Moments in Time
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
A celebration of those we’ve lost since our last issue
At times, working on this newsletter felt like attending a really fantastic party. The sort of celebration where everyone you meet is fascinating, and every conversation feels like a window opening to show a new a perspective of a familiar view.
After spending time thinking about the lives these nine Sausalitans and talking with those who knew them, I can say without reservation that the Sausalito Historical Society attracts the best sort people. Every individual profiled here was civic-minded and curious, enthusiastic about Sausalito’s history and generous with their knowledge. We were fortunate to count them among our volunteers, board members, and friends. Their legacy lives on.
This issue is by no means comprehensive. There are people we lost in 2018 and early 2019 who aren’t profiled here. But in this sampling, we hope we’ve captured a bit of the spirit of Sausalito, and the writers, artists, historians, politicians, and everyday Sausalitans who have helped carry that spirit into the 21st century.
Doris Lorraine Christman Berdahl
oct, 2, 1928 - sept, 3, 2018
Doris was an intellectual force in Sausalito, an astute observer and an avid reader who provided the public with insights into both history and current events.
As a reporter for the Marinscope in the 1970s and 80s, she covered a range of issues, including school district segregation, historic preservation, and tussles over the environmental impact of waterfront development.
In the late 1970s she worked on starting an educational and community access TV station. There, she did a weekly half- hour news program, “Agenda,” which covered highlights
of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. She also wrote feature articles for the Marin Council of Agencies and the Ecumenical Association for Housing newsletters.
Doris’ involvement in Sausalito’s civic life reflected her passion for history and the community. She served on the Sausalito Historical Landmarks Board, and helped write “Noteworthy Structures and Sites” in 1992. She also served on Sausalito’s General Plan Steering Committee in 1995.
Doris was active in the Sausalito Historical Society for more than four decades, writing the Society’s Marinscope column and serving on the board and as assistant editor for the newsletter, though as editor Margaret Badger recalls, “we both knew whom the real master journalist was!”
In 1997 she wrote a memo to Phil Frank about a proposal for the Ice House, which was being moved to the head of the boardwalk near the ferry landing. She suggested that the Ice House would “address the needs of our visitors and project the best possible image of Sausalito” as an overall visitor hospitality center with historical exhibits. She proposed that a task force with members from the City, Chamber, and local nonprofits collaborate on a successful public relations system.
Doris coordinated the Ice House activities for many years. There, her legacy lives on, providing tourists, local schoolchildren, and other visitors with access to the best possible Sausalito.
oct 9, 1939 - sept 22, 2018
Most people reading this newsletter are probably aware of Jack Tracy’s book, Sausalito: Moments in Time. Many probably own a well-thumbed copy. If you’re one of them, flip the book open and you’ll find a note from Jack Tracy, thanking “Wayne and Linda Bonnett, for encouraging me to put it down on paper.”
The Bonnetts did more than just encourage Tracy’s vision – they helped make it happen. Sitting Jack down in front of a tape recorder, they got him talking about Sausalito history. “Our function,” Linda told the Marinscope in 1983, “was to keep him on the track.” They then “transcribed it, unraveled it, and turned to researching it and filling in the gaps.”
A book designer, Linda Bonnett oversaw the layout of the book. She also decided to publish it here in Marin, so that Jack could stay close to the project. “The goal of a regular publisher is to sell books,” she explained. “Our goal was to create a family album for those who call Sausalito home.”
This passion for quality inspired the Bonnetts to start Windgate Press, a small publishing house dedicated to producing what Linda called “nice, friendly things,” books and prints featuring meticulously restored historical photographs that presented each image “as the photographer intended,” with every detail sharp.
Their work brought them to archives throughout California. Images were often unlabeled, but Linda was a talented detective, deciphering details that placed photos in context. “We like to work with raw collections where people don’t know what to do or how to proceed”, Publisher’s Weekly in 1989. “We like to sculpt books by doing the assembly and design ourselves.” Linda told Publisher’s Weekly in 1989.
Sculpture was an apt metaphor. Linda and Wayne met at the California College of Arts and Crafts, and she earned her Master’s in sculpture at the University of Northern Colorado. Linda taught art, and the pair lived in England for a time. When it was time to move back to the states, they chose Sausalito.
Both were very much involved with civic life, with Wayne serving on the City Council and the Planning Commission while Linda preferred to stay in the background, connecting with people behind the scenes. Though low-key, she was also persistent. When parts of the Marinship were threatened by development, Linda walked from one end of the waterfront to another, spreading word about the proposal and encouraging those impacted by it to get involved.
Days after Linda passed, her friend, then-mayor Joan Cox, adjourned the City Council in her honor, describing Linda as a “force of nature” who worked tirelessly for Sausalito. As Cox concluded, “she will be missed.”
feb. 9, 1923 - jan. 18, 2019
I looked down Dorothy’s driveway at 429 ½ Johnson Street not long after learning she was gone. I wanted a last glimpse of Dorothy Land – the calla lilies along the gravel-and-dirt tracks leading to her camper, her beloved lemon tree, the brown shingled house with skylights, the uneven terrain to the front door where, just inside, she parked her hiking boots. I looked, but when I saw the camper was gone, I didn’t unhook the gate. Better, I thought, to hold back and to remember.
I signed up for Dorothy’s Walkways of Sausalito walking tour in 1998, the year I moved to Sausalito. A small group of us gathered downtown once a week for two months and, if I remember correctly, it rained every time we met. Soon the group thinned to those willing to follow Dorothy up steep staircases, through mud, fast running streamlets and dripping trees. She never faltered, but she did laugh heartily when I conscientiously tried to take notes on a soggy scratch pad.
Over years, Dorothy’s interest in sharing her knowledge of the out-of-doors and of local history stimulated my interest in learning about Southern Marin. But I think what sticks with me most were our conversations about her cross country camping trips every summer to visit her sister in New England. As a free spirit, her eyes glowed at
the thought of firing up her camper, heading down familiar highways, sequestering in discovered camp grounds, learning the names of rivers and mountains and exploring new trails. She knew I’d practiced wanderlust in my life too and a quiet bond was formed.
Dorothy had a web of supporters, but some were far away. She was both stubbornly independent and accepting of help as needed. For Dorothy, to live was to walk or, second best, to vicariously enjoy watching others biking, walking, skipping, scootering up and down Sausalito hills and along the waterfront. Anything that showed some kick-in-the pants fun… Well, perhaps not “anything.” Dorothy was a Ranger on Mt. Tamalpais and a no-nonsense enforcer of rules when needed!
Most recently, Dorothy was a spirited member of the weekly group Oral Interpretation of Shakespeare offered through Sausalito Village. This adventure in get-it-right character portrayal under the experienced hand of actress/director Judy Holmes was an environment in which Dorothy delighted. On previous occasions, she had enjoyed acting and improvisation classes so Shakespeare oral readers were not surprised when she launched into St. Joan in Henry VI, Part One with such passion as “to stiffen the backbone of the hesitant Dauphin.”
It was a pleasure, Dorothy. Many thanks and good travels.
oct 10, 1933 - feb 21, 2018
Carol Hayes and her husband Allan married in 1958, moved to Sausalito, and in 1963 bought and remodeled the hillside home where they raised their two sons, Mark and Keith. One of the couple’s first friends here in town was the colorful artist Enid Foster, who introduced them to the lively Sausalito art scene that revolved around her.
In 1980, Carol started Summerhouse Antiques, at first part of a collective in San Anselmo. A trip to Santa Fe sparked a lifetime interest in Southwestern Indian pottery, and the business gradually evolved into Summerhouse Indian Art.
Carol joined the Historical Society Board in 2008. She developed the first training manual for research room docents, and her family donated equipment which greatly advanced the Society’s ability to scan and catalogue archival materials
Eventually, the couple began working together on a book about their old friend Enid Foster. Before the book was finished, Carol died suddenly and peacefully after a day spent at the Marin Indian Art Show. Allan was able to finish the book, Enid Foster: Sausalito’s Greatest Forgotten Artist, out now from Roundtree press. One passage evokes the couple’s ongoing love affair with their home town:
If you think 1950s suburbia was all about the mom-in-the- kitchen, father-knows-best stereotype, you didn’t experience Enid’s Sausalito. It was an antic, thrill-a-minute amalgam of bohemian and Beat-Period artists, writers and actors, some of whom became household names, alongside a large gay community at a time when San Francisco’s Castro District was still a colorless working-class neighborhood. We’d heard Sausalito called ‘Fire Island West,’ which wasn’t meant as a compliment. In a 1961 feature, Holiday magazine dismissed Sausalito as ‘a hotbed of clangorous, vehemently dissident individuals with un-American beards.’
Nevertheless, we settled there in 1958. Instead of clangor, we found a welcoming town. We could walk to everything, day or night, we could be whoever we wanted to be and look however we wanted to look, and no one would object or even notice. And we found enchantment every day.
feb 26, 1922 - jan 5, 2019
Running a busy home with five boys and two girls is quite an accomplishment, especially when you have an open door for other kids in the neighborhood who love to come to your warm, welcoming home.
Starting out in Omaha, Nebraska, Cis met her husband at Creighton University. They moved to Sausalito after the Second World War. She loved the town and said later that she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It had a wonderful small town feeling and was a great place to raise her kids. In fact the birth of at least two of her sons made headlines in the Sausalito News.
While her children were growing up she became involved in organizations relating to their education and activities, such as the PTA and Scouts. Later she became very active in the Salvage Shop, which sold donated clothing and household items as well as new items given from local stores, with proceeds going to charity. It was an all-volunteer operation with no real “manager” but Cis was often the one whom the other workers went to when they had a problem or question. Sometimes when a problem was brought to her attention, she would say “Get a grip, old girl!”
Cis joined the Sausalito Woman’s Club in 1964 and was involved in many activities over the years. She became President in 1982. One of her passions was bridge and she was quite a whiz, though one of her friends said she was also very patient when playing with new members to the group so they would learn and feel comfortable. In fact, she was a mentor to many of the women and encouraged them to take on roles when they were unsure. Her phrase, “You can do it!” encouraged them to say yes and expand their responsibilities in the SWC. She was also involved in the St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Parish and served as President of the Woman’s Guild in 1972-74.
Friends remember Cis as positive force and always had a way of making things work out. She had a calming influence on people and situations. Though she was a political junkie at the state and national level, she didn’t seem to get involved in local politics. Perhaps she decided neutrality was best for the community she loved so much.
Cis Muldoon was very Irish and much loved for her generosity of spirit and fun loving personality.
Donald Keith Olsen
nov 11, 1931 - jan 25, 2019
Don Olsen fell in love with Sausalito the first time he saw it, as an Army engineer from Oklahoma taking in the sights before shipping off to Korea. Sausalito’s hills and waterfront made an impression. When his military service ended, he and his bride, college sweetheart Sandra, moved to Sausalito. They bought a house on Alexander Avenue and became good friends with their neighbors, often sharing dinners together. Don established his architecture, and set about to serve his new community. Sausalito’s beauty set the tone. “We live in a lush, green environment,” he told the Marinscope in 1971. “The buildings therefore should be quiet and soft.”
His firm worked on many local building projects, including an earlier remodel of the police and fire stations, the Caledonia dentistry building, a renovation of the Casa Madrona, and the redesign of some buildings that are now part of our history, such as the Corner Drugstore and the Creative Arts Store. He wasn’t afraid to go small, and had a hand in designing everything from “buildings to garden gates and signs,” leaving a lasting imprint on the character Sausalito’s streets and byways.
He was in favor of bringing people to the water, making it more accessible to both locals and tourists. In the 1970s, he worked on the Open Waterfront Plan to develop the land along the Bay for residents and visitors alike. As a former visitor himself, Don thought “tourists should be able to leave saying, ‘I’d love to live here.’”
Don sometimes had trouble remembering names, so he would call people “hotshot” to cover his forgetfulness. His quick smile, charm, and his quirky sense of humor made it work.
Don liked to view Sausalito on foot. Through the end of 2018, he still took his daily walks, always carrying a notebook, an architectural scale, and a pencil so he could jot down or sketch any idea that came to his mind.
Don was well respected in the community both for his architectural work and his community spirit. As he told the Marinscope, “I like people and I enjoy helping them solve their problems.”
aug 19, 1925 - nov 17, 2018
How does one write about Robin Sweeny’s countless contributions to Sausalito in 300 words or less?
Robin, who died last November at the age of 93 and was first and foremost an exemplary citizen and friend. She devoted a lifetime in service to others, as a mother, surgical nurse, city council member, and a tireless volunteer to dozens of community organizations.
Robin was a change-maker. Eighty years after the Sausalito was incorporated Robin became the City’s first female Mayor and, 15 years later, Sausalito’s first female Rotarian. Her opinion as an elder stateswoman mattered to her fellow citizens and to successive City Councils long after she left public office.
Robin was also a peacemaker—how else could one explain her ability to serve a record 28 consecutive years on the sometimes contentious Sausalito City Councils? Nevertheless, her diplomatic and down-to-earth demeanor belied a passion for serving the downtrodden and neglected sectors of our community.
She was a longtime volunteer at the Open Door food ministry and a founder of the Southern Marin Hot Meals program. Robin also defended Sausalito’s maritime heritage and was a longtime Sausalito Historical Society board member and docent.
Ever humble, Robin proudly chaired the garbage detail for the Sausalito Art Festival for years. Robin’s singular claim to fame was that her eponymous park in Sausalito was always called “Nana’s Park” by her granddaughter.
While Robin Sweeny Park may keep her name alive for decades to come, her true legacy is deeply imbedded in the fabric of Sausalito. She serves as an incomparable role model for selfless service, decency and steadfast commitment to preservation that we all should emulate.
City Council members Robin Sweeny, Carol Peltz, Fritz Warren and Sally Stanford, July 4, 1981.
dec 4, 1947 - march 19, 2019
On Tuesday March 19, Galilee Harbor residents held an impromptu gathering by the Issaquah Pilot Houses at the harbor entrance, toasting the memory of resident Steefenie Wicks: photographer, writer, historian, and treasured member of the community. The Pilot Houses were special to Steefenie, who had been instrumental in their preservation.
Born in St. Louis, Steefenie came to California in 1969, bringing with her Tom Wicks, the love of her life. The two married and settled in the Haight while she studied photography and cinema at San Francisco State. Upon graduation, she became an intern and archivist for photographer Imogen Cunningham.
After falling in love again, this time with a boat named Tiger Lilly, the pair moved with their daughters to Gate 3 in Sausalito. Steefenie became involved with Art Zone, and with the waterfront community’s struggles to preserve its maritime and artistic heritage. The pair moved to Galilee Harbor in 1984, joining that community’s involvement in the so-called “Houseboat Wars.”
During the 1990’s Steefenie came into possession of some 350 glass-plate negatives salvaged from a photography studio that had been the center of the San Francisco Greek community before and after the earthquake and fire of 1906. She had this historical treasure restored, and shared it with the Greek community, leading to several exhibits in the Bay Area and overseas. She donated the negatives to the San Francisco Public Library, where some were used in the recently published book, Greeks in San Francisco.
After Tom passed in 2011, Steefenie delved further into research, producing a wealth of interviews and articles that ran in the Sausalito Historical Society’s MarinScope column. She also became more involved with the Society’s activities, recording oral histories, serving as a docent in the Research Room, and at the Ice House. Elected to the Historical Society Board in 2014, she chaired successful fund-raising Galas, curated the No Name Bar exhibit, and served a term as Vice President, bringing her trademark verve, energy and panache to every role.
In 2016 Steefenie joined the Sausalito Woman’s Club, performing memorably as “the Creatrix” in the Jinx, serving on the Club’s board and bringing characteristic creativity and vigor to the Club’s activities.
As fellow MarinScope columnist Larry Clinton noted, “There were so many amazing characters in Sausalito, she was interested in all of them!” But now, she herself has entered into that pantheon of unique characters who will inspire future generations to come and find a home in Sausalito,where they may live and create their life’s dreams.
–tom hoover & larry clinton
John Harris Wilmer
oct 2, 1947 - feb 1, 2019
A stroll down Caledonia Street in the last 21 years often led you to a unique shop and warehouse with art, restored furniture, objects from the past and a box or two of LP records out on the sidewalk.
The John Wilmer Studio at 333 B Caledonia had an open door, and the owner welcomed passersby most days of the year. Sometimes John would be downstairs with his two shelties nearby. At other times he’d be upstairs working on a project with the sander humming and call out “be down in a minute.”. He loved to talk with people and was happy to have them drop by just to chat. John enjoyed telling stories and trying out his latest jokes.
John enjoyed traveling, golfing, playing guitar and hunting for bargains at estate sales. His ultimate passion was creating art. He was a printmaker, photographer and painter. He lived in several places during his adult life, including New York, where he was part of the art community. That’s where he developed an interest in refinishing antique furniture, which turned into another facet of his career. He became friends with Sausalito historian Phil Frank over their love of reworking antique furniture.
John Wilmer watched the development of Caledonia Street over the years. He saw it transform from mainly resident-servicing businesses, such as nail salons and dry cleaners, to include a Michelin starred restaurant and some high-end shops. John enjoyed his studio being known as a cornerstone in the neighborhood. He encouraged residents and tourists to drop in, say hello and ask about his latest project. Susan Frank commented that he and his studio had quite an impact on Caledonia Street, bringing an energy that brought it to life. He created a residential feeling and made Caledonia part of the neighborhood.
John was more about encouraging community than making money. His thought was to make his end of Caledonia like Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, his young children’s’ favorite program. Part of John Wilmer Studio lives on at 333 B Caledonia at the studio now known as Tivoli.
–lauri flynn & steefenie wicks
On Friday, May 11, the SHS debuted the exhibit “No Name Bar, the Wonder Years” as curated by the late Steefenie Wicks. The exhibit was kicked off by an event at the Sausalito library, where No Name Bar owner Neil Davis , staff and regulars regaled the crowd with stories from the bar’s glory days.
We marched in the IDESST and 4th of July parades, both times wearing the fashions of 1893 in honor of the quasquicentennial anniversary or Sausalito’s incorporation (that’s the 125th, if you’re not fond of tongue-twisters).
In September, we kicked off the “Sausalito that Never Was” Exhibit with a chamber of commerce mixer, featuring appetizers donated by Angelino’s and Sushi Ran. Also in September, a cast of thousands performed “Sausalito History in Ten Minutes” as written by Jerry Taylor at Sausalito’s 125th Birthday Celebration.
In November SHS co-sponsored a look at the life and films of Sterling Hayden at the library. Also in November, SHS board member James Scriba curated “The Sausalito Renaissance and the birth of Mid Century Modern in Sausalito” at the Bay Model. Scriba was also behind the night of Beatnik poetry and jazz at Firehouse Coffee.
In January, we co-hosted a celebration at The Pines in Sausalito with the Ice House Plaza Project on the 11th and a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ice House Plaza on the 18th. Later that month, we co-hosted Mike Moyle’s talk on “The Waldo Grade: Highway Through the Hills” at the Sausalito Library.
In March, we launched our “Enid Foster” exhibit, as curated by Scriba in concert with Allan Hayes. Allan and his late wife Carol are the authors of a book on Enid, their friend, neighbor, and Sausalito’s Greatest Forgotten Artist. Enid Foster: Artist, Sculptor, Poet, Playwright, Creative Force, Ringleader, Cultural Icon is available at the Ice House and at Book Passage
Letter from the president – April 2019
I joke sometimes about the number of both proverbial and actual “hats” I wear (and costumes): 4th of July, Sausalito Art Festival, Halloween, on stages in Sausalito and Tam Valley, with the Sausalito Historical Society as part of our 3rd grade program in the Sausalito-Marin City School District.
In April, the Sausalito Woman’s Club commemorated the 100th anniversary of the building of their Clubhouse. I was honored to join several members of the Club (all women) in a short historical drama about the designing, funding, and building the Clubhouse. I portrayed Frederick Robbins, president of the Bank of Sausalito 100 years ago. Grace McGregor Robbins, an early member of the Club, had passed away a few years prior. In her memory, Frederick donated the land for the building, at the intersection of San Carlos, Central and Sunshine, and matched the final donations, dollar-for-dollar. For his generosity, he was made an honorary member of the Sausalito Woman’s Club!
At that time, 1919, the Bank of Sausalito was at 1035 Water Street. Within a few years, they built the handsome building we know as the Wells Fargo Bank, just a few doors south. Their former home became Sausalito’s City Hall, Police Department and Library. Water Street became Bridgeway, and the buildings were renumbered. (The City Offices moved to the former Central School building in 1975).
A few months ago, representatives of Wells Fargo visited the Phil Frank Research Room, yes, in City Hall, and with our suggestions, Wells Fargo historians and artists created a stunning mural in the former Bank of Sausalito. I urge you to visit. And when the SHS takes the 3rd graders on a historical/architectural tour of Sausalito, we’ll have something new/old/historical to show them.
I treasure these four buildings in this letter, probably just as you do; and I’m thankful for the donors, builders, preservationists, public servants and folks like us who have given us our beautiful home town.
On Monday, May 15th, join us for the SHS Annual Membership Meeting at Campbell Hall, 70 Santa Rosa Ave in Sausalito. In addition to our yearly activity report and the election of new members to the SHS Board, the event will include a trip across the street to Christ Church for a look at the church’s recent historical restorations, including the renovation of the church’s 1891 Bergstrom organ as well as presentations Christ Church Rector Chip Barker Larrimore, SHS Board President Jerry Taylor, and other church members. Be sure to stay for the video of intrepid historian Phil Frank going up the Christ Church bell tower. If you haven’t received your invitation (including bios of nominated board members), more information is available on our website.
On Sunday, May 19th, join SHS, the Woman’s Club, Galilee Harbor, and the rest of Steefanie’s family as we celebrate the life of our late board vice president, prolific columnist, photographer, and creative force about town Steefenie Wicks. The event will held at the Sausalito Women’s Club at 120 Central Ave and will begin at 1 PM. Parking is limited, but there will be shuttle service from the commuter lot at the top of Spencer Ave, from Christ Church, and from St. Mary Star of the Sea. Shuttles will run from 12:30 to 1:30, and then from 3:30 to 4:30.
The theme of our fall newsletter will be “Back to School.” We’ll be taking a look at the SHS School Program, and featuring stories of school days in Sausalito. If you or a family member attended Sausalito/Marin City schools and you’d like to contribute a story or photo, please drop by the research room during our regular hours, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Back to School” in the subject line.