John Vonderlin: Downey Harvey says: Invest in the Ocean Shore RR

Downey Harvey gives the Ocean Shore RR thumbs UP.

Story from John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

This is from a five column advertisement in the April 19th, 1908 issue of “The Call.” This plea for citizen investment in their troubled company, tells a quite complete story of the company at this point in time. It also gives a slice of “Who’s Who” in the turn of the Century business circles of San Francisco. Perhaps, because I know how this turns out, I’m a bit cynical, but, explaining what bonds are in a newspaper ad, to the people you’re trying to sell them to, seems like a poor strategy, and reeks of desperateness. Enjoy. John

NOTE—-This announcement of the Ocean Shore is printed here for you to read. You can read this announcement with my positive assurance that every statement is bona flded and the officers of the Ocean Shore can and will substantiate them.


Pres. Ocean Shore  Ry. Co.

Why is the Ocean Shore

selling bonds direct to the


If the people own the  bonds of the

Ocean Shore, they will be friends of the

road, and their confluence will be a big

factor in its favor. The rich and luxury

loving classes have been the bond buy-

ers of other roads; only a small percent-

age of the people have ever been given

a chance to buy bonds. Bonds are the

cream of all investments and are usual-

ly issued in denominations of $1,000

each, which enabled only the financiers

and bankers to buy such securities.

The usual plan for selling bonds was

to place the entire issue in the hands

of a group of bankers who were called

an underwriting syndicate. These men

agreed to take and pay for the entire

issuance of bonds at a price below their

par value. The syndicate then sold the

bonds to the public at an advanced rate,

keeping the difference for their profit.

The Ocean Shore bonds are sold by

the Ocean Shore Railway Co. direct to

the public and all the money received

from the sale of the bonds is used to

complete the railroad between San Fran-

cisco and Santa Cruz.

Why are Ocean Shore bonds

issued in denominations of

$100 instead of $1,000 each?

The general public as a rule cannot

afford to buy $1,000 bonds. Ocean

Shore bonds are issued in denom-

inations of $100 each to give every

person with at least $100 an op-

portunity to invest in these bonds and

get a class of security which has hereto-

fore been sold only to the rich. The

Ocean Shore prefers to have a great

many bond holders than a very few. .

The more bond holders the more

friends and patrons the road will have.

Why are Ocean Shore bonds

sold for $92 and $96— or below

their face value?

When times are hard and money scarce

it is necessary to make even sound in-

vestments attractive and profitable. The

Ocean Shore  offers every bond buyer

a $100 bond for $92 cash. Interest rates

are high now, and when 5 per cent $100

bonds are sold at $92 the bond holder

receives 5.43 per cent interest on his

money. This higher rate of interest on

railway bonds is an inducement for in-

vestors to buy Ocean Shore bonds in

preference to other bonds.

The Ocean Shore needs money to

complete its railroad and must sell bonds

to get this money. Other railroads have

sold their bonds in favorable times when

31/2 and 4 per cent were considered high

interest rates.

Why are Ocean Shore bonds

the best investment for Caliifornians?

Ocean Shore bonds pay a higher  rate

of interest— higher than most bonds

and they are an absolutely safe invest-

ment. The bonds are secured by a

$5,000,000 mortgage on the entire assets

of the railroad, which are valued at over

$9,000,000. This mortgage is held in

trust for the bond holders by the Mercan-

tile Trust Co. of San Francisco, who rep-

resents the bond holders.

The Ocean Shore is a California en-

terprise — it is the beginning of a great

railway system and the building up of

San Francisco by developing a very fer-

tile and naturally resourceful country

between San Francisco and Santa Cruz.

This railway will help to develop Cal-

ifornia, and  in doing so, will add to the

material advancement of the state— and

increase business in all lines, giving em-

ployment to many men supporting fam-


The Ocean Shore will increase property

values and everybody will be benefited,

and that is why Californians should in-

vest in Ocean Shore bonds.

Why is it necessary for the

Ocean Shore to sell bonds?

No railway is built without selling

bonds,  The cost of railway building is

too expensive for any man or set of men

to finance without sellirig;bonds.

The owners of the Ocean Shore have

invested $3,000,000 of their own money;

and require more  to complete the work,

they offer bonds to the public. When

a railroad requires more cash to buy

what they need it is not practical to se-

cure a loan from a bank or from an in-

dividual, so they issue bonds, which are

a part  of a mortgage, and sell small  parts

of a big mortgage to a great many people.

In other words, the bond buyer, loans

the road money, taking; as evidence of his

security a bond, and this bond is secured

by a first mortgage held by a trustee for

the bond holders.

Suppose the railway fails or is not

efficiently managed, what happens to

the bond holders?

If you are a stock holder in a railway

and it fails; you lose your money or a

part of it, because you are one of the.

owners; but as a bond holder you cannot

lose, because you can fall back on the first

mortgage, and the railroad with all its

property is yours. You, as a bond holder

are, “a preferred creditor” and the stock

holders are responsible to you.

Buying stock is risky, for it is a busi-

ness venture, but buying bonds is an in-

vestment which cannot be assessed or

taxed or made liable in any possible way.

Can the Ocean Shore earn

enough money to pay the in-

terest on its bonds?

Yes, and eight times more than enough.

The Ocean Shore has its depot at 11th

and 12th and . Mission and Market streets,

quite accessible to the local carlines and

homes of San Francisco. It has terminal

property in the hearts of the business

section of Santa Cruz, making this line

very convenient to passengers.

The railroad itself runs along, the

ocean for 70 miles, and is the grandest

scenic route in the world. The road

runs through very fertile land upon

which there is produced 1,200 carloads

of cabbage and 400 carloads of arti-

chokes every year. There are a great

many vegetable gardens, orchards, dairies,

lumber mills,bitumin quarries, lime

and paving rock quarries, besides 1 ,500,-

000,000 feet of the finest redwood timber

in the world. .

There are seven tanneries on the line

of the Ocean Shore, and these tanneries

will use enormous quantities of tan bark,

which can be hauled from the forests on

the Ocean Shore direct to these tan-


There are also many deposits of ce-

ment and building sand along the line.

Freight arrangements have already

been made with two concerns which will

net the Ocean Shore $200,000 a year.

Railway experts figure the possible

earnings of the Ocean Shore at over

$2,000,000 a year, while the bond interest

only amounts to $250,000 a year.

What do the assets of the

Ocean Shore consist of?

These assets, valued at $9,000,000, con-

sist of valuable terminal facilities in San

Francisco and Santa Cruz with a real

estate value of over $2,000,000; rights

of way, track privileges, railroad tracks,

lands, equipment and privileges. The

terminal  facilities in San Francisco have

a value far in excess of the total

amount of bonds issued. This property is

rapidly increasing in value and will soon be

regarded as inestimable, for it is very likely

that a large  union depot will be  built at 11th

and 12th and Mission and Market streets,

and all the railroads entering San Francisco

will meet at this common center, giving San

Francisco the largest union depot in the state.

What are the present earn-

ings of the Ocean Shore?

During the month of March, the Ocean

Shore earned over $7,000 from  its train

service  between San Francisco and San

Pedro, and over $l,500 from its line be-

tween Santa Cruz and Scott Creek. The

latter showing is very low because lumber

mills at Scott Creek were  closed and

usual shipments deferred.

The earnings of the Ocean Shore will

be greatly increased as soon as the road

reaches Half Moon Bay, and more cars

can be secured.  At the present time the

equipment is inadequate  and hundreds

of people are turned back every Sunday

because there are not cars enough to

accornmodate all who desire to patronize

the lirie. New cars have been ordered; and

when they are put into use the company

can accommodate freight and patrons and

earn several thousand dollars a month more.

When will the Ocean Shore

be entirely completed?

The Ocean Shore is more than half

completed. The track is laid and in op-

eration between San Francisco and Far-

allone City, 24 miles, and also between

Santa Cruz and Scott Creek, 16 miles.

Over 85, per cent of the .grading is fin-

ished between Farallone City and Scott


Over 400 men have been at work

since January 15th. Three steam shovels

are also working night and day. The

work is going ahead as rapidly as possible

with a limited supply of money. At the

present rate of bond sales the road will

reach Half Moon Bay by July 1 and

Santa Cruz by January 1. When through

to Santa Cruz and money is available

the Ocean Shore will be electrified and

double tracked.

How much money is re-

quired to entirely complete

the road?

$2,500,000 more will complete this

road in accordance with the plans. The

company, will run high power electric cars

from San Francisco to Santa Cruz in

21/2 hours. Such a service will attract

many thousands of passengers, who will

patronize this line on account of the ex-

cellency of the service offered and be-

cause of the attractive features and re-

sorts along the route.

How many bonds have been

sold? Who are buying Ocean

Shore bonds?

The total issue of bonds amounts to

$5,000,000, of which $2,250,000 has been

sold and the money spent on the road

and equipment.

There are $2,750,000 bonds to be sold.

Ocean Shore bonds have been purchased

by several hundred of the enterprising,

progressive citizens of California. Many

of the large bond holders are men of

prominence in business and banking cir-

cles. Many of these bond holders are

large property owners of San Francisco

and Santa Cruz. Many are banks and

some are held by. estates and insurance

companies. Hundreds are held by men

and women of moderate means.

The following is a small list of bond

holders, any one of whon you may ask

about Ocean Shore bonds.

Rev. Fr. Crowley. Youths’ Directory, Harry Stetson,

Director of  Metropolitan Trust and Savings Bank,

Reuben H. Lloyd. Henry Epstein, Walter S. Martin,

Pres., Oregon Land Co., John I. Sabin Estate, Late

Pres. Pac. Tel. Co.,  J. R. Stetson, Pres., Calif.

Street  Railway Co., L. Bocarequez, Pres. French-

Amercan Bank,  Herman Shainwald, Pres. Shainwald

and Buckbee Co., Peter D. Martin, Vice Pres., Eastern

Oregon Land Co.,  S. G. & S. C. Buckbee. Shainwald,

Buckbee & Co., Wm. Berg, Wm. Berg & Co., Grain,

C. C. Moore, Pres., C. C. Moore & Co., engineers,

Thomas Magee, Pres., Thos. Magee & Sons., Peter F.

Dunne, Gen’l  Atty., So. Pac. Co., J. J. Mack. Pres.,

Imperial Oil Co.,  A. Mackie, Supt. S. F. Relief and Red

Cross Funds, J. A. Folger, Pres., J. A. Folger Co.,  L.

Guggenhime, Pres., Thirty-three Oil Co., E.S. Pillsbury,

Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro; Director Mercantile Trust Co.,

A. W. Haas, Haas Bros., Wholesale Grocers., H. D.

Pillsbury, Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, Atty, A, T, & Santa

Fe, Richard Oxnard, Pres., Western Sugar Refinery, C. E.

Lilly, Director, People’s Bank of Santa Cruz, Alexander

Hamilton, Vice Pres., Baker & Hamilton, W.E. Dean, Pres.,

California Insurance Co., Thos. McClay, Wickersham Bank,

Petaluma, B. Schweitzer, Hoffman, Rothchild & Co.,

People’s Bank  of Santa Cruz, Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co,

and Bank of Santa Cruz County.

How can I satisfy myself

that your statements are true?

The books of .the Ocean Shore Rail- :

way Co. are open to every reasonable

man who wishes to examine  them. The

Ocean Shore has nothing to conceal from

any one. The stock holders have paid

real money for their stock and the head

officers are serving without salary.

All of the officers and employes are

willing, to give you detailed information

about the railway. There is every possi-

ble opportunity for you to satisfy your-

self .that the Ocean Shore is honorable,

upright  and an honest organization

which has invested every dollar received

from the stock holders and the bond hold-

ers economically and honestly.

Who are the directors and

officers of the Ocean Shore?

J. Downey Harvey, the president, is

connected with  many of the larger finan-

cial interests of the coast and is a direc-

tor in two of the largest banking houses

of the c\ty of San Francisco, viz : the

First National Bank and First Federal

Trust Company.

Mr. J. A. Folger. First Vice President,,

is  the president of J. A. Folger & Co.,

one of the largest and oldest mercantile

enterprises on the Pacific coast. Mr.

Folger is known as a conservative and

shrewd business man, and his long and

successful career should recommend him

to all for conservatism and good judg-


Mr/ Horace D. Pillsbury of the legal

firm of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro is

Second Vice President. Mr. Pillsbury is

one of the prominent attorneys of the

state and a leading member of the bar

of Sa/i Francisco. He is the attorney

for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe

railroad and is prominent in other large


Mr. Peter D. Martin, Director. Mr.

Martin is a member of one of the oldest

and best known pioneer families of Cali-

fornia. He is connected with many large

interests in California and Oregon and

is vice president of the Eastern, Oregon

Land Co. He has large property inter-

ests in San ‘Francisco.

Director Charles C. Moore is president

of C. C. Moore & Co., engineers, one of

the largest engineering concerns in the

west. Mr. Moore is probably one of the

best known men on the Pacific coast, as

he is at the head of the. pioneer designing,

constructing and engineering concern of

the» Pacific coast, with branches at New

York, Seattle, Salt Lake’ City and Los


Mr. Burke Corbet is general counsel

and secretary. Mr. Corbet is one of the

prominent members of the bar of the

city of San Francisco and is well known

to most residents of this city and state.

What assurance have I that

my money is safe and my in-

terest secure?

Your money, when invested in Ocean

Shore bonds, will be expended on the

railway — it will help to increase the

value of the road and give added secur-

ity to the bond holders, of which you will

be one. You will be associated with

prominent men of San Francisco who

have a reputation for their business hon-

esty and integrity.

You will be a bond holder in a great

railway system which will have a splen-

did future and be of great value to San

Francisco and California. Your money

will be secured by the $5,000,000 mort-

gage on our $9,000,000 of assets.

Your interests in the railway will be

as carefully watched as the interests ot

the officers and directors. And in. addi-

tion to securing a high rate of interest on

your investment, you will be helping an

enterprise which will in turn be a help

to you.

On what terms are Ocean

Shore bonds sold?

$100 Ocean Shore bonds are sold for

$92 cash, or $96 on easy payments— $l6

down and $10 a month for eight months.

At the end of eight months you get $2.50

interest on your installment payments,

which practically reduces the cost of

your bond to $93.50.

When the road is completed these

bonds you buy for $92 and $96 will sell

in the open market for $110 and $120 and

in the meantime pay you 5.43 per cent

and 5.21 per cent on your investment.

Can I go over the road and

see for myself what you have?

You certainly can. If you are inter-

ested and every true loyal Californian

should be, please call at the office of the

president, who will tell you everything

you want to know, and when he has

given you complete information he will

give you a pass, which will entitle you

to all. the courtesies of the train crew,

and you can go over this most magnifi-

cent scenic/route and see exactly what

the Ocean Shore has done and how well

the work has been done.

You will be treated courteously, po-

litely and be entertained as any good man

or woman should be — and when you are

through with your examination you are

free to invest or not, as you choose, with-

out being under any obligation what-

ever, to buy Ocean Shore bonds.

Booklets sent on request.


From Angelo Mithos

Thanks, John, for the attachments.  Yes, a good example of the desperate straits the OS was in.  Listed in a 5/14/09 S.F. Call “Legal Notices” column are  the names of stock holders who’d forfeited their shares for failure to pay the $5 levy per share the OS had assessed.  Among them  is  H.D. Pillsbury, which name appears  among the

references for prospective Ocean Shore bond buyers in your attachment.  It was really sad in a way.  Ironically. under an adjoining column, same page (P. 13),  under “Investments,” individuals and firms are offering OS bonds for sale at reduced prices, described by one as “…an absolute safe, splendid investment, free from  risk”–and yields described variously as from 4 to 8%.  A lot of trusting small people besides  the big guys got stung by  the OS.   Angelo

John Vonderlin: Where was “El Mar” Beach?

Story from John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])


Hi June,

Here’s an interesting ad, for a place that apparently doesn’t exist anymore, El Mar Beach. Or is there still an El Mar Beach tract in Half Moon Bay, that doesn’t make it to the Internet? These two ads appeared in the August 12th and October 12th, 1907 issues of “The Call.” I’m assuming the ad copy is describing the resort to be named “Ocean City” that I posted about recently. I’m down with the mirth and music, would be tolerant of the gaities, but think I’ll have to  pass on the electric effects. Enjoy. John




Offers exceptional investment advantages. It

is on Halfmoon Bay, in the immediate vicinity

of EL MAR BEACH, that the Ocean Shore Rail-

way Company will establish the Atlantic City

of this coast.  We  are near enough to it to

get the advantages of its gaities, mirth, music

and electric effects. The Ocean Shore people

have announced their  intention of  erectng a

large casino and bathing pavilion, power plant,

machine works, bath house, hotels, etc., upon

the completion of this railroad. This is your

opportunity. The great fortunes of this coun-

try have been made through real estate specu-

lations. Today thare is no land speculation

in or around San Francisco that promises as

great returns as an investment in lots in

Half moon Bay. You cannot make too big

an investment in EL MAR BEACH, and you

cannot make it too soon to secure the choicest

lots. This is your opportunity to buy at the

original prices; take advantage of it, for in

the very near future prices will enhance ma-


Call and arrange for free transportation.

Excursions Wednesday and Sunday

Jay C. POWERS & Co., 131 Investors

building. 787; Market st.

Ocean City in Half Moon Bay?

Story from John Vonderlin
Email John: ([email protected])

Hi June,
This article from the July 19th, 1905 issue of the San Francisco “Call,” has a number of interesting names: Pickering, Presho, McMahon, and Bloom. But, it was the name “Ocean City,” they’d picked for their planned resort that got my attention. Does that mean anything? Was it built? In any form? or just another lost dream? Nothing I can find in the old newspapers, so far. Enjoy. John

Large Force Is Employed near Half Moon Bay
on the Ocean Shore Electric Line
Hundred and Sixty Thousand Dollars Paid
for Three Ranches at the Seaside
Special Dispatch to The Call. HALFMOON BAY, July I8.— Actual work in building the Ocean Shore Electric Railroad has commenced. Notwithstanding the fact that surveys were made, rights of way purchased, and large tracts of outside land bought, the people of the coast side still were in doubt whether the promoters of the railway intended to carry out their plans. The beginning of work, however, settles this doubt highly to the satisfaction of tho residents ot this part of San Mateo County. Track building has commenced between Lobitos and Amesport, where a large force of men under tha direction of Contractor Pickering of Sonoma is at work, Pickering is an experienced man, as he had charge of the building of the electric road in Sonoma County. Another gang of workmen, 150 in all, is employed in blasting and grading at Point San Pedro, fourteen miles north of this town. While the road builders are thus actively engaged, the promoters of the big enterprise are losing no time in acquiring sites for their proposed seaside resort, which they intend to call Ocean City. The final transfer of the Presho, McMahon and Bloom ranches has been made, and the purchase price. $l60,000 has been paid by the Ocean Shore people. The site of the new seaside resort will be on the Presho-McMahon ranches.

Andres Osorio: Last Costanoan Indian in Half Moon Bay?

New old story by June Morrall (This is actually the last part of a series I wrote int he 1970s.)

andresAndres Osorio: Did the last Costanoan live and die in Half Moon Bay?

On the heels of Spanish exploration, the Indians at Half Moon Bay faced a crisis threatening their very existence–and lost.

Within half a century, a chain of missions, staffed with padres, stretched from Sonoma to San Diego.. The Costanoan religion, based on sun worship [the Indians moved from the warmer Peninsula to the Coastside at certain times of the year, probably when they could gather certain foods,  and back again]brought only disapproving glances from their new masters who sought to convert them to Christianity. Coastanoan life, as it had been known, suffered a complete and irreversible uprooting.

It all began innocently enough with peaceful visits to neighboring tribes always accompanied by a corporal’s guard of Spanish soldiers. On these occasions, the missionaries used the art of persuasion to endorse the new religion. The response was not always encouraging.

But glowing reports promising an abundant life at the mission, including samples of succotash and other taste-delights, reinforced their efforts. If all else failed, the Spanish soldiers, with their “strange” firearms, alarmed the comparatively naive Indians into submission–remember, their simple weapons consisted of the bow and arrow.

At every opportunity along the way, the padres performed baptisms. They dipped into the “Old Testament,” replacing original, native names with new Christian ones. At San Gregorio, Chief Isuu was christened Juan de los Santos. When the reservoir of names ran out, practically everybody else was called “Jose.”

And despite strict regulations forbidding missionaries to spend even one night in an Indian village, their methods produced results. It didn’t take long before the padres performed a Christian burial at the village called “Shalaihme” on Purisima Creek.

Overnight entire tribelets converted to the new religion, and native villages dissolved.

By 1790, all of Half Moon Bay’s Indians experienced the process of conversion. Most were taken to the San Francisco Mission Outpost in the San Pedro Valley, and the present day site of Pacifica’s historic Sanchez Adobe.

Chief Lachigi, along with 30 of his followers, from the village of “Zucigim” at San Gregorio, joined the mushrooming numbers of converts at the outpost.

Here they learned to adapt to a new lifestyle, working as laborers (talented masons, carpenters, vaqueros, tailors, blacksmiths, seamstresses, woodcutters) at the mission.

French navigator, La Perouse, after encountering the mission system, observed that the missionaries were enslaving the Indians in this life, to save them in the next.

As Mission Dolores in San Francisco grew crowded, the mission system reached as far south as Tunitas Creek.

Four or five miles north of Purisima Creek in Half Moon Bay, the Corral de Tierra, a mission ranch, existed at the headland called Pillar Point. On this range, thousands of branded cattle and horses often ran wild into the mountains. At round-up time, east of the Medio Creek in Miramar, the Indian vaqueros herded them into two corrals, one described in the San Mateo County History Museum’s archives as 500 feet in diameter, the other 300 feet.

South of Pilarcitos Creek, a mission rancho called “El Pilar” operated in the same manner. Although all traces vanished of its existence, there may have been another village south of Half Moon Bay at Canada Verde Creek.

Indian herdsmen drove the stock out of Half Moon Bay via two mountains trails north toward San Francisco. One trail closely followed present-day Highway 1, over Pedro Mountain, then called “Santa Clara Mountain” by the missionaries and “Las Auras,” or “the vultures,” by still others. The second trail, located on a steep grade to the north of present day San Mateo Road, probably was more commonly used.

During “pasear,” or “walkabout,” the Indians were allowed temporary freedom to return to their native land during “the season of ripe seeds.” Many took this opportunity as a convenient time to escape their masters, their destination mountain hideaways in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where some emerged as outlaws.

From the relative safety of secluded mountain caves, the Indian outlaws swooped down on the Spanish missions, raiding the ranches and causing chaos.

Some were successful, others quickly apprehended, and brought back to the mission.

In 1789, a military expedition from the San Francisco Presidio searched for runaway Indians on the Coastside. If and when caught, punishment took the form of starvation, whippings or time locked in stocks or irons.

But worse still, the physical contact between the Europeans and Indians produced illnesses the Indians were not immune to–including measles, mumps, small pox, and etc. They died in large numbers. one epidemic alone wiping out one- third of the Indian population at the San Francisco mission.

Sometime in 1806 a startling announcement was made: There were no local Indian guides to accompany a group of travelers wishing to visit the coastal mountain range.

Sixteen yeas later, eleven of the original Coastside natives remained alive, not including descendants.

In 1946, Andre Osorio, Half Moon Bay’s last Indian died. Although he may not have been Costanoan, Osorio, born in Woodside, was carried to Half Moon Bay by his mother on horseback.

Legend has it that when Osorio was a young man, he traveled the United States with his father as a tight rope performer. When he tired of show business, he settled down in Half Moon Bay as a fisherman and farmer. He was one of the first men to grow artichokes for William De Benedetti on a farm north of Half Moon Bay.

When Andres Osorio died in 1946, he claimed to have been born in 1832, making him an incredible 114 years old, and securing him the reputation as Half Moon Bay’s last Indian.
A new-old story by June Morrall

John Vonderlin: In 1858 horse racing was local entertainment

Hi June,
This article from the September 14th, 1858 issue of the “Daily Alta,” shows that the “Coin of the Realm,” could be most anything on the early Coastside. Whether sacks of barley were an improvement over the Ohlone’s earlier use of shells and chert pebbles is debatable. Unless you were hungry. Enjoy. John

LETTER FROM CRYSTAL SPRINGS. THE SPRINGS- HORSE- RACING – GAME. San Mateo County, Sunday, Sept. 12. Editor Alta:— Here I am at Crystal Springs, in San Mateo county, rusticating for a few days. As I don’t suppose you know where this spot should be on the map, I will tell you that it is five miles from the Seventeen-mile House, and about one and a half miles back of the San Mateo House. The way you get to this charming spot is down the county road to the Black Hawk ranch, about two miles below Coulter’s Seventeen-mile House, and then turn in through the gate opposite the said Black Hawk Ranch. Three miles of a drive over a rolling country brings you to one of the loveliest spots this side of San Jose, which is Crystal Springs. The accommodations are plain, the food excellent, attention whole-souled, and the scenery magnificent. Well, now, that I have told you this much, let me give you a few items. On Saturday, the 11th, there was a grand race at Half Moon Bay, some six miles from here, between two horses called Eagle and Peno, in which the former beat the latter about thirty feet in the mile, which was done in two minutes. Six hundred dollars in money, and “five or six hundred sacks of barley changed hands,” that is, in sporting terms. A large number of persons assembled at the race, and several scrub races came off after the grand race. Several matches were made to come off to-morrow (Monday).

It was the 1920s

Old/new story by June Morrall

It was the 1920s and Prohibition ruled. Anything having to do with alcohol was a federal crime.

On the Coastside they called it the “War Against Rumrunners,” the battle between Prohibition agents and the liquor smugglers that raged from Pacifica to Ano Nuevo. These were the front lines.

The “War Against Rumrunners” was waged mostly in the deep of night, those blue-black hours friendliest to the smuggler’s trade. Prohi agents were trained to snare their sworn enemies on the high seas. The goal was to prevent the illicit booze from reaching the isolated Coastside beaches, with whiskey bottles never arriving at roadhouses such as the Miramar Beach Inn, Moss Beach Distillery and Princeton–ultimately denying the patron–their thirst unquenched.

This was the blueprint in theory. But once the Prohibition agents confronted their prey in the field, the “war” seemed to devolve into a game of cat and mouse, or a deadly kind of hide-and-seek with roles uncertain, the blur of events often making it difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad.

Confiscating illegal booze before it reached the consumer was the measure of success of the “War Against Rumrunners,” and this was how the agents kept score on their progress. It was one thing to talk about confiscation, but in reality it was a dangerous and often impossible task.

Anything and everything could go wrong.

One violent episode occurred on a moonless night off the coast of Half Moon Bay in the 1920s. The crew members of the smugglers’ vessel and the agents on the patrol boat found themselves close enough to peer into each other’s eyes.

After the shock of the encounter faded, both sides began firing their weapons. The volleys awakened the sleepy locals who later reported that it sounded like a naval battle. In a sense, that’s what it was.

Then the chase began. With the parol boat in pursuit, the rumrunning vessel headed north toward Moss Beach. When the chase was over, the agents boarded the smuggler’s vessel.

After a thorough search from stem to stern, Prohibition agents located and claimed the contraband—in this case, 400 cases of valuable liquid cargo.

The rum boat was identified as belonging to the “Stadacona,” a large “mother vessel” regularly carrying whiskey from Vancouver to points off the California coast.

Protocol required that the agents tow the smuggler’s boat to port, but before that was accomplished one official foolishly climbed back on the rum runner. At their first opportunity, several of the brazen smugglers wrestled him to the ground. At the same time they swiftly disposed of the evidence, casting hundreds of cases of illicit liquor into the sea. They then slashed the tow-line, making a fast, clean getaway.

The Prohibition agent knew he was in danger, and rather than running the risk o becoming a kidnap victim, he jumped overboard. Successfully reaching the patrol boat, he rejoined his fellow agents firing rifles, machine guns and a one pound cannon at the fleeing rumrunner.

But the smugglers were battle-tested. By not returning fire, they concealed their position, and under cover of darkness, easily outdistanced their pursuers.

The Prohibition agents believed they had seriously damaged the smuggler’s boat. Not until daylight, however, would they know for certain. When officials met that morning at Moss Beach to assess the situation, they observed the wreckage of the smuggler’s boat floating ashore.

This was a typical, unsuccessful attempt to apprehend the crafty rumrunners. The bad guys lost their cargo, and their ship, but they survived to sail another day.

Even when the government agents had totally smashed a smuggler, confiscating his cache, capturing or destroying his vessel, even arresting the rumrunner himself, they knew there would always be someone else willing to take the risk to smuggle the illegal booze.

As the “war” accelerated, government agents became more heavily armed, but this did not put a crimp in the illegal operations of the rumrunners or the bootleggers.

What did cause temporary logistical and scheduling problems was the closing of the San Mateo-Half Moon Bay Road for extensive repairs in 1924. This was a stroke of bad luck for the smugglers, who now had to get the word out that the usual number of landing places were no longer available.

[As a sidelight, there was also a rumor that Chester Howard, a former prohibition agent, had delegated himself a committee of one to intercept automobiles in which he believed liquor was being transported. This ex-dry agent said he did the work voluntarily because he had been accused of “hijacking” and “wanted to see what a hijacker looked like.” His comment perplexed the hijackers, but their instincts told them this man posed a danger.]

So far the war had been confined to the rumrunners. Now the San Mateo County District Attorney called a press conference to announce that he was not a bootleg chaser, nor did he intend to become one. But the D.A. revealed that he did support an intensive program designed to crack down on all offenders, expanding the scope of the war.

U.S. Treasury Department officials called their own press conference in San Francisco. Their agency was in charge of implementing Prohibition laws, and they announced that any person arrested for possession or sale of imported liquor was subject to prosecution under current smuggling laws. Anyone convicted faced a $5,000 fine and two years in the federal penitentiary.

Bootlegger entrepreneurs accustomed to furnishing their clients with Scotch whiskey and Champagne, considered themselves above the law, and were stunned by the government’s new draconian policies.

So were many private citizens who believed they were immune from punishment and boldly stocked imported, illicit liquor in their homes.

According to the authorities, they were now as guilty as those who directly engaged in the act of smuggling.

Now government agents were not only chasing smugglers on the high seas near Half Moon Bay–they were making unannounced visits to roadhouses suspected of serving liquor and arresting the owners if booze was found.

In 1923, a squadron of agents swooped down on three well known Coastside establishments. Perhaps the most famous of these was the gray “mystery castle,” a fortress-like structure overlooking Salada Beach in Pacifica.

Two years earlier, the castle had achieve notoriety as an illegal abortion clinic. After a sensational trial in Redwood City, the owner was convicted and imprisoned.

The castle’s beauty and spectacular location inspired new owners to reopen it as the “Chateau Lafayette,” a roadhouse with a dining room, dance floor and comfortable hotel accommodations.

Late one afternoon, several trench-coated government agents walked purposefully toward the Chateau’s front door. Outside, they reviewed their strategy before bursting into the dining room with guns raised.

One of the officers commanded the terrified diners to freeze as the others scoured the premises for illegal booze. Sixty bottles of wine and 25 bottles of whiskey were confiscated.

The agents also made an unusual find: a handcrafted wooden board, holding hundreds of small vials, each a one-ounce sample of a different kind of liquor. It was clear these roadhouses patrons were not drinking bathtub gin.

Flushed with success, the agents now headed for the Rockaway Grill in Pacifica. There they seized more liquor and placed the hapless owner under arrest.

On a roll, the officers piled into their late model automobile, motoring over steep Pedro Mountain Road, heading south for Montara and Half Moon Bay.

They careened around the hairpin turns until the road straightened-out, then pushing the pedal to the floor for maximum speed. The driver slammed on the brakes outside the Montara Family Club, an interesting name for a disguised roadhouse. Inside the club’s patrons milled about, and on San Francisco man was recognized from other drinking establishments.

The two brothers who owned the “club” were handcuffed and arrested.

One would think these Feds had accomplished enough, but instead of calling it a night,, they decided to return to Pacifica, specifically to re-check the Rockaway Grill raided just a few hours earlier. Just as they drove up to the entrance, two men, obviously patrons with hats pulled low over their foreheads, faded into the night. When officers kicked open the front door, they caught the owner’s brother trying to hide a bottle of whiskey.

These unannounced raids created some grumbling and a few roadhouse proprietors spoke out. One owner claimed the agents were treacherous. He said that after buying four cases of imported liquor from a Fed posing as a bootlegger, the agent stormed his tavern using those same four bottles as evidence to arrest him.

It was near the end, and the “War Against the Rumrunners,” was riddled with corruption.

As public indifference mounted, and citizens outdistanced the law, the “war” fizzled, coming to a final end with the repeal of Prohibition in 1932.

Some old-timers reminisced that Prohibition brought an economic boom, almost a “Golden Era” to the Coastside. With its end, the Coastside returned to its sleepy ways, not to be reawakened until WWII.
New old story by June Morrall

John Vonderlin: A Matter of Degree…What’s Magnetic Declination?

Story  by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,

While looking through some of the historic maps on the Coast Survey website, I came across one showing the magnetic declination in the United States as measured in 1850. As you see, I’ve attached a ScreenShot from that map, showing our local area. It looks like in 1850, the declination, hereabouts, was about 15 degrees 15 minutes. Checking online, I find it is now only 14 degrees 22 minutes at Half Moon Bay.

Without anyone ever complaining, let alone doing anything about it, we’ve lost almost a whole degree in just 150 years. Our declination is in serious decline. Is it sliding down a slippery slope that will leave us declination deficient?  I shudder to think. And if the rising CO2 level line runs afoul of the declining declination line, we could end up lost, hot and thirsty.

For those more interested in facts then my worries, Wikipedia has a very good article on “magnetic declination.” The prize of the article is a map at the very bottom of the page, that cycles through the magnetic declination’s changes around the world, from 1592 to recent times. The expansion and contraction of our magnetic field as portrayed, is quite hypnotic. It’s alive! It’s alive! But, its vital signs are weak and really ssllloooowwwww.


Enjoy. John