March 22, 2012 by Judy Vaughn
Alfred Hitchcock came to Bodega with a flock of Hollywood extras for the 1963 movie "The Birds." In one of the film's most suspenseful moments, a crowd of crows silently congregated.
Some were tame, well trained. Some were wild, just passing by. And a few were mechanical stand-ins. One by one, then two by two and more, they landed menacingly on the Jungle Jim behind the old Potter schoolhouse as Tippi Hedren sat unaware of their presence. And suddenly, with great cinematic drama and special effects, the sky appeared to be full of birds chasing Hedren and terrified schoolchildren down the road past St. Teresa of Avila church.
The birds have come and gone, but tourists still visit to see where it all happened. What they find -- situated on land once lived on by Miwok and Pomo Indians -- is that St. Teresa's is a serenely quiet place, the oldest church in continuous use in Sonoma County and a popular wedding site.
"To have courage for whatever comes in life -- everything lies in that."
Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
October 31, 2011
It was Royce, not I, who brought the Middle Ages into this house.
All that Princeton art history stuff he had filled his head with stayed at the core of his being during the Sixties. Even while he was busy "saving the world," even when he was working desperately to teach film, photography and videotape to teenagers, he was still building our medieval library of Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture. "My birthday is coming up," he would say, not hint. "There's a copy of Sir Bannister Fletcher at the used bookstore on Irving. I really need it."
Before that, my focus had been American literature -- Hemingway, you know. Nouns and verbs stripped to the bare bone. It wasn't until 1972 when I visited the Musee de Cluny that I felt my first gravitational pull toward the Middle Ages. On a short visit, with all of Paris yet to be seen, I returned three times to gawk at religious statues carved centuries ago.
As time -- and our library -- has expanded, there continues to be this wonderful dichotomy. Can you be intrigued with the 11th century and still be embroiled in the pains of the 21st? Can you smile at Michelangelo's Lorenzo while on your way out the door to paint a California landscape?
Sure you can. Trying to connect the dots, see the parallels and sometimes just bask in antiquity....it's remarkably satisfying!
May 16, 2011
The Ocean Avenue Mural
Fondly, Royce reflects on his years with the Oceanview Mission Ingleside Business League (OMIBL), where he preached the value of community awareness and united business growth. This is the mural he spearheaded on the Ocean Avenue PG&E building at Junipero Serra Boulevard in 1999. In it are people whose history reflects their strong ties to the neighborhood and the larger San Francisco community.
Top Row (left to right)
Edna James, OMI-CAO, Donneter and John Lane - Housing and Community Development, Staci Huey - Miracle Cleaners, Philip R. Day, Jr., Chancellor CCSF, Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jerry Werthimer, SFSU and Holloway Historians, Louis Batmale, Founder of Community College District, Congressman Phil Burton, Senator John Burton, Robert Burton, Lonnie and Lurline Lawson, President of Ingleside Terrace Homeowners Association.
Willis Kirk, Retired President of CCSF, Will Reno, SNIG, Royce Vaughn, President OMIBL, B.J. Waters Plumbing, Anita Grier, President of CCSF Trustees, Rev. Roland Gordon- Ingleside Presbyterian Church and Center, Robert Landis - Aptos Middle School, Ronnie Naiker- Golden Years Medical, Mario Magallon, President CCSF Associated Students, Geraldine Earp- OMI-CA, Bettye Simon - Ingleside Lions, Kathy Wong - Commodore Sloat Principal, Henry and Gary Christopherson - Christopherson Realty.
Assistant Police Chief Earl Sanders, Fire Chief Charles Demmons, Rev. Richard Gazowsky, Rev. Marilyn Gazowski - Voice of Pentacost, Lorraine Ungaretti, Supervisor Amos Brown, Burl Toler - City College of San Francisco, National Football League.
Mercy High School Kaleidoscope Club Dancer
This Michael Manente mural is included in the gallery at www. sfmuralarts.com. Robert Fleege of Eller Media Company was the Creative Director. Royce initiated and visualized the concept, worked with local leaders to determine participants and secured the funding.
April 30, 2011
At sunrise, a moment before it happens, you come to grips with reality. The sun doesn't rise, folks. The earth turns to meet it head on. The world spins on its axis --sometimes furiously. Sometimes in quiet.
I say this with profound respect because I live with Royce Vaughn who, no matter what his health, wakes up early in the morning saying what new project will I address today?
This is our world turning -- sometimes slowly, sometimes profoundly. Especially at "sunrise."
January 5, 2011
Camp Blue/Camp Gold
October 13, 2010
Breakfast with ee cummings and Aaron Copland
The music was Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts." The food was cream of wheat, granola and fruit. And suddenly, exquisitely choreographed, a pair of black birds soared past our windows.
Up and over the hills they swooped past us with studied precision, seldom a foot from each other, now to the Monterey Pine, now far out to Billy Goat Hill, now back again.
"Now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened," our friend e e cummings reminds us whenever we stop long enough to listen. This morning's performance, a week after the Blue Angels had arrived in San Francisco, begged the obvious question. Did the Navy's Blue Angels learn their routines from birds? Or did this pair of particularly elegant, truly avian aviators take notes from the Navy?
Another sage from the past, my grandmother, used to say that when there was suddenly a pause in the conversation, a silence, you should look at your watch and it will probably say it's either twenty minutes to or after the hour. That silence, she said, means that angels are passing over.
It's safe to assume that her angels, silent ones, were not those assigned by the Navy. However, I was in Huntington Park across from Grace Cathedral Saturday when Angels, the Blue ones, passed overhead so close you felt you could almost touch them. It was spectacular. Not silent. But quite spectacular!
Just like our birds.
September 29, 2010
Blue Angels Soar
The Fleet's in town. And -- for the California Collectors' Series -- that puts the Marines, Navy,and Coast Guard on the radar. Consider this a short search and rescue effort to bring some history up to date.
If you're one of a select seventy people invited to a private Blue Angel birthday party, look again at your invitation with this picture on it. It's Royce Vaughn's watercolor of the Blue Angels commissioned for First Lieutenant Juliet Richey, who was stationed at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois, when the painting was done.
The San Francisco Veterans Art Guild event at City College on Tuesday invited Royce to bring his angels as well. We applaud the effort. The VA is remarkable, in every way.
Old Coast Guard Cutters Never Die
In the foreground of Royce's picture is the Coast Guard Cutter Alert. This isthe fourth cutter to carry the name and The Cutter Alert Preservation Team is quick to tell you about herlively heritage. She was one of thirty-three 125-footers used for prohibition law enforcement during 1926 and 1927 and that assignment was no small potatoes. They weren't after smaller prey, local rum runners with a rowboat, but bigger targets, "the mother ships". The Alert served on the Bering Sea Patrol from 1931 to 1940, was assigned to the US Navy's Western Sea Frontier during WWII, reassigned to Morro Bay in 1949 and to San Diego in 1959.
After Barry Brose of Highland Labs bought her in 1969, the Alert's mission turned to parades, lots of parades, research for the Oceanic Society and -- perhaps most rewarding of all -- trips on the bay and up the Delta, including the 9-day June Cruise with Sea Scouts, plus bay trips for school kids sponsored by the SF Police Youth Fishing Program.
(I remember this group from my days working with The Salvation Army. And ah, sighs Royce, a floating training center for Sea Scouts! What a good place for young people to study! Remember, this is the man who envisioned such a floating school in the Sixties and although that particular idea was wilder than some, other envisioned dreams did become reality.)
So what do you do with a Coast Guard cutter that's seen a lifetime of active duty and isn't quite ready to call it a day? Brose's boat is waiting for new ideas and a new commission. She's currently sitting on the Columbia River in Washington.
If you're checking out special events and military memorabilia at the Marines' Memorial Club in San Francisco, you'll see a lobby display of Royce's note cards -- blank, of course, waiting for purchasers to write friends about the terrific weekend they had in San Francisco. Expecting crowds, the club has placed a significant order.
Many Voices/One Venue
Who are the folks who walk through the Marines' front door these days? Not just uniformed Marines checking out the Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom Memorial, it seems. The building's calendar of events is eclectic and varied.
Friday night's performance by the 1st Marine Division Band and talk by Vice Admiral Richard W. Hunt, USN is sure to be a rousing stars-and-stripes affair. That day's agenda also includes a World Affairs Council luncheon with Tariq Ramadan, professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford. Swords to Ploughshares and Philippe Cousteau (Jacques' grandson) were recently at the club. Next week's topic: BENS Illicit Network: Human Trafficking -- How you can help."
Marines' Memorial was built in 1926. Architecturally speaking, it's beaux arts. Theatrically, of course, it has a rich history of performing arts. Back in the day, it was the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra who headlined national radio broadcasts there. Add the illustrious years of the Actors' Workshop and American Conservatory Theater (ACT) plus a wide variety of independent productions over the years and that brings you to the year 2010 when popular acts still fill the hall.
Fleet Week and the Angels
To put Fleet Week into perspective, think of Teddy Roosevelt sending the Great White Fleet out to sea to show America's strength in 1907-9.
Next, think of Franklin Roosevelt intent on expanding the Navy in 1935 when he inaugurated the first Fleet Week at the California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego. (It was a major effort. A total of 114 warships and 400 military planes arrived!)
Then, at the end of WWII, Chief of Naval Operations Chester Nimitz created a flight demonstration team, again to keep the public interested in Naval aviation. In 1946 -- the same year the Marines' Memorial Association bought the building at 609 Sutter -- the first Blue Angels started practicing their routines.
Where did they practice? Over the Florida Everglades, so the story goes, with none but the local alligators to watch. Their first exhibition was in June, 1946. And since that time, the Navy estimates the Angels have performed for more than 463 million people -- a number which in all probability doesn't include us since, like much of San Francisco, we can also watch from our deck.
The City of San Francisco officially expanded Fleet Week in 1981 and this year's event (October 7-12) features the grand Parade of Ships on Saturday and Italian Heritage/Fleet Week Parade on Sunday, disaster preparedness events and band concerts everywhere including at the 49ers game Sunday night.
Air shows are slated for Saturday and Sunday afternoons. You'll hear them coming....
The angels appear to be going our way this year. We hope you'll be with us, too.
June 21, 2010
The Spires Are Back!
When you've lived in San Francisco forty-seven years and regularly walk the hills (often in high heels!) you sense the rhythm of the landscape, how it often changes...and sometimes never changes at all.
You notice when the leaves turn yellow and fall at your feet.
You look to the East Bay skyline in the distance and say, Wow! How great to live on these hills.
You wonder what it would have been like when there were only cows from the Mitchell Dairy Farm grazing on the slopes beyond.
The twin spires of St. Paul's Catholic Church, newly tiled and whitewashed, are a reminder of how things used to be. And, after seven months shrouded in black netting, they're finally in full view again.
From September 2009 until April 2010, parishioners walked through two-story scaffolding to attend services. Outside, waiting for the J Church streetcar, sidewalk superintendents watched workmen scale the heights, hoisting up planks one at a time until they reached the golden orbs and seven foot crosses. Cab drivers took note. Out-of-town visitors craned their necks to see how the spires dominated the neighborhood.
People who live in the valley, even non-Catholics who may never actually go inside the building, have always known that. The spires can be seen from every direction -- from Potrero Hill and Bernal Heights to Diamond Heights.
Construction work, which began because a few tiles had come loose, ultimately became a production of major proportions," says Katy O'Shea, who chairs the church's capital campaign. "The slate had been there a hundred years. We couldn't afford to take a chance more would fall."
Was the work disruptive? Not really, she says. Some brides were unhappy, perhaps, that they couldn't have their pictures taken on the front steps, but vows were said, services continued and the congregation worked around it.
Demographics have shifted over the years, but there's a tangible cultural dynamic in Noe Valley that defies country of origin.
After the first Native Americans came the Spanish and Mexicans like Jose Cornelio de Bernal and Jose de Jesus Noe, the future alcalde (mayor) of Yerba Buena. Next there was John Horner, among the 258 Mormons who sailed around the Horn in 1846 looking for new land to settle. But those are other tales for other times.
For St. Paul's, the story starts with the next wave of immigrants -- the Irish.
When you're out walking the hills of Noe Valley, picture an earnest young priest from County Cork, Ireland, riding through the sand and mud on horseback in the early 1880s. One of more than a thousand missionaries sent throughout the world from All Hallows College in Dublin, Fr. Lawrence Breslin tended to 200 families in the southwestern part of the city. And on Sundays he celebrated Mass at the corner of Noe and Valley Streets.
That building, still standing, was a hospital built and later abandoned by the Italian Benevolent Society. Evidently they had hoped to offer recuperative care "out in the country" for people from town. But let's face it, town was four miles away and in those days getting out to the valley was a daunting trek. In the old days, in most directions the building was uphill, no matter how you look at it.
The First Church
To imagine the church Breslin eventually built in 1897, go to the corner of Twenty-ninth and Church and envision a modified Gothic style wooden building on the northwest corner. Think of a gas light fixture out front with a lamplighter. Stellings Grocery was nearby and the Fairmount Market, now Drewes Meat Market (Note the sign on the storefront).
Donovan's coal and wood yard was next with a saloon at Day and Church and a teetotaling Methodist church down the street . And let's have a tip of the hat, if you please, to Mrs. Kelly, "the genial Irish lady" who lived in one of the small cottages next door.
Resilience is a handy word for the folks here. Remember, this is a congregation whose forbears reputedly hauled down rocks from the Castro Street quarry at the top end of 29th Street to build the present church.
These are the folks who salvaged cobblestones for the current church facade from the infamous rubble of Old City Hall after the 1906 earthquake destroyed it in 46 seconds.
These were the plucky Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs) who had come out to teach from Dubuque, Iowa, and during the 1918 influenza outbreak, canceled classes to minister to the sick and dying. The church held mass funerals in the school courtyard. Church bells tolled from six in the morning until two in the afternoon.
This is the church that invited Whoopi Goldberg and crew to film on site for a couple of months in 1991 and rearranged their schedules to accommodate, even agreeing to let the family of one prospective bride paint over the film's grafitti-filled sets so their daughter's big day could be photographed ... on the front steps, of course!
These are the people who -- after the Loma Prieta earthquake and establishment of the Unreinforced Masonry Building Ordinance laws -- found the cost of retrofitting so prohibitive they had to come out fighting for their very life to save the parish.
It was painful, but the people of Saint Paul's accepted the challenge. They sold the primary and high school buildings. (They're condos now). They rebuilt the grade school from scratch.
Today, the BVM's are gone, replaced by secular teachers. But you can often see Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity, two by two, on streetcar or bus, saying their beads on the way to serving the homeless downtown.
Look to the rooftop of the old grammar school convent adjoining the church. On laundry day, their clean white robes and bedclothes flutter in the fresh air.
Loyalty and Longevity
Families who were helped by the church during the Depression remain on the rolls. Graduates from the high school turn up in enthusiastic numbers for class reunions. Many, in fact, still live in the immediate neighborhood.
To describe the loyalty and longevity of old timers, O'Shea points out that Father Kevin Gaffey, himself baptized and brought up in St. Paul's parish, married three generations of one family. Think of the changes he would have seen during that time.
In the early days, he would have sung the Mass in Latin facing the altar. By the Sixties, through the innovations of Vatican II, the words he and other priests said were in the vernacular -- now English and Spanish.
Ask a neighbor about the history of St. Paul's and she's quick to pay respect to the past. " We're late to the parish," she demurs. "We've only been here 20 years...."
Even in those twenty years, there have been changes. Today, music at Sunday Mass comes from contemporary musicians playing with contemporary enthusiasm, a far cry from the Ave Marias of a century ago. After serving as extras in Whoopi's "Sister Act," this congregation has never been quite the same! As Google buses glide silently through the streets, it's likely that even techies with laptops have found their way into St. Paul's nave.
And Still the Memories Remain
When there's a hearse parked out in front of the church, you can pretty well assume it carries the body of an old time parishioner who worshipped there for many years.
When twelve bridesmaids show up on the sidewalk outside, you might not be wrong to guess the families have deep emotional ties to the building and the neighborhood.
When your family has second and third generation ties to a church like this, when reunions include the Murphys, the Ryans and the Lyons, when your dad’s dad grew up around the corner off Castro and your great grandma used to walk your grandpa and his brother to school from 27th street… such a church has special meaning.
Last year, the James Murphy family -- preparing for the wedding of their son Daniel and future daughter-in-law Stephanie this summer -- purchased a print of Royce's painting of the church (shown above) as an engagement gift for them, a reminder of the family's ties to the parish.
That gift, the newly tiled spires and years of walking on the hills surrounding this lovely valley prompted the research on this story.
Thank you, Daniel and Stephanie!
April 2, 2010
Press Release from Nellie Bly
Who’s the audience for this web site?
August 13, 2009
Watercolor is still the primary medium, but historical anecdotes are increasingly on the menu at the California Collectors Series Web site featuring Royce Vaughn's original notecards and art.
The San Francisco Chronicle fell from the sky one day
Ask any guy of a certain age about the zeppelin that fell into the ocean just south of California’s Point Sur Lighthouse and he’ll tell you all about it, adding the story of its amazing “air mail” delivery to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt the year before.
See it now. FDR was on the deck of an aircraft cruiser in the middle of the Pacific in July 1934 on the way to the Panama Canal. Let’s say, just for the heck of it, that he wanted to know the baseball scores from the night before and was wishing perhaps he had a copy of the newspaper sports section. Suddenly from out of the blue came two airplanes launched from the Navy’s new reconnaissance zeppelin, the USS Macon, dropping bundles of postage stamps and the San Francisco Chronicle!
Yes, it was yesterday’s paper, but the point was made. By calculating the exact spot in the middle of the ocean where the President’s ship would be and racing 3,500 miles to find it, the Navy showed how accurately the Macon could perform.
Lighthouse at Point Sur
Image courtesy of JB Imaging
From the collection of Andrew and Scharlene Heston
And then the zeppelin fell.
Unfortunately, the Navy’s grand
aviation experiment was about to end.
Waves crash daily against the rocks of the jagged California coastline, but on February 12, 1935, the threat of danger wasn’t in the water. It was in the air.
Around 5 PM, Point Sur lighthouse keeper Thomas Henderson suddenly saw a silent, extraordinarily large shape blotting out the sun – the same shadow FDR would have seen the year before, the same shadow Tim Thomas from the Monterey Maritime History Museum once said would be like “the Titanic floating over your house.”
It was the USS Macon (three times the size of a 747 jumbo jet airplane), built for the Navy with four Sparrowhead fighter airplanes on board that could be launched and retrieved during flight. Its already damaged tail fins were severed by a coastal squall and shards of metal pierced the airship's rear gas cells. It spun out of control – up then down -- and within minutes sank into the water.
Eighty-three men had been on board. All but two survived.
The Last Rigid-Body US Airship
The zeppelin was built in Ohio during the Depression to provide long range reconnaissance for the Pacific Fleet and for 16 months was berthed at Moffett Air Field in Sunnyvale, California, in a specially built hangar that was "large enough to hold a luxury cruise ship." People like then Stanford student David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Company and founder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), were fascinated by it. It was the last rigid-body airship built in the United States.
Early attempts to find the wreckage were unsuccessful until 1990. But in 2006 a five day, multi-agency collaborative expedition conducted a detailed archeological survey of the crash site, using a deep-diving, remotely-operated vehicle (ROV).
They found the crash site 1,400 feet below sea level spread over 75,000 square feet of the ocean floor.
References: California Lighthouses, Point St. George to the Gulf of Santa Catalina, by Bruce Roberts and Ray Jones, Globe Pequot Press; www.Moffettfield museum.org; Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle, September 27, 2006; www.underwatertimes.com, October 18, 2006
“Point Sur Lighthouse” is one of a series of watercolors celebrating California lighthouses and the historic role lighthouse keepers have played in standing watch over the coast. It was done for Andrew Heston, shown at the top of the rugged 200 foot hill.
Prints and new cards available
Matted 8x10 prints of Royce’s cards are now available, including " Lighthouse at Point Sur,""Blue Angels Over San Francisco" and "Saint Paul Church Before the New School was Built“(better known in some circles as the site of Whoopi Goldberg’s movie, “Sister Act” and in others as the site of Stephanie and Daniel’s wedding!) Check out the collection of watercolors which stretch along the California coastline -- and inland too -- from La Jolla to Sonoma.
Thank you, Porter
Sometimes there are people who come into your life, or back into your life, just when you need them. Working with UGAL.com, Porter William orchestrated the look and feel of this Web site. Gently but aggressively, he pushed this 20th century couple into cyberspace. In the meantime, he’s built his passion for architecture and interior design into his www.worldrelics.net and his own brand of San Francisco hospitality into his newest endeavor, www.entertainingpeople.com.
How do antiques and food combine? San Francisco style, he says on his “Entertaining People” weekly TV food show on Comcast. With what he would certainly call an extra dollop of panache, he’s as likely to present food on 200-year-old reclaimed terra cotta roof tiles from Provence as he is to combine Chinese scallops with Mandarin oranges and wasabi paste. Very San Francisco….Very Porter.
Stick with us! This is an island evolving in cyberspace...