Thursday, August 11, 2011

Speck McAuliffe'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" McAuliffe 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 McAuliffe'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)

Some bits on Speck's I gleaned from the Marin IJ, placeholders for later.
Seems like runaway horses were a problem.

"Six persons, including a six- weeks’-old baby, were injured and a sleek brown horse had to be shot by Humane Society officers as a result of auto accidents on crowded Marin roads during the weekend. The infant and the animal were injured early last night as a Kentfield man and his family was driving west on Sir Francis Drake boulevard, near Lagunitas, when their auto collided with the horse. The driver was Robert Maresh of 1041 Sir Francis Drake boulevard. Injured was his daughter, Elizabeth Anne, who was treated for a minor shock condition at Ross General hospital. Maresh told highway patrolmen the horse galloped out onto the boulevard from a wooded strip along the road. The driver said he tried to stop but was unable to before the car collided with the animal. The horse was owned by Frank McAuliffe of Lagunitas Lodge. Following the accident it was shot by officers of Marin Humane society.  

—May 19, 1952

"A horse owned by Pete Stone of Lagunitas Lodge received minor cuts and bruises at about 10 p. m. Tuesday when it ran into the path of an auto driven by Jesus Delgade of Mountain View and was struck. Stone said the horse had been tied to a ttee and had apparently broken the rope. Delgade was not cited by patrolmen. The mishap occurred on Lagunitas road, Just west of Forest Knolls."
—June 5, 1952

Another tidbit on The Western in Point Reyes: "New Owner Takes Over Bar, Cafe Frank (Speck) McAuliffe, owner of the Lagunitas Lodge where Irish coffee is the specialty, this week took over his newly acquired Western Bar and Restaurant at Point Reyes Station. McAuliffe plans to open the 12-room hotel portion of the Western as a boarding house- type establishment. The former owner is Jerome Brunner of 318 Paloma avenue, San Rafael. "
—December 6, 1957

"March 24, A public hearing on the application of Frank J. McAuliffe, owner of the Lagunitas Lodge, to build a 13-unit motel on Sir Francis Drake boulevard at the Centura avenue intersection in Lagunitas, will be held by the Marin County Planning Commission at 2 p.m. Monday in the county office building, 1711 Grand avenue, San Rafael. The property is located across from the Lagunitas Lodge on part of what is known as the “old railroad right-of- wavy."
—February 13, 1960

"Daughter-In-Law Sues For $8,756 Irish coffee house owner Frank (Speck) McAuliffe of Lagunitas is being sued for $8.756. which his daughter-in-law says she loaned him for the operation of a San Rafael bar. The lawsuit, filed yesterday in Marin Superior Court, alleges that Rosemarie McAuliffe, wife of the late Frank McAuliffe Jr., loaned the money for the operation of Speck's Famous Irish Coffee in San Rafael (Lagunitas), a bar undertaken by her husband and father-in-law. She states in the suit that the senior McAuliffe has refused to pay back the money since the death of her husband Sept. 29, 1962. McAuliffe is owner of The Lodge in Forest Knolls
(Lagunitas), which specializes in Irish coffee. "
January 17, 1964

I'm not sure if this is bolloxed up or if there even was a Frank, Jr. I sure don't remember this. 

"Food, Cash Taken Frank J. Manning of Spring Road. Lagunitas, told sheriff’s deputies that thieves stole a bag of groceries and $10 cash from his unlocked car while it was parked in front of the Lagunitas Lodge on Thursday night.
—July 12, 1965

Was this Carol Manning's father?

"DINING OUT AND INNS By HARRY CRAFT Lagunitas Lodge Dining Room Ready To Open For Holidays Probably opening for dinner tomorrow night— or by Sunday— is Frank McAuliffe’s Lagunitas Lodge on Sir Francis Drake highway, Lagunitas. The Lodge, of course, is not new but has been there for \ears. But the lunch and dinner service of Joe Moyle of Fairfax, is—and the dining room is large. Joe. who was cheffing recently at De La Montanya's, plans on food service every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Lunches will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a brunch on Sunday featuring eggs Benedict from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; dinners from 7 to midnight; Sundays from 5 p.m. Continental fare will prevail at night. Salads, shrimp Louis and hot specials will be offered at lunch. " 

—July 2, 1965

De La Montanya's dad! Wonder what the restaurant was... Dean was our milkman for Lucas Valley Dairy

"Funeral for Grace McAuliffe Pleshe, sister of Frank McAuliffe, owner of the Lagunitas Lodge, was held today in the Patterson and O’Connell Chapel by the Wayside, San Mateo. Mrs. Pleshe died Monday in a Redwood City hospital She also is survived by her husband, Alexander Pleshe of San Carlos. She was a native of San Francisco. Burial was at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma"

—May 5, 1972

 All I wanted to know was WHEN the Lagunitas Lodge was built, and I fell down a rabbithole of time. Supposedly Scott Joplin played at The Lodge. When? And when was Lagunitas first founded? Before 1905, when the Lagunitas subdivision went in, that's for sure.

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