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.”