Fellow Book Benders
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    This is the 22nd 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 month we revisit Guerneville and listen to the stories of ancient structures.
         February, 2018                                               Vol. 3, No. 2
Guerneville, Part Two
      The above map depicts several prominent businesses in 1960 Guerneville.  Starting at the top left, a 1940's brothel still stands.  It is a nondescript white two-story private residence next to Russian River Reality and an art gallery.  Supposedly the upstairs cribs remain but hopefully are used today for a different purpose.  Working our way west, the Stork Club was where the Rainbow Cattle Co. presently resides with the same horseshoe bar that existed back in the fifties.  In addition to the Stork Club, other saloons were the Louvre, Pat's, Gori Tavern, Bank Club, Owl Tavern and the River Club to mention a few.  It was once said that "you didn't need to swim in the river to drown".  
       Omitted is the Rendezvous bar, which would have been located where Trio's restaurant is now.  Bob Evangelistic owned the place.  During the 1986 flood, his good friend Fred MacMurray entered and ordered a drink while sitting in his canoe.  The River Club (upper right portion on the map) was owned by the Markarians.  George worked the bar while Joe brought ice to the neighborhood in his Yoo Hoo delivery truck.  Third brother Al delivered the mail while Dolores kept everyone in line. 
          The Bank of Sonoma (formerly the Bank of Guerneville) took up residence in a 1921 building designed in the classical revival style.  It later became the Centennial Savings and Loan until the feds seized the institution in 1985 during the national S & L crisis.  The building remained closed until Bob Pullum reopened it as the Guerneville Bank Club, its moniker borrowed from the old-time saloon, which existed across the street.
          Also featured are five gas stations (a sixth stood a block down Armstrong Woods Rd).   Have gas, will travel.  Remember the days when the attendant (photo lower right) would fill your tank, wash your windows and check your fluids?
           Notice that Safeway once stood between Church St. and Mill St.  At the time (mid 1950's), the lot where Safeway presently stands was the site of Dominic's Carnival featuring several kiddie rides.  Dominic was the man about town, owning a devil-may-care attitude and a way with the ladies.
             On the strip between Guerneville and Rio Nido you would find such establishments as Jimmy Britt's, a saloon named after and run by the boxing great, located in the same building where Dada Hardware stands today.  Dino's, Palm Beach Club and Charlie Percell's Resort were a few additional operations along the "strip".
              Fred MacMurray appeared in more than 100 movies including The Absent-Minded Professor.  He starred as the widowed patriarch in the t.v. series, My Three Sons, which aired between 1965-1972.  In 1941 he purchased a 1700 acre ranch on Westside Rd. in the Russian River Valley.  It was sold to Gallo Wines in 1996.

   The Murphys were pioneers of the area, owning and operating two different lumber mills in the 1870's.  In 1905 the family purchased a fifteen-acre site just west of Guerneville.  Murphy's Guest Ranch (upper left photo) was the largest resort at the time accommodating 150 guests in furnished tents and cottages. Dosia Murphy was the hands-on manager.  She would drive her Model A to the train depot and deliver waiting vacationers to her resort.  Liquor was strictly off limits on the premises while the dining room featured family style meals with ten at a table.  The fare specialized in steaks, fresh salads, milk from the resident cow as well as homemade fruit cobblers. 
           Dosia died in 1967 at age ninety-nine from a fall while picking blackberries.  Her grandson, Leland Murphy III, would eventually take over the resort, acquiring a liquor license and adding a pool.  In 1977 his wife Debra (who was mentally ill) shot and killed him and their two children as well as burned down their private residence on the property.  The sheriff later found the murderess naked in the nearby creek.  Shortly thereafter, Chess champion Peter Pender from Philadelphia transformed the resort into Fife's (lower left photo), which for a time became the gay destination in northern California.  
           The Louvre Saloon dates back to the 1880's when the trains used to rumble down Main Street.  Can you spy a portion of the bar in the upper right photo?  In 1909 it was voted best watering hole.  There was a card room in the back with slot machines, which remained well into the fifties.  Russian River Video occupied the building for twenty-five years.  It is now home to Community First Credit Union. 

        Boxer Carl Bobo Olson hung out at the Louvre, loaning his name for P.R. purposes in exchange for free drinks.  He was the World Middleweight Champion between 1953-1955.

   The Hideaway saloon (upper left photo) in Guerneville sits on the same site as the 1870 Montesano Station, which served as a depot for the Guerneville & Russian River R.R. line.  The structure burned down in 1920 but not before witnessing the grand ol’ days of the lumber  industry. The present building was built on the original foundation, perhaps explaining why until recently not a square or plumb inch could be seen.  For decades the roofline and windows were cockeyed, which seemed a good fit for the eclectic bunch of characters who frequented the joint.    Legend states that the upstairs housed a six-room brothel, all the while playing host to a number of supernatural guests. 
            One of the longtime fixtures at The Hideaway was Angie Stanford (lower left photo).  She ran the place for forty-six years always greeting customers with her blue-collar, Austrian accent.  She stood an underwhelming five feet tall, needing the assistance of risers in order to reach certain elixirs.   It was always an interesting encounter when ex-Niner Bob St.Clair walked into the bar and smothered her with his 6′ 9″ frame. But you had better not take her diminutive stature for granted.  She was as tough as they came.  On one occasion a band of bikers rolled into the parking lot wearing scruffy beards and club patches.  Angie told her patrons to relax as she promptly exited and ordered the thugs to vamoose.  Bred from old-school values, she wouldn’t tolerate any misbehavior.   She once eighty-sixed a man for being impolite to his wife while booting out another for foul language.  And if you didn’t like the stiff drink she poured, you might find the door as well.  Gracious to a fault (and her pocketbook), the first beverage was always on the house.  Angie Stanford passed away on May 26, 2015 and is residing with her husband George in heaven. 
         The Grove Dance Hall (right photos) in Guerneville was a hot spot for the Big Bands, open every night except Sunday during the summer.  Harry James, Woody Herman, Ozzie Nelson, Phil Harris, Buddy Rogers, Ted FioRito, Kay Kayser and Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiians all played at the Grove.  There is no shortage of patrons who met their spouses on that dance floor (or that handsome Navy ensign who shipped out and never came back).  The Grove Dance Hall burned down in 1964.

         Former employees at The Hideaway testify that they have had numerous encounters with the ghost of Evelyn Ripkin, a deceased owner from the Depression era.
           The Grove Dance Hall stood where the Bull Pen is now.  One of the featured attractions was Betty Grable who would be on the arm of husband/musician Harry James.

        Buck’s was built in 1895 at the intersection of 4th and Mill Streets as a roadhouse for lodgers in Guerneville.  Buck's began serving traditional Italian family-style food in 1936. In 1959, Buck's Roadhouse burned and the current structure was built.
           Bob DeWitt (lower left photo) and his wife Ida ran the place for forty-two years until 2000, specializing in prime ribs and big broad smiles.
Pat's has been serving traditional American breakfast and lunch since 1940.  The map (lower right photo) behind the counter was painted in 1952 by Bill Schaadt, depicting fishing holes along the Russian River.  It was the only place in town where anglers could get an early plate of bacon and eggs and come back at night for a beer.  Harry Hines would exit the kitchen, wearing his familiar white chef's apron and twirled mustache, to welcome lunch customers and bar patrons nursing longneck bottles of Bud.  A sign taped to the wall at Pat’s says, “Nothing is finer than your neighborhood diner.”
         Bob DeWitt lied about his age (seventeen at the time) and enlisted into the Marines during W.W.II   He was shot twice before returning to the River where he served as a bartender at Hetzel's Resort before meeting the love of his life.  
           The wild horse mural behind the bar at Buck's (upper left photo) was painted by "Cowboy Bill" in 1967 but had been covered by mirrors for years.
          When the Hines family bought Pat's in 1945, they kept the name, respecting the fact that the establishment had survived the great fire of '43 and also because no new neon signs were being made as all manufacturing was being directed into the war effort.

        Bill Schaadt (left photo) was an artist, sign painter, collector and avid fly fisherman. With his angling skills and quirky, elusive demeanor, he became the subject of countless stories. Of moderate means, he discovered that if he backed up his trailer into his living room, the county would red-tag the place, making it unavailable for the collection of taxes.  With the savings, he could afford to miss more days of work and enjoy his favorite pastime.  Another tale tells how he discouraged competing anglers by cutting their lines with a razor blade, which he soldered onto the tip of his hook.  From the 1950s to mid 1990s, he was regarded as the top fly fishermen in the country, if not the world.  He was one of the first to use flies to catch saltwater fish, including striped bass and rock fish.
          Schaadt was the focus of a Sports Illustrated article titled "The World's Best". He was also profiled in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life as well as in numerous books and films.          
          The ecological disaster that followed unregulated logging and river damming took its toll by the 1960s, when the great fishing of the north coast declined drastically.
           Johnson's Beach (upper right photo) was started by Gertie and Ernie Johnson around 1918.  A campground and rustic tent cabins were added in the twenties.  In 2015 Clare Harris and his family sold Johnson's after forty-eight years of summer fun.
            The River Queen offered a leisurely cruise for paying passengers, ferrying them back and forth between Guerneville and Rio Nido.  Captain Bid Greene operated the boat between the late 1940's and late 1960's.  The fare was ten cents one way or fifteen cents round trip, all the while listening to "Cruising Down the River", over and over.  Bid Green passed away in Sebastopol on Oct. 2, 1978.
            Sidebars: It is said that no one ever caught more salmon than Bill Schaadt.  During the 1950's, fifty thousand fish navigated the Russian River yearly on their way to spawn.  In 2016 the Sonoma County Water Agency counted a total of 1400 salmon for the season.
            Clare Harris was born in Guerneville in 1920 at the west end of town on a prune ranch behind the old Cutting School.  His clan also operated the village center in Rio Nido during the golden days of the Big Band era.


              If you have enjoyed reading one of my novels, a short review with Amazon would be appreciated. 

Next Time:
    Only two issues of Fellow Book Benders remain.  In March we will revisit your favorite stories of San Francisco and in the following month we will say farewell by paying homage to the tallest tales of the Russian River area.  You can reach me through my website or email me directly at  Thanks and stay tuned. 

               If you spied a film crew along the banks of the Russian River recently, they are shooting scenes for Kontrano, a documentary inspired by my first novel, Memories That Linger.
               On another note, Don't Stop the Music is a finalist in a national writing contest.  Keep your toes crossed.

Where to purchase my latest novel:
        Don't Stop the Music is an 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

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  Guerneville.   Also, a note of appreciation goes to the following individuals and organizations: Al and Dolores Markarian, Bob Pullman, Angie Stanford, Bob & Ida DeWitt, Harry Hines, Clare Harris, Guerne and Heald families, Friends of Rio Nido, 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 (Fellow Book Benders) or to discover more information regarding John McCarty's novels, go to
                 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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