Jim Rafferty surfed and worked on the Coastside in the 1970s. He was from Woodside and went to school there but Half Moon Bay was a frequent destination. Later he moved here working in construction and for awhile he owned an antique business in an old home on Highway 1–and he grabbed every opportunity to enjoy the waves. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Jim–he now lives in Astoria, Oregon (where he is an RN).
“We recently got back from a month in India,” he emailed me, “where [my partner] Gail’s daughter, an exchange student there from Swarthmore was studying classical Indian music and theatre. I surfed my way up the west coast of Southern India. Even though there can be good surf there and the beaches are beautiful surfing is almost unheard of. I am also involved in our Blues festival up here \â?Blues by the Sea\â? I am involved with musicians in Portland and Seattle.”
Until fences started appearing on the Coastside, putting up barriers where they had been none before, former trappers like Joe Feldman regularly rode his horse from Half Moon Bay to Montara and back. The fences struck a big blow to the freedom of his travels in the once rural landscape where he had been born.
Bill’s family goes all the way back to the early Coastside; one of his maternal relatives was crowned Chamarita Queen in Half Moon Bay (the famous annual Portuguese festival) and he joked that his family “partied through Prohibiton”–
Bill highly recommends Michael Koepf’s book about the fisherman at Princeton: “The Fisherman’s Son”
“There’s fictitious names use in the book,” Bill told me, “but as you soon as you read who’s saying what you know exactly who it is.” Bill knows because he grew up on the Coastside and he knows all the local fishermen very well.
There have been more developments vis-a-vis my “Search for the Beatniks Who Lived In The Abalone Factory At Princeton.”
I’ve heard from the fascinating artist Michael Bowen, the world traveling painter (there is a room in a European museum named after him–Bowen always felt that his art was more appreciated & understood in Europe than in America ) with his young wife and daughter–Michael was my link to Michael McCracken, “the beat leader out at Princeton” (the Modigliani-type painter, as longevity, and perhaps so-called hard-living goes, both, Modigliani & McCracken died before they were 30).
For a little more color, please read this story: http://www.halfmoonbaymemories.com/2006/12/06/1959-when-the-beat-scene-hit-miramar-beach-part-v/
You might recall that years ago, in the 1970s, I started following up on the so-called “beatniks” at Princeton (they sound more like early hippies to me). That took me to City Lights Books in North Beach and poet Ferlinghettic referred me to M. Bowen. I met M. Bowen at one of the cafes in North Beach and he then invited me out to his fabulous home in Bolinas. By fabulous, I don’t mean there were lots of expensive “things” there–but it reminded me of a movie set. I wish I could think of which movie. How about naive writer, out for adventure, risks her life meeting people she doesn’t know, goes to remote house with big pool guarded by two mastiffs.
Michael Bowen had drawn me a map with directions to the Bolinas pad and told me to honk twice at the gate which would alert the two mastiffs and him. It all turned out to be perfectly safe–my instincts were very good.
More on the details of my adventure at the Bolinas house later.
As it turned out, Michael had hung out at the Abalone Factory a lot–but he lived at Tunitas Creek around the time that the big eccentric landowner John Wickett was there, and free spirit types live on his Skyline property where they built treehouses and domes. Michael was an artist–one who had wealthy collectors buying his work. At least one piece was acquisitioned by the Oakland museum and his work is held in some European museums.
Jerry Kamstra, author of “The Frisco Kid” was another artist-in-residence at the infamous Abalone Factory. Before she was famous, Janice Joplin visited Princeton as did the writer Richard Brautigan (“Trout Fishing in America”)….Now I have learned that Allen Ginsberg also paid a visit or two.
I’ll get into more of all this later…some people have questioned whether the Abalone Factory existed because they lived in Princeton in the 1970s and there was no such place.
Okay–Michael McCracken was out at Princeton from about 1960 to 1964. The Abalone Factory, according to prominent attorney Marvin Lewis (now gone), was located way out at the end of Princeton, the last house before you got to the radar station. (But I have now found out where it was located).
These artists were the bigger-than-life types. After meeting Michael Bowen, I can attest to that. (For example, not only did McCracken paint huge huge paintings, he was a huge huge piece of work himself). Bowen, who lived at Tunitas Creek for a time, went on to live with John and Yoko Lennon in England in the late 1960s, hung out with Timothy Leary (and did not take drugs or drink much–Bowen’s thing is and has always been yoga…)
…See my Other Work II & Other Work III for more…
In the late 1970s I first heard of the beatniks who lived in the Abalone Factory out at Princeton….the whole idea of that wild, crazy scene, and Michael McCracken, “the beat leader” caught my fancy just as much as Maymie Cowley had– the red-haired madam who operated out of the Miramar Beach Inn from the heady days of Prohibition to the more sedate 1950s.
I followed up on both McCracken and Maymie Cowley who did not know each other. How I hoped either or both were alive so they could regale me with never-before-heard tales of the Coastside I had grown to love so much. Not just love but I found the Coastside to be a mysterious place, with wonderful and terrible secrets hidden everywhere.
How I wanted to know what I didn’t know but I just knew was there………
With Maymie, the madam, I had nutured a deep hope that she was alive and living in Redwood City. Alas, when I knocked the door of her last known residence, I found out the trail was ice cold. I was a decade too late. Through mortuary documents, I tracked down some relatives in the Mid-West…they wrote back with a little history and a couple of photographs. It was the first time I’d seen what she looked like and, yes, I was a bit disappointed, having believed that if she were a madam, she would look more flamboyant. But in the photos she looked like somebody’s grandma.
Other trivia trickled in over time but none of the really good stuff I was looking for. I don’t mean the madam stuff but she was involved in Prohibition traffic…from her windows,she could see the rumrunners doing their business.
McCracken was something else. Much younger than Maymie, he really could be alive and I thought there was a good chance he was. What would he be like, I wondered. Where was he?
Nobody knew anything–dead ends everywhere– but McCracken was a beatnik and I knew that beatnik life had been preserved in North Beach at San Francisco’s famous City Lights Bookstore. I wrote the poet and owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti and I received a response in the form of a contact name and post office box address in the City.
Turned out that the contact was artist Michael Bowen–who had lived with McCracken at the Abalone Factory. Still, I knew nothing of the whereabouts of McCracken. Maybe when I met up with Bowen at his home in Bolinas he would tell me.
Once again I was too late….Michael McCracken had died young, in his mid-20’s, in London, England.
But if you’ve followed this story, you know that a baby was born in 1963 in the Abalone Factory, the son of Michael McCracken and his wife Carole. Because of my postings that baby, now a very grown-up man [Michael Rothenberg] contacted me–because he, too, has been on a parallel search for the threads of his past– which he learned about less than 10 years ago.
Then a few days ago I get this mysterious sounding email from one Michael Rothenberg:
“Imagine my surprise when I did a casual Google search for Michael McCracken San Francisco and you had posted, not 45 days ago, a wonderful reminiscence of Marvin Lewis about my parents!
I was the baby, Michael McCracken Jr, that lived in that delapidated abalone factory, born February 11, 1963.”
June to Michael: I am equally stunned. Tell me more about yourself.
Michael Rothenberg to June: “Michael Bowen and Arthur Monroe are both my godfathers. I’ve spoken to Michael Bowen and actually came out to San Fran to spend time with Arthur Monroe. Not sure if you know him….he’s a curator at the Oakland Museum and was also an artist “back in the day”.
As for me, I live in Chicago, where my grandmother brought me after my mother died. We were traveling in Mexico in 1966 when my mother overdosed. They placed me with a family in Mexico until my grandmother was able to find me through the Consulate. She was a great person…troubled, but great. She was a wonderful singer that would frequently perform and hang out with the likes of Janis Joplin in the coffee galleries in North Beach.
As for my father, Michael, he died in June 1968 in a London hospital, officially determined a suicide based on the information found on his death certificate I was able to obtain. It’s been an interesting journey for me over the past 9 years, finding out all the information I have compiled.
The website of my search is at www.woodstocknation.org/mccracken.htm along with an article that was written about us that was published in the Miami Herald.
There’s a lot more to tell but it’ll have to wait until later. Meanwhile this is a great story and please read the links, including the one Michael Rothenberg, the baby born in the Abalone Factory in Princeton, sent me.