By Steefenie Wicks, Sausalito Historical Society
It’s safe to call Jerry Taylor Mr. Sausalito, not only because he has lived here all of his life but because he also still resides in the family home since 1949.
That was when his family purchased the home on 3rd Street in Old Town. Taylor has been part of many of Sausalito’s civic organizations and is known for his appearances in costume at the Sausalito Art Festival. When needed he will dress up in a turkey costume for the Lion’s Club to help sell roasted turkey legs or in a toga to help sell Caesar salads for the Sausalito Nursery School. He has worked with the Sausalito Historical Society’s schools’ programs as a turn of the century train conductor. Many a time he has been approached by a young student outside of the school who wants to see the large watch he carries when he plays the conductor. He considers himself an entertainer at heart.
“I’m always being recognized even when I’m not in costume”, he says, “but the best was one day when I was driving down Lombard in the City with my daughter; this car pulled next to us the two teenage boys on the back seat one yelled out,’Hey there’s Caesar’ to which the other replied, no that’s not it’s the ‘Turkey.’ Now that’s recognition.”
Taylor is open to telling about his childhood in Sausalito where he went to school with the same kids that he played little league baseball with. “When I go to speak at a City Council meeting,” he says, “I’m reminded of how that room was my 4th grade school room; it’s so familiar that I’m at ease to speak.” He attended Tam High School, then went on to college at U.C. Berkeley. He also played the glockenspiel in the Cal Band. Every 4th of July Parade you can see him conducting the Cal Band as they march down the streets of Sausalito. As a child he figured that all towns were like Sausalito, where everyone knew everyone else. When he walks downtown today he doesn’t see the T-shirt shops or the tourist shops, instead he still sees the shops that were there when he was a child. Shops where he brought candy or delivered papers as a paperboy.
When Betsy Stroman’s book “The Art and Life of Jean Varda” was published he was delighted to read it because he knew most of the people in the book. The families, the children, the places were part of his life as he grew up.
Today Taylor is the president of the Sausalito Historical Society, a group that he feels quite at home with because of his own history in Sausalito.
His latest project with the Historical Society has been working on what’s soon to be called the Ice House Plaza.
Taylor recalls, “I became involved in this project shortly after the death of Bea Siedler, who at that time was president of the Sausalito Foundation. The Ice House was the original Icehouse in Sausalito -- as a child I can remember going with my mother to get ice. You placed a coin in the slot on the side of the building, then out came a block of ice. There was a box in my mom’s kitchen where the ice was then placed for cooling purposes. Eventually, the place became the office of architect Michael Rex, but Rex did not own the property where it sat. This property was sold, so Rex sold the Icehouse building to the City for one dollar, but it had to be moved.”
He continues, “Around this time the 100th birthday of Sausalito took place. The Sausalito Foundation had taken over an abandoned building space downtown, and with the help of cartoonist Phil Frank they put together a display of the history of Sausalito. Soon it became apparent that the display would have to be placed elsewhere because the building had been sold. Phil Frank came up with the idea of moving the Icehouse downtown to its present location, then placing the historical display inside for residents and tourists to view. Since then it has become known as the Historical Society’s Visitor Center.”
Taylor goes on to say, “There had always been a plan to expand the area where the Icehouse sits, to make it a plaza where strollers could enjoy the surrounding area. Plans were drawn up in 2012 but then we had to go through a process of contacting the downtown businesses to see how they perceived this area, then new plans were drawn up to accommodate their wishes.”
Taylor continues with a little background on this area that was once all railroad activity up to 1940. After WWII when the tracks were taken out this area became open space, which is how the Icehouse became placed there. He goes on to explain how the new plaza will have tiles laid in place that will resemble railroad rails that were once there.
Also, they have contacted San Francisco historian Carl Nolte, to write about the history of the area; his work will be on display in the new Icehouse Plaza.
Taylor is quick to mention that since the death of Phil Frank his wife Susan has stepped forward to fill the void that he left. Her efforts to raise funds to see this project through are known to all who have participated in getting this project built.
In closing Taylor says that’s what Sausalito has always been about, people coming together for the good of the community. “I’m always proud to tell people, I’m from Sausalito, I’m a Sausalitan.”