Fellow Book Benders
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This is the 17th 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.  Can you spy a glimmer of your yesteryear from these tales?   Better yet, are you willing to confess to it?

September, 2017                                               Vol. 2, No. 9
Cow Palace, Part 1:

         The idea for the building on Geneva Avenue in Daly City was being tossed around by the powers that be during the Depression.  The criticism was "how can you spend so much money on a palace for cows when people are starving?" A Chronicle writer turned the phrase around and it stuck--Cow Palace.  Since its inception in 1941, it has been the blue-collar workhorse for Bay Area entertainment, providing hundreds of unforgettable memories.  Other public spaces may look better on a chamber of commerce's brochure, but none can boast of the Cow Palace's staying power.  
            Many a starstruck teen saw their idol for the first time here, from Elvis to the Beatles to Prince.  Its program versatility is undeniable, hosting everything from National Republican Conventions to hemp fairs, from Jehovah's Witness gatherings to the Exotic Erotic Ball.

          What do politics and rodeos have in common?  Both are endowed with plenty of manure.  Over the years, the grounds of the Cow Palace became stained with multiple layers of poop to the point where many a workman threw up his hands at the impossible task of taping wandering electrical lines to the floor. 
             The Republican Convention first arrived in Daly City in 1956 when Dwight Eisenhower and a young Richard Nixon were nominated to the party's ticket.  The Republicans returned in 1964 when they chose Barry Goldwater as their candidate. A surprise guest speaker at this convention was Dr. Martin Luther King.  Sharon Tobin remembers at age 16 campaigning against Goldwater and for Scranton.  Cher Freedman reminds us that back in those days, San Francisco had mainly a Republican base.  Mike Malaret says it was not until the sixties when the tide changed in the City to a more liberal stance. 
               John F. Kennedy stopped here while on the campaign trail in 1960.  He asked the assembled crowd " help pick this country up and move it forward."
               The Palace was officially known as t
he Grand National Livestock Pavilion with the finest Holstein stock found in the U.S.  The Grand National Rodeo, held annually here, is the largest rodeo event in the country.  In addition to full English and Western horse competitions, 4-H and Farmers of America are present along with country music and beauty pageants.  In 1951, eighteen-year-old Dianne Feinstein became queen of the Cow Palace horse show. 
      The Cow Palace played host to the San Francisco Warriors from 1962-1964 and again from 1966-1971. They lost in the NBA finals in 1964 to the Boston Celtics and in 1967 to the Philadelphia 76ers. When they moved to the Oakland Coliseum Arena (now Oracle Arena), the team changed its name to the Golden State Warriors.  A year after losing star Nate Thurmond, nobody expected them to compete for another title in 1975. Owner Franklin Mieuli was so sure of this that he booked the Ice Follies at the Oakland Arena during the finals, forcing the team to return to the Cow Palace.  The Warriors took a 3-0 lead against the Washington Bullets behind Rick Barry's 36 points and went on to complete the sweep for the franchise's third championship. 
              In 1963 the San Francisco Seals (of the Western Hockey League) brought to the Bay Area its first-ever  pro hockey title, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Seattle Totems.  Three years later the NHL announced that six expansion teams would be added as a new division.  The San Francisco Seals were one of those teams. 
                Low attendance and a failed promise to build a new arena in the City, propelled the Seals down a path of no return.  The team moved from the Cow Palace to Oakland, where they filed for bankruptcy before Charles Finley, the flamboyant owner of the Oakland A's, bought the Seals.  Soon, however, five of his top players bolted for the new World Hockey Association.  After that it was a slow death with various sell-offs culminating in a relocation to Cleveland where the team imploded, becoming one of the few professional organizations to fold.

Sidebars: It has been rumored that Franklin Mieuli was bisexual, thus his iconic deer hat with visors pointing in opposite directions.
             Phil Smith was a City kid who played center on Washington High School's basketball team.  As a walk-on at the University of San Francisco, Phil led the team in scoring for three years with a career average of 18.1 ppg. As a rookie in the NBA in 1975, he helped the Warriors win their championship before gong on to become a two-time All-Star, averaging 20 ppg the next two seasons.  Phil passed away at age 50 in 2002.
              The Sharks played their first two seasons (1991-1993) at the Cow Palace where they led the NHL in merchandise sales with $150 million, accounting for 27% of the league's total.  In 1974 they moved to their current home in San Jose.  
           The San Francisco Bay Bombers listed a couple of bad-asses on their roster.  Ann "Banana Nose" Calvello graduated from Presentation High in the City. No June Cleaver, Calvello's body was festooned with tats and piercings while her hair was spray-painted purple, or green, or even with polka-dots.  She screamed like a banshee, cursed like a sailor and would pulverize any opponent that got in her way.  Joanie Weston was another female star on the team.
           Charlie O'Connell was a big, gruff but friendly guy, unless you were a member of the hated Los Angeles T-Birds or some other villain of the banked track.  If that were the case, you were likely to end up on your back or over the padded railing.  Pat Green recalls witnessing a "grudge match" where O'Connell, at the signal from the ref to start the race, punched his opponent in the jaw and on the return trip swatted him with his skate before the poor guy could get up.
              All the great wrestlers displayed their skills at the Cow Palace: The Sheik, Andre the Giant, Bobo Brazil, Ernie Ladd, Dick the Bruiser, Haystacks Calhoun, Tex McKenzie, etc. 
             The Sheik, a savvy businessman, is credited with bringing the hardcore wrestling that ultimately became the staple of the WWF in the eighties.  He often hid a pencil in his boot as an extra tool of persuasion and occasionally threw fireballs at his opponents.  His signature move was the "Camel Clutch", but his shtick was portraying himself as barely civilized, swallowing the ring caller's bow tie to prove his point.
                Andre was 7'4" tall and weighed over 500 pounds.  A record 90,000 fans showed up at the Silverdome in Detroit in 1987 to watch him perform.  While he will always be remembered professionally as "The 8th Wonder of the World", his fans across the globe refer to him as "The Gentle Giant."
                 Micky Walsh remembers going to the WWF matches at the Cow Palace with his dad.   His favorites were Ray Stevens, Pedro Gomez and Pepper Morales.

Sidebars: Ann Calvello took tickets at the old Candlestick Park for the S.F. Giants and 49ers.  She passed away in 2006 while Charlie O'Connell died in 2015 at age 79.
                 Andre the Gentle Giant suffered from acromegaly, a disease that results in an over abundance of hormones. He continued to grow his entire life until 1993 when he passed away at age 46.
             If you have enjoyed reading one of my novels, a short review with Amazon would be appreciated.  As Red Skelton used to say, "Good night and may God bless."

Next Time:
     In October, we will revisit the Cow Palace for Part II.  If you have a story pertaining to the Cow Palace, I would love to publish it in next month's newsletter.  You can reach me through my website or email me directly at  Thanks and stay tuned. 

        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

Buy Now!

If you would like to buy a signed copy directly from the author:
Click here to buy Don't Stop the Music


Attributions & Asides:
       A special thank you is due to anonymous subscribers for sharing their memories of the Cow Palace.   Also, a note of appreciation goes to the following individuals and organizations: Pat Green, Sharon Tobin, Cher Freedman, Mike Malaret, Micky Walsh, Marsee Henon, Friends of Rio Nido ( 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.  JMc
Copyright © 2017 John McCarty, All rights reserved.

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