1898: The Half Moon Bay-Pescadero Tiff: Part II


But by 1898, what had been dubbed “the Pebble Beach War” was over and the beach was open to everyone–and now that the air had cleared, Half Moon Bay sent some of its concerned citizens on a special mission to see how the Pescaderans had weathered the nasty affair. What they found, they said, was a tense former “war” zone.

The special interest group from Half Moon Bay included Roma Jackson, the Coast Advocate newspaper’s reporter/editor/publisher. Roma never missed an opportunity to exploit a juicy quarrel brewing between the two rivalrous Coastside towns.

Anyone could have predicted that the visit would turn into a nightmare. As usual, the contingent from Half Moon Bay criticized, tsk, tsk, tsk-ed and ridiculed their sister villagers. They could never do anything right.

Finally they zeroed in on a deteriorating cemetery fence north of the village–a fence that the Pescaderans later acknowledged as “the disgrace of our cemetery”. But for now they remained tight-lipped–except to leak the news that funds for a brand new fence were to be raised at an upcoming dance organized by the young ladies in town.

Privately, the Pescaderans thought the condition of the fence was none of Half Moon Bay’s business. They prided themselves on being independent thinkers who resented Half Moon Bay flexing its muscles so far from home.

“If our town does not suit the people of other towns,” sniffed the proud Pescaderans, “our advice to them is to stay away.”

…To Be Continued…

1898: The Half Moon Bay-Pescadero Tiff: Part I


In February, 1898, the villagers of Pescadero had had enough of the stream of unrelenting criticism dished out by a visiting contingent from Half Moon Bay. What was the problem? It was about everything in general, but specifically, the poisonous word darts were aimed at the fence surrounding the local cemetery where some of the gravestones were artfully decorated with stones gathered from nearby famous Pebble Beach.

As soon as the offending party from Half Moon Bay left on the stagecoach, the Pescaderans met and decided to forgo sending a formal thank you along with freshly made olallieberry pies–and instead offered a caustic serving of what was on their minds.

The timing of the visit was unfortunate. The tug-of-war over who owned tiny, precious Pebble Beach had made its way through the courts, subjecting the Pescaderans to ruthless scrutiny in the press. That fiasco had been instigated by the village’s best known resident-villain, the litigious millionaire landowner Loren Coburn.

He said he owned Pebble Beach, treasured as one of the village’s family jewels–an 1898 one-of-a-kind beach attraction that brought horse and buggy tourists and prosperity to quaint Pescadero. Coburn planned to charge an admittance fee and that did not sit well with the locals who were used to roaming about everywhere freely.

To demonstrate his power, Loren Coburn closed the beach sending Pescadero’s fragile economy into a tailspin. Depending on which newspaper you read, the press either wagged a disapproving finger at the Pescaderans or at Coburn, sometimes both, but the upshot of the testy affair was that tourists stopped visiting and spending money in Pescadero.

…To be continued…

“Skyline” in the 1960s: Part I

MtnHouse.jpgThe Mountain House Restaurant

Geographical Definition: For those of you who don’t know, Coastsiders live in the flatlands. They are called “flatlanders” by the folks who live up on the hill–up on the mountain, near Kings Mountain, up on the two-lane tree-covered Skyline Road, most of which now sits in the affluent Woodside community.

About 1956, John Wickett, a very kind, eccentric fellow, bought some 4500 acres off Skyline as an investment. The property embraced the top of Kings Mountain with spectacular views of the bay and the Pacific–as well as ancient redwood trees and cool meadows. A historic sawmill once stood there and crudely built huts and shacks dotted the dazzingly green landscape.

Mr. Wickett got more than an investment. The land would forever change his way of life.

In 1979 I interviewed John Wickett at his San Francisco Pacific Height’s home. Pacific Heights, with its breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, is home to some of the rich and famous. Author Danielle Steele has a fabulous home in the area–consulates from all over the world have their headquarters here. Really, it’s unlike any other city.

But John Wickett’s three-story home and his interior decorating, I’m sure, ran counter to prevailing tastes. It was stuffed with bizzare things, many of which he had obtained at auctions. Near the front door was a mechanical creature I immediately recognized. It was the brightly painted, gaudy “Laughing Lil”–so named because she laughed hysterically, bending at the waist with outstretched arms, in a spastic manner. When I was growing up in San Francisco’s Sunset District, she had been a famous resident of Playland at the Beach”. “Laughing Lil” was part of the life of every kid who visited the popular amusement park, now replaced by beach condos and apartment buildings.

The floors of Wickett’s home were densely covered with outlandish objects, wooden, ceramic, metallic, short, tall, some unidentiable. I could have sworn that one of the larger “objects” in a corner of a bathroom was a gynecologist’s table. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was….

Every inch of painted wall space was covered with embroidered fabric or colorful cloth from all over the world.

He had created a home that was the antithesis of what most people called a home. I think that was his purpose, to shock, to shake-up, to show that there was no one right way to live a life. John Wickett’s was clearly a different life–and he never wavered in it.

You could walk (or run, or lope) up the stairs of the multi-leveled home–or ride in the soft, velvet-lined elevator. I chose the elevator. My destination was John Wickett’s office, down a narrow corridor, past many closed doors.

He sat there waiting for me–there was a vitality and energy surrounding this kind, warm and very eccentric man.

Photo: San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the museum located in the historic Redwood City Courthouse.

…To Be Continued…

Langston Bowen R.I.P.: A Very Funny Recollection By Fayden Holmboe

Lang Bowen’s Driving Lesson Dilemma

fayden2.jpgStory by Fayden

MiramarBeach.jpgMiramar Beach, circa 1920s

Langston Bowen (most of us called him “Lang” back then) passed away about a month ago; he lived out here for a long time, and the most memorable thing I remember about Lang was a driving lesson gone bad.

So to set the stage, Lang lived at the south end of the road the Miramar beach Inn sits on.This house is now known as the “Hastings House”. After the “outer” breakwater was installed, the currents changed and ripped the beach down dramatically, so instead of walking straight out of the front of one’s house onto the beach, you had to climb down a cliff wherever access was possible. It looks similar to how it is
today, the difference is they hadn’t put the rocks in yet to curb further erosion.

I think that happened in 1970.

Some of these new cliffs stood fifteen feet or more between the road and the sand.

As memory serves me, Lang had one of the first Toyota land cruisers, a large station wagon- sized- four wheel- drive. He volunteered to help this kid Steve learn how to drive. Teaching someone to drive
is a charitable act at best, while at the same time putting one’s life, health and material wealth into a unpredictable teenager’s hands.

Apparently Steve hit the gas a little too hard backing out of the driveway, drove himself, Lang and the landcruiser out of the driveway and across the road a little too quickly to brake. Slowly………
slowly the car tilted until it sat on its back window and bumper facing down into the sand, its windshield facing skyward. It looked kinda like the space shuttle at the launch ramp in Florida .

After all this happened, I came walking upon the scene described. I looked down over the front of the car (I was standing on the road) through the windshield at a very puzzled Lang and Steve gazing back upward at me. Lang, whenever puzzled and unnerved, had a smile with enough teeth to look like the front grill of a fancy Lincoln Continental. With this smile he welcomed me to the scene not seeming to be terribly upset although somewhat bewildered.

So I asked Lang what in hindsight was an absurd question! “Do you need any help”?

Wth his Lincoln Continental “full-teethed” grin dazzling me and the heavens beyond, he laughed and replied “Uh……..no……….no……NO……we’re fine”!

So believing him, I walked away and went on in life with whatever I was doing.

Now, remember there were no cell phones. I have no idea to this day how they got out of the car (but they did), I have no idea how the car made it back onto the road (but it did), and we laughed about it later.

Ahhhhhh, the end of the sixties, we all did inhale, and no none of uswere running for president.