From Ferries to Fine Dining

By Larry Clinton

The property at 660 Bridgeway which houses the Barrel House Tavern and the year-round Holiday Shop has played several important roles in Sausalito’s history.

In the 1860s, the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company began to operate ferry service from a wharf built at the foot of Princess Street. The small steamer was thus named Princess, and became the first Sausalito ferry to serve San Francisco.  When rail service came to town in the early 1900s, a new ferry terminal was built to connect with the trains, on the site of the current ferry plaza. 

For a time after that, the property housed Sausalito’s City Library.  In 1941, a Purity Market was opened there, featuring a distinctive arched roof.  It was “our proto supermarket,” in the words of Sausalito native Rick Seymour. 

Purity Market in 1941                  Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Purity Market in 1941                  Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

According to the book Saucelito/$au$alito by George Hoffman, “The Purity store was well liked. Although it was one of a huge chain of stores, it had a homey feeling to it. It was not large, all the clerks were local, the manager was a native of Sausalito, the butchers knew everybody, and all customers knew each other. It was a very important business establishment, and although they had a monopoly in town the prices weren't high because the manager wouldn't be a part of it. The policy at Sausalito Purity was dictated by the manager mainly, and not by a hard and fast rule from Chicago. This was one store where it was safe to say that everybody shopped. The floor was like an old school room; heavily oiled, dark, worn in places and squeaky. The butcher counter was near the entrance so there was always a trickle of sawdust where you entered, and tracks leading further in. A favorite drinking fountain dispensed icy water that came through pipes within the heavily walled refrigerated meat storage room. Stepping into the store, you were immediately greeted by a friend; customer or clerk.

“What would be classified as a phenomenon today, was the manner in which the parking lot next to the store was operated. It was not policed, lined off, or attended in any way. Residents used the lot at will, but no one abused it. It's doubtful if ever a fender was bumped, or a door scratched. It held only twenty cars, but it served a thousand a day. The consideration for each other was unwritten and infectious. On Saturdays the shoppers hurried through, always with an eye on the parking lot to see if anybody was waiting to get in. No one waited long.”

The website oursausalito.com reports: “When big supermarkets invaded the area the market was finally closed in 1968 and converted to a visitor-targeted mini-shopping mall, and throughout the 1970’s the building was extensively remodeled. The current facade dates to 1981.”

Since then, a series of restaurants have occupied the space.  Houlihan’s, a chain operation, was famous for its Houlihan’s to Houlihan’s fun run over the Golden Gate Bridge. The Water Street Grille was operated by Bob Freeman, who runs the nearby Trident and Ondine today. 

After an almost two-year renovation, which retained the arched roofline, the property reopened as the Barrel House Tavern, an award-winning restaurant with a bar that features classic Manhattans and Negronis aged (appropriately) in oak barrels, plus a seasonal selection of craft cocktails, and some adventurous appetizers, such as crab donuts.  From the bayfront windows, you can watch the ferries come and go ─ just like the old days.

The Day We Didn’t Launch Forbes’ Island

By Keith Emmons

A cum laude graduate of Harvard College, Keith Emmons lived on the Sausalito waterfront for ten years in the free-wheeling hippie days of the 1970s. He recently penned the following memoir for the 80th birthday celebration of Forbes Kiddoo, creator of Forbes Island.

I was a water rat. I bobbed anchored off an old mooring with my fiancée on Richardson Bay. We lived on an oak-planked Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel, the sort of boat you see dropping soldiers off into machine gun fire in D-Day movies. Bob Spotswood named it the Moondrifter, and converted it into a compact three-cabin houseboat. Our mooring was a pile of chain with ten-inch iron links lost in the mud after holding the five-thousand-ton Liberty Ships built on the Sausalito waterfront, launching a new ship every thirty days during World War II. But that’s another story.

I had a job working hard-ashore as a building maintenance man. But when I heard Forbes was going to launch the Island, I knew I had to be there.

Forbes Island in Richardson’s Bay in 1987. Photo courtesy of the Sausalito Historical Society

Forbes Island in Richardson’s Bay in 1987.
Photo courtesy of the Sausalito Historical Society

A Yellow Line tugboat piloted in. From atop the Island, Forbes Kiddoo directed with hand motions. It backed in, churning up turbulence. The tug was equipped with a three-inch diameter white polypropylene hawser. Forbes secured it as the Island’s tow line.

This tug was big. Four-stories tall. The last time I’d seen a tug this big it was pushing me in the three-stack, two-thousand passenger Queen Mary out of New York Harbor. I was three, on a ten-day journey with Mom and Dad to Europe. So maybe everything looked big to me then. But that’s another story.

Liberty Ship steel came into Sausalito during World War II on railway cars and one railroad stop – a triangular structure of creosote-soaked beams, massive enough to stop a rolling locomotive, still stood at the edge of the water. On the land side of the Island, Forbes set up a one-hundred-ton jack between the railroad stop and the Island. A hundred tons of push shore-side, and an eight hundred sixty-three-ton tug pulling from the water – Forbes didn’t do things small. Forbes Island was definitely going to launch.

Three hundred of Forbes’ friends jockeyed for standing room only along Lefty’s Pier to watch the spectacle. Shoulder-to-shoulder they chattered in the morning sunlight, full of anticipation and ready to party.

The launch began. Forbes signaled the Yellow Line Captain and the tug’s props began to turn. And it churned up rooster-tails, frothing and racing toward the shore and the water swelled toward me like a fast-incoming tide where I stood by the jack. The jack operator furiously pumped the jack handle: ten tons, twenty tons, fifty tons.

And nothing moved.

Forbes waved the tug on. Its diesels revved and black belched from its stack. The white braided tow line began to shrink. And that tow line began to bleed seawater like a twisted dish rag. Forbes peered over the Island’s lip to check, “Is the jack doing anything?” Sixty tons, seventy tons – I watched the jack’s red arrow advancing. The poly tow line shrank like stretched taffy as the tug bucked and lurched in its own turbulence but made no headway. The tow line shrank from three inches, to two inches, to one. And then it stopped stretching. And I had a vision. A vision I didn’t like.

I envisioned that poly line snapping in two and saw three hundred thrill-seekers’ slit neatly in two at the waist, before torsos and legs tumbled into heaps. Crack of the whip.

Eighty tons. Ninety tons. I watched the dial’s red arrow begin to shudder.

Lindsey told me – heavy loads: never use chain, it’ll snap unexpectedly and kill you. It’ll hit you or drop what you’re lifting, but one way or another it’ll kill you. Use rope. You can see it begin to fray, popping one fiber at a time so you know when it’s about to fail and you can call it quits. But that was back in the day of hemp, the rope of clipper ships and the days of Old Ironsides. This was polypropylene, made of plastic or oil or I-didn’t-know-what. I could see it striking like a rattle snake, striking so fast you couldn’t even see it until it was too late.

Ninety-three tons, the arrow chattered higher. Ninety-five tons. The railroad stop began to collapse.

“CUT!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

I looked up to Forbes pacing bow to stern atop the Island. I looked him straight in the eye – hey, I really had nothing to do with this, I just dropped in. I sliced my open palm across my throat and bellowed:

“CUT!”

And Forbes shut down the whole operation.

He sent the tug back to San Francisco: five-thousand dollars down the drain.

Everybody wandered off Lefty’s, wondering what happened.

“We’ll try again tomorrow,” Forbes told me later.

I had some blame fool idea that I had get back to work, so I left while Forbes and his construction crew and a few friends went below into the Island to enjoy the champagne, bread and caviar set out to celebrate a successful launch. I suppose the celebration was a bit sad, as they wondered why, after five years of construction, the Island didn’t want to go to sea.

That evening, as the shore-side light was slipping behind Tamalpais, Forbes Kiddoo had a brilliant flash. While the team partied, Forbes himself slithered on his back with a flashlight under the Island to inspect each one of the twenty-four railroad wheels that were supposed to glide the Island into its aquatic life.

Sure enough. One of the wheels had been missed: it was still welded to the railroad rail. Forbes torched out that weld and the next morning the Yellow Line rolled that island out into open water as easily as dawn arriving without a sound.

Forbes and crew and a few diehard lookie-looks enjoyed a small quiet celebration. Peaceful. Aboard the Island. Under water. And afloat.

And that’s the story: The Day We Didn’t Launch Forbes’ Island.

After using the island as his personal residence, Forbes Kidoo turned it into a floating restaurant.  Approaching his 80th birthday, he decided to close the business and terminated his lease at Pier 39. The island is now in Suisun Bay, where plans are to turn it into a venue for private events.

Smitty’s – Sausalito’s Neighborhood Bar

By Swede Pedersen

Smitty’s exterior has changed very little over the years. Photo by Larry Clinton

Smitty’s exterior has changed very little over the years.

Photo by Larry Clinton

Ralph “Swede” Pederson, who wrote the following article for MarinScope back in 1972, was one of Sausalito’s most venerable characters.  As a kid, he ran with a gang who called themselves Jackals of the Fog. At 18, he won a Golden Gloves light heavyweight trophy. After duty during WWII in the Pacific with the Army Engineers, Swede worked as a rigger at Marinship.  After the war ended he became a fireman, and was dubbed “that huge blond saint” by a woman he comforted after an auto accident.  He also was a legendary historian and storyteller.  Here are excerpts from his history of one of his favorite hangouts:

In tracking the history of Smitty’s Bar, as it has been known since 1938, some backtracking had to be done. 

Originally, the property belonged to Joe Bettencourt, who had a beer and soda pop bottling plant. In 1916 Joe Bettencourt had his beer bottling plant in a barn on what is now 2000 Bridgeway, next to the old Pembroke Hotel. In the 1960s, the upper floors were destroyed by fire.

During this time, Joe Bettencourt conceived his lager beer in 50-gallon kegs, shipped from the Santa Rosa Brewery.  Here, Joe would fill his from the kegs, the bottles standing in water vats. The bottled beer would be steamed at 140 degrees and then capped. The process took several hours to accomplish.

Bettencourt decided to move closer to the main drag, so he purchased the big bars by the Buena Vista Park site next to where Smitty’s now stands, 214 Caledonia.

Before Bridgeway was constructed, Caledonia Street used to be the main roadway of Sausalito, coming off of the Water Street and San Carlos intersection. He continued with his beer bottling operation, adding soda pop to the plant’s efforts during Prohibition.

In 1925, Bettencourt, whose barn set back off Caledonia Street, added a bar and saloon to further his endeavors in an already flourishing business with soda pop and beer bottling.

Jack Witsch and Hans Stritmatter took over after the bootlegging days, incorporating a card room with a “drinking palace.” Witsch, a good railroad man, and Stritmatter, a speculator, had a good business.

As the good money spending times faded, the building was vacated for a time and placed in the hands of the bank.

In 1938, railroad man Frank “Smitty” W. Smith leased the bottling works and saloon, turning it into a bar and Chinese restaurant. In 1941, Smitty was fortunate to win a good sum of money in a lottery.  With this money, he converted the bottling plant behind the bar and restaurant to three bachelor apartments and a family home as it stands today.

Smitty continued working at his establishment until 1948. (Danny Durant took over the place for a short time during the early part of the war years and then Smitty resumed ownership again.)

This ad from the 1948 Sausalito News pretty well describes Smitty’s today. Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

This ad from the 1948 Sausalito News pretty well describes Smitty’s today.

Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

In 1948, Smitty’s daughter and her husband, Bill Masha, purchased the business. Bill and Susie successfully ran the business until June 1958 until Bill died. Susie, who had strong determination, continued to work behind the plank along with her bartenders.

During the time she ran Smitty’s she was awarded many plaques and commendations for her help at Vallejo Naval Hospital and also contributed generously to the Sausalito Boy Scouts, sending them to camp. She also contributed to the vacation fund of the Spanish classes at Martin Luther King school, allowing the students to visit Mexico.

Due to illness, Susie sold her license to her long-standing bartender, George Salata, in December 1968. George, his wife Virginia and son Danny continue making the bar a “family affair” with all pitching in behind the bar with the help of bartenders George Howpador and Jake Anfibilo.

Smitty’s sign still hangs in front of the bar for sentimental reasons and George and Virginia are seeing that the “last neighborhood bar” continues with their surprise feeds on days such as Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, and other special days – giving those customers without families a chance to sit down and eat with others, being a part of the neighborhood.

Smitty’s is the last bar in Sausalito that has retained its original construction. Here everyone knows each other by first names and can be challenged to a game of shuffleboard or pool or can just relax and watch football or baseball . . . it’s almost like home.

Since 1992, Smitty’s has been owned by three partners, and is well known for its annual pig roast, theme parties on major holidays, and participation in community events such as the annual Chili Cook-Off, Sausalito Art Walk and Labor Day Art Festival.

In 2003, Smitty’s was named one of the “Great Gin Joints” by the San Francisco Chronicle, and it proudly displays a Dive Bars plaque from Marin Magazine.

 

Ann Heurlin: Serendipity Adventure In Sausalito History

Story by: Steefenie Wicks

Ann Heurlin came to Sausalito in 1976 but did not become involved with the Sausalito Historical Society until 2009.  She was raised in a small sailing community very much like Sausalito, only located on the East Coast.

Her focus at the Historical Society is taking the raw information from the Society’s files and then then putting that data into digital archives that anyone will be able to access via the Internet.  A very private person, Ann agreed to do this interview but did not feel the necessity to have her photo included.

Since Sausalito is about to be 125 years old next year I asked her if she had come across anything that stood out in her mind as remarkable about our town.

“I guess you could say the people,’’ she began. “Most of the items that come to the historical society are donated by the families of people who have lived here or have returned, wanting to share the history of their families with future Sausalitians.”

Heurlin has uncovered stories of characters who have passed through Sausalito during the Civil War, like General Henry Wager Halleck.  In 1849 Halleck was the principle author of the California Constitution.  Heurlin continues, “Halleck was a very interesting fellow; he lost the election to become one of California’s first senators, so he resigned from the Army, married in 1852 and went into law -- later becoming part of a very prominent political family.”

Heurlin can go from the generals to some of Sausalito’s rather shady characters. For instance, in the 1890’s Sausalito was mainly a drinking and gambling town. One of her favorite stories is told by local author R. “Swede” Pederson in the book “One Eye Closed the Other Red,” by Clifford James Walker.   She explained that during Prohibition, it was still legal to produce whiskey in Canada. Ships would load up their cargo and sail down to California, making their way to Sausalito.  There small boats would meet them, then load up the booze, and drop it off beneath the Walhalla, located in Whaler’s Cove (now Shelter Cove).  Built in 1893, the Walhalla was a speakeasy during Prohibition years.  At this time a young Lester J. Gillis was working there; he would later become known as the gangster “Baby Face Nelson.”

The old Walhalla at night    Courtesy Photo

The old Walhalla at night    Courtesy Photo

Ann notes that one interesting point about the old town area was the fact that during WWI the United States government wanted to build a shipyard there; they even went so far as to draw up plans that were presented to the town council.  However, the Great War ended before the shipyard could be built.

Heurlin notes that the history of Sausalito, like the data that she records, can be found in the newspapers that were printed at that time.  The newspapers, she notes, were in the beginning filled with not only information about Sausalito but about Marin, because for the most part Sausalito was very small.  It was not until the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company was founded that the town began to change. 

She notes that in the 1870’s John Harlan printed the first paper called the Sausalito News. This was the first paper to focus was happening at that time in town.  For instance, when Sausalito first tried to incorporate in 1892, the idea was rejected by local citizens and businesses.  It would take another vote in 1893 for the community to come together and approve the idea of Sausalito becoming a town. At that time a Board of Trustees was set up which began the process of getting the town organized.

Heurlin says that you never know what will be donated to the Historical Society.  Sometimes it’s information on Sausalito or on San Quentin prison, which was built in 1859.  She said that it was really the first state prison. Before old ships that had been deserted by those who came for the Gold Rush served as jails.  She has run across documents that make reference to San Quentin as far back as1860, with mentions of the prison being maintained and occupied.

Recently Ann ran across a reference to the fact that during WWII, inmates from the prison were trained to do welding along with other skills that could be used on the assembly lines of Marinship.  The interesting thing was that this information was not to be made public because of concerns that workers would feel differently about someone if they became aware of the fact that that he was a San Quentin inmate.

Ann Heurlin is full of information on Sausalito, along with the history of California.

As we approach our 125-year anniversary, it’s remarkable that this Sausalito resident holds all of this information, which for her is never ending. Sausalito history is for her a serendipity adventure.

How the Richardsons Lost Rancho Sausalito

By Jack Tracy

The California Gold Rush, which made millionaires of some miners and entrepreneurs, was less kind to Sausalito founder William Richardson. In his book Moments in Time, Historical Society founder Jack Tracy tells how the Richardson family lost the 19,000-acre rancho ─ a land grant from the Commandante of the Presidio in San Francisco (then known as Yerba Buena):

William Throckmorton c. 1865. Photo courtesy of Mill Valley Library

William Throckmorton c. 1865.
Photo courtesy of Mill Valley Library

Unwilling to leave his fragile "empire" for the goldfields, Richardson also forbade his son Steven to venture to the dangerous mining camps. His hope for riches lay in somehow turning his Rancho del Sausalito to advantage. He became preoccupied with proving his Mexican grant before the United States Land Claims Commission in San Francisco. During this period his cattle business went untended, and his merchant vessels had new, fierce competition. Richardson also had an unfortunate but not uncommon habit of borrowing short-term money at high interest rates to cover debts. Unable to pay off one debt, he borrowed more, usually from friends, each time using his vast property as collateral. It is unknown how many times he did this, but for years after his death unrecorded promissory notes surfaced, each bearing Richardson's signature, each naming Rancho del Sausalito as collateral.

Still heavily mortgaged in the mid-1850s, Richardson was forced to liquidate his assets in a last attempt to salvage his ranch. His attorney, after successfully clearing Richardson's land claim, directed him to Samuel Reading Throckmorton, an attorney well known for his clever financial manipulations. Richardson and Throckmorton struck a deal wherein Throckmorton was given title as trustee to the entire remaining Rancho del Sausalito. He would have three years in which to raise money by selling off parts of the ranch to cover all debts. At that time, he would deed back to Richardson one-fifth of all remaining unencumbered property and assets, keeping four-fifths for himself as payment for his efforts. Throckmorton immediately restructured the ranch from a stock range to dairying, a more profitable business at the time. In 1856 the final blow came for William Richardson. Three of his uninsured coastal vessels, the backbone of his financial base, were lost at sea. Bankrupt, discouraged, and threatened with lawsuits, William An­tonio Richardson died April 20,1856, allegedly of mercury poisoning from tablets prescribed by his doctor for rheu­matism. Accidental or intentional, his death at age sixty-one remains one final mystery in his enigmatic life.

Although the three years allotted to Throckmorton to untangle Richardson's financial snarl had already elapsed, Throckmorton waited until after Richardson's death to report on his progress. He met with twenty-four-year-old Steven Richardson and Manuel Torres, Richardson's son-in-law, and told them a sad tale. Rancho del Sausalito was deeper in debt than ever, and the one-fifth promised them was in reality one-fifth of nothing but enormous debts. Under terms of the agreement, the entire property, debts and all, should have reverted to Richardson's heirs. But the resourceful Throckmorton had a proposal. According to Steven Richardson, Throckmorton offered him and Tor­res $5,000 each for the family's one-fifth share, which of course was "worthless" anyway. Like lambs to the slaughter, they signed over their interests to Throckmorton without even asking for an accounting of debts. It turned out the total indebtedness was far less than they had been led to believe. As Steven Richardson said in retrospect, "He [Throckmorton] was dealing with a pair of suckers. Thus, we parted with a principality for a beggarly pittance."

With control of Rancho del Sausalito, Throckmorton, also now in debt, set out to turn a profit. Eventually, he was able to offer a complete package to potential investors: a choice valley with long, flat shoreline, and excellent springs and creeks. On April 22, 1868, they sold 1,164 acres of the Sausalito rancho to a consortium of nineteen San Francisco businessmen for $440,000.

The partners in the new Sausalito venture formally incorporated on September 27, 1869, as the Sausalito Land & Ferry Company, thus launching the second attempt to create a city in Sausalito. Some of the partners were interested in the quick profit potential, while others were dedicated to the idea of founding a town.

Moments in Time is available at the Ice House, 780 Bridgeway.

Kerouac Letter “Disappeared” in Sausalito

By Larry Clinton

As recently reported in the local and national media, a long-lost letter mailed from Beat legend Neal Cassady to author Jack Kerouac has been acquired by Emory University in Atlanta. But not before the letter mysteriously “disappeared” here in Sausalito.

Gerd Stern (glasses, 3rd from left) and Ginsberg (to his left, also in glasses) aboard the Sausalito barge with Stern’s friends and family.

Gerd Stern (glasses, 3rd from left) and Ginsberg (to his left, also in glasses) aboard the Sausalito barge with Stern’s friends and family.

The 40,000-word single-spaced typed document, known as the “Joan Anderson Letter,” was the inspiration for Kerouac’s masterpiece On the Road. and was purchased at auction. The sale price was $206,250, according to published reports — one-tenth what it was once thought to be worth.

The Joan Anderson Letter tells of Cassady’s adventures, including an affair with a woman named Joan Anderson, thus giving the document its name.  In addition to inspiring Kerouac to rewrite his first draft of On the Road in a similar stream-of-consciousness style, the letter generated intrigue when it vanished soon after Cassady mailed it to Kerouac in 1950.

Kerouac said that in 1955 he loaned the manuscript to poet Allen Ginsberg who supposedly passed it along to another Beat poet, Gerd Stern, in hopes of getting it published.  Stern was living on a barge at Gate 5 at the time, and Kerouac accused him of losing the letter overboard in a 1968 interview with the Paris Review.  In reality, Stern claims, he returned the letter to Ginsberg, who then sent it to Richard Emerson at Sausalito’s Golden Goose Press.  Emerson didn't bother to read it, and after Golden Goose folded, Emerson gave his archives, including the still-unopened letter, to record producer Jack Spinosa, who took the material home. There it languished until Spinosa died, and his daughter found it while cleaning out her late father's house.

But Allen Ginsberg continued to blame Stern for losing the letter.  Stern lived with that accusation for 50 years, but not without a sense of humor.  "Yes, I'm the guy who dropped the letter off the boat, but of course I didn't," Stern said recently. "People have written to me and damned me for this. After 50 years, it's a blessing to be vindicated."

Asked to speculate on Ginsberg’s motive, Stern replied, “I'm convinced Allen lied which is not the only lie of his I recall of his from decades of friendship. But it doesn't matter now. Allen's dead. Jack's dead. Neal's dead. But I'm still alive."

Stern, now 89, no longer lives in Sausalito, but still visits Marin from time to time.  In June 2015, he made an appearance with Literary Kicks blogger Levi Asher at Fort Mason.  Here’s how Asher announced the event:

“Meet Gerd Stern, O.H. (Original Hipster), who became a part of the Beat scene when he befriended two confused young men named Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon in a mental hospital in New York City, who discovered the art of performance poetry with Maya Angelou while living with her on a Sausalito barge, and who then joined the thriving 1960's activist modern art scene at the height of the hippie explosion. Gerd will talk about his personal encounters with Bob Dylan, Richard Brautigan, Ken Kesey, Stewart Brand, Timothy Leary, Robert Creeley, Nam June Paik, Norman Mailer, Abbie Hoffman and Huey Newton, about his own unique and deeply moving life's journey, and about what it all means today.”

Sorry to have missed that one!

The full text of Neal Cassady’s original letter may be read at https://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/joan-anderson-letter-neal-cassady.

Peter and Ann Arnott: Sausalito’s Dynamic Duo

By Steefenie Wicks
Ann and Peter: Sausalito’s Dynamic Duo   Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Ann and Peter: Sausalito’s Dynamic Duo   Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Peter and Ann Arnott are two of Sausalito’s most devoted residents.  They have been in Sausalito for the last 53 years, and have been involved in just about every event that has taken place here.  They are totally community orientated, have been members of or on the Board of just about every organization here in town.  When asked why neither has ever run for political office, Peter is the first to answer, “Because it just did not look like fun.”

The Arnotts met, were married, and had their first child while both were employed in Tokyo.  Ann took a government job in 1964 that took her to Japan.  While there she was appointed by the President to be the Physical Fitness instructor of all of the domestic schools in Japan during the 1964 Olympics.  Peter was there working in advertising for Singapore Airlines.  Ann tells the story of how she had always wanted to perform on stage, but it was not till she met Peter that this part of her life took shape. 

Peter explained, “The British were known for starting theater wherever they went.  At the time, as a hobby, when I was not working at the agency I kind of took up with these theater folks.  It was during one of the auditions that these two American girls showed up looking for parts.  When the part to be read was Ann’s, she was found sleeping on the floor; this was the beginning of our relationship.

“These performances that they did were readings.  Which meant that instead of spending all of your time learning a part, you performed by reading the part from a script. We performed these plays in Tokyo at the homes of very wealthy individuals, so when we returned to the USA, ending up in Sausalito this is what we brought back.”

Ann continued, “I had this idea that we could do this here in town.  At the time, I had just become a member of the Sausalito Woman’s Club, so I proposed this idea to them, and they accepted it.  The first production that we did was such a success that we formed the Sausalito Players.”   The Sausalito Players is now Sausalito’s established theater group going strong 40 years later. 

Ann is the first to say that she is never sure if she has been blessed or cursed with all the energy she has.  At one point in her life here in Sausalito she started the first restaurant on Caledonia Street.  She explained, “I have always loved cooking.   For years I made cookies for friends and neighbors so while speaking with a friend we got this bright idea to start our own restaurant.  We opened on Caledonia Street right were the Thai restaurant is located today.  At the time we were only open for lunch and served soup, sandwiches and my homemade cookies. But like most great ideas, the business took off; the place became so popular that I had to decide if I wanted to do this or raise my family; I chose my family.  I tend to be wrong with the same energy that I am right with, so as I get older I have learned how to take responsibility for that.”

For 33 years Ann and Peter have run the front gate at the Sausalito Art Festival.  They became involved with this event in the 1970s with the understanding that if the event ran in the black the organizers would make a donation of at least $100 to the Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund.  Eventually, the Chamber of Commerce took over the event and the donations started to increase.  Today the Sausalito Art Festival donates over $5,000 to the fund. Peter’s motto is “Never work for money, you just do what you have to do.”

Both Ann and Peter have shared their talents over the years with audiences from around the world and locally in Marin.  Peter plays banjo, and performed at the Hungry i in San Francisco; he also had the honor of being the opening act for Ella Fitzgerald. Ann not only did catering and got involved in local events but also won a number of bowling championships. Between the two of them it seemed only fitting that their son David would follow in the family footsteps.  David Arnott is not only a composer but also a talented screenwriter who worked on the screenplay of “The Last Action Hero“ for actor and former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When you ask these two what has been the biggest change they’ve seen in Sausalito, Peter is the first to answer with just one word: bicycles.   “We learned a long time ago never to try to do any shopping downtown on the weekends; the streets then were full of cars, now it’s bicycles.  They have taken over not only downtown but also up in the hills. No place is safe from this type of traffic.”

Both remember when there were three grammar schools in Sausalito.  They feel encouraged that presently there seems to be an influx of families with children returning to the area, which tends to make Sausalito a more stable environment for growth.

Ann ends the conversation with one of her favorite quotes about Sausalito: “There are a lot of people in this community that remember Sausalito like it never was and they are working very hard to keep it that way.”

How lucky Sausalito is to have two such global residents like Peter and Ann Arnott.

The Long, Peaceful Life of BB 1623

By Sophie van Romburgh and Norm Rosenberger

Sophie owns a unique home at Yellow Ferry Harbor, one of ten balloon barges (hence “BB”) built by Hickinbotham Bros. Construction Division in Stockton, Ca., between Fall 1943 and Spring 1944. The first five, numbered BB 1623 through BB 1627, have all become residences on the Sausalito waterfront. The home will be visible from the outside during the Sept. 30 Floating Homes Tour – although not open to the public.  Here’s a report Sophie and Norm prepared on the history of these unique vessels.

Norm’s fanciful rendering of BB 1623

Norm’s fanciful rendering of BB 1623

Balloon barges were built to fly a barrage balloon from a long steel cable to protect strategic and sensitive locations from attacks by low-flying aircraft. When a huge balloon was raised up to several thousand feet with a winch, its cable could slice an airplane wing, thus creating both a real and a mental barrier to enemy planes. Alternatively, a smaller “VLA” balloon could be flown at a “Very Low Altitude” to thwart an aircraft’s aim. These balloons were colossal, aerodynamic shapes of lightweight neoprene-coated fabric with puffy tailfins. They had to be filled cautiously with highly flammable hydrogen — helium was still scarce and limited to army balloon training. Floating in slow-motion like overstuffed parade balloons, they required being operated by specially trained crew on specially prepared sites. For protection of the homeland, balloon sites were commonly on land; the barges added the option of flying balloons in harbors, following the British example.

Balloon barge construction swiftly stepped up in the defense of the West Coast following the surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, where balloons had been wanting. Britain contributed several thousands of them. From February 1942, an Army balloon battalion was stationed at Mare Island, Vallejo, to service the San Francisco Bay Area. They were, first, the 305th balloon battalion, and from June 1942, relieving them, the 309th. They worked the balloons in direct communication with the coast artillery in the anti-aircraft batteries, such as Cronkhite and Barry. By March 1943, “you look across fields of barrage balloons suspended awkwardly in midair like tail-heavy sausages,” La Verne Bradley reported in her National Geographic article on the buzz of the war effort in the San Francisco Bay.

Hickinbotham Bros. Balloon Barges were specifically designed to meet the requirements of balloon barrage defenses. (The wooden “bungalow” on BB 1623 is of later date.) They measure 52 ft. by 16 ft. and are constructed of 1/4-inch steel. Modeled after freight barges, they have a 140" x 62" hatch that provides access to a hold forward below decks. That is where the balloon could be bedded, if need be, and where the gasoline-powered winch (type A-9) for controlling and storing thousands of feet of steel cable under even tension would have been mounted.

Rather than go straight up from the winch to the balloon, the steel cable was to be diverted by pulleys to the deck, then anchored with a snatch block to a heavy, one-inch-thick steel ring that is mounted amidships.

Some further weld marks on BB 1623’s deck suggest that there used to be additional supporting structures for flying the balloon. 

To top up the balloon’s gas, moreover, “a 60-foot length of hose (it may be strong garden hose) is lashed to the balloon cable,” the 1942 Coast Artillery Field Manual instructs, “so that the balloon can be topped-up with the balloon flying a few feet above the deck, and with the long axis of the balloon parallel to that of the ship.”

The crew’s quarters were aft below decks, and included a galley with a stove and fridge, a fold-up table and benches, bunk beds, a washroom with a shower and a w/c.

There was no engine: the barges had to be towed to location. For that purpose, Hickinbotham Bros. produced two 52-foot balloon barge leaders with double engines (BBP 1621 and 1622). (Another Stockton shipyard, Kyle & Company, also built ten balloon barges, BB 1633 through BB 1642; these measured 75 feet.)

Just like Marinship, the shipyard of Hickinbotham Bros. Construction Division had been opened in 1942 in response to the call to build ships for the war. It was a limited partnership of two Stockton steel companies, Hickinbotham Bros. and Guntert & Zimmerman. They built many and different army vessels; in 1943 alone, according to The Log of the West Coast Maritime Industries, they produced five of the balloon barges — probably BB 1623 through BB 1627 — one of the balloon barge leaders, five 74-ft. steel tugs, six 60-ton crane barges, two 62-ft. steel tugs, and 38 task lighters. The shipyard was awarded an Army-Navy “E” for Excellence in 1944.

As the Stockton shipyards were working to fulfill their balloon barge contracts, the Theater of War was changing. The barrage balloon was no longer deemed necessary for anti-aircraft defense of the West Coast. The army discontinued the program here in August 1943, and deactivated the West Coast balloon battalions, including the 309th, the next month.

Hickinbotham Bros. delivered BB 1623 to Mare Island on 3 January 1944. While other balloon barges were shipped on top of cargo ships for deployment overseas, BB 1623 through BB 1627 were kept in the Bay Area in Army stand-by, but not deployed during the war, as far as we know.

With a new assignment as war surplus, they were discovered as pleasant houseboats.

The Floating Homes Tour will showcase BB1623 plus 15 open homes, as well as live music, swing dancing, vintage vehicles, art exhibits, and food and drink for purchase, from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. on the 30th.  Advance reservations are highly recommended, and can be purchased at www.floatinghomes.org/tour/tour-info.

The Madonna: Short-Lived Colossus of the Waterfront

By Larry Clinton

“Among the most creative of the houseboat builders was Chris Roberts, who was well known among the locals, as well as the authorities who took a dim view of his activities,” says musician and historian Joe Tate in his blog www.theredlegs.com. Joe adds, “Though somewhat impractical, his creations were stunning and beautiful. The ‘Madonna’ was built around an old piledriver which had a tall wooden structure about 70 feet high around which he created his vision of Mary, mother of Jesus.

“We generally referred to the Madonna simply as the ‘Tower’ and often employed it as a place to have parties. Although horizontal space was limited, Chris was always happy to make the place available. This allowed him to recruit cheap labor from the drunks who showed up.”

The Madonna towers over its neighbors (upper right).  To the left, past the ferry Vallejo, is the next-highest structure, the Owl.        Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

The Madonna towers over its neighbors (upper right).  To the left, past the ferry Vallejo, is the next-highest structure, the Owl.        Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

Chris Roberts told the short-lived waterfront newspaper Garlic Press that he began building the massive structure in 1967.  "Well, we worked on it for about a year and a half. About three or four hundred people have lived on it over the years, because that's the kind of place it was, anybody could stay there. It was never locked.”

One night just before Christmas, 1975, the Madonna erupted in flames.  Here’s how Pete Ritardo recalled it soon after in the Garlic Press:

The flamboyant tower, the Madonna of Gate Five -- star of Life Magazine, Paris Match and others, yet cut off in a strange way from the life force of the waterfront, as it sat unfinished for years on its slowly rotting barge -- burned Saturday night, December 21; the charred skeleton, timbers of the retired pile-driver on which the tower was built, now sits two hundred yards offshore on a piece of underwater property leased by Don Arques to Marin County.

The paper quoted an unnamed neighbor, who was one of the first to notice the flames: "Well, I was just peaking on peyote, which I had been eating all day, and just getting out of the bath tub when I heard like this huge crash, and saw this huge flame shooting out of the Tower. . . For a minute I thought I was having an hallucination, and then it hit me that the Tower was really burning, and I went outside and started yelling, 'Fire! Fire in the Tower!'

"I saw this guy, and he was either trying to beat out the flames or trying to fan them, I don't know which. "When I left my boat, I said to myself, well, this is it, I've lost everything, because I'm right next to the Madonna you know. . . It was beautiful -- like at one point I saw Mescaline in the flames -- beautiful, and at the same time scary. . ."

According to the paper, the Marin City fire department received a call at 9:24 P.M., and responded with three vehicles. When they arrived on the scene, help was immediately called for and eventually twelve vehicles were summoned. The flames were visible for miles around, and a crowd of spectators numbering in the hundreds gathered.

By the time a hose had been stretched to the end of the access pier, it was clear that the fire would have to burn up the 1/4-inch redwood sheathing of the main tower before it could be brought under control. Efforts were concentrated on trying to save the boats to the south and east of the Madonna, especially the Helmet-Dome boat inhabited by Alan and Cassandra. Bucket lines were formed to wet down roofs, and neighborhood fire-fighters were forced to pour water on their heads to keep from being burned by the constant rain of sparks and chunks of burning wood.

"We'd been talking about this for years," said Cassandra later, "that the worst thing that could happen would be a fire in the Madonna with a wind at low tide." And of course, that is exactly what happened. With the tide receding, Martine and Bennett's houseboat -- which had been tied up to the Madonna's bay side, was removed by frantic efforts with just inches of water to spare.

The Helmet-Dome boat was not so fortunate and was forced to sit out the fire just a few feet down- wind. Steam rose from the aluminum-sheathed portion of the roof: the water directed at it vaporized on contact.

After about 45 minutes,  the Madonna's sheathing had been pretty well burnt off; the front lower portion still remained, and the windward northerly wall. Under the swaying, burning 2x4 frame the yellow-suited firemen worked their way into the Madonna. As the fire's intensity diminished, they were finally able to turn water on the pile-driving tower, and by shutting off the other hoses to increase the water pressure, reached the top.

The crowd began to head home hours before the fire fighters, who stayed until 3 A.M. cleaning up and stowing their equipment.

No one had been hurt, and nothing at Gate 5 had been severely damaged except for the Madonna itself. Though the fire had started suddenly and had reached an intense level in a matter of minutes, everyone in the adjoining houseboats had been able to get to safety.

Chris Roberts provided the epitaph for his epic creation: "It was a sculpture, that's all. And at the same time a place for people who had nowhere else to stay, a kinetic sculpture in a sense. And that's all I can say about it."

Roberts also built the “Owl,” another unusual houseboat on which he lived. It was constructed around an old wooden stiff-leg crane which also had a towering structure. Though much shorter than the Madonna, it was still huge compared with the neighboring houseboats.  The Owl is still afloat on South Forty Pier.

Sausalito Yacht Club – Part II

By Larry Clinton

Last week we recounted the beginnings of the Sausalito Yacht Club 75 years ago, as told in a book produced by club members in the 80s.  The following excerpt, updated by Jerry Tarpin, a member of the club’s Executive Board, tells the story of the design and construction of the clubhouse, and the formation of the junior sailing program, which remains a major focus of the club today.

Sections of the Yacht Club’s distinctive vaulted roof being lifted into place. Photo courtesy of Sausalito Yacht Club

Sections of the Yacht Club’s distinctive vaulted roof being lifted into place.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Yacht Club

On Saturday, September 24, 1960, the formal ceremony and dedication of the new Sausalito Yacht Clubhouse took place. A triumph of many years effort, the project's completion definitely warranted a grand celebration for club members and the Women's Auxiliary who had donated an enormous amount of labor.

John Ford, Jr., a four-time successful defender of the San Francisco Bay Perpetual Challenge Trophy for the club, officiated at the ceremonies where more than 300 people attended the formal opening of the new home of the Sausalito Yacht Club.

Sausalito's former Mayor Phil Ehrlich, Jr. was the guest of honor, along with the Sausalito Council members, former Chief of Police, Howard Hoerndt and former Fire Chief, Matthew Perry.

The building's exterior, decorated in red, white and blue, reflected the colors of the club's burgee, which was raised and flown during the ceremony on a new signal pole that was presented to the club by one of its members, Neil Munro.

The structure features a molded vaulted roof and enveloping outside deck. The members were further gratified with the results of their efforts when the clubhouse won an award from Progressive Architecture, a prominent architectural journal.

A highlight of the clubhouse dedication ceremony was the presentation of a hand-rubbed ebony plaque, with a sterling silver plate engraved with the names of the seven men who had originally founded the club in 1942. Presenting the plaque were J. B. Ford, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Enzensperger, Mr. and Mrs. R. J. Hooper, the Mesdames Carl Finn, John E. Koenig, Roy Ashley, M. K. Densmore and Marian Stelling, parents of the founding members.

A 40-piece U.S. Coast Guard Band played for the dedication ceremony that was held on the deck of the clubhouse. Commodore Peter Fromhagen greeted visiting guests and Mrs. Fromhagen, President of the SYC Women's Auxiliary, presented the club with a bound volume of all copies of "The Squeegie-Weegie Gazette," its newsletter.

Following the formal proceedings, a champagne cocktail party was held as guests, including the commodores and wives of other yacht clubs, admired the new clubhouse.

In July of 1961, the yacht club made its official entry on the major racing circuit sponsoring a two-day regatta with the official blessing of the Yacht Racing Association.

The club's horizons broadened considerably with the completion of the new clubhouse. An enormous increase in the number of memberships included many sailors with boats meeting YRA qualifications. A fleet of more than 300 yachts marked the entry of the yacht club into the larger yacht circuit. In addition to its entry in the YRA and SYRA, the club is also a member of the Pacific Interclub Association and the U.S. Yacht Racing Union.

In the mid-fifties, the Sausalito Yacht Club initiated the Junior Sailing Program and began providing sailing and boating safety classes to youngsters age 12 and over. This program assured the membership that young people would not face the same difficulty as the club's founding members in pursuing their interest in racing and cruising.

Under the supervision of John Ward, Chairman of the Junior Sailing Program and instructor, youngsters began to learn the nomenclature of lines and nautical terms, splicing and whipping of ropes, rigging and tacks, reefing and mooring methods, safety procedures and how to pick up a person who has gone overboard. The club also agreed to co-sponsor an intensive course in sailing safety for youngsters with the Red Cross.

The Junior Sailing Program became such a success that the Pacific Interclub Association presented the Sausalito Yacht Club an award for the best youth program on the Bay in 1968.

By the end of the 1966 racing season, the Sausalito Yacht Club had 49 boats which "qualified" (raced in 5 different races designated by the Yacht Racing Association as championship races.) This was the largest turn-out ever, and put the SYC in third place among Bay yacht clubs.

In 1967, the club started off the new year by enacting a plan for major work to expand and improve the clubhouse. The work included adding on the new section, expanding the galley, rebuilding the storage area and improvements to the entrance hall. In addition, a new secretarial cabinet and serving station cabinet were added to the list of improvements.

The details of racing and crewing became a focus in 1969 when the Sausalito Yacht Club sponsored a series of racing seminars. In addition to a rundown of procedures, a guest speaker spoke at each meeting on subjects such as starting tactics, apparent wind and balance and sail handling.

As the club evolved from a small group of sailing enthusiasts to the prominent social and sporting group that it has become, the members have never lost sight of the value of how their voluntary efforts help the club to prosper.

Many work parties were scheduled and well-attended as the members made improvements to the clubhouse. These included paving the clubhouse parking lot, building a concrete wall, painting floats and gangway, installing new overhead lights, building a new float and installing a new charbroiler in the galley.

As the membership grew, the traditional fare of spaghetti dinners gave way to more sophisticated meals. By 1963, an increased number of members and their comparative degree of affluence (they were then in their early 40's) made it possible to employ a part-time staff for the bar and galley. At first, the galley only served hamburgers, but gradually the food improved with the desire for change by the members.

On September 23, the Sausalito Yacht Club will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a gala dinner dance.

The Sausalito Yacht Club Turns 75

By Larry Clinton

On September 23, the Sausalito Yacht Club will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a gala dinner dance.

Here is the story of the Club’s beginnings, excerpted and lightly edited from the book “Sausalito Yacht Club,” produced by Club members in the 80s.

In 1942, a group of young sailors: Roy Ashley, Park Densmore, Bob Dinehardt, Jim Enzensperger, John Ford, John Hooper and John Koenig, decided to turn their common enthusiasm for small-boat racing and cruising into something more.

Bill Whitaker, John Hooper (founder), Henry Mettier, Henry Easom, Rob Hobart, Jim Enzensperger (founder) in late 1940s.            Photo courtesy of Sausalito Yacht Club

Bill Whitaker, John Hooper (founder), Henry Mettier, Henry Easom, Rob Hobart, Jim Enzensperger (founder) in late 1940s.            Photo courtesy of Sausalito Yacht Club

At the time, there were several organized yacht clubs, but the members tended to be twice the age of these junior sailors and they did not have any junior member programs.

These young men felt they could better pursue their interests in racing and sailing by starting their own yacht club with rules appropriate to their interests. Thus, the club was formed and initially named the Richardson Bay Yacht Club. It was soon discovered that that name the club was owned by the San Francisco Yacht Club. It was then renamed "The Sausalito Yacht Club."

The first rule was that no member could be older than the age of the oldest founding member. At the time, the oldest member was 18, having two years on his sixteen-year-old companions. The age restriction was important to the young sailors because they did not want older sailors to join and take control of their club.

During the first few years, the members of the newly formed club tended to party together, organize intraclub races, cruise, or visit other yacht clubs on Saturday night.

The founding members held numerous races amongst themselves, as well as taking two weeks off in the summer and cruising up to Steamboat Slough. The early meetings were held in the homes of the members. The first clubhouse was the "Santa Barbara," a steam schooner grounded to form the breakwater where the channel dredging spoils were deposited to dam what was then known as Shell Beach. Even allowing for the fondness of memories, the old boat was considered rather grubby by the members. The only room remaining was the wood paneled officers' and passengers' salon. In it was a long wooden table surrounded by fixed swivel chairs, seating a couple of dozen people. It was here that the first board meetings were held. Social events were never held on the "Santa Barbara," as things got pretty musty what with a lot of dry-rot; it wasn't exactly a party atmosphere.

Before the tide completely absorbed the "Santa Barbara," the club moved into the upper floor of the old San Francisco Yacht Club building, now the Trident-Ondine building. Several fund-raising events and board meetings were held there, though its barren atmosphere by no means filled the bill for a clubhouse.

To improve these conditions, the club moved into an old army building adjacent to the Sausalito Yacht Harbor in 1945. This clubhouse was located on piles at the end of the pier parallel to Bridgeway. Over time, the space under the pier got filled in with mud from harbor dredging. The young club members took advantage of this and built a patio and barbecue. It was here that the club met and socialized for more than a decade.

Memories of these early years in the old SFYC building include a fund-raising dance with a live band that wasn't doing very well until the open-air dance at the Rose Bowl in Larkspur got rained out. Frustrated dancers returning to the City saw our banner stretched across Bridgeway and flocked to the Sausalito Yacht Club to make this a very successful fund-raiser.

In 1945, the club was incorporated. January of 1946 made a mark in the memories of early members, as the date of a spectacular initiation ceremony. The initiation was in the form of a football game between the new members, and true to form with the club's previous experiences, mud played a significant part. The day before the game, it had rained and rained, mak­ing the erstwhile football field into a sea of mud. Not to be discouraged, the members agreed to go on and play anyhow.

Well, if you've ever seen a group of men scrambling around in the mud playing football you can imagine what a sight it was to see. Many members and townspeople came by to watch, quickly spreading word to others. Member Dave Sheldon showed up at half-time in a brand-new, clean, white football uniform and joined in the game when it resumed. By this time, the "initiation" had turned into a town event, and when the game ended, the members made sure there was no way to tell what color Dave's uniform had been.

In the early years, since most members raced small boats, it was natural that the Sausalito Yacht Club should join the Small Boat Racing Association (SBRA) and start to sponsor SBRA races at Sausalito. The also club held "Fun" races on Saturday and a dance on Saturday night. This whole package was called the "Sausalito Regatta Days" and was co-sponsored by The Sausalito Chamber of Commerce. Also at that time, it was customary for the sponsoring club to provide lunch for the crews between races on Sunday, Jim Enzensperger relates his memory of one such occasion. "We had decided on beef stew for Sunday's lunch and prepared the food in a huge restaurant size stew pot on Saturday morning. We put the heat on low and went off to participate in the Regatta Days. By Sunday morning, not only was the stew done, it was cooked beyond all recognition. But, we served the stuff up with French bread anyhow!"

Next week: Construction of today’s clubhouse and berth of the Yacht Club’s signature youth sailing program.

Boats on Streets -- Revisited

by Larry Clinton

The following is updated from a 2009 Sausalito Historical Society column.

Visitors to Sausalito’s floating homes community frequently notice what appear to be vacant berths on the docks.  They’re always amazed to discover that these openings are actually underwater streets, vestiges of unrealized plans to fill in Richardson’s Bay back when California first became a state.

The author crossing Petaluma Avenue.         Photo by Gabrielle Moore-Gordon

The author crossing Petaluma Avenue.         Photo by Gabrielle Moore-Gordon

According to a paper by Michael Wilmar, ex-director of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, “When California became a state in 1850, it acquired title from the United States to all of the tide and submerged lands within its new boundaries.” Shortly thereafter the cash-strapped State Legislature began to authorize the sale of tidelands, and set up a Board of Tideland Commissioners to oversee the process.

In Sausalito, a group of investors bought several parcels and the Saucelito Land & Ferry Company (as it was known then) had a survey completed and a map drawn up showing future streets and lots available to the public. A copy of the 1875 Land & Ferry Company map hangs outside the Historical Society rooms at the Sausalito Civic Center. At one point the plan was to fill in all of Richardson’s Bay, creating a West Coast Venice with canals connecting the Sausalito and Strawberry shores. 

In 1879 a public backlash against the sell-off of the Bay led to a new provision in the state Constitution forbidding the sale of tidelands.  Submerged lands already in private ownership were declared a public trust, with the guarantee of public rights to reach and use navigable waters.

The state retained title to the underwater streets, as a way of establishing boundaries for future development.  The State Lands Commission, founded in 1938, took over stewardship of this underwater real estate.

When the Bay Conservation and Development Commission was formed in the mid-60s, Sausalito’s northern waterfront was a jumble of residences cobbled together from old vessels, war surplus, and spare parts, sheltering a gaggle of self-described “boatniks.”  To clean up the community, the County and BCDC authorized the construction of floating home marinas, which would provide shore side hookups for power, telephones and – most important – sewage.  Where a floating home dock crossed an underwater street, no home could be berthed.

Over the years, some old houseboats morphed into floating homes. Many grew to two or three times their original size, or were replaced altogether by larger, more elaborate residences.  In time, a few encroached on the mythical underwater streets, creating a new hot topic in always-Byzantine waterfront politics: Boats on Streets.

Eventually, authorities declared that houseboats needed to be brought up to code and regulated.

Approximately 400 floating home berths were eventually permitted in 5 designated residential marinas. A number of residents refused berths in the new harbors, and instead banded together to form the Gates Cooperative in 1979.  Today, after years of legal wrangling, some of these homes are being placed on code-compliant docks, including the new Van Damme Dock off Gate 6 Road. This reconfiguration will also include a shoreline park, bike paths and bay views.

The modern floating homes community is presenting its 32nd Open Homes tour on September 30.  Themed “Homefront on the Waterfront,” the tour ties in with the 75th Anniversary of Marinship, which helped to foster today’s waterfront community.

It’s a full day with music, artists, exhibits of vintage vehicles, food and drink for purchase and more. To make advance reservations or to volunteer to work on the tour, visit http://www.floatinghomes.org/Tour.

Eugene Huggins: Blues by the Bay

By Larry Clinton and Cindy Roby

Regular attendees at Sausalito’s summertime concert series, Jazz and Blues by the Bay, know that the final performance will feature local bluesman Eugene Huggins.  What they may not know is that this homegrown performer has closed the summer series virtually every year since it began.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Parks and Recreation Department.

Photo courtesy of Sausalito Parks and Recreation Department.

Eugene’s roots in the Bay Area blues scene go back to his high school days, as he told Cindy Roby for a MarinScope profile back in 1982.  Here are some key excerpts from that interview:

One of the songs that Sausalito's Eugene Huggins and his group The Casuals really relish is entitled "Don’t Go No Further,” a rhythm and blues classic but a title increasingly inappropriate to the top billing destiny the group Is beginning to enjoy.

Their ascent was formally recognized on March 3rd when they received nominations in two categories at the Bay Area Music Awards (the cognoscenti just call 'em the "Bammies"). The Casuals were nominated in two categories: "Best Blues Band" and "Best Club Band".

"We came in second for Best Club Band," Eugene says, "And that was especially great because it was a write-in category."

Pretty heady stuff for this Sausalito son. But when we met to talk during his break at the Sausalito Gourmet on Caledonia Street, where he works during the day, it was clear Eugene Huggins is still pretty down-to-earth and unassuming — well, I'd guess you'd call him casual!

"I've worked here for five years," Eugene told me as he settled down with a cake. "Frank (Hountalas) is very nice about my music and lets me go early when I need to." Eugene appreciates the steady income he makes dispensing opulent sandwiches and other savories for the daytime locals. "It's getting so The Casuals are making pretty good money now but I still can't depend on it because it is so inconsistent."

If music's in his blood, Sausalito's in his soul. "Sausalito is it for me. I wouldn't want to be anyplace else. I've met really nice people," he says. And Eugene's had plenty of time to meet them; he's spent most of his 21 years here. "My family moved here in I960. My father was bead of PR for the Army Corps of Engineers. I looked up to him a lot and he always encouraged my music. He liked music himself a lot. My mother used to be PTA president and has worked as cashier at the Spinnaker for 15 years."

At 21, Eugene is pretty much of a Sausalito old-timer. "I've seen Sausalito go through a lot of its changes. I remember when they closed Vina del Mar Park [during the hippie era]. My Dad used to take me to the Glen to play when I was a little kid. There were no houses there at all and you know what it looks like now. I went to elementary school at the Old Central School which is City Hall now."

Along with just about every teenager in the world, Eugene got into music playing with a rock group. "The Casuals bass player, Steve Webber, and I played together in high school. While everyone in Marin was still listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash, I was listening to Jimmy Reed. The other kids thought I was weird."

Eugene plays the harmonica and sings. "There is a different harmonica for each of the 12 different keys,” he points out. “So I have a little shaving kit packed with harmonicas that I take to each gig.

"We gig a whole lot," Eugene says. "We play at the Sleeping Lady in Fairfax; all the Keystone Clubs — in San Francisco, Berkeley and Palo Alto and at the Old Waldorf in the City and many others. We have a young audience — mostly teenagers, high school students — and I think we are the only blues band that does. We are not really into hard rock."

He continues, "My heroes are people like Muddy Waters, Junior Walker, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells."

And last fall when The Casuals were tapped to back up Guy and Wells at the Old Waldorf they performed impressively enough to generate a two-column rave review by Michael Snyder and a picture in the Chronicle’s "Pink Sheet."

Some excerpts are typical of the tone.

"At the Old Waldorf for a one-nighter, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells used the quintet, ranging in age from 16-21, as their back-up band with no rehearsal. Wells was so impressed he called for an unscheduled second set, joining the band on stage during ‘Key to the Highway....’

"Junior said, ‘I like to plug in and play and see what happens,’ added genial Eugene Huggins, 21, whose lead vocals and harmonica stick close to the blues tradition. 'And what happened was a lot of spontaneous interplay’. "

So there's no doubt there's a rosy future ahead for Eugene and The Casuals and I look forward to witnessing it some night. In the meantime, I can only vouch firsthand for Eugene's sandwich making abilities and I say give the guy the "Sandy" award!

This year, Eugene Huggins and Friends will perform on the Gabrielson Park stage Friday evening, August 25, as he has appeared “Pretty much since the beginning.” Recalling this long string, he says, “It means a lot to me, being a hometown boy, and I have lots of happy memories of playing there.”  For more information, and a preview of Eugene’s music, check out his Website: http://eblues.webs.com/biographybooking.htm.

Dredgetown and the Shaman of Rainbow Bay

By Larry Clinton

In a 1981 MarinScope article, Phil Frank reported on the City Council’s plan to pursue the abatement and eviction of the offshore settlement known as Dredgetown.  As Phil put it, “This collection of floating boats, sunken barges and hulks surrounding the permanently moored three-story dredge directly offshore of Dunphy Park has been a thorn in the side of the city, the Cruising Club and numerous hill dwellers since Its creation ten years ago.”

The day they burned old Dredgetown down                                            Photo by Saul Rouda

The day they burned old Dredgetown down                                            Photo by Saul Rouda

Phil dug into the Dredgetown controversy with his usual gusto, asking, “Now that the city has its ordinance the next question might be ‘What is the city up against in the person of the Dredgetown dwellers’?”

Then he summarized his interview with Michael Woodstock Haas, a fairly consistent occupant of the dredge for the last six years:

“It's long been my belief that If one is to be successful in battle it's best to know one's opponent. Since Michael Haas is the present holder of the title to the dredge and will thus be ticketed, summoned, served and sued in upcoming months, he could realistically be called an opponent.  But here’s the rub, for Michael Hass also is the Shaman of Rainbow Bay. Michael is a deep believer in astrology and the spirit world.

“Hass explained, ‘At sunrise on Easter Sunday three years ago, I was visited by Indian spirits in a vision. These were the spirits of the former inhabitants of the area. The Coast Miwok Indians were also known as the Hoo Koo Ee Koo Indians. They declared me the protector of these tidelands by making me the Shaman of Rainbow Bay. See, Rainbow Bay is what the Indians called these waters before William Richardson arrived on the scene. These spirits were real upset by the desecration of their burial grounds for the building of Sarky's Square.’ At this point Hass went on to explain to me about resulting ‘Curse of Sarky's Square’ placed on it by the spirits, but that would take another whole column.

“Working with a totem pole carver, Hass helped with the erecting of totem poles along the Sausalito waterfront to ward off evil spirits. To date seven have been erected, the most recent a 40-foot tall pole on the dredge itself. This one was slipped into place at sunrise of Easter Sunday morning.

“Haas continued, ‘The poles are all in place now and the energy which these totem poles attract will protect we, the spiritual descendants of the Hoo Koo Ee Koo.’

“Whether a 48-hour mooring ordinance governing anchorage of underwater streets will be any match

for seven totem poles and the Shaman of Rainbow Ray remains to be seen. The bumper sticker on the Volkswagen currently running around town says it all: SAUSALITO, it’s not the real world, Jack.

According to the newspaper, Hass had acquired the Dredgetown barge from waterfront bandleader and ringleader Joe (“Redlegs”) Tate, who had purchased it for $1.00 several years before.  When the Marin Superior Court supported the city's desire to maintain the property for public use, thereby prohibiting residential use by an individual, Haas took his case to the California State Appellate Court which issued its decision in February 1982. The Appellate Court ageed with the city's right to preserve all of the Dunphy Park parcel for public use.

In April 1982, the city exercised its option to demolish the dredge. Appearing before the City Council, Haas declared, "It wasn't until today I really understood this is the end for me. I have been defending the bay, defending the space because as long as I have been there, you haven't been able to develop it."

After Haas' personal possessions were removed from the barge, the Sausalito Fire Department prepared the structure for a controlled burn. Shortly after noon, the first columns of smoke filled the sky above Dunphy Park. Curious spectators joined a handful of people who had come down to watch the demolition. MarinScope reported: “The remainder of the barge will be removed in a few weeks.”

Haas told Marinscope, "I have nothing but blessings for Sausalito. I try to look on the positive side. Everything happens for a reason. So many people are upset by this, but how are we to know who is responsible to what degree for what has happened. This is an end. but it's abo a beginning. I plan to take my show on the road and then I will come back to Sausalito."

Joe (now “Gramps”) Tate, still active on the Sausalito music scene, recalls that Michael Haas moved to Mexico to work with indigenous peoples.  He was eventually murdered for his collection of Indian jewelry.

Back issues of MarinScope are available for viewing at the Sausalito Library, and at the Historical Society, one floor above it.

Sausalito Art Car Zaboo 1984-2017

By Nora Sawyer

Sausalito is known for its eccentrics. Be they entrepreneurs like Sally Stanford, wry observers like Phil Frank, philosophers like Alan Watts, or one-of-a-kind writers like Shel Silverstein, Sausalito’s residents have a reputation for originality.

It’s no surprise, then, that our local landmarks are equally distinctive. Take for example Sausalito Art Car Zaboo, which has for nearly twenty years held court from its small flower patch by Galilee Harbor. Brightly painted and covered in toys, tchotchkes, and dismembered dolls, the Sausalito Art Car has appeared in TV guide, boasts its own commemorative t-shirts and a Facebook Fan page, and is even a Pokéstop on Pokémon Go. Tourists pose with it, children stop to peer in at the impassive stuffed animals that gaze from its portal-like windows, and fans even leave small art objects as tribute. It is, in short, an institution.

The ArtCar in all its glory. Photo by Heather Wilcoxon

The ArtCar in all its glory.
Photo by Heather Wilcoxon

Named for a late and much-loved dog, Zaboo is the creation of local artist Heather Wilcoxon, who bought the car new in 1984. “It was the year my father died,” she recalls. “I bought the car for $8,848, cash. It was the first new car I ever owned,” she laughs. “The only new car.”

It wasn’t an art car then. For several years, it was just a car. Then, on Wilcoxon’s 50th birthday, she asked her son Jonah to do something creative with the car as a birthday present. “He spray painted the whole thing for me. And my sister, Cici, brought me a toy and glued it onto the hood. The whole thing started from there.”

Wilcoxon drove the car, with an ever-growing collection of toys glued to it, until 2000, when it broke down for good. It sat for a while in Galilee Harbor’s parking lot before moving into its current spot alongside Napa Street, just down from Galilee’s painted mailboxes. Drivability concerns gone, Wilcoxon was free to let loose with her creative vision. Toys engulfed the car, covering its windshield and peering from its windows. Wilcoxon planted succulents alongside it, which grew to surround the car like a fairytale forest. “It stopped being a car and became a monument,” laughs local musician Joe Tate. “Long story short.”

The year 2015 was, Wilcoxon recalls, “peak year for the art car.” The car got a new paint job, with Wilcoxon’s fellow Galilee residents pitching in to freshen it up and spruce up the garden. Best of all, an anonymous donor dropped off an old upright piano, which Wilcoxon painted to match the car, writing “PLAY ME” on the upper front board to entice passers-by.

Once the piano left, things got little quieter. But the car still had plenty to say. Big red letters spelled ‘BELIEVE’ along the top. A small round sign asked viewers to “please be kind to the art car.” And, of course, there were custom Zaboo license plates.

Following the 2016 election, more political signs appeared. Right after Election Day, Wilcoxon placed one reading ‘Not my president” beside the car, but almost immediately took it down. “Someone else put a sign supporting Trump beside it, and I decided that wasn’t a debate I wanted to have here,” Wilcoxon recalls. Still, other signs reflected the tense political times, calling for an end to mass deportations and speaking out against the border wall.

But soon the car itself will be gone. On Saturday, July 22, much of the art was dismantled. The toys and assemblages that once stood atop the car were re-homed in Galilee Harbor’s vegetable garden, or given to passers-by as souvenirs. The car sits under a tarp, and will towed away to make way for the planned re-vitalization of neighboring Dunphy Park.

The car’s retirement has Wilcoxon feeling a little wistful. “I guess it’s time,” she says, “but I’m going to miss the art car.” The car’s departure follows closely on the heels of the death of artist and local institution Bo VanBo, who often painted and displayed his work alongside the car. “Sausalito is changing,” Wilcoxon reflects, “but that’s fine. Everything’s ephemeral. Especially art.”

Heather Wilcoxon has two solo shows currently up in the Bay Area: “Adrift” is at the Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco through July 29th, and “At Sea” is at the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art through September 10th. Check out http://heatherwilcoxon.com/ for information on shows and upcoming workshops.

Rick Seymour: Sausalito, My Inspiration

By Steefenie Wicks

Rick Seymour: a true Sausalitan Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Rick Seymour: a true Sausalitan
Photo by Steefenie Wicks

The fog was thick and heavy on Bridgeway that morning.  Rick Seymour, age 12, was out delivering his papers when he heard someone yelling “Hello” throughsd the thick fog. He listened again and heard the voice, as it seemed to be getting closer.  So Rick yelled back “Hello.”  Then came the voice again yelling, “What ship is that?” and Rick yelled back “It’s no ship! I’m delivering the morning papers.”  Then he heard with some concern,” Oh no! Reverse engines! Reverse engines!”  The ship in the dense fog had come that close to running ashore; only this attentive paperboy stopped the shipwreck from happening.

Rick Seymour has lived in Sausalito most of his life.  No matter where he traveled, he always returned to the place he calls his inspiration, Sausalito.  He remembers growing up here during the 1930’s in a quiet little fishing village that was full of very creative people.  His mother and father, both artists, were in many ways visionaries.  His mother was the first woman to start her own co-operative here.  It took place after the death of his father, when he and his mother inherited funds from an uncle.  They took those funds and brought a piece of land on Harrison Ave.  His mother’s idea was to gather several friends whom she and her husband had been close to.  Together they formed a co-op housing complex.  She was able to sell the five apartment spaces, which enabled her to pay for the property as well as the construction costs.  Today Rick and his wife Sharon live in that complex, which was designed by his mother.

Rick attended classes at the old Central School, which is now City Hall.  He recalls that the location of the Sausalito Historical Society was once the schoolroom that he sat in when he was in the 7th grade.

Seymour spent time in the air force but when his duty was over he returned to his home in Sausalito, living in floating apartments and working at local establishments.  He knew, personally, the many characters who were here at the time.  He worked on board the old ferry, the City of Berkeley when she was docked in downtown Sausalito.  At one point Sterling Hayden was writing his book Wanderer in the aft wheelhouse of the Berkeley while Seymour used the forward one as his night watchman’s office.

Rick recalls how Hayden would call out to him, sometimes late at night, and invite him for a nightcap. They spent many an hour just discussing life.  “Hayden was a real Renaissance man, he was interested in everything, had had many adventures, was extremely well read.  I can remember that one of our first long conversations was about French impressionistic paintings; he was very knowledgeable about the subject.”

Seymour remembers the famous Juanita, who owned several restaurants in Sausalito.  He says that she had a very bad temper, which she would lose if customers were disrespecting her or her food.  “One time she lost it over these two customers, as they were driving away in their convertible, she ran outside, pitched a full plate of food at them, it landed in the car on top of them as they were driving away.” He smiles and continues, “That was Sausalito then -- you could not get away with that today.”

Rick had a long career at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco; he retired from that position when he was 70 years old.   He worked with the founder, David Smith, whose motto was and still is: “Health care is a right for all.”  Asked what it was like working in the Haight, Seymour tells of not only the excitement but also the horrors.  He explained, “This was during the time when most thought it was the Summer of Love but it was also the time of the Zebra killings and the Zodiac killer.  If you were on the street you had a good chance of being shot or shot at.  The Free Clinic had a number of sponsors; two who were very active were Dianne Feinstein, along with the late Bill Graham.”  Seymour recalls that when there were drug overdoses at concerts, people in the Haight Ashbury district knew that they could count on the free clinic to treat them and, in many cases, save their lives.

Seymour now spends his days working on various projects, including a series of mystery novels which are available on Amazon. As he puts it: “Artists do not retire.” In a recent article for Sausalito Village, he explored this issue.  “Sausalito has borne witness to continuing artistic endeavors throughout its history; many of its artists have long and illustrious careers.  Today many continue their creative activities in this town, which is well suited to nurture the lives and talent of these gifted individuals.”

So now when we think of the many talented characters who have lived, worked, and contributed to Sausalito, we can add to the list the name of Rick Seymour, writer, philosopher, historian: a true Sausalitan.

Sealing in 1885

By Larry Clinton

Many species of marine mammals were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century.  Here are annotated excerpts from a Sausalito News article of 1885, which describes the sealing activities that decimated local populations. Warning: descriptions of the hunting techniques may be disturbing to some readers:

Seal skinning in the 1880s Courtesy photo

Seal skinning in the 1880s
Courtesy photo

Among the trades which have grown to considerable importance within the past few years is that of sealing and a short account of these animals and the manner of hunting them may be of interest to our readers. The following article is furnished us by a gentleman who has much experience in seal hunting: Both fin and hair seals are numerous along the Pacific Coast, and many vessels are now employed in the sealing business, going as far south as the Galapagos Islands and north to the Bering Sea. Fur seals are the most valuable of all the seal tribe proper, a good skin generally bringing about $12 in its undressed state.

THE ALA EA COMMERCIAL COMPANY controls this branch of the trade, as the animals are so numerous on their islands that it is almost impossible for private individuals to compete with them. The chief hunting grounds of the Company are St. George, St. Paul and Copper Islands [in the Bering Sea]. Here the seals assemble in thousands and when a sufficient number is collected, they are approached by bands of natives who, getting between them and the water, drive the unfortunate creatures some distance up the country where they are slaughtered with clubs at their captors’ pleasure. In this manner are killed millions of seals annually, the steamer St. Paul alone bringing down 270,00 skins last season. When a private vessel engages in sealing, the method is to shoot the seal when in the water asleep and trust to his floating when killed, but very few are taken in this way as compared with the Company’s method. There is little or no blubber on these seals so the skin is all that the fur seal is killed for. It is a noteworthy fact that all the skins must be sent to London to be dressed and made into the beautiful saques [infants’ jackets] etc. the ladies so much admire. The process of preparing the fur is a well-guarded secret of which only the proprietors of the business have full knowledge.

HAIR SEALS

The different species of the hair seal [seals with coarse hair rather than fur, such as harbor seals] are sought chiefly for their blubber which is boiled down into oil immediately after being detached from the body of the animal, but of late years, the skins have been converted into leather and consequently are now saved instead of being thrown away as formerly.

Many companies are engaged in this business, and the rookeries, as they are termed, being very numerous immense numbers of the animals have been killed. Among the favorite and best hunting grounds are Port Orford, Point New Year, Carmel Bay, Santa Barbara Island, Natividad Island and Bonita Islands. These places are crowded with sea lion, black and leopard seals all the year round. Last year one vessel, the Laura, hunted on the north island of the Farallones and made a good harvest, but the Government refused to allow it to be continued and no vessel went there this year.

SEA LIONS

Are the most profitable of the species as they are considerably larger than any other, an average size bull measuring about twenty [actually, more like eleven] feet from nose to tail. They yield from 13 to 20 gallons of oil which brings about 50 cents a gallon and the skin will weigh about 150 pounds worth 5 cents a pound; so, taken all in all, they are about as profitable as the fur seal.

Another branch of the business is

SEA OTTER HUNTING

 

The skins of these animals are extremely valuable, a common skin bringing as high as $100, while a silver-tipped otter will bring sometimes as high as $700. They are scarce as compared with

seals but some vessels engage in hunting them exclusively as a few skins bring in such good returns. [Soon, otters were considered extinct in California waters until a small family were discovered in the 1930s].

Last winter a schooner went down to Mexico for the Smithsonian Institute to obtain the skins and skeletons of

SEA ELEPHANTS

Another variety of seal, which are even larger than sea lions, often measuring 35 and 40 feet in length [more like [thirteen feet, actually] and yielding sometimes as much as 90 gallons of oil. About forty of these animals were killed and went east to be mounted. Of all the varieties of seals the leopard seals are generally the most vicious, though in the breeding season with her young about her, a female sea lion is very savage. Some years ago, when some men were employed to capture some of these animals alive for Woodward's Garden, a large cow bit a man's leg clean off at the hip, causing his death shortly after. As a general thing however, anybody can avoid danger as the animals are very awkward on land though they swim faster than any fish when in the water.

Throughout the 1900s, safeguards were gradually put in place for most of these animals, culminating in the US Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.  That legislation made it illegal to harm, harass or approach any marine mammal, and established a stranding network of organizations to provide rescue and rehabilitation efforts throughout the country.  Some populations have rebounded, but fur seals, sea otters and a few other species are still considered threatened, depleted, or endangered.  In Central and Northern California, The Marine Mammal Center has rescued and treated more than 21,000 marine mammals since it was founded in 1975.  If you see a sick or injured marine mammal within Mendocino County and San Luis Obispo county, please call 415-289-SEAL. For more information, visit www.MarineMammalCenter.org.  

Sausalito’s First Sawmill

By Larry Clinton

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

Commodore Jones Courtesy photo

Commodore Jones
Courtesy photo

By 1849 as the drive for California statehood got under way, the mil­itary commander of San Francisco Bay was Colonel Rich­ard Barnes Mason, with Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones in charge of the half dozen ships of the Navy's Pacific Squadron. Commodore Jones was well acquainted with Sausalito. His ships were supplied with water there and the anchorage in the cove gave quick access to the bay entrance, or "Golden Gate," as Fremont had christened it.

Jones's problems as Commodore were compounded by the discovery of gold in the hills east of San Francisco. Hundreds of ships, American and foreign, arrived in 1849, straining Jones's resources for keeping order. Thousands of men, crews and passengers, civilian and Navy, left their ships in Yerba Buena Cove and joined the mad scramble for El Dorado.

Not the least of Commodore Jones's problems was the lack of dry dock and repair facilities in California. While taking on water in the cove, Jones and other officers had observed the potential of Sausalito's flat tidal beach; so he established a makeshift dry dock there and put it to a test that summer.

In 1847, even before gold was discovered in California, Commodore Jones had requested the Navy Department in Washington to send a combination sawmill and gristmill around the horn to San Francisco where he needed lumber for ship repairs, and ground flour to feed his sailors. In November 1848 the sawmill and steam engine parts arrived and were dumped on the beach in Yerba Buena Cove and left scattered about as the ship's crew set off for the gold country. Commodore Jones, still eager to establish a repair facility for his ships, signed a contract with Robert A. Parker, a San Franciscan civilian entrepreneur to assemble and operate the sawmill in the cove at Sausalito.

When Commodore Jones informed Washington of his sawmill contract with Robert Parker, the Navy disavowed Jones's right to enter into a contract with a civilian, ordering Jones to reclaim the sawmill and settle accounts with Parker. But Robert Parker had assigned the contract to Lt. James McCormick, who had become superintendent of the Sausalito sawmill and was drawing a salary of $2,500 a year while still on active duty with the Navy.

Slowly, the Navy Department pieced together the whole story of the troublesome sawmill in the unknown little cove that they referred in dispatches to as "Sawcelito." Like so many instant towns that had sprung up during the gold rush wherever a speculator could get a large enough parcel to subdivide into lots, Sausalito had been hastily conceived, with a Navy sawmill as its big attraction.

Robert Parker dropped out of the picture in Sausalito, perhaps because his main interest, the gristmill, never ma­terialized or was stolen from the beach in Yerba Buena. In any case, during the gold rush, Parker was busy with his grocery and liquor business in San Francisco. There he also ran the "Parker House," where in 1851 he was charging $1,500 a month for a room.

The sawmill operation in Sausalito did a brisk business in 1850, selling pine planks and assorted redwood lumber to the Navy as well as to ranchers and builders. Even William Richardson bought lumber from the mill and in turn sold beef to McCormick for his sawmill crew, many of whom were moonlighting sailors. Even so, the mill never lived up to expectations. During the winters it was more difficult than had been an­ticipated to fell redwoods beyond Corte Madera Creek and raft the logs down Richardson's Bay to the cove.

Finally in 1851 the Navy demanded that the mill be seized from McCormick and sold at auction. McCormick made a detailed accounting of his and Parker's expenses and receipts. Referees for the Navy and McCormick's at­torney Charles Botts concluded that McCormick was owed $25,766.64 to cover the difference between his costs and revenue from the mill.

The Navy refused payment, not surprisingly, since McCormick had listed among other expenses payments to navy personnel for loading navy lumber onto navy vessels in Sausalito. The dispute over the $25,000 shifted from Sausalito to Washington, D.C. in 1851 when the "McCormick Case" went before Congress. Rep. Jonathon Minor Botts of Virginia, brother of Charles Botts, now owner of old Sausalito, had a bill introduced to appropriate $25,000 as a settlement to McCormick for the sawmill operation.

The Navy announced in 1852 that the site for a new Navy Yard on the West Coast would be Mare Island. A study had been conducted by Commodore McCauley, who had replaced Commodore Jones in 1851, to find the most eligible site for the naval arsenal and dry dock. McCauley, like Jones before him, recommended Sausalito. But other forces were at work. A group of enterprising men, with the support of General Mariano Vallejo, promoted Mare Island, the site next to the new town named by Vallejo's son-in-law John B. Frisbee in honor of the General. Mare Island was selected, possibly because of the cloud of doubt raised over Sausalito by the conduct of certain Naval of­ficers. Officially it was chosen because of its deep channel and its strategic distance from the Golden Gate.

“Moments in Time,” Tracy’s seminal history of Sausalito, is available at the Ice House Visitors Center and Historical Museum, which is open from 11:30-4:00, Tuesday through Sunday, at 780 Bridgeway.

Chris Hardman: Keeping the Magic Alive

by Steefenie Wicks

“It began when I was given a Walkman,” Chris Hardman recently recalled.  “I was in Europe at the time, it was 1982. I remember the first time I put on the earphones, turned on the music, then began to walk.  It was amazing how as the music changed so did my surroundings.  Soon, I was walking into museums with the sounds of violins and drums exploding in my head.  That’s when it came to me: why not use this medium as part of the story telling technique in my productions as a way of revolutionizing theater?  Upon returning to the United States I began a production called ‘High School’ using the Walkman, having the audience become part of the production. That is how Antenna Audio was born.”

Chris Hardman has lived in Sausalito for over 30 years.  At one time, he ran for City Council with a campaign slogan developed by Steward Brand: “A Hardman is Good to Find.”  Although he did not win office, later his wife Annette Rose would be elected to the Council, become Mayor of the City, then serve as representative from the 3rd District on the Marin County Board of Supervisors.   But Chris’s involvement with waterfront politics is legendary.  He was a founding member of the group Art Zone.   Hardman’s productions, always done with a sense of pageantry, had political themes that sometimes directed their message to the City of Sausalito on not developing the waterfront, taking into consideration the community that came to exist there, that lived in fear of being displaced.

Hardman was born in Washington State but raised in Los Angeles.  His father was a writer of TV westerns.  When Chris was 13, his family took a trip to San Francisco where he was exposed to his first never-never land, as he called it.  “Los Angeles is where people write about things, but San Francisco is where you make them happen,” he says. “After my first visit, I knew I would return.”

When it was time to go to college he chose to go back east to Goddard College.  Goddard has a history of focusing on creativity, chaos, invention, experimentation with growth, decline and reemergence.  There he met his mentor, Peter Schumann, a European artist who told stories using large puppets, sometimes 13 feet tall.  His work had political overtones and his plays and pageantry were so astounding that Hardman left school and moved in with Schumann and his family.  “I wanted to learn all of his tricks,” Chris recalls. “He was fantastic and he invented ‘Bread and Puppets Theater’.”

Bread and Puppets Theater just celebrated its 50-year anniversary as an underground, radical, political, experimental puppet-mask-and-pageantry theater that has fascinated any audience lucky enough to view a performance.

Hardman studied this form of theater, then brought it back to the Sausalito waterfront where his work would make each performance equal to that of his teacher.

I asked him how he knew he had made the right decision to move to Sausalito.  He thought it over, then told me what inspired him.  “I had been living in the City when the friend whose house where I was staying decided that he wanted to move back.  He had this studio at Gate 3, offered me the space but wanted me to know that there was this fear of development, so staying there would be a little touchy,” he smiled.  “Little did I know that I would be in that space for over 10 years.”   He continued, “The first night that I spent there, a knock on the door surprised me.  When I opened the door, there stood a woman in black face with an M-16 strapped around her neck.  Her partner was wearing a washboard and playing a kazoo.  This was Laurabell [Hawbecker] and Bob [Kalloch], both gone now but they became my friends for life.”

One of the first artists hired by the National Park Service, Chris was the inspiration behind the audio tour of Alcatraz. “I was always told that audio tours were boring but I didn’t see it that way, so I went on to change that theory.” He continues, “I envisioned audio tours as stories that were being heard for the first time.  As a matter of fact, the Alcatraz tours still have elements of the originals that were done back in 1986.  Most of the individuals whose voices were used have passed on, making those recordings one of a kind, valuable. Now you can go to any museum around the world, when they hand you the audio device to describe the exhibition, it was more than likely produced by Antenna Audio.” Hardman smiles at the thought. Some time ago Antenna Audio was sold; it is now called Antenna International.

For the last 7 years Hardman has been concentrating on a project called the “Magic Bus.”   The Magic Bus has 16 mini-projectors, plus sound systems with automatic screens that tell the story of the 1960’s magic of San Francisco.  He explained, “This is a moving movie theater -- when the screens come up it turns into a tour bus, it’s like an audio tour aboard the bus.” 

Hardman no longer lives here in town, but when asked what he missed about Sausalito he was quick to answer: “Community.” He feels that in these times people don’t know their neighbors. “But on the Sausalito waterfront,” he says, “People do know their neighbors.  They come together for social events that involve the community.  It’s called coming together to build strong structures that make it possible for a community to exist.  This I miss, but I do enjoy my ride on the Magic Bus. It somehow keeps this feeling alive.”

Chris Hardman and his Magic Bus          Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Chris Hardman and his Magic Bus          Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Water: Sausalito’s Liquid Gold

By Larry Clinton

The earliest European visitors to the Bay found that our area was home to high quality spring water.  The springs supplying that water were marked by groves of willow trees, which gave the town its early name: Saucelito, or “little willow.”  Whalers found that Sausalito water not only tasted better, it lasted better on long voyages.

Sausalito’s first water system was built by town founder William A. Richardson, who piped water from springs above the town to a great cistern for later distribution. Here's how the Sausalito News described the operation:

This photo, taken c. 1852, shows rudimentary buildings and piers in Whaler’s Cove, now known as Shelter Cove. Photo Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

This photo, taken c. 1852, shows rudimentary buildings and piers in Whaler’s Cove, now known as Shelter Cove.

Photo Courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

“In connection with the records, the following local ‘point’ is of especial concern to those preserving the records of early-day Marin: Name of Historical Point—Water wharf, from which water for drinking and cooking purposes was shipped to San Francisco. Location— East Richardson street, between Water and Front streets, Sausalito, Marin county, California. Name of Owner—Town or City of Sausalito. History and Description — This wharf, so called, was really a sort of a trestle carrying a pipe from the shore to vessels, outfitted with tanks, in which the water was conveyed to San Francisco from Sausalito. There were many springs of surrounding the valley, formerly fine mountain water in the hills called Hurricane Gulch, now named Shelter Cove.

“It is the generally accepted theory that these springs were and are fed from the Sierras. In 1850, Capt. W. A. Richardson. one of the original settlers in Sausalito and the grantee of the Spanish Grant Rancho Sausalito, piped the water from these springs to a great cistern thirty feet square and fifteen feet in depth. The water was then carried in a large pipe to tanks and casks on the boat, ‘The Water Nixie,’ which conveyed it to San Francisco. It was then distributed to purveyors with horse or mule drawn two-wheeled carts carrying casks, and peddled by the bucket to consumers, bringing 25 cents a gallon or 50 cents a bucket [that’s $14 a gallon adjusted for inflation, according to Jonathan Westerling of Radio Sausalito].  The usual amount sold to a customer per day was two buckets. As San Francisco depended on wells for its water supply, and the water was brackish, Sausalito and Tiburon supplied the growing city with water, for drinking and cooking purposes, until the Spring Valley Water system was installed. Later these springs in Sausalito were developed and tunnels run Into the bills and Sausalito was supplied with water from this source.”

After Richardson died, the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company bought his property and water works in 1869 and by 1891 was serving much of the community. The Sausalito Bay Water Company was incorporated in 1887 with a capital stock of $50,000, divided into 50,000 shares, according to the Daily Alta Californian. That firm built a system that was bought by the Sausalito Spring Water Company in 1905. The city of Sausalito built its own water works in 1909 and in 1912 voted to join the new Marin Municipal Water District, which was incorporated on April 25, 1912, according to the.

Marin Municipal Water District.