by Steefenie Wicks
Jack Tracy notes in his book “Sausalito Moments In Time” that in 1950, after the turmoil of WWII along with the wartime crowds, a quiet had once again settled over Sausalito, which seemed to have not been experienced in decades. It was during this period that Charles Bradley and his mother were living in what was known as the Flats of Marin City. Built on the flat land, not in the hills, these units had been housing for families and single people who came to work in the shipyards during the war.
Marin City’s Flats were very much integrated, and not limited to just one group. Bradley remembers going to Richardson Bay School were kids from Marin City and Sausalito shared the school grounds. “It was almost 10 years after the war, folks were just trying to get along,” He continues. “I was lucky because I got to know all of the kids. Later when I went to Tam High I would meet kids that I had known in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade.” Growing up in Marin City he never felt any type of hostility toward him or his mom from their black or white neighbors.
He remembered that living near the water gave him a sense of freedom, which he took advantage of when he could, by going fishing down by Sausalito Boat and Tackle, now called the Trident. Every Thursday night he and his Mom would attend the two-for-one movie night at the Golden Gate Theater on Bridgeway. He recalled, “You got two movies for 25 cents. The first was the one that was advertised, then the second one was the surprise. You never knew what it was going to be, a western or Shirley Temple.”
During this time he got to know Sausalito well because he had two different paper routs in town. He delivered the San Rafael News, which later became the IJ, along with a paper that no longer exists, the Sausalito Bulletin. One of his clients then was Sally Stanford, who liked to have her paper delivered to her by hand. When he would come into her restaurant, The Valhalla, she would let him pick two, just two maraschino cherries, which he looked forward to each day.
He remembered that at the time his mother was working for the Goodwill Store, when Goodwill would only hire disabled men and women, whom he found out were really nice people. One man took him aside one day and said, “If you are going to deliver papers you need a bike, so I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.” With that he pulled out an empty clear glass jar. “Each Friday,” he said, “I’ll place a dollar in this jar. You’ll need to match this with your own dollar, and soon you’ll have enough for a bike.” One year later he had a brand new Schwinn.
In 1963, Bradley became part of the National Reserves and served 6 months’ active duty followed by 5 ½ years of reserve meetings. Eventually, he would return to Sausalito where he got his training as a journeyman manager working at the Big G Market, now Mollie Stone’s. From there he went on to work at a rental store that had employed him when he was a teenager. As a young man with a vision, he talked the owner of the rental company into selling him the business. He was able to make a down payment with an agreement to also pay so much a month. In time he owned the company, which he then called Big 4 Rents.
He would own and run this company from 1965 to 1998 when Hertz equipment rental offered to buy him out at a price he could not afford to refuse.
Since then he has devoted himself to container housing. His new company, Global Portable Buildings and its WATERstorz division, are designed to help people in times of disaster. He wanted to be able to offer housing when people are flooded out, or when hurricanes or tornadoes strike. He has been working with the U.S. government to perfect his designs as emergency units. These units are now tested for their adaptability at the Texas Tech Institute. He has also worked on water storage by developing a unit that can hold up to 7,000 gallons of water, in an approved USDA/FDA lined water container that keeps drinking water fresh.
Considering that Bradley is now in his 70s, he has not slowed down. He has always been a bit of a visionary so when asked what he sees in his future, he remarks, “Lots of tennis and being on my boat; after all I’m like everyone else, I’m here for the water.”