My Search for the Beatniks Who Lived at the “Abalone Factory,” Princeton-by-the-Sea: Part II


Marvin Lewis (ML): One day I got a phone call. My secretary said this Carol was coming in with her boyfriend, McCracken. They came in.

I don’t remember whether I was in this building, or whether I was across the street at 703 Market.

Marvin Lewis: I remember that Carol had no make=up, that she wore these coarse black stockings as the beatnik girls then dressed. They all had a uniform just as the later flower children had their type of uniform.

Carol was adorable. Cute, darling girl. Pretty as a picture. Just lovely. When she was dressed up, it was unbelievable. It was like seeing another person. She had a great personality.

McCracken had an English accent. If ever there was a handsome man, he was it. He had big blue eyes, blond hair, spoke very elegantly–like a Doug Fairbanks, Jr. type of accent–but he was a rough type of man, wore a beard which wasn’t too common in those days.

McCracken was tall, six feet. Handsome tattered clothes. Big flowing hair. He was a most interesting man. I loved that English accent. What power he had over these women. Piercing blue eyes. Hypnotic.

After we discussed the facts of the case, he made it very clear to me that they didn’t want any capitalistic money paid to me, as he put it, for the payment of her case.

I said, well, the capitalist money is very good to me and I wouldn’t be taking the case if it wasn’t for that. I’ve already been paid, and very well paid by the mother.

He said, that’s not going to do. I’m going to paint you a beautiful painting, and I will give that to you in full payment for whatever service you perform.

I said, that’s entirely up to you. I’ll be very grateful for whatever you choose to do but it’s certainly not rquired.

…To Be Continued…

My Search for the Beatniks Who Lived at the “Abalone Factory,” Princeton-by-the-Sea: Part I


You might wonder–legitimately–why I was going to interview the stellar attorney Marvin Lewis for a story about beatniks at Princeton. My answer is, read and you’ll see why–or at least I think you will. Suffice it to say I that via my Coastside research there had been several references to beatniks living at the old Abalone Factory. I worked hard to find a link (and I’ll get back to that later).

And in the fall of 1979 I walked into Mr. Lewis’s office on Market in San Francisco. He had a full head of hair and his voice was strong and there was no doubt in my mind that he knew exactly what he was going to say–and nothing else.

Of course I was excited. To me, “the local historian,” this was a long way from stories about the Ocean Shore Railroad and artichokes–for me, this was going to be really good stuff. Unlike some of my local interviews with people who were reluctant to talk about the colorful prohibition era and their role in it, Marvin Lewis had no inhibitions whatsoever.

He was perfect the interview. He knew why I was there and he was ready to go and anxious to tell me the story he would never forget. (Marvin Lewis passed away in 1992).

June: [I got straight to the point]: How did you get involved with Michael McCracken?

Marvin Lewis: Well, I’ll tell you how I became involved. In my early years of the law, and I still do some criminal work, I did heavier criminal work. I don’t know how many years we’re going back. I can’t place it exactly. I know I was living in Hillsbourugh so it has to be within the last 20 years.

Maybe 15 years ago if we can place the beatnik era. But it seems that there was a superior court judge in Los Angeles County who knew of me as a lawyer in San Francisco. And he was a personal friend of a wealthy doctor and his wife. And they had three daughters. Two of the daughters had married establishment men and they lived in Beverly Hills and Westwood in L.A.

And, the daughter, Carol, had become, and we’ll use the term–a beatnik.

Mainly lived at that time drinking in the pubs, where the poets recited and the artists had their paintings.

[Carol] had been—was up for trial for the sale of cocaine. And I said I’d like to speak to the mother and the mother came up with one of the daughters, and a very elegantly dressed woman, and a very fine woman, and very distressed over the situation.

[Carol’s mother said her daughter] had been living with a man by the name of McCracken, an artist.

I named a fee. It was substantial and I was paid the fee. I said to have the daugher come in.

1959: When the “Beat Scene” Hit Miramar Beach, Part V, Conclusion

What most astonished Pete Douglas was the appearance of artist Michael McCracken with his entourage in tow. McCracken, who resembled 1950s actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., ws well known on the beat scene in San Francisco. Pete says that for awhile McCracken was “the beat leader in Princeton…along with these legendary characters right out of the book ‘On The Road.’ When these characters traveled down Highway 1, “they fell in at Princeton. He (McCracken) was what you’d call hard core on the scene…”

McCracken’s “scene” was at Princeton’s Abalone Factory, an old wood frame plant that once had processed fresh abalone. McCracken painted abstract floor-to-ceiling murals and lived there with his fellow free spirit friends. Also sharing the cramped space were goats that clomped across the floor and exotic birds that swooped and flew through the air.

Pete Douglas says that he was carefully watched by the paranoid McCracken who “suspected me because I was employed. That was enough right there. As a probation officer, that was even worse.”

On that hot Sunday afternoon–while Michael McCracken and friends romped and rolled in the weeds that grew in front of the Ebb Tide Cafe and the Brazilian soundtrack from Black Orpheus blasted in the background–someone arrived with the svelte Miss San Mateo, a beauty whom Pete says became Karen Black, the well known movie star. He remembered her wearing the kind of bathing attire suitable for a beauty competition, “out of character with the raunchy scene, posing on the picnic table.”

Into the mix, the sociology teacher arrived, his troop of open-eyed students trailing behind him.

“They arrive,” mused Pete, “with these cases of beer. Finally we coaxed them in, and they were foolish enough to start bringing in their beer–which never even reached the front door.”

By then the scene had become what Douglas defines as “a hard party. Carrying on. Arguing. It was going on indoors and outdoors everywhere. There were even people on the roof.” Pete had never seen such a “totally involved party” in his life, “in which there weren’t passive spectators. They were oblivious to anything going on.”

They were oblivious even to the cars accumulating on unpaved, rocky Mirada Road–cars that moved slower and slower, finally grinding to a halt.


“One of my tricks was to go out and direct traffic,” laughed Douglas. But his gallant efforts were hopeless. “By now I’m dancing and I look out and I see we were ringed. There was a crowd just standing there and watching us.” He says some of those watching were people who had abandoned their vehicles. What else was there to do but join the party?

And how did the party end?

Pete Douglas told me that he doesn’t remember.

But it was the end of a decade–and, in a way, the end of innocence. The horror of the Vietnam War loomed in the future–and the “beats” of the 1950s would usher in their socially committed brothers and sisters of the 60s.