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


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: 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:

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 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,, 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.

From Sausalito to the World Series

By Larry Clinton

As baseball season approaches, we were intrigued to learn the story of Sausalito native Charley Wensloff, who pitched for the New York Yankees in the 1947 World Series.

Charles William Wensloff was born here in 1925 and played for three seasons in the American League with the Yankees and Cleveland Indians.  According to the Beaver County Times:

“Upon signing a contract with the Yankees, Wensloff spent the 1943 season on the Yankees' major league roster. During spring training, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy had heard impressive things about Wensloff, though he had not seen him pitch often. Wensloff made his major league debut for the Yankees on May 2, 1943 against the Washington Senators.”

Charley Wensloff finished the season with a 13–11 record and a 2.54 ERA in 29 games. Then he enlisted in the Army and served in World War II. After his service, Wensloff returned to the Yankees in 1947. He made his first appearance at the start of June but pitched infrequently due to a sore arm.  In 11 games, he went 3–1 with a 2.61 ERA and 18 strikeouts.  He also pitched two innings of one game in the 1947 World Series.

The October 9 Sausalito News reported that the series, which concluded with a four-games-to-threevictory for the New York Yankees over the Brooklyn Dodgers, “had a little Sausalito flavor in it,” adding:

“In Sunday’s wild 8-6 victory for the Dodgers, tying the series, Sausalito’s Charlie Wensloff had the dubious distinct ion of being the 21st Yankee to play in the game.  It was a record number of players for one team in a world series game.

“Wensloff was called in to pitch the last two innings, and although his team lost the contest, Wensloff played his part to near-perfection, facing seven hitters and allowing no hits.”

As the 1948 season began, Wensloff held out for a new contract, only communicating with the club to inquire about his World Series ring. He refused potential trades to the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants because he did not want to play in the National League.  And this was before the designated hitter!.  Eventually he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for an undisclosed amount. With the Indians, Wensloff pitched one game before being placed on the disabled list with continued arm soreness. This was a career-ending injury, and Wensloff retired at the end of the 1948 season to San Rafael, where he worked as a roofer until his death on February 18, 2001.

We’re grateful to Bob Davidson, who was born in 1925 in Waldo, the quiet valley just north of Sausalito that became Marin City in 1942, for sharing this story in an oral history interview for the Anne T. Kent California Room.  

Stories like this, as well as historic photographs and more, can be found at the Historical Society Research Room (open Wednesdays and Saturdays 10:00-1:00) and at

Vanderbilt Cruises into Town

By Larry Clinton

The accompanying photo was provided to the Historical Society by Sausalito native Fritz Perry. Here’s how he described it: “This snapshot was taken in the early 50’s next to the fire station.  That’s my brother Matts on the left.  Next to him is Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest men in the country then.  Next to him are three of the firemen, ‘Whistle’ Terris, a fellow named Expangnolle and Swede Pedersen.  Vanderbilt kept his yacht in Sausalito and liked to come over to the fire station and play cards with the guys.  Real easy going fellow.”

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV with the Sausalito Fire Department.
Photo from Sausalito Historical Society

Vanderbilt IV, often incorrectly referred to as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr., was a descendent and namesake of the American business magnate and philanthropist who built his wealth in railroads and shipping in the 19th century, becoming one of the richest Americans in history.  According to historian H. Roger Grant, contemporaries often hated or feared Vanderbilt “or at least considered him an unmannered brute. While Vanderbilt could be a rascal, combative and cunning, he was much more a builder than a wrecker.... being honorable, shrewd, and hard-working."

When the California gold rush began, Vanderbilt switched from regional steamboat lines to ocean-going steamships, transporting many migrants to California, and almost all of the gold returning to the East Coast.  And also establishing his family’s relationship with the Golden State.

Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (April 30, 1898 – July 7, 1974) was a newspaper publisher, journalist, author and military officer. During the early 1920s, Vanderbilt IV launched several newspapers and tabloids, including the Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News and the San Francisco Illustrated Daily Herald.  But his budding publishing empire lasted only two and a half years, and he went back to writing for other publications.

In March 1946, the Sausalito News reported: “The very last word in deluxe trailers rolled up to the Sausalito fire station last Friday night, on the half-way point of a ‘shakedown’ trip from Van Nuys, Calif., piloted by newsman Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.” The all-aluminum trailer, an early recreation vehicle, “weighs only 1800 pounds, 90 per cent of the materials used in its construction being noncritical,” according to the newspaper, which added: “The trip north to Sausalito is the preliminary to a five-year ’round the world cruise to be made shortly by the newsman, whose articles are syndicated by the New York Post.” After a trip around the US, and then to Alaska over the Alcan highway, Vanderbilt planned to take the trailer to South America, Europe, South Africa, Asia, and Australia.

The vagabond tour was something new in the way of reporting assignments. “When I was told by my editors what my assignment would be, it was indeed a surprise,” Vanderbilt told the paper. “I am going to go to many out-of-the-way towns —for big cities on the beaten track are tabu. The idea is to report on these places largely because so many boys have gotten the wanderlust in the last few war years that the idea of adventure is still news,” he added.

Back on the home front, Fritz Perry and his brother Matts were the sons of Sausalito grocer Fred Perry, Sr., who built the Perry Building at the corner of Caledonia and Pine streets. The building housed the Perry & Son grocery store and still stands today with the Sausalito Market on the first floor and apartments on the second. Matts served as Sausalito’s Fire Chief for over 20 years.  When Fritz passed away in 1996 at age 92, MarinScope described him as “the oldest living Sausalito native.”

Sausalito Historical Society Member Mike Moyle will give an illustrated talk on the history of Caledonia St. 7:00 PM Friday evening, April 1, at the Sausalito Library.  Following his talk, there will be a complimentary reception in the Society’s Exhibition Room, kicking off a new show covering the history of Caledonia Street and some “Then and Now" comparisons. The following day, between 11:00AM and 1:00PM, members of the Sausalito Historical Society will be stationed along the entire length of Caledonia Street and available to answer questions about Caledonia Street history. Printed walking guides will be available in the SHS exhibit room (with parking at City Hall) and from docents on Caledonia Street identified by distinctive sashes. The new Caledonia Street exhibit will also be open during that period. Everyone is encouraged to walk the street, stop in at the stores and restaurants, visit the Society, and learn more about the history of this important part of Sausalito.

The Con Man Who Loved Sushi Ran

by Steefenie Wicks

Author Frances Dinkelspiel.
Photo by Nathan Phillips

In her book “Tangled Vines,” award winning journalist Frances Dinkelspiel tackles the story of Mark C. Anderson and the 4.5 million bottles of California wine he is accused of destroying.  The loss, valued at $250 million dollars, would become the largest destruction of wine in history.  Dinkelspiel, whose great great grandfather was a wine maker in the 1800’s, learned that the last bottles of her grandfather’s own collection had been destroyed; some wines bottled in 1875 were now gone.  The knowledge of this loss drew her to her subject, Mark Anderson, a known civic volunteer in Sausalito.  Dinkelspiel would learn that Anderson, a member of the Rotary Club, the Sausalito Art Commission and many local committees, was basically a con man.

The following is excerpted from her book:

Anderson’s fame stemmed from his patronage of Sushi Ran, a Japanese restaurant on a small street on the edge of Sausalito’s downtown. Sushi Ran had sort of sneaked up on the residents of Sausalito.

[Yoshi] Tome took over a non-descript Japanese place in 1986 with the goal of transforming it into a top-notch restaurant that would attract politicians, business people, and Sausalito’s artists so often that they would come to regard Sushi Ran as a second home. Tome hit upon the idea of launching the “Sushi Lovers’ Club,” with a “Hall of Fame” for the most loyal patrons. Those who racked up dozens of visits could have their photos prominently displayed on the restaurant’s front wall.

From the start, the sushi lovers’ club was a hit. People who might have visited just a few times a year started coming frequently. They wanted to see their photo on the wall.  “The competition was unbelievable,” said Tome.

Anderson soon became a regular, often walking the two blocks from his apartment “to the Ran” for lunch. His favorite dish was Ten-Tama Soba: buckwheat soba noodle soup with a raw egg cracked over the broth and a few pieces of shrimp tempura piled on top. He often stopped by late at night as well to drink wine or sake and share gossip with Tome at the bar.

Many people still carry images in their head of Anderson at Sushi Ran – laughing, telling jokes, hanging out with Sausalito’s politicians and civic leaders. Martin Brown met Anderson at Sushi Ran around 1992 – and found him “really witty, really enchanting.” Brown had just started a new alternative weekly newspaper called The Signal and he invited Anderson to contribute after he saw him doodle illustrations on a napkin. Anderson eventually started to write a column about the town’s politics and culture under the pen name “Joe Sausalito.”

All those visits earned Anderson a spot on the Sushi Lovers Hall of Fame wall. His photo first went up in 1987 after he had made 100 visits, the fourth most of any customer. In 1994, he won the #1 spot, visiting 211 times. He won again in 1996 after visiting 195 times. One year he made 436 visits. All together, Anderson ate at Sushi Ran more than two thousand times .

It’s funny what having your photo on the wall of a popular restaurant can do. That’s what people would remember Mark Anderson for years later, after news broke that he was charged with wine theft and arson. Anderson may have been lauded by the Sausalito mayor for his civic involvement and the column he started to write for the region’s big weekly, the Marin Scope, in 1999, but it was his Sushi Ran meals that won him the most attention.

Despite his high profile, Anderson remained a mystery to many people. How, for example, did he earn a living? Martin Brown assumed he was an “estate baby” who lived off inherited income. There were lots of those in Sausalito.

Anderson was deliberately vague about his income. But he dropped hints about how accomplished he was, hints that at the time no one had reason to disbelieve. He told people that he had invented voice mail. He said he had managed the rock and roll band Iron Butterfly.  It was only after Anderson’s arrest that people started to dissect the tales that characterized him as a dashing, successful businessman and traveler.

Frances Dinkelspiel will read from her book at Ondine restaurant on March 24, at 7 pm. Admission -- $40 general, $30 for Sausalito Historical Society members -- includes a complimentary glass of wine and appetizers.  Full cash bar also available.

All proceeds benefit the Sausalito Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) public benefit nonprofit corporation.

Larry Moyer: The King is Dead, Long Live The King

By Steefenie Wicks

Portrait of Larry Moyer by an unknown artist
Courtesy of Bill Kirsch

Larry Moyer, in many ways, was the “King” of the Sausalito waterfront.  His passing last month will add to the void created when a valued member of not only the waterfront but also the City of Sausalito, ends his days.  Moyer spoke a lot about freedom; he believed that this was the magical thread that drew artist, writers, and other creative types to Sausalito and particularly the waterfront.  He would be the first to tell you that he was a transplant, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York in 1924. He traveled the world but it was the Sausalito waterfront that would become his home for the next 49 years. 

Moyer arrived here in 1967, during the Summer of Love.  He would tell how he came here to meet a guy at the old Mohawk gas station.  From there they went to the Becky Thatcher ark where he was handed a big joint. As he turned to look out the window he could see naked people dancing to rock and roll music; he said he sat down took a hit, decided that this is where he wanted to spend the rest of his life, and he did.   

Larry became a designated speaker for the waterfront residents during the chaotic times of the houseboat wars.  His gift of being part thespian made him a natural diplomat with waterfront residents and the powers that be.  In the 1970’s, he was able to talk Buckminster Fuller into writing a piece in favor of the freedom that the waterfront residents were fighting for.

He was known on the waterfront and on the hill.  He did a number of performances at the Sausalito Woman’s Club, where he would preform readings of works by his good friend Shel Silverstein.  In his early days on the waterfront he would take on the duties of Santa Claus at Christmas time and pass out presents to children. He became the familiar face of trust on the waterfront.  People knew if Larry Moyer was for it then it had to be good. 

In his lifetime he worked as a filmmaker, artist, photographer, union organizer and even taught dance at the Arthur Murray Studio in Los Angeles.  He would reminisce about his days of travel, the time he spent in Russia where he met Shel Silverstein.  Moyer and Silverstein would become not only friends, but also partners in business, along with collaborating on a book project for Hugh Hefner of Playboy Magazine.  Together they would take on the assignment of traveling the world with Silverstein doing the writing and cartoons for the project, while Moyer took the black and white still photos, adding film when need be.   Moyer and Silverstein worked for Playboy from 1957 to the middle of the 1970’s, when they both decided to stay in Sausalito.

Moyer compared his life here to living on a movie set, because in his Sausalito world, every day people dressed in costume. He spoke of days when he could go to a local hangout where one could purchase dope, guns and alcohol all at the same location. Residents wore cowboy boots, carried knives and everyone hung out together. He liked the fact that most of his clothes had come from things that someone had discarded but still looked good on him. 

Larry had an open door policy when it came to his home.  His door was never closed to anyone; he was always open to having someone stop by for endless amounts of conversation.

Moyer’s paintings of his waterfront environment not only grace the walls of Sausalito City Hall but have also been collected by many a hill resident.

He leaves behind a legacy of photographs and films that are examples of his talents in both fields. All will miss his philosophical views on waterfront life, politics, race, sex, and his global view of why the world is so “screwed up.”  Moyer’s view on living life, stating that whatever you want to do, it’s out there and you can, will be remembered. He was a person of passion, intellect and opinion, and he led his life with no regrets. 

The King of the Sausalito Waterfront is dead; long live our King, Larry Moyer.

Zaca and Sausalito

By Larry Clinton

The graceful schooner Zaca is part of Sausalito’s history in more ways than one.  As Historical Society member Annie Sutter has written, the 127-foot yacht was built at the Nunes Bros. Boatyard in Old Town in 1929. She was commissioned by the original owner, Templeton Crocker, one of the heirs to the Crocker fortune.

Annie has reported, “The Nunes yard, located on what is today known as the Valley Street beach, won the job by submitting a low bid of $350,000, thus bringing to Sausalito a welcome infusion of money and jobs. The Depression was apparently no deterrent for Crocker, who commanded great wealth throughout his life. In the midst of hard times, a luxurious pleasure ship rose from the shores of Shelter Cove with money no object.”

With a crew of 18 including a doctor, photographer and Crocker’s valet, Zaca, started off on a round the world cruise shortly after the launching, visiting the Marquesas, Tonga, Java, Sumatra, India, Europe and the Caribbean. “The ship returned to San Francisco after exactly one year as scheduled and they sailed her past the cove to salute her builders,” Annie reports

But during WWII, The Navy took Zaca for a coastal patrol boat, and painted the teak, hull and interior battleship gray.

Hollywood discovered the Zaca in 1945, when dashing film star Errol Flynn bought her, and, according to Annie, “it’s been said that he could never erase all the gray. He spent $50,000 on new furnishings however, and decorated her all in white, with red rugs and a white ermine bedspread.”

Flynn met Orson Welles in Acapulco while Welles was scouting locations for his 1948 film noir “Lady from Shanghai.”  According to the website, “Welles contracted to use the Zaca for the two- month movie shoot.  Flynn captained the yacht himself -- one can only imagine what life aboard must have been like with these two renowned high-living, hell-raising, larger-than-life characters.”

While filming, Welles and Errol Flynn (with second wife Norah Eddington,) celebrated Rita Hayworth's 28th birthday aboard the Zaca.   Photo from

Another Historical Society member, Brad Hathaway, has reported that “Welles was director, producer, screenwriter and star of the film. He had visited Sausalito in the past and was impressed enough that when he needed a scene in the San Francisco Bay area, he penned in our town. His co-star was his real-life wife, Rita Hayworth.”

Hathaway noted: “Most local residents had to content themselves with standing behind police and fire lines set up a block from the action and hope for a brief look at the Hollywood stars. Others were lucky enough to land jobs as extras in the movie. Among them were Sausalito fireman ‘Swede’ Pedersen and Sausalito News reporter Joanne Nichols who recorded the experience in the December 5, 1946 issue of the paper.

“Rain and foggy weather then settled on Sausalito – this was December, after all.   

“Filming in Sausalito didn't resume until Friday, December 6 when it was Rita Hayworth's turn to attract the most attention. It took most of the morning to get the few seconds of screen time which showed Hayworth being ferried to shore in a high speed Higgins boat from a yacht anchored off shore.”

The yacht used for this scene was the White Cloud, a Berkeley-based schooner that was standing in for the more famous Zaca, which had been used in earlier scenes.  

Flynn later moved Zaca to the French Riviera. When he died in 1959, according to Annie, “she slowly deteriorated as debtors, heirs and boatyards argued about her fate. Slowly she became a rotting hulk in the harbor of Villefranche, mastless, the interior gutted, the hull rotten and kept afloat by pumps.

“Salvation arrived in 1991 when Roberto Memmo, sailor, yachtsman, and businessman from Monaco who was experienced in expansive and expensive restorations, found Zaca.”

According to sailing magazine Latitude 38. “Memmo brought 50 of the best shipwrights and craftsmen to Brest, France, for a spectacular restoration that lasted 18 months. By the time the restoration was completed in the late ’90s, (it) was one of the most spectacular yachts in the Mediterranean.”

The Zaca and the Nunes Brothers are featured in a virtual exhibit entitled “Sausalito Boatyards” which can be viewed on the Historical Society website:


Dave Gissendaner: Sausalito Diver

by Steefenie Wicks

Dave Gissendaner: Sausalito Waterfront Diver          Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Dave Gissendaner was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but raised in San Carlos, California where he learned to sail.  For the past 30 years he has been a valued part of the Sausalito waterfront where he is known simply as, Dave the Diver.

He is proud to tell you that he has logged over 32 thousands hours’ dive time in Richardson’s Bay.  Although he has his own dive company, occasionally he’ll work with RBRA Harbor Master Bill Price, the Sausalito Police department and fellow anchor outs, raising some of the sunken treasures that end up on the bottom of the Bay.

Dave the Diver explains that Richardson’s Bay is a treasure trove of maritime artifacts He has come across many turn of the century ship anchors, as well as remnants from century old sailing ships that made our Bay their last stop.  Because the area is like a museum, it is illegal to remove many of the findings.  Dave says he once wanted to haul a particular anchor from the Bay’s bottom, but found out through the Park service that those relics in Richardson’s Bay came with a removal fine of $10,000.  So before he can remove anything he must first figure out if it has any historical significance. 

Once Dave was asked to do a dive off Paradise Cay because his client had lost his anchor there.  The client had placed a marker on it with line in about 35 ft. of water, but he could not raise her.  Dave got his dive gear on, took the line in his hand, and began to lower himself into the dark muddy water.  At one point he felt that he had come to a stop; when he put his feet down he realized that he was standing on the deck of a boat.  “Here she was,” he says, “no markings on any map, yet she had to be at least a 90 ft. long wooden hull, just settled into the bottom of the Bay for who knows how long.”   He figured that since these waters were non-navigational, that this was why she had gone unmarked on maps, but he often wondered what artifacts she may have held.

Diver Dave has many stories of what it’s like to dive in Richardson’s Bay because he says “You never know what you’ll run into, like great whites.”  While repairing a mooring right off Tiburon, he’d been in the water for some time and noticed that it was becoming choppier than usual.   He felt uneasy as he began to look around -- then he spotted it.  The water’s surface was boiling but this big shark steadily moved toward him, its fin seemly closing in.  Dave said that at moments like this, you finish what you are doing or you just get out of the water; he chose to do both. 

The life of a diver is in many ways like any other marine business.  After 30 years on the Sausalito waterfront the thing he worries about is whether the small marine businesses will be able to stay in the few waterfront shops that are left.  When the shop spaces go it makes it harder for those that are left to survive.  He makes note of the fact that Sausalito at one time had an active fish dock which it no longer has, businesses that were associated with the fish dock have moved on because the fish dock has moved on. In his 30 years here, this is one change that he feels challenges the waterfront community.

Another things challenge occurs when sunken vessels must be brought back up but someone is opposed to that act of resurrection taking place. He tells of shotgun rounds hitting the water around him.  “They don’t shoot me, they shoot at me, letting me know they can.”

This is the kind of action that he compares to the Wild West. 

“Yet’’ he continues,” in all of this time, people who live in the anchorage, I feel that there are some really good people out there doing what they can to exist.  When you dive you are always having what I call these little eye-opening experiences.  Like the time that I came upon this old ship, stuck my arm in one of the portholes, and suddenly felt this grip.  I pulled my arm out, and there attached to it was this little octopus with its suction cups on my arm.   Then there was the time I was on the bottom looking for some lost keys.  As I pushed through the mud something jumped at me, it was large crab, which took to banging his claws on the front of my mask. Eye openers, that’s what I call them.  That’s what the anchorage is, it’s a little bit of an eye opening experience, just like diving.”


For more information on Sausalito’s colorful history, check out:

From Motorcars to Movies

By Larry Clinton

The recently-shuttered Marin Theatre, at Caledonia and Pine Streets, was built in 1942.  Before that the property had served various purposes, starting as a garage.

In 1911, the Sausalito News reported that K. M. Dates, president of the Marin Auto Livery Co., had purchased the lot “fronting ninety feet on Caledonia and one hundred feet on Pine Street for a garage and machine shop.”

The second floor Tamalpais Pavilion had a seating capacity of 1800 patrons.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

A promotional brochure entitled Sausalito, the Geneva of the Americas, described the Dates building as the most modern garage in California, adding that it “Has dressing rooms for ladies and every accommodation for its patrons.”

That building was damaged in a fire, and eventually “was sold to Dave Langsam, the junk dealer, for $2765 by the estate of Bessie S. Dates, deceased,” the Sausalito News reported in January, 1917.  According to the paper, “Mr. Langsam expects to spend a couple of thousand dollars in bettering the condition of the building." 

By 1922, Langsam, who was also a realtor, leased the property to Mr. H.S. Bell, who moved his Ford repair business there.

Twenty years later, the paper announced the building of a new theatre on the site, noting: “The structure is occupied at present by the Clipper Yacht Company and by Jack Douglas, owner of the Sausalito Fuel, Ice and Moving concern, who expects to locate in another section of the city.”  Remembering those days, longtime resident Margaret Jewett told the Historical Society that Douglas would sell coal and wood out of the first floor of the building, “and rent the upstairs hall for events.  Boxing matches and such.” Douglas was also the original proprietor of the Ice House, when it was located on Caledonia.

The coming of WWII led to more changes.  Margaret Jewett recalled, “With all those workers in town at the Marinship they needed some entertainment, but you couldn’t build a structure that would cost more than $10,000 during the war because supplies were needed for the war.” In 1942 the building was purchased by the Blumenfeld Theatre chain, which operated six other movie houses in Marin and San Francisco.

Chain executive Abe Blumenfeld told the Sausalito News, “this is only a start . . . we have big plans for Sausalito.” The new theatre would seat more than twice the capacity of the circuit’s existing  Gate Theatre on Bridgeway, he predicted.   

When the $15,000 800-seat theatre officially opened, in January, 1943, it was hailed as part of “the expansion of local business firms to the Caledonia Street shopping center,” according to Blumenfeld.  Manager Eric Wilson noted that although the facility had been built under War Production Board restrictions, “We have tried to give the public the best we could under wartime conditions.”

The January 7, 1943 issue of the Sausalito News welcomed the theatre to the emerging Caledonia corridor, and carried congratulatory ads from neighboring businesses, including Langsam, Douglas,  Ashoff’s Bakery and Quality Market.

“The Finest Hours” on a “Serial Sinker”

By Larry Clinton

The new movie, “The Finest Hours,” is based on a real-life rescue that took place in February 1952, when two oil tankers broke apart during a nor’easter off the coast of Cape Cod. The ships were T 2 tankers, like those hastily built at Marinship here in Sausalito during WWII.

Marinship was best known for turning out transport vessels called Liberty ships, at a record pace (one each week, at peak). But in 1943, Marinship President Ken Bechtel announced: “We have set a high record at Marinship on Liberty ships. That's why the Maritime Commission has asked us for 22 tankers. Frankly, this is not an easy goal. But I am convinced we can do it if we all work together.”

T 2 tanker underway during WWII.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

The Marin-er, an in-house magazine published by the Marinship Employee Relations Division, boasted: “If our tankers are built on time, and sent into the war service on a critical front, they can swing the tide of battle in favor of the United Nations. If our tankers fail to show up ... if they are late . . . our gallant troops are helpless without fuel.” As a rallying cry for Marinship workers, the publication’s editors added this exhortation: “Day by day, week by week, month by month throughout 1943 we must work so that, by the end of the year, we will have delivered at least 22 tankers into Uncle Sam's service, to join the Victory Fleet. Our nation is counting on us!”

Many T2 tankers served well, but others became known as “serial sinkers” for their tendency to snap in half during cold weather.  In the book from which the movie takes its title, authors Michael J. Tougias, and Casey Sherman state that trouble with this class of ship dated back to January, 1943, “when the Schenectady split in halt while still at the dock! The ship had just completed its sea trials and had returned to port at Swan Island, Oregon, when suddenly she cracked just aft of the bridge superstructure.”

The 503-foot ship featured in the movie, the Pendelton, had been built quickly for the war effort, like the Schenectady. Its “strong outward appearance concealed the subpar welding methods used in its construction,” claim the authors, who also point out: “As in many T 2 tankers built during that era, the hull of the Pendleton was most likely put together with ‘dirty steel or ‘tired iron,’ in other words steel weakened by excess sulfur content.  In fact, the Pendleton had sustained a three-way fracture in the bulkhead between number 4 starboard and center tanks just one year before the tragedy depicted in the movie. The three-way fracture had never been repaired.  Amazingly, the Pendleton passed its last Coast Guard inspection on January 9, 1952 in Jacksonville, Florida with flying colors.”

The movie retells the story of the sea rescue that took place in conditions at least as fierce as the one immortalized in “The Perfect Storm.” New York Times critic Charles McGrathjan offered this description of the maritime disaster:  “One of the broken ships, the Pendleton, drifted perilously close to the shoals off Chatham, Mass. The captain and seven others in the bow section were lost, but the 33 sailors trapped aft maintained electric power for a while and were even able to navigate after a fashion until the hull began flooding and drifted so close to shore that people could glimpse it from the beach.

“All the available cutters were busy trying to rescue the other tanker, so as darkness fell the Coast Guard sent a 36-foot wooden motor lifeboat operated by just four young crewmen. That the little boat made it out to the Pendleton, let alone back with all but one of the 33 stranded sailors, is still a source of wonder to naval historians, who consider this the greatest small-boat rescue ever.”

It’s important to point out that the ill-fated T 2 Pendleton was not a Marinship-built tanker.  She was constructed in Oregon by the Kaiser Company in 1944.

Bill Price: Maintaining Richardson Bay

by Steefenie Wicks

In his book, “Sausalito: Moments In Time” Jack Tracy wrote that:

        “Sausalito with its mix of cultures and people has never  been a melting pot. It has never been a smooth broth, either bbut rather a lumpy chowder with gritty bits in it.”

Today Bill Price might find that Tracy’s quote aptly describes his constituents on  Richardson’s Bay.

Since 1995, Bill Price has been in charge of maintaining our local Bay.  He removes sunken boats, dead trees, and garbage that tends to take refuge off our shores.  He has also been dedicated to making sure that all the local beach areas are cleaned of debris.  When he started this job, he remembers that there were 15 to 20 sizeable sunken boats sitting on the bottom.  Each had to me sectioned off to be removed; seldom did they come out of the water in just one piece. Even today, he tends to go out at a minus tide so that he can see if there are any new sunken structures or vessels.  Then there are the days when the wind comes up, some boat on the anchorage will break loose, and he will be called to make sure that it does no damage while it’s out free sailing with no one onboard.

Raised in Napa Valley, Price learned to sail at an early age in Cape Cod, aboard a little gaff-rigged sloop.  His family was a sailing family, and his brother maintains a sailboat in one of the local harbors that they take out on a regular basis. He once lived on an old hay scow docked on South 40 Pier called the Stripper. For years he and his wife did charter work aboard vessels in both the Caribbean and Europe. One of the things he talks about during those years was being anchored out.  He speaks of the freedom you experience when you live this way but also how that way of life is becoming rare. 

To his knowledge, Sausalito is still one of the only places that offers a free anchorage.  But with a free anchorage comes the problem of how to deal with the day to day reality that you are allowing a community to grow, but it has nowhere to go. Price notes, “Historically, the Sausalito and Tiburon areas had these floating Arks. In the early 1900s, people would rent them; they would then be taken out and anchored in selected areas.  People would live on them for weekends or summer retreats, so there have always been people with vessels anchored in the Bay. These moveable Arks where brought in, tied to docks when not in use; they were not anchored in the Bay all of the time, which is the difference.  There is still one of these floating Arks maintained in Tiburon -- it’s used as a historic museum.”

Price is the first to tell you that he is not the police.  He does not police the Bay but he does maintain it. Sometimes in order to do this he must use his skills as a diplomat to ensure that individuals anchor their vessels so their neighbor is not in their scope; sometimes this takes quite a bit of diplomatic skill.

Price loves the fact that historically Sausalito has been able to maintain its free anchorage.  He would like to see that continue but with the reality of the current live-aboard boom, he wonders if it can be maintained.  Currently, he is wrecking 70 derelict or abandoned boats a year, up from 30 boats for the past several years. He also feels it’s not slowing down.  People started anchoring out in Richardson’s Bay during the Gold Rush area but Price feels that it intensified in the 1960s when people started living on their boats. At one time the area called Gate 6 was home to over 110 small floating structures that were either tied to a dock or anchored in the Bay.

Currently, all that remains in this area off the existing floating homes community are a few “houseboats” that have been anchored in this section of the Bay since the 1970s.  Price feels that he has seen a real change, a kind of explosion of people now living on boats anchored here.  There was a time when he would go out to maintain the Bay by counting the number of boats that were being abandoned in the anchorage; now he counts those that are inhabited.  Price feels that if Sausalito is going to maintain its historically free anchorage, some changes will have to be made.

Price loves the freedom of the Sausalito anchorage but the way it is evolving now seems to be bringing about problems.  He says in the end, he would hate to see a State agency get involved, perhaps saying we’re going to have to shut this down; that would be a shame.

The Bars and Saloons of Early Sausalito

by Annie Sutter

This story is taken from the Sausalito Historical Society’s Fall 1980 newsletter. It has been edited and shortened.

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

The Arbordale expanded to “the finest eating house on the bay” in 1902. Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

The Arbordale expanded to “the finest eating house on the bay” in 1902.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

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

The Buffalo Hotel was built sometime in the 1880s on the waterfront near what is now Scoma’s. Little is known of the Buffalo’s early days, but we can be sure this one served liquor for it sported a sign saying, “Pabst Beer, 5 cents.”

It was probably built by J. Lowder, who sold it in 1893 to build the Walhalla. In the 1890s, political manipulation centered on the Buffalo. In those days poolrooms were centers for gambling and drinking, and San Franciscans flocked to Sausalito on the ferries to bet on horse races. The City Councils of 1893 and 1894 prohibited poolrooms, the ordinances of 1896 licensed them, and in 1897 the licenses were revoked. Of course, the attitude depended on who had been elected. The Buffalo Hotel played a big part in the elections. Anyone who had been a Sausalito resident for two weeks could vote. Politicians went to San Francisco and gathered bums and barflies and put them up for two weeks at the Buffalo, paying for all food and drinks, in exchange for votes.

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

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

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

For more information on our colorful history, check out:

Ice House Plaza Project Progresses

By Dana Whitson, Vice President, SHS
SWA’s renderings of the proposed plaza looking south

SWA’s renderings of the proposed plaza looking south

Sausalito citizens can learn more about plans to vreat a new plaza adjacent to the downtown Ice House at a public open house on Sunday January 31 from 12 to 3 PM. The Open House will be held on the proposed plaza site adjacent to the Ice House at 780 Bridgeway.  Sausalito Historical Society docents will display the proposed Ice House Plaza plans and will be available to answer questions.

Visitors to the new plaza will be able to explore and linger on wooden benches and decks, and concrete seating walls designed to complement the adjoining historic Ice House Historic Museum and Visitor Center.

SWA’s renderings of the proposed plaza looking south.

SWA’s renderings of the proposed plaza looking south.

Five mature Canary Island Pines will be preserved on the site, but the design proposes to prune them to create more light and to open up views of the harbor and bay.  A “learning landscape” with native plants will create an opportunity for the 3rd graders to study plants used by the Miwoks and also for home gardeners to find out more about attractive, drought-tolerant plants suitable for Sausalito.

The new plaza design acknowledges the site’s historic roots with the addition of an allegorical rail line outlined in tile on the plaza, crossed by wooden benches symbolizing railroad ties.

The multi-use space is planned to be used as an outdoor classroom for the Historical Society’s acclaimed local history curricula for Sausalito Marin City School District third grade students. Replicas of historic Sausalito artifacts will be imbedded into the plaza to encourage exploration by the students. 

Ice House History

The land where the municipal parking lots are now located used to be the terminus of a passenger railroad that terminated at the Ferry Landing.  Those trains operated until 1941.

The Ice House also originated as a piece of railroad rolling stock, having been built as a cold storage hold for the trains in the 1880’s.  It was moved to Caledonia Street in the early 1900’s as an outlet where Sausalitans could restock their iceboxes.  Following the advent of electric refrigerators, the building was once again moved to Caledonia and Litho Streets, this time as an office.  Architect Michael Rex was the last commercial tenant of the building.

When the underlying land was to be sold in 1998, Mr. Rex offered the building to the City for $1.  After a public discussion on alternate uses for the building, the City Council voted to move the Ice House to its final home, a City-owned site at the corner of Bay Street and Bridgeway in downtown Sausalito, to replace a temporary SHS History Exhibit and Visitor Center opened during the City’s 1993 centennial at the former Village Faire (now the Casa Madrona Hotel and Poggio Restaurant.) 

Under the leadership of former Sausalito Historical Society President Phil Frank, the Historical Society raised funds for the relocation and conversion of the building into the Museum and Visitor Center in 1999, and has continuously operated it for the City since that time. 

Phil Frank was tireless champion of Sausalito history and a beloved community member.  He was also well known as the celebrated creator of the Farley comic strip in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The City and Historical Society always intended to improve the site around the Ice House once funds became available.  The plan for the plaza began to take shape following Phil Frank’s death, as his friends and fellow citizens sought to use funds donated in his memory to build a project that Phil would have loved.  In 2010, the Sausalito Foundation raised over $32,000 to build the Plaza.  The Sausalito Art Festival Foundation contributed an additional $30,000 to cast a life-size bronze statue of Phil to be installed in the plaza.

The project lagged when the Sausalito Foundation founder Bea Seidler became ill and passed away.  Like Phil, Bea was someone who made enormous contributions to Sausalito.  She was a pioneer in the advertising industry, creating the “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat” campaign in her capacity as a copy writer for a San Francisco PR firm.   Bea was also one of the founding Ice House docents.

Bringing the Ice House Plaza to Completion

In late 2014, the remaining Foundation board enlisted the Sausalito Historical Society to help finish the Plaza.  In the last year, this partnership enlisted a pro-bono panel of Sausalito architects, landscape architects, landscape designers, exhibit designers and planners to update the concept plan. 

Internationally recognized Sausalito landscape architecture firm SWA was brought on board at a deeply discounted fee to translate the concept plans into a design review submittal by the Sausalito Planning Commission.  Those plans are tentatively slated to be heard by the Planning Commission at its February 3 meeting.

The City and Historical Society have ramped up the fundraising by applying for a museum grant from the State of California to provide matching funds for constructing the plaza project. The City expects to learn about the State funding prospects in February. If approved, the grant funds will help pay for outdoor exhibits in the Plaza that highlight Sausalito’s rich history.

With funding prospects now in focus, the Historical Society and Foundation hope to begin construction on the Plaza in Fall 2016.

For further information about the Ice House Plaza project or the January 31 open house, please contact the Sausalito Historical Society at 415-289-4117 or .


Hail, Ale

Ale Ekstrom, known as the grandfather of Sausalito’s anchor-outs, died of pneumonia July 22, 2015 at the age of 78.

Among the many fond remembrances of Ale, here’s an excerpt from a book in the Historical Society collection: SAUSALITO WATERFRONT STORIES © Derek Van Loan 1992:

Ale with his concertina on the Bay he loved. Photo by Noam Eshel

Ale with his concertina on the Bay he loved.

Photo by Noam Eshel

With his short pigtail, stoked red face, and faded brass-buttoned uniform he could be the ghost of a British sailor who died at Trafalgar. Ale pleasantly haunts the streets and waters of Sausalito, chatting his way around town, frequently taking a sip of grog from the cup that is short chained to his waist.

When he left the U. S. Navy in 1959, he came to Sausalito for a visit. By the time he'd strolled through once, he knew he was home, and Ale has lived aboard anchored vessels on Richardson Bay ever since. His first local command was a Navy whale boat, which he flush decked and named the "Promise." After a few years aboard the little whaleboat, Ale decided he needed more spacious quarters. Disintegrating on a nearby beach was a 60' World War II ex-naval "crash boat," with a gap in the starboard side large enough to drive a pickup truck through. Just perfect, he thought.

He nailed canvas and plywood over the starboard hole, and patched holes for weeks until the leaks could hardly be heard and the "Verdigris" rose with the tide. But every night Ale slept with one foot in the bilge in order to know when it was time to pump. The "manual" bilge alarm was replaced by an aspirin tablet between a brass hook eye and a brass spring. When the tablet was dissolved by rising bilgewater, the spring contacted the eye and a bell circuit was activated by a flashlight battery.

When visitors came aboard, he'd entertain them by playing chanteys on his concertina or by reciting some of his favorite poems.

Life went smoothly for years until Ale hauled the old "Verdigris" for a refit. Disaster struck on Schoonmaker Beach where he'd pulled up, stern first, at high tide. The transom fell out. Everything that Ale owned lay exposed to the rising salt water. Ale became as animated as a courting Grebe. In almost no time at all he'd pulled the massive transom back into place, rigged damage control canvas patches, and installed a gasoline pump. For three days he worked with tar, cement, Spanish windlasses, and with the energy he'd saved over twenty years. And after he'd refloated the old "Verdigris," he took a couple of years off to recuperate.

Some years later Ale moved aboard a smaller, more manageable vessel, the "Toy Chest." The "Toy Chest" is also a vet, having been a U. S. Navy liberty launch, a vessel that used to carry crew from ships to shore. A liberty launch has a shapely hull, and is built to withstand hard knocks.

Again, after almost a decade aboard, Ale decided to interfere with the natural order and haul out. This time he came ashore at Galilee Harbor in the heart of Sausalito. David Coy lay under the portside hammering and chalking the doubtful areas, working solely out of friendship. As the survey progressed, they talked and planned.

Bang bang bang...bang bang bang... “I don't like that area," David says hammering a section of soft wood with his wooden mallet. To David's trained ear the mallet blows speak of fastening problems. "I should just rather work on this 'un one side at a time," Ale chuckled. "Maybe I'll jus have ta do one side every other year." "Nooo," David says before he realizes that Ale is pulling his leg."

 Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape...David lying on an old sheet of dry plywood works intently near the keel. "I'll reef this seam and both these butts," Ale says, referring to the joints between two plank ends. "And," he continues, "that won't hurt the boat a bit." "I wanta be sure to get some quick-set cement into that corner back there. Jus to keep the tide from gettin' in." "That's a priority item." "Yeah," David replies.

They'd rigged an awning down the entire side of the "Toy Chest," and the jobs were planned in a logical fashion. "When I take off a patch we've gotta be ready to put it back together," says David. "Yeah, we wanta be able to Quick-set it or somethin' jus to keep the water from commin' in," Ale replies. "I've got a tub o' that up here," he says. "This patch here," says David chipping away, "is so ancient, you need a geologist;" both laugh for David is indeed a Cornell University educated geologist. "Yeah the boat will be forty-eight years old in August," says Ale. "And so will I," says David. "How about that!" they both exclaim in unison. "I don't care how old I get, as long as I keep gettin' older," says Ale.


On Friday, Jan. 15, the Sausalito Library and the Historical Society will present the first of four documentary film screenings, with a double bill: “Ale Eckstrom’s Boat House” and “The Anchor-Outs of Richardson’s Bay.” The free program begins at 7 PM inside the library.