Saturday, August 20, 2011

Today I met Jerry—a former high school student of Frank McCourt's


Today I met Jerry—a former high school student of Frank McCourt's! We exchanged banter over the curried chicken and Tuscan melon. Teacher Man, Angela's Ashes & 'Tis. What he told me about self-evaluation was particularly helpful after a customer ripped me a new arsehole for no real reason at all—other than he could. Several women in line went over to the manager and vouched for me, several wanting to come to my rescue but were at a loss as to how. Fecking bully. He couldn't believe I had the audacity to say "I don't need this." And all the frabulous lines I composed in hindsight—alas, he broadsided me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Speck McAuliff's Bar Burned Down


Lagunitas Lodge 1910

Someone on the Facebook Lost Marin page posted a new photo of Speck McAuliffe's bar that I'd never seen before. When Speck's bar burned down in January of 1983, an institution was lost.


My family knew Frank "Speck" McAuliff from way back when in San Francisco days. He was a retired cop, or was it fireman? His wife bought the place with a nest egg after the Depression, my grandmother said.  

 

As a baby, I crawled on the bar—and on the disgustingly dirty floors, and ate cigarette butts. I graduated to Shirley Temples, then Irish coffee. It was my family's watering hole. They had been friends with Speck—Frankfor 2 generations. His daughter Loretta was my godmother. Her sister Pat Decker, was one scary bartender.

We don't know who owned the bar or what it was called before Frank bought the Lagunitas Lodge. But we have a photo of my uncle Feilim on Tangerine the blue-eyed pinto, in front of Mariposa Pavilion (a dance hall) that was behind the tavern. It must've burned down before I was born.


Or perhaps a part of it was turned into Speck's home. But I think their home was the 2nd story over the lodge itself. You can see it in the top photo. What's amazing is that part of the old rock pillar fence from 1910, survives to this day. My grandfather bought three lots in Lagunitas, so he would've been familiar with this bar, ca 1910.

Feilim on Tangerine ca 1940, he died ca. 1945, Mariposa sign is to the left
There was a livery stable out back as well. Our family boarded their horses in winter and my aunts and uncles rode them in summer. Baby Snooks and my glue factory horse, Chiquita, were refugee horses from the livery stable that spanned two generations.

I remember Old Pete Stone, the last real cowboy, used to ride his strawberry roan down to the Forest Knolls Lodge (the misnamed Papermill Creek Saloon as it's on the San Geronimo/Creamery Creek, not Papermill Creek) for a drink, and he could roll a cigarette one-handed. That horse was decked out in a heavily tooled saddle and bridle loaded with pounds of silver. Pete was something to behold. His lariat was made of plaited horsehair. Was he a rodeo rider at one point? Geoff Davis said: Pete Stone was a teamster and a mule skinner. My dad told me that  he liked real people, he liked your granny a lot. Genuine article, at any rate, just like Frank.

Old Pete took care of the rental horses. When they were all sold off, he lived on in an old Slipstream trailer hidden in the greasewood out back of the lodge. He made Pat Decker's daughter, Marianne a thin ring out of an old silver dime, but he was also a dirty old man, always wanted to "play house" with Marianne and me. We were warned off of him by Maryanne's mother, Pat.

For a short time, when my family was a real modern fifties unit, mother father, child, we lived next door to Pat Decker in Frank's apartments over the Lagunitas post office. Pat was Frank's daughter, and Frank's main barkeeper. Pat's sister, Loretta, my absentee godmother, who looked a little bit like Elizabeth Taylor, lived in San Anselmo.

Lagunitas Lodge, and boarding house , ca 1910
Pat was married to George Decker, who was a powder monkey out at McNear's rock quarry. First time I ever saw sticks of dynamite was in the trunk of George's car. He'd come home all covered with rock dust, looking like an animated cement statue with bloodshot blue eyes. George was from Arkansas so he talked funny. They later moved to Woodacre and Maryanne and i grew apart.



Someone said the post office and the apartments burned down in early '70's, I was living in Forest Knolls. You'd think I would've remembered that. But Roberta Tanzi said 1972 or 73 was the second time that place caught fire, and the 3rd time was the night before Easter, 1988. Anthony Chatham, who lived in one of the apartments, said the fire was right before Christmas, in 1972.

The apts. also burned in 83, we lived in the far right one. Roberta Tanzi photo

However the fire started (Joey Tanzi has a different story), there was already a string of arsons where all the historic buildings in Lagunitas and Forest Knolls were torched. We definitely had a firebug. The old saloon and ice cream parlour in Lagunitas was amazing. We have some of the cane chairs from it. Huge carved gilt mirror, mahogany bar. Rumor has it that when Barbara Scott owned it, it was torched for the fire insurance.

Half of the downtown Forest Knolls (across from the bar) was a series of wooden buildings with a roof overhang and wooden sidewalks that creaked. Even hitching posts outside. Very western.


I lost touch with Maryanne years ago. We spent so much time at Speck's bar, it was a home away from home. All cinder and ash now. 

Speck McAuliff's Irish Coffee  by F M Palinski, 1984

This was from rough notes, and was extensively revised 8/24/2015, but the original impetus came from 8/11/11, so I filed it here. I need to come up with a better name, or perhaps combine the two blog posts. Meanwhile.... minor revisions 12/17

See also
Speck's Bar: Family Watering Hole (2014)