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.