The El Granada Post Office “Gifted” with these New Blue Boxes to Dump Unwanted Mail and to Prevent ID Theft: The Only Problem is They are Inefficient

Experienced El Granada Post Office staff were not asked for opinions, or input when officials dropped off a number of these tiny blue boxes that you see below.

The purpose of the narrow blue boxes, with equally narrow slots for toss-away letters, etc. is to prevent “Identity Theft.”

The problem is the inefficient boxes are not only difficult to use– but a useless waste of money. They do not prevent “Identity Theft,” their stated purpose, but may, in fact, encourage identity theft.

When I tried to toss away some unwanted mail, I couldn’t get the paper into the very narrow slot. There is no play there; there is a lock on the box, however. In fact, the envelope I wanted to get rid of refused my repeated efforts to slide into the slot, and what happened is the paper remained half in-half out, visible for anyone to take. So much for protecting anybody’s identification.

My criticism and complaint is backed-up by the unhappy El Granada postal staff who say they empty these tiny boxes with itty-bitty slots several times a day. The staff also complains, as I wrote above, that no one asked them for opinions or input before the boxes arrived. Had they asked, the answer would have been a resounding: “Don’t put them in our post office.”

(Images below are of the new blue boxes. I wish I could have demonstrated the difficulty but I was alone at the time. You will have imagine and try for yourself.)



Michaele Benedict: Piano Daddy

Story by Michaele Benedict

Piano Daddy

Once Robert Sheldon accidentally locked himself out of his house in San Francisco. He peered in the windows and his cats peered back at him.

“If you had had children instead of cats,” a friend told him, “there would have been someone to let you in.”

But in a sense, Mr. Sheldon had many children (just none at the house on Aptos Street that particular day) and I was one of them. The bond between music students and their teachers is sometimes our own homegrown guru-apostle situation and has been for a very long time. Piano teachers are so partial to their own students that they must excuse themselves from the juries of piano competitions if their students are playing. Musicians always cite their teachers in their biographies, but do not always name their natural parents. Some musicians even trace their musical genealogy, teacher, grand-teacher, great-grand-teacher.

Mr. Sheldon was my piano daddy. He was not concerned with feeding and clothing me as my natural father was, but he attended to my mental and professional growth for fourteen years. He pushed me to my musical limits, he expanded my horizons, and he provided me with a much-needed ongoing reality check.

I had already had years of piano lessons by the time I met Sheldon, so he was not concerned with teaching me to read music. Instead, he introduced me to the architecture of music, the background and foreground of the compositions I was trying to learn. It was no piece of cake, let me tell you.

If I arrived early for a lesson, I learned to park around the corner, out of sight, because Mr. Sheldon would come outside and get me, sometimes pausing to hose the dust off my car (Montara still had dirt roads in those days.) After the lessons, I would drive a block or so away, park, and take notes on the lesson before I forgot everything.  Sometimes I was convinced that my lessons would be the death of me.

“Play it again. Now play it with the other hand. Play it hands together. No. Play it back to front. Play it up an octave. Play it down an octave. No, that will never do. Try again. Write the date on it. Here, finger every note. Try it again.”

His mild blue gaze seldom showed impatience or annoyance, but one felt that if he could stand all this noise, the least one could to was to keep trying. Sometimes I had to go home and take a nap after a lesson.

“I know you are having a hard time at home,” he once said, “but at least you turn it into something, music or poetry.” He would set my lyrics to music and ask for more. He would assign me a Chopin Polonaise so I could thrash the daylights out of the piano instead of going through emotional turmoil.

My natural father thought everything I did was just fine, so I could hardly believe him when it came to an objective view regarding my music. Sheldon had no such constraints. “Well, that’s the Mr. Magoo school of piano playing,” he would say,

“Grope around and hope for the best.”

Or “If there’s a hard way to do something, you’ll find it.”

Or, more encouragingly, “You will be a great teacher, because you have every problem you are likely to encounter in a student.”

“I may not always be kind,” Sheldon once said, “but I try always to be just.”

Sheldon’s was a holistic approach to music-making. It might involve lunch, if he thought you looked undernourished. If you seemed tired, a lesson might consist mostly of music history or even stories: “In this Bagatelle, I think of people who live on the west side of a tall mountain. They know morning has come, though it is still dark. There is no real dawn. Imagine the sheep bells, the sounds from the other side of the mountain. Then suddenly the sun clears the mountaintop in a blaze of light. That’s what Beethoven makes me think of here.”

Sheldon might accept payment for some lessons, (the Conservatory scolded him for not charging enough) but not for others. If you were preparing for a performance, he might insist you have a lesson every day, but he would not charge for the extra lessons. He once used a life insurance payout to send a student to England for further study. He only taught people he wanted to teach; we students would whisper about unfortunates who had been dismissed after a lesson or two.

Sheldon declined after Margaret, his wife of many years, passed away. He gave his car to a waiter at a nearby restaurant because the waiter “needed one.” He gave away his nine-foot grand piano. He asked his students what they wanted and put their names on the paintings, the books. He talked me into accepting a lovely Chippendale mirror along with the thing I really wanted, the bottle of Golliwogg perfume from Paris, 1906, (which inspired Debussy’s “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk”.)

What does a good father do, anyway, other than beget us? He goes first and shows us the way. He protects us, looks out for our welfare, provides a moral example, loves us, takes pride in our accomplishments and pleasure in our company. He teaches us how to get along in the world. When he leaves, the loss is made bearable by remembering everything he gave us.


Sheldon cartoon-7

(Michaele Benedict has written more about Robert Sheldon and his teacher, Egon Petri, at

[Images of Robert Sheldon and a cartoon that reads: John Maxwell and Michaele Benedict, a new piano duet, play for Mr. Sheldon!}

From Craig To Katie on her 44th Birthday

“Image below: rare parrot flower from Thailand…courtesy Darlene Wagner…)

rareparrottvlowerKatie’s Day

It’s Katie’s day, too far away
To hold her close, to go and play
To drink a toast to all her years
See her beauty, quell her fears …

That time as taken, from her face
Or her bodys supple grace
Not true, I know. For I have seen,
Her sleeping smile, while in a dream

I’ve seen her walk, with kittens trailing,
A loving mother, never failing
To help them grow, to fill their needs
She shows them birdies, eating seeds

A small girls joy still lives inside,
Though masked sometimes by Irish pride
She’s still a child at forty-four
I pray she loves me forty more

For I have come to love her ways
Through many nights, and equal days,
That love has made my burdens lighter
And now it makes my future brighter

I hope I never am away,
Again, when it is Katie’s day.

Happy Birthday Darling

I love you,


Deb Wong Keeps Me in the Loop (On Historic Main Street, HMB)

[Image by Deb & Mike Wong.]



Story by Deb Wong
Email Deb ([email protected])

Hi June,

How are you doing?   We have been quite busy at the gallery. The new location DOES make a difference, especially where foot traffic is concerned.  We have sold quite a few of our framed photos (mostly ocean scenes for tourists, and for Fathers Day).  I have also sold 3 of the one attached, which is a composite of photos that I took on our trips to the Grand Tetons and Nevada. It just has an old west feel to it.  But ocean scenes are tops on the sales list. Dave Cresson knows this well.  He is considering putting a gallery in the vacated furniture store spot, featuring many local and ocean scenes.  An added complication is the construction going on downtown right now, which seems more like “obstruction” for many businesses, and Eddie Andrieni told us that it is “…going to get worse before it gets better.”  But that is all temporary, and we are anticipating that things will improve on the economic front soon.

Early 1900s: Coastside Teachers taught students manners & morals

Old-New story by June Morrall

Early 1900s: The Way School Used to be

In the summer of 1905, the sweet fragrance of  fresh garden-grown roses hung in the air. Masses of the freshly cut blooms covered the stage of the crowded OddFellows Hall on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. 

The reason she got the job was because “they hadn’t had a new teacher in Pescadero for 40 years.Mrs.Pinkham was old and she quit. That’s how I got the job.”


The mood was celebratory, and the room filled with well-wishers for popular schoolteacher Rose Meehan’s “farewell reception.” 

The “goodbyes” did not come easily for the well-liked teacher who had accepted the exciting new assignment as vice principal at a San Mateo school. Rose Meehan was getting a promotion and a new challenge “over the hill.”

Her teaching career began in a two-room Princeton school in 1887. Students from Pedro Point (in present-day Pacifica) all the way south to Miramar attended the school located on the present-day site of “Barbara’s Fishtrap. Seafood Restaurant”.

[How the children got from Pedro Point and across Devil’s Slide to Princeton, I do not know.]

It didn’t take long for trouble to break out at the Princeton schoolhouse. Rose Meehan’s teaching assignment was cut short when a “territorial fight” broke out. The struggle was over location of the school. The heated controversy was resolved when a family with seven children moved to Moss Beach, thereby tipping the scale, and sending Rose to open the new school at the corner of Etheldore Street and the main road in Moss Beach.

A few years later what was called the Montara School was moved to beautiful Sunshine Valley, according to a monograph I found at the San Mateo County History Center today housed in the historic Redwood City Courthouse (but when I did my research the museum stood on the campus of the College of San Mateo.)

One of Rose’s famous pupils, whose written lessons revealed graceful handwriting, was Peter Kyne, who matured into a popular author. Some of his later novels were made into movies. One of the films was called “The Three Godfathers” (1948), a “wild west” flick directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.

The celebration honoring Rose Meehan at the OddFellows Hall lasted one hour. Father Sullivan, on behalf of  the grateful community, presented Rose with a gold rosary encrusted with amethyst beads. When the presentation was over, the guests danced until midnight to the music of a small orchestra.

Anxious to begin work as Rose Meehan’s replacement, was the young and equally-liked Elizabeth (Lizzie Wienke),  the only child of Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Wienke, owners of the beach resort called the Moss Beach Hotel.

Although Lizzie only taught for four years on the Coastside, she quickly won the allegiance of pupils and their parents. In 1906, the year of the famous San Francisco earthquake and fire, Lizzie Wienke came in first in  a newspaper contest as the coiunty’s most popular teacher. The prize was a lot in the San Mateo area.

Lizzie’s life changed after the sudden death of her husband, Joe Nash.(I think Joe was the County Clerk, and Lizzie replaced him.)  Through coincidences, fate, and an office next door to the Counsty Surveyor George Kneese, romance blossomed and Lizzie wed George. Now as Mrs. Kneese,  was reputed to be a powerful San Mateo County Clerk.

Due to the Ocean Shore Railroad, and the accompanying sales of building lots, the population grew after Lizzie Wienke left the Coastside in 1910. To accommodate more children, school district trustees ordered that the one-story Moss Beach school be built, a school that was torn down in the 1990s.

Then came Harr Wagner, a developer who bought one square mile of land in Montara.  Wagner was an educator, author and the editor of the “Western Journal of Education, ” a publication favoring higher salaries for teachers.

In 1915, a two-story was built in Montara in the Mission Revival style at the corner of Sixth and Le Conte Streets.

Three years later, Wagner wrote a slim school textbook which included a chapter on the Spanish explorers and a photo of the monument dedicated to the famous explorer Gaspar de Portola that still stands (?) on Montara Mountain.

Honored at the Sequoia Club in San Francisco, shortly before his death in the late 1930s, Harr Wagner was applauded for “bringing to light material of an educational and literary nature that would otherwise have remained undiscovered.”

Prior to 1900, it was common practice for landowners to establish schoolhouses especially if the population was too small to warrant an official school district.

That was true in early Half Moon Bay. Tiburcio Vasquez, the founder of Spanishtown, hired a series of tutors—some very bright but with checkered backgrounds–to teach his son and other children in  a shed converted into a classroom.

Judge John Pitcher, re-elected as justice of the peace until well into his 90s, lived with his family at remote Tunitas Creek in the 1860a. He wanted to hire his own teachers and build a school on his property to protect his children from grizzly bears and unsavory human influences as well.

“…the late coming home of our children from the Purissima school on evenings filled us with fears,” Judge Pitcher told a reporter in 1918. “I visited the school one morning and found it in charge of a big man with little nerve. He held that the boys were rough and slow, and the classes had to be kept late after school to accomplish anything at al. I urged that he make them do the work during regular hours but he claimed it would be worth his life to do so. This was evident as he called his pupils in, for one boy had a pistol in his bootleg, his brother had a knife protruding from his boot, and I recognized both as the sons of a convicted gunman.”

Frank Bell, a landowner, who resided near San Gregorio, also opened a school on his property.

In 1875 the on-room Seaside School was built in San Gregorio On Sundays it doubled as a place for church services. A typical example of a 19th century rural American school, the Seaside School sands stands on Stage Road.

School sessions in the agricultural districts were determined by the crop seasons as entire Coastside families worked on farms.

Long after leaving school, students remembered their most influential teachers. One teacher who left an impression was Belle Vallejo, whose family settled in Half Moon Bay in the 1860s. She became famous for riding her pony to the Higgins School on Higgins Canyon Road.

Katherine Valentine, the granddaughter of Judge John Pitcher, together with Belle Vallejo, taught at the Half Moon Bay Grammar School on Church Street, Half Moon Bay, a building removed in 1940. A second-grade teacher at the time, Miss Vallejo was nearing retirement.

“Belle was a kind, sweet woman who saw good in every child,” Katherine Valentine told me in 1992.

Katherine attended the Tunis School at Tunitas Creek, went to Half Moon Bay High School on Kelly Avenue, and graduated from San Jose Teacher’s College in San Jose. In 1929, during the beginning of the Great Depression, she landed her first job at Pescadero Grammar School, earning $100 a month, considered a rich person’s salary during these tough times.

During the eight years she taught at Pescadero, Katherine said she “was watched like a hawk. They were afraid I would marry and then I would lose my job. I didn’t know any married teachers.”

In 1937 Katherine Valentine moved to Half Moon Bay and began teaching at Half Moon Bay Grammar School.

“We didn’t have books all the time so I bought workbooks for my students. It was a state law that I had to teach manners and morals. We taught the children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and not to talk with their mouths full.”

Katherine Valentine , who, when she wasn’t teaching was an “enemy airplane watcher” at a beach south of Half Moon Bay during WWII. She wed in 1942, and by then it was acceptable, continuing to teach for another twenty-plus years. 

Some of the students she recalled with affection were Fred Cunha, a retired colonel; Barry Cerevha, a neurosurgeon, and Tim McGray, a physician.

One hundred years ago the Coastside was an isolated farming community with a sparse population. Teachers exerted great influence and were highly respected for the lessons they taught in a community of one and two-room schoolhouses.


A new-old story by June Morrall





——more coming———-

John Vonderlin: The Sea Gilly and The Gazos

JohnVStory by John Vonderlin
Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,
I found the source for the alternate version of the origin of the name of Gazos Canyon. My previous understanding was based on the Gazos Canyon guided tour we went on. During which, a rhetorical question about the canyon’s name’s origin got a chorus of “herons” from some of the hike’s participants. It was said that gazos was the Spanish word for “herons.” While my Spanish vocabulary is pretty good, the section for types of birds doesn’t go too far beyond pollo and pavo, and of course paloma, the bird which was, I read somewhere, possibly the source of Pigeon Point’s name, not the shipwreck of the Carrier Pigeon. So, I accepted it as fact, and posted it in my story.
Well, I found the source of the alternate theory again, and it’s Tess Black’s book, “Portraits of Pescadero.” In the “Steele Family Section,” on Page 145, she’s discussing Rensselaer Steele Sr. in 1879, and has this sentence: “”The property included “a narrow, spring-fed ravine” that ran along the coast about a half-mile south of where the Gazos Creek (named for the Clove Pink or Sea Gilly flower, that grew in the area) flows into the ocean.””
This became the Gazos Ranch, that Harvey Mowry, documents so well in his book,”Echoes From Gazos Creek Country,” I’d tell you what he might have to say about this, but his book starts in 1862, and doesn’t seem to mention it.
Well, I looked up Clove Pink and Sea Gilly and here’s a little Wikipedia info that turned up a strange connection, that might or might not be related.

Sea Gilly A name given by writers to the clove pink (Dianthus Caryophyllus)

(Clove Pink) is a species of Dianthus. It is probably native to the Mediterranean region but its exact range is unknown due to extensive cultivation for the last 2,000 years. It is the wild ancestor of the garden Carnation
It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 80 cm tall. The leaves are glaucous greyish green to blue-green, slender, up to 15 cm long. The flowers are produced singly or up to five together in a cyme; they are 3–5 cm diameter, and sweetly scented; the original natural flower colour is bright pinkish-purple.
The name Dianthus is from the Greek words dios (“god”) and anthos (“flower”), and was cited by the Greek botanist Theophrastus.
The colour pink may be named after the flower. The origin of the flower name ‘pink’ may come from the frilled edge of the flowers: the verb “pink” dates from the 14th century and means “to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern” (maybe from German “pinken” = to peck). Source: Collins Dictionary. The verb sense is also used in the name of pinking shears

The Sea Gilly connection was problematic for me. Though there was only one far-northern, species of Dianthus native to this continent, it;s possible there are look-a-likes, or that its worldwide cultivation suggests an early introduction by settlers to the coastside and its possible thriving, upon escape. But, I’m not sure of the connection between “Gilly” and “Gazos,” as there is none mentioned.
The trouble with the Spanish-heron version is that “garza” not “gazo,” is the Spanish word, at least these days, for “Heron.” Admittedly “Las Garzas,” is difficult enough to pronouce that a change might be likely through the years. But, what happened to the “Los,” as in Los Gazos Creek, and how did it become a masculino noun, changing its gender from “una garza”?
Here’s a third theory. White House Canyon, the one just south of Gazos Creek Canyon, got it’s name from the two story, white-painted house Isaac Graham built on a flat above the little creek, in the 1850’s. In Harvey’s book, he says, Isaac (Steele) recalled hearing how Graham’s house, sitting isolated and painted white, had been a landmark for early (1850’s) northbound ships. And that might be relevant because the only language I could find that gazos means anything is Portuguese, where it means albinos.
A fourth theory, which is similar, would be that the nearby white cliffs, or chalk ridges as they were known then, which had been mentioned as early as Portola’s expedition, and were clearly visible from passing ships, might be the “albinos” instead.
The odd coincidence I was reminded of, was that President William’s McKinley’s family, and President Herbert Hoover’s family, had strong connections to this essentially empty, isolated-to-this-day remote area.
Here’s another odd fact I found in the Wikipedia Dianthus article:that might be connected. Could young William’s’s love of carnations been initiated by time spent on the Gazos Creek where his brother James had a sawmill?

The state flower of Ohio is a scarlet carnation. The choice was made to honour William McKinley, Ohio Governor and U.S. President, who was assassinated in 1901, and regularly wore a scarlet carnation on his lapel.[6]

Enjoy. John
P.S. By the way there’s a picture of an apple box label from Chalk Ridge Orchards, Torquay, California, Grown and Packed by I.C. Steele, in Tess’s book. It’s on Page 158.


1923:The Coastside Lost a Friend in the Great Kanto Quake

Story by June Morrall

Annie C. Mullen was a little girl when she lived through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

In Half Moon Bay boulders tumbled onto Highway 92 and the Levy Brothers General Store collapsed.

“A bull in a china shop shop would be a fair comparison of what can happen in a printing shop when an earthquake is turned loose within,” a Redwood City newspaper wrote of damage to its office.

Annie Mullen was familiar with the Coastside and Redwood City. Her father, John Mullen, an early settler in east Miramar, later became a county assessor.

When the great Kanto earthquake struck Japan in 1923, Annie had been in Japan, working as a secretary for General Elecric in Tokyo for five years.

It was 11:50 a.m. on Saturday, September 1, 1923, when Japan was rocked with the “impact of a terrestrial fist.”

Our 15-second quake in 1989 made Bay Area residents re-examine accounts of the 1906 earthquake. Estimates on how many died in the 1906 earthquake vary between 700 and 2,500.

Few Americans know about the great Kanto earthquake of 1923. Incredibly, 120,000 people were killed. There were major shocks over a period of hours followed by tidal waves and firestorms. Messages told of mountains that slid into the valleys, of waves that swept hundreds of swimmers into the sea and of a Yokohama hotel that “sank into the earth.” Street lights in crowded Tokyo teetered, the earth moved up and down, and buildings swayed like “so much paper.”

The so-called “Cloud Scraper,” the tallest building in Toyko at 12-stories, snapped in two at the eighth floor. Bricks and stones toppled down onto scurrying pedestrians.

For two days fires raged, greedily consuming flimsy wooden structures. Burn victims died in the streets. Automobile traffic was frozen and trains were halted 100 miles from Tokyo. Telegraph lines were down and cables disrupted. An important cable between Guam and Yokohama had been silenced.

Yokohama, where Annie Mullen lived, along with about 1,000 other Americans, was a significant port city. It had been hard hit, and in the wake of the earthquake, the city was ablaze with a tidal wave that brought more devastation. The busy harbor lay in ruins. The refugees were so desperate that they sought safety aboard ships in the harbor.

Meanwhile, the former Coastsider, John Mullen, was frantically trying to confirm the whereabouts of his daughter. Then 84, Mullen was living on Fell Street in San Francisco where two of his sons lived.

On September 4, the Redwood City Tribune reported:”…Friends…are apprehensive today concerning that young woman’s safety…No word has been obtained by relatives in San Francisco from Miaa Mullen.”

Many old-time Coastsiders counted among those who worried about Annie. At one time the Mullen name was so well known in Half Moon Bay that serious consideration had been given to officially changing the name of the Arroyo de en Medio Creek in Miramar to “Mullen’s Creek.” It was often called that by the locals anyway.

Joan and Ann Mullen immigrated directly from Ireland, settling in Miramar in 1869. Mullen, who spoke and taught Gaelic, was hired to run Amesport Landing at present day Miramar.

The wharf had been built by a San Mateo County supervisor in 1868. It ir rumored that in partial payment for his services, John Mullen was given land in East Miramar to build his farmhouse.

The historic Mullen Farmhouse stands on tree-lined Purissima Way, a county lane that still has the power to transport visitors back in time.

From the top floor of the farmhouse, John Mullen enjoyed a bird’s eye view of Amesport Landing, which grew into a tiny community,. The wharf was a commercial link with the outside world. Produce was shipped on the little steamers: Gypsy, Salinas, and Vicente packed with crucial supplies of coal to heat to heat chilly Coastside homes.

From 1860 to about 1890, John Mullen, assisted by son William, managed Amesport Landing. When the Ocean Shore Railroad came on the scene circa 1907-8, Amesport had already slipped into a steep decline. Amesport was never able to compete with either the railroad or the new “private vehicles on wheels,” and the little shipping village never recovered.

Eventually John Mullen and some members of his family moved to Redwood City and later to San Francisco.

Annie Mullen grew up with three brothers and two sisters: Hugh, Edward, William, Clara and Minnie. Until Clara’s death in 1958, she lived in the farmhouse, built by her father.

Records reveal that Annie went to Japan in 1918. She last visited San Francisco in 1922, while enjoying a week’s furlough. She was to have spent one more year in Japan before returning to the United States permanently.

On September 5, 1923, U.S. Ambassador Woods sent a message from Japan by wireless pointing out that the situation was “exceedingly serious” in Yokohama, where he said many Americans perished. It was reported that Yokohama’s streets and canals were filled with dead bodies.

But Ambassador Woods had no word of Annie Mullen. There was great concern because the office in which she worked was said to be located in the heart of the devastated area of Tokyo.

Fears intensified when one of the casualties was identified as A.T. Blume, who also worked for General Electric. Others, including officials of the company, also died in the earthquake. Names of those who were killed in Yokohama and Tokyo were printed in local newspapers—but Annie’s name was not found among them.

The Mullen family was heartened by “fragmented” reports indicating that Annie had been only “slightly injured.” And the family rejoiced when they learned she was reported on board the S.S. Empress of Australia, a passenger on her way home.

Just imagine their shock and pain when the family received received the final word on September 17 that Annie Mullen had died on the ship while en route home.


A new-old story by June Morrall

…more coming