Art, Boyes Hot Springs, Entertainment, Resorts, Valley of the Moon Main Stem Project

Coney Island

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Mr. Wolf Baron (sometimes Wulf Barron) announced the construction of the Coney Island resort on his tract of land in Boyes Hot Springs in December of 1922. Construction started in January 1923. The Index Tribune described it this way: “Sonoma Valley’s amusement park and tent city modeled after one of the leading resorts of southern California has been started. The park project is being financed by Wulf Barron (sic) and is being built on the 39 acre tract owned by Barron at Verano. There will be 30 summer cottages to occupy the shady bands of Sonoma creek, swimming pool, children’s playgrounds, etc. On the highway there will be a big amusement hall for dancing and pictures, restaurant, bowling alley and modern gasoline service station.”

Then in July: “The $100,000 amusement park at Verano[1] had scarcely opened its doors before financial troubles loomed. The Patriarchs’ Militant Band[2], who played at the opening, first attached the place, but their attachment has been lifted. Among local creditors are a lumber company and hardware firm.”

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[1] Boundaries between communities in the Springs are and have been flexible. Baron’s Villa Tract, on the Highway just north of Agua Caliente Creek, is considered to be in Boyes Hot Springs today. Rosenthal’s Resort, opposite Baron’s, was also sometimes placed in Verano. However, on maps it appears that Verano is on the south side of Agua Caliente Creek. See maps.

[2] I wonder what they were militant about?

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The paper was not shy about touting Harry Fine’s “pull” with the sheriff’s office. Cigarettes were cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Things got so bad for Wolf Baron, that rumors circulated that he had been confined to Napa State Hospital. These were unfounded.

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Baron was out of the picture, but Coney Island was still a popular venue, this time for “pictures.” In September of 1923, film producer, director, actor and flimflam artist Harold “Josh” Binney leased Coney Island for the headquarters of his company, which was supposed to turn Sonoma into Hollywood North. He started work on a proposed series of silent comedies, but, after cashing a bad check, he decamped to Montana. Evading extradition to California, he was instead arrested and tried in Montana for a similar scheme. After serving time in Montana, he went on to have a long career in Hollywood including directing Cab Calloway in “Hi De Ho” in 1947. The film Binney shot before his departure is an important historical archive of Sonoma Valley. (More to come on Mr. Binney.)

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Now the parking lot of Mary’s Pizza

The intrigue continued in 1924 when a Mrs. Soito filed a slander suit against Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith, who were the caretakers at Coney Island at the time.

“A rift in the lute (?!sic!) of this year’s Boyes Springs Carnival when rivalry in the queen contest broke up the committees and led to open warfare between the contestants…” a scenario worthy of Christopher Guest. (and what does “a rift in the lute” mean?)

“Mrs. Soito, who is the mother of Harriet Hunt, one of the pretty little girls who was out for queen, alleges in a complaint filed at Santa Rosa, that Mrs. Smith, mother of the dancer and the May-pole queen defamed her in a conversation to which there were witnesses.”

Originally Mrs. Smith was charged with disturbing the peace for a dustup at Flowery School. She pled guilty and received a suspended sentence. The Smith’s were said to be “experienced show people.” And Mrs. Soito “a member of a prominent family of Contra Costs county.”

In 1924, the Sonoma Valley Athletic Club was promoting boxing matches in the Pavillion.

In 1925 there were dances under the auspices of local bigshot Louis Parente.

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Apparently Parente gave up on the resort soon after.

The annex to the pavilion burned in 1927, and in 1928 the pavilion itself was destroyed by fire, “and now only ashes tell the tale of the venture of a San Franciso tailor went into and failed,” the Index Tribune said. (Baron was one of several tailors, most of then Viennese, who came to the valley from the City to pursue their trades and other businesses. See the post https://springsmuseum.org/2019/05/27/leixner-nimpfer-weghofer/

The IT also tells us “The Coney Island site has been one with a history of ill luck. Twenty years ago (1909) a beautiful massive structure, known as Marble Hall, was put up there, and it mysteriously burned shortly after construction. The marble pillars stood for many years, a monument of the enterprise that went up in smoke.” The pillars can be seen in the photograph of the Binney studio, and several can still be found a sites around the valley.

By 1931 the Baron tract had been subdivided into building lots and houses were constructed.

And there our story ends, pending new finds.

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Collage 32 H from the Valley of the Moon Main Stem Project, Michael Acker artist. Dimensions approx 45″x14″

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society.

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Architecture, Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano, Entertainment, History, mid-century, People, Sports

May 28, 1959

This day, sixty one years ago. Eighteen pages in the issue. What happened that day? Things small and large, meaningful and trivial. Presented with just a few comments and notes.

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Valley Mourns Oscar Larson-See page 14 for an editorial appreciation of this important figure in mid-twentieth century Boyes Hot Springs.

Incorporation, Bank sought at Boyes –“’A committee to form a committee’” to work for incorporation of Boyes Hot Springs as a full-fledged city, was appointed Tuesday at noon meeting of the Boyes Hot Springs Merchants Association, held at Sonoma Mission Inn.” Zan Stark Jr., Harry Phinney and Milton Greger were appointed to “establish a “citizens committee” to “sell” the incorporation plan in the area.”

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More about Oscar Larson. Dr. Ronald Scott fished in Oregon. Big News! (Oregon keeps coming up in this issue.)

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You could get a permit to burn things.

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“Never used anything like it,” say users of Berlou mothspray, odorless, stainless, and guaranteed to stop moths for five whole years. Simmons Pharmacy, WE 8-2039.

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“Bob Fouts, sportscaster for the San Francisco 49ers and other athletic events of both radio and television, plans to spend the summer in the Valley of the Moon, the Index Tribune learned this week. Fouts, his wife and five children will reside in the Bel Aire development near the Sonoma golf Course, where they will temporarily rent a home during the summer months.” Just a few years later, Dan Fouts would be starring at quarterback for the University of Oregon, which is mentioned page 17.

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Mary’s opens!

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Merchants meeting continued:

“Help from an outside source in the merchants’ fight to retain the identity of the Boyes Hot Springs Post office came at the meeting when Harry Kay of Santa Rosa, member of the State and County Democratic Central committee pledged his aid.”

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“The El Verano Improvement club members will meet on June 12 at the clubhouse on Riverside Drive.”

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“Key figures in Valley of the Moon Little League…Gene Morreton, August Sebastiani, J. Bettencourt, C.M. Marsh, Carl Ellason, Betty Thomas, Thelma Ashley, Paul Marcucci Sr., Bud Butts…”

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New Safeway Store to be Discussed By City Planners”, “No Setting Aside of Prunes This Year.

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Mario Ciampi is recognized in Life Magazine for design of Sassarini Elementary School.

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Oscar Larson remembered. A letter to the editor about Valley Unification.

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Justin Murray Combo at the Palms Inn!

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“Dr. and Mrs. Michael Mikita of Sobre Vista returned home recently after spending five days in Eugene, Oregon, visiting their son, Michael who is a freshman at the University of Oregon.”

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Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society

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Boyes Hot Springs, Photographs, Sports

Baseball in Boyes Hot Springs

NOTE: Baseball, Part 1, the Exhibition at the Depot Park Museum opens Saturday, October 26, at 1PM (power or no power!) The following post is a preview of Part 2, which will open in spring of 2020.

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Baseball Park circa 1910 (Sonoma Valley Historical Society)

Early in the twentieth century, the climate and healing waters of Sonoma Valley, Boyes Hot Springs in particular, were attractive to Pacific Coast League baseball teams looking for places to train.

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“Boyes’ Hot Springs is rapidly becoming recognized as one of California’s chief health resorts. A few years ago this famous resort was known only to a favored few in Sonoma and Marin Counties, who were aware of the marvelous healing powers of its medicinal waters. Through the combined efforts of Dr. Parramore of Mill Valley, and former Under Sheriff Litchenberg of San Rafael, both Marin County boys, the facilities and accommodations of the springs have been developed until now it is able to house the immense number that flock to this delightful and health giving spot. Against a State wide competition the Seals have chosen Boyes’ Hot Springs for their Spring training quarters. Exhibition games will be given there in recreation park that stands on the hotel property. The owners of the teams pronounce the facilities for (training) the best in the State. There is a large swimming tank, hot and cold water baths, plunges, a gymnasium, and the best climate in California.” Sausalito News, Volume 28, Number 48, 30 November 1912 — Page 1

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Post marked 1914

 

The League was founded in 1903. Teams initially were not associated with the major leagues and PCL baseball was considered an “outlaw” league until 1904 when an agreement was settled with Organized Baseball which made the PCL a Class A league. Still the PCL was “the only game in town” west of St. Louis until the Giants and Dodgers moved to California in 1958. Star players of the League included the DiMaggio brothers and Ted Williams which tells you something about the level of play.

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We know that the San Francisco Seals, a perennial powerhouse, were holding spring training at Boyes Springs as early as 1912. In that year, as an SF Chronicle headline read, an “ Eight Acre Ball Park (is) Being Built at Boyes Hot Springs.” The Chron goes on,…” it seems certain that the Seals will have the largest ball grounds in the world (!)-and very likely the finest-in which to prepare for their pennant struggle.” Manager Cal Ewing “…is highly enthusiastic about the new quarters.” In 1913 the SF Call, in an article about opening day, declared “The Boyes Springs rooters were the most conspicuous of the bunch. Headed by Doctor Parramore and Rudie Litchenberg (sic), they arrived at noon in a big auto and they drove direct to the ball park to root for the Seals.”

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SF Call, 1913

Building new parks for the Seals happened every few years, it seems. In 1913, under the heading “Interesting Items From El Verano and Vicinity,” the Index tribune reported that “Dr. E.L. Parramore and R.G. Lichtenberg (owners of the Boyes Bath House) of Boyes Springs were in the city on Friday of last week. Their visit was for the purpose of purchasing the lumber to build the fence around the new ball park, which has been laid out for the use of the Seals, who will do their spring training there.”

This is probably the field that endured until the 1950s. It was also very close to the Boyes Bath House. The land was surrounded by the Olive Grove subdivision in 1947 (see map),and completely subsumed by housing in the following decade. Originally named Fetters Field, it later became Lichtenberg Field. Today, De Chene Ave. roughly follows the old outfield fence.

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Sonoma County Recorder’s Office

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The Seals weren’t the only team to train at Boyes Hot Springs. In 1950 the Twin Falls farm team of the Yankees were there; in 1951, the Oakland Oaks. The Index Tribune put the story of their arrival on the front page, with a photo of manager Mel Ott. Since one of the original attractions for teams was the healthful waters, it was natural that some players would endorse the product. The Oakland Tribune showed two Oaks pitchers enjoying Boyes Springs mineral water after a workout in 1947.

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Some of the major leaguers who came to the valley for training ended up settling there. One such was Sam Agnew. SamAgnewbbCard

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, “Sam Agnew is best remembered for being the catcher for both of Babe Ruth’s pitching victories in the 1918 World Series.” Agnew started in baseball with the Vernon team of PCL in 1912. His Major League debut came with the St. Louis Browns in 1913. He started as catcher for the Browns through 1915, when he was traded to the Red Sox. While a St. Louis player he had the distinction of being called out while sitting in the dugout: the team was found to be batting out of order and he was supposed to at the plate at the time.

Agnew opened a service station in Boyes Springs in 1935. It was at the corner of Vallejo St. and the Highway (where the Barking Dog parking lot is today.) Agnew died in 1951 in Sonoma.

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AND THAT’S JUST A SAMPLE! STAY TUNED…

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. All others as noted or Author’s collection.

 

 

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Boyes Hot Springs, Entertainment, History, Uncategorized

Music at the Resorts

From earliest European settlement (and possibly before), the Valley of the Moon was a place of rest and healing, but by the late 1890’s excitement was added to the activities: show business. First and always there was music. Theater and the spectacle of the circus were also popular. Movies arrived by 1917.

The following is a sampler of the variety of music available at the resorts.

 

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Art Hickman had been coming to Sonoma Valley since 1910. He was a newspaper man who became the leader of a popular band in San Francisco. He is sometimes credited with inventing the word “jazz,” in Boyes Hot Springs. This dubious claim is fully discussed in Bruce Vermazen’s interesting article: http://www.gracyk.com/hickman.shtml

Hickman’s arrival in Boyes Springs was front-page news in 1923. (No elucidation as to the nature of his accidental burns is given.)

In that year, Prohibition was in force, which did not prevent the resorts from offering refreshing beverages to their guests, to enhance their musical appreciation. As we see from the headline, the El Verano resorts were “Again Raided.”

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Was Nuf Sed the name of the “Original Ragtime Orchestra…” or just an emphatic statement?

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It looks like a circus troop in this photo, marching with a band. The stamp on the reverse dates the card to 1909.

Some of the musical offerings were more high-toned. A Ladies Singing Society would be very refined.1922HARMONYSOCIETYCLIP

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Between 1920 and 1950 there were over a dozen ads in the IT for “Hard Times” dances. Attendees were expected to come dressed in stereotypical farmers’ clothing, and decorations leaned towards hay bales, wagon wheels, and animal harnesses. The music for this 1928 affair, held at the Boyes Springs Club House, was provided by Prof. G. Nimpfer, who was originally a tailor and had run a resort in Agua Caliente under his name. What discipline his PhD was granted in is not known.

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Paul Marcucci’s “Hill billy Band” from 1933. Marcucci was a talented musician and song writer who presided over Paul’s Resort for three decades in the mid-20th century.

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Unfortunately described as a “negro orchestra,” the Funmakers featured Johnny Alston and Jeanne DeMetz. Alston and DeMetz recorded extensively. To get an idea of what they might have sounded like at the Fetters Resort, listen to this recording of “Sam the Boogie Man,” 1946, from the Prelinger Archive:  https://ia600604.us.archive.org/13/items/78_sam-the-boogie-woogie-man_johnny-alston-and-his-orchestra-robert-scherman_gbia0007741b/Sam%20The%20Boogie%20Woogie%20Man%20-%20Johnny%20Alston%20and%20his%20Orchestra.mp3

 

 

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Hugh Wedge and his Melody Men were active in the Valley in 1950 and 1951. Obvioulsy versatile, they played for dancing of all eras (modern and old-fashioned).

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Leon Pasco’s orchestra, “from Napa,” gigged a lot in the resorts from 1948 through 1953. Hugh Wedge was also billed as from Napa. Did they really hail from there, or was that puffery to make them sound more exotic? The Funmakers were billed as “direct from many smash engagements at New York’s most elaborate NIGHT SPOTS,” which probably had some truth to it. But “from Napa?” Not very enticing.

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Anson Weeks was famous as the leader of the orchestra at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in the 1920s and 1930s. For more on Weeks, see https://soundcloud.com/peter-mintun/sets/anson-weeks-his-orchestrahttp://www.sfmuseum.org/hist1/weeks.html

In 1969 Pete Mancuso took over the old Resort Club in the heart of Boyes Hot Springs and renamed it Little Peter’s Melody Club. The establishment was in operation until the mid 1980s.

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The Melody Club sign was in place until 2014, when it was removed for safety.

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