Prelude to “The Ladies Home Companion”

Prelude to the “Ladies Home Companionâ€? by June Morrall


(Photo of Michael Powers, circa 1974, by photographer Dennis Swenson).

In the 1970s, Michael Powers’ Miramar home overlooking the surf was an artistic center of gravity.

Outdoors–that’s where Michael could most often be found–carving designs into massive logs, building a unique and steep stairway down to the beach, hosting community events between an eye-catching A-frame with a concrete statute on top and a more traditional geodesic dome.

Michael climbed the nearby mountains and brought back hefty eucalyptus logs to fashion into a one-of-a-kind curvy staircases. He was (and remains) in superb physical shape, a long beach trot was part of his daily regimen– and one day when an abandoned golden retriever followed me home from the post office, it was Michael who made the dog his pet– a dog that loved the unrestrained beach life as much as his new master.

In the 1970s, there was no one like Michael Powers. Smiling, with arms akimbo, he talked enthusiastically about new projects to other artists and photographers that happened by the high energy “scene.”{ Some of them stayed and helped Michael build the dome and A-frame.)

Michael Powers snapped pictures of the colorful flower- filled fields of Half Moon Bay, his young friends riding horses on the beach and playing in the surf in his front yard. Once a year he and his very gracious brother, Pat, also a photographer, packed up their collection of pictures, jumped into the car and drove to the East Coast to sell the images to the big greeting card companies. The annual trek became a signal for some Coastsiders that the summer was over.

Another high energy “sceneâ€? evolved at Bruce Pine’s “Potter Plantationâ€? in Half Moon Bay– an older home on Potter Street with an authentic windmill (all still standing in the middle of a cluster of million-dollar subdivision homes). Bruce Pine’s sundeck became famous for the beautiful, nude bodies that graced it.

According to one story Bruce Pine loves to tell, in the 1970s, neighbors within range, took out their binoculars to see who was tanning themselves on the deck that day. They might catch a glimpse of Jerry, Mark, Flower and many others–all basking. Bruce, himself, was often not at home at his Potter Plantation house, business taking him to cities all over the country.

Separated by four miles, the artists and photographers traveled back and forth between the deck at the Potter Plantation and Michael Power’s tabernacle.

….more to come…

Miramar: The Historic “Hastings House”, An Artist’s Garden

Decades before Coastside artist Linda Montalto Patterson and her classical musician husband, Richard, bought the historic “Hastings House” in Miramar, cows and a cantankerous bull grazed on the neighbor’s land. At that time eveyrbody had an outhouse and the one nearest the bull was outfitted with a window so that whoever was using the outhouse would know it was safe to come out.

The cows and the bulls are gone and Linda has tamed the land, turning it into a garden paradise by the sea. Here’s a peek at one of the most beautiful gardens i’ve ever seen. And, by the way, the Hastings House is a favorite place for garden weddings. Talk about creating memories,,,





Miramar Beach’s Amesport & Judge Josiah P. Ames: Part V

wharf.jpg (Photo: A rickety Amesport wharf some 60-70 years after it had been built at Miramar).

The political star of Josiah Parker Ames was rising when he donated a new flag staff to the town of Half Moon Bay in 1876. The newspaper described it “as a beautiful stick, with a small platform around the base.” The flagpole was planted on the southwest corner of Kelly and Main.

While JP reached new political heights as a stage legislator, the booming potato business at Amesport slipped into decline. A pesty worm destroyed the future of the crop and the little steamers stopped less frequently at Amesport. Finally Ames sold the business to the Pacific Coast Steamship Company–but they were never able to resuscitate the business and duplicate the heady days of the 1870s. The connection between JP Ames and Half Moon Bay was severed.

Josiah Ames was appointed the warden of San Quentin Prison in the 1880s; he is noted for introducing the manufacture of jute bags there. This prolific Englishman by birth died in 1903 in Martinez but not before he was subjected to embarassing accusations of fraud by a sister living in Oakland.

NOTE: The descendents of JP Ames have a website:

Miramar Beach’s Amesport & Judge Josiah P. Ames: Part IV

Josiah “JP” Ames had his finger in every sector of Half Moon Bay’s miniscule economy. He owned a flour mill where the grain was ground and cracked. In 1873, when 700 citizens lived in Half Moon Bay, the mill turned out 50 barrels of flour per day. He supplied the town with water. He was the proprietor of the Half Moon Bay Livery Stable at Main and Kelly.

“J.P. Ames has selected and stocked one of the best equine establishments on the coast,” bragged the Times & Gazette. Perhaps he rented horses for the Fourth of July races at the Half Moon Bay Trotting Track. But there were hard times, too: in 1869 his friend James Denniston died at age 45 of Bright’s Disease (related to the kidneys).

Ames’ wife died in 1871 and he remarried later. In 1874 JP was the last survivor of Stevenson’s Regiment in San Mateo County.

A significant contribution by JP Ames was the building of a wharf and warehouse at the mouth of the Arroyo de en Medio in 1868 in present day Miramar. Called Amesport Landing, the new wharf opened up a vital economic link with the outside world. From here the Coastside’s fresh local produce was shipped to market in San Francisco. A small, colorful village with seafaring characters sprang up around Amesport and the wharf prospered in the 1870s.

San Franciscans couldn’t buy enough Half Moon Bay potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers–and strawberries. In 1874 the steamer Monterey sailed off with 6000 sacks full. “This is almost like shipping coals to Newcastle,” remarked an amused reporter in the Times & Gazette.

…To be continued…

Miramar Beach’s Amesport & Judge Josiah P. Ames: Part III


A creek running through the James Denniston property in Princeton–where the family reputedly resided in an adobe–was named Denniston Creek after its owner. Denniston operated Old Landing, the only wharf on the Coastside (where there were no natural harbors); little steamers stopped there to load produce in the 1850s. Denniston was politically powerful. During a trial in which he was the defendant, the jury didn’t bother to leave their seats to deliberate in the jury room. They acquitted him on the spot.

While in Half Moon Bay, Josiah Ames found romance, wedding Elizabeth Freeman in San Francisco in 1861. The happy couple lived in a new 12-room house with ocean views, described by the San Mateo County Times & Gazette as “decidedly the finest dwelling on the other side of the mountain.”

Already a county supervisor, Josiah P. Ames now took office as treasurer.

…To be continued….

Miramar Beach’s Amesport & Judge Josiah P. Ames: Part II

ames.jpgBorn in England–but reared in New York City—Josiah P. Ames was 20 when he joined Col. Jonathan Stevenson’s special regiment that sailed around Cape Horn to California in 1847. The colonel’s instructions were to take part in the American occupation and to make the inhabitants “feel that we come as deliverers.”

With the completion of the mission, Col. Stevenson bought a rancho in Contra Costa County. His objective was to turn the land into a large, prosperous city. Ames followed in the colonel’s footsteps when he cast his eye on Half Moon Bay.

Already Ames had tasted the life of tents and cloth houses in San Francisco and the rawness of life in the gold mines. Filled with energy, he was now ready to buy land, start up businesses and launch a political career.

Perhaps it was fellow Stevenson Regiment member James Denniston who invited him to the Coastside; they were close friends. After marrying into the prominent Guerrero family, Denniston found himself the wealthy owner of an immense tract of land, called El Corral de Tierra, stretching from Montara to the Arroyo de en Medio in Miramar.

…To Be Continued…

Miramar Beach’s Amesport & Judge Josiah P. Ames: Part I

The few clusters of Americans scattered in the bureaucratically named “Department of California” felt threatened on the brink of the U.S. “war” with Mexico in 1846.

The settlers smelled invasion in the air.

But from whom? They weren’t certain. They feared the Indians who could set fire to their homes and crops; they feared the Mexicans who could take away their livelihood…but for a time these isolated Americans whipped themselves into a frenzy against their old enemy, England.

And why not fear England?

At that very moment Admiral Seymour of the British Fleet were rumored to be sailing for the Pacific Coast. The settlers wondered if his orders were to take California. The editors of English publications gleefully took pen in hand to support the efforts of any country (except the U.S.) in a takeover of California. The nerves of Americans weren’t soothed by the fact that until 1846 England and the U.S. jointly held Oregon. That rainy territory was just too close for comfort…so it was understandable that the thought of the old Union Jack fluttering in the wind gave settlers the jitters.

The jitters were unnecessary. The English either decided California was not a plum worth fighting over or the British agents weren’t on the ball when the time came to strike. After all, it was the U.S. that went to “war” with Mexico and won handily in 1848.

Josiah Parker Ames was an Englishman who did not alarm the settlers when he appeared in Half Moon Bay about 1858.

…To be continued…