When two flamboyant brothers moved into the Princeton Inn in the 1970s, these outsiders fired-up the fishing village next door, setting the stage for a showdown.
Of all the unique little corners on the Coastside, Princeton was the most authentic and freewheeling.
A jumble of bleached wood huts, worn-out boats, rusted metal and steel, that was Princeton-by-the-Sea. Year-after-year I’d see the same old boats on pilings and the lack of change was strangely reassuring.
Building regulations were lax and county officials not exactly welcome. Princeton had its own by-laws and an unofficial mayor and things had been done in a certain way for decades. If you fit in, you could claim any old cubbyhole and move in.
The Coastsiders really loved this charming place. There were more characters per square inch in Princeton than Pescadero or San Gregorio combined.
(Be patient—I’m coming back to the brothers).
Life was governed by high and low tides and phases of the moon, and when not in a fishing boat, walking was the way to get around. A couple of fishermen-friendly restaurants and bars were within a stone’s throw, also a country store.
There were a few old homes in the fishing village, the quaint kind, needing repairs from roof to foundation—in fact, one nice two-story home belonged to an engineer and his postal employee wife who later on would win the lottery, pack their bags and bid goodbye to Princeton. By today’s standards, their home could qualify as an historic point of interest.
In those simpler times, I would take long, leisurely walks from El Granada to Moss Beach with Peyote and Scorpio, my two dogs. One time when I passed through Princeton I saw an old school bus parked near the beach and a young hippie girl with flowers in her hair invited me inside for a cup of tea.
She lived in the bus and was proud of her pretty seashell collection. We sipped some tea, exchanged some gossip and I was on way.
In the 1970s discos were the rage—and the two flamboyant brothers wanted to open one so they bought the Princeton Inn. It was to be their showpiece and they hired the best young local carpenters and craftsmen to help them build their dream.
Big, bold racing stripes appeared on the outer walls of the Princeton Inn and a string of bulbs lit up the lovely arches at night.
The brothers were city dudes, flashy guys, in sharp contrast to the locals. Long before Johnny Cash, both favored black clothing, head to toe, leather jackets, even black gloves. One brother drove an expensive, shiny black Porsche, the other rode a high-powered black motorcycle.
Boy, did these guys pick the wrong place.
Early on the newcomers were in constant conflict with the locals.
One July, around the fourth, I walked over to Princeton. It was clear there was trouble in the air.
What was happening?
The local story was that the brothers had failed to make their mortgage payments and a new buyer was lurking in the wings. But the brothers weren’t giving up easily and they barricaded themselves inside the Princeton Inn. The replacement owner was a woman who had curried favor with the locals and pressure was mounting to run the brothers out of town.
It was a stalemate.
Then suddenly I witnessed the brother with the Porsche jump in and roar away—but there was no sign of the other brother. The biker’s getaway wasn’t as pain-free. He did finally make his escape but not until he got a couple of lumps by the locals.
Photo: Princeton Inn
Watercolor, Scene at Princeton, believed to be by Coastside artist Galen Wolf