(Photo: Oil wells on the Coastside?)
Story by June Morrall (1977)
Coastside writer Peter Kyne worked at DeBenedetti’s General Street on Main Street in Half Moon Bay sweeping floors, running errands, and meeting the cast of characters that lived in town in the late 19th century.
From the start, young Peter noted the unhurried way of life that prevailed on Main Street. He was amused as locals in their buggies observed the daily ritual of swinging wide to avoid striking George Wyman’s hound dog, the lovable animal that always lay sound asleep in the middle of the dusty road.
The customers, who, all day long, walked in and out of the general store, often passed the time of day exchanging good gossip which also passed for the latest news. By the end of his first week, Peter learned that not all of the clientele spoke English. So Peter, the future world famous author, quickly picked up just enough Spanish, Portuguese and Italian to get along with everyone.
According to Peter, the two general stores were more than willing to extend credit to anyone–including Satan himself. And if he failed to pay, Kyne joked, they might even consider extending him additional credit.
Still Peter recalled the only time his employer instructed him to cancel somebody’s credit–and that somebody would be the later super-rich oilman Ed Doheny. Doheny stood out among these fortune hunters who drilled for black gold around Half Moon Bay in the 1880s and ’90s.
While Doheny boarded his crew, he bought dry groceries at DeBenedetti’s General Store on credit. But his wells failed to produce oil and soon Doheny’s funds dwindled. Besides already owing several hundred dollars, the best of the gossip said Ed Dohney was broke, bankrupt.