Interview with Pete Douglas, Part II (1979)

juneatbeach.jpgLeft: Me, on the beach, at the time of the interview. Right: Pete DouglasDSCN0792.jpg

(Pete & I talked about the Miramar Beach Inn and how one owner closed the old bar and turned the building into an unsuccessful grocery store before it was again reincarnated as a bar/restaurant in the 1960s. From a tape transcribed by Linda Goetz, Coastside Secretarial).

Pete: Anyway, I’m drifting afar.

June: I just want to hear about it all. Feel free. No one seems to really know the chronological order of what happened on this street, Mirada Road. Where did you come from?

Pete: Los Angeles.

June: And what were you doing down there, before you came here?

Pete: I was brought to L.A. when I was 9-years-old, from Arizona, by my mother and stepfather. I went to part of elementary school and high school in California. As soon as I was old enough to get on a bike, I really called Hermosa Beach my “second home”. And, incidentally, that is where when I was old enough to sneak into a bar, at age 17, I went to hear jazz.

We ended the big band era in the late 1940s and started a movement of jazz again with small groups often taking over the back end of bars playing for nothing, if necessaqry, just to have a place to play…small groups, modern jazz in the back of bars–and there were always several Hermosa Beach bars, mainly the Lighthouse…

After the army, I went back to college, El Camino Junior College, in or near L.A., southwest L.A., near Inglewood.

When I finished college, I knew I had to get out of L.A. The smog and everything. This was the early 1950s. So I looked for any way to transfer to college up north. I made the first step to Santa Barbara. I transferred as junior to Santa Barbara in 1953 and graduated two years later in ’55.

June: And your major?

Pete: Sociology.

June: That’s my major, too.

Pete; What do sociology majors do?

June: They get lost.

Pete: That’s a crazy breed. Well, of course I didn’t find work in Santa Barbara. But then I had Linda (his first daughter) on the way. I had to get a job and on the bulletin board there was a job as an Assistant Field Director for the American Red Cross up in northern California. They ended up putting me at Travis Air Force Base, Vacaville. That’s how I moved down here.

Well, anyway, in the simmer of 1955 I graduated, went directly to Vacaville, lived there for a year-and-a-half, I think, and thought I was going to get a job in Marin. I had my eye on Marin County. I didn’t give a s— about the job; I was just trying to find the area I cared to live in.

And, you know, in Sausalito, you could have had a store front for a song. In the 1950s people were looking for interesting places. There was the Bridgeway and the vacant storefronts and I didn’t know what I was going to do with one of them.

I figured if I could get a job in Marin County then I would start working in Sausalito. Drum up something, i didn’t know what. But it didn’t pan out. The job didn’t materialize and I had moved to San Rafael.

Then I got a letter, word must have gotten out in the industry, and as usual the government was expanding and I got a letter from an administrator: ‘come and help us, saying he wanted to talk to me about a job.

I badly needed a job. The Red Cross was going to send me to Alaska, or quit. So that’s how I came to San Mateo County in early ’57. Came to this county, took the job as a probation officer.

Interview with Pete Douglas: Part I (1979)


Here’s the first installment of an interview I did with Pete Douglas (Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society at Miramar Beach) in June 1979. The Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society is a world class jazz house founded by Pete Douglas. The interview was taped and transcribed by Linda Goetz of Coastside Secretarial.

Pete: I called it the Ebb Tide Coffee Shop, the little building downstairs. But prior to that it was the Ebb Tide Cafe built about 1947 by Grandma Treadwell.

June: People just came here–like the Miramar used to be before it was remodeled?

Pete: No, the Miramar was built way back before Prohibition. Grandma Treadwell had her two sons built the Ebb Tide, back in 1946, ’47…they were going to build two stories and they built a foundation big enough for ten stories. There’s probably more beer and wine bottles in the concrete than concrete.

Anyway they got it built and they leased it. Far as I remember, that’s what I’m told. Not long after that Buster Westfalt’s mother–the Westfalt familys been out here a long time (ed. True. One of early Westfalts was a “diver” at Princeton Harbor). Buster’s mother opened up a taco place or something and, that was about in the 1940s. And then somewhere in the early 1950s the most colorful, successful owners of the place, was Gladys Klingenberger and her husband Gerald.

When they ran it, it was packed. But all they had was beer and (prohibition-style, even though it had ended long ago) Gerald kept whiskey under the counter. There was an old coke box sitting behind the bar where the beer was–and many times Gladys was passed out behind the bar. And people would come in to pick beer out of the coke box…and in the back room there was the gambling room….

And Gerald worked part-time as a cement worker so at the Ebb Tide you’d find cement workers, ex-cons–and you’d had to be prepared to fight your way out. It was a rough place to hang out. It was really a dive.

Later on when I was a probation officer, I checked the files, the sheriff’s files on this place–and there were dozens of “blue sheets”, calls for fights, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon.

When I bought the building, I inherited some hard oak clubs….and if you got tapped with one of those you were out cold–they were like getting hit with a piece of sttell. Oh man, the Klingenbergers had quite a reputation. And back then the Coastside was pretty wide open–you know what I mean, prostitution, gambling, whatever, so that’s why Gladys sold booze and beer.

View through an old lens

Looking almost like an oil painting, from a hill in El Granada, enjoy this breathtaking view of Miramar, with the Miramar Beach Inn, (you’ve got to pick it out) standing almost by itself, overlooking the ocean. 30 years ago.

The Mullen Farmhouse

When I dropped in on Tom Clyne at the historic Mullen Farmhouse in east Miramar in 1977, the 84-year-old retired bookkeeper told me he had inherited the property from Clara Mullen.

Wow, I thought. What a great property. The Mullen Farmhouse stood at the far end of a dreamy country lane, it’s white paned windows barely visible from a favorite nursery of mine specializing in apple trees.

Clara–the last surviving Coastside Mullen– died of a heart attack in 1971. Tom did the books.

Was there a romantic link between the couple? I doubt it. Clara Mullen was two decades older than Tom Clyne. But although born in San Francisco, Tom Clyne spent the latter part of his days living alone in the Mullen Farmhouse, leaving only to drive to Pacifica where he swam laps in the high school pool.

The old farmhouse was originally home to the Irishman John Mullen, his wife, and eight children, four boys and four girls.

There was Ned and Bill and Annie and Clara and Tom Clyne couldn’t remember the names of the other two boys.

I already knew the background of the property when I visited Tom in the 1970s.

A century earlier the Pacific Steamship Company had hired John Mullen to run Amesport Wharf, today known as Miramar—and Tom added that Mullen purchased the beautiful property, within walking distance of Amesport, from the famous San Franciscan, Claus Spreckels, “the sugar kingâ€?.

Busy Amesport was a power point and John Mullen so famous that nearby Medio Creek was called “Mullen’s Creekâ€? by the locals. Memories of John Mullen’s presence hadn’t faded much over the decades because I heard locals comfortably using “Mullen’s Creekâ€? in the 1970s.

In the Redwood City archives of the San Mateo County History Museum, Clara Mullen left us an anecdote about Amesport Wharf. She describes the tiny village of misfits and sea captains and deep sea divers as such a busy place that three small ships were loading and unloading supplies at the same time. Coal for heating was imported from far away England but the self-reliant Coastsiders planted fast growing eucalyptus trees and later cut them down for firewood.

Tom didn’t change much inside or outside the old Mullen farmhouse, constructed entirely of redwood, and held together with square hand-cut nails–but he did like modern conveniences and installed electricity and plumbing. There was an outhouse but there also were two commodes (bowls) inside cabinets in the event you didn’t make it to the outhouse in time.

Original furniture remained, chairs, a walnut bed frame and an antique secretary with hand carved handles. One entire room looked as it did 100 years earlier. I hope I get this right: throughout the house the walls were fashioned of “wood on woodâ€?. In this one room I saw an old- fashioned wallpaper pattern. Tom explained that in order for the wallpaper to stick, a layer of cheesecloth was placed between the wood and the wallpaper.

The art on the walls was that of the easily recognizable local painter Galen Wolf, watercolors of Pillar Point, Devil’s Slide and the Hatch Mill that once stood south of Half Moon Bay. Also mounted on the wall was a special dinner plate, a reminder from the ill-fated T.F. Oakes, the iron ship that ran aground at the foot of Kelly Street in 1898.

I felt lucky to see the old Mullen Farmhouse . You don’t get to do that often these days.

Before I left, Tom Clyne pointed out one more thing. Look closely at the white fence, he said. I saw a single red rose blooming. Look closer, he said, and you’ll see a bullet hole. Just above the edge of the red petals, I saw it, the bullet hole.

Not long after the Palace Miramar had replaced the Amesport Wharf, one of the Miguel’s horses trespassed on the Mullen’s property, and John Mullen’s son, Bill, aimed at the animal but we don’t know if the bullet hit its target.

But the small bullet hole in the fence, and all the possible stories you can imagine leading up to it, has fascinated me ever since.

What Henry Told Me

When I met Henry Debenedetti in the 1970s, the colorful history of Miramar Beach was tugging at my curiosity strings.

I already knew about Maymie, the red-haired madam—who ruled not only the prohibition era roadhouse that her lover-carpenter built for her—but her powers (political-financial) seemed to extend southward into the little town of Half Moon Bay.

My evidence: I have had reliable reports from those close to the action that Maymie was often seen in the company of the town’s banker and his wife and friends—a strictly spreadsheet type of relationship.

Miramar was at the center of everything. It had even been chosen as the best spot for a tiny port, the first one on the Coastside, despite the unpredictable winds that finally closed it down.

There was one mystery I hadn’t solved—a name locals attached to Miramar, a name I wasn’t getting right.

“Peach Chiano,â€? that’s what I thought I heard locals call him—but I knew that couldn’t be someone’s name. Maybe a nickname?

So—when I encountered Henry in the library after the Thanksgiving of 1976, Miramar and “Peach Chianoâ€? were on my mind.

Henry ticked off a list of things he remembered about Miramar. The one that grabbed my attention most was “Pete Gianni. He had a wild temper….â€? And he was involved in a horrendous crime that shocked the community after WWII.

Henry cleared it all up. Pete Gianni was my man.

I took a quantum leap forward in my quest when Spanishtown Historical Society member “Patsyâ€? Dutra gave me a significant set of clues. Her then 89-year-old father, Mac, sometimes called “Dukeâ€?, had owned the town’s funeral parlor.

Patsy furthered my investigation by giving me the funeral home’s report on Pete Gianni, then long deceased.

Gianni was well known on the Coastside, the owner of a grocery store in Miramar—where local Italians gathered to dance on weekends. Some described him as kind and quiet, others as easily incited. As long as his business prospered, the widower seemed content.

But after WWII ended, and the soldiers stationed on the Coastside—many of whom frequented Gianni’s store scattered to begin new lives elsewhere– Pete Gianni’s grocery business slipped sharply and he considered taking on a partner.

The 72-year old Gianni knew and respected the Shaw family of El Granada, 36-year-old Lincoln, his 33-year-old wife Agnes, and teenage daughter Carolyn. Lincoln had attended schools in San Mateo County, including the junior college and Agnes’s father was a respected Burlingame contractor.

During the war fish oil was in high demand and Lincoln made a good living working as a commercial fisherman at Princeton. When the war ended, so did the demand for fish oil and Shaw looked for new opportunities. To save money, the Shaws moved in with their Burlingame relatives.

Pete Gianni and Lincoln Shaw cut a deal as Lincoln paid the grocery owner $1000 for an interest in the business. The Shaws would continue to live and commute to Miramar from Burlingame. Under the new proprietors, the grocery store thrived and prospered.

Instead of feeling proud, Gianni seethed, feeling he had been cheated in some way.

After the first of the year in 1947, neighbors heard the angry voice of Pete Gianni at the grocery store. The old man was armed with a shotgun, yelling at Lincoln Shaw, angry about the rent, saying he wasn’t being paid enough.

Shots rang out. Lincoln was mortally wounded. Gianni spun around, pointed the weapon at Agnes and her daughter, Carolyn, threatening them but he didn’t shoot. Running out of the store, he drove away in his car, the destination his longtime friend and veteran Redwood City criminal attorney Joseph Bullock, also known as the “verbal volcanoâ€?.

But in the end there wasn’t a trial. Pete Gianni pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to prison, passing away at the Vacaville Medical Facility in 1955.

Pete Gianni’s horrific crime stunned the Coastside community, and 20 years after his death, everyone who lived in Half Moon Bay remembered his name.

(Photos, Spanishtown Historical Society, Patsy Dutra)
Note: the second photo is of the Gilles Grocery Store in Miramar, last time I saw it it was a private residence and in the hands of the Gilles family.

1979 Interview with Pete Douglas/Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society

I always enjoyed interviewing Miramar Beach’s impresario, Pete Douglas, because he’s a one-of-a-kind, accessible, and always more than honest. You WOULD NOT believe the big names that have played at Douglas’s Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society.

Some of you will read Pete’s words and “hear” exactly what he sounded like, talking with the ubiquitious pipe in his mouth, then pausing to laugh at what he said, then perhaps musing on some other internal revelation causing him to laugh again and conclude, “so that’s what that was all about”. Maybe he was solving the puzzles of his life while he talked. And Pete, who came from southern to northern California, loves to talk.

We were upstairs in Pete’s office at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Miramar. His office, a desk and chair, was located in the big, spacious upstairs next door to the room where the jazz and classical concerts take place.

Here’s the beginning of the 1979 interview.

Pete: I was a bohemian of the 1950s, in college and after, anti-establishment, yetthere was the other straight side of me. I had a family and I had to get a job and I took a job in this county as an adult probation officer….It’s not like a regular job but it’s an official police sort of job which me very suspect with the hardcore beats that used to come through here.

June: What did being beatnik mean in the 50s?

Pete: A lot of good stuff out on that. The beatniks were a real extension of the American bohemia right on from the turn of the century, the 20s, the 30s, 40s and 50s. It was just another twist or continuation –however, the style it took was anti-establishment, anti-materialistic America. They had intellectual leaders like Sarte, the French writer, and the San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

We are interrupted as the phone rings.

Pete: Douglas speaking. Yeah. Every Sunday. This Sunday is the guitarist Charlie Byrd. And then following that is Coke Escovido 13-piece Latin Jazz Orchestra. Yeah, we’re hardcore jazz, although we do a greater variety of it, like traditional, swing, bop, mainstream, progressive, spacey, funk, Latin. Yeah, I’ll mail you something right now, and if you want ot remain on the mailing list it’s $3.00 a year. What’s your name? Carder? Oakland? Tremendous this fall. We’ve got a blues thing, Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Clean Head Vincent on the 9th, David Fathead Newman on the 16th, Zoots Sims….We’ve been doing this for 14 years. Every Sunday. That’s the only time we do it. Right on the beach. Beautiful small roomm for jazz. Bring your own juice. Okay.

Pete hangs up the phone and he’s back into the interview with me.

June: Would you say the Bach has some of the finest jazz music in the world?

Pete: Now I could say yes. We have the best instrumentalists in non-classical music, which tends to be jazz oriented but not all of it is hardcore jazz.

June: Is it the only jazz house of its kind in northern California?

Pete: Kummbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz –they incorporated as a non-profit music organization and they do primarily jazz once or twice a week. And they followed our pattern. That’s the only other non-profit I know of.

June: And you’ve always had a fascination with the beach ever since you were down at Hermosa and the Lighthouse? Where does that fascination come from?

Pete: Some people like the beach, the whole space. Beach communities are liberal, live and let live, more tolerant, and, of course in Southern California there’s a lot of action on the beach whether it be jazz or other things. Going back to the 20s and 30s big dance halls were all on the beach, amusement parks, that kind of thing. That’s the only place I felt a sense of freedom, on the beach as opposed to the conventional residental setting.

June: You say you lived like a beatnik. What does that mean?

Pete: Well, the beatnik style of dress was merely any odd collection of clothing that you pick up for very little money. …In other words to exist without the conventional jobs, to exist without the 9-5 jobs–the freedom to deal with your interest in arts and crafts….Jazz has always been associated with and still is the minority music, a protest music, an unconventional music as opposed to our European musical traditions.

June: I’ve noticed that you’ve changed your attire from what you used to wear.

Pete: The only thing that’s changed is that I used to wear sneakers, ratty old sneakers….I’ve been wearing Levis since I was 11-years-old. And in Los Angeles on the beach it was Levis and Levis have only changed to the extent that they’re slightly flared with a belt. Prior to the Mod scene of the 60s, it was not cool to wear a belt. In my case I’ve had these old captain’s hats and I also wear a turtleneck because they’re comfortable when it’s cool.

June: Didn’t you want to run your own espresso house?

Pete: Oh, yeah. Even in Santa Barbara, before I got out of college. Oh, by the way, being a graduate of college was not exactly in the beat tradition. They were drop-outs. But I was a dual person coming from–and this was not unlike the freaks of the 60’s–a lot of ’em were upper middle class kids who revolted against everything, and a lot of the beats were upper middle class kids. Some of em were just bums. Took on the appearances because it was fashionable. The beats had to survive with some kind of economic ‘mom and pop’ store. If they could figure out how to do it, live off the crumbs of society….

June: This little building downstairs–was it originally built in the 1940s?

Pete: I think it was built around 1947.

June: So before that there was nothing here?

Pete: No.

June: (Regarding the ‘little building’ downstairs) I remember you looked through the Police ‘blue sheets’. What did you find?

Pete: Felonious assault, burglary. See, it was run by Gladys Klingenberger and her husband, Carroll.

June: Do you think they’re still alive?

Pete: I think Carroll died and I just don’t think Gladys is around. I last saw her over ten years ago at the Miramar Hotel, (burned in the 1960s) at the bar, juiced, bad mouthing everybody as usual.

….To Be Continued

An Artist Visits Miramar in the 1970s

In the late 1970s many artists turned up in Miramar to meet Coastside photographer Michael Powers and the geodesic dome he built and furnished in his own special style.

One of them was the artist Bridge Beardslee, who, in 1978, was having an exhibition of his sculpture, drawings and paintings in a Vancouver, British Columbia gallery.

This was Bridge Beardslee’s calling card:

Old Miramar Landmark Partially Destroyed By High Waves

The old landmark I refer to in the headline above was an historic wharf at Miramar, partly destroyed by huge waves in early November 1928 or 77 years ago.

About 150 feet of the wharf at Miramar Beach had been swept away by heavy seas and a team of men worked feverishly to retrieve the floating wood and debris.

It was originally known as Amesport Landing ( built by Judge Josiah P. Ames in 1868)–and after it was modernized, it was called Miguel’s Wharf, named after the Half Moon Bay family who built the beautiful glass-windowed and redwood shingled hotel called the Palace Miramar.

The pier and the hotel, once the site of Amesport Landing and a warehouse and customs house.

The wharf’s fame grew out of the Amesport, pre-Ocean Shore Railroad era when Miramar was the center of a tiny seafaring village, with a warehouse for shipping and receiving freight for the Coastside. There was a waterfront saloon and a customs house from which passengers bound for San Francisco boarded the colorful steamers “Maggie” and “Gypsy”.

(Valladao is a well known name in Half Moon Bay, and one of their family members, “J.C.” worked as a clerk in the custom’s office.)

It was Moss Beach writer, Peter Kyne, who fell in love with Miramar and the steamer “Maggie”, so much that he featured them in his first book, “The Green Pea Pirates”. Local legend has it that when Peter was a kid he watched the steamers stopping along the Coastside to drop a package of nails here and pick up a letter there.

Hearing about the pretty hotel, the wharf, the steamers and the writer who loved it all, makes you believe all was perfect in Miramar.

Nothing is ever perfect, and behind the facade was a longtime feud between the new hotel and wharf owners, the Miguels, and the Mullens, the former “power” at Miramar. The Mullens, whose lovely farmhouse still stands on the east side of Highway 1 in Miramar, had operated the Amesport Wharf until the landing lost its usefulness as a source of transportation and was plunged into bankruptcy.

Along came the Miguels with a well known architect’s plan for a beautiful hotel that would serve Ocean Shore Railroad passengers. The indoor salt water “plunge” and the restored wharf would knock the socks off visitors. It was inevitable that a confrontation would arise between the Mullens and the Miguels.

That story coming up soon!

Pete Douglas Talks About Wrinkles On Women: Part I

About the time of this interview with Pete Douglas, he celebrated his 50th with musician Benny Barth. Here is the invite.
This is Pete, I apologize for the poor condition of the photo I took.

June: What do you think about wrinkles on women?

Pete: Wrinkles on women? If they’re not excessive for their age, I don’t find them unattractive. If they’re in good physical shape overall, that more than compensates for a few wrinkles. I find most women with a few smile lines, eye wrinkles in the corner, minimal, hardly distracting.

June: Should women stay out of the sun?

Pete: No question about it. Excessive sun wreaks havoc on the face.

June: Here at the Bach (Dancing & Dynamite Society), you see women of all ages. What have you heard?

Pete: From women in their 30s, I hear references to getting older. They might mention a few wrinkles and gray in their hair. They don’t belabor the point, just small references. In the face in the 40s, wrinkles become much more pronounced, but has more to do with personality shining through–and keeping themselves in good shape. Not letting themselves get overweight. I’ve seen dynamite looking women in their 50s–(laughter)they’re all going out with younger guys.

June: And the very young women?

Pete: The young, fresh thing is like a picture postcard but it kind of idealizes things–you got to be the best for your age. At 22 it’s a pure fantasy thing for a lot of men–but if you’re looking for a real person who has developed a real personality, women who are older are more interesting.

June: What about men and wrinkles?

Pete: Men just worry about getting bald–they don’t worry about a few wrinkles over 30. You see a cigarette ad and it’s fine to see a macho western man with a craggy face–you never see a woman that way. The only time a man gets bothered by is just by getting older. That, and other signs, his getting older and his powers and abilities and general demeanor at being effective might be diminished. Obviously a lot of middle-aged executives go to a lot of trouble looking younger, getting face lifts.

Kirlian Photography

This was the energy field, “the aura” around my fingers a quarter century ago. The aura was captured via Kirlian photography –which allegedly reveals the unique body’s spirit energy at the moment “the picture” is taken.

Earthy photographer Michael Powers of Miramar –and of kyak and geodesic dome and and spiritual fame took the “picture ” using special Kirlian photography equipment 25 years ago.

When I first arrived on the Coastside, Michael Powers was a successful greeting card photographer. He often featured the natural beauty of Half Moon Bay in his trademark picture.

Here’s one Michael took of his former wife, Maria and their daughter, Marika, feeling merry in the lovely local flower fields.