Fellow Book Benders
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    This is the 26th edition of Fellow Book Benders, a free monthly online newsletter about the ridiculous truth and historical tidbits of San Francisco, the Russian River and beyond.    This venue allows me to promote my novels, etc.  New followers are deeply appreciated.  Spread the word and feel free to share.  This month we revisit Guernewood Park along the Russian River for the last of a two-part series.  Enjoy!
         June, 2018                                               Vol. 3, No. 6
Guernewood Park, Part II
      George Guerne, a Swiss immigrant who in 1870 had Stumptown (Guerneville) renamed in his honor, purchased adjoining parcels, which became known as Guernewood Park.  The top left photo (1920’s) shows the entrance to the area, which was located where the empty lot is today next to the Dubrava complex.  This was the largest resort along the Russian River at the time, comprising almost fifteen acres. When the last train pulled out from the station in 1935, auto routes experienced heavy traffic.  The dirt road down Pocket Canyon was asphalted, the concrete for which came for the old sand and gravel plant that was just downstream from the Odd Fellows Bridge (you can still see remnants of the piers there today).  Another route was across the Monte Rio Bridge.  The original one was constructed around 1915 at a cost of $25,000, which was replaced in 1934 by the current span.
       In later years, a building housed various businesses near the main road.  A second photo in the top left depicts the 1947 structure with its grocery store, bakery, Sportsmen’s Club bar, and restaurant.   Ben Larner remembers that his grandfather and father (Rip Larner) ran the butcher shop inside the grocery store.  Sam Sirdofsky recalls the dentist office across the old Highway 12 from the grocery store where the half-blind Dr. Papov worked on Sam, his teeth chattering with every slip of the drill.  Sam was allowed to work off the expenses for some bad  dentistry by building models for the doc’s mini-golf course, which stood where the childcare center is today.  Pam Copple managed the miniature golf course from 1959-1965.   
       The Guernewood Park Tavern was built around 1905.  The photograph at the top right was taken in 1938.  The building was the entrance to the beach, which sat behind the tavern.  During these yearly years, it was a popular destination for the Big Bands (bottom left photos).  Other dance halls included the Palomar on Fitch Mt., Rio Nido, Mirabel Park, The Grove in Guerneville, and Monte Rio.  Artists like Buddy Rogers, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Woody Herman and Ozzie Nelson stopped in Portland first and then traveled along the Russian River before moving on to Santa Cruz. There was dancing six nights a week with the cost being 50 cents on weeknights and 75 cents on weekends (bottom right photo). The site at Guernewood Park became known as Ginger’s Rancho (top right photo) and was a popular destination in the sixties.  It included a restaurant, bar and cabins.  Julie Jueletha remembers going square dancing in the hall next to the Tavern at the far end of the paved area.   The Tavern was later abandoned, vandalized and burned down about 1974. 

   There were many recreational activities at Guernewood Park during the sixties.  Besides dancing at the Tavern and watching flicks on the outdoor screen, you also had a peewee golf course and a roller skating rink across the street where the Garden Grill is today.  If that wasn’t enough, there was an indoor bowling alley where Ferrellgas stands.  Next door on the site where the Chinese restaurant is, there were horse stables.  The pony rides did the loop down Old Cazadero Road and back along Lover’s Lane.  The hayrides (top left photo) took you thru Guerneville to Armstrong Woods Park where you would enjoy a BBQ before returning.  Rich Caselli remembers as a kid working the stables as well as riding the back of the wagon to insure no one fell off (circa 1949-1954).  Misty Moreno became good friends with Tom Stoy whose father brought the horses out to the river each summer.  I’m betting she got a free pony ride out of the deal.
        The beach rested behind the tavern.  There was a diving board at the end of a pier as well as concession stands where you could rent anything from a one-piece bathing suit to an umbrella to a sno-cone and canoe.  In addition there was a forty-foot high-dive platform (bottom left photo), but only the lifeguards were allowed on the top level.  Perhaps one of the most fun features was a forty-foot slide (bottom right photo) that took you for a ride into the shallows.
       Guernewood Park and fishing were synonymous at one time when angling tales were aplenty along the banks of the lower Russian River.  A 1905 issue of the Santa Rosa Republican reported that “Salmon are running at the present time in vast schools…It is no task at all to catch more salmon than one can carry, and small boys are catching them on pitchforks instead of the usual gaffs required.” The 1930’s photo (top right) shows a group showing off their trophies.  When the tide was low, locals would breach the sandbars at the mouth in Jenner with sticks of dynamite to allow the fish to run upstream.  Bill Schaadt, who lived in Monte Rio, was regarded as one of the top fly fishermen in the world during the 1950’s.  Quirky and elusive, he became the object of countless stories.  To save money in order to feed his obsession, he backed his trailer into his living room, forcing the county officials to red-tag his home, which in turn freed him from paying property taxes.  In order to discourage others from fishing his favorite spot near Guernewood Park, he would solder a razor blade to his hook and cut the lines of nearby anglers.  The mural behind the counter at Pat’s restaurant in Guerneville was painted by Schaadt.  If you study it, you can see the “Hacienda Hole” on the other side of the old Summer Crossing near present-day Dubrava where he enjoyed spending his free hours.  A second photo in the upper right shows an eight-foot white sturgeon caught near this very same locale in 1998.
      Times certainly have changed since William Keith rendered a liking of Guernewood Park in his 1878 oil painting (top left photo), not to mention the 1920's photo (lower left) of sunbathers fresh from their trip aboard the North Western Pacific R.R.  But a humble, unpretentious strip of land still exists to remind us of yesteryear.  Many of us pass this memorial everyday not knowing its significance.  It is sandwiched between Highway 116 and Guerneville Lane next to the Guerneville Bible Church.  The Angela Boles Memorial Park (bottom right photo) celebrates the man who once owned the entire area across the road where a funky restaurant, bar and campground known as Ginger’s Rancho existed.  Before that it was the site of the Guernewood Park Hotel, which burned down a long time ago.  
      The existing empty lot next to the Dubrava Village is owned by Kirk Loc who hopes to build a new resort there.  The plans call for 100 hotel rooms, 20 housekeeping bungalows, conference rooms, restaurant and a spa (top right photo).   Supporters hope that the new resort will revitalize the region’s economy.  The four-story hotel would evoke a traditional rustic lodge appearance and sit just above the beach.   The long dormant plan for the resort has been kicked around for decades since a previous developer, Paul Wang, built 55 condos before the financing for the project floundered amid the 1980’s savings-and-loan fiasco.    An added bonus if the project moves forward would be the reduction of litter, drugs and homeless encampments on the property. 

       If you have enjoyed reading one of my novels, a short review with Amazon would be appreciated and much needed.  One or two sentences would suffice.  This is an important element in book selling.

Next Time:
   In July we will visit the early days of North Beach in San Francisco for the first part of a two-part series. Do you have a favorite historical tale or personal adventure relating to North Beach?  If so, I would love to publish it next month in Fellow Book Benders. You can reach me through my website or email me directly:  Thanks and stay tuned. 

        If you spied a film crew along the banks of the Russian River recently, they are shooting scenes for Katrano, a documentary inspired by my first novel, Memories That Linger.
       On another note, Don't Stop the Music won a Notable Indie Book Award in a national writing contest.

Where to purchase my latest novel:
      Don't Stop the Music is an award-winning, action/adventure story that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love.  It is a wild ride through the streets of the Haight and Fillmore Districts of San Francisco culminating in the historic Grateful Dead concert in Rio Nido along the Russian River in 1967.
         The paperback as well as the kindle version are available on Amazon.  If you want to save on shipping and handling charges, you can purchase a signed copy through my website at

          My novels are also available at Hand Goods, Occidental; Gold Coast Coffee, Duncan Mills; Jenner by the Sea Gifts, Jenner; Larks Drugs, Five & Dime, and Russian River Art Gallery, Guerneville; Bia's Coffee, Monte Rio; Gaia's Restaurant, Santa Rosa.
Reviews are trickling in for Don't Stop the Music:
        “For those who remember the era (Summer of Love), Don't Stop the Music is a delicious summary of memory.”
         San Francisco Museum and Historical Society
        "John McCarty has put together a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love (1967) that is cheerful and entertaining and even pays tribute to the beauty of west Sonoma County..."
          Sonoma County Historical Society

          “A trip back in time to the 1960’s San Francisco Fillmore District, up through the Marin & Sonoma coastline to the Russian River hippie heyday and the peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.  A nostalgic read.”
            Russian River Historical Society

            "Somehow McCarty manages to build sympathy for his motley crew as they embark on a classic road trip from San Francisco to rural northern California."
            Northern California Fulbright Association

         "Familiar folks, home-grown scenery, and candid attitudes will put you happily in the middle of all the action."
            Stephen Gross, The Press Democrat

           "All along there is danger, excitement, budding love and a number of unrighteous brawls.  The author knows what he writes about.”

            Bob Jones, Sonoma West Times & News

Attributions & Asides:
       A special thank you is due to anonymous subscribers for sharing their memories of  Guernewood Park.   Also, a note of appreciation goes to the following individuals and organizations: Rich Caselli, Ben Larner, Sam Sirdofsky, Pam Copple, Julie Jueletha, Misty Moreno, Robin Monroe (website designer), The Press Democrat, Card Cow Vintage Postcards, Sonoma County Historical Society, Russian River Historical Society, San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, and Wikipedia.
                To subscribe a friend to this newsletter go to and scroll to the bottom of any page to "Subscribe To Our Newsletter".
                 Your privacy is important to me.  Be assured that I am not sharing your email or any other personal information. As Red Skelton used to say, "Good night and may God bless."   JMc
Copyright © 2018 John McCarty, All rights reserved.

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