Posts Tagged ‘Berkeley’

17 January

Professor Boooring

Professor Boooring

“Miss Taylor!  If Frederic Chopin wanted his Nocturne Op 9, No 2 played with a jazz beat, he would have written it that way!  For the hundredth time, please play it the way the maestro wrote it and not what is in that unpredictable head of yours.”

I tried to contain my smile, but wasn’t very successful. One of my favorite pastimes these days is bringing Professor Boooring (not his real name) to an emotional state just short of a causing a coronary.  This is not difficult, as I have had a great deal of experience bringing piano teachers to tears – and not the good kind.

It all started when I was five.  We had just returned from Nevada and stayed with Grandpa James for a while.  One of the many rules of the house, was that I not touch his prized grand piano in the parlor.  He kept it perfectly tuned and only he and a few of his select musician friends were allowed near it.  The simple fact that it was forbidden was reason enough for me to eye it on a daily basis planning my eventual assault. One day I finally sat down on the bench, opened the lid and begin pecking out a tune I had heard.

One of the Chinese servants came rushing in yelling, “No! No! Boss James get very angry.”

I continued to play using only my two index fingers, but most of the notes sounded right.  Next came Grandma Jean, and then Mother rushing into the parlor to see what the ruckus was all about, but instead of dragging me away from the piano, they just stood there and listened.  Finally Grandpa James stormed in.  I kept playing, but glanced up at his face to see how much trouble I was in.  Instead of anger, I saw a smile as he sat down on the bench beside me.

“Here, try this,” he said, playing three simple cords using multiple fingers.

It took a several minutes of trying, but I finally made the notes sound just like he had.  He smiled and examined my hands.

“Her fingers are long,” he said to his wife and daughter.  “She’s a natural.” Turning to me, “Starting tomorrow and every day thereafter, I will instruct you on the piano.  We will have a one hour lesson and then you will practice for two hours.”

He sounded so happy that I didn’t have the heart to tell him that taking three hours a day away from my playtime was not going to happen. At first, I enjoyed our personal time together and loved playing the piano, but the boring routine was too much for me.  Our mutual frustration grew, me from wanting to be somewhere else and him, from me not taking the piano seriously.  Grandpa James resigned as my piano instructor and hired a teacher who specialized in dealing with stubborn, talented children.  She didn’t last two months.

By the time I was thirteen, I had already frustrated an army of piano teachers, all with a common mantra. “Muriel, you have an amazing, God-given talent.  If you would only apply yourself, you could become a world-class concert pianist.  One of the best.”

I never did figure out why they wanted me to be the best at something I had hated doing.  But, over the years, my love affair with the piano and music grew. It wasn’t quite the music they wanted me to play and certainly not their regimented way of playing it. I could do their type of music very well.  It just didn’t excite me. It didn’t get my blood pumping or make my feet want to dance. By the time I was sixteen, I played better than any instructor they could find.

Then Mother out maneuvered me. I had decided to major in music at Berkeley and part of the deal was that I agree to take private piano lessons from an old friend of theirs who happened to be Director of the Music Department – Professor Boooring.

“You will never become a respectable concert pianist until you start listening to me.” he would say again and again.

“Yes, Professor,” I said, deciding the fastest way out of this lesson was to give him want he wanted.

I started playing Chopin’s Noctume Op 9, No 2 again, this time making sure I played it perfectly, exactly like good old Frederic had written it.  I threw myself into the music making the notes come alive.  Within a minute, Professor Boooring had both his eyes closed, his face looking blissful.  He was moving his right hand as if there was a conductor’s wand attached, even though I wasn’t actually following his lead.  By the time the last movement had reached its climax, I thought he was going to as well.

For a second I considered letting him have his moment of ecstasy, but it was too perfect an opportunity.  Continuing to play the melody with my right hand, I suddenly changed to a jazzy 2/4 backbeat with my left.  Professor Boooring about fell off his stool.

Looking like a rejected lover he said, “That will be all today, Muriel.”

I felt bad for the kind, old man who was so passionate about his job.  He knew everything there was to know about music – except how to make it come alive.

16 January

The Love Nest

The Love Nest

I fell in love with my new apartment at first sight. It’s rather small, but adorable, and located just outside the gates of the university. I like being upstairs because of the beautiful view of the campus and the old, gothic church located right across the street.  There is large picture window that fills the living room and small kitchen with lots of light.

My new roommate, Audrey, whom I happened to meet for the first time a couple weeks ago, seemed nice and easy to get along with. I just hoped she was discrete. After some discussion, and me offering to pay three dollars more a month in rent, she agreed that I would take the bedroom and she would sleep on the couch.

Mother and Father didn’t understand why I insisted on an apartment off campus instead of living in one of the dorms. I gave them every reason in the world, except for the real one – men weren’t allowed in the girl’s dorms, and Bob was all man. All was perfect with the world.  I was finally on my own for the first time, had a job and best of all, I could now see Bob every day.

Walking into my apartment, I expected to find Audrey waiting as we had made plans to go shopping but, instead, found a note informing me that she had run off with her boyfriend to another state.  She added that she was sorry.  She was smart to leave a note instead of telling me in person, as I would have rung her damn neck.

I spent a long time sitting at the table, staring out the window while cursing my bad fortune. I couldn’t possibly afford the rent on my own or find another roommate at this late date. There might not even be a dorm room available now.  Was I going to have to drop out of college before I could even begin?  I would never get to see Bob, and all our grand plans, would just slowly fade away.

Startled, I jumped when I heard a knock at the front door that I had left open.  Even in my foul mood, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Bob’s beautiful grin. Rushing into his arms, my world seemed instantly better. I had missed him terribly while he traveled to the Orient with the Berkeley Glee Club for a couple of months. I squeezed him tighter, promising to never let him go again.

Still holding me, he asked, “Minkling, what’s wrong?”

Feeling the joy and safety of his arms wrapped around me, the solution to my problem suddenly became very clear.

“Darling, I want you to move in here – with me.”

Much to my dismay, Bob took a step back and looked at me like I was crazy.

“What about Audrey?” he asked confused.

“She took off with her boyfriend and won’t be coming back.”

I took his hand and led him to the couch.  “It is perfect darling.  We will be together all the time.  You can move out of the dorm easy enough and between the two of us we can handle the rent.”

“But Muriel, what will your parents think, not to mention mine and our friends?”

“I don’t care.  I just want to be with you.  Besides, we’ll be careful so no one finds out.”

“People will find out Muriel – and they will gossip.”

“Let them,” I said, and then kissed Bob gently on the lips.

“It would be nice,” he noted as my kisses moved to his neck.

“Very nice,” I agreed, and began unbuttoning his shirt.

“I am starting to see the wisdom of your argument,” he smiled as he pulled me on top of him, “but I will need further convincing.”

“Not a problem, Darling. I promise to convince you over and over and over again.”

An hour later, still in Bob’s arms, I looked around our little love nest thoroughly content, never wanting the moment to end.

Once again my life was full of wonderful, endless possibilities.

15 January

Island of Dreams

Island of Dreams

It seems like the best things in my life happen on my beloved Russian River. But the long days seem to drag between summers—although I do try to stir up what mischief I can, just to relieve the boredom for everyone! They should thank me, but I’m greatly misunderstood by parents and teachers, so I usually get reprimands, instead.

Summers!  Long, lovely summer days on my river, where I once again feel gloriously alive!  I am more at home and at peace here than anywhere else. My dear, old river comforts me when life gives me an occasional kick in the butt (or sometimes knocks me flat on my ass).

I always love every moment I spend on the river, but the weekends when Bob is here to share it with me gives it a special magic. Bob is the best swimmer, singer and dancer on the river this summer (except for me, of course). His sexy baritone harmonizes beautifully with my voice, and we are often asked to sing the newest songs.

I am tremendously proud of Bob and, if I’m being truthful, also proud of myself for catching the most handsome, desirable fish in the river!  But for the first time, I have to deal with a brand new, and most unwelcome, emotion…jealousy!  Oh yes, Bob is a favorite target for every flirty female on the river, even some of my friends. I have no qualms about letting them know he is mine!

Now, summer is drawing to an end—a summer that had seen us grow much closer, and more dissatisfied with passionate kisses and embraces that wildly arouse, but leave us frustrated and unfulfilled when we have to stop.

One night we let the canoe drift toward the sandy cove of our private little island, leaving Bob’s arms free to embrace me. When we got way too overheated, I deliberately tipped us over, so we could cool off! Our clothes and shoes got soaked. Bob was not amused! We pulled the canoe into the sandy cove and tried to squeeze river water out of our clothes

“Why in the hell did you do that?” Bob sputtered, pouring water out of his shoes.

“We needed to cool off!”

“Little idiot!” He took off his new shirt, wrung it out and hung it on the side of the canoe. Then he embraced me and pulled me down in the sand with him. “Honey, there are better ways to cool off!”

And suddenly, we were right back to being overheated. Bob pulled back from our passionate embrace, looked askance at my ruined dress and dripping hair. He took a deep breath and said, “Muriel, I’m crazy in love with you…or maybe I’m just plain crazy. I’ve been trying to tell you all summer.”

I stared at him with joy and relief. Of all the scenarios I had dreamed of, this was the least likely setting for his declaration of love.

“Well, you certainly picked a romantic moment to tell me that,” I said, shaking sand out of my hair.  “Why didn’t you tell me while we were dancing under the stars? Or singing in the canoe? Oh Bob, you idiot, I love you, too…absolutely adore you.  And we are probably both idiots!”

Bob silenced my ecstatic babbling with heated, passionate kisses that almost melted the sand beneath us. This time, we didn’t even think about denying ourselves the joy of finally making love. My maiden journey was an unqualified success despite ruined clothes and sand in unexpected places!

Later, content and loving, we laid quietly on the sand, my head resting on Bob’s shoulder. The full moon and a brilliant canopy of bright stars shined down on us like a blessing. We could hear the soft lapping of the river as it washed against the sandy cove and the faint echo of music from across the river.

“Just look up there at our beautiful world, minkling,” Bob said, as he squeezed my hand. “And it’s all ours, fresh and new.”

“There is so much out there…a whole smorgasbord of adventures just waiting for us.” I exclaimed. “Where in the world are we going to start?”

Bob grinned. “Berkeley.”

Brought back to earth with a thud, I sat up and glared at him. “What the hell…?”

“First things first, my love.” He pulled me back into his arms. “Before we go traipsing off to foreign shores, we’ll go back to school in the fall, as planned. I need to finish my senior year, and you your sophomore year. After that, we’ll play it by ear.”

I liked that.  Playing by ear, improvising and flying by the seat of my pants is what I do best. We gazed at the stars while our clothes dried and, on our special little island, made plans for our future.

“First, we’ll go to Paris,” Bob declared. “That’s where all the best new writers and artists are living. We’ll ride bicycles through Europe and then we’ll travel to the Orient…perhaps follow the Silk Road.”

“Just like Marco Polo! And you, my darling, will write the most wonderful book about our adventures,” I said confidently. “It will be a best seller and Gertrude Stein will beg to agent you!”

Bob laughed. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, love. But there are a few details to take care of first. Like finish school and get jobs so we can save money for our journey.”

Ordinarily, I don’t like details.  Most often, it means wasting a lot of time doing things you don’t want to do in order to do the things you do! But, in this case, I assured Bob that I was willing to throw myself wholeheartedly into whatever details were necessary to launch us aboard the ship to Paris.

14 January

Camp Taylor

Camp Taylor Revisited

Camp Taylor was built in the late 1800s by Muriel’s great grandfather, Samuel Penfield Taylor, and managed by her grandfather, James Irving Taylor.  Thanks to Dewey Livingston and the Marin History Museum, we get a glimpse into what camp life was like in those days from the following article first published in 1889.  


The FAX Sept. 21 – Oct. 5, 1988

Historic Fax

A Century of Crowded Campgrounds

by Dewey Livingston


     If you have tried to get a spot at Samuel P. Taylor State Park any of these recent summers, you may have found out that Taylor Park is a popular and often crowded place. You may have found yourself on a waiting list perhaps behind dozens of people. Let’s go back a hundred years and find how the campgrounds under Samuel Taylor’s redwood forests were as much in demand then as  now, although, as you will see, the style of camping was quite different.  The following article appeared in the Sausalito News on July 19, 1889.

     Marin County has never has so many camping parties within her boundaries as at the present time and Camp Taylor has received the lion’s share of the attention of visitors, who leave San Francisco every year for a vacation in the country and who decided that Marin County was the best place to have a good time this season.  The short distance from San Francisco and the excellent and rapid communication and cheap rates over the North Pacific Coast Railroad, presented unusual facilities and advantages to many, so Camp Taylor became the popular camping ground of the day.

For situation, as a summer resort, the place has no superior.  The situation in a valley protected by surrounding hills, the Paper Mill Creek, a fine large stream of mountain water running through the property, and the densely wooded country with trees of many varieties, among which pines, redwoods, laurel, madrone and several other species indigenous to California, make Camp Taylor all that can be desired as a camping ground.

The Camp Taylor Hotel and grounds are conducted by James I. Taylor, in a manner that not only makes the place popular but is likely to keep it filled up as long as the season lasts. The rush was to great in the beginning of the season that over three hundred applications for accommodations had to be placed on file, as the hotel was filled to overflowing. On the Fourth of July the colony at the Camp had reached over 800 and with the visitors it was estimated over 1000 people were in and about Camp Taylor.

A novel arrangement in the Camp Taylor Hotel camps is that they are wooden frames with shake roofs, and have a wooden floor that sets from ten to twelve inches above the ground level and with heavy canvas sides makes a summer house that is both comfortable and warm.  Their occupants in most cases board at the hotel, but there are many camps and camping parties that live by themselves.  Many of these parties have just pitched their tents on the ground. Although there is a great deal of shrubbery, no reptiles or wild animals are in the vicinity of the camp.

The commissary department is one of the great features of the Camp and supplies from a gallon of milk to a hairpin, which shows a varied and diversified line of goods is kept and everything is of the best quality. The store is presided over by A. Cromwell, a young gentleman who never misses an opportunity to oblige the campers and is highly spoken of by them in return to his courteous treatment which they evidently appreicate. Judge Geo. W. Davis, of San Rafael, is in charge of the mail, express and freight departments and is able assisted in his manifold duties by Al Murbach.


Jumbo! Jumbo! Jumbo!


     “What’s the matter with Jumbo? He’s all right, you bet, every time. Ha! ha! Ha!!!”

The Jumbo Club at Camp Taylor are one of the features of the Camp. All members will be on hand next Saturday night. The other evening the boys got off by themselves and had a stag party, but over 200 ladies who felt they were being slighted, got together and forming themselves into a storming party, invaded the barracks fo the gay Jumbo’s and captured every mortal son of a gun of them – husbands, sweethearts and all. Then the ladies ran the camp to their own satisfaction. A merry time they all had. One thing the ladies can’t get in on and the is the Jumbo tent which won’t hold but one. Following are the members of the Jumbo Club:

Hon. Herbert W. Hatch, Jumbobille, Chief Lush’ Hon. O. Ellinghouse, Chief Slogger, Hon. F. Bates Goeway, Grand Bouncer; Hon Austin O’Maley, Chief Salvationist, Hon. Geo Schad; Chief Robber; Hon. Rowland Ellit (boy baritone); Assistant Chief Luch; Hon. Emmanuel McCormack, Chief Hairy Man…(etc. including Chief Candy Fiend, Chief Bloat, Chief of Sloppy Weather, Chief Chippy Chaser and Chief Growler).


Camp Taylor Camps

 During a quiet walk among the many camps a representative of the News notice the following Camp Taylor camps.

Carmel camp – Manuel M. Toboas and party. This is the star camp. Owl’s Cottage; Dulce far Niente; Laurel Dell; Green House; Doane-Knight-Ames-Maun Camps; Boulevard – Hon. W. H. Jordan, who is wide spoken of as a candidate on the Republican side for Governor at the next state election, and family; Riverside; Pigs-in-Clover – The boys – a stag party; Camp Dickenson – Chas H. Casassa, Big Chief; Louis Stever, Yellow Dog; John Valenga, Geronimo, etc.

This article appears courtesy of the Marin History Museum.

It has been retyped from the original article for ease of reading.


Dewey Livingston who first featured the article in a 1988 publication is associated with the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History in Inverness, California.


13 January

Finding Muriel – Part 2

Finding Muriel – Part II

 June 2011 – San Anselmo, California

We meandered down the village streets of San Anselmo on our way to meet Judy Coy, a most helpful individual who has a passion for history.  Her involvement in the San Anselmo Museum proved to be a wonderful resource for our efforts to discover more about Samuel Penfield Taylor, Muriel’s great-grandfather.  Judy’s articles that have been published in the local newsletters concerning San Anselmo history, and the Taylor family history (written with George H. Stevens) in particular have been incredibly helpful. Today, we are to meet Judy at one of the former Taylor houses in San Anselmo.

The 102 Ross Avenue home now serves as a parish hall for St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and is beautifully preserved.  It was built in 1886 by Federick Sproul Taylor, Samuel and Sarah’s youngest son.  It was of interest to us as Muriel’s parents, Samuel Penfield (Pen) Taylor and Ruth Sheldon, were married in this house in 1900.  We believe that Ruth’s parents, Harry Frankfort Sheldon and Laura Jane Geddes, were living in the house at the time.  We aren’t sure how the Sheldons knew the Taylors and why they were living in a Taylor home – stay tuned, we will let you know when we do.

Across the street at 101 Ross Avenue is a Taylor home that was built by another Taylor son and his wife, William and Ella Taylor. Today, the home is owned by the San Francisco Theological Seminary that was built at the top of the hill in 1871.  It is a beautiful house in the Victorian style, common for that era, and remains even today a beautiful home.

Various other Taylor homes still exist in the area, including the home that Sarah Taylor (Samuel’s widow) built.  The house was moved several years ago from its original location and was undergoing major renovations when we walked over to see it.  It wasn’t hard to imagine Sarah sitting on the porch with lots of family going in and out and her 21 grandchildren playing in the yard.

But it was the house at the corner of Saunders and Taylor streets that I really wanted to see; the house that James Taylor, eldest son of Samuel P. Taylor and Muriel’s grandfather, built in 1899.  This was the house that Muriel told us so many stories about.  It was the house where, at the age of two, she fell out of the second story window and lived to tell about it, with great drama and effect.  It was in this back yard where her Grandfather built a stage that featured the talents of many notable friends and family, Muriel included.  It’s probably where Muriel first found that the thrill of performing and applause suited her just fine, thank you very much!

So wouldn’t you know it, but that was the house that today, we could barely get a glimpse of!  It is gated with heavy overgrowth and a barking dog.  We managed to get a couple of glimpses, but a more thorough investigation was not possible.  James and his wife Jean lived here until they died when Muriel was a teenager.

We piled into Judy’s car and went on down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard which, as Judy explained it, was the very path where 160 years ago, a train travelled to the paper mill to provide supplies, and then returned with the finished goods.  We were on the way to Samuel Penfield Taylor State Park!

The park turned out to be everything Muriel told me it would be – breathtakingly beautiful, serene and pretty much the way it was when her grandfather ventured into Marin County in search of lumber and a place to build a paper mill. The redwoods were incredible and the vegetation so lush it felt like we were walking in a place out of time.  There are still remnants of both mills and other artifacts that have been left to commemorate the history of the area.  The walking trail back to where the mills had been provided a peaceful and perfect setting to enjoy the stories Judy was sharing about the area and the Taylor family. Thank you, Judy, for giving of your time, talents and amazing ability to make a place and its people come alive!

The Taylors were true California pioneers.  Muriel, born in 1902, was a forth generation Californian.  Even today, it is rare event to find someone that goes back that many generations in this state.  And rarer yet, to find a family that has had such an impact on a particular area.  Taylor descendants still live in the county and contribute to the fabric of society.

As we walked back to the car to leave the park, I heard laughing children in the distance, there with their families to enjoy the great outdoors.  I tried to imagine what it was like over one hundred years ago to travel here from San Francisco for a weekend at Camp Taylor or the hotel they built here on the grounds.  The camp was one of the first in the nation to offer an outdoor camping experience.  It seems fitting that now recreation is its primary purpose.  I am always amazed how the universe eventually seems to put things back the way they are intended.

Muriel hadn’t been back to San Anselmo, or her beloved Russian River, for decades before she died.  I could hear in her voice when she told her stories how special these places and the people who lived here were to her. The home of our youth, what magical wonderful places they become when aged with the patina of the passing of the years and fading memories.  Sometimes, going back becomes a harsh reality check when you discover that time has changed so much and that places seen through the eyes of a child don’t always live up to the adult experience.  But in this case, as I tried to see it through Muriel’s eyes, I decided that it was everything she said it was.  That it lived up to and surpassed what I envisioned when I heard her stories.  This time it was everything I wanted it to be. She would have been happy.