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A Peek at the Past

   Apr 14

A Peek at the Past

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Megan and I made our way to the Hooterville school for a lecture on local history. As we pulled into the parking lot, we met our friend who helped to create the giant garden over at the family property, and whose family also sold The Byrds’ Gene Clark his home in Hooverville many years ago. His dog stayed in his yellow truck as we walked into the school together.

Everyone who was anyone was there, including our brother. We found seats* – no one likes sitting at the front of the class – and settled in for the lecture. It was given by an archaeologist and local historian, who had clearly spent a lot of time researching the area.

Hooterville, like San Francisco itself, was a federal land grant to legendarily opportunistic English sea captain William Richardson. It appears that Richardson never lived here, or possibly ever set foot on its distant shores (I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to get here in 1850). Since he died bankrupt, ownership of Hooterville was the subject of legal wranglings for many years until the matter was finally settled by the Supreme Court, who granted ownership to Richardson’s creditors. Let the logging begin!

It’s hard to believe that there was ever a busy mill complex:


located beneath the now iconic bridge (built in 1944, relatively recently):


and that no trace now remains of the bustling industry there.

There were several fires over the years, and the mills were rebuilt each time, adding a company store and even a hotel. Workers could buy items from the company store on credit and have the cost deducted from their future pay. My guess is this system meant that workers got little, if any, cash and probably ended up owing their employers.

The company store did not sell alcohol, so in true Hooterville fashion, a store opened which did and which also had a pay phone. I’m happy to report that the store and pay phone are still there, and are still the heart of Hooterville. I was particularly thankful for both when Miss Scarlett met her untimely end a couple of years ago.

Logging at Hooterville came to an end in 1930 or so. The mill shut down and was abandoned for several years before being razed into oblivion to make way for building the bridge. Now the same area is home to RV parking, a little café and shop. The steep road/path leading to it, the ocean and cliffs and wild beauty of the area are little changed.

A YEAR AGO: Playing on the beach with Megan and Stella.

*They were incredibly uncomfortable and butt numbing. It was both a relief and a difficulty to stand up, reminding me of Martin Landau in “Ed Wood” saying, “This is the most uncomfortable coffin I’ve ever been in.”

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  1. Guy says:

    I think we can all remember stories of towns, places and companies that have come and gone. It is reason we have historians to remind us that nothing remains the same, what we knew and saw then and now is gone and replaced by other towns stories and companies that are now flourishing, so be it for a while and then we start over again. The Aboriginal call this The Circle, a circle has no beginning and no end, what was then although somewhat different is now again.

  2. Joy says:

    Our village used to have several working mills… it is a very touristy/cottage area. The mill near us is now a
    condominium… A few years ago a couple of older local residents were at a Meeting where they told us all about the streets and who lived in various houses and how the shops had changed etc., Also about the mode of travel , especial in wintertime. Just fascinating.
    So Interesting to know about the past of ones area.

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