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.