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.

I didn’t know Half Moon Bay was there

I never visited the Coastside while I was growing up in San Francisco. I didn’t even know it was there.

What I tell people is that one of the things I learned in school was to move to Marin County. Even now it seems as if all my classmates at Lincoln High School live somewhere on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sausalito was a big attraction; there wasn’t much else over there then. I took swimming lessons in Terra Linda and rode on the Greyhound bus there over a little dusty highway. The driver actually stopped on the highway and I walked across the road and the mile or so to the swimming school.

During the summer my parents took regular outings to Searsville Lake, a wonderful place for a kid to swim. There were small floating rafts to hang onto and a big one that held a dozen swimmers or so.

My dad would drive south from San Francisco along bucolic Canada Road and we’d make the mandatory stop at the Pulgas water temple. We’d get out of the car and I’d run over to the “water temple” and stare down to watch the water flush like in a big giant toilet, or that’s what the kid-part of me remembers.

Later I heard the temple had been dedicated (was it in the 1930s?) to an artist called George Sterling, a poet whose least favorite drink was water.

To get to Searsville Lake you had to drive through a dark, woodsy part of Woodside. For some reason my father always got stumped there and we took a few wrong turns before we entered a clearing that led to the lake’s parking area. The weather was always roasting hot, there were bees, picnic tables and small boats to rent.

We never went to Half Moon Bay. I’m sure if I looked to the west I would have seen a thick cover of fog. One HMB oldtimer who was born in the 1880s told me she couldn’t remember when the Coastside wasn’t foggy. Having grown up in San Francisco’s Sunset District–which was anything but sunny–I was accustomed to the fog, and you know what? I liked it.