Welcome to the third edition of Fellow Book Benders, a free monthly newsletter about the ridiculous truth and historical tidbits of San Francisco and the Russian River. Can you spy a glimmer of your personal experiences from these tales of yesteryear? Fasten your seat belts for a slippery ride down memory lane. http://www.johnmccarty.org/about-john-mccarty/
A True Story(or so I've been told):
The three gentlemen in the photo caught the sturgeon near the "Hacienda Hole" along the Russian River a while ago. I am told that this beauty was about seven feet long (it is not uncommon for this species to reach lengths of fourteen feet, over 1000 pounds and up to 100 years old). One of the ugliest creatures that God has ever sent to this earth, the sturgeon bears the nasty features of many prehistoric animals--slimy, sly and slithery.
In 1960 our adventurous Bobby came across this monster unexpectedly with two of his friends, Sean and Tom. The ten-year-old boys were thick as thieves but not quite as smart. While swimming in the "Hacienda Hole" on the channel side of the Summer Crossing, the three amigos came across a bevy of beauties. The girls were all stretched out on their beach towels, sparkling in the sun, coated in baby oil.
As boys tend to be boys, Bobby led the way, showing off his aquatic skills on a nearby rope swing. Sean and Tom followed, doing flips and belly flops to the cheers of the young ladies. Things progressed, egos became inflated and the boys decided to bare all. In the midst of their naked foray, a huge fin showed just above the waterline, veering directly toward them.
The primeval beast sped past their startled looks and leaped out of the water. Bobby and his pals yelped and squealed as they scurried up a steep slope to safety. Whistles and jeers chased after them.
It was almost a three-mile walk back to Rio Nido. They "borrowed" various articles of clothing drying on lines along the way. The trio resembled a ragtag group of misfits, prancing down side streets in their makeshift costumes of a sundress, a pair of long johns and a satin bathrobe. They dodged the glares of onlookers whenever possible, finally arriving back at their summer cabins and sneaking up Canyon Two by way of a dry creek bed.
But Bobby's father was not pleased by the fishy tale or the loss of his son's new summer outfit. When the spanking was over, Bobby met up with Sean and Tom by the bonfire in the village center and swore to never try and impress a female again--at least for the upcoming week.
Rio Nido & Dick Crest:
Back in the late fifties, Bay Area teens could show off their dance moves in front of a live T.V. audience by appearing on the Pepsi Party (KNTV, San Jose) and Rock 'N Rally (KPIX, San Francisco). Dick Crest was the host, often times introducing "The Stroll" by the Diamonds. Gals and guys would line up on opposite sides forming a line. The couple at the head of the formation would join hands and strut their stuff down the lane. Or perhaps your preference was the "Mashed Potato", which resembled the Charleston of the twenties. Between the T.V. shows and teaching (College of San Mateo), Dick kept himself busy during the school year. It was the summer time, however, when the River Rats enjoyed his company the most.
1953-1963 was an era from another generation, our grand-kids ignorant of such things as vinyl records, drive-in restaurants, ice cream trucks and personal deliveries to your doorstep of milk, ice or even a N.Y. steak. It was also a ten-year stretch when Dick Crest was the pied piper along the Russian River, playing at Rio Nido every summer, all summer long. Vacationers young and old would amble down one of the seven redwood canyons and grab a bench seat under the pumpkin-winking moon. The curtain, stenciled with ads of local merchants, would rise to showcase the Dick Crest Orchestra playing on a second floor stage. You might find yourself singing along to "Show Me the Way to go Home", swaying with crowd. Another hit from the 1920's was "The Sheik of Araby", jazzed up for the modern audience. When you heard The Spaniels' "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight", you knew this was the moment to position yourself as close to the stage as possible to catch the candies that the band would toss before closing the curtain. Dick Crest would invariably let some kid carry his saxophone to the nearby Ballroom where the band would reassemble, belting out popular tunes til midnight for paying teenagers.
The next day you might saunter through the tunnel under River Road with a girl you met at the dance the previous night. The two of you would skip down to the river's edge and cross over a pedestrian bridge to the beach where Dick was probably holding court.
Inclusion into the not-so-exclusive River Rat Club would require you to fetch a stick from the stream, swim back to shore, drop it at the feet of the band leader and bark three times. Only then would you be presented with a membership card and the secret password (rivasimacale). In addition you were now permitted to splash a little green nail polish onto your big toe.So sacred was this passage of rite, that some River Rats would protect their newly decorated appendage from coming into contact with anybody or anything, even a long overdue shower. It was not uncommon for some members to incur a bit of fungus for their efforts. Nevertheless, you would strut on, feeling very special indeed.
Dick Crest's marching band from James Lick in San Jose was the first high school troupe to play at an NFL game. Later, his College of San Mateo ensemble took top honors at the National Jazz Fest. During his ten summers at the River (1953-1963), he also conducted the Bohemian Club's Jinx Band. He passed away in 2010 at age 80. The Mashed Potato was a dance move made famous by James Brown, used regularly at his concerts. The most popular song version was Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato Time". The "Stroll" was recorded by the Diamonds, a Canadian group. The dance craze by the same name was supposedly the first rock 'n' roll line dance. It was featured in the 1973 film American Graffitii (side bar to the side bar: yours truly dated the sexy actress in the white T-bird, but that's another story).
Perhaps you have a story of your own you would like to share with Fellow Book Benders. Go to www.johnmccarty.org and click on "Contact" and tell all. The taller the tale, the more majestic.
Ifyou have enjoyed reading one (or four) of my novels, a short review(s) with Amazon http://www.amazon.com would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
In August, Bobby will get "wasted" for the first time. Also, we'll visit with the Grateful Dead and others up at the River. Until then, my friends, keep turning those pages.