Local Character “Billy the Kid”

was a competitive foot racer who kept in shape by running up to the top of Devil’s Slide and back everyday. That’s Devil’s Slide in the back of this amazing photo, taken when? I don’t know, early 20th century?

billythekid.jpgPhoto courtesy San Mateo County History Center. Visit the museum at the historic Redwood City courthouse.

The Chalkboard Man

In 1975 one of the more colorful characters that lived at Princeton-by-the-Sea– drat! I can’t remember his name or his face—but I do remember what he did—I guess, in his search for spirituality.

He stopped talking; he stopped communicating verbally. He didn’t speak to anybody.

He wore a small square chalkboard on a leather cord around his neck and if you wanted to ask him something he gave you a piece of white chalk to write with. His response, if he chose to answer, was on the reverse side of the chalkboard.

Obviously questions and answers had to be short because the chalkboard wasn’t big enough for long back and forths.

This went on for months. I don’t know how many months. The last time I saw him wearing the blackboard around his neck was at the Ketch JoAnne–and that was 30 years ago.

There are a couple of things I wonder about:

1. Is he still around and using his chalkboard?

2.Did he throw away the chalkboard—and find spiritual peace?

A Friend of Sharon Zugay Writes

Dear June,
I happened upon your Archive 7-06 piece
on Sharon Zugay. Thank you. Sharon is very special to me, though I was not there with her at the time of her transition. We dated in high school and met periodically through the years. Do you know if the artist, Dennis Swensen is still living in your area? His sensitive rendering of Sharon is beautiful. If you can provide me with contact info, I’d appreciate it.
I will soon visit San Mateo, for my 40th! high school reunion. I’ve lived in Denver for 30 years, but the Bay Area still feels like home. My buddies and I used to surf at the Breakwater in the 60’s. Anyway .. memories are sweet.
Sincerely, Steven Ridley

Marion & Bill Miramontes Interview (1980) Part II

Bill Miramontes: My father–being that he worked on the highway–used to commute from Half Moon Bay to Pedro Valley on the Ocean Shore. On holidays, or Sundays, he didn’t work so he’d take me with him to San Francisco.

Bill: My father was a huge man. He’d take me to San Francisco to see the town. I used to get a big kick out of going down to see the waterfront. Around noon you’d see all those beautiful teams come in. They’d put the feedbags on ’em…All these beer companies that have matched horses, matched teams of fours…beautiful. Their harnesses, all glistened, polished.

Bill: When we’d go to San Francisco, I couldn’t stand looking in the ocean over Devil’s Slide. I used to jump across the train and look out against the hill….You’d look right over the water, oh brother….I couldn’t bear that…we’d go round, in through the tunnel and around….

June: How long did it take?

Bill: About an hour.

Marion Miramontes: Oh, longer than that, honey. They used to make all those stops every mile or two.

Bill: About two hours. Every time we had a little rain we had a landslide…rocks on the track around Devil’s Slide. During the latter part of the life of the Ocean Shore they used a gas train… it didn’t pay them to run a big steam engine down here. They’d bring down 30-40 people…had this gasoline bus…it was really a bus….on the tracks and could hold 40-50 people.

gas train.jpgPhoto: Gas train at Moss Beach

Bill: [The Ocean Shore Railroad] failed because these farmers who were so close to San Francisco started using trucks–people from Half Moon Bay started buying trucks and cars and doing their own hauling and riding into San Francisco in their own cars.

..to be continued…

“Castles By The Sea” House Tour 1970s


1. The Collins’ home displays the beauty of trees shading and an outstanding ocean view. The floor-to-ceiling entrance hall introduces one to a scene of spacious living. The three skylights erxtend the feeling to all areas of the home.
2. The McCandless house, perched on an oceanside cliff, is spectacular both for its location and its design. The large windows on the main level given an openness which brings the outdoors into every room. As beautiful as the house itself is, is the original artwork decorating the house.
3. Michael Powers has designed and built one of the most unique structures on the Coastside. A five-pointed star, the building is notable in that all of its materials came directly from the forests or are recycled salvage materials. As far as is known, this sstructure is the first in California to successfully use eucalyptus as the main beams.
4. The Coastside Parents Nursery School was established in 1959 as a non-profit, non-sectarian, parent participating nursery school. The school building was originally the Buon Gusto Saloon in the early 1900s and at that time was located on the corner of the Old Cabrillo Highway and Grandview Blvd.
5. The Community United Methodist Church of Half Moon Bay was organized in 1864. The social hall first served as the Half Moon Bay station building for the Ocean Shore Railway. Refreshments will be served in the social hall.
MetholdistChurch.jpgPhoto: Methodist Church

6. The Cresson’s consulted in depth with the architect to design a home based on their personal family lifestyle. From every window in the house there is either an ocean or a mountain view.

I Hear From Ocean Shore RR Historian John Schmale

rbrandt.jpg“Rudy” Brandt

A while back I posted a three-part short history of the Ocean Shore Railroad based on a 1980 interview I did with the colorful Ocean Shore Railroad historian, Randolph “Rudy” Brandt (his father had been an original investor in the Ocean Shore).

I also posted this photo, believing that it was the Ocean Shore’s observation car.


Well, now I’m not sure what it’s of…I’m honored to share this email from Ocean Shore Railroad historian John Schmale:
“Hi June. I was struck with nostalgia at seeing the photo of Old Rudy Brandt in your article on the Ocean Shore Railroad. For over 30 years I exchanged Ocean Shore RY information, photos, documents etc with Rudy. He left me all of his OS RR material. Thanks…You have a scene of an observation car and water tank which I question is Ocean Shore RR. Do you know anything about it? Sorry, I am not being critical. The car is not Ocean Shore. I was wondering if the location is identified? Maybe Leased equipment? Regards, John Schmale”

John Schmale also emailed me this photo taken in Pacifica, 1940s (see below) rudypedro_1.jpg

At left, “Rudy” Brandt, center, E.H. Dannman, at right, Lorin Silleman (photo, courtesy John Schmale)
Hi again June, Yes Rudy was one of the last of the old time rail fans. He
drove his old 1950’s Plymouth all night and two whole days to photograph
some rotting narrow gauge trains down in the middle of the Arizona copper
mining region. He related running into unfriendly natives, as in “Native

…I was interviewed by the folks at the local Pacifica TV station regarding
the poor old Ocean Shore RR car which now lives at the Shamrock Ranch near
the South end of Linda Mar. I helped save it from getting a good bulldozing.
The car sat in a vine covered backyard 6 miles from my home in Sonoma Co.. I
have had this address for 20 years. Wow! one should get to know the

I found one photo, enclosed, showing Rudy on left, E.H. Dannman (Pedro
Saloon man) in center, and Lorin Silleman on right. Picture taken at Pedro
Station in the 1940’s…

I have really enjoyed your historical works on the Coastside and look
forward seeing to more.

Best regards, John Schmale

A Report From the World’s Smallest Political Machine, El Granada Sanitary District,1971

“Notes from an El Granada Attic

From a sheaf of roughly typed yellowing pages–reportedly from an El Granada attic in the 1970’s.
The typist is not identified. The entries are undated.

Henry Dunn came by the house on Saturday and announced that Deane and Deane
was going to build a sewer plant for the Granada Sanitary District in exchange for half the permits. I don’t know if board watchers Viola Schuetrum and Clay Fountain had been present for the meeting, but I was pretty sure that news like this would be regarded as corruption and conspiracy by the left wing of the Granada constituency.

Walt Schuetrum, Viola’s husband, is now primarily a home gardener and an expert on the use of sewer sludge as fertilizer. (For example, did you know that only tomato seeds can survive the incineration that is used to purify sewer sludge, and when you use ss on your garden, you will get volunteer tomatoes from the seeds that have survived).Walt can tell you more.

Both Clay and Walt had been involved with labor and, judging from their politics and Clay’s gusto, probably both had sung the “Internationaleâ€? in a large group of people on more than a few occasions.

Clay’s involvement with labor was deeper. He had actually worked, more or less directly, with Walter Reuther. I don’t know if he did PR, but he was in the branch of the organization that had to be literate. To Clay the labor movement was (a) glorious, but so were many other things. He had great enthusiasm for life, for friendship, for justice, for mildly leftist causes.

He always displayed his enthusiasm with a big smile, some body contact, and a little bit of saliva spray. He was a loveable guy, and soon, if not today, he would be the Paul Revere of the sewer wars to come.

The pressure on the GSD has gotten pretty heavy lately. Morris Bell and Knute Kleinen were feeling it severely the other night and decided that the ungrateful Granada public did not deserve them, so they resigned from the board. Now they want to come back but the citizens that are up in arms about Deane and Deane’s new development proposals have found a section of the Government Code that says they can’t come back. It looks like the whole thing is going to court.

It looks like Joe Murray and Dick Scholl are running for the GSD. All these recent development proposals have awakened this little community. Silk screened signs are popping up all over town. People are going door to door. The world’s smallest political machine is at work. The actors appear to be Joe Murray, Larry Pollard, Dick Scholl, Fred Lyon, and school board member John Wood.

Clay Fountain is a cheerleader and fellow traveler.

The Granada political machine has resorted to satire. To respond to Bill Deane’s weekly column in the Half Moon Bay review called “For The Record” complete with a thumbnail photograph of Bill Deane, these guys are writing a column of their own with exactly the same format. Their column is called “For the Birds” and its author is named Hill Clean. The picture at the top of the column of Mr. Clean is clearly the same guy that appears on the bottle of the cleaning liquid. He must live around here someplace.”


Although these events happened before I moved to El Granada, a little research reveals that developers Deane & Deane did not get the desired permits and shortly thereafter went out of business.

I Hear From Maria Demarest, The Photographer

Maria with daughter Marika_2.jpgPhoto: Playing in the flower fields of Half Moon Bay, 1970s: Maria Demarest with daughter Marika.

Aloha June! It’s me…Maria. Just got back from the coast to photography Noel’s wedding (Pat and Juliet Powers’s daughter. Remember Little Marika – she’s still little. She’s going to school in Flagstaff and spent the summer with dear old dad Michael Powers. We ate peas until we were sick,kayaked and took enough photos to crash a computer. Promise,,,next time I’m back on the Mainland, I’ll give you a call. Most memorable breakfast was at Johnny’s with Pete Douglas and irwin Cohen – like no years had ever passed! Spent quite a bitof time there last winter as my brother (he used to live on California st. died – held a raucous memorial at the marine reserve. Hope things are well with you – I’m still living on Maui, though HMB will always be “home” – can’t say I misss the fog. Sawsome awesome pix of my grandmothers from way back when – they’re driving doewn the OLD coast highway, stading on the floorboards trying to navigate thru the fog on their way to the beach!

Give me a call or write – anytime



Maria,Pat.jpgPhoto at Miramar Beach, L-R: Me, Maria Demarest, John, Pat Powers, 1975, photo by Michael Powers

Marion & Bill Miramontes Interview (1980) Part I

Miramontesfamily.jpg The Miramontes-Gonzales Family celebrating a family anniversary on Main Street, Half Moon Bay, mid-19th century*

In 1980 I interviewed Marion and Bill Miramontes for the documentary “The Mystery of Half Moon Bay.â€?

Marion had been the town’s first telephone operator as well as a respected local historian. She penned occasional articles for the “Half Moon Bay Reviewâ€?. Bill worked for Standard Oil during the time that the company had a large presence on the Coastside.

The history of the Miramontes family reaches back to the adobes of Half Moon Bay, originally known as San Benito. The Miramontes’ were major rancho owners, their property including the present town of Half Moon Bay. In their honor, the southern point of Half Moon Bay was named Miramontes Point

Here are some excerpts from the interview, which, unfortunately—and sadly, did not appear in the final show that aired.

I met Marion and Bill Miramontes at their home on the west side of Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay, located on the original land grant.

Marion: We purchased this property on December 8, 1943. It was originally sold December 8, 1861– and it was owned by John Miramontes, Bill’s uncle… we are living on the original Miramontes land grant now.

My grandfather, P.P. Quinlan came from England in 1868 and had a blacksmith shop here [Half Moon Bay]. In 1870 he sent to Ireland for my grandmother. They were married in St. Patrick’s Church in San Francisco in December of that year. The original Quinlan house still remains on San Benito Street in Half Moon Bay.

Bill: In those days, there weren’t tractors like there are now. All the roads [around here] were made by mules with Fresno Scrapers [earth movers].


Bill: I helped with the section from Pedro Mountain to Montara. They had mostly Hindus that went ahead and cut all the brush by hand. Then, they’d come up with plows and mules.

The first trip they made from Pedro Mountain to Pedro Valley, up to the top of the mountain and back, it took them one whole day to make that round trip with the mules blazing the first trail.

[It was] sure a windy road by car to San Francisco from Half Moon Bay…If you really wanted to go fast—you’d skid ‘round those turns. You could make it in an hour, an hour and five minutes.

Marion: Two hours to San Francisco by Pedro Mountain.

…to be continued…

*Photo, courtesy San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the museum located in the historic Redwood City Courthouse, Redwood City.

If you watch Deadwood on HBO, have you ever marveled at how the

colorful dialogue is produced for all the characters?
How is it done? Who can figure out the scenes with multiple, complex characters as well as what they are saying?
Today I learned that the brilliant writer David Milch goes into a room with his staff, lies on the floor with a pillow (because he has a bad back) and starts talking, creating the dialogue for say, Swearengen, then Trixie, then E.B.–and all the words are typed on a keyboard and appear on a big cinema-size display.