Don Martinich: The cyclist with a rumrunner or two in the family

June Morrall (JM) to Don Martinich (DM)

Thank you for the fascinating email! I had no idea there was so much cycling around here. I would love to know more. I did eat at Pete’s Cafe a couple of times before the building vanished….how I wish I had had the experiences you had. How did you get the photo?

DM: I grew up on the Peninsula. My parents, my sister and I moved to sunny San Carlos in 1944 from the foggy Sunset in SF.  Eventually we ended up in Menlo Park.  After graduating from Menlo Atherton HS and diddling a bit at CSM I spent 4 years in the Coast Guard.  Around the time I got out I became highly interested in European bicycle racing and the bikes themselves.
DM: Living along the edge of the northern portion of the Santa Cruz Mountains, it was the obvious place to ride. The coast side of The Hill had a lot of lightly trafficked and scenic roads so it was also a natural place to ride.  I ended up joining the local cycling club, Pedali Alpini, where I found many riding partners and a little organized competition.  Back then our races weren’t sanctioned by local authorities so the coastal roads were ideal locations.  We did time trials near San Greg[orio] and had a road race up and down the coast called the Tour Del Mar.

DM: The photo of Erich [ von Neff] is from a time trial we held in April of 1964.  After the the time trial several of us repaired to Pete’s for a spaghetti lunch.  That’s when I snapped the foto of Pete.  By the way, I was so pleased to find Steve Lubin’s article on Pete’s on you site.  Steve and I used to ride together quite a bit in the mid-60’s. I have family living on King’s Mountain so I decided to come down from Davis to watch the Tour of California come up Tunitas Canyon last Monday.  Who should I run into after 40+ years, but, Steve!  Erich came up in the conversation and it was Steve who suggested that I contact you.  Actually, I would have probably done that any way.  The photos that I took of the time trial are going to be part of a web page on vintage cycling I am working on. I will send you the url when I get it up.

(JM): And why are you called “Dutch?” There was a famous “Dutch” Alves in Half Moon Bay.

DM: The name “Dutch” was given to me by a friend in high school and it just stuck.  I’m not Azorean like the Alves family but my father was born on an island along the Dalmatian coast.  There are similarities between the two cultures.

JM: What’s your rumrunning connection? I would be honored, truly, if you tell me more.

DM: My father, who grew up in North Beach from 1912 on, had apprenticed as a machinist and became a journeyman in 1920, just in time for prohibition.  He had a partnership in a saloon for a while and then some people he grew up with got into the import business.  They bought several WW1 surplus boats and would buy imported liquor from Canada from off the ‘motherships’ that hovered out beyond the 12 -mile limit.  They would pull into coves in dark of night and offload to small dories who would come in through the surf and unload on the beach.  People with trucks would be waiting at the designated spots and drive the liquor back up to SF at night and hope to avoid the feds and highjackers.

DM: It all sounds a bit dangerous to me but these guys were all in their early 29’s.  I remember my Dad mentioning Pedro Point, Moss Beach, and Martin’s Beach as landing sites.  Imagine braving that surf in the winter!

JM: Erich von Neff  is a special writer and I enjoy posting his work.

DM: I loved Erich’s race down the coast story.  It had a real magical quality to it. I wish there were more.