2013 SHS MarinScope Columns

Weekly history columns in the Sausalito MarinScope are provided from the archives of the Sausalito Historical Society.

Written by members and friends of the Society these columns provide an in depth look into many unusual and little known facts and stories about the people and places of Sausalito.  

El Monte Hotel

Friday, November 15, 2013

By Jack Tracy

The El Monte Hotel,  c. 1897, above the “Pond,” which is now Vina del Mar Plaza.  An advertisement for Baldwin Jewelry in San Francisco hangs below street level   

One of the oldest and most widely known hotels in Sausalito was the El Monte. The El Monte began its hotel life as the Bon Ton around 1878, although parts of the structure may have been built prior to 1869. It was like many grand hotels of the era, catering to the wealthy class with accommodations for servants in adjoining small rooms. The suites were designed to encourage lengthy stays, and the management frowned on overnight guests. But like many "wooden palaces" of that time, the Bon Ton struggled financially while keeping up a facade of gracious standards for the likes of Claus Spreckels, the Crockers, and Robert Dollar. Under different managements over the years, the hotel was called the Clifton House, the El Monte, the Terrace, and the Geneva Hotel, and became a boarding house shortly before it was demolished in 1904.

It was under the ownership of Australian John E. Slinkey that the hotel, then known as the El Monte, acquired its greatest fame. Slinkey may not have lived up to his name literally, but he was crafty and energetic. He had a hand in almost everything that happened in Sausalito in the 1880s, and his El Monte was a gathering place for political and social groups. The guest list read like a Who's Who of San Francisco, and Slinkey catered to the guest's every whim. He even installed a bowling alley exclusively for the use of ladies. Many British and other visitors stayed at the El Monte as the first step to becoming permanent Sausalito residents.

This excerpt is from Jack Tracy’s seminal Sausalito history, “Moments in Time.” It is available at the Ice House historical exhibit and visitors’ center, 780 Bridgeway.

The Origins of Sausalito Boulevard

Friday, November 15, 2013

The following story is taken from Jack Tracy’s book “Moments in Time.”

In 1885 Major Orson C. Miller and his wife moved from San Francisco to Sausalito, like so many others, with a plan in mind. Miller found title to the old moribund Saucelito Land & Drydock Company in the hands of a savings and loan society in San Francisco, and by September of 1887 the two had consummated a deal. Miller picked up all the unsold land in Old Town for $25,000.

He immediately set to work, surveying new streets and extending old ones further up the hillsides. He set up an auction house at the corner of Richardson and West Street and published a new map of available lots under the new corporate name: The Sausalito Bay Land Company. Miller’s new map of 1888 shows Sausalito Boulevard for the first time, a sweeping semicircle with panoramic views extending from New Town to the Pacific Yacht Club lands [The Trident, today]. Sausalito Boulevard, with gentle grades suitable for horse-drawn wagons, was the key in revving up interest in Old Town. Central Avenue was also graded as a link between unsold Old Town lots and the lands of the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company. The new roads made Old Town more accessible by land. Previously, the only passage was the rock-strewn rough beach called Water Street, which was indeed water at high tide.

Sausalito Boulevard high above Old Town c1890. Courtesy Sausalito Historical Society.

“Sausalito: Moments in Time” is published by Windgate Press. It is available at the Ice House, 780 Bridgeway.

A Meeting of Minds: Alan Olson and Murray Hunt

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

By Steefenie Wicks

“A Yachting Party:
Captain Mathew Turner, a well-known shipbuilder of Benicia, recently extended to his friends, an invitation on board his brigantine the GALILEE.  The guests had a delightful cruse for a week, visiting many points of interest. As fine entertainers, Captain and Mrs. Turner cannot be challenged.”

Murray Hunt (front) and Alan Olson. Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Murray Hunt (front) and Alan Olson.
Photo by Steefenie Wicks

 The above is from a newspaper article printed in Benicia in the late 1890’s.  The ship GALILEE, finished in February 1891, made her first runs to Papeete, Tahiti in 22 ½ days and averaged 28 ½ days in 21 consecutive trips.
A few years ago I was able to bring together two men with one thing in common, their personal love and respect for the ship builder Mathew Turner. They were Alan Olson of the educational Tall Ship Society and Murray Hunt, the great-step grandson of Mathew Turner.  Recently, I sat down with Murray and Alan to talk about Mathew Turner and the new tall ship that is being built by Alan’s organization.

Murray Hunt, a very sharp and witty 95 year old, is the great step-grandson of Mathew Turner.  He has for the last few years complied a book on Turner and has filled it with family information and photos of Turner in both Benica and his home in San Francisco. Murray explains that Captain Turner was the second husband of his great grandmother, Ashbeline Mary Smith Rundle: “I grew up with stories of Captain Turner and I wish I had taken more interest in them but he was kind of like the family ‘hero’.  A family man, he married my great grandmother after her husband died. He raised her children as his and made sure they each had a fine education and even named ships that he built after them.”
Murray recalls that the schooner DOLLY was named after his grandmother Charlotte Jane Rundle in 1897 and in 1882 the schooner EVA was named after his great aunt Eva Turner Rundle.  Then in 1889 Turner built another schooner called EVA and this one was named after his mother, Eva Turner Chapman.

I asked Murray what he thought of Alan’s new project, the building of the ship GALILEE, and he said, “It’s wonderful and I’m just glad that I’m alive and can be part of this wonderful piece of maritime history.”

Later, I asked Alan, why the GALILEE? His response was straightforward:  “When the idea of building a tall ship came about, my organization and I looked around at all the ships that had been built in this area and we kept coming back to the most prolific ship builder of that time, Mathew Turner.  Once we started looking into the Turner boats, he built and designed over 240 wooden sailing ships in his lifetime; it became clear that our choice would be to build the GALILEE.”
Murrayt went on to say, “In her day the GALILEE was the fastest ship designed for transport. Her speed made her a natural for the U.S. Postal service, cargo delivery service and just plain good and safe sailing.  We hope to bring her back and achieve some of that old history that the vessel became known for.

“This GALILEE, will be built from scratch and we hope it will only take between 18 to 20 months, with the help of students and volunteer carpenters.   Currently, my organization, Call of the Sea, takes out around 4,000 students on the Bay in a year.  We are hoping we can take out between 10 to 12 thousand students to teach them about the most important feature of where we live, the water.”

Olson’s plan is to design, build and rig the ship with the same material and methods that Turner used, although the new vessel will have a motor, new electronics and many modern features to help make her journeys a little more comfortable.  Sailing and comfort do go together and Olson, who has skippered the 40 foot cat AWAKENING, the 70 foot brigantine STONE WITCH,  the 54 foot schooner MARAME and numerous other vessels, seems to know what he talking about. Currently, he’s captain of the 100-year-old ocean going tug MIRENE, Stewart Brand’s liveaboard home.
He built his first boat when he was 22 in Minneapolis.  She was a 40-foot catamaran and he sailed her down the Mississippi and into the Caribbean.  He says he always had a calling that seemed to lead him to the sea.  He and Murray start to differ here because when I asked Murray Hunt if he had the same love of sailing he shook his head in reply; it seems he gets seasick.

Hunt goes on to say, “My first water experience was mostly fresh water kayaking. I joined the Sierra Club River Touring section on the Peninsula when I was living in Menlo Park.  We had a small group that liked to kayak together and we called ourselves the Loma Prieta Paddlers.  We did kayak trips on all the coastal and Foothill Rivers and even did some kayak surfing in Santa Cruz and Bolinas.

 “I envy Alan and what he has accomplished but I’m glad to be a little part of this project. It’s such a great tribute to my great step-grandfather Mathew Turner and for our families. “
Alan adds, “This project helps to maintain the maritime history that we are not only part of but share a duty in keeping this art of ship building alive for our future sailors.”

The brigantine keel-laying ceremony takes place October 19 from 1 to 3 pm at 2330 Marinship Way.

The Old Abandoned Mine

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

By Larry Clinton

The imposing structure on Whaler’s Cove in 1882 is the Saucelito Smelting Works.

In the 1870s, “there was a brief flurry of excitement in Old Town, when manganese was discovered in the hills west of town,” according to Jack Tracy’s Sausalito history book, Moments in Time.  According to Tracy, “The ore found in the rock outcroppings was rich enough to justify small-scale mining. Tunnels were dug near the springs between present-day Prospect Avenue and Sausalito Boulevard.  Henry Eames, an opportunistic inventor, built an ore reduction plant at the foot of Main Street to process the manganese ore.  By 1880 the Saucelito Smelting Works was producing about fifty tons of black oxide annually, hardly enough to make Sausalito a mining center.”

But complications soon arose.  According to Wayne and Linda Bonnett, publishers of Tracy’s Book, “the richest (or easiest to dig) deposits were above the head of Main Street where the springs are. Tunnels were dug all over the place. Naturally, the tunnels quickly and constantly filled with water. When they were abandoned by 1893, the tunnels were sealed. (Some of these sealed tunnels contributed to the landslide in 1982.) The mining operation became a rock quarry, supplying much of the chert blocks that make up the residential rock walls in the area.”

According to the Sausalito News of February, 1893, the property where the smelter had been located was sold to J. Lowder who would build the Walhalla Restaurant there (later morphing into Sally Stanford’s Valhalla).

“The existing tunnel, however, was not sealed up,” report Wayne Bonnett.  “By then it had become an outlet for the springs. It drained spring water from the still unbuilt lots above Sausalito Boulevard and Prospect. The city around 1910 ran overhead drain pipes from the tunnel to a drain on Sausalito Boulevard (still in use) and the iron door was installed to keep kids and others from going inside.

“Over the years, the city maintained the tunnel as a drain, keeping it from collapse as needed. Still, water seeping into it drips from overhead and runs down the ramp portion of Sausalito Boulevard that runs above the tunnel. The city workers would, from time to time, clear weeds from around the iron door, but the outflow usually was a polluted mud hole, convenient only to passing dogs. Paul Meserve and Dale Hawkins were landscape architects and city planners who lived near the spring at 494 Sausalito Boulevard for many years (Paul was on the Planning Commission in the 1970s). They voluntarily cleared the weeds and planted flowers, pickleweed, and shrubs along Sausalito Boulevard, including the spring area.

“When Dale and Paul died in the early 1980s, Sanford and Violeta Autumn and Linda and I decided that the spring would make a fitting memorial for Meserve and Hawkins for their many works on behalf of Sausalito. Sanford Autumn designed it and did the rock work, lining the catch basin in front of the iron door, and making the little waterfalls that seem to tumble naturally from the entrance.

“When the spring entrance project was completed in 1987, we installed the little plaque and held a block party on the driveway ramp across from the spring for residents who lived nearby. For many years after, Violeta and Sanford clipped the grass, cleared the drain, and generally kept the place looking tidy. It needs regular maintenance because the spring-fed water grasses grow so rapidly and the ponds silt up easily. City workers, from time to time, clear the area.”

The tunnel, somewhat overgrown at present, can be viewed on the uphill side of the 500 block of Sausalito Boulevard, just below Crescent.  As Wayne Bonnett puts it, “The tunnel is a footnote to Sausalito history, a remnant of a time when people mainly looked for ways to exploit Sausalito rather than enjoy it.”

Joyce Remak: An Individual in a City of Individuals

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

by Steefenie Wicks

Joyce Remak, who passed away last month, played an important role in mid 20th-century Sausalito, along with her husband Bill.  

Joyce Remak relaxing in Sausalito.  Photo by Steefenie Wicks

Joyce was born Ursel Mosenthal in Eisenach, Germany on October 20, 1920.  She emigrated to America in 1939 where she settled with her family in Kew Gardens, New York.  She had been trained, as a children’s nurse in England and this was to become her profession in the United States.   

Bill was the founder of S.A.M. (Sausalito Artists and Merchants) and was the talent behind the MarinScope column, “Thaddeus Tigger” in the 70s.   Joyce was very involved with the educational side of Sausalito.  They had no children of their own but were very strong supporters of the Sausalito Nursery School and the Sausalito – Marin City School system.
The following memoir is from an interview that I did with the couple in October, 1990:
Recalling how she got here, Joyce said, “I was living in New York at the time, the year was 1954 and I came out here for a vacation.

“I remember that the first night I was here my friend from San Francisco brought me for dinner to Sausalito.   I was so impressed I thought that I was back in Italy and I decided then and there that this is where I would live.   I never went back to New York and I was able to get a job in San Francisco and every weekend I would come to Sausalito and walk around the streets and meet the people … not the tourists, the locals.

“In the spring of 1954 I met Bill Remack, I brought him to Sausalito, told him that this is where we would live.  Then in 1956 we were married, we lived in the Marina district in San Francisco.  For two years we saved money, every weekend we would come to Sausalito, eat at the Glad Hand restaurant where most of the local artists worked.  At that time you could get a good lobster dinner for $3.50 and hear all of the local gossip.  Because we came every weekend the locals started to get to know us, soon we were told about this house for sale.  It was not expensive but for us then it was a lot of money but we were able to put the funds together, and purchased the house for $21,000.”
Bill opened up a 5 and Dime Store on Bridgeway in the 1960s, it was located where the restaurant Winship used to be (it’s now a burger place).

He was very involved in the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce which, along with the social life that they were being introduced too was the beginning of their move into town politics.

“Sausalito is an educational experience,” Joyce would say.  “You could always meet people here who knew more than you did if you were willing to get out, shake a few hands. But you did need to have a bit of a thick skin while you are doing this.  Take for instance the Sausalito Nursery School -- the parties that they use to have were the real social events in this town. People who had kids, people who did not have kids, all got together supporting the school and helping fund many of their projects.

“On Thursday nights you could go to the movies where you could see two movies for the price of one.  Or you could go to the City Council meeting, that was always better than the movies.  That was when City Hall was on Bridgeway, the jail and Council meeting room were connected.

“In order to get to the jail you had to go through the Council meeting room so on Thursday night you not only got to hear what was going on in town but you also got to see who was being arrested.”

Joyce’s volunteer work included the Sausalito/Marin City school programs and helping Sausalito artists produce the first of many local art fairs where at that time only Sausalito residents could participate.  Having spent her early days in Sausalito at the Glad Hand, she wanted to give back to them; special events became a part of that process.
I asked her who was her favorite Sausalito Mayor?

“Sally Stanford, without a doubt, she could look at you, in five minute she could tell you just what she thought of you and she did.  Both Bill and I worked on her campaign to be Mayor; Bea Siedler was a big part of that campaign.  Sally’s campaign slogan was: ‘I’m running the largest restaurant in Sausalito, it’s a business.  I know who’s honest and who’s not and I’ll run your business for you.’  But she always felt that she lacked the one thing that she really wanted, that was to be accepted by the ladies at the Sausalito Woman’s Club.

“So, I became a member of the Woman’s Club, then I wanted to get Sally in but each time she was black-balled.  Years later I realized that one of Sally’s girls had married, was now a member of the Club, and that was why Sally could never become a member. No matter, Sally was on Council till her death.  Only in Sausalito.”
Joyce’s family is planning a memorial service for the end of this month in Santa Rosa.

The Art Festival and the Voodoo Do

Friday, September 13, 2013

By Larry Clinton

While schlepping garbage at the Art Festival on Labor Day weekend, I got to wondering about how this whole thing got started.  At the Historical Society’s Research Room, I found some old publications from 1959, which gave me an idea of how far the Festival has come.

In August of that year, a periodical called Marin This Month reported that Sausalito’s fifth Outdoor Art Festival was scheduled for the weekend of August 8 and 9.

Two hundred artists were slated to participate.  “Democratically,” stated the article, the festival would include “hobby painters, many of whom display their efforts for the first time. Prices of paintings range from $5 to $500.”
According to Marin This Month, in 1959 the festival was non-juried, “on the theory that juries tend to uniformity in taste and reflect too specifically the judges. For this show each artist may display whatever among his work he wishes; the general public decides the merits in each particular rapport between artist and purchaser.”Entertainment included folk and jazz singers, poets, dancers and performances by the Sausalito Little Theatre summer program and Les Abbott’s Gate Theatre Players.

The publication noted that the previous year’s festival “broke all records for such shows in Marin County -- over 25,000 people thronged Sausalito, to the delight of artists and merchants alike.” Admission in those days was free.

Meanwhile, down on the waterfront, another outdoor event was offering alternative entertainment,
“Rakishly named the Voodoo Do,” according to Marin This Month. Entrepreneurs of the Voodoo Do were members of the Sausalito Preservation Association, “a group recently formed to protect the rights of waterfront residents. (‘If legal battles fail, maybe witchcraft will prevail,’ murmured one waterfronter.)

Phyllis Diller during her Purple Onion days.
Photo from Google Images

The Do was held at Gate 3 opposite the Nevada Street bus stop and featured an open air dance ("Come dance a Zom-balino").  Other entertainment included folk singers and dancers,  jazz bands and something called “boo-bam combos,” which evidently didn’t need any explanation back in the day. Night club comedienne Phyllis Diller, who was appearing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, also appeared.   Booths sold such arcane items as “wax images, demon cosmetology, charms to ward off civic Babbittry and fetishes for young and old.”

Since the Voodoo Do was a fund raising affair, admission was charged: $1 for adults, 25 cents for children.
My, how times have changed.

Maritime Day: Erasing That Yellow Line Down Bridgeway

Saturday, August 24, 2013

An interview with Annette Rose
By Steefenie Wicks

Annette Rose in 1988.  Photo by  Steefenie Wicks 

Annette Rose in 1988.

Photo by  Steefenie Wicks 

This year’s Maritime Day event at Galilee Harbor seemed a fitting place to interview Annette Rose, the first person to head the Maritime Day event committee back in 1981.   Annette, a member of the Galilee Harbor Community Association for over 30 years, was the first waterfront candidate to run for the Sausalito City Council and win,  back in 1988.  Since then she has spent over 16 years of her life in elected office.  The last Maritime Day she organized was held in 1984 and at that time she was responsible for bringing the WWII Liberty Ship the ‘Jeremiah O’ Brien’ to Sausalito and having it docked at the Bay Model for public boarding and tours.

I began the interview with the question, why Maritime Day?

Annette explained that in the beginning Maritime Day was only for members of the Sausalito waterfront.  It was presented at the Bay Model as a two-day event and took place in May.  It was the first event of its kind in Sausalito and produced the first working waterfront directory that listed the names of waterfront businesses.   The event used the talents of all who would come and volunteer.  There was music, food, nautical films, lectures about the waterfront and authors who had written books about seafaring tales.  The San Francisco Maritime Museum sent over its crew to perform sea chanteys during the event and there were demonstrations of how to mend fishing nets and build a mast.

The event was the brainchild of Chris Hardman and a group called Art Zone.   Annette Rose, Chris Hardman, Phil Frank, Chris Tellis, Steward Brand, Mary Crowley, Joe Trois and Jack Van der Muelin were the members of this elite group who shared one common interest… protecting the Sausalito working waterfront and its way of life.  They wanted to counter the negative destruction of Bob’s Boat Yard, with a positive move and the idea of Maritime Day was born.

Annette goes on to say that, although the first Maritime Day was for waterfront residents it was well attended by the residents from the hill.   It was only then that the importance of this event became apparent to everyone.   Maritime day was erasing that yellow line of separation that many felt was dividing the City between “them” and “us.”

“One story I will always remember took place after the first event,” she continued. “One of the moms from Gate 3 came to me with this story about the Sausalito PTA.  It seems that at the PTA meetings all of the parents voluntarily segregated themselves, meaning that the hill moms all sat together, as did the moms from Marin City and the moms from the waterfront.  But after the Maritime Day event, the next PTA meeting turned into one group.  As the moms all decided they wanted to sit together because the ‘them’ and ‘us’ had been erased.  Everyone wanted to know more about the waterfront and shared their personal experiences from the event that had impressed them.   But the big thing was how people could cross that yellow line down Bridgeway and realize that neither side harbored the monsters that each had envisioned.”

Annette’s last Maritime Day was in 1984 and I was there.  It was because of this memory that in 2005, as 30 year member of the Galilee Harbor Community Association, I was able to persuade the community to resurrect the event and for the past 7 years as chief organizer, I was able to bring the event back and help re-establish it as a annual waterfront happening.  This year I stepped down as organizer and with that I asked the first organizer, if she feels that the Maritime Day event is still as important as it was back in its early years?

“When you re- started Maritime Day again in 2005, this was a great gift to the community and once again showed how wonderful the people on the waterfront can be.  Members of Galilee Harbor have become great stewards of the public trust, because waterfront residents take care of the marshes, the sea birds, the sea lions, the star fish and the California rays that come around the boats when they hear music, this is part of your life everyday here in the Harbor and Maritime day opens up this waterfront experience and this waterfront neighborhood and helps people understand so much more about your existence.” She smiles as she continues, “ the bare bones of today’s event is the great music (much of it provided by talented residents), the wonderful fish and chips,  the nauticalflea market, the children’s area and the fabulous ships from the San Francisco Maritime Museum.  All of it enables people to have a birds eye view of what it’s like to live on the water, to be part of a waterfront community. People at Galilee Harbor have always been really good hoststo the public and that’s so important. “

In closing she added, “You and I have been part of something that has become a historical and annual event, we put in the work and the time, now we get to sit back and see the fruits of our labor or the wakes from our bows.”

In recognition of Sausalito’s rich maritime heritage, the Historical Society is launching a self-guided walking tour along the Sausalito waterfront, entitled Sausalito Sets Sail.  At the same time, a new exhibit of sailing art and artifacts will open at the Historical Society’s Exhibit Room on the top floor of City Hall.  Launch date is Sept. 4.  More details will follow

Anais Nin and Jean Varda 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jean Varda near the end of his life.    Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society 

By Larry Clinton

Before settling in Sausalito, legendary artist, boatsman and partier Jean Varda visited Big Sur and decided to move there, making friends with Henry Miller and Anais Nin.

Anais would write about Varda frequently, including a slightly fictionalized profile of him in her novel “Collages.”
In her diaries, Nin wrote: “Varda is the only artist I know leading a free life today. He has reduced his needs. He only needs to teach once a week. The rest of the time visitors buy a collage now and then. He has no jealousy, envy, or competitiveness…

“Varda made his fantasy come true. His life is the one I admire. When I left San Francisco he had already acquired a ferryboat [the Vallejo] from which the motors and wheels had been extracted, leaving a pool-like center to look into. He was beginning to make windows for the deck. With time the ferryboat grew in beauty. It is moored in Sausalito, and attached to it is a sailboat. Everything is made by his own hands, with little or no money. He makes a little income by teaching at an art school. But he does not need much. He wears jeans, takes showers army bucket style. If money is low he does not hesitate to serve only fried potatoes and wine. He cooks in an enormous frying pan from the flea market, with enormous wooden spoons from Mexico. He is a poet, sublime ragpicker who turns everything into an object of beauty.”

In “A Woman Speaks,” Nin noted, “I learned from him this creating out of nothing. I learned from Varda, who made collages out of bits of cloth...Varda also went to the junkyard, and from discarded boats made himself a beautiful Greek sailboat. This is the power to create out of nothing we need to restore ourselves...being able to create something out of clay, out of glass, out of bits of material, out of junkyards, out of anything is the proof of the creativity of man and the magic of art.”

Later she recalled a visit from Varda in the ’60s.: “He came with three young women dancers, the three Graces I called them. He looks ruddy and strong, although he had a stroke. He tells me this stroke delivered him of the fear of death. ‘I saw wonderful colors, like an LSD vision. It was beautiful. I had no sense of parting from the world, just dissolving in colors’.”

Varda died in 1971.  In her diary, Nin recalled that he was well known for his “outrageous parties, with topless dancers and many lovely young girls.” Varda developed a reputation as a dirty old man, but Anais defended him, “The comment on Varda was absurd. Women have always courted men and there is nothing offensive about Varda’s courting of women.”

These quotes were found on the Web at www.vallejo.to/artists/varda_anais.htm. 

Ross Sommers: His Own Man

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

By Steefenie Wicks

Portrait by Steefenie Wicks

During my interview with Ross Sommers I asked him, “ What’s it like to have your father considered, the ‘King of the Sausalito Waterfront?’ As the son do you find that hard to live up to?”    Ross laughed and said, “No, I don’t even come close to that, my dad was all about the sea and me, I’m about more than that.  I like to hunt, and have since I was 10 years old.  I have two brothers and two sons and I’m the only one that really took to the water.  But once I opened up my own shop, I got to work.  I think that’s what it’s all about, your own personal accomplishments.  And I have been lucky because I have been allowed to live my dream and that’s what I’m doing.”

Ross Sommers, the son of ship builder Harold Sommers, is the new face at the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center.  He is the new Yard Manager and his job is very close to what he does in his own Yard at Gate 3, the Richardson Bay Boat Works.

His talents are much like his dad’s; he believes if you aren’t ‘hands on’, then things can get nasty.  He goes on to say, ”With today’s pricing in boat yards you want to have a ‘hands on’ guy so that you can stay alert.”

Ross and his two younger brothers grew up in Oakland, his parents were divorced when he was 10, and at 12 he started to go sailing with Dad.  He began to come to Sausalito on the weekends and go sailing with his father aboard the ‘FREDA’, a vessel that he would later call home. He remembers sailing the ‘FREDA’ but says the best was the first sails aboard the ‘WANDERBIRD’ …  those were special times.

From the time he began sailing up until he was almost 30 he did a variety of jobs that had to do with either shipbuilding or delivery of yachts.   For 5 years he sailed with Bob Sloan aboard the vessel, ‘SPIKE AFRICA’ where he continued to perfect his sailing skills.  But it was the rebuilding of the ‘WANDERBIRD’ that served to teach him to become a skilled marine worker.   “I consider myself a jack-of all- trades kind of guy, but mostly I do boat repair and have been doing so for the last 40 years on the Sausalito, waterfront.”

He goes on to say,” I was an ‘indentured servant’ on board the ‘WANDERBIRD’ and that’s how I learned boat building and boat repair.   My father would come by and see me sitting and say, ‘ while you are resting here’s a piece of sand paper -- that area needs some work’.   But there was a lot of community involvement with the ‘WANDERBIRD’, with guys like John Linderman Sr., he did a lot of the spar work and Ray Speck and his group from Gate 3 would come and over and pull the plywood off the deck.  You got to see ’hands on’ procedures by talented craftsmen, which is today a dying art.”

Other people would come by and volunteer their time working on some project that needed to be done on the ‘WANDERBIRD’.  During this time Ross lived on board the vessel in a small house-like structure that sat on the deck at the stern.   He says this was a time when people were not so rushed and they wanted to be part of a project that was considered special to the entire waterfront community.

‘There was the time my Dad received funds from I’m not sure who, but we ordered 3 units of Port Orford Cedar (from Oregon) in the rough.  A lot of people don’t know this but myself and a friend of mind rebuilt all of the bulwarks, the deck, the frames, the beams and the planks from the water line up. It took three and one half years, working everyday for 5 days a week while resting with a piece of sand paper in my hands.”

I asked Rosswhether he has seen any big changes since he has been working on the waterfront, and he pointed out that there are so many more restrictions than there used to be.  He explained that before you could do a few things that were easy for you like not having to lock up all the time.  For 15 years he   never locked up anything in his yard, but now he finds that something is stolen from the yard at least once or twice a year.  It gets a little depressing when you start to see that kind of change in a place that has always been considered ‘safe’.

Getting back to his new job at the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center, he says that he really likes the place because it’s like going to work in a big barn and he likes that feeling.   Having built his own home in San Anselmo, which has a barn, he feels at home at Spaulding.  He believes that the work that has been done on the ‘FREDA’ makes her a better-built vessel than when he sailed and lived on her.  Going to work each day seeing this classic that he learned to sail on, what he sees now is not only part of his past but the future of all of the new sailors who will walk her decks and pull her into the wind.   This is exciting.

Spaulding Center is hosting an Open House on Saturday, July 13 from 11 AM -3 PM.

Included are free guided boat rides with a Sausalito Historical Society Docent on board.  For information go to www.spauldingcenter.org or call (415) 332-3179.

How the Gates Saved Independence Day

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

by Larry Clinton

The following article is from a Historical Society newsletter of 2008:

Back in 1994, Sausalito Historical Society member Dorothy Gibson conducted an oral history interview with Bob Kalloch and Laurabell Hawbecker, who moved to the northern waterfront (known as the Gates) in the late sixties. 

During this discussion, Bob mentioned that Laurabell had been responsible for reintroducing the Fourth of July parade to Sausalito, following a long absence.  And now, their interviewer, Dorothy, is the Grand Marshall of the 2013 parade. In the following excerpts, Bob and Laurabell recall how the parade was revitalized:

Cornell Ross and Pam Bousquet chauffeured parade F(l)ounder Laurabell Hawbecker in the 2002 parade. Photo: Larry Clinton

Dorothy: I understand that [Sausalito] hadn’t had a Fourth of July Parade for about 20 years.

Bob: I don’t think they’d had one since the thirties. . . or the twenties.  There were two things that came together.  One was that for several years in the Gates we’d had our own Fourth of July celebration, as well as Easter and Summer Solstice celebrations. . . A lot of people put energy into these things, but Laurabell was the focal point, I think it’s safe to say.  And this particular year they were really getting up a big Fourth of July celebration for just the Gates – from Gate 3 up to Gate 5.  Here’s a poster that was made for the… celebration in 1975, and it says there will be a dawn parade and then the main parade at 10:00, and it’s to go from Gate 3 to Schoonmaker Beach [for] a potluck picnic…

Laurabell had been working with Chris Hardman and his troupe’s drill team and drum corps.  They were getting their costumes, and it was coming along fine. But, in the meantime, Queva Lutz, who was the owner of the Tides Bookstore and head of the Chamber of Commerce that year, approached the City and said that they would like to have a Fourth of July parade. There was a little bit more of a response from the City to the Chamber of Commerce than the waterfront people were able to get… So Queva Lutz called up Laurabell and said, “I understand you’ve organized a parade for the waterfront.  Can we have your parade?” They talked about it and thought it would be a great idea for the waterfront and the City to get together, because there was very little communication between the waterfront and the City at that time…

Laurabell: I’d …  gone around to every unit that was to be in the parade and I had drilled them all – the band and our marching corps – I drilled them for weeks before the parade. And then I went to the police station to get the okay and everything for the parade and they said they would block the streets off, and there would be a fire engine “to lead your parade.” 

And I said, “No, I’m going to lead this parade, and I’m going to be out in front with my baton . . . because we’re representing the waterfront to Sausalito.”  The policeman looked at me and said, “Well, fire engines alwayslead a parade,” and I said, “But not this one.” So he said, “All right, the fire engine will follow at the end of the parade. . .”

I said I wanted the parade to stop at Dunphy Park and I want all my different units that want to [perform] to do it in Dunphy Park right after the parade.  And they still are doing that, and after the parade the City and waterfront celebrate life together in Dunphy Park.

Dorothy: So after that first year, then the City took over and did it their way. But it’s continued to have all these elements.

Laurabell: Oh, yes, the waterfront gets in it quite a bit…

The entire oral history, which covers many areas of Bob and Laurabell’s fascinating life together, is available for review at the Society’s Research room at Sausalito City Hall.

The Ladies of the Ice House

 Tuesday, June 18, 2013

By Steefenie Wicks

Four women who have worked at the Sausalito Historical Society’s Visitor’s Center since the idea was conceived, have taken on the role of good will ambassadors for the city. Doris Berdahl, Robin Sweeny, Bea Seidler and Julie Warren have all been involved with this Sausalito Historical Society project since its opening at the Village Fair on Bridgeway, in 1993. As they make the first impression on most visitors and tourists, they are informative and entertaining and most helpful to the 30,000 people who walk across the entrance of the Ice House each year..

Ice House ladies Doris Berdahl, Robin Sweeny, Bea Seidler and Julie Warren (l. to r.)

Photo courtesy ofSteefenie Wicks

All of theseladies have been part of Sausalito‘s history for the past 50 years.  Doris is from Dan Diego and Robin grew up in New York City and was elected mayor of Sausalito four times. Bea relocated here from the Midwest, and managed Sally Stanford’s successful campaign for Mayor. Julie, the youngest of the group, was born in Sausalito and grew up here while her father was Mayor.   Julie speaks both French and Spanish and delights when she can chat with visitors from these locations as they are so pleased to be able to communicate in their own languages.

They all agree that one of the most asked questions by visitors is, “where can I find a good place to eat?” The answer is anywhere in town because all of the restaurants are wonderful.  But because these ladies aim to please, they can suggest a place where you can get lunch if your layover in town is 15 minutes or 45.

There are other docents at the Ice House, which is open from 11:30-4: PM each day.  But this column will focus on the four “founders.”

Doris recalls that this entire project came about because of the Sausalito Centennial.

She explains that one of the owners of the Village Fair, who considered himself a history buff, heard about the project and wanted to participate.   Because he and his partners were in the process of selling the building, they offered the Historical Society a location on the 4th floor.  This area was big enough to set up an exhibition. There was a retail space adjacent to the exhibition area and it was decided by the Historical Society’s board that they would sell items to help support Historical Society projects.

The Village Fair location was opened to the public and tourists alike in 1993.  Bea Seidler remembered that somewhere in her vast files she has one of the original invitations sent out to announce the event.

All of the ladies agree that many things soon started to go wrong at the Village Fair location. When it rained, the roof leaked on the exhibits and some of the photos on display were almost ruined.  It was after one particularly bad winter that the Sausalito Historical Society’s Board decided to look for a new location. 

Enter Michael Rex and the Ice House.

Most of the residents in town will remember that the Sausalito Historical Society and the Parks and recreation Department had to vie to win the $1 per year lease on the building known as the Ice House.  Rex, a local architect, had used the structure as an office for over 13 years and events in his business and personal life swayed him to pass the building on in hope of keeping it in Sausalito and being able to have the public benefit from its presence.  With the help of the Mayor Amy Belser the Sausalito Historical Society became the proud owners of the structure.

Robin mentions how when tourists from other countries visit the building they are surprised to find out its history because many of them have no idea of how ice was stored or moved.

Doris talks about the process of moving the Ice House to its present location.  One of the Historical Society’s dedicated members, Phil Frank, launched a campaign to move the Ice House.  The idea was to ask each resident for a donation of just $1 to help pay for the move.   This drive was very successful and the residents of Sausalito were more than generous in their personal contributions to see this project happen.

In 1996, Doris, Robin, Bea and Julie were on hand for the opening of the Ice House and the location of their new Sausalito Visitor’s Center.

When each of the ladies is asked about her favorite memories of the Ice House,  they all have the same answer: their faith in human beings is always reinforced while working there. Each can tell the story of a wild eyed tourist who has lost his wallet and desperately walks into the Visitor’s Center only to find that someone has turned it in.  It’s a great pleasure to return the item and put that tourist at ease so he or she can still enjoy their visit to our little City by the Bay.

I call upon Sausalito’s good will Ambassadors and Ladies of the Ice House …to take a bow, for Sausalito is lucky to have such an awesome bunch of gals representing this town and its residents.

The History of Gabrielson Park

Thursday, June 6, 2013

By Larry Clinton

As you spread your blanket for the first Jazz and Blues by the Bay concert of 2013 this Friday, you might want to reflect back on a time when that part of Sausalito was known as “The Hole.” Here’s a brief history of the area, excerpted from the June 8, 1971 MarinScope:

George Gabrielson (l.) with fellow City Councilman and park enthusiast Earl Dunphy.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society.

Visitors from around the globe pause in the picturesque park in the heart of Sausalito’s waterfront and enjoy the sweeping view of San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco providing a spectacular backdrop.  But the esthetic park, created by the Sausalito Rotary Club as a community project, is perhaps the most appreciated by the residents themselves, because most of them remember when the area was known as “The Hole.”

The name was unflattering but unfortunately fitting.  For at high tides the property filled with water and the waterbecame a muddy, murky unattractive lake.  The City owned property had been leased to an individual for fifty years leaving the City powerless to improve it.  The lessee was equally powerless to improve it due to building restrictions.  The choice location remained an eyesore.

Then in 1964, under the presidency of the late Marcus Davis, the Rotary Directors voted to take on the task of beautifying “The Hole.” Soon it became apparent that the undertaking was monumental and the Club was momentarily stopped.   Work finally started in 1965.  “The Hole” was filled with over a thousand cubic yards of sand and planting soil.  Then irrigation pipe was laid, paths defined and dwarf pines planted, all according to plans previously drawn.
Suddenly the project came to an abrupt halt.  The City proposed to buy the lease back and use the site for a new library.  A library bond issue put to the voters failed.  By now a year and a half had elapsed.  Meanwhile the lease holder, impressed with the Club’s initial efforts to provide a community park, released the property without cost for that use.

The Club resumed its work with renewed enthusiasm.  Materials were either donated by Club members or purchased at cost.  All labor was that of volunteer Club members.  And honors were bestowed on member and past president George Carney whose untiring efforts played the major role in completing the project in November of 1968.

The parked was named Gabrielson Memorial Park in memory of the late Carl Gabrielson, a true Rotarian well known for his outstanding contributions to his club and varied civic enterprises both in Japan and Sausalito.
A one-time member of the City Council, Carl Gabrielson died in 1964.

Architect Michael Rex in his office today.
Photo by Steefenie Wicks

The year was 1982:
He made sure no one was there, then went back inside, made the cut deep in the wood and pushed the thick wooden piece through; when it fell outside on the street, it made a loud noise.   This brought people out of their businesses and from up and down the street and when they saw what he had done they cheered.  A s he stood in the newly cut window looking out at everyone, he burst into tears and at that moment he knew that he had made the right decision and he would spend the best part of 13 years developing the Michael Rex and Associates architectural firm in this storybook structure . . . the Ice House.

I sat down recently with architect Michael Rex and asked him if he could fill me in on how the Ice House was saved.  He began by saying that in the early 1980’s, he had been eyeing the fanciful structure for some time because it was obviously abandoned.  One night at a party he brought up the subject with his friend, cartoonist Phil Frank.  Frank advised him to speak with the owner of the building and offer him $1.  Michael was not sure that would work but he knew the property owner.  They were both members of the Rotary Club and his name was Ed Couderc.  

The Couderc family had owned the structure since 1952 and it was used to dispense ice purchased from the Union Ice Company in San Rafael and brought to Sausalito on open flat bed trucks that carried about 10,000 lbs. per trip daily.  When the Couderc family owned the structure, the ice was fed out of the chute by the coins placed in the slot that would trigger a conveyor belt.  When the ice fell off of the belt into a chute it would trip a rod with another switch to stop the machine.  Ed remembers as a child that his father would get calls from the Police department in the middle of the night because the machine would not turn off and ice was filling up the streets.

At the next Rotary meeting Michael approached Ed and offered him $1 for the building and Ed said “why not, but you’ll have to move it because I need the land.” Rex offered rent the site for a monthly fee and the deal was struck.
“When you walk into an old building it’s like you are walking into a story,” Rex says. “The story of the structure is there in the walls, the floors, the windows and the doors, the heritage of the place is so important.”  This becomes apparent when you enter the 19th century structure that now houses the Historical Society’s Visitor Center and Historic Exhibit in downtown Sausalito.

The Ice House had at one time been a Northwestern Pacific railroad “cold cargo hold.”  The first of these “cold cargo” cars were called “reefers” and were brought about by the same Union Ice Company that the Couderc family would later do business with.  Edward W. Hopkins, a nephew of San Francisco railroad tycoon Mark Hopkins, founded Union Ice in 1882.   It’s believed that the structure downtown has been part of Sausalito since the 1920’s when it served the iceboxes of the local residents.   

Rex noticed that sometimes the best things about a place go unnoticed.  When I asked what about the Ice House goes unnoticed he pointed out that the floor has never been polished and yet it has a shine that can only come from having ice drug across it for almost 100 years, but who notices the floor?

With the growth of his architectural firm, Rex began looking for larger office space in 1997 and that meant a new home for the Ice House.  A new home because it could no longer stay at its location on Caledonia Street.  Once again Rex came to his friend Phil Frank, and Phil came up with the idea of moving it downtown.  Frank set about drawing cartoons of townspeople pulling the Ice House downtown.  He and Rex started a fundraising project to relocate the structure, and in the middle of the night in 1999 the building was moved to its present location.

“Phil had an affinity to the Ice House and he had a love for old structures,” recalls Michael“His encouragement for me to purchase the building changed my life and I have many wonderful memories of times spent in that building.  He was instrumental in the whole campaign to save the building, to move the building and gather the support of the town and the Historical Society.  Without his support and energy things might have taken a turn and the Ice House could have been destroyed.”

In closing I asked Rex what he thought about the structure now that it has become a historical landmark. His reply was simply, ”Old buildings are the physical embodiments of history, and oh, the beauty of it all. For beauty is timeless and is appreciated by all people of all ages… if you design beauty you create joy and that is what I have done with my work all my life.  If the Ice House represents that then I’m very pleased and proud.”

Early Life in Sausalito

Monday, May 6, 2013

by Annie Sutter

Richardson’s homesite c. 1841.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society and Sausalito Woman’s Club

This story is condensed from a series of articles which ran in the Marin Scope in 1987-88.

What sort of a place was the Sausalito that William Richardson and his family inhabited in the late 1830’s? An answer is provided by his son, Stephen, in a series of articles published by the Call Bulletin in 1918 when the son was 87 years old.
 “My early life in Sausalito was perhaps the happiest time of my life. A horse trail ran from San Rafael to Sausalito, very much the same as the main highway goes today. The country was entirely untouched by man, and the wild oats grew shoulder high, in spite of the great herds of wild animals browsing in the fields. On an ordinary jaunt from Sausalito to San Rafael I would see enough elk, deer, bear and antelope to fill a good sized railroad train. I never grew tired of riding through wonderful forest land and over ridges overlooking the sea.” The land grant which Richardson received in 1838 totaled over 19,000 acres comprising land from the bay to the sea, and was called Rancho Saucelito. “The bay as my father knew it was a fairyland of enchantments ... the waters had not been fouled by tailings from the mines, and were still crystal clear so that a pebble could easily be seen at a depth of 30 feet. The timber reached in many places down to the shore. The stillness was unbroken save for the shrill piping of the myriad shorebirds, and elk with huge branching horns, graceful antlered stags, and huge grizzly bears stood statuesque on the hillsides.”

Richardson’s daughter wrote that she saw bands of elks, hundreds in a band, swimming from Angel Island to the shores, and remembers fields of yellow poppies stretching as far as the eye could see. However, all was not Paradise, as attested to by one visiting sailor who, in 1837, “sailed for Whaler’s cove ... remained an hour or two ... shot a rabbit and got most confoundedly poisoned by what is here called ‘yedra’ - (poison ivy.)”

Having finally officially received the grant to Rancho Sausalito, Richardson built his home, an adobe, at the intersections of today’s Pine and Bonita. By 1841 the family was well established in Sausalito. Many are the reports of his hospitality. In those days of life in early California the concept “mi casa es su casa ‑ my house is your house” was an accepted way of life. Californians were expected to ‑ and did - open their homes to visitors and to entertain lavishly. “Entertaining in those days was wholesale, not retail,” recalled Stephen. “It was necessary for the hostess to invite practically the entire population ... you were sure to have at least 100 guests draw bridle at your door at the appointed day. And when you realize that no feasts ever lasted for less than one week...”

As well as entertaining neighbors and extensive family, Richardson extended his hospitality to visitors on ships and was, in turn, invited to dine on board, often in equally lavish style, as described by daughter Marianna. “My father always dined the officers of the men‑of‑war. The dinner consisted of barbecued meat, stewed chicken with chili beans, corn and other Spanish dishes, all of which they enjoyed very much . They would praise our way of cooking and would always invite us to dine on board their vessels ... and entertained us in a splendid state serving a grand dinner using their finest china, having several table cloths of the finest linen, removing one after each course.”

The Captain of the Port

Monday, May 6, 2013

by Annie Sutter

This story is condensed from a series by Annie Sutter on William A. Richardson which ran in the Marin Scope in 1987 and 1988.

William Richardson, c. 1854

William Richardson, c. 1854

Sausalito’s first settler, first landowner and first entrepreneur was William A. Richardson who arrived in the sleepy village of San Francisco on board a British whaling ship in 1822. He became involved in the commerce of the growing town, built several small boats, and soon discovered what would become Sausalito. In 1837 he was appointed Port Captain of San Francisco by Governor Vallejo, a position which provided the enterprising Richardson with an open invitation to profit in lucrative trading schemes across the bay. After the 1820s, ships of many nations began calling at San Francisco Bay to trade goods: clothing, silks and velvets, shoes, liquor and spices in exchange for hides, tallow, otter skins, produce, wood and water. Richardson set up a business on today’s Valley St. beach supplying wood and water to visiting ships. One historian observed: “Capt. Richardson naturally couldn’t support his family on the meager Port Captain’s wages, but the name of the game was graft with a bit of smuggling on the side. What with knocking down some of the customs money, and conniving with ship captains to avoid port taxes, he was soon doing very well.”

Word had gotten round to ship captains that if they fired a cannon twice outside the gate, Richardson and his Indian crew would come out and pilot them into Sausalito, thus avoiding the expense of dealing with the officials on the other side of the bay. There, in what came to be called Whaler’s Cove, he ran things according to his own rules, and the whalers and an increasing number of American ships found it expedient to deal with Richardson’s sensible approach; get on with the trade, avoid the tax, and split the difference. By 1843 his mismanagement of his port duties had become so flagrant that the Administrator of Customs complained that Richardson was making up rules to his own advantage. The result was that he was dismissed from his post as Port Captain, but by then his cattle and hide business was thriving and he had made so many friends among ship captains that they no longer hove to in San Francisco, but dropped anchor in the shelter of Richardson’s Bay where they provided a ready market for his beef and fruits and vegetables. The historian Bancroft observed; “Any administrator who attempted to regulate whalers in San Francisco Bay was confronted by hard‑faced captains bent on keeping their port expenses small, by merchants after cheap goods, and by rancheros who bartered their agricultural surplus for ‘slop chest’ goods.”

In 1844 a new official named Diaz was appointed to San Francisco. After discovering that more whalers had passed over to the Sausalito anchorage, Diaz crossed the bay to try to enforce the port regulations. He found the anchorage teeming with evidence of illicit trade. He noticed a large kettle on the beach. Richardson replied that it was his, that a whaling ship had left the kettle. Then Diaz discovered that the Alcade of San Francisco had brought his launch alongside a whaler and was unloading a barrel of honey, salt pork and ship’s bread. Reports of the blatant disregard of his authority continued until Diaz announced that he was withdrawing all guards, and informed Richardson that he was responsible for what might happen. Richardson’s answer rivals today’s bureaucratic responses: “This Captaincy is not responsible for anything you may do regarding the whaling ships anchored in Sausalito, because of their having anchored by arrangement with orders which the Custom House gave; this is my answer to your Official Letter dated today.”

Richardson had other means of avoiding customs duties ‑- use of the Sausalito shores as storage. When the whalers did submit to customs inspection, it was often with lightened loads. Bancroftreported that “a goodly amount of fabric, liquor, clothing, food and household goods were hidden beyond the beach at Whaler’s Cove.” Shanghaiing? While we have no evidence that Richardson was trading in sailors, he was willing to harbor deserters. A cook, a carpenter and a ship’s boy found employment in his benevolent domaine after deserting their ships. Yet, for some reason, the name “Rancho Shanghai” became attached to Richardson’s place. A sketch done by a visiting sailor in 1855 is entitled “Shanghai Rancho near Saucelito‑Cala,” and is followed by the notation “this would seem to be a nickname with some innuendo.” 

The Arks and Opening Day

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

By Larry Clinton

As Opening Day on the Bay approaches on Sunday, April 28, it’s noteworthy to recall that this annual celebration originated with the ark community of Belvedere.  The story was told in the Pictorial History of Tiburon A California Railroad Town, published by the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society:

In the early 1890’s, a jaunty floating population appeared in Belvedere Cove: a flotilla of arks, or houseboats, which were moored in the cove from April until October, then towed into the shelter of the lagoon for the winter. In 1894, a reporter from the Sausalito News counted twelve of these unlikely vessels swaying from their anchors; by the turn of the century, the number had risen to thirty or forty.

They were of every conceivable description, from little more than Tom Sawyer rafts to elegant wood-paneled retreats., with elaborate upholstery. One, owned by a man named Wellington who had chosen this way of being prepared for the second flood, which he felt was imminent, was 62 feet long and had a glassed-in garden, presumably for raising food during those long forty days at sea.

More typically, an ark had four rooms and a kitchen, with hogsheads of water for drinking and washing. White railings circled the deck, and there were bunks everywhere for friends, who could be numerous, for many boats were owned jointly by several families.

One of the most original of these floating residences, the Nautilus, came into existence when James McNeil brought four abandoned horse-drawn San Francisco streetcars over on a barge towed by the ferry and nailed them to a raft. In 1895 the Examiner described McNeil’s progress: “Down on the beach is a varied assortment of sash boards, doors, windows, some superfluous roofing and an assortment of wheels that were not found necessary for the comfort of ark life.” One of the chief delights of the Nautilus must have been the number of windows.

An English newswoman, writing an account of Arktown for her magazine, The Strand, in 1899, found much to admire:
“There is an indescribable charm about the life; one has the pleasures of boating combined with the comforts of home; sea baths are at one’s very threshold; fish are caught and cooked while you wait.... The monotony of the scenery is varied by the swinging of the ark as it turns with the tide. There are neighbors, thirty or forty families of them, within easy reaching distance if one can pull a stroke, for there is always a following of rowboats lazily resting upon the water in the wake of each ark. The butcher, the baker, and others ... who supply the needs of daily life each has his little boat which he sends around every morning for his customary order, and the joint for dinner and the ice cream for dessert are delivered as promptly to the ark-dwellers as they are to those who are still in the city.”

The highlight of the summer season was the “Night in Venice,” which featured concerts, fireworks, a torchlight procession of boats, open house on the arks, prizes for best decorations, and other festivities put on by the “Descendants of Noah,” or “Venetians of the West,” as the ark owners enjoyed calling themselves. One ark dweller, Lillian Saltonstall, recalled such a soiree in 1905;

“I remember particularly well one ‘Night in Venice.’ Belles and beaux were enjoying the scene and making love on the side. Finally, the moon began to wane, the music died away, and the lights went out. The ‘night’ was over and the owners all went back to their own houseboats. We felt relaxed and happy. It had been an evening filled with gay social contacts, delicate dishes, and easy kisses.”

The opening of the drawbridge each April to allow the arks to be towed out of Belvedere Cove is generally considered to be the original Opening Day on the Bay.

Opening Day, 1903.
Photo courtesy of Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks History Collections

When the drawbridge became a fixed span and the arks could no longer shelter in the lagoon during the winter, this era began to come to end. Many of the remaining houseboats were put up on stilts and became cozy residences or rental cottages. Some were towed away to new locations in Sausalito or Larkspur.  Today, rows of beached Arks can be seen off Bridgeway near Bar Bocce in Sausalito and where Main Street turns uphill in Tiburon. 

The Pearl Harbor of the Houseboat Wars

Friday, April 5, 2013

TheJune 15, 1971 issue of Marinscope reported on the first skirmish in the wars between the Gate 5 houseboat colony, Marin County authorities and the Coast Guard.  According to reporter Jay Casey, “The skirmish resulted from the county’s first attempts to remove what it considered houseboat ordinance violators.  Some 30 boats in the Gate 5 colony did not meet Marin County specifications and were scheduled to be abated.”  Casey noted that houseboaters later likened the raid to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here are excerpts from Casey’s report:
An unusual sequence of events helped add drama to last week’sBattle of the Bay.

The morning began for Russell Grissom, an artist and houseboat owner, with minor problems.  He had no honey for his breakfast cereal.  Grissom went to a neighboring boat to borrow some honey.  

When he returned he found he had no cereal on which to put his honey.  Indeed, he had no houseboat. [Marin County Building Inspector Richard] Larson had crept in aboard a small Boston Whaler at 11:30 and artfully plucked Grissom’s abode, cereal and all, from its mooring.

Larson managed to tow Grissom’s houseboat to a point north of the heliport before the Boston Whaler sputtered to a halt with mechanical trouble.  Larson had to call for reinforcement vessels.

A sailboat became the focus of a push-pull with sheriff’s officers during an attempt to block the construction of Liberty Dock at Waldo Point Harbor.
Photo © Bruce Forrester

By this time members of the houseboat colony, realizing this wasn’t some weird narcotics bust, were beginning to organize.  They flocked to the site where Grissom’s houseboat wasbeached.  Grissom jumped aboard.
He drew a large knife and was attempting to cut the line which held his houseboat ashore when two deputies drew their guns.  One of them threatened to fire if Grissom did not stop tryingto sever the rope.

“Go ahead and shoot me,” said Grissom.  The deputies holstered their guns and drew their night sticks.
By 2:30 p.m. the Sausalito Armada was afloat.  The hastily-organized private navy consisted of all manner of vessels, including a Chinese junk, numerous rowboats, several small outboard motor craft, sailboats, a canoe, a kayak and two mini tugs – Trans Love and Loafer.

When a Coast Guard ship tried to confiscate another houseboat, known as Joe’s Camel, from a spot in the middle of the bay, the armada put up a fierce interference.  

Frustrated in attempts to outmaneuver the numerous small boats, the Coast Guard eventually captured the Trans Love.  There were four arrests.

The article noted that both sides had eventually agreed to a cooling off period, and concluded,  “Hopefully, new battle lines will not be drawn, but rather a just and honorable peace will be reached.”

Of course we know that those wars continued for many years (some might say they’ve never ended).  The accompanying photo, circa 1977, shows that peace was harder to achieve than the reported suggested..

A Unique Collaboration:The Spaulding Wooden Boat School and the Arques School of Traditional Boat Building

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

By Steefenie Wicks

Two organizations on the Sausalito waterfront are working together because they have the same mission … keeping the history of Sausalito’s maritime heritage alive.   So you might wonder what these two words have in common:  unique and collaboration.

Bob Darr and Andrea Rey in front of the FREDA        Photo by Steefenie Wicks

These words best describe the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center and the Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding.   The uniqueness is that Don Arques and Myron Spaulding both ended up leaving small fortunes to support boat building on the Sausalito waterfront.   Bob Darr,  program director and head instructor at Arques, says the endowment means that the school will continue without having to alter its programs.   The collaboration between the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center and the Arques School has fostered an educational component that is a perfect match for both organizations.
Both waterfront organizations have collaborated on shared sail programs allowing students to learn how to use small boats built in classes.  This year’s students will help construct a boat that Andrea Rey, executive director of Spaulding,  asked Darr to design, a small dory called theDOREEN.   The vessel is designed to be rowed or sailed and is compactly built for transportation.  Participating apprentices will receive instructions on how to sail the vessel and participate in outdoor maritime activities.

Both organizations have come to the realization that none of this would have been possible if it had not been for Myron Spaulding and Donlon Arques.   The two men went to the same high school, shared the same dream, and decided to leave their money to continuing development of Sausalito’s wooden boat heritage.

Donlon Arques left his endowment to the founding and preservation of traditional wooden boats and the skill to produce them; thus the Arques School of Traditional Boat Building was born in 1995.  Myron Spaulding’s death in 2000 left his dream with his wife Gladys.  She then left the Spaulding Boatworks in a charitable trust, which would be the beginning of the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center.

One of the best collaborations between the two organizations deals with reconstruction. This ongoing project is working because of the volunteers and maritime historians who have committed themselves for the past six years to the restoration of the oldest private sailing yacht on the West Coast,  the FREDA, built in 1885.  Both organizations have worked together to raise funds and inform the public with educational programs that explain the project and the value of salvaging a historic vessel.  Under the guidance of both Rey and Darr the reconstruction process has all been documented. The traditional methods that were used when she was first built are being followed today to maintain the integrity of the 32-foot gaff rigged sloop.

Growing up on the water from Sausalito to the South Seas, Darr spent much of his youth with his father, captain Omar Darr, who sailed with Sterling Hayden on board the WANDERER.  As a young boy he had memories of both Arques and Spaulding as strong, opinionated and determined, although Spaulding, with his musical background, had a softer edge.  To a child these two could be very scary.  Yet if it were not for these men these two organizations would not exist, and that would be even scarier.

Bob remembered that once on a sailing voyage aboard the WANDERER, there were at least 10 children on board and in the evening Sterling would gather them all on deck and tell stories of the ghost that would come out of the sea at night to grab your ankles as you stood near the edge of the deck and then pull you in and you would never be seen or heard from again. Years later he realized that Sterling was saving their lives because not one kid went to the edge of the deck on the boat at night and no one was lost overboard.

“Stories like this one and the experiences you had with these men keep this history here alive.  They add to and enrich the waterfront heritage that we are all so involved with because we want to see it continue on for generations.”
Andrea especially wants to explore the idea of collaborating with other groups in the City and beyond to widen the reach of the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center.   She feels that Spaulding is a center for activity and a meeting place for all groups involved in maintaining Sausalito’s waterfront heritage.  This is why the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center is now having once a month an open houses, opening their doors to the public and inviting them to explore the facilities and the educational opportunities with hands on learning.  They will also offer free tours on the Bay aboard the 22 ft. vessel, DIXIE with a member of the Sausalito Historical Society on board as waterfront tour docents.  The first open house is Saturday,  April 13 from 11 AM to 3 PM.  For information, contact andrea@spauldingcenter.org.

This collaboration between the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center and the Arques School of Traditional Boat Building is in a word, simply awesome.

Sausalito – In The News - Saturday February 22, 1913

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ferry Boats Collide In Dense Fog

A marine disaster occurred in the thick fog off Angel Island Friday morning, when the steamer H. J. Corcoran and the Southern Pacific steamer Seminole met in a collision and sank to the bottom of the bay. A remarkable feature of the collision was the fact that the vessels lost each other in the dense fog.  Neither crew knew that the other vessel had been fatally hurt.


The Seminole, on her way from the City to Sacramento, carried fifty passengers, seven of them women, and a crew of fifteen, and had on board a large quantity of mail and luggage. She was a new boat, built in 1911, at a cost of $114,200.


The Corcoran, which is owned by U. E. V. Rideout Company, was on its way from Antioch to this city with a crew of thirty-five men and bags of sugar, valued at $40,000, and two bags of gold from the Selby Mining Company worth $50,000.


The Seminole remained afloat for nearly an hour after the collision, so passengers, crew and most of the baggage were taken off by the gasoline launch Maryland or the VallejoThe crew of the Corcoran were rescued by the immigration tug,  Ana Island, on its way from San Francisco to the island at the time of the accident. Both steamers turned bottom side and the Corcoran was carried by the tide through the Golden Gate to the open sea, where a Crowley launch took her in tow.


The Corcoran struck the Seminole amidships, tearing a great hole in the side and cutting the water pipes which controlled the oil fuel supply. The Seminole was still afloat when the Napa Valley arrived, and a line was made fast. The Napa Valley got under way with the stricken river boat in tow, but as the Seminole swung around…her hold filled and she keeled over. In the meantime all the passengers and crew had been safely placed aboard the rescue boats.


Grammar Schools Endangered

The multitude of bills before the legislature has attracted the attention of most people. There is one bill calculated to administer to the greed of large school departments. The law, as it now is, provides that every school district shall have the benefit of the daily attendance of children within its bounds.  The spirit of this bill is piratical and it should not pass. The board of trustees of a grammar school should have the same right and privilege in the matter of funds as is now extended by law to high schools. The grammar schools are the schools of all the people. They serve the needs of the greatest number. It is these schools which have driven illiteracy out of our nation. Let us not encumber the people elected by us to look after their proper maintenance.


Lady Bug Harvest In Full Swing

The ladybug season has opened and collectors of the state horticultural commissioner's force are going to the mountains to gather the tiny creatures by the pound.


The ladybug saves the cantaloupe in Imperial Valley each year by devouring the aphids, which would otherwise destroy the melon vines. Last week 100 pounds of ladybugs were gathered in the Coast Range Mountains.  There are 30,000 bugs to the pound. This makes 3,000,000 in captivity. 


During the Year: 1913  

17th – NY Armory Show introduces Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp to US public.

17th – 1st minimum wage law in US takes effect (Oregon).

18th – French painting "Nude Descending a Staircase" displayed in NYC.

19th – 1st prize inserted into a Cracker Jack box.

25th – 16th Amendment ratified, authorizing income tax.


Monday, March 25, 2013

35 Years of Reading Plays

By Peter Arnott

The following article appeared in the Sausalito Historical Society Fall 2012 newsletter, called Moments in Time.  

Many of the performers listed on this early playbill are still active in the Sausalito Players.

The year was 1977, and, in Sausalito, there was no organized group producing year-round live theatre.  So Sausalito residents Peter and Ann Arnott, who were both already working in Peter’s commercial production company, decided to create something new: a play-reading group called The Sausalito Players. 

The Players was organized to be an opportunity for lovers of live theatre (who had very little free time) to get up on their feet and perform without having to endure a lot of meetings, and rehearsals, and fuss.  The idea was for the actors to hold scripts in their hands and read the lines on an actual stage with limited costumes, and sets, and props.

This all happened in 1977 because that was the year that Ann Arnott was President of the Sausalito Woman’s Club (SWC).  She raised the idea that perhaps the Club might share the small stage in its famed Julia Morgan-designed clubhouse. Over the years, the SWC had used it for a variety of club-related theatrical and musical functions and, generously agreed to share its facilities with the newborn play-reading group and to have all performances free and open to the public.

The budget was to be covered by annual Players dues of $10 (and even that was optional). Since every actor, director, producer, stage manager, and backstage technical worker was a volunteer and production costs were minimal, a “less-is-more” attitude somehow created abundance including refreshments at intermission.

The Players season has traditionally run from August through June. Over the years, the group has performed nearly 200 plays, from single-actor monologues to full-out Christmas pageants with musicians and a choir.  Almost all shows have been chosen from Broadway-level comedies and dramas covering a variety of subjects and styles.  Even musicals have been presented, but without the music. (Everybody reads, but not everybody sings.)  The actors recite the song lyrics much to the surprised approval of the audience.

In the past, a few proven authors have premiered their original scripts under the Players banner hoping, as in a New York-style “workshop,” to get their show to Broadway. One such Players’ original-script performance attracted a producer from Los Angeles, who was so taken with the Players’ amateur production that he optioned the play from the author and eventually produced it in Hollywood. 

The level of performance in the Sausalito Players rivals that of any “Little Theatre” group. However, there are special perils in having one hand tied up with holding the script while performing certain stage actions. For example, an actor cannot drink from a cup and saucer with one hand, so s/he carries only the cup. Love scenes are even more challenging and often the cause for audience amusement. As the two lovers hug, they circle each other with their script-holding hands and read the dialogue over their beloved’s shoulder or behind their beloved’s back.

Fast dialogue is another hazardous play reading experience because it is so easy to get lost in the script.  And lack of rehearsals contributes to the problem.  A typical production schedule allows for only two or three general rehearsals, a dress rehearsal, and then one actual performance. A classic Players’ anecdote involves the fast and unfinished dialogue of playwright David Mamet.  A male and female actor were speeding along alternating with very short punchy lines inciting audience laughter.  Suddenly the man stopped the play and said in a loud voice to his co-actor, “What page are you on?”  She said, “thirty five.”  He said, “I’m on thirty-six.”  The amused audience broke into applause until the actors sorted it out, and the play went on.  Typically, an audience gets so caught up in theplay that the scripts are forgotten.

Today, the Players perform under the administrative umbrella of the Sausalito Woman’s Club.  In keeping with the past, there are no elections, no President or Board of Directors, just a theatre-wise Woman’s Club Committee that hosts the annual Planning Dinner in August which is open to everyone. At that occasion Players plan the number of shows to be mounted and gather the names of those who volunteer to mount them.  For the 2012-2013 season, the five shows are already accounted for, including the annual Christmas pageant.  But in August of 2013, there’ll be another dinner, another rush of volunteers, another season of plays and another reason to pronounce that theatre is alive and well - and in loving hands - in Sausalito.

The Sausalito Players present “Murder at Rutherford House” at the Sausalito Woman’s Club on Wed., March 27 at 7:30 PM.

South Sea Outpost in Sausalito – Tiki Junction

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 01:16PM

By Ottis Hill

This article has been excerpted from the October 5-11, 1971 edition of MarinScope.

Barney West is a Sausalito institution.  The 52 year old former sailor and chef, now wood-carver, established Tiki Junction in 1963. His outdoor studio is a testament to his ambition and his love: The giant carved tiki statues and totem poles, surrounded by South Pacific foliage, adorn the yard and the ground is covered with a thick mat of wood chips and saw dust, the result of the 300 or so pieces which West and his associates carve per year. The pieces range in size from 3 foot high tikis (a ‘tiki’ is a wood or stone image of a Polynesian supernatural power) to an over 40 foot, 4 ton redwood totem pole West carved for the front of a supermarket at Lake Tahoe. The smaller pieces sell for as little as $75 and the larger sculptures, like the 10 foot high carving of a pair of hands delivering a child, made by John Northstrand, sold for $5000. ‘None of us is getting rich,’ he said, but in a a good season we manage to take in enough money to stay off welfare.’

Tiki Junction was so famous, it even had its own postards.
Photo courtesy ofSausalito Historical Society

West learned wood sculpture from the natives of the Marquesan Islands in the South Pacific. While serving with the merchant marines during WW II, West’s ship was torpedoed and he swam to a nearby island. He was welcomed by the friendly natives, and lived with them for six months until he was retrieved by a copra boat which came to the islands every six months to coconut oil. ‘I could have been eaten . . . cannibalism was still going on,’ he said, ‘but these people were very good to me, they took me in and treated me like I was one of them.’

Because the Japanese were approaching, the missionaries had fled the area leaving the natives free to return to their old style of life without the harsh morality taught by the Christians: ‘The natives were incredibly happy; the children lived with anyone they felt comfortable with after they were 4 or 5 years old. The island was a beautiful place for a child to grow up on.’

Some ten years later, West began to carve statues similar to the ones he had seen on the islands. He has used redwood almost exclusively for his sculptures because it is the most resistent to insects and disease and also for the beautiful color and grain of the wood. “Some of the trees I’ve carved are more than 1000 years old,” he said. “It almost makes you sad. But then I didn’t cut them down and I only take rejects the sawmills don’t want or donations from local tree surgeons.”

West has carved many of the statues which surround Trader Vic’s Restaurants and has sent pieces all over the United States. During the last few years, he has diversified into more “free-forms” in his approach and at the present time he has an abstract piece on display at Swanson’s Art Gallery in San Francisco. “In the future I’d like to do more abstracts and maybe a female torso.”

His tools are simple - - a chain saw, a few chisels and a sander. And with these tools he can make almost anything from cigar store Indians to twenty foot high figures dressed in flowing robes.
West began carving wood figures in the middle fifties and settled in Sausalito in 1958. Before setting up Tiki Junction he whittled his trees in the “bow of the old Lassen” at the foot of Johnson Street. His indoor work area at Tiki Junction was the “crews quarters” on a sailing ship named the “Echo” which was pulled up on the mud and left to rot in the early 1930’s. Not far away sits deteriorating remains of another sailing vessel, the “Galilee” which made mail run from San Francisco to Tahiti around the turn of the century.

The atmosphere of Tiki Junction is a pleasant cross of two worlds; it is where primitive art is formed with an electric chain saw and where Tiki Gods glare menacingly at you while sounds of a Bach fugue float in the air from a radio blaring in the cabin of a grounded sailing ship. And then is West himself with his bushy mustache and black seaman’s cap, speaking of the islands with one breath of the world which surrounds him the next.

“The missionaries used to burn the Tiki statues; they were the most destructive thing that ever happened to the islands. They were hell bent to make the natives wear clothes. . . to make them hide their animalness.  Maybe that’s why man is almost merciless in the slaughter of animals. He must fear that part of himself.’’

Hollywood Captures Sausalito's Beauty

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

by Brad Hathaway

Posters for "The Lady From Shanghai” featured Rita Hayworth, not Sausalito

Posters for "The Lady From Shanghai” featured Rita Hayworth, not Sausalito

Just over 66 years ago, on Saturday night November 30, 1946, the waterfront at Whalers' Cove, where Bridgeway turns into Richardson Street, was the scene of tremendous excitement as a Hollywood motion picture company set up shop to film Orson Welles in a scene for the movie "The Lady From Shanghai."

Welles was director, producer, screenwriter and star of the film. He had visited Sausalito in the past and was impressed enough that when he needed a scene in the San Francisco Bay area, he penned in our town.

His co-star was his real-life wife, Rita Hayworth. Everett Sloan, who had been in Welles' masterpiece "Citizen Kane" and was a member of Welles' repertory theater company in New York, the Mercury Theatre, was cast in the role of a defense attorney who involves Welles' character in a murder plot. Welles placed the character on a pair of crutches when Sloan was cast in the role because, he said, as a trained radio actor, Sloan never learned how to move well before the cameras. "Besides," Welles added, "all actors love to play cripples."

The events in the scene played out in front of the old Walhalla – now the "Valhalla" – and many of the shots included features that you can recognize today as you stroll along the wharf in front of the building.

That wharf wasn't big enough, nor impressive enough, for Welles' purposes, however, so he had an additional 36-foot temporary wharf built out of used lumber by Sausalito's Madden and Lewis Boat Works along with a gangway and a float. A twelve man crew headed by George Dias worked all week before the shooting was scheduled to begin and had to wrap up their work earlier than expected because Welles wanted to shoot on November 30th rather than waiting for the planned December 1.

Don't look for the additional wharf, float or gangway today. The permit Madden and Lewis obtained was only for a temporary structure, and no permit for permanent use had been requested from the US Corps of Engineers. (This was, of course, long before the establishment of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission in 1965.)

Most local residents had to content themselves with standing behind police and fire lines set up a block from the action and hope for a brief look at the Hollywood stars. Others were lucky enough to land jobs as "extras" in the movie.

This night's scene featured Welles shooting off a gun in what the convoluted story of the movie presented as an effort to fake a murder. On the cue of the sound a gun being fired by Welles, the local extras rushed out of the "Walhalla" and some of the neighboring houses. Among them were Sausalito fireman "Swede" Pedersen and Sausalito News reporter Joanne Nichols who recorded the experience in the December 5, 1946 issue of the paper.

Rain and foggy weather then settled on Sausalito – this was December, after all.   

Filming in Sausalito didn't resume until Friday, December 6 when it was Rita Hayworth's turn to attract the most attention. It took most of the morning to get the few seconds of screen time which showed Hayworth being ferried to shore in a high speed Higgins boatfrom a yacht anchored off shore.

The yacht used for this scene was the White Cloud, a Berkeley-based schooner ownedby Weldon C. Nichols. It was standing in for a more famous yacht which had been used in earlier scenes. That was Errol Flynn's personal yacht, the Zaca, which was built in 1929 at the Nunes Bros. Boatyard in Sausalito’s Old Town. 

Before lunch there was time to film Hayworth debarking from the Higgins boat, walking up the temporary gangplank and exchanging a few lines of dialog with Welles.

While there had been many "extras" required for the first evening's filming, few were needed for the daylight scene. This freed up the space inside the Walhalla. The production company found a good use for that space. They invited wounded veterans who were members of the camera club at the Presidio's Letterman Army Hospital to witness the shoot. Joanne Nichols' report in the Sausalito News reveals that many of these veterans were in wheelchairs or on crutches, but that they all had their cameras at the ready. Since the filming took place just a year and half after the end of World War II, the gesture was particularly well timed.

After the union-mandated lunch break, the company filmed Hayworth walking from the Walhalla, getting into a car and being driven off.

You can see the scene in a clip which has been loaded onto the You Tube website by going to www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoiFoH_aJfo. The clip only runs one and a half minutes, but it took the production company over a week to get the shots they needed.

The Plant 

Friday, February 22, 2013 

By Steefenie Wicks


Music is magic.
Music transcends language.
Music transcends social classes.
Music transcends race.
Music transcends gender.
Music transcends cultures.

Music puts the soul into religion.
Music puts the joy into love.

Music can bring back fond memories from your past.
Music can create new memories for your future.
Music can bring old friends together and can help you make new friends.

Music is an integral part of theater, cinema, television and dance.
Music is played at weddings, graduations, sports events, and tailgate parties even funerals.

Music is part of every religious service no matter what religion it is.
Music can enlighten your soul and speak the truth.
Music is based on harmonics of Planets, of our Solar System and of the galaxies.
The harmonics of a plucked or bowed string reflect the order of the Universe.

Music can be spiritual, carnal, humorous, dramatic, serious or whimsical.
Every culture in the world has music that is uniquely its own.
Every culture has its own national anthem.

Musicians in the world are as diverse as Bob Marley and Bach, Beethoven and Billy Joel, Yo Yo Ma and Earl Scruggs, Ali Akbar Khan and John Coltrane

Music can encompass all facets of life, all lifestyles, all cultures and all people.

Long live music!

Written by musician David E. Brown
(Former sound recording engineer at the ‘Plant’ during the late 1970’s)

Tucked away in Sausalito is an old redwood building that is now beginning to see structural damage but at one time … in its heyday, it was one of the best places that musical artists could come to create great music.   A setting close to the waterfront, a part of Sausalito that was almost invisible, and that was its charm.    The story is told of how on Halloween in 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono showed up dressed as trees, and the occasion was the opening night of The Plant.  The redwood sided structure at 2200 Bridgeway (near the Bay Model) may have started out as a recording studio but it became more than that -- it became a legend that would basically hold the DNA of rock and roll music.

Arne and Mari still dream of reinventing The Plant.
Photo by Steefenie Wicks. 

The Plant may have been one of the top recording studios in the Bay area but it was with the vision of Arne Frager that it continued to be a place where those that knew rock history wanted to record their music.   From 1988 till its closure in 2008, Arne Frager was the musical visionary behind, The Plant.  In the beginning, Frager, who had run his own music studio in L.A., had to draw on all of his skills as a professional studio engineer and owner, so he made a plan.  He would start by raising funds to renovate and upgrade a process that has never stopped. But he was able to turn this Sausalito recording studio into a Mecca for musicians.  It was to become known as a place where artists could relax, like in his or her own living rooms, and just make music.  The Plant became a home away from home for many artists and that is one of the reasons that the music created there remained pure.

The history of the ‘Plant’ is part of the musical history of Sausalito.   Almost everyone that lives on the Sausalito waterfront has heard the story of how Otis Redding, first had his idea for his top song, ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ on a houseboat here in 1967.   Over the years Stevie Wonder, Rick James, Aretha Franklin, Mick Fleetwood Sly Stone and a who’s who in Rock and Roll, have visited Sausalito just to walk through the doors of a place where life made music and music made art.
It was at The Plant that 11-year-old Beyoncé Knowles and her group ‘Girlstyme’ first recorded.   Frager arranged to have the girl group, which was made up of three singers and three rappers, record an album at The Plant in 1991.  He was also able to get them booked on the program “Star Search,” but the group never really took off under his guidance.   It was much later that he would come across the music created by this multitalented group of youngsters, some of whom were now well known stars in the music industry, and offer the musical tapes back to Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé’s father, in a six figure deal.

Now that no one is recording there the place stands in disrepair.  Arne and his wife Mari ‘Mack’ Tamburo, had envisioned updating the place so that it could produce television shows, run a music publishing company and a non-profit musical arts program.  In 2007 they started this process only to find out that the financial support was not there. But they have not given up hope that some day this dream to reinvent, The Plant will happen.   In the meantime, both Frager and his wife are making music and performing at live musical venues in the Bay Area.  

One of the reasons that Frager believes the music industry and The Plant have suffered is that there is no money in producing music.  If a musical group makes it big they build their own recording studio.   With today’s equipment you can set up your own recording lab in your living room and do your own thing, without the thumbprint of some producer.  How does one react to this? Frager’s answer is simple, “In the music industry you don’t do one thing over and over again, you adapt, you change, and get on with it.”

On My Shipmate

Friday, February 22, 2013

By Alan Watts

Alan Watts aboard the Vallejo.         
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

The following essay was written by Zen philosopherAlan Watts for a symposium on the eccentric Sausalito artist Jean Varda:

I came to live in California because I was looking for the Mediterranean, and finally settled in Sausalito because it was the nearest thing in the United States to a small town of the Riviera. Then to gild the lily, I was able to acquire the ferryboat Vallejo from my old friend Gordon Onslow-Ford -- and Varda came with it. And with Varda comes all the color, the attitude, the tempo, and the very smell of that most civilized of seas. To be realistic, I suppose this is the dream of every imaginative Englishman sick to death with boiled beef and carrots, and the damp, bone-breaking cold of his country’s winters. Yet, also to be realistic, I got what I wanted.

I had, of course, been warned of Varda’s vagaries and limitations -- his supposedly total irresponsibility in matters of money and business, his alleged propensity for inviting hundreds of guests for all-night orgies, and his weekly habit of beguiling friends into dangerous voyages on the Bay in that lateen-rigged dhow from the Aegean fairyland which is suitably named Perfidia. Nevertheless, I found myself the neighbor and shipmate of a highly civilized person.

The external observer would never imagine that life on the Vallejo is civilized, for, on the outside she is a grey and dilapidated old hulk in an area of the waterfront which certain finicky outsiders consider a houseboat slum. In Europe, Americans are quick to recognize the “fascination that is frantic in a ruin that’s romantic,” but they don’t notice it at home -- where everything aged and feisty, like good cheese, is promptly doused with gallons of Clorox and buried under clean, flat concrete.

Yet every time I slip over to Varda’s end of the ferryboat there is a curious exaltation of the solar-plexus. His sculptures or “conceits” of old wine-bottles filled with vari-colored waters standing along the window suggest an archaic pharmacy or alchemist’s laboratory. The entrance to his studio, looking out over the water towards the hills of Belvedere and Angel Island, through a forest of masts, is planted with a potted pine tree, and with such vaguely heraldic objects as his own mysterious flags and inverted, face-like pots and bottles set on poles.
Varda himself “holds court” sitting at the end of a long table scratched and stained with the memories of innumerable banquets of minced lamb in vine-leaves, stuffed peppers, and fish cooked in herbs and wine. Above, hangs an enormous lantern in the form of an amphisbonic turtle, and along the wall opposite the window are always his most recent collages of celestial cities, courtly ladies, luminous fish, and plants from the gardens of paradise. This is somehow a place where the sun is out even on wet and foggy days.
I say that Varda is highly civilized because he is a true Bohemian, which is a European phenomenon distinct in style from the American beatnik or hippie. It is distinguished above all by what Montaigne called une certaine gaiete d’esprit, for which the recipe is a marvelous amalgamation of exuberance, sensuality, culture, and literacy, salted with that essential recognition of one’s own rascality which is the perfect preservative against stuffiness and lack of humanity.

Since the summer of 1961, when I first came to live on the Vallejo, Varda has been astoundingly productive for a man in the seventies. Knowing, as I do, that in these parts dawn is the most enchanted time of day, we are both up between 6:30 or 7, I in my library, and he in his workshop beyond the wall where I can hear the hammering, scratching, and rustling where-with he converts piles of scraps and debris into his glowing collages, which seem to come out by the hundreds. My wife is a late riser, so it is often that, after two hours or so of work, Varda and I get together in his studio for coffee and hilarious gossip. By this time, too, the first trickle of his endless stream of visitors, students, handymen-helpers, and local friends begins to arrive, and conversation around the table -- half in French and half in English -- gets under way with the cackling and guffawing that goes with Varda’s outrageous fantasies and anecdotes.

There are, of course, the more serious exchanges in which we try to figure out what we must do to keep the boat from collapsing into the mud, how to arrange mutual financial arrangements in which neither of us are interested, and what to do about the excess of callers who both boost our egos and interfere with our work.

Of Varda it is peculiarly true that le style, c’est l’homme meme, that his style is the man himself. Americans, who are apt to affect sincerity and naturalness, find this hard to understand. Americans are apt to see the foreign accent, the mischievous wit, and the many-colored effervescence of a Varda as a big act -- mere showmanship. Yet to maintain such an act — especially upon the diaphanous foundation of a, literally, floating life without any wealth or substance except sheer nerve and joie de vivre -- surely this is the same essential courage which keeps even God going on his own, with nothing to stand on and nowhere to go in emergency.

The Docent

 at 01:02PM

By Steefenie Wicks

A dictionary explains the definition of ‘docent’ as a person who leads or guides tours especially through a museum or art gallery.   That being said, one would then refer to Jeanne Fidler as the Grand Dame Docent of the Sausalito Historical Society.  Born in Birmingham, England on August 29, 1932, she has been part of the Sausalito community since 1972.  She not only takes you on tour in the Historical Society but also inspires you with her knowledge of Sausalito and this can be most intriguing when she wears one of her extraordinary hats. Jeanne Fidler is art and inspiration; sharing an afternoon with her is a real adventure in learning about Sausalito.

Jeanne Fidler with the display of Phil Frank cartoons at the Historical Society’s Exhibit Room.
Photo by Steefenie Wicks

When asked how did she become involved with the Sausalito Historical Society, she tells how the Society became involved with her. Having always loved tea parties, she attended one that was being presented in what was then the Victorian room that was part of the Historical Society.   Everyone was dressed in Victorian dress and the costumes the women wore were just glorious and they really impressed her.  She was approached by a young man in Victorian dress who asked if she was enjoying herself and she said that she was very impressed by the event, at which point he said that you should come and join us.   That young man was Phil Frank and the year was 1991.

Jeanne began working as a docent with the founder of the Historical Society, Jack Tracy.   She recalls his explanation of how he founded the Historical Society.  He was driving to work one day and just as he was about to cross the bridge into San Francisco, he pulled his car over and the idea of starting a historical society hit him. He turned back into Sausalito to begin the project of putting a Historical Society together, which she believed was his dream.

She goes on to say the learning under Jack Tracy was a grand experience because he was so knowledgeable about Sausalito’s history and could answer any question one might ask.  He trained her by asking her to look for things and bring them to him and that’s how she learned where things were kept.   But the one thing he insisted upon was that a good docent should always treat people with respect and make them always feel welcome at the Historical Society
When asked what she feels is one of the most positive things about the Historical society she thinks back to how she has dealt with the past because she does not mind dealing with the past and memories of those that have passed.  When speaking of those that have passed, her most favorite memories are of working with Phil Frank because he was so full of life and so loved Sausalito and its community.

She recalls that Frank did so much to entertain the community and then to help others understand the history of where they live.    She goes on to explain how both Jack Tracy and Phil Frank had the most influence on the Historical Society and put forth the most in projects to involve the whole town.  

Among her favorite Sausalito characters, Jeanne describes Sally Stanford as a very striking woman who always had her long cigarette holder with a smoking cigarette and how her hair was always put up in an Edwardian style. It was Sally who donated all of the Victorian furniture to the Historical Society.   Fidler goes on to say that Sally Stanford was only one of those she remembers, along with Sterling Hayden, Allan Watts, Varda and many other talented people who lived here and the history they have left behind, and how it is her job to help them stay remembered.

The biggest change that Jeanne has seen in the Society is how few people now come in to research.  She tells of days when the Research Room was always full with people researching their homes in Sausalito and their families, or the famous artists and writers who lived here.   Then there is the waterfront and the many boats and boat builders whose long, spirited written histories are on file in the Historical Society.  Jeanne feels that most research is now done online, thus decreasing the number of visitors.

Fidler is not only a docent but has also served on the Sausalito Historical Society’s Board of Directors.  She has written for the Historical Society’s newsletter and has been part of the Society’s school programs with Susan Frank.  When her friend and former Mayor of SausalitoAmy Belser, passed she wrote her a poem to honor her, which proclaimed:  

        Amy Belser, a woman to love for all reasons.
        Here are some of the reasons, as I knew her for 20 years.
        Amy was a natural beauty, always easy to look at
        for her eyes were blue and true.

        Amy was composed; she always knew what she wanted to do,
        Why she wanted it, and how to get it!  She was together always.
        Amy was genuine in her like for all people.  
        She always did her best for you.

        Amy never had loud words but effective quiet ones.
        Her achievements were many.  A shy winner.

        Amy enjoyed life, loved parties, events, parades,
        Visiting sister cities, and cutting ribbons.

Fidler says, “Memories, wonderful memories.  That’s what the Sausalito Historical Society is all about and that’s what it has become for me, and you can put that in print.”

The Great Trident Frogman Heist

Friday, January 11, 2013

By Larry Clinton

The deck of The Trident was featured in movies such as Woody Allen’s “Play it Again, Sam.”
Photo Courtesy of The Trident Restaurant

Among the many legends growing out of the Trident in the 60s and 70s is the story ofa late night robbery by wetsuited gunmen.

According to newspaper reports from the time, in October, 1971, at least three armed men in “in Scuba gear” entered The Trident from the waterside, captured two employees, and robbed the safe of approximately $30,000 in cash.

One of those employees, Patrick Pendleton, has provided this eyewitness account on the website www.tridentrestaurant.com:

“About 2:30 in the morning, I’m mopping the kitchen floor and I felt something and turned around to see the largest gun I’d ever seen pointed right at my face. The guy holding it was a little shorter than I and dressed in a wetsuit that was not wet with a neoprene hood that covered everything but his eyes and his nose.   He asked me who was here and I told him about Tom, the window washer in the dining room… and they grabbed a dish-apron off a counter and threw it over my head and then Tom and I were led to the men’s room and told to sit on the floor and stay there, a request with which we were only too happy to comply. …

“We could hear the guys drilling the safe and coming in periodically to check on us. After about an hour and a half, we risked talking and determined between ourselves that these guys had gone and we ought to tell somebody about it. So we got up and quietly checked the premises for stray bad-guys and hit one of the panic-buttons and I went out into the parking lot to wait for the cops to show up. We didn’t have long to wait…

“It was a pretty big deal because these guys weren’t a bunch of strung-out hippies, they were professional thieves who had taken the time and trouble to plan this thing. Of course, we planned too and were careful to clean up any incriminating evidence of our nightly debauchery before the police got there. After being interviewed by the detectives assigned the case, I still had to finish cleaning the kitchen – [Chef] Pierre was not one those guys I wanted to disappoint and I was just finishing up when he came in at about 6:30 am.    So I told him our sad tale of woe and he had this slightly amused look on his face as if to say, “Goofy…I’m glad you managed to not get your head blown off”…

“Looking at mug shots and talking with the DA and police detectives was somewhat unsettling to me. Since I couldn’t identify any of the guys from the book of mug shots, I thought that perhaps they wouldn’t call me to testify but they did and I was able to identify the guy I saw in court, which made the state’s case, the DA happy, and me?

Well… I got a clean driving record out of the deal so all in all, not too bad. It turned out that the guys had come all the way over from San Francisco in a zodiac boat and somebody saw them on their way back and that’s how they came to be caught. Cool, huh? The Marin newspaper, Independent Journal, started calling it the Frogman Heist or something like that and we got quite a kick out of that because we knew the guys didn’t swim up to the deck – their feet were dry.”

Once owned by the legendary Kingston Trio, the Trident has recently been lovingly restored, and will host a benefit party for The Sausalito Historical Society on Monday, January 28, 2013 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at 558 Bridgeway, Sausalito.
The benefit will be a tribute to The Kingston Trio and will feature the World Premiere of “The Lion Sons” composed of Josh Reynolds and friends (Mike Marvin and Tim Gorelangton) singing folk songs made famous by Josh’s father, Nick Reynolds, of The Kingston Trio.

Chef James Montejano will be preparing delicious hors d’ouvres. A complimentary beverage is included in the admission price. In addition there will be a cash bar.

People are encouraged to come in costume of the 1960s and ‘70s, and there will be prizes for the best costumes.
Admission is $45. For advance reservations, call415-289-4117or e-mail info@sausalitohistoricalsociety.org, or send a check to SHS, PO Box 352, Sausalito, CA 94966.

Page 17/27