Birth of the Ebb Tide Cafe: Interview w/Pete Douglas Part 4 (1979)


June: And so then you ran it as a café.

Pete: For about a year after I got it. I was still working for the county probation department. I worked for about four years before I was canned on a technicality. I won’t get into the politics…So I was working…I was living a double life you know. I was going over the hill being a respectable official. Even wearing a button down collar.

But over here, you know, we were…the difference in my dress was the fact that I had tennis shoes on more often.

I guess it was around 1958—even though I was working we had to do this little business thing. You know, we were just going to have hamburgers and coffee and whatever. A sandwich shop needs a beer license. That was all I wanted was a beer license.

I was going to bring the matter up to the probation department. And there is no law against a probation officer having a booze license as there is for police officers, by the way. No law against it.

Right away they got all upset over there—invented policy to say I couldn’t have one.
None the less we opened up. We made good hamburgers….

We just opened as a social thing, that’s all, no money in it. We ran it for about a year, a year-and-a-half, weekends only

We gradually met some people and they became my friends. Speaking of some of the early hanger-outers, there’s some still on the coast, one of them, Bill Bragg, do you know him?

June: Not sure.

Pete: Bill Bragg and his wife, Jackie. There were other couples like that. I won’t get into that. But that’s all it ended up being—they always knew they could fall in on the weekends, we were open, so to speak.

There were constant parties, lots of parties.

About that time, early 1959, I was a probation officers and I got a guy referred to me, his name was Pat Briggs. He got busted for stealing baloney in a supermarket.

At that time we only handled felony cases—but I got him and he was only 19-years-old. He was going to San Mateo College. When I was interviewing him and laughing at the police report, about stealing baloney and wondering why he was even here. I asked him what his interests were. He did play saxophone and he was being very straight with me.

I said, ‘Oh, yeah,’ what kind of sax? And he said baritone sax.

‘What are you, a poor man Jerry Mulligan?’ I said. He looked like Jerry Mulligan. So, I said I don’t want you on probation. I’m not going to recommend probation. I’ll recommend a fine and forget it. I said, why don’t you come out and play [at the Ebb Tide Café] sometime?

A few months later Pat Briggs was on the phone a Saturday night about 11 o’clock we were having our usual party. And here comes Pat. He says, ‘I picked up some good players in a band that’s coming through town.’

I said, ‘You want to come down?’

He came down, two guys dressed in suits. They came in and set up in that little room down the hall.

One, two, three,–wham! That started the whole live music scene.


The 4-part 1979 interview with Pete Douglas, Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society was taped and later transcribed by Linda Goetz, Coastside Secretarial. Don’t worry, I interviewed Pete many times and there is more detail to come.