The Deadly Storm of 1982

By Larry Clinton

I moved to my first floating home, at Kappas Marina, just in time for New Year’s, and just in time for a killer storm. After getting 10 inches of rain in December, 1981, Marin got drenched with 13 inches on January 3 and 4.

A leak developed from my upstairs deck, which soaked my bedroom floor, causing rain to fall downstairs, and eventually to seep into my plywood pontoons.  Our parking lots flooded, and people had to brave the elements to move their cars to higher ground. Dealing with this “trial by water,” I learned a lot about houseboat living in a very short time.

But my problems were minor compared to some of the folks in the hills of Sausalito.

Here’s how Cindy Roby reported on the storm for this paper almost 33 years ago:

It started off like just one hell of a rainstorm. While the 49ers slogged their way to victory at Candlestick on Sunday, the rain grew heavier. It pelted the county all night and by mid-morning Monday, serious flooding was reported throughout the county. Noon news showed submerged cars, slow traffic and a make-the-best-of-it-fellow windsurfing on the floodwaters in San Rafael.

And still it came down, and the news turned frantic and ominous. The word "disaster" was substituted for "storm".  . .Attention turned to Sausalito Monday night with news of a large landslide which fell onto the southbound lanes of 101 on the Waldo Grade. Homes on Wolfback Ridge were watched carefully. The bridge was closed and helicopters circled ominously.

Early Tuesday morning the rain stopped. It was cold and gray and grim. The bad news continued to pour in while the cleanup began. All day trucks worked to clear the southbound lanes of Waldo Grade. Sausalito residents hung over the overpass and cheered the first cars traveling north about 4:30 p.m. And they wandered down on Bridgeway as residents of several buildings evacuated their homes that had been damaged by a mudslide and stood in further peril from above where the house at #6 Bulkley had begun to show signs of strain. Crews cut the gas and water lines and monitored Bulkley Avenue where a huge crack grew and the downhill roadbed sank lower with the strain. But by Tuesday night it all seemed stable. Over with. The general consensus was that Sausalito had been pretty lucky.

But that assumption was terribly wrong. In the clear quiet of Tuesday night, the steep hillside, covered with Scotch Broom that lies just 40 to 75 feet south of the Spencer Avenue-Monte Mar exit sign was silently reaching its tolerance. The hillside — actually landfill placed there to support the northbound lanes of 101 when they were built some 25 years ago — had been saturated to the breaking point. And at approximately 9:30 p.m. the hillside gave way, releasing tons of mud that roared downhill smashing the duplex at 466-468 Sausalito Blvd right off its hillside perch. This two-story structure sheared through 85 Crescent killing its sole occupant, 46-year-old Sally Baum.

Nearby residents describe these few awful moments as punctuated by the sound of a woman screaming, trees cracking and the dull gurgle of mud as it descended. The lights went off. Then there was an eerie awful silence.

Within minutes, the fire and police departments had responded to the scene. They assessed the enormity of the disaster and began to evacuate the stunned and disoriented nearby residents. Police and fire personnel went door to door. Banging on doors, beaming flashlights in darkened windows, yelling through bullhorns, and literally pulling some people from their own homes. Later a CHP helicopter was brought in to bring the same message to people in a wider area of neighboring streets ranging from up on Prospect and Cable Roadway down to Crescent, Lower Crescent, Sausalito Boulevard and Main Street, reaching all the way down to Third and Fourth Streets. Police checkpoints informed them to go to an evacuation point at Martin Luther King School at the other end of town. Fire Chief Steve Bogel and Battalion Chief Fylstra started looking through the wreckage. “We understood someone was in the house, Chief Bogel reported. “Fylstra saw the body and together we pulled it out."

According to later reports, Sally Baum, a young widow, had just returned home from dinner with neighbors when her bedroom was struck. She was probably getting ready for bed when the slide hit. Ironically, the living room and kitchen of her house remained intact, with Christmas gifts still under the tree.


Sally Baum, who lost her life in the 1982 mudslide.


The Historian Sausalito City Clerk: Debbie Pagliaro

by Steefenie Wicks
There is one person who can tell you more about the history of Sausalito than any other Marin historian --  Sausalito City Clerk Debbie Pagliaro.
Pagliaro, who has spent more than 50% of her life working in just about every city government department, is one of those rare individuals actually born in Marin and raised in Sausalito.  Her playpen was a cardboard box in the front window of her father’s hardware store on Bridgeway, so she could watch the world go by.  She can tell you about the picnics that families used to have in Vina del Mar Plaza, where Santa would come every year for Christmas.
She attended Central School (now City Hall) from kindergarten to 4th grade. Along the way she, with a group of involved young folks in 1965, took on City Hall with their demands for a Youth Center.  Today that youth Center has grown into the Sausalito Parks and Rec Department.  Once again proving her connection with the City where her grandfather started the family business, her father was born in a house on 4th Street; the family the moved to Rose Ct. where she grew up.
Pagliaro got involved with working for the City of Sausalito right after she graduated from high school when her neighbor asked her to come and work a part time job down at the old City Hall on Bridgeway.
It so happened that the City had started a new parking program, and she was to begin her civic career selling parking permits.   Later she took the position of business license clerk, and from there she moved on to the planning department, building department and the police department.  She continues, “It was not until I worked for the Police department that I felt that I had finally become well rounded.  I ended up becoming secretary to the Chief of Police.  That was one eye opening experience because you really got to see both sides of what can become a problem.  I was there for seven years when it was decided that the City really did need a full time City Clerk and here I am.”
“Did you work with long time City Clerk Janet Tracy?”
“Yes I did, and if anyone had told me then that one day I’d be sitting here in her position, I would have been the first to say they were wrong.  But here I am 30 years later, the City Clerk.  You know, Janet Tracy was a cutting edge City Clerk.   She was part of what I call the sub-group of City Clerks that put together the process of departmental training for what would become the Certified Municipal City Clerk position.  She also turned over to me the City Bible: that being a 5 x7 black 3-ringed notebook with  some of the most valuable information on Sausalito, some of it dating back to 1897, including the names of all of the City Clerks since the beginning of Sausalito.” This is a rightful belonging for a Sausalito City historian.
I asked Pagliaro, what did she think of today’s Sausalito?
“Funny” she said, “but that line about ‘never going home again,’ I think that’s true.”
She feels that the City has changed but all for the good.  She states that Sausalito has always been engaged.  It has always been a City that is circular, so cyclical that if something happened in the 1940’s then it’s bound to surface again some 30 or 40 years later. That’s where the historian comes in.  At some point you need to be able to research an issue to find out how it was handled, then bring that to the table today so that the decision made can be the correct one.  She goes on to say, “There was a law on the books once that said Sausalito residents could not have chickens or ducks on their City property.  This came about because my mother got a duck and the duck had ducklings, which were pretty noisy.  A neighbor complained and the next thing we knew there was a law against it.  Now look around Sausalito today, people love having the ability to have chickens and ducks as pets, no one says they can’t. Where is that law today?”
She continues,” Everyone seems to talk about Sausalito’s small town character; well I don’t see that, I don’t see that at all.  The way I explain it is, I have grown up in Sausalito and I have spent a lot of time in Mill Valley but it was not until I started working for the City of Sausalito that I realized Mill Valley is twice as big, but Sausalito seems bigger.  Sausalito is community orientated but not small town characteristic.”
She smiles, as a thought seems to strike her, she begins:  “I can remember being a child, when you would hear the fire alarm, you’d go get your card to see where the fire was; you see each neighborhood had its  own fire call, so on the card you could tell where the fire was. Also, you had to call the fire department to let them know if you were planning a barbeque so that they didn’t show up to put your fire out! Okay, that then would have been called small town… but not today.”


Debbie Pagliaro at work in City Hall.
Photo by Steefenie Wicks


TRACY: Founder of the Sausalito Historical Society

Story by: Steefenie Wicks

The phone rang in the middle of the night, Fire Chief Steve Bogal putting in a call to his friend Jack Tracy, “Jack,” he said “You better get down here. I think that we just found a body.”   Jack got out of bed and was on site in less than 30 minutes.  He paced over to the area behind the movie theater on Pine Street, which now had a fire truck and 2 police cars on guard.   He nodded to the Chief, others walked over, kneeled down, took a look at the body that was now exposed from the wash-off.  He walked back over to the Chief who asked him, “What do you think?”  
“Miwok” Tracy replied, “I always said that there was a burial ground around here.”    As he walked off, one of the police officers turned to the Chief, asked, “ That the coroner?’  The Chief looked over at Tracy, as he climbed back into his car, “No,” he said, “that’s Jack Tracy, he’s the town historian, he started the Sausalito Historical Society .”
The above is taken from an interview I did with Jack Tracy back in 1990.  Tracy started the Sausalito Historical Society in 1975.   How he was able to accomplish this?  “I went to my personal friends asked for a donation of $5.00, they in turn went back, asked their friends and so on.  Before I knew it we had raised enough funds to successfully began the dream.”
The first event the organization put together was for the opening of the new City Hall building on Litho Street, where we sit today.  He was asked if it was possible to do a display that would spotlight the history of the town.  The display was an unbelievable success which opened at 7 in the morning and did not close till 7 pm that night.
Days later the Mayor approached Tracy, asked what he would need to start a Sausalito Historical Society, Tracy replied, “Permanent space!”
The next day Tracy toured the new City Hall building with the Mayor. They decided that the second floor would be the best place for the new organization.  This floor would eventually house a Victorian room, a Library of historic books, maps, paintings, glass bottles from the waters of Sausalito, chairs and tables from the first school, old fire men helmets and WWII goggles, along with the many objects collected from Sausalito families that made personal donations from their heritage.
Tracy wanted the Sausalito Historical Society to be a private organization with no money from the City, free from conflict with the political structure of the town.  He wanted this to be a Historical Society for the residents -- the people who he believed were making the Sausalito history of tomorrow. Tracy found that locals wanted to participate in helping to establish their history.  The fee to join the Historical Society was set at $5.00; Tracy did this because he felt that it made it easier for folks to donate at the end of the year.  These private donations of both money and artifacts helped get the organization established.  
Tracy felt that by preserving Sausalito’s past, you can tell were its life came from;
through the objects and artifacts on display at the Historical Society you can get a picture of what Sausalito’s past was like, maybe even a glimpse into her future.
Over the years the Sausalito Historical Society became a known entity of the City.  The reputation of Jack Tracy as a fundraiser is well noted, as is his ability to be gifted with some of the real treasures that exist in the Historical Society today.  His lasting efforts to establish the Marinship display at the Bay model and his book Sausalito Moments In Time are just two of his marks that he left on the history of the town.
But Tracy would never forgive me if I did not finished the story about the Miwok Indians of Sausalito:
Shortly after the bodies of the Miwok Indians were discovered, Tracy contacted some of the spokespeople from the local Miwok Indian Tribe and asked them to come to Sausalito, to bless the found area and the remains which were re-entombed where they were located.
Tracy tells the story of how a young man and woman of the Miwok Indian tribe came to visit. along with an older woman who was their spirit leader.  When he asked permission to tape the interview, the young woman agreed, but smiled and said, “Some things are meant to be recorded and some things are not.”  After the members of the tribe had left, he sat down to listen to the tape; but to his surprise, there was nothing on it but Tracy saying, “testing, 1, 2, 3…”.
Sausalito has always had a reputation for strong-minded residents, people who take on projects for the town’s good and get them done. Stories like this tell the background of the town, how one person, with the help of his friends, could change the town’s historical path forever.
Because of his deeds the town felt it was proper to honor both Jack and his wife, the longtime City Clerk Janet Tracy, with the naming of a Sausalito street after them:  
Tracy Way

Tracy Way runs between El Portal and Anchor streets behind Vina del Mar Plaza.
Photo by Steefenie Wicks


A Native Son

by Mike Moyle

Sausalito recently lost one of its true native sons with the passing of Konrad Knudsen, known by all as Konnie.  Konnie’s life spanned 87 years of Sausalito’s history and touched the lives of many.

Konnie was born on the Fourth of July in 1927 at his parents’ home in the Waldo community where Marin City stands today.  At that time Waldo was an arc of just over twenty houses on the hillside, curving around the bayside marsh that is today the Gateway Shopping Center.  Two dairies, including one owned by Joe Bettencourt, the grandfather of Konnie’s future wife, Arlene, were located among the homes, and cows far outnumbered people.

Konnie had a lifelong love of the outdoors that stemmed from his boyhood in Waldo’s wide open spaces.  Here is a brief excerpt from his oral history, referred to below, in which he describes what it was like to grow up there:

“We would play in the barns, you know, and stuff today that you'd do, you'd go to jail for. You know. I mean they, they'd, whoever owned the dairy now would run you, run you off. But, it was really fun. You know, in the mornings we'd do that, and then go home to breakfast, and then we'd go play baseball until noon, and then after lunch we would go down to Waldo Point. There was a beach down there, and we'd swim. When we finally got paper routes, we'd swim until the papers came, and then we'd go deliver our papers, and go home and have dinner, and then go out and play "kick the can," or whatever, you know, until about nine o'clock, and then go home and start over again.”

Konnie had several different jobs in his early life, including working on several local dairies, and, for a brief time during World War II, as a pipefitter at the Marinship project.  He served in Germany in the Army during the Korean War and, after returning home, got a job with the Sausalito Post Office and worked there as a mailman until his retirement.

Although it may not have been obvious from his name, Konnie was also part of Sausalito’s large population of residents of Portuguese descent.  While Konnie’s father emigrated from Norway, his mother, May, was a member of a branch of the Bettencourt clan that came here from the Azores in the 1800’s.  Just to confuse things, Konnie’s wife, Arlene, was from an unrelated branch of the same Bettencourt family.  

Although he was known for many things, Konnie may be best remembered by generations of Sausalito’s youth and their parents for his active involvement with the town’s youth baseball program.   Konnie had a lifelong love of the game and was among those who helped to bring the Little League to Sausalito in 1954.  For many years he coached his beloved Salvage Shop Seals as well as other teams, and his baseball-isms, such as “Get your glove and go,” were well known.  Some of the most touching memories of Konnie came from his former players who recalled his unfailing cheerful attitude, encouragement and support.  It did not matter how skilled a kid might be – what Konnie wanted most was simply for someone to try.

When the Little League started in Sausalito, participation was limited to boys living within the city limits, which at that time only extended as far north as Nevada Street.  Konnie was instrumental in allowing children from Marin City, as well as interested girls, to play.

Konnie’s contributions to Sausalito’s baseball program were acknowledged when the baseball field at what today is Willow Creek Academy was dedicated in his name in the mid-90s.

Finally, Konnie was a dedicated family man.  He and Arlene raised seven children, and at the time of his passing they had 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  His legacy lives on in many forms.

The Sausalito Historical Society has in its collection a CD and transcript of an oral history of Konnie done by the Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Free Library, and Konnie is also featured in the IDESST Sausalito Portuguese Hall’s new Sausalito Portuguese Heritage Walking Tour (the tour Guidebook is available on the Hall’s website –  Both are well worth exploring.

Konnie Knudsen as young boy in Waldo, as a teenager on horseback and as an adult.

Photos courtesy of Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Free Library, and the Knudsen Family


Marinship’s Artistic Legacy

By Larry Clinton
Sausalito’s wartime shipyard, Marinship, sprang up almost overnight in 1942.  Then, after WWII, it disappeared just as suddenly.  The waterfront acreage, littered with abandoned landing craft, lifeboats and other surplus materiel, was to become the center of Sausalito’s waterfront artistic community.
In his book Sausalito: Moments in Time, Jack Tracy wrote:
“With the end of World War II and the closing of Marinship, Sausalitans turned their attention from the waterfront and concentrated on a return to normal, if such a return were possible.  Sausalito’s population quickly dropped to almost its prewar level of 3,500.  The streets and shops seemed deserted when compared to wartime hustle and bustle.  As in the rest of the country, shortages of manufactured goods and food rationing still existed, and unemployment was a major cause of concern. . . The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed only a portion of the sprawling facility for their operations, about forty-five acres including the administration building, the warehouse, outfitting docks, and ferry slip… Marinship was sold off piecemeal by sealed bid auctions… Several small businesses did soon open on the site.”
Donlon Arques, who had worked on contract at Marinship, later acquired surplus ships, shipyard land, and equipment, and began renting watercraft to artists and returning WWII veterans, many of whom were going to college on the GI Bill and needed low cost housing.  Ultimately, Arques controlled much of the postwar Marinship property along the Sausalito waterfront.
As Phil Frank wrote in the Historical Society book Houseboats of Sausalito, “The Arques boatyards became havens for sculptors, painters, jewelry makers, and bon vivants in the late 1940s and 1950s.  The beats of San Francisco’s North Beach came to consider Sausalito their summer home…”
A couple of large Marinship buildings went through dramatic changes in peacetime.  The Mold Loft and Yard Office, one of the largest buildings at Marinship, contained a giant open space for laying out templates on plywood. These templates were then slid down a ramp and taken to the plate shop where they were used over and over to mark the steel sheets that would become parts of the ships.  Postwar, the structure was renamed the Industrial Center Building and began leasing commercial space. Abstract impressionist Walter Kuhlman was the first artist to move in, in 1955, followed by many others, including Tim Rose, who became famous for his mobile sculptures.  Today the ICB, at Harbor Drive and Gate 5 Road, houses dozens of artists and artisans, and hosts open studio events twice a year.
The even larger Marinship warehouse covered 122,500 sq. ft. Railroad tracks ran along its dock area, bringing everything a ship would need, except plate steel and machinery.  Today it houses the Bay Model, and the surrounding property is the site of the Sausalito Art Festival, held annually over the Labor Day Weekend.
Other shipyard buildings became work spaces for many of the boatbuilders and maritime trades drawn to the area because of their proximity to harbors, suppliers, and affordable housing.  That tradition continues today, on a somewhat smaller scale.
I will be giving an illustrated talk on Marinship at the Sausalito Library, Friday September 19 at 7 PM.  And the Floating Homes community, which emerged from the remains of Marinship, will be honoring its artistic heritage during its annual Open Homes Tour Sept. 20.  For advance tickets, go to

Tim Rose’s ICB studio in the ‘60s.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society