Miramar Tidbit

For years and years at Highway 1 and Medio Road in Miramar there was a tall wooden pole that had obviously been a sign post, advertising something, but what? You couldn’t see anything because the sign had been nailed over with wood.

One day a local decided to take the pole down and when he did the sign beneath was revealed to read: Palace Miramar Hotel. The wonderful photo by photographer Maria Demarest shows the stop-action thrill of the pole coming down–the most exciting event to occur on the ultra-quiet Coastside of the 1970s–but, sadly, I have no visual record of the sign itself.

(Photo: Another view of the geodesic dome that attracted a lot of attention in 1970s Miramar. See earlier Miramar post)

Behold the Sea: Many Historic Events

At left: Pete Douglas (in the back) and his brother, Jack, pose at the Ebb Tide Cafe, the hip coffee/jazz house, surrounded by artichokes and overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Miramar. This was the beginning of the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, today a world-class jazz house. (Actually, recently Pete brought back the flavor of the Ebb Tide Cafe, located in the same little building you see here).

Come to think of it, Miramar Beach (which means to behold the sea) has been the scene of many historic events, paralleling the growth of the Coastside.

(Photo: The first working wharf on the Coastside (built by Judge Josiah P. Ames in 1868) was located at present day Miramar. More than 50 years later, during the latter part of the doomed Ocean Shore Railroad era, the owners of the fabulous Palace Miramar Hotel repaired the rundown pier.)

Tiny Miramar Beach has been witness to the rancheros and the rounding of cattle near Medio Creek, site of the Coastside’s first working wharf & seafaring community which gave way to construction of the Ocean Shore Railroad and construction of the beautiful Palace Miramar Hotel and restaurant.

Then when Prohibition rolled in, Miramar became a home to the colorful rumrunners, bootleggers and the red-haired madam with her upstairs bordello at the Miramar Beach Inn (not to be confused with the Palace Miramar which was located at the other end of the street where the wharf once was).

(At right: Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Palace Miramar Hotel burned in the 1960s. Special parties organized by the Ocean Shore Railroad stopped here and, later, the hotel became famous for crab cioppino dinners, sometimes these fundraisers for famous politicians such as with famous politicians Richard Nixon.)

The land surrounding the hotels and roadhouses was planted with artichokes by farmers. The chokes were served in novel ways at restaurants in Half Moon Bay and the Coastside was shipping the artichokes all over, even to the East Coast, earning the title of “artichoke capitalâ€?.

And when the Ocean Shore Railroad filed bankruptcy, pulling up the rails, the Miramar Beach Inn and the Palace Miramar served customers delicious clam chowder and fond memories of other times. (The Palace Miramar burned in the 1960s but the Miramar Beach Inn still stands).

Representing the beat era spiritually, former county probation officer Pete Douglas inventeed the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society–which metamorphised from the Ebb Tide Cafe, an intimate, hip coffee house with spontaneous acting-out, but more importantly the beginning of jazz music scene at the beach-this was in the late 1950s–to a bigger world- class jazz house featuring first-rate musicians playing the full spectrum of jazz. Pete’s kept the “Bachâ€?, as we locals call it, pure. We’re so lucky to have a jazz house on the Coastside–I can even walk there from my house.

(Photo: When photographer Michael Powers’ dome appeared in Miramar in the 1970s, the structure became a curiosity piece in Miramar).

In the 70s greeting card photographer Michael Powers built a geodesic dome near the site of the then-gone Palace Miramar– and behind Power’s dome is where the future young, intrepid surfer Jeff Clark grew up, the Jeff Clark who, on his Coastside surfing journeys, was to discover and name world famous Mavericks–whose immense winter waves bring world-class surfers to Half Moon Bay.

(Photo: The cover of “Maverick’s by Matt Warshaw, published by Chronicle Books)

Now we’re up to date.

In Miramar, every historic era of the Coastside is represented, if not still seen, then it must be imagined.

Back to the Miramar & Maymie

A few posts back I told you how I first got into Coastside history.

I was obsessed with it and had to have everything I could get my hands on. Every time I collected a new photo, fact or anecdote, I felt so proud. I really did.

When I heard the Miramar Beach Inn had originally been built as a prohibition roadhouse– and even more tantalizing–that a madam named Maymie Cowley ran the place, I set out on a search for her. I figured there was a slight chance Maymie was still alive; she would have been in her 90s at the time.

Alas, I was too late. She had died some ten years before I started my search for her. I did get information at the funeral home and found relatives and her last place of residence in Redwood City (After a robbery at the Miramar in 1955, her home since about 1916, she moved over the hill). I wrote the relatives and they sent me photographs of Maymie–nobody had these photos.

I knocked on the door of Maymie’s last known home–a place she shared with another woman but couldn’t get anywhere. The lady did admit Maymie had lived there but I think she thought I was some sort of nosey official, what with my legal sized notebook and pen in hand. (I was so serious about my research).

By the way, that’s Maymie in the photo, one of the pix her relatives from the Midwest sent me. (And what’s great is that the Miramar–that’s what locals call it–an historic roadhouse, still stands.

Miramar Beach Inn

Earlier I wrote that it was the old Coastside buildings, lucky to still be standing and dying to talk, that got my attention. The first one that tested my curiosity was the Miramar Beach Inn and that was because it was getting a new look.

The “Miramarâ€? was a very funky place when I first saw it. A dark but cozy bar with Joe the bartender who sang opera while he poured bountiful pitchers of beer. Very picturesque. But soon a young guy with money and very high energy bought the place and moved upstairs with his cute blonde wife. Up there they enjoyed a fantastic view of the Pacific. And there were other little rooms on the same floor. These were rented out to people who worked in the restaurant.

It wasn’t long before I learned the Miramar had once been home to a red-haired madam called Maymie (a local hairdresser, the second wife of a county supervisor, told me she dyed the madam’s hair red). Maymie lived upstairs and the hookers she hired were girls just passing through looking for a little work.

Maymie was a long time resident, living at the Miramar between about 1918 and 1955.

Downstairs was where the party was– in the restaurant and bar. And if someone wanted to take the party upstairs there was a dumb waiter that could be activated from the rooms, bringing drinks and food.

The Miramar’s heyday was in the 1920s during Prohibition and its location overlooking the Pacific was perfect. Just imagine Maymie could look out the window and see the rumrunners sailing in fishing boats and the like withillegal liquor, booze that was unloaded along the secluded beaches, probably right in front of the Miramar and certainly to the north at Princeton Harbor where there were several piers. Maymie, herself, was probably working with the bootleggers and rumrunners.

It has been said that the Half Moon Bay Coastside was the biggest supplier of illegal booze in–well, at least in Northern California area, maybe all of California. All you have to do is look at the stretches of beaches and coves and remember how isolated they were in the 1920s and how difficult it was for officials to patrol an area difficult to get to–

But when poring over old newspapers there is evidence that Maymie’s Miramar was busted by prohibition agents. They probably didn’t recover every illegal bottle of booze though, because the resourceful madam ordered her contractor to design revolving cabinets and movable floorboards to confound the authorities.