The Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History in Inverness on Saturday unveiled a new exhibit, Inverness Yacht Club. It features photographs from the museum’s archives, as well as a few items loaned to the museum by the yacht club.

The exhibit covers the first Inverness Yacht Club from 1912 through 1940, the in-between years when Del Bender owned the building, the new Inverness Yacht Club of 1949, and the celebration in July 1950 when the club was rededicated. There are also some later photographs.

Meg Linden (right), treasurer of the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History, and Ann Read with her dog Coco greet guests at the exhibition.

A photo that the late newspaperman Peter Whitney, who had a home at Chicken Ranch Beach, donated to the museum in 1999.

A burgee is the distinguishing flag of a recreational boating organization.

Nautical etiquette holds that members’ boats may fly their burgees while sailing or at anchor, day or night, but not while racing. Or so writes R.L. Hewitt, commodore of the Royal Yachting Association in 1969 and 1984, in Flags and Signals.

Brock Schreiber’s boathouse was built from 1911 to 1914, its wharf in 1908. The boathouse in 1978 was placed on the Register of National Historic Places.

In the early 20th century, weekend travelers to Inverness often got off the narrow-gauge railroad in Millerton and rowed across the bay in skiffs kept on the beach. “Brock Schreiber met the train in a launch if he knew anybody was coming,” historian Jack Mason wrote in Point Reyes the Solemn Land.

“One Inverness pioneer, Mabel Reed Knight, regaled friends for years with her story of getting off the train at Millerton, expecting to be ‘met.’ She shrieked across the mile-wide bay at Schreiber, and unable to raise him, hiked [around the foot of Tomales Bay] the eight miles to Inverness, suitcase and all, ‘with a dog nipping at my heels all the way.'”

“….These years were golden for Inverness. Schreiber’s two launches, the Kemah and the Queen, took excursionists down Tomales Bay; his rental sailboats were at the beck of weekenders.”

Independence Day at Shell Beach in the 1930s.

A sideview of the yacht club with people on the deck circa 1952.

Admiral Chester Nimitz and his wife Catherine at the Inverness Yacht Club in 1950.

During World War II, Admiral Nimitz was promoted to Fleet Admiral of the US Navy and won a series of decisive victories against the Japanese at islands throughout the South Pacific. In 1945 aboard the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the admiral represented the United States in signing Japan’s document of surrender.

Aerial view of the Inverness Yacht Club and Cavalli’s pier (at center) in 1956.

The Small Boat Racing Association hosted by the Inverness Yacht Club in 1976.

The Lark, Spring Maid, and Skip Jack in a 1920 race off Brock Schreiber’s wharf.

Jim Barnett (center) racing his Flying Scot in 1980 with his crew.

The exhibit is open the same hours as the Inverness Library, with which it shares its building, Monday from 3 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m., Fridays 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A grand opening for an exhibition of photos that Elaine Straub shot of the Great Flood of 1982 was held Sunday in the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History in Inverness.

The exhibit commemorates the 30th anniversary of the devastating storm of Jan. 4, 1982, that destroyed homes, drowned cattle, and caused mudslides that blocked roads. Some of the worst damage was in the Inverness-Point Reyes Station area. Many neighbors rallied to help each other deal with the crisis, and this was widely recognized as the main good to result from the storm.

For last week’s posting, former Inverness resident John Robbins described how he and his family barely escaped when rain-swollen Redwood Creek swept their house down hill and across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the edge of Tomales Bay.

Elaine Straub at the exhibition of her historic photos. Elaine and her husband Dwight are both retired doctors and have lived in West Marin for 40 years.

The storm left remnants of homes and uprooted trees along the south shore of Papermill Creek near its juncture with Tomales Bay. Black Mountain is in the background.

Creek waters poured onto Mount Vision Road in Inverness and left Ramon Cadiz’s truck on top of uprooted trees. When the truck was finally freed, Ramon found it was still in working order, as was a flashlight left in the vehicle.

Inverness residents walk past one of the mudslides that closed Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

Fording the flood on Laurel Avenue.

After landslides covered parts of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in the Inverness-Inverness Park area, traffic was blocked until the National Guard showed up and cleared the roadway.

Mudslides left the Inverness Firehouse “ankle-deep in slime, broken timbers, and glass everywhere,” the late historian Jack Mason wrote in the final issue of the Point Reyes Historian. Firefighters relocated their headquarters to Inverness School just before their building became unusable. At the firehouse, disaster workers received pastries delivered from Inverness Park by canoe, and the Red Cross provided food, water, medicine, stress counseling and even haircuts.

The exhibit will remain up until the end of March and may be visited any time the Inverness Library is open (Monday 3 to 6 p.m.), Tuesday and Wednesday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.), Thursday (closed), Friday (3 to 6 p.m.), Saturday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Sunday (closed).


When the great storm of 1982 struck West Marin — particularly the Inverness area — on Jan. 3  and 4, nobody in town died although 33 people elsewhere around the San Francisco Bay area were killed, mostly by landslides.

A major slide closed Highway 101 in the Sausalito area while a smaller, but still significant, slide closed Sir Francis Drake Boulevard between Inverness and Inverness Park. As it happened, there were no sheriff’s deputies or highway patrol officers west of the slide when it occurred, so — in the words of the late sheriff’s lieutenant Art Disterheft — the Inverness Volunteer Fire Department became “the only law west of the Pecos.”

Firefighters requisitioned food from the Inverness Store and distributed it to people without their own supplies while St. Columba’s Episcopal Church fed others. People lost homes, and dairy ranchers had to dump thousands of gallons of milk which they couldn’t haul to the creamery in Petaluma before the milk spoiled.

Among those who lost their homes were John Robbins, who built most of West Marin’s cable TV system, and his former wife Barbara Lakshmi Kahn, a visionary artist. Their home was next to Redwood Creek just uphill from the juncture of Papermill Creek and Tomales Bay.

For this 30th anniversary of the disaster, John wrote an account of what it was like to go through it.

By John Robbins

It began with my getting ready to head up to Rocklin, east of Sacramento.  I was doing cable TV design work up there, pending the start of construction of the system in West Marin. The rain was coming down steadily, but I had no sense of alarm.  The stream was flowing pretty much at capacity coming out of the culvert on the downhill side of our driveway.

Other than that, everything appeared normal. I had slept well through the night and had no idea how intense and continuous the rain had been falling.  Kris [John’s stepson] had already left for Drake High, hitching a ride with our neighbor Chuck Wallace, who worked at Chevron in Richmond.

A few minutes later they returned, being unable to navigate Sir Francis Drake Boulevard because of landslides further east toward Inverness Park.  Chuck came in the house to share a cup of tea around the toasty woodstove, but he didn’t stay long, wanting to get on up to his house. My first thought upon seeing their return was that I couldn’t leave town. What a pleasant thought!

But that thought didn’t last very long.  After Chuck had been gone a few minutes, I looked out the window at the culvert under our driveway. The flow had been reduced by at least half.  Immediately, I realized something must be blocking the upper end of the pipe (16 inches in diameter).  I grabbed a shovel and went up to see what I could do. NOTHING.

No branches were blocking the opening.  When I stuck the shovel down, it sunk into pure decomposed granite, which by this time had completely blocked the entrance.  Water was rapidly filling the culvert and beginning to overflow the driveway.

Fortunately, as I made my way back to the house, our two cars were sitting in the driveway, allowing me to brace myself against the rush of the water now roaring down a new channel before returning to the normal creek bed, further down hill beyond the driveway.  If the cars had not been there I would have never made back to the house.  As it was, it was pretty dicey.

Back at the house again, my thoughts went to reducing the chance of flooding indoors.  I grabbed a piece of plywood and nailed it across the bottom 16 to 18 inches of the doorway, thinking that this would at least divert any flow that might get that high. Kris was standing out on the front porch observing what I was doing.

I was inside the doorway, looking up the canyon at a thicket of bay shoots and alders 100 feet at most up the creek.  At that very moment, a wall of brown broke through the trees.  It had a form, not unlike a 3-foot to 4-foot wave cresting to break out at the beach.  It is amazing the amount of detail one can remember in but an instant.

I grabbed Kris by his lapels and pulled him over the plywood, into the house, then slammed the door and braced myself against it, not really thinking about the mass moving towards us.  The door faced toward the creek, so the coming wave would be a sideways blow to the door.

A few feet from the doorway was a large plate glass window, maybe 4 feet by 6 feet, through which Kris had a great view.  He called out, “There go the cars.” Then the bottom half of the door bent open like a piece of paper being peeled back in one corner. A rush of mud — maybe a couple of wheel barrows’ worth and about the consistency of concrete being poured — slopped in through the opening.

There were loud scraping, creaking sounds and shaking walls. As I held the door, awaiting the impact, I hoped that the posts of an overhead covering, which I had recently built on the upstream face of the house, would help to cushion the blow.

The rush of mud subsided, and a large tangle of bay trunks and branches came to a stop with one ragged, stumpy end just breaking through the glass and coming to a rest less than a foot into the room in the upper part of the window frame.

Both cars had been swept, side by side, into the creek. A bit of the roof of Barbara’s powder-blue VW bug was barely visible beneath my ocher-colored Datsun, along with a jumble of foliage, mud, and rock. All those skinned tree trunks exuded a very pungent ester of bay — a smell that to this day I do not favor.

It is amazing that the upstream wall didn’t collapse. Perhaps the fireplace and chimney structure gave it the strength needed not to crumble at that moment. Whatever it was, the house had withstood the blow. Barbara, Kris, and I gathered together and embraced and gave thanks for our safe passage through this event. But not for long.

Aum is the Heart of My Home, a 1977 visionary painting by Barbara Lakshmi Kahn. The Aum symbol, which is also written as Om, is sacred in several Eastern religions.

The fire in the stove was going full blast. There was mud at the front door, which was completely blocked by the knot of trees that had broken the window. I dampened the fire while Barbara headed into her studio to start putting art work up into the loft. I joined her to help with the art materials. I was passing paintings up to her as she stood halfway up the ladder.

She paused, not taking the piece I was holding, and instinctively said, “I just got a message that we must leave, NOW!” I agreed. Meanwhile, Kris had been in his room, putting a few things in his backpack — a pair of undershorts, some socks — making ready to leave.

The only door was blocked, meaning we would have to go out the living room window. It was now flooded on the side of the house away from the creek, with about a foot or so of muck out there.

To get out the window we would have to step onto the arm of the sofa, the sofa we had just purchased. It was a great little couch with a fairly comfortable pull-out bed.  My comment, back to Barbara and Kris, as I was about to jump out into the muck, was, “Careful how you step on the couch. We don’t want to get the cushions dirty.”

It hadn’t really registered  just how dangerous our situation was.  I was thinking, in some vague way, that the surge we had just gone through had relieved all the pressure upstream.  In a way, I was on automatic drive.  Just doing what needed to be done in the moment.

Once we were all outside, we gingerly made our way across the yard to near the base of the hill to our south. It was steep and thick with the usual foliage, but it was our only route for escape. The yard was filled with muck almost up to our knees.

At the base of the hill there was a very strong flow of water, now diverted far from the normal stream bed, which was on the other side of the house next to the road. Fortunately, a bay sapling had come down in the debris flow, and it formed something of a bridge to enable us to ford the new stream.

I warned Barbara not to step ahead of me, but it was too late. Step she did and immediately went down as her feet slipped out from under her. I was able to get my thumb and one finger gripped on her shoulder, just enough to keep her from being swept away, and this made it possible for me to get her back on her feet.

I then waded out into the new stream, keeping a firm grip on the sapling.  This allowed me to swing Barbara and then Kris across the torrent safely to the other side. We then made our way up the side of the hill, pulling ourselves up through the ferns and wild berry bushes to Peter and Marcia Fox’s house. They weren’t home.

We then went down their driveway to Doreen Powell’s house, which looked right out over Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Redwood Avenue.  Doreen and Biff were home and managed to find us some dry clothes to change into.

Right after we had changed clothes, we heard an ominous rumble — something like rolling thunder — that just kept getting louder each moment. I looked out the window and saw the electric lines feeding up our canyon dancing wildly in the air. The one utility pole I could see on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard was swaying back and forth and then snapped abruptly toward the bay.

John, Barbara, and Kris’ home was on Redwood Avenue (at bottom of map) beside Redwood Creek. At the upper left-hand corner is Motel Inverness.

My gaze shifted downward below the lines just in time to see an entire chunk of wall — with the plate glass window frame and one of Barbara’s large paintings still hanging on it — rumbling across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at about 20 mph. It was like a raft going down the rapids of the Colorado River.

It was at that point I uttered, “I don’t know why this has happened to us, but I know it is for our own good.”  It was the only thing I could think to say. It just came out with no thought beforehand.

Not long after witnessing that awful scene, we made our way down the street to look in disbelief at a huge chunk of our roof wedged up under some willow trees with our TV sitting on the roof amid the branches. (Months later, after letting it dry out thoroughly, I plugged it in and found that it actually worked. It eventually became the TV set that I used to tune the cable-system signals at the head-end site.)

It was all like a dream for awhile — a very lucid dream. When Bob Gillespie saw us on the road as he approached from the Inverness side of the flow that was coming down Redwood Canyon, I think we were all numb.  We had no idea what to do next other than to stare in disbelief, but there it was before our eyes — not a dream — unless this is ALL a dream. (Which, of course, it probably is.)

It certainly was a pretty clean sweep. Nothing showed that there had ever been a house on our property except for one pipe sticking out of the ground.

When I searched through the debris spread along the marsh beside Tomales Bay during the ensuing days, I found that everything had remained in relative position to other items. They were arrayed in an elongated fashion as if spread like a deck of cards across the table.

It became possible to then search for items and have some success. I may have spent the next six weeks or more pawing through that mess, finding treasures here and there. It was very therapeutic — sadness with the losses but great joy on discovery of some undamaged piece of the past.

Dr. Corey Goodman of Marshall (left), who uncovered the National Park Service’s using bogus data to discredit Drakes Bay Oyster Company (owned by the Lunny family of Inverness), questions Pete McCloskey, a retired congressman (center), and Paul Berkowitz, a retired ranger and criminal investigator for the Park Service. Behind them and serving as moderator was Laura Watt, an assistant professor of Environmental Studies at Sonoma State.

During a symposium Sunday afternoon in the West Marin School gym, McCloskey and Berkowitz discussed “corruption” at the top levels of the National Park Service (NPS). Low-level rangers, they agreed, were more likely to be honest.

Berkowitz, who for 33 years was a ranger and criminal investigator for NPS, has written a book, The Case of the Indian Trader, which focuses on a particularly egregious example of corruption that occurred at the Hubbell Trading post on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. The book, however, also describes many other cases of criminal behavior by NPS staff — such as child molesting, theft of government funds, and shredding crime reports on people in NPS’s favor.

More than 115 West Marin residents showed up for the symposium, forcing organizers to put out extra chairs.

McCloskey, who spent 15 years in the House of Representatives, noted that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is chaired by Darrell Issa (R-San Diego County), will begin an investigation on Nov. 7 of Point Reyes National Seashore officials. “The alleged misconduct is serious and could result in the loss of the Lunny family’s business,” Issa wrote Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar. “Time is of the essence, as the family’s reservation of use expires next year.

“In light of a damaging draft Environmental Impact Statement released on Sept. 3, 2011, it is imperative that a thorough, objective review of whether NPS’s conclusions are based on flawed science occurs immediately.”

Among those summoned to testify before the committee are: Gavin Frost of the Solicitor’s Office (he has already turned up skulduggery within the Nation Seashore administration); Don Neubacher (former superintendent of the park); Jon Jarvis (NPS director, as well as the previous director of the Pacific West Region of NPS); Dr. Marcia McNutt (adviser to the NPS; Sarah Allen (former science adviser to the National Seashore); Dr. Ben Becker (NPS scientist); and Cicely Muldoon (current superintendent of the National Seashore).

McCloskey, 84, had been a colonel in the Marine Corps and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for outstanding service during the Korean War. The former congressman had also been a lawyer in Redwood City, a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, and a lecturer on legal ethics at the Stanford and Santa Clara law schools. He warned that any NPS official who doesn’t testify with total honestly will be charged with perjury.

Berkowtz had taken over an NPS investigation that had been triggered by Western National Parks Association allegations against Billy Malone, who operated Hubbell Trading Post. The allegations were based only on faulty intuition, but WNPA wanted Berkowtz to find something, anything, for which the trader could be prosecuted.

Berkowitz instead found that the NPS was hiding exculpatory evidence, had lied to get a search warrant, and then had seized much of Malone’s private property although the warrant did not provide for this. The case had been going on for a few years and had become expensive. WNPA, which was well over $1 million in debt, hoped to sell Malone’s personal property to pay off its debts.

The investigator said the Army’s cavalry originally kept order in national parks, which explains rangers’ uniforms. In 1916, however, the Park Service was created as a “civilian version of the military. It was disciplined, regimented, and had a rigid application of standards.” Over time, however, the Park Service abandoned critical components of military conduct, so that there’s now “an enormous variance of management competence.”

In 1976, the law that established the Park Service was strengthened, Berkowitz said, giving NPS authority to investigate all federal-law violations in national parks. He concluded by saying he loves national parks and would never want to harm them. However, he added, NPS leaders’ corruption must be stopped.


The annual pancake breakfast was held Sunday morning in the Point Reyes Station firehouse. The event is always a fundraiser for the West Marin Disaster Council and the Inverness Volunteer Fire Department.

Having fun at the pancake breakfast was Rich Clarke of Marshall, a member of the West Marin Disaster Council.

Approximately 325 people attended the pancake breakfast, and a firefighter told me the crowd was the largest in years. He credited sunny weather for bringing out so many West Marin residents.


West Marin Commons sponsored a Halloween barn dance in Toby’s Feed Barn Friday evening. Band members (from left): Brian Lamoreaux on guitar, Sue Walters on bass, Ingrid Noyes on accordion, and Erik Hoffman on fiddle. Because the feed barn is unheated and the band sits next to an open door, there will be no more barn dances this season. It’s becoming too cold for the musicians.

However line dances, square dances, and even waltzes kept the dancers warm.

Angel mother Denise Spenard of Marshall and devil daughter Maia, 8, had a jolly time wearing Halloween costumes to the barn dance.

Women of West Marin, a show of black-and-white portraits by Art Rogers of Point Reyes Station plus commentaries by journalist Elizabeth Whitney of Inverness, opened Sunday in the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History.

A guest ponders photographs of rancher Alice Codoni Hall (top) and her granddaughter Carol Horick (below). Nearly two dozen images of people who have been notable in West Marin’s modern history are included in the show.

Organizing the exhibit were Mary Kroninger and Meg Linden. Noting that more than 100 guests showed up, Kroninger said, “It was the best attended of recent openings.” Among those on hand were seven of the people in the portraits: Carol Horick, Celine Underwood, Dakota Whitney, Laura Wold Rogers, Nancy Hemmingway, Pat Healy and Elizabeth Whitney.

Copyright Art Rogers

Alice Codoni Hall (1898-1991) lived on D Ranch at Point Reyes. Her father Quinto Codoni was part of the wave of Italian-speaking Swiss who immigrated to West Marin from the Canton of Ticino in the mid-19th century.

“In 1873, he started working on the Charles Webb Howard ranches, taking hogs to market,” Whitney writes in her commentary. “He eventually became the chef hog and cattle buyer in the area. He had a hog and cattle butchering business in Point Reyes Station.” Quinto even came to be a part owner of the schooner Point Reyes that transported the meat to San Francisco.

“Quinto Codoni was considered ‘Mr. Point Reyes,'” Whitney adds, and when the [narrow-gauge] railroad was standard-gauged from Fairfax to Point Reyes Station [in 1920], he drove the ceremonial gold spike.

“His house in Point Reyes Station was very elegant and had a Delco plant to generate electricity for his house and a few neighbors.

“Alice went to school at the old school house on the hill [across Highway 1 from present-day West Marin School], and then when it was built, the Black School,” which was located where the firehouse is today.

She married William T. “Bill” Hall in 1919, and in 1925, they leased N Ranch. In 1927, Bill acquired D Ranch, and the family moved there from N Ranch in 1936. The Halls had about 100 dairy cows, which would be a very small herd by today’s standards.

“Alice tells of driving to Point Reyes Station for groceries or to Inverness to take her children and sometimes other ranch children to school even though she never got a driver’s license and never learned to back up,” Whitney writes. “She spent most of her time working in the house and cooking for the hands.”

Copyright Art Rogers

Point Reyes Station resident Carol Horick (seen here when she was 22) is the granddaughter of Alice Codoni Hall, and she told Whitney, “Grandma Hall, she was the best.”

Whitney adds, “Carol Horick grew up on her family ranch — the D Ranch overlooking Drake’s Beach — already in the thick of it as an eight yer old with her first 4-H project. First it was lambs, then cows, and always horses.” She was “the quintessential cowgirl. ‘I remember being on horses all the time,'” she said in an interview.

“‘Fall off, get back on. That’s how you learned. Grandma Hall gave me my first pony. It liked to knock me off by running through the clothesline. Some days it came back without me; put the fear of God in my mother.'”

Retired restaurateur Pat Healy chats with other guests while standing in front of two photos of herself at the old Station House Café. The café had been owned by the late historian Jack Mason and then Claudia Woodward. Pat and her short-term partner Jackie Hordoko bought it on Feb. 19, 1974. On Dec. 3, 1989, the café opened in its present location, the refurbished Two Ball Inn building.

On June 1, 2005, Pat sold the business to Sheryl Cahill but retained ownership of the building and grounds.

Before moving to Point Reyes Station, Pat had been a well-regarded jazz singer in the vein of June Christy, Anita O’Day and Billie Holiday. Although she had performed mostly in the West — Los Angeles, Las Vegas etc. — she had also performed in Canada and toured the US with Ray Anthony’s big band.

MALT CO-FOUNDERS — The late Ellen Straus, an organic dairy rancher in Marshall (left), and environmentalist Phyllis Faber co-founded Marin Agricultural Land Trust in 1980.

“Ellen Tirza Lotte Prins was born Feb. 21, 1927 in Amsterdam, Holland,” notes the website of the family creamery. “In February 1940, Ellen and her family fled to New York, just ahead of the Nazi invasion.

“Ellen quickly learned English and graduated in 1948 from Bard College in New York with a hope to practice medicine. A year later, Ellen was introduced to Bill Straus, a German, Jewish immigrant. After courting for 16 days, they married three months later and came to ‘honeymoon permanently’ on the shores of Tomales Bay, where together they grew the dairy and raised four children….

“Ellen  served on scores of boards, often three or more at a time, including the Marin Conservation League, the Marin Community Foundation, the Environmental Action Committee, the Greenbelt Alliance, the Eastshore Planning Group, West Marin Growers, Tomales Bay Advisory Committe, the Environmental Forum and the Democratic Central Committee of Marin. She also co-founded Marin Organic and the focus on Family Farms Day.”

Phyllis, an author and educator, has been a California Coastal Commissioner and a vice president of the California Native Plant Society. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts with a major in Zoology and received a master’s degree in Microbiology from Yale.

Some of her most important work, she’s said, has been editing and publishing environmental books and articles.

MALT grew out of Ellen and Phyllis’ concern that agricultural land in West Marin was being subdivided and no longer used as working open space. To counter this trend, MALT — with money from donors and grants — began buying agricultural easements from ranchers.

The easements allow ranchers to continue ranching their own land but in perpetuity prevent residential or commercial development of the property. To compensate ranchers for accepting the easements’ restrictions, MALT typically pays them half the appraised value of their land.

The money is often used to make improvements to the ranch or pay inheritance taxes in order to keep the ranch in the family. So far, 44,100 acres of ranch land in West Marin is being protected from development by MALT easements.

Women of West Marin will continue through Dec. 31 in the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History. The museum shares The Gables, Mason’s former house, with the Inverness library, and visitors can see the show whenever the library is open.

Library hours are: 3 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays; 10 a.m to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays; 10 a.m to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays; closed Thursdays; 3 to 6 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; closed Sundays.

Celebrants at Saturday’s Inverness Fair picnicked outside the firehouse on fare that ranged from hot dogs, to beer, to burritos, to ice cream.

The Inverness Fair came when it was needed most. It was a dose of fun in wretched times: fighting in Libya, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan; terrorism in Norway, England, and Pakistan; famine in Somalia; financial chaos in the United States and Europe.

It would be easy to succumb to Weltschmerz during periods such as this. (A useful word that English borrowed from German, Weltschmerz — pronounced velt shmerts — refers to weary sadness brought on by the evils of the world, a sort of romantic pessimism.) Thankfully, for six hours Saturday on the Inverness Firehouse green, no Weltschmerz was allowed.

Among several musical groups performing were Kit Walker and Mariana Ingold. Born in Uruguay, Ingold is a composer, singer, and musician. She has made award-winning educational videos of Uruguay, Brazil, the United States and Spain. In addition, she has worked on environmental and educational projects. Ingold has released numerous albums and at present is recording with Kit Walker (left). Walker, who lives in West Marin, has recorded for Windham Hill and others. His jazz and neo-classical recordings are particularly well known. Walker and Ingold will perform again in Inverness’ Blackbird Café at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

Inverness Garden Club had rows of plants for sale, along with a table for selling alpaca “poop.” A section of herbs was labeled “THYME SQUARE.”

Outside the Inverness Library, tables overflowed with used books. Throughout the day, a constant stream of fairgoing investigators showed up to inspect the books. Further up Inverness Way, a flea market was similarly popular.

Former Shoreline School District trustee Gus Conde sold notecards to raise funds for West Marin School in Point Reyes Station.

Families ate ice cream and listened to the music while Michael Mery of Point Reyes Station manned a Marin Agricultural Land Trust table.

Sue Taylor of Point Reyes Station, selling her handwoven rugs, was one of several vendors who took part in the fair and added to its color.

A day without Weltschmerz! Wunderbar!


January takes its name from Janus, the god of gates and doorways in ancient Rome and Greece. Small statues of the god, who had two faces, one looking inward and one looking outward, were often placed at the entrances to homes. New Year’s is likewise a gate between two years, making this a time to both look forward and look back. So here goes.

Nicasio Reservoir overflowed Seeger Dam last Thursday afternoon, Dec. 23, district staff reported. More than 9 inches of rain have fallen here in the last two weeks.

As 2010 comes to an end, Marin Municipal Water District is looking into the new year with healthy water supplies. MMWD provides water to the San Geronimo Valley, along with most of East Marin south of Novato, and as of this week, the district’s seven reservoirs were at 97 percent of capacity.

With more than 200 people on hand, Missy Patterson’s daughter Alicia Patterson Ferrando (at center) on Tuesday spoke emotionally about her mother’s love for her family, as well as her candor.

A reception in memory of Rosalie “Missy” Patterson, who died Dec. 19 at the age of 84, was held Tuesday afternoon in the Dance Palace. The reception was preceded by a High Church mass in St. Columba’s Episcopal Church. So many people were fond of Missy that there was standing-room-only in the church for much of the crowd.

Missy, who came to West Marin in 1959, was the mother of 11 children. For 28 years under four ownerships, she was circulation manager and front-office manager for The Point Reyes Light.

Missy worked for me 22 years, and at Tuesday’s reception I noted she came to learn so much about her job that she sometimes had to explain to government staff the regulations for dealing with newspapers. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

People in West Marin trusted Missy, and when the last publisher found that numerous oldtimers felt he had turned The Light into a scandal sheet and had stopped reading it, he made Missy a columnist in an effort to win them back.

The column, Ask Missy, was a compendium of Missy’s thoughts about the world. Sometimes she was indignant and sometimes bemused. In her last column, which was published three days before she died, she wrote about being hospitalized (with pneumonia) on Dec. 2.

If she’d had her way, Missy wrote, her friend Barbara would have driven her to Cabaline Country Emporium and Saddlery to look at some shoes, but Barbara instead drove her to the West Marin Medical Center.

Missy ended up in Kaiser’s Terra Linda hospital for a week and then stayed briefly with a friend before returning to Kaiser. In her final column she thanked everyone who had come to her assistance, adding, “Take good care of yourself… and it’ll keep you around almost longer than my 84 years.”

Besides Inverness in West Marin (which, of course, takes its name from Inverness, Scotland), there are communities named Inverness in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Montana, Florida, and Illinois, all of them named by immigrants from Scotland or their descendants.

In addition, there was once a settlement in Georgia named Inverness, but during the early 1700s, it was renamed Darien in memory of an ill-fated Scottish colonial scheme in Panama. And therein lies a story.

Some years ago I began reading the London-based Economist magazine each week for my main source of international news. Politically, The Economist is libertarian, but it is not an advocate of unbridled capitalism.

In any case, I read it for its back-of-the-magazine reviews of books and the arts, along with its commentary on cultural trends, more than for its political coverage.

In the Aug. 28 issue, I happened upon a review of Caledonia, the principal drama at this past summer’s Edinburgh (Scotland) Festival, and it made me realize how little I knew about Scottish history. The review was so intriguing I set out to see what else I ought to know.

Scotland was an independent kingdom from 843 when it was unified to 1707 when it became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain, and during the 1600s, it had far more imperialistic ambitions in the Americas than I’d imagined.

Scotland tried unsuccessfully to establish colonies in Nova Scotia, East New Jersey, and South Carolina, but the worst disaster occurred in Central America.

In the late 1690s, the Scots attempted to establish the colony of New Caledonia on the Isthmus of Panama. Here’s what happened. A series of crop failures had caused Scotland to look for an overseas source of income.

Enter financier William Paterson with a scheme for establishing a colony at Darien in Panama. It would be a way to facilitate trade with the Far East and with European colonies on the west coast of the Americas.

Despite no one really knowing how all this could be done, the Company of Scotland was chartered in 1695 to raise money to finance the scheme.

The site of Darien is shown just to the left of the word “Darien” in the “Gulf of Darien” on the right side of this map from 1699.

The company’s first expedition to Panama in 1698, however, ended in disaster. About 1,200 colonists sailed for Panama, but because of disease and starvation, only about 300 survived. Of the five ships that had made the crossing, only one was able to return to Scotland the following year.

Unfortunately, a second expedition had unwittingly set sail before the remnants of the first arrived home. The second group tried to rebuild what the first group had abandoned, as well as complete a fort for defense against the Spanish.

And the Spanish did indeed attack. The Scots were briefly able to hold them off but were ultimately forced to surrender. By then, most of the colonists who had joined the expedition had died of dysentery or other diseases. Only a few hundred (out of about 1,300) made it back to Scotland.

The economic effect of these failures devastated Scotland. Citizens from all levels of Scottish society had invested in the Darien scheme, and estimates of their combined losses range from a fifth to nearly a half of all the wealth of Scotland at that time. Many Scots were left indebted and impoverished.

Desperate to recover — in large part by sharing in England’s international trade — the Scots agreed to the 1707 Acts of Union, which created Great Britain as a political union of England and Scotland.

Clearly Darien was a “Scottish tragedy,” The Economist notes in its review of the drama Caledonia at the Edinburgh Festival. Unfortunately, the magazine adds, the drama was performed as “burlesque….

Caledonia, which promises to tell the stories of the nameless and the blameless, quickly eases its way into parody. This is history as vaudeville.

“The cast keeps breaking into song — Riches from riches, Piled upon riches, To the end of the world — though there are too few voices to make anything other than the thinnest lyrical impression.”

“King William minces about in a wig in an entirely unsuitable way for this most stern and Protestant of monarchs; the members of Parliament have their noses in a trough and waggle their rumps.”

King William (right) was referred to both as King William III of England and King William II of Scotland.

“The Bernie Madoff of the drama is William Paterson, a visionary of world trade in a gold frock-coat. Darting about, he seems everywhere at once, though that may be less to do with charisma and more with his airy-fairy character. The nameless and the blameless make a quick shuffle off the stage.”

Items such as this are what make The Economist such a good read, as far as I’m concerned. In a short review of a semi-obscure drama, the magazine prompted this US citizen to learn about a bizarre chapter in Scottish history that led to creation of the country of Great Britain.

Most long-time residents of West Marin know his story. For 22 years beginning in 1971, John Francis of Point Reyes Station refused to ride in motorized vehicles (largely as a reaction to a humongous oil spill at the Golden Gate).

And for the first 17 of those years, he also maintained a vow of silence. His not talking caused him to listen more and kept him out of arguments over his not riding in motorized vehicles, he told listeners at the Dance Palace Sunday.


John received standing ovations Sunday after two farewell shows of storytelling, acting, and banjo playing.

Notwithstanding the audiences’ enthusiasm, there was a bittersweet quality to the shows. Although West Marin has been his home base for 40 years, John, his wife Mattie, and their sons Sam and Luke, will move to Cape May, New Jersey in a couple of weeks.

(The  family will live in his parents’ old home and expect to benefit from New Jersey’s healthcare costs being much lower than California’s.)

Even when John was on the road from 1983 to 1995, a group he founded in 1982, Planetwalker, remained based in West Marin. On its website, Planetwalker describes itself as “a non-profit educational organization dedicated to raising environmental consciousness and promoting earth stewardship.”

While on the road, John walked to Missoula, Montana, where he earned a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. He then walked east to Madison, Wisconsin, where he earned a doctorate in Land Resources with a focus on oil-spill damage.

In the wake of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, John headed a Coast Guard team writing the congressionally mandated Oil Spill Act of 1989. Once done with that, he sailed to Antigua, stayed a year working as an environmental advisor to the island’s British governor, and then sailed further south to Venezuela.

100_3171_1Along with his many other talents, John is a first-rate artist. His book “Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time” is illustrated with his sketches.

After he had walked the length of Venezuela, John’s life changed significantly. At the Venezuela-Brazilian border, he resumed riding in motorized vehicles. “Walking had become a prison for me,” he later explained.

Nonetheless, he walked across the Amazon from Venezuela, through Brazil, to Bolivia, where he caught malaria and just about died. However thanks to Al Gore, the UN had designated John a “goodwill ambassador” and provided him with a transmitter so he could send daily messages to schoolchildren around the world. John used the transmitter to send out a distress signal.

However, the Bolivian government initially showed no interest in saving him, he said Sunday. John credited Mattie with getting the White House to bring about his rescue.

Throughout Sunday’s show, John kept returning to a skit in which he was weak and delirious from the malaria. In the final scene, he imagined seeing enormous mosquitoes, which turned out to be dragonflies, which ultimately turned out to be the helicopters that had come to save him.

It was a wonderful performance, and John’s impersonations of his mother and father were masterful and humorous while his candid stories about race were telling.

In one frightening incident on a back road north of Jenner, a white bigot stuck a gun to John’s head and in racist language told him blacks were not welcome in the area.

After the man had left, John realized he had recognized the face: “It was death.” John took the experience as a reminder of life’s fragility and the need to fully appreciate the present.

John also told of a droll observation at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington. A member of the staff told John his colleagues had been expecting a team leader who hadn’t ridden in motorized vehicles for 18 years and who had just resumed talking after 17 years of silence. What caught them by surprise, the staff member added, was John’s being black.

West Marin will definitely miss John, but he promises to return from time to time. For one thing, he’s now walking — a couple of states at a time — back across the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. So far, he’s walked across New Jersey and into Ohio.


Also on Sunday, photographer Art Rogers of Point Reyes Station (left) and painter Thomas Wood of Nicasio concluded a month-long exhibition, Silver and Oil, at the Pelican Gallery in Point Reyes Station.

ROGERS-WOOD-LAST-CHANCEThe exhibition of “landscape photography and paintings” repeatedly juxtaposed photos and paintings of the same scene, such as these two views of Black Mountain from the east. This was the second year in a row that the Rogers and Wood have mounted a joint exhibit.


Meanwhile, photographers Richard Blair and his wife Kathleen Goodwin held a party in their Inverness Park studio a week ago to celebrate publication of their new book, Visions of Marin.

The couple previously produced California Trip and the highly successful Point Reyes Visions coffee-table books.


Visions of Marin, as the book’s publicity notes, “includes local histories of Marin towns, beautiful images of Marin’s parks and natural wonders, as well as agriculture, outdoor sports from horse riding to bocce, Sausalito’s sailing community and ethereal landscapes.”

From 1920 to 1991, The New York Daily News called itself “New York’s Picture Paper” because it used photographs with captions rather than articles to report a disproportionate amount of the news.

In that spirit, this blog will now try out a Point Reyes Station Picture Posting.


While carpenter Charlie Morgan was walking out my cabin’s basement door this morning, he spotted a small gopher snake slithering in. We grabbed it although it pretended it was a rattlesnake, flattening its head into a triangle and shaking its rattle-less tail. (Photo by Charlie Morgan)

The snake didn’t like being picked up and tried to wriggle free, but it didn’t strike. Its mouth was so small it probably couldn’t have even if it had wanted to. In any case, I soon released it.


Seeva Cherms, daughter of Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park, gave me this sign as a Christmas present two years ago.

As too many roadkills make evident, the possums of West Marin are in particular need of a safe preserve, so I’ve started one.


A continuing problem, however, is the ancient feud between my hill’s possums and raccoons. Tense encounters occur night after night, and I’ve photographed several, such as this confrontation on Sept. 12.


In an effort to end the inter-species unrest, I finally resorted to a two-millennia-old stratagem for keeping unruly masses complaisant. When anti-social disorder broke out again last night, I distracted the raccoon with bread and circuses — “panem et circenses” in the words of the Roman satirist Juvenal, who coined the phrase around 200 AD. The circus in those days was somewhat different, of course, although it did have lions.


Tonight I tried the same ploy with the possum, and it worked until the raccoon came over and stole the bread. Raccoons are like that — even among themselves. I’m tempted to send one in particular to Father Flanagan’s Home for Wayward Raccoons in Kits Town, Nebraska.

Linda-and-BurtonMeanwhile over in Inverness tonight, Linda Petersen, the injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen, showed up after a Volunteer Fire Department meeting to thank firefighter Burton Eubank (right).

Burton was the first rescue worker on the scene when Linda fell asleep at the wheel June 13 near Motel Inverness and hit a utility pole.

Linda suffered 18 broken bones and a punctured lung in the crash.

Burton tonight noted the dispatcher originally said the crash had occurred just west of downtown Inverness not far from Vladimir’s Czechoslovakian Restaurant. As he rushed to the scene from Inverness Park, however, Burton discovered the wreck was actually east of town and radioed other members of the volunteer fire department to let them know.

Linda remembers almost nothing from the wreck, so Burton recounted how he evaluated her condition and what he and other firefighters did to remove her from the car without causing further injuries. As it turned out, Linda had two broken vertebrae, so the precautions were crucial.

Burton obviously hadn’t learned how to do all this in one training session, I quipped. “I’ve been a firefighter 24 years,” he replied, “ever since I was 18.” Burton said that some of the VFD’s traffic-accident calls are grim but responses such as Linda’s help balance that.

And put it on your calendar that a benefit to help pay Linda’s medical bills will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, at Toby’s Feed Barn. There will be entertainment by Johnny and June from El Radio Fantastique, Peter Asmus and Space Debris, and Matt Love’s band (sometimes called the Love Field Allstars). The initial, so to speak, entertainer will be Charlie, the carpenter. Charlie, who’s also a DJ at KWMR, will be MC.

Providing food will be Marin Sun Farms, the Station House Café, Olema Farmhouse, Café Reyes, the Tomales Deli, the Palace Market, the Marshall Store, and Mike and Sally Gale’s Chileno Valley Ranch. In addition, Anastacio Gonzalez will barbecue oysters with his “Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce.” The sauce is now being bottled, with retail sales having begun last July.

« Previous PageNext Page »