Ocean Shore Railroad: Angelo Misthos Tells Us What You Didn’t Know

Hello June.

Some of your readers interested in the Ocean Shore R.R. may not know that efforts to resurrect it began almost as soon as it was abandoned. Jack Wagner’s THE LAST WHISTLE is the best reference.

I recall several San Francisco newspaper articles during the 1930s; and as a teenager I got up the nerve to go to the company’s office in downtown S.F. to inquire of its progress, and met the President, George Middleton. The office was shared with a mining company–either Alaska-Juneau Gold Mining or Bunker Hill. I can’t remember and don’t know of any relationship with the new OSRR.

Mr. Middleton said the line would re-enter San Francisco by the old, seldom-used Southern Pacific’s Ocean View line. That track was now in the heavily built-up Mission District where people in homes could practically shake hands with the engine crew if a train ever went by. I remember being skeptical that the City would permit it.

Apropos of that time, I have a copy of the December, 1935, issue of “Railroad Stories” magazine and the article “The Ocean Shore Comes Back” by G. H. Kneiss, which told of the expected rebuilding, mainly to exploit the timber resources of the Butano Forest, close to the original route, but never reached.

There are a number of court cases involving the OSRR from that time on the Internet, mainly dealing with the railroad’s suits for incursions on its former right-of-way, some becoming precedents for other cases.

One of the more interesting is a 1941 appeal re an earlier decision about the injury from falling rocks in June, 1936, to a power shovel operator engaged by the railroad to clear the blocked north portal of the Pedro Point tunnel. A few months earlier the shovel had been “almost completely buried” by a slide at the south portal. I find it almost incredible how the shovel made it to the south portal.

This was before Hwy. 1 had been re-routed closer to the coast, and so the shovel had to have taken the long route past Green Canyon and over Devil’s Slide on a roadbed neglected for over fifteen years. What problems the operator encountered can only be imagined. Mr. Wagner’s book chronicled how all these efforts came to naught.


Bob Lemmon, Jr. Volunteers His Time Doing “RAOGK.” What’s His Line?

Meet Bob Lemmon, Jr.

June: We’re all dying to know. What does RAOGK stand for?

Bob Lemmon, Jr.: RAOGK is the acronym for Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness. There are many volunteers throughout the U.S. in most counties. Click here for the link to their search engine.

The links at the bottoms of most pages lead to explanations of how the organization works.

June: What did you do before RAOGK?

Bob: In a previous life I was a commodity broker for 28 yrs — after teaching for 5 yrs.

I’ve been doing volunteer lookups for people in Santa Cruz County since 2003, did lookups for Santa Clara County for a year & a half, and have been doing SF lookups for about a year–but only from 1985 to 2000. (The microfilm of the Chron in the SC Lib covers 1985 to date & a woman in Shasta County is doing 2001 to date, probably using the Chron’s web site.)

While some small, especially in terms of population, mid-Western counties do not have volunteers, there are some large urban counties such as Orange, Los Angeles, Marin, and San Mateo Counties that have no volunteers who do obit lookups. The only volunteers therein are those I call shutter-bugs: they’ll take photos (or, in some cases, videos) of headstones, etc., but they don’t do obit lookups.

The reason is that there is such an overhang of requests for those large urban counties & when someone volunteers, they are overwhelmed with requests. When I was doing S.Clara County lookups from 1985 to date (SJMN on microfilm or CD in SC Lib), a recently-retired fellow volunteered to do lookups at the MLK Branch Lib on the SJSU campus. I asked him if he’d stick around at least 6 mos & he replied, “Certainly.”

June: Did he stay?

Bob: He lasted 2 mos while a couple of women who signed on later only last a week.

June: What can you do about that?

Bob: The solution is for at least 3 people to sign on initially & then once the accumulated overhang has been handled, one person should be able to handle the requests (tho perhaps not for L.A. County).

June: I know you helped Millie Muller search for her Moss Beach relatives, Frank and Fanny Torres. I think she should write a book. What do you think?

Bob: Millie can publish her genealogy by simply uploading a GEDCOM [GEnealogy Data COmmunications] file to a RootsWeb site called World Connect. The World Connect servers do all of the work & the result is a genealogy web site that can be searched using the World Connect Search Engine, which, after the Calif Death Records & Soc Dec Death Index, is the 3d place I check when looking for info on a person.

June: I would never have known there was such a thing as RAOGK. Thanks for telling me, Bob.

I’m Not The Only One Looking For Novelist Erich Viktor von Neff

A while back I put out a call for novelist Erich von Neff. You can read his novelette about Half Moon Bay here.

The other day I received an email from Walter Ruhlmann and here’s what he said:

I am the editor of a webzine called mgversion2>datura. It has been online since 2002. Before it was online, it had been a print magazine & review of poetry called Mauvaise graine (Literally bad seed = weeds)
I often published Erich von Neff at that time. I came across your blog and found out that you published him in April.
Do you know him at all?
Is he still in San Francisco, CA?
Does he have an email where I can contact him?

Kind regards, Walter

(Image: Walter Ruhlman)

Hello Walter,

I live in Half Moon Bay and in the 1970s I self-published a local history book. About that time I received a ms from Erich, the novel called “Pete’s Café,” that I put online. He was looking for a publisher but I had no money to publish his work or anyone else’s.

All those years I kept Erich’s ms. and now that I have a blog, and can publish the work of others online, I decided to put his wonderful piece on my site.

I am also trying to find him so that he knows what I have done.

I never met Erich and I do not know his present whereabouts. There was a San Francisco phone number on the ms and I tried it—-it just rings and rings; there is no answering machine.

I am sorry to disappoint you.

P.S. Your site is cool. Where are you located?


Thanks for answering so quickly.
I enjoyed reading you blog. I live in Le Mans, France where I teach English as a second language to teenagers aged 11-15, not always an easy task I’m afraid.

Anyway, I have this snail mail address for Erich: [xxxxx]

I used to publish a lot of Erich’s poems when Mauvaise graine was still called that way and printed. Since 2000 or so I’ve lost contact with him totally. I had some letters two years ago, then nothing. I really hope he’s fine. I’m not sure about hte European poets and publishers or reviewists who used to know and publish his work and whom I know. I’ll try them.

If you want to read more Erich’s work, I have some of it – well quite a lot of it actually… He used to send me huge envelopes with whole manuscripts. He was really appreciated here and widely published.

Regards, Walter

P.S. ‘m going to contact Serge Féray – a French writer native of the same city than me – he translated a lot of Erich’s work. Maybe he knows something…


First Chapter of Pete’s Cafe by Erich Viktor von Neff

Pete’s Café

Somewhere Near the Great Khan

In Half Moon Bay

A Novella

By Erich Viktor von Neff

Pete’s Café

Chapter One

The Pierce Arrow

The motor of the Pierce Arrow purred. Walt, my grandfather, let it warm up, engaged it in first, and we headed down the old Coast Highway toward Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful road overlooking the sea. Salty air blew through the open windows. We sucked it into our lungs. We drove by fields of artichokes and Brussels sprouts. Broad brimmed hats faced us…occupied by Mexicans, Filipinos, and other farm workers. The Pierce Arrow passed row upon row, field after field of ripe green vegetables.

Our lungs continued to drink in the fecund coastal air. Walt turned off at Half Moon Bay. He drove down Main Street and parked in front of Pete’s Café.

“Buon giorno,�? Pete said in a hearty Italian voice as we entered. “Buon giorno,�? my grandfather replied. They laughed and slapped each other on the back. We found an empty table, amongst the tables of men speaking Tagalog, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. Their voices chiming into one another, clashing, then trailing off.

Pete brought us two bowls of minestrone soup, two Dos Equis beers, Larraburu French bread and butter.

Walt cut off a slice of butter, and dropped it into the soup. He also broke off a piece of French bread which he dipped into the soup from time to time as he ate. I did the same. Was there any better way to eat minestrone soup?

Half Moon Bay Is Still A Small Town With A Great Big Heart

This afternoon, Burt and I attended the 140th anniversary celebration of Ocean View Lodge #143, Independent Order of Odd Fellows in their newly renovated building at 526 Main Street, HMB.

(Apologies for not remembering all the official titles. From L-R: Tony Pera, Dorene Pecoraro, Noble Grand Judi Engel, and Clara “Chris” Alves.)

If you dig into the history of the lodge and the IOOF, you’ll discover that their role a hundred years ago, before public welfare, was to take care of the elderly, the sick and the poor. They built comfortable housing for the elderly—did you know that Ocean View Plaza in downtown Half Moon Bay is theirs? An extremely nice place; lots of love goes into the upkeep of Ocean View Plaza.

Judi Engel is, I believe, the first woman to reach the top post of Noble Grand. All the members worked long hours to return the building to its former glory, especially Judi and Tony, both of whom worked “above and beyond.”

Former Half Moon Bay Marina Fraser

was present to congratulate the group and to tell them that current Mayor Bonnie McClung will be honoring the Ocean View Lodge at a future public meeting. Marina, who is president of the Spanishtown Historical Society, gave the lodge a check for $5000 in acknowledgment of outstanding work.

(Photos 1 & 2, Dignitaries came from San Francisco and the East Bay; (3) Judi Engle, at left, gives a big hug to Patti Schwartz of Special Event Catering.)