woman’s Club remains strong after 100 years in existence. As O’Keefe’s term draws to an end, a new president will be chosen. Her successor is again a good friend in the Club, named Laurie Wright.

In closing O’Keefe offers a final statement, “Sausalito has sweetness about it.  It is a small town where everybody knows each other and hopefully does the best for each other. When a group like this comes together to work together, then like the three Musketeers we are one for all and all for one”. 

The Richardson Saga

By Annie Sutter

Back in 1987, the Historical Society’s Annie Sutter wrote a series for the MarinScope on based on recollections of the children of William Richardson, Sausalito’s founder.  Here’s an excerpt.

What kind of a place was the Sausalito that William Richardson inhabited in the late 1830's? An answer is provided by his son Stephen in a series of articles published by the Call Bulletin in 1918 when the son was 87 years old. “My early life in Sausalito was perhaps the happiest time of my life. A horse trail ran from San Rafael to Sausalito; very much the same as the main highway goes today. The country was entirely untouched by man, and the wild oats grew shoulder high, in spite of the great herds of wild animals browsing in the fields. On an ordinary jaunt from Sausalito to San Rafael I would see enough elk, deer, bear and antelope to fill a good sized railroad train. I never grew tired of riding through wonderful forest land and over ridges overlooking the sea.” There were 19,000 acres comprising what was originally called Rancho Saucelito for young Stephen to ride through and enjoy. He continued, “The bay as my father knew it was a fairyland of enchantments ... the waters had not been fouled by tailings from the mines, and were still crystal clear so that a pebble could easily be seen at a depth of 30 feet. The timber reached in many places down to the shore; The stillness was unbroken save for the shrill piping of the myriad shorebirds, and elk with huge branching horns, graceful antlered stags, and huge grizzly bears stood statuesque on the hill sides.” Richardson's daughter wrote that she saw bands of elks, hundreds in a band, swimming from Mare Island to the shores, and remembers fields of yellow poppies stretching as far as the eye can see. However, all was not Paradise, as attested to by one Mr. Atherton who, on April 5, 1837, “sailed for Whaler's cove ... remained an hour or two ... shot rabbit and got most confoundedly poisoned by what is here called 'yedra' (poison ivy).”

This anonymous painting of Wm. Richardson’s home c. 1845 is from the Bancroft Library.  It appears in Jack Tracy’s book, Moments in Time.

This anonymous painting of Wm. Richardson’s home c. 1845 is from the Bancroft Library.  It appears in Jack Tracy’s book, Moments in Time.

Having finally officially received the grant to Rancho Sausalito in 1838, Richardson moved his family from his home in San Francisco shortly thereafter. He built his home, an adobe, at the intersection of today's Pine and Bonita. First hand descriptions of this home vary greatly; from idyllic reports of climbing roses and flowering pear trees to the account of Captain Wilkes of the ship Vincennes: “His house is small, consisting of only two rooms, and within a few rods of it all the cattle are slaughtered which affords a sight and smell not the most agreeable.  A collection of leg-bones, hoofs, and hides lay about in confusion, for which numerous dogs were fighting.” The small size of the home is confirmed in a history of Marin County written in 1880, which says that the house was first “sixteen by twenty feet in size, then an addition of a room on either side was made making the house about twenty by forty with a storage loft above.” The adobe was still intact in 1872, and then “whatever remains of the house existed after the 1870s were finally cleared away when Pine St. was cut through about 1924.”

By 1841 the family was well established Sausalito. Many are the reports of his hospitality. In those days of life in early California the concept “mi casa es su casa -my house is your house” was an accepted way of life. Californians were expected to -- and did -- open their homes to visitors and entertain lavishly. “Entertaining in those days was wholesale, not retail,” recalled Stephen. “It was necessary for the hostess to invite practically the entire population ... you were sure to have at least 100 guests draw bridle at your door at the appointed day. And no feasts lasted for less than one week.”

Richardson extended his hospitality to visitors on ships and was, in turn, invited to dine on board, often in equally lavish style, as described by daughter Marianna. “My father always dined officers of the men-of-war. The dinner consisted of barbecued meat, stewed chicken with chili beans, corn and other Spanish dishes all of which they enjoyed very much. They would praise our way of cooking and would always invite us to dine on board their vessels ... and entertained us in a splendid state serving a grand dinner using their finest china, having several table cloths of the finest linen, removing one after each course.”

Captain Wilkes, however, whose ship visited in 1841, found returning this hospitality somewhat trying. “Whilst the ship was at Sausalito the officers received many persons on board, and as their estancias were far removed, they became guests for a longer time than was agreeable to most of the officers. A Californian needs no pressing to stay as long as he is pleased with the place; and he is content with coarse fare provided he can get enough of strong drink to minister to his thirst.  The palm for intemperance was, I think, generally give to the padres, some of whom, notwithstanding their clerical robes, did ample justice to every drinkable offered them.” A trader, one Alfred Robinson, described a dinner on board an American ship to which Californian rancheros had been invited: “On one occasion as soon as the pudding had been served round, a bowl containing the pudding sauce was handed to one of the Californian guests to help himself.  He took the bowl from the steward and with his spoon, soon finished it.  Then, smacking his lips, he remarked, ‘What good soup!  What a pity they did not bring it before the meat’.”

A “Hill Skunk Remembers”

By Annie Sutter

The following is excerpted from an 1885 interview of Jim Wyatt by the Historical Society’s Annie Sutter:

“They called us the Hill Skunks and we called them the Water Rats, and we always threatened to have a gang fight on Halloween – but it never happened,” recalls Jim Wyatt who was born at his family home on Sausalito Blvd., right in the heart of “Hill Skunk” territory.  Jim’s parents built their house here in 1900, and Jim, the middle of five kids, was born on Sausalito Blvd. in 1907. . . “there was no hospital in the whole county, dear,” he says, and adds, “I grew up in that house.  It had eighteen rooms, a tennis court and a big yard.  We had a gardener, and servants who lived in, first French girls, then Chinese.  There were only a few houses on the Hill then, and only two on Sausalito Blvd.  The streets weren’t paved, and there was a big tank wagon that would spray to keep the dust down.  Life was entirely different then – there were no cars – and we walked, rain or shine.  I think you got a lot closer to people in those days…”

What was life like for a kid growing up in the wilds of Sausalito Blvd. In the first years of the 20th century?

“Sausalito – oh, early Sausalito was an entirely different society.  The people of the Hill were white collar workers who went to the City to work, and downtown people worked on railroads or ferries or in stores.  We commuted on the ferries – the Eureka, Cazadero and the Tamalpais – and round trip commuters tickets were 25 cents.  It was sort of like a party – you knew everybody on the boat.  The men all sat together downstairs, and the ladies went up to what we called the “Perfume Deck.”  There was lots of card playing – no, not dealers or anything, just guys playing cards together.

“There were no automobiles; each store where would deliver your order.  Frank Perara from Fiedler’s Grocery would come by every morning and take your order and it would be delivered in the afternoon in a horse-drawn two-wheeled cart.  Milk came in an open bucket by horse and buggy.  Ice?  Oh yes, Mr. Mason had the ice house.  He delivered on a two-horse wagon.  He’d cut up 100-lb. blocks; you could get 20-lb. or 50-lb. and he’d take it up to the house and put it in your ice box.  Oh, maybe a couple of times a week, depending on the weather.

“For vegetables, you called Ratto and Mecchi.  The telephone was on the wall; you had to wind it up.  Everyone knew the operator by name – ‘Mable?’ you’d say, ‘I’m going over to so-and-so’s; send my calls over there…’ And you know everybody in the stores.  At the candy store, kids could get an ice cream for free if they knew you.

“Manuel Perara had the taxi, a two-horse wagon with seats on the side.  You walked down the hill in the morning, but you got off the ferry and onto the wagon for the trip up.  Oh, we kids’d snitch a ride on the delivery carts if we could, and you could roll your bike down the hill, but it was pretty hard going up.

Newspapers were brought from the City in the early morning by Old Man Lange on his launch – he always wore a derby hat and a suit of clothes, and he’d go over and get the papers and distribute them here.  My father bought one every morning at the ferry dock and read it while he rode across to the City.

“Fire – we had a horse drawn engine.  Usually the horses were out working for the City by day and so if you had a fire by day…well…by the time they got the horses and got them hitched up, it was pretty bad.  Oh, and they had those little hose cart shacks stationed up around the hill, two-wheel carts with a hose wrapped around a drum and a place for a man to sit and brake.  Well, they were stationed at the top, so you were always going down.  It was too much of a job to pull them up.  They’d hitch them up to fire hydrant closest to the fire.  The Fire Department was across from where Horizons Restaurant [today’s Trident] is now, and the jail was alongside that building.  There were two cells, and if there was anybody in jail, we kids would go and look at them.  But there weren’t many – the biggest sin? Drunkenness. 

There were no policemen.  If you got into trouble, you called Mr. Ashoff, a baker who was open all night, over on Caledonia.  He rode around on a bike.  Now, if you had any trouble on the Hill, he couldn’t get to you. But nobody ever called him.  Any trouble there was – it was downtown in the saloons.  When I was a kid, pretty near every place was a saloon – with a Chinese gambling joint upstairs.  No, our parents didn’t forbid us to go – we couldn’t get in!  The doors had big brass plates saying no minors allowed.

The Social Side of Marinship

By Larry Clinton

Daisy Hollingsworth, who served as Office Assistant to the President of Marinship during WWII, recalled some of her more entertaining memories in the book The History Of A Wartime Shipyard, which is part of the Sausalito Historical Society collection.  Here are some excerpts:

It is hard to describe such a position as I had. Every type of party was arranged and worried through. Breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, receptions, for two guests or two hundred, with wartime rationing, were a challenge. Podesta and Baldocchi's best, the blooms from Marin County gardens and even lupins picked near the railroad tracks at Gate 5 helped to make all these affairs beautiful.

In between were the thrice-weekly meetings of the Operating Committee, where the problems of the yard were thrashed out. To save time, luncheon was served in the President's office, the guests often including important Washington officials, executives from other yards and industries, but most often men from our own yard. This was fun. Knowing who liked what best (eschew cucumbers, go lightly on garlic dishes, and serve the best possible desserts) was a goal to strive for. The hectic parts did not show, such as food that did not arrive, more guests than planned for, a birthday cake dropped on the floor and carefully repaired and served just the same.

Little happenings come to mind that are interesting because of the people involved: the need to suggest to the President that he change "that yard hat" when leaving for San Francisco; Bing Crosby and the President starting down to a yard program in a fine drizzle; Marian Anderson singing before thousands in the yard on an improvised platform and receiving an ovation; Sally Rand showing some craftsmen her wedding ring made of different colors of gold, an exact miniature of the World Champion Rider's belt her husband had won; Ida Cantor, coming along with Eddie to be the gay butt of his jokes; Boris Karloff, so frightening on the screen, turning out to be a soft-spoken and charming man; Gertrude Lawrence rewarding bond winners with kisses; my changing stockings with a frantic sponsor who had discovered a run in one of hers at the last moment.

The most picturesque guests were the sons of the King of Saudi Arabia. They were tall men and carried their beautiful long white robes with distinction. Even more exciting to look at was the Nubian slave who was their bodyguard, wearing weapons with jeweled hilts, reminding one of the Arabian Nights. The Arabians' signatures were the most unusual in our guest book.

The brother of the Queen of England, David Bowes-Lyon, thought our yard a wonderful one, and took time to really see it, but did not get paint on his suit (we kept handy a special paint remover to render first aid to many a bedaubed visitor after a yard tour). Sir Amos Aver, head of British war shipping, and other English naval officers were most interested in our high outfitting docks and other new ideas not to be found in traditional shipyards.

Dozens of French, Russian, and Netherlands naval officers; congressmen, writers, United Nations Conference delegates, as well as the top executives of every type of company, visited Marinship. Occasionally a trip was arranged for wives while the husbands attended meetings; Muir Woods never disappointed a single one of them.

The gayest of breakfasts were those in the cafeteria in the early morning before a trial run of one of our vessels. A couple of strips of bacon and even butter for the hot rolls were treats indeed because of rationing. Everyone sparkled with a feeling of adventure.

At long last came the day when, the war over, the Office Assistant, like many others, could go back to her home and garden and plan a party for four or eight instead of two hundred.

On June 1st, I’ll be giving an illustrated presentation on Sausalito’s Contribution to WWII Then and Now at the Star Of The Sea Church’s Duggan Hall, 180 Harrison Ave., starting with refreshments at 6:30 PM.  If you’d like to join us, please RSVP to staroftheseamensclub@gmail.com.

CAPTION

Burlesque dancer Sally Rand cavorting with hardhats at Marinship.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Mad Dog Takes His Last Bite

By Larry Clinton

Hard-hitting lawyer Michael Metzger, a fixture at Kappas Marina in the 80s and early 90s, shot himself to death in 1994 after firing a round of birdshot at his wife. He was 57 and lived in St. Helena but practiced law out a floating home on East Pier, where neighbors – including myself -- were warily intrigued by the infamous criminal attorney who called himself Mad Dog.

The silver-haired Metzger had been as famous for his practical jokes and putdowns of adversaries as he was for his legal brilliance. "He...practices law with all the subtlety and restraint of a wounded Cape buffalo," noted writer Michael Checchio in a 1992 article for California Lawyer magazine.

East Pier neighbors were struck by the parade of unusual-looking clients – even by houseboat standards – who visited Metzger’s office at the beginning of the pier.  Many were high-profile drug traffickers or users, including members of the Grateful Dead, according to an obituary in the Miami New Times. There were even rumors of large, suspicious bales being delivered to his office by boat.

We were also impressed by the military-grade Humvee which Metzger parked in our lot, years before Governor Schwarzenegger popularized the gas-guzzling behemoths as conspicuous status symbols.

Splitting time between his floating home and his wine country residence, Metzger didn’t mingle much on the dock, but he did occasionally show a neighborly side, such as the time he voluntarily interceded on behalf of a pregnant woman who feared she was facing foreclosure.  Later, he married a woman from the dock, who was recalled as a gentle, perhaps fragile, young lady.

The ex-prosecutor had been one of the area’s most aggressive and outspoken defense lawyers for over 30 years.  He also struggled with his own drug abuse and alcoholism. Two years before his death, he was suspended from practicing in local federal courts for “threatening and insulting prosecutors and lying to the court,” according to an Associated Press report, which continued that it was found Metzger had “violated professional standards by challenging two prosecutors to fight, asking a third what her ‘species’ was, berating court staff and falsely denying some of his actions…”

Metzger had been drinking on the night he died, according to the Miami New Times: “Earlier that evening local police had confiscated an Uzi from the trunk of his car and a handgun he had been brandishing in a pizza restaurant (Metzger had a permit to carry concealed weapons and owned dozens of guns, according to the Napa County Sheriff's Department). Before turning his weapon on himself, Metzger wounded his wife Kyle with a round of birdshot, possibly accidentally. She was not seriously injured.”

The article continued: “Metzger also was under investigation by U.S. Customs in connection with a large West Coast hashish smuggling operation. Customs officials decline to comment about Metzger's alleged involvement. But friends tend to agree that it probably wasn't professional troubles that prompted Metzger to take his life; most place the blame on problems related to substance abuse.”

The Miami New Times obituary was entitled: “Mad Dog Bites No More.”

Remembering Local WWII Heroes

By Jerry Taylor, President Sausalito Historical Society

On Armistice Day, November 11, 1943, Sausalito paused to unveil and dedicate a Sausalito Honor Roll, a list of 474 men and women on active duty in the Armed Forces at that date, and the dozen friends and neighbors who had been killed in action.  The Sausalito City Council sponsored the event, with the assistance of the Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club, the American Legion post from Mill Valley, and the Sea Point Parlors of both the Native Daughters and the Native Sons of the Golden West.  Ernie Smith was Chairman of the Day, Mayor Webb Mahaffy addressed the crowd, and the music was provided by the Hamilton Field Band.  A Past Grand President of the Native Sons made the Dedicatory Address.

Seventy-two years later, the Sausalito Lions Club was seeking a way to honor one of the senior members of the Club, C. D. Madsen, a Lion for over sixty years.   C.D. grew up in Sausalito, an outstanding athlete at Tamalpais High and Student Body President.  He became a contractor, joined the Sausalito Lions, lived many years in Tiburon, and now shoots a lot of golf.

Left to right: Ed Madsen with Sausalito Lions Richard Carnal, Richard Davey, C.D. Madsen.
Photo by Jerry Taylor

Lion Alan Banks came across a contemporary account of the Honor Roll in the Sausalito News, complete with a photograph of the original, including the name Carrol Madsen.  Alan’s inspiration evolved into a recreation of the Honor Roll.  As the Honor Roll became tangible, the Club approached the Sausalito Historical Society, who offered a permanent home for the new plaque in its Marinship Museum at the Bay Model Visitor Center.

Further research uncovered a program from the 1943 Dedication Ceremonies.  So the scope grew. “Let’s not just hang the new Honor Roll, let’s replicate the original event.”

The Sausalito Lions showed the plaque to C.D. on his 98th birthday celebration at a Club meeting April 13th.  The Lions District Governor led the singing of “Happy Birthday.”  Celebrating with C.D. was his cousin Ed Madsen, 90, retired Sausalito postman, known to many as the President of the Sea Point Parlor, Native Sons of the Golden West, and longtime chairman of their ice cream booth at the Sausalito Art Festival.  Ed’s name was on the original, and is on the new version of the Honor Roll, alphabetically just below his cousin’s name.

The new plaque, executed by Dudley DeNador, will be formally unveiled and re-dedicated to those Sausalito Heroes in a ceremony at the Bay Model Visitor Center, at 9:30 AM, Saturday, May 21 2016.  We’ll sort of follow the old script, but the speeches will be much shorter.   Keeping the “flavor” of 1943, coffee and doughnuts will be served.

The public is more than welcome -- your participation is craved. 

Local WWII Veterans are especially invited.  Send a note and let us know if you are planning to attend: Sausalito Historical Society, 420 Litho Street, Sausalito, CA 94965; or email to: info@sausalitohistoricalsociety.org or call us at 415 289-4117.  We’d like to place your WWII memories in our records.

See you there!

Jonathan Westerling: Maintaining Sausalito’s Community Voice

By Steefenie Wicks

Jonathan Westerling on air.
Photo by Emmanuelle Delchambre

Radio has always played an important part in helping communities communicate.  During WWII, broadcasts from Treasure Island became the voice of freedom for many American POWs as they cobbled together clandestine radios in their prison camps to tune in to a twice-weekly newscast.  In Sausalito, the first radio station came on the air in 1949 with the call letters KDFC; this classical music station still exists today, only now in San Francisco.  But its strong signal is still being transmitted from Mount Beckon, which is located just above Wolfback Ridge in Sausalito.

When Jonathan Westerling first moved here in January of 2000, he lived in a small two-room cottage close to the Rotary Club Senior Housing complex.  Growing up in Hartford, Massachusetts, he had always been involved with technology and by the time he was 14 he had built his own radio transmitter.  While unpacking, he realized this radio transmitter had made the trip with him, and wanted to see if he could transmit music from the bedroom to the kitchen so he could hear it while he was cooking.  He hooked the transmitter up to his computer and began to broadcast 1940s big band tunes.  Little did he know that his neighbors in the senior complex next door could hear the music through open windows.  Soon everyone was talking about the new jazz radio station.  It was around this time that Marin Scope printed an article by Mark C. Anderson in his column “Mark My Words,” about this new mysterious jazz station in Sausalito.

Eventually, Jonathan was discovered and asked if he would consider creating a real local radio station.  Radio Sausalito made its first formal broadcast in March of 2000.  Westerling became the founder and president of the station and he basically takes care of everything so that volunteer broadcasters can have fun on the radio.  He would be the first to explain how Radio Sausalito is a not for profit station.  There are no commercials or sponsors that take over these local airwaves.   He feels it is important to keep the station a nonprofit, because this leaves the air space open for music, local announcements, tide reports and any community updates. 

Jonathan feels that radio is a simple medium which allows people to communicate. He tells of many instances where someone in the community or a local group has approached him to help out.  He is supported by the Sausalito Library, Heath Ceramics, Sausalito Women’s Club, the Rotary Club, just to name a few of the many community groups that believe as he does in the importance of a community voice.  Radio Sausalito has become that voice.  This was proven when the station had to move from its original location in Sausalito’s old police station.  He made an announcement over the air that Radio Sausalito needed a new home, and got eight very generous responses.  The best was from a father and son who were in the middle of a renovation of their home in the Sausalito hills.  They offered to build a studio in their home; soon Radio Sausalito was part of a new family in its new studio.  

Over the years Jonathan has seen his costs go up because he now has to pay more for licensing music from some artists, but is upset that more of the independent artists he plays still don’t get paid.  He also says it’s been proven that if you want to make a million dollars in radio, then you need to start out with $2 million.

He feels that Sausalito in many ways has become unique with its own radio station.  Also, Radio Sausalito is now working with local TV stations that are being broadcast from San Rafael.  Channel 26, 27 and 30 now play Radio Sausalito between their scheduled programs.

A lot of people tell him they want to be on the radio, but to show up every week with a fresh programming idea can be a problem for some. Still, over 20 individuals now come to the station, and set about doing their own radio shows, all volunteers. 

As a trained bassoonist, Jonathan feels that music is a key to life, and that jazz, in particular, seems to resonate with just about everyone. It’s a type of music that makes you feel better off.

One of the features of Radio Sausalito is Sausalito’s Secret History, a series of brief spots covering historic local tidbits.  They can be heard on the air at 1610AM, or via podcast at:  http://radiosausalito.org/category/sausalitos-secret-history.

Unsinkable Annie Sprinkle

By Larry Clinton

In 1999, a fire destroyed the waterfront home of one of Sausalito’s more colorful residents: former porn star and prostitute Annie Sprinkle.

In a fundraising appeal posted on Compuserve immediately after the fire, a friend of Annie’s wrote:

“Thankfully, she was not there; she was in Seattle performing her show. It seems that her housesitter left a candle burning when she went out to do the laundry. The fire destroyed everything, but the most difficult part for Annie was that her two beloved cats, Linda & Tuddles, perished in the fire.”

After a 20-year career as a prostitute and porn star, Annie morphed into an artist and sexologist.  Her show was called Herstory of Porn--Reel to Real.  A review on the website metroactive.com said it “combines film clips from the past 25 years with her own live stage performance.” However, she had decided to keep her clothes on this time around, saying that would be more of a shock than anything else, coming from someone who has “shown my cervix to 25,000 people.” That reference was to a previous show, which Annie had called “A Public Cervix Announcement.”

Annie's entire professional life as well as all her personal possessions were destroyed in the fire, according to the fundraising appeal: her camera equipment, photo archives, master copies of her videos, her computer, her wardrobe, drafts of her upcoming books, art supplies, and more.

The appeal continued: “The form of your donation is completely up to you. You may wish to dedicate an orgasm to her. You may wish to pray or do a ritual (if you use any candles, for Goddess's sake, be careful!!!).

“Whatever form you choose for your donation(s), I invite you to be as generous to Annie right now as she has always been to all of us. Annie has touched all our lives in so many ways. She may be one of your dearest friends. You may have had the good fortune to work with her. You may consider her a role model or a mentor. Your life may have been enriched by one of her workshops or videos. Or perhaps you are one of the many people who have benefited from her courageous and delightful discoveries about sex. Perhaps you've had sex with her yourself! Whatever your connection to Annie, she needs your love and support right now.”

After losing her Sausalito home, Annie picked up the pieces and continued to reinvent herself.  Her website, http://anniesprinkle.org, summarizes her life this way:

“She has passionately explored sexuality for over forty years, sharing her experiences through making her own unique brand of feminist sex films, writing books and articles, visual art making, creating theater performances, and teaching. Annie has consistently championed sex worker rights and health care and was one of the pivotal players of the Sex Positive Movement of the 1980’s. She got her BFA at School of Visual Arts in NYC and was the first porn star to earn a Ph.D. She’s a popular lecturer whose work is studied in many colleges and Universities. For the past 12 years she has been collaborating on art projects with her partner, an artist and UCSC professor, Elizabeth Stephens. They are movers and shakers in the new ‘ecosex movement,’ committed to making environmentalism more sexy, fun and diverse.

“In 2013, Sprinkle proudly received the Artist/Activist/Scholar Award from Performance Studies International at Stanford, and was awarded the Acker Award for Excellence in the Avant Garde.”

We Called Him “Smilin’ Jack”

By Rick Seymour

Smilin’ Jack in 1985.  Photo by (photo Susan Gilbert AP)

Evan S. Connell, Jr., was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 17, 1924.  His father was a doctor, as was his grandfather.  Evan Jr, was expected to follow the family tradition, and he did enter a pre-med course for two years at Dartmouth College before joining the navy and becoming a pilot in 1943.  After the end of World War II, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to graduate from the University of Kansas in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in English.  As a post-graduate, he studied creative writing at Columbia University in New York and at Stanford.  

Although he did most of his prolific writing at his apartment in San Francisco, he spent most of his social time in Sausalito and at the No Name Bar.  He was a vital member of the town’s literary community from the 1950s through the 1980s, writing and eventually becoming an editor of Contact, the sterling literary quarterly magazine, subtitled “The San Francisco Journal of New Writing, Art and Ideas,” but actually published by William H. Ryan in Sausalito at 751 Bridgeway, upstairs from the venerable Tides bookstore.

We called him “Smilin’ Jack” because of his strong resemblance to the comic book character of that name.  In those days Evan frequently wore his brown leather and fur collared flying jacket and truly looked the part of a World War II Flying Tiger.  In her mid-eighties interview with him in Marin’s Pacific Sun, Eve Pell said, “Interviewing Evan Connell is something like interviewing Gary Cooper.  Connell is a tall, handsome, reserved man who appears completely self-possessed.”  I can’t think of a better description, but would add dedicated and hardworking.  In the course of his life, he published twenty-one books, including novels, poetry, biography and historical travel adventures.  He received national recognition for his 1958 novel, Mrs Bridge, and ten years later for its companion, Mr. Bridge.  Both books were later combined in a movie, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.  He hit the best seller lists again in 1985 with his sweeping biography, Son of the Morning Star:  Custer and the Little Bighorn.  While he spent many hours a day writing in his modest apartment at the base of Russian Hill, most of his spare time was spent with his girlfriend, actress and singer Gale Garnett, or playing chess and mingling with literary friends and associates, such as Calvin Kentfield, Bill Ryan and Christopher Humble, at the No Name.

A group of individuals who knew Evan in his Sausalito days will present a program on the writer’s life and works at Sausalito’s Public Library at 7 p.m. Friday, April 15th.  Part of the Library’s Spring Events Calendar and cosponsored by the Sausalito Historical Society, the show will include a biographical introduction by myself, stories about Evan from Neil Davis, past owner of the No Name, and Bill Kirsch, artist and editor of the book The Sea Lion and the Sculptor, a biography of Al Sybrian.  Local author and thespian Phil Sheridan will read excerpts from Even’s books.  The program will conclude with a reading from Evan’s lampoon of Contact, “Octopus, the Sausalito Quarterly of New Writing, Art and Ideas,” and any memories from the audience.

Suzie Olson: Traveling Safely Over the Water

by Steefenie Wicks

Suzi OlsonPhoto by Steefenie Wicks

Suzie Olson is a mariner.  She has been a part of the Sausalito anchorage for the last 30 years, an anchor out.  She recently became part of a waterfront community, having moved with her boat into a legal slip, starting a new life.  She is one of those rare women mariners that have been able to make a living on the water, creating her own way of life.  Like Rose Kissenger, who spent 22 years aboard the Pacific Queen/ aka the Balcutha, what she learned early on that if she was going to live on the water she was going to have to be resourceful.   Both Rose and Suzi historically followed a path not taken by many females: living, working, sailing, in this man’s world.

Born and raised in Mill Valley, her neighbor was famous local sea captain Commodore Warwick Tompkins. Her father, Ron Olson, who was an avid hiker, along with being the editor of the Mill Valley Review, the Mill Valley Historical Society’s newsletter. 

Suzi says that her father always encouraged her to seek out life; live it to its fullest. He also taught her how to be a good diplomat.  Her father liked the idea that she was on the water.  “Never be tied to any one thing, make your own way, and then own it.  This is what he told me, that’s what I learned,” she says.

“Living on the water, you come into contact with many different types of people, you try to be safe, staying away from the dangerous ones; but that’s just life.” she explains. “Living anchored out now is very different than when I moved here 30 years ago. Most of the mariners are gone, a lot of those anchored out lack the skills to make not only their lives safe but safe for those that live around them, in their boats’ scope.  There was a time when those anchored out were mariners getting their boats ready to go sailing. That’s now changed to a group of homeless people with $1 dollar boats trying to live on what can be a very dangerous Bay.”   Suzi continues,” There was a time when I saw this houseboat called The Weathervane do cartwheels across the anchorage.  Starting near the old Napa Street Pier, turning cartwheels till she reached the Strawberry beach area then starting to fall apart. I remember thinking, we’re all going to die.”  

She feels that today there are a lot of people in the anchorage who just want to get in Bill Price’s way as he tries to do his job.  She feels that Price is a reasonable Harbormaster, one folks can talk to and reason with. That’s why it’s so hard to watch the actions of others who have no respect for the public trust waters of Richardson’s Bay living in the anchorage. She has seen people come and go, children who have been born, grown up, then moved off the Bay.  Still she stays, this is her home where she works and lives.

When asked what type of work she does, she gets a sly smile on her face and says, “I get hired to make things pretty.”  One of the things she has been making pretty is the 100-year-old tugboat owned by Stewart Brand, The Mirene.  Suzi has worked on The Mirene since 1990 and is an official part of the crew when the vessel is taken out for one of its Bay cruses.  Her work on vessels has given her a name on the waterfront as one worker who will always be honest with you.  She is known for not over charging for a job and for doing work that has a special quality about it.  Her skills as a painter have placed her on board some very well-known vessels like: The Wanda, a 90 ft. long wooden fan tailed yacht, most recently she worked on the 80 ft. long double ended yacht, The Keranna, that was in town getting a $500,000 dollar refit which was a extremely fun job because the owner made available all of the materials that she needed to work with.

She is the first to tell you that what she is doing, keeping things pretty with paint and varnish, is fast becoming a man’s job.  She works by herself, watching the crews that come in and just knock a job out in a couple of hours because there are so many of them working it.  It takes her a lot longer as one person, but her work is impeccable. She has a reputation for doing a job right the first time because she is known for being a “Salty Soul.” As part of the Sausalito waterfront she has seen her life change, but right now for the better.

The one thing that keeps her going lately is her music, which she writes and performs with local waterfront groups or alone.  She also spends as much time as she can aboard her 8ft boat called Carmelita, which she can be seen sailing in the anchorage, tacking up and down Richardson’s Bay, traveling safely across the water, one of the faces of the Sausalito waterfront.