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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 



An Interview Conducted by 
Judith K. Dunning 
in 1985 

Copyright 1992 by The Regents of the University of California 


Photograph by Judith K. Dunning 

This manuscript is available for research purposes. 
Requests for permission to quote for publication should 
be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
486 Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720, 
and should include identification of the specific 
passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, 
and identification of the user. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited 
as follows: 

M. M. Snodgrass, "Memories of the Richmond- 
San Rafael Ferry Company," an oral history 
conducted in 1985 by Judith K. Dunning, 
Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, ^Berkeley, 

Copy no. 

Cataloging Information 

SNODGRASS, M. M. (b. 1911) Ferry employee 

Memories of the Richmond-San Rafael Ferry. 1992, 75 pp. 

Blackfoot, Idaho; to Richmond, California, 1923; Richmond-San 
Rafael Ferry Co., 1924-1956: description of ferry, fees and 
schedules, crews, accidents, labor disputes, WWII impact; 
ferrying prisoners to San Quentin; loss of downtown Richmond, 

Introduction by Jim Quay, Director, California Council for the 

Interviewed 1985 by Judith K. Dunning for the Richmond 
Community History Series. Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

Acknowl edgmen t s 

The Regional Oral History Office, on behalf of future 
researchers, wishes to thank the following organizations whose 
contributions made possible this project, "On the Waterfront: 
An Oral History of Richmond, California." 

the National Endowment For The Humanities 

Matching Funds 

Chevron USA 

Crowley Maritime Corporation 

Moore Dry Dock Foundation 

Mechanics Bank 

Marco F. Hellman Fund 

Kaiser Healthplan, Inc. 

Bechtel Power Corporation 

Friends of The Bancroft Library 

The completion of the oral history volumes and their 
distribution to participating Bay Area public libraries was 
funded through a grant by the U.S. Department of Education under 
the provision of the Library Services and Construction Act 
administered in California by the State Librarian. The work 
was done in cooperation with the Richmond Public Library. 


It is a great pleasure to introduce "On the Waterfront" to 
you. I myself was introduced to the project in September 1983, 
shortly after becoming executive director of the California 
Council for the Humanities. Both the Council and its mission of 
bringing the humanities to out-of-school adults were relatively 
new to me when Judith Dunning came to my office to talk about her 
proposal. Ms. Dunning wanted to document an important period in 
the life of the Richmond, California waterfront, but she didn't 
want to write a study for scholars. Instead, she proposed to 
interview most of the oldest surviving waterfront figures, 
collect historic photographs of the port and its workers, and to 
create from these an exhibit for the public. Would the Council 
be interested in supporting such a project? ,- 

Happily, the two dozen scholars and citizens who sat on the 
Council then were interested and, convinced of the project's 
importance, voted to fund Ms. Dunning 's proposal in early 1984. 
Six years later, I now know what I couldn't have known then: 
that "On the Waterfront" had all the features of a typical public 
humanities project: a powerful subject, caring scholars, a 
resourceful and dedicated project director, and uncertain 

You can appreciate why even the best public humanities 
project and "On the Waterfront" is one of the best doesn't 
easily attract funding. In a state focused relentlessly on the 
future, the next quarterly statement, the next development, the 
value of such a project doesn't show up in a cost-benefit 
analysis. Who would care about the lives of Calif ornians past? 
Who would care about a waterfront whose boomtime is passed? 

The answer is: thousands of people, as Judith's project 
proved. First and foremost, Judith, who didn't just study 
Richmond, but moved to and lived in Richmond. Like so many 
project directors, she gave time and life to this project far 
beyond the amount budgeted. In the language of accounting this 
is called "in-kind contribution"; in the language of life it's 
called devotion. Those of us privileged to know Judith know that 
the project both exhausted her and enriched her, and she has won 
the admiration of those who supported her and the affection of 
those she has interviewed and worked with. 

After Judith came a handful of interested scholars historian 
Chuck Wollenberg, folklorist Archie Green, and oral historian 
Willa Baum who gave their time and expertise to the project. 
Next, a handful of people at organizations like CCH, Chevron and 
Mechanics Bank, who thought enough of the idea to fund it. 
Finally, eventually, came the thousands of visitors to Richmond 
Festival by the Bay during 1985-87 and saw the photographs and 
read the excerpts from interviews and realized that they too 
cared about these people. And now, you, the reader of these 
interviews, have an opportunity to care. 

In its fifteen years of supporting efforts to bring the 
humanities to the out-of-school public in California, the Council 
has seen two great themes emerge in the projects it funds: 
community and diversity. "On the Waterfront" embodies both. I 
think such projects are compelling to us because in our busy 
lives, we often encounter diversity more as a threat than as a 
blessing, and community more as an absence that a presence. 

"On the Waterfront" gives us all a chance to experience the 
blessings of diversity. The life details that emerge from these 
pictures and voices make us appreciate how much the people of the 
Richmond waterfront are unlike us, how much attitudes, economies, 
and working conditions have changed. Yet because the portraits 
are so personal and intimate, we can also recognize the ways in 
which they are like us, in their struggles, their uncertainties, 
their pride, and their fates. What seemed like difference 
becomes part of a greater sense of who "we" are. 

In the lives of waterfront people, we can also glimpse how a 
community grew and waned. Busy with our own lives, we often 
neglect the activities that knit communities together. Judith 
Dunning 's project allows us to see what we are losing and how 
communities are created and destroyed. And so, "On the 
Waterfront" fulfills the oldest promise of the humanities: that 
in learning about others, we learn about ourselves. For the gift 
of these twenty-six lives, we can thank Judith Dunning. 

Jim Quay 

Executive Director 

California Council for the Humanities 

March 2, 1990 

San Francisco, California 




"On the Waterfront: An Oral History of Richmond, 
California," began in 1985. Interviews were conducted 
with twenty-six. Bay Area residents including early Richmond 
families, World War II Kaiser Shipyard workers, cannery 
workers, fishermen, and whalers. 

I was first attracted to this shoreline industrial town 
located sixteen miles northeast of San Francisco in 1982 
while enrolled in a documentary photography class. For ten 
weeks I concentrated on the Richmond waterfront, often 
accompanying the crew of the freighter Komoku on its 
nightly run from Richmond to C & H Sugar in Crockett. It 
was then that I began to hear colorful stories of 
Richmond's waterfront and the City's World War II days. 

The question which captivated me in 1982 and still does 
is what happened to Richmond when World War II transformed 
this quiet working class town into a 2 4 -hour-day industrial 
giant? With the entry of the Kaiser Shipyard, the number 
of employed industrial workers skyrocketed from 4,000 to 
100,000. An unprecedented number of women entered the work 
force. The shipyards set speed and production records 
producing one-fifth of the nation's Liberty ships. By 1945 
Richmond's shipyards had launched 727 ships. 

There were other enormous changes. During the wartime 
boom, Richmond's population rose from 23,000 to 125,000. 
The ethnic composition of Richmond and the entire Bay Area 
changed dramatically with the influx of workers recruited 
from the South and Midwest. There was little time to 
provide the needed schools and community services. Housing 
shortages were critical. Twenty-four thousand units of war 
housing were built but they were soon filled to capacity. 
People were living in make-shift trailer camps along the 
roadsides and the all-night movie theaters were filled with 
sleeping shipyard workers. 

James Leiby, professor of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, 
called Richmond a "spectacular" case of urban development. 
What happened to other communities over a period of decades 
occurred in Richmond in a few years. 

Some of the questions I wanted to explore in the 
interviews were who were these newcomers to Richmond and 
were there reasons, beyond the promise of a job, which 
brought them in steady streams by trains, buses, and 
automobiles hauling make-shift trailers? And was this 
destination of Richmond, California, all that they had 

Other questions were just as compelling. After the war 
ended and Kaiser and fifty-five other industries moved out 
of Richmond, leaving this new population suddenly 
unemployed, what made people stay? And for those who left 
Richmond and returned home to their families in the South 
and Midwest, what made them come back to Richmond a second 
time, often bringing relatives with them? 

As intrigued as I was by this new population, I also 
wanted to know how Richmond natives experienced these 
changes. In a sense, as others moved in to find new homes 
in Richmond, the longtime residents were losing their once 
small and familiar home town. 

Initially, I tried to locate people who were living and 
working in Richmond before the World War II boom. They 
worked in the canneries, at the Chevron Refinery, or made 
their living fishing in San Pablo Bay. Most of these first 
interviewees were California natives, born and raised in 
Richmond. But the majority of the interviewees for this 
project came from other places Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, 
Missouri, Iowa, Idaho, Utah all to start a new life in 
California. Each one had a story to tell. Armed with a 
tape recorder, a camera, and lots of unanswered questions, 
I set out to record these local residents. 


With few exceptions, the initial interview took place at 
the narrator's home. Because I was recording a diverse 
group, the interview setting varied dramatically. One day 
I might be in a neighborhood where residents, fearing stray 
bullets, keep their curtains drawn and their lights dimmed. 
Another day I would be in a home with a sweeping view of 
the bay, built by a former cannery owner during the 

When possible, I recorded additional interviews and 
photographed at locations where the narrators had lived or 
worked. Some of these included the former Filice and 
Perrelli Canning Company, Ferry Point, Point San Pablo 
Yacht Harbor, and the last remaining World War II shipyard 
structures. . .since torn down. I also spent many days off 
shore. When interviewing Dominic and Tony Ghio, fishermen 
for over sixty years, I accompanied them on dawn fishing 
trips in San Pablo Bay. However, following a turbulent 
twelve-hour whale watching excursion to the Farallon 
Islands with former whaler Pratt Peterson, I vowed to 
continue my research on land. 

When I asked some project participants to give me a 
personalized tour of Richmond to see what landmarks were 
important to them, all too often I was shown vacant lots 
where a family home, church, or favorite cafe once stood. 
The downtown, once bustling with movie theaters, dance 
halls, and department stores, is eerily quiet for a city of 
82,000. I found that local residents are still angry over 
the loss of their downtown district during" the 1960s 
redevelopment era. Longtime residents spoke emotionally of 
the city losing its center. Hilltop Mall, built on the 
outskirts of town and accessible by automobile, was no 
substitute for a shopping district in the middle of town. 
The struggle to rebuild the downtown and to attract new 
businesses is an ongoing one for the City of Richmond. 

After the interviewing was completed, there were photo 
sessions in the narrator's homes and former work places, as 
well as meetings in which we went through family albums and 
trunks. Some wonderful photographs and the stories behind 
them were uncovered during this process. - Copies are 
included in the individual volumes. 


From the early stages of this project, both the text 
from the oral histories and the collection of photographs, 
have been used in community events. Examples include photo 
panels and maritime demonstrations at Richmond's Festival 
by the Bay, 1985, 1986, and 1987; and Oakland's Seafest 
'87. An exhibition, "Fishermen by Trade: On San Francisco 
Bay with the Ghio Brothers," produced in collaboration with 
the Richmond Museum in 1988, was developed from the oral 
history interviews with Dominic and Tony Ghio. 

In an effort to present the oral histories to the public 
in a form which retained the language, the dialects, and 
the flavor of the original interviews, I wrote "Boomtown," 
a play about the transformation of Richmond during World 
War II. "Boomtown" was produced by San Francisco's Tale 
Spinners Theater and toured Bay Area senior centers, 
schools, and museums in 1989. 

A new direction for the oral histories is in the field 
of adult literacy. Nearly fifty years after the 
recruitment of men and women from the rural South and 
Midwest to work in the Kaiser shipyards, some former 
shipyard workers and many of their descendents are enrolled 
in LEAP, Richmond's adult literacy program, where the 
students range in ages from 16 to 85 and are 70 percent 

Our current goal is to make a shortened, large print 
version of the oral history transcripts for use by adult 
literacy students and tutors. We think that by using the 
true stories of local residents as literacy text, there 
will be an additional incentive for adults learning to 
read. The characters in the oral histories are often their 
neighbors, friends, and families speaking in their own 
words on such topics as the Dust Bowl, the World War II 
migration of defense workers, waterfront industries, family 
and community life. 


"On the Waterfront" project has had many diverse layers, 
including the University of California, the advisory 
committee, a wide range of financial supporters, and of 
primary importance, a large group of interviewees. I want 
to thank all of the project participants who donated their 
time, enthusiasm, and memories to this project. 

Special thanks is due Jim Quay, Executive Director of 
the California Council for the Humanities, who has been a 
source of good advice and inspiration from the beginning. 
The Council's grant in 1984 got the project off the ground, 
kicking off the campaign for matching funds. Jim Quay's 
counsel last summer set in motion the completion of the 
oral histories by introducing me to the California State 
Library grant programs. 

Bay Area historian Chuck Wollenberg and labor folklorist 
Archie Green have been my primary advisors, as well as 
mentors, from the early planning stages. Chuck provided 
insight into how Richmond's transition during World War II 
fit into the larger picture of California history. Archie 
Green reinforced my belief that as chroniclers of history 
we must continue to document the lives of working people. 

From the preliminary research to the completed project, 
Kathleen Rupley, curator of the Richmond Museum, has been 
enormously supportive. Working in collaboration with 
Kathleen, and Museum staff Paula Mutton and Joan Connolly 
on the "Fishermen by Trade" exhibition was an invigorating 
experience as well as an excellent example of how two 
organizations pooled their talents and resources to create 
a popular community event. 

Stanley Nystrom, a Museum volunteer and lifelong 
Richmond resident, has been a continuing resource to me. A 
local history buff, with a great sense of detail, he 
assisted me often. 

Finally, I want to thank Adelia Lines and Emma Clarke of 
the Richmond Public Library, Sharon Pastor i of the LEAP 
program, and Rhonda Rios Kravitz and Gary Strong of the 
California State Library for their support in making 
possible the completion of these oral history volumes and 
their distribution to several Bay Area public libraries 
which serve minority populations. 


In my work I am most interested in recording the stories 
of people who are undocumented in history and who are 
unlikely to leave written records behind. For me, the 
strength of this project has been seeing the transformation 
in how the interviewees view their relationship to history. 
They came a long way from our first contact when a typical 
response to my request for an interview was, "Why do you 
want to interview me?" or "What's important about my life?" 
And "Why Richmond?" With some encouragement, many became 
actively involved in the research and the collection of 
photographs, and began recommending others to be 
interviewed. "On the Waterfront: An Oral History of 
Richmond, California," became their project, with a life of 
its own. 

This set of oral histories is by no means the whole 
story of Richmond. It is one piece of its history and one 
effort to generate community-based literature. I hope that 
it will encourage others to record the stories, the songs, 
and the traditions of our community members. They have a 
lot to teach us. 

Judith K. Dunning 
Project Director 

September 1990 

Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 
University of California 
Berkeley, California 


M. M. "Tubby" Snodgrass 

I interviewed M. M. "Tubby" Snodgrass, a native of 
Blackfoot, Idaho, in February of 1985. We met at his office on 
Macdonald Avenue in Richmond. He was a retired employee of the 
Richmond-San Rafael Ferry Company who had spent a good part of 
his life working on the ferry. "I was a dishwasher, a cook, 
ticket agent, a toll collector, the commissary manager, and the 
Port Superintendent." He began with the company in 1924, at 
age twelve, and worked until the ferry's last trip on August 
31, 1956. 

I was interested in talking to Mr. Snodgrass not only 
because of his experience on the waterfront but also because he 
was an active member of the Council of Richmond Industries. I 
wanted to get an insider's view of Richmond's business scene. 
After the first interview session, Mr. Snodgrass acknowledged 
that he was in no position to speak freely about this work. 

For our second meeting I asked Mr. Snodgrass to accompany 
me to the former site of the Richmond-San Rafael ferry landing 
near Point Molate. We met at the Richmond Plunge in Point 
Richmond early one morning and drove out to the old ferry 
landing. The sign read Red Rock Marine Harbor, and the area 
was run down with heaps of abandoned cars, boats, and wooden 
piles jutting out of the water. Except for a few people 
fishing off the pier, the area was abandoned. I shot some 
photographs while Tubby chatted with the fishermen. 

We continued our waterfront tour by car with Mr. Snodgrass 
pointing out landmarks along the way. We drove past the 
Winehaven buildings, and to the site of the old whaling station 
and the still-operating rendering plant. I found this informal 
tour helpful. Mr. Snodgrass was relaxed and talkative off- 

Mr. Snodgrass was very supportive of the project and 
interested in helping out. He advised me on fund-raising and 
made several phone calls on the project's behalf. Often he 
would call me early in the morning and if he happened to catch 
me at home, he asked me why I wasn't swimming at the Richmond 
Plunge. If he reached me at the office on a sunny afternoon, 
he asked why I wasn't out enjoying the day. I enjoyed his 
sense of humor. 

Tubby Snodgrass is eighty years old now, and is on the 
Board of Directors of the Richmond Museum. Because there was a 
lot left unsaid in this oral history I hope that Mr. Snodgrass 
will add to his story. He could offer us some valuable 
insights into the political and business scene in Richmond. 

Judith K. Dunning 
Project Director 

June 1992 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 

M. M. Snodgrass Table of Contents 

Family Background 1 

Growing Up in Blackfoot, Idaho 1 

Description of Parents 5 

Marriage in 1938 8 

Presbyterian Church in Richmond 9 

Education and Teenage Ambitions 10 

Beginnings with the Richmond-San Rafael Ferry Company, 

1924 12 

Description of the Ferry 15 

The Kitchen 15 

Steaks and Chops in a 30-Minute Crossing 17 

Fees and Schedules 18 

Rules of the Workplace 20 

The Crew 21 

Accidents 24 

Storms 26 

Ferries: Woodenhulled to Steelhulled 27 

Labor Disputes 29 

Recollections of Strikes 32 

Chinese Cooks 36 

Changes in the Ferry 37 

Impact of World War II on Ferry Operations 38 

Changes in the Richmond Waterfront 43 

Background on the Richmond-San Rafael Ferry and 

Transportation Company 44 

Captain Raymond Clarke 45 

Ferrying Prisoners to San Quentin 50 

Ferry Safety Record 53 

Fog 55 

Changes in Bay Traffic 57 

Growth of the Trucking Industry 57 

Work Schedule 58 

Other Recollections of the Ferry 61 

Richmond as a Historical Place 66 

World War II Transforms a City 67 

Loss of Downtown Richmond 72 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720 


(Please write clearly or type. Use black ink.) 


Your full name Marion Myers Snodgrass 

Date of birth December 24, 1911 Birthplace Blackfoot. Idaho 

Father's full name Howard Bertram Snodgrass 

Occupation Merchant Birthplace Shambaugh, Iowa 

Mother's full name Edith Marion Howell 

Occupation Homemaker Birthplace- Albion, Idaho 

Your SpOUSC(s) Mar-i^'gg SnnHpra g g 

Your children Kathryn Marie Snodgrass Peterson 

John Thomas Snodgrass (Deceased) 

Where did you grow up? 1-12 Blackfoot r Idaho then Richmond, CA 
When did your family first come to California? 1924 

Reasons for coming Land of opportunity - Father opened Variety Store 

Present community _ El Cerrito How long? 51 years 

Education (and training programs) High School - Armstrong Business College 
Accounting - La Salle Correspondence School - Various training program 

Occupation(s) Richmond San Rafapl Fprry Company 

Public Relations Consultant 

continued on back page 

Special interest or activities Government and community activities 
Home and family 

Ideas for improving Richmond's image Continue to clean-up City - 

Rring in .TOR PRDDIir.TNf; TNDII.9TKTF.S - H^lp -j n pypry way 
to educate citizens, both young and old 

What do you see for the future of Richmond? Nothing but good! 


Growing Up in Blackfoot, Idaho 
[Interview 1: January 24, 1985] ## 


Dunning: Mr. Snodgrass, where were you born? 


Snodgrass: I was born in Blackfoot, Idaho. 

Dunning: What year were you born? 

Snodgrass: In 1911, December 24th. 

Dunning: Where did your parents come from? 

Snodgrass: My mother came from Utah and my father from Iowa. 

Dunning: When did they come to Richmond? 

Snodgrass: In 1923. 

Dunning: Do you know what brought them here? 

Snodgrass: Yes. My dad opened a store here, a variety store 

Dunning: Did they know anyone else in Richmond? 

## This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a 
tape has begun or ended. 

Snodgrass: No, they didn't. Not a soul. 

Dunning: Do you know how they happened to choose this part of 
the country? 

Snodgrass: No, except it was sunny California. That's about 
all. I know how disappointed we were when we got 
here to see what it looked like. 

Dunning : 

What did it look like? 


When I came, I came with a fellow in an old Model T 
Ford. When we crossed the Rodeo-Vallej o ferry into 
Contra Costa county, the hills, were all brown. It 
was in July, see. We expected to see all green grass 
and orange trees, which of course we didn't see. 

I'll never forget the first Fourth of July 
parade we saw downtown. I was here with my dad 
before the rest of the family. I remember very well 
how the wind blew that day, and how cold it was when 
I first came from Idaho. In Idaho it was real hot by 
the Fourth of July. 

Dunning: You and your father, were you sent out to California 
as scouts? 

Snodgrass: No, my dad was already here, and I came with a fellow 
who was going to be his partner in the store. Then I 
was here maybe a month or two with him before the 
rest of the family came. 


How many sisters and brothers did you have? 

Snodgrass: One sister and one brother. 
Dunning: And where were you in the family? 
Snodgrass: In the middle. 

Dunning: What was your hometown like that you came from in 


There was a very small town right next to the Fort 
Hall Indian Reservation, so we had a lot of Indians 
walking around, of course in blankets in those days. 
I can't remember the population, but it was less than 
five thousand, I know that. Everybody knew everybody 
in town. It was a little farming community. Mostly 
Mormon people lived around there. 

Dunning: Was your family Mormon? 

Snodgrass: No. My grandmother was a Mormon, but she was the 
only one in the family, although I attended the 
Mormon Church with her for a long time back in Idaho. 

Dunning: You were eleven years old when you came. Was that 
difficult for you to leave? 


No, it wasn't difficult for me to leave. I know that 
I started at Roosevelt Junior High School, and that 
would be in the seventh grade, so I would have to be 
twelve years old. 

Dunning: Do you recall the first home you lived in in 

Snodgrass: Yes. 

Dunning: Where would that be? 

Snodgrass: At 724 Ninth Street. I remember the number very 
well. As a matter of fact, I've been by to see the 
house lots of times since. 



Could you describe it? 

It was a little white house with three bedrooms, one 
bath. I remember it pretty well, yes. 

Dunning: What was the neighborhood like at- that time? 

Across the street was a kid with the name of Ray 
Byers. I remember him very well. Next door was a 
Portuguese family with a couple of real little kids. 

When I came here, in Idaho we didn't have 
Portuguese or Italian people, and half the people 
here were Italian and Portuguese. We had Indians 
instead of foreigners so-called foreigners. I 
remember that some of the names were amazing to me 
when I got to school at Roosevelt, Baciagalupi and so 

And of course the schools were very much 
different here. I know I talked to the kid across 
the street, and he was talking about machine shop and 
wood shop, which we didn't have in Idaho at all. As 
a matter of fact, I was in grammar school in Idaho, 
and here I started in Roosevelt Junior High School. 

Snodgrass: Also, the kids in those days, there were guys 
seventeen, eighteen years old going to junior high 
school. As a matter of fact, they had an A and a B 
football team and baseball team. They had some real 
big kids going to school then. 

Dunning: Do you know why there were seventeen and eighteen 
year olds? 


No, except that that was in days you didn't have the 
opportunity that you have now to go to school. I 
suppose some of those kids I remember some of their 
names, but I don't know why they were so far behind. 

Dunning: Were some of them first generation immigrants? 

Snodgrass: I doubt it very much. 

Dunnning: I was going to ask you a little about your mother. 
What was she like? Could you describe her? 


I don't know how I would describe my mother, except 
that she was not very big. I remember, of course, 
exactly how she looked naturally, but I don't really 
know how to describe her. 

Dunning: Could you describe a typical day for your mother when 
the children were young? Things that you remember 
her doing the most? 

Snodgrass: No, I can't remember that, except that I know that 
she always took awfully good care of the kids. We 
never left without breakfast. Of course, I left 
without breakfast when I started to work at the 
Richmond-San Rafael ferry because of the fact that I 
got there at five-thirty in the morning, and I worked 
in a restaurant, so I didn't have to wait to eat at 
home. But my father, when he had to get up early, 
she got up early and got his breakfast. 

Dunning: Do you consider that there are important things that 
your mother tried to teach you? 

Snodgrass: I'm sure that one was honesty. And everybody in the 
family worked. I remember very well that she never 
would buy anything on credit. I've always been the 
same way. If you didn't have the money, you didn't 
buy it. 

One of her favorite things was she never 
believed in paying for something after she had eaten 
it, which I've never forgotten. Of course, things 
are exactly the opposite today. I would say that we 
had a very good bringing up and a good home life. 

Dunning: Did your mother ever work outside the home? 
Snodgrass: No, she did not. No. 

Dunning: Did she ever earn money at home? I know a lot of 
people took in boarders, or did sewing, or 

Snodgrass: No, she didn't do that. 

Dunning: What kind of work did your father do? 

Snodgr ass: 


Well, he had this variety store for a good many 
years. Then he was a store manager for a grocery 
store chain, Pon Honer. Later, he was a ticket agent 
at the ferry, the same place I worked. 

Could you describe a typical day for your father when 
you were growing up? His usual schedule? 

Snodgr ass: 

I can't remember his usual schedule, but I remember 
when he owned the variety store. He was there early 
in the morning and stayed there all day until closing 
time at night, except to run out^and get some lunch. 
I would say he was a very hard worker. He was very 
thorough, and very neat, and everything had to be 
just so. I'm exactly the same way. 

Dunning: Taking after your father? 

Snodgrass: That's right. 

Dunning: What kind of work did he do in Idaho? 

Snodgrass: He had been a railway mail clerk, and then he was in 
the bank there. He had worked in Stanrod Bank in 
Blackf oot. 


Were there many other people, or any other people, in 
your town that also left for California? 

Snodgrass: Yes, but none that came right here. They went to 
Southern California. I don't remember anybody coming 
to Northern California. 



Snodgr ass: 


Snodgr ass: 


Do you consider that was a brave move on your 
family's part to leave and relocate? 

Yes, I would say that, yes. Of course, I don't 
remember all the investigation that was done before 
he did that, but I know there was a lot of work done 
before he ever decided to come here. 

I am trying to get an idea of the whole California 
dream. What brings people here? 

Well, if you lived in a little town in Idaho, there 
really at that time wasn't very much opportunity 
unless you wanted to be a farmer. The winters were 
bad, the snow and freezing, and summer is hot. I 
guess that California then was the land of 

But you say it was kind of disappointing when you 
first arrived. 

Snodgrass: It was very disappointing, but it didn't take very 
long to get used to that. I personally would never 
want to leave here. 

Dunning : 

Did you ever go back to Idaho? 

I think it was 1955 before I ever went back. It so 
happened that the young lady I married [Marie Louise 
Snodgrass] was also born in Blackfoot, Idaho. We 

Snodgrass: took the kids and drove back in '55 f because her 
grandmother still lived there. I've been there twice 

Dunning: How did you happen to meet your wife who was also 
from Blackfoot? 

Snodgrass: Well,- her family moved away and we moved to 
California. They moved to Spokane, and then ended up 
in Portland. One year the year was 1932 because I 
remember it was the first year I ever voted, and 
Roosevelt was running for president I was going on a 
vacation in the fall. 


I was going to drive up to Canada all by myself. 
My mother told me to be sure and stop in Portland and 
see the Quillins. So I did, and that's where I met 
the young lady that later became my wife. 

Then you brought her down to this area? 

Right. In 1938 we were married, and she came to 1 ive 
here. As a matter of fact, we bought our first home 
in El Cerrito in 1939. 

Presbyterian Church in Richmond 

Dunning: One area I was going to ask you a few questions on is 
the church. I know there are so many different 
churches in Richmond. Did your family attend a 
particular church? 


Snodgrass: When we first came to Richmond we went to the 
Presbyterian church. 


Where was that located? 



That was located on the corner of Twelfth and Bissell 
as I recall it. We went there for quite a while. 
But I -worked on Sunday morning, so there was very 
little church that I ever got to go to. Because in 
the ferryboat business, the biggest business was on 
weekends, so we always worked on Saturdays, Sundays, 
and holidays. 

So that cut you out of church and Sunday school? 

Right. It did, yes, because I got up at five o'clock 
in the morning to go to work and didn't have the 
opportunity to go. I attended other church functions 
in the week, but not on Sunday morning. 

Dunning: Have you continued to be associated with the 
Presbyterian church? 


No, after I was married we started going to the 
Congregational Church in El Cerrito, and we're still 

Education and Teenage Ambitions 

Dunning: We touched a little bit on your education, but I'm 
curious about what schools you went to when you 
arrived here. 


Snodgrass: Well, I went to Roosevelt Junior High School, and 
then to Richmond Union High School, and graduated 
from Richmond High. Then I attended Armstrong 
Business College for a couple of years. 

Dunning: Where was that? 

Snodgrass: That was in Berkeley. Then I took a correspondence 
course in accounting from LaSalle and that was the 
end of my education. I was working at the ferry all 
that time. As a matter of fact, I worked nights out 
there in the ticket office when I went to Armstrong 
in the mornings. 


Dunning: You must have been a pretty busy person. 

Snodgrass: That's right. 

Dunning: Did your parents want you to follow a particular 

Snodgrass: Not necessarily, no. 

Dunning: As a teenager, do you remember some of your 
ambitions, what you wanted to do in your life? 

Snodgrass: I remember at one time I wanted to be an architect, 
but that never worked out because I actually never 
stopped working at the ferry. When I worked in the 
restaurant, I worked for a fellow who owned a 
concession, and then later I went to work in the 
ticket office on a temporary basis, and I was there 


Snodgrass: permanently for a long, long time. Then I became the 
first commissary manager, and then the 
superintendent, so I really had a good job. 

Dunning: Let me trace that back a little more closely. What 
was your first job on the ferries? 

Snodgrass: My first real job was a dishwasher on the boats. 


Dunning: Could you give me the full name of the company at 

that time? 

Snodgrass: The Richmond-San Rafael Ferry and Transportation 

Dunning: What year did you join up with them? 

Snodgrass: 1924. 

Dunning: Not too long after it was organized in 1915? 

Snodgrass: I don't remember exactly when it was organized, but 
it was something like that. It wasn't too long 

Dunning: How old were you? 

Snodgrass: I was twelve years old, because I would have been 
twelve on the 24th of December, 1923. 


Dunning: My real question is r how did you happen to get that 
job at age twelve? 

Snodgrass: Well, because a kid that I went to school with told 
me that he had a job there as a dishwasher. So I 
went out and met the boss, and talked to him. It was 
about two weeks after that that he called me to go to 
work. I remember it was a Sunday morning, and as I 
recall, it was March 28th, 1924. 

Dunning: To be exact. 

Snodgrass: Yes. Eight-twenty in the morning, the first time I 
went to work. 

Dunning: What were your hours? 


There was no such thing as an eight hour day in those 
days. I used to go to work, and generally we worked 
at least eight hours. I would go to work at six 
o'clock in the morning, and be off at two in the 
afternoon. Six to two-twenty,, I think would be the 
exact hours, as I remember it. 

Dunning: Where did you fit in school? 

Snodgrass : 

I only worked Saturdays and Sundays after that, and 
holidays, and the summertime. When I was in high 
school, I was the afternoon cook on the same place. 
I got out of school at two o'clock and went out there 
and worked until ten, six days a week. So in my high 
school days, I had very little opportunity to 
participate in any school functions. 

Dunning : 


Do you remember your first salary? 

As I remember, it was about two dollars a day, which 
was really good pay. I remember when I was the 
afternoon cook, I got $3.50 a day. On Sundays I used 
to work a double shift, and that would make it seven 
dollars. For the last year that I was a cook there 
that's* when I worked the double shift on Sundays and 
on Monday, on payday, the boss would come around and 
hand you a check, and then he put a $20 bill in my 
hip pocket for working so much extra on Sunday. That 
made me $27 for one day's work. That was more than 
most men were earning in a week then. That continued 
all summer long. 

Dunning: You must have felt like a wealthy young man. 

Snodgrass: Right. I was a wealthy young man. 

Dunning: What did you do with your money? 

Snodgrass: Put it in the bank. 

Dunning: Did you put any back into your household? Did your 
parents ask? 

Snodgrass: No. I furnished the car for the family, but I never 
paid board and room. They never asked me to. They 
wouldn't let me as a matter of fact. But at one time 
I had two cars. I had one good car and an old junk 
that I used to drive to work. Neither my mother or 
dad could drive a car, but my brother and sister 
could both drive. So I furnished the transportation. 


Dunning: That was quite a contribution. How did your father's 
grocery store do? 

Snodgrass: It was a variety store. 

Dunning : 


Variety in that was it like a five and dime that had 

That's right, yes. It didn't actually set the world 
on fire. I can't remember how long he kept it. He 
finally sold out though. It was a lot of work for 
the amount he was making on it. 



Can you tell me anything about the first ferry that 
you worked on? 

Yes. I remember the jy of $ an Bsfael was the name 
of it. It was an old sidewheeler paddlewheel boat. 
I think it held about thirty or thirty-five cars. Of 
course, the cars were a lot smaller then they are 

The Kitchen 


I remember exactly what the kitchen looked like. I 
remember that the cooks were Chinese, and we washed 
dishes. They had a coal and wood stove, and we 


Snodgrass: heated water with steam and washed and dried the 
dishes all by hand. 

Dunning: You were working with one other person as the 

Snodgrass: With the cook, yes. Just me and the cook. 

Dunning: Oh 1 That was it? 

Snodgrass: The cook and the dishwasher, right. 

Dunning: You said that you remember the kitchen. For someone 
who's never been inside a ferry- kitchen, could you 
describe it? 


I could describe it all right, because it had a big 
old coal and wood stove with a grill on each side 
that you could cook hotcakes on. We had a big steam 
table, where the soup and the mashed potatoes were, 
and the steam table was full of water and all heated 
by steam. 

Then off the kitchen was a little anteroom with 
a refrigerator, ice of course, and a long metal sink 
that was really not very large, because I know we 
would have to put part of the dishes on the floor in 
buckets and wash part, and then refill the sink. 
That about does it as far as the kitchen is 

Steaks and Chops in a 30-Minute Crossing 

Dunning: I'm trying to get an idea of what people ate on 
board. Did they have full dinners, or snacks? 

Snodgrass: Yes. We did have dinners then. It took a half hour 
to crass, or a little bit more. 

Dunning: To cross from Richmond to Point San Quentin? 

Snodgrass: Right. Then maybe, if you were one of the first ones 
aboard, you would have five or ten minutes while we 
were loading the boat, so you may-be had forty minutes 
at the very most, so we had to work fast. But we had 
complete meals then. Even steaks and chops. 

Dunning: All in a half hour people would have their meal? 
Snodgrass: You would have to eat pretty fast. 

Dunning: I guess so. Did most people that took the ferry come 
on with their automobiles? 

Snodgrass: Right. It was an automobile ferry. 
Dunning: Were foot passengers also allowed? 
Snodgrass: We had foot passengers too, yes. 

Dunning: I don't quite recall whether you mentioned the 
capacity for the automobiles. How many? 



I can't quite remember how many those little boats 
carried. But it must have been around forty, because 
as I recall it, we had a seating capacity for about 
sixty people in the dining room, and it used to fill 

Fees and Schedules 




Do you recall what the price was to bring your 
automobile over? 

Yes. It was seventy-five cents for the car and 
seventeen cents for each passenger. I remember very 
well the car and driver was ninety-two cents, and the 
car and two passengers was $1.09, three was $1.26. 
That's been quite some time ago. 

Did many people use it every day as a commuter? 

Later years they did. A lot of people did, because 
many people worked at the Standard Oil and the 
Standard Research then. 

Dunnning: They would be coming from San Rafael to Richmond? 

Snodgrass: Right. 

Dunning: How about the reverse? 


Snodgrass : 

Snodgr ass : 

Not so much the reverse. We had sales people that 
went over with bread trucks and this, that, and the 
other thing every day. But really the commuters came 
to Richmond. 

How many runs did it make every day? 

Well, -we operated from six o'clock in the morning 
until ten o'clock at night. For a couple of years we 
ran all night. Then we cut that back until two 
o'clock in the morning. But in later years, when I 
got to be the boss out there, we quit at ten twenty- 
three at night except on Saturdays and Sundays. Then 
it was twelve o'clock. 

Dunning: Which of the years did it run all night? 

Snodgrass: It must have been in 1929, 1930, because it ran all 
night at the same time I was going to Armstrong 
College, because I worked there at night. 

Dunning: Did they get enough passsengers and automobiles? 
Snodgrass: Not really to pay. No, not enough. 

Dunning: Do you know why at that point they chose to go all 
night? Was it an experiment? 

Snodgrass: It was more or less an experiment. People claimed 
they were going to use the boat later, but it didn't 
work out quite that way. 

Dunning: What was the ferry called? 


Snod grass: The Richmond-San Rafael ferry 

Dunning: It didn't have any other name? 

Snodgrass: No. 

Dunning: Where did the ferry leave from in Richmond? 

Snodgrass : 


Right out where the old dock is still out there. It 
would be just a little bit north of where the 
Richmond-San Rafael bridge is now. If you would go 
out past Quarry Products, and around the hill, the 
dock is still there. [Point Molate exit] 

But it's not used for anything at this point? 

No, there's some little yacht harbor in there now. 
Last time I looked there was a couple of big old 
boats at the end of the dock. 

Rules of the Workplace 

Dunning: Were there certain rules at your workplace about 
smoking, or eating, or breaks? 

Snodgrass : 

No. There was no such thing as a break. 
You just worked straight through? 

That's right. And there was no such thing as a work 
permit or anything for kids. You just worked. No, 
there was no rules about smoking or anything, because 




all the cooks smoked. As long as you didn't get it 
in the soup, you see. I don't recall any rules, 
although the place was spic and span and clean. We 
kept it very clean, I know that. 

How about the noise? Was the noise level pretty 

Snodgrass: No, not bad. Not bad. 

Dunning: You probably got used to it real fast, too. 

Snodgrass: Yes. You mean the engine room noise? 

Dunning: Yes. 

Snodgrass: No, it wasn't. It didn't bother you on the upper 
deck at all. 

The Crew 

Dunning: Who was the superintendent when you started? 

Snodgrass : 

Well, they really didn't have a superintendent then. 
As a matter of fact, the main office of the ferry was 
in San Francisco, and all we had then was I don't 
even believe they called him a port captain, but we 
had one captain and a crew that used to do a lot of 
repair work, like putting new buckets in the wheels 
and things like that. 



Then finally one of the captains was made port 
captain in later years. Then they moved the main 
office from San Francisco over to Richmond and had it 
right out at the point where we were. The president 
of the company was there. 

When I was the commissary manager, they had the 
commissary manager and the port captain who actually 
was a licensed captain. Then when he left, instead 
of calling it the port captain, they called it the 
port superintendent. Then I was both the port 
captain and the commissary manager. At the time we 
had a port engineer who was in charge of all the 
repair work and the engines. But I did all the crew 
assignments and everything like that for him, too, 
for everybody. 

When did you get your first promotion from being a 

I was only a dishwasher a couple of years until I was 
an afternoon cook. Then, for a couple of years, I 
was a relief cook in the summertime. That meant that 
I relieved the other cooks and I did all the cooking. 
That was on the morning shift. It really wasn't very 
long that I was a dishwasher. 

Dunning: That was your jumping off point? 



Snodgrass : 

Right, yes. I was a dishwasher, a cook, a ticket 
agent, a toll collector, the commissary manager, and 
then the port superintendent. 


Snodgrass: When we quit, I had been the president of the Kiwanis 
Club, and they gave me what they called a "This Is 
Your Day." I remember the president of the company 
saying that if we had had another year, I would have 
probably had his job. But that was in 1956. I still 
have this. August 31, 1956, was the last trip we 
made on the ferry. 

Dunning: So they gave you this piece of marble? 

Snodgrass: The officers did that, the deck officers. Then the 
waitresses and the cooks gave me that. 

Dunning: They gave you the clock and the calendar. 
Snodgrass: Yes, and I've had them ever since. 

Dunning: Was that kind of an early retirement for you? How 
old were you when you left? 


In 1956 I was forty-five years old. I was too old 
really, to get another job, and. besides that, when I 
was made the superintendent of that ferry, it was 
just like owning your own business. That's when I 
spent the money, like it was my own. I cbuld come 
and go as I please, except that as the superintendent 
of a ferry boat company that runs seven days a week, 
you're on call twenty-four hours a day. It's not any 
eight hour day job necessarily. 



Dunning: Are there any particular stories or incidents that 
were connected with the ferry that stand out in your 
mind that you think should be documented? 


Not that I can think of. I think of a few things 
that happened, like the first and only time we really 
had a real bad accident, by the boat coming in full 
speed ahead and knocking the place down. 

Dunning: Knocking what place down? 


Knocking the dock down, the slip. That happened. 
You would have an accident every once in a while and 
break a few piles, or something like that, but this 
particular time there was a new engingeer and he got 
mixed up in the signals. Instead of going full speed 
astern, he went full speed ahead. No one was 
injured. It was just lucky. But it did take a 
little doing. We had to get a crane in order to get 
the cars off. 

The other time that I'll never forget was one 
Sunday night in the fog, where the captain of one of 
the boats got stuck in the mud and was there with a 
full load of cars for more than six hours. This was 
in way later years when we had the big S.P. [Southern 
Pacific] boats. 

One of the deck hands had a heart attack and 
they had to bring him ashore in a lifeboat. That was 
quite an experience, with the coast guard, and 


Snodgrass: everybody and his brother, and all the newspapers out 
there on that. That took a little doing on a Sunday 

Dunning: Did he survive? 
Snodgrass: Yes, he did. 

Dunning: Did you ever have to use the lifeboats other than 

Snodgrass: I think in all the years that I was there I can only 
think of a couple of times that they ever lowered the 
lifeboats. Once when somebody fell overboard. You 
see, it's only three and a half miles across the bay. 
Actually, you could run into the mud if you got off 
the course in some areas. 

Dunning : 

We were inspected by the steamboat inspection 
service just like we were a ship going to sea, so 
they had lifeboat drill all the time, boat drill, 
fire drill, and so forth. When they had the boat 
drill, they just swung the boat over the side. They 
didn't lower it all the way down and get in or 
anything except twice a year when the steamboat 
inspectors were there. Then they had to do that. 
But no, we never had any bad accidents. 

That seems pretty incredible. You mentioned that 
somebody went overboard. Was that just a one time 
occurrence, and how did that happen? 


Snodgrass: I don't even remember. See, if something like that 
would happen, I would be up there cooking. I was on 
the boats then. I wasn't out looking out the window. 

Dunning: You would hear about it after the fact. 


I would know about it because the boat would have to 
stop. But I didn't happen to be on the boat the day 
that that happened anyway. 


Snodgrass: I know that you would normally think that there would 
be a lot of things happening in thirty-four years, 
but not really. They didn't. We had some bad 
storms. We had to tie up a few times, not because 
the boat couldn't go back and forth, but because you 
couldn't load and unload the cars. We had a lot of 
foggy weather, though really not as much of that as 
you would think. 

Dunning: I know you would think that there would be quite a 
bit of fog in the bay. 

Snodgrass: But in the wintertime there was some times when it 
was real foggy. I can remember a few times we did 
tie up in the fog, too. 

Dunning: When you say tie up, you just tied up to the dock? 

Snodgrass: Right. We ceased operations, but generally only for 
two or three hours at the very most, because they 


Snodgrass: steered with a compass anyway. But you didn't have 
all the fancy equipment that you have nowadays. 
There was no such thing as radar or anything like 
that. All you had was a whistle, and listening to 
the foghorns and the fogbells. 

Dunnning: You must have seen a 1 ot of change in the equipment 
and in the machinery over those years. 

Snodgrass: No. We never did have any of that equipment, because 
I don't think any of the ferry boats in the bay ever 
had any radar. It wasn't available at that time. 

Ferries: Woodenhulled to Steelhulled 


How many different ferrys did you work on? 

I worked on the iy of Bisfcuionfil , the iy pf 
Bfifael, the Spnpma y^Hey, and the Similes y^n D^amme. 
That was in the days when I was a cook. Then in 
1939, or 1938, the company bought three of the 
Southern Pacific boats that were a lot larger, 
Steelhulled boats. Ours were old woodenhulled boats. 
They weren't sidewheelers; they were screwboats. 

Dunning: Could you differentiate between a sidewheeler and a 
screw boat? 


Yes. A sidewheeler had side wheels and buckets, the 
wheels going around and around, and the screwboat had 
a propeller on each end. The screwboats were much 
larger boats. That was after they opened the Bay 


Snodgrass: Bridge. The Southern Pacific ceased operations in a 
couple of years, in the automobile ferries, that is. 

Dunning: Was the Richmond-San Rafael ferry about the last 
ferry in the area? 

Snodgrass: They were the last ferry actually in the bay. They 
still -had some little ferry up in Martinez, the 
Martinez-Benicia ferry. But I would say that we were 
the last of the ferry boats. 



Did the construction of the Richmond-San Rafael 
Bridge begin in 1953? 

I think it was '52, because I know that when we had a 
six month strike at the ferry, and that was what 
really started the movement for the bridge. Then I 
had been there for so many years that I told the 
president of the company that I would stay and see 
him through until the bitter end if they would let me 
open this public relations office. 

Normally, I was supposed to be off on Wednesday 
and Thursday. I was still on call, but those were 
supposed to be my days off. So I had two jobs for 
just about five years. I got up every morning at 
four-thirty and went down to the ferry. After eight 
o'clock, after the maintenance people came to work, I 
could be free to do whatever I wanted to do. I had 
an extension of my downtown office telephone at the 



So I actually had two jobs, and I was working seven 
days a week then all the time. I would always work 
Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays at the ferry. 

I know 1955 was the first time that I ever got 
three weeks vacation. That's when we did that trip 
back to Idaho, in the summertime. With the ferry, I 
never -got a vacation in the summertime. I always had 
to have wintertime vacation. Summertime was when we 
did all the business at the ferry. 

Dunning: You mentioned very briefly about the strike. Could 
you talk about that? 


Well, they went on strike. The Fourth of July was 
one of the biggest days we had in the year, the 
weekend, the three day holiday. The guys went on 
strike on the First of July. 

Dunning: What guys? 


All the crew. Actually, we had two or three unions. 
We had what was called the Inland Boatmen's Union. 
That was a part of the Sailor's Union of the Pacific. 
Then we had the Marine Engineers Beneficial 
Association, a union for the engineers. The captains 
and the mates belonged to the Masters, Mates and 


Snodgrass: All the deckhands, the firemen, the waitr esse s, and 
the cooks belonged to the Inland Boatmen's Union. If 
they went on strike, of course, the others were out 
too. They all went out on strike. I think it was 
some time in December when they settled that strike. 

Dunning: December of which year? 

Snodgrass: I can't remember for sure, but it must have been 
1950. That's what really pushed that bridge ahead. 


Snodgrass : 

Dunning : 

Snodgrass : 

What were the issues of the strike? 

I don't even remember now, but it would be more 
money and I don't really remember, because I really 
never had anything to do with the unions, except for 
the working conditions, not the pay. 

Dunning: Who would? 

Snodgrass: The president of the company. 

Okay. It was the president, then the superintendent? 
I'm just trying to get an idea of the hierarchy. 

My boss was the president of the company. 
And you were right below him? 

Right. Well, he had a secretary, whose father used 
to be one of the main owners, but really I reported 
to the president of the company. 

Dunning: What was his name? 


Snodgrass: Oliver J. Olson, Jr. 
Dunning: Were you also a member of the union? 
Snodgrass: No. I was always on the other side. 

Dunning: Was that difficult, at certain points, being on the 
other -side? 

Snodgrass: No. I hired and fired everybody, and I was their 
father confessor and friend. I never had any 
problems like that. We had a few problem people, 
just like you have every place, but by and large I 
would say we were more or less -a happy family. Not 
quite that in 1950, but 

Dunning: Right. A few unhappy members. 

Snodgrass: I used to go up and have coffee with the pickets on 
the picket line, and no real problem. 

Dunning: Were there women working also? 
Snodgrass: We had waitresses. 

Dunning: At what point did the waitresses come to work on the 
ferries? Was it right at the beginning? 

Snodgrass: Yes. As I recall it, we had about thirty-two women 
working there as waitresses. We had two on each 
shift. In later years, we even had a couple of women 

Dunning: Were they also members of the Inland Boatmen's Union? 


Snodgrass : 
Snodgrass : 

Yes, they were. 

Do you know if any of them are still around? 

Yes. I saw one about a month ago. I was with my 
wife out in Macy's, or one of those stores out there 
in Hilltop, and we were going to go in and have 
lunchi I walked in there and here was one of them I 
hadn't seen for twenty-five years sitting at the 
counter eating. She spotted me before I spotted her, 
but I stopped and talked to her for a while. 

Most of the old-timers at the ferry, the 
officers, are all dead now. As,far as the deckhands 
and the crews, there might be a couple of them around 
now, but most of them were older people then, so 
they're all gone. But not the waitresses. There's 
still a couple of them around. 

Recollections of Strikes 

Dunning: Was that 1950 strike the only strike that you recall? 

Snodgrass: No, we had quite a few strikes, but never for any 
great length of time. 

Dunning: Any that particularly stand out in your mind? 

Snodgrass: No, except that I remember one where I was the 
commissary manager, because we had a port captain and 


Snodgrass: a port engineer, and the three of us had to take care 
of that place. It was in the wintertime, and there 
were some bad storms. We were having an awful time, 
the three of us, trying to get a steel cable out to a 
dolphin, and the wind was blowing so hard you could 
hardly stand up. I remember that very well. 

B-ut that strike didn't last very long. I can't 
remember how many, but we had several strikes that 
didn't last very long at all. Of course, we didn't 
operate at all. 


Everything would just shut down? 

Yes. I can't remember how long the strike lasted, 
but I remember that the guys went out on strike, and 
in the end they got a five cent an hour increase in 
pay. I figured it would take the captains seven 
years to get back the money they lost on the strike. 
Of course, they didn't want to go on strike, but they 
couldn't do anything about it. 


Would the public get involved in the strikes at all? 

Snodgrass: No, except to do a lot of squawking about it, because 
it was a great inconvenience for them. Especially 
those who worked on this side. 

Dunning: How would they get across? Would they have to go all 
the way around on the Bay Bridge? 

Snodgrass: Right. Either that, or go across the Carquinez 
Bridge and come around that way. Otherwise they 
would have to take two bridges. Some of the workers 


Snodgrass: at Standard Oil had a charter boat that they came 
back and forth in for a long time during the six 
month strike. 

Dunning: Did the pol ice ever get invol ved in the strikes? Was 
there violence? 

Snodgrass: No, th-ere was no violence at all. They had a picket 
line, but they didn't cause any trouble. 

Dunning: Are there any strike leaders or organizers that stand 
out in your mind? 

Snodgrass: No, not many. I can remember a- couple of guys who 
were the ringleaders. A fellow by the name of Mike 
Maloney, I remember him just like yesterday. Another 
one, Steve Traverse was his name. Those two guys I 
remember very well as being what we call 
troublemakers, naturally. 

Dunning: What were their jobs normally? 

Snodgrass : 

Both of them were deckhands, able seamen. They all 
had to have certificates, just like the guys going to 

Snodgrass : 

Did you ever fire someone after a strike? 

No. The only thing we did, on the last strike, we 
had three or five days to report. One guy, actually 
I can't remember his name, but I remember himjust as 
well as anything. I remember that he had bought a 
bunch of baby chicks and was raising chickens. He 
al so was a ringleader inthe strike and was up inthe 


Snodgr ass: 

streets of Richmond popping off his mouth. I don't 
quite remember how that happened, but I remember 
knowing all about it. 

He was supposed to be a good friend of mine, and 
he called me and told me that he couldn't leave those 
baby chicks. He would have to take care of them for 
a few -more days, would it be all right if he didn't 
show up on time. 

I told him, "No, if you're not here on the 
morning that you're supposed to be here, you will be 
unemployed as far as I'm concerned." He was. He was 

In later years, I had the office down on Tenth 
Street. He didn't get mad at me. He used to come in 
and see me all the time. We would sit around and 
talk. He was the only one that I can ever remember 
that didn't make it back after a strike. The guys 
were all very friendly. It wasn't a case of taking 
out any spite on them or anything like that. We 
didn't do that. 

Dunning: About how many people were working at the height of 
the ferry? 

Snodgr ass: 

In later years, in the summertime, as I recall, we 
had somewhere between one hundred and thirty and one 
hundred and fifty people. We were running five crews 
each day, so you had to have quite a few people. 


Would they change crews for every run? 





Yes. They changed crews every eight hours. Twice a 
day. Then we had a maintenance crew that did all the 
repair work, and toll collectors, so we had about one 
hundred and fifty people. 

Was there an ethnic mix? What was the composition of 
the group? 

I can only remember, in all the years that I worked 
at the ferry, there was only one black sailor that 
ever worked there, because there were very, very few 
black people that were sailors. Mostly there were a 
lot of Portuguese that came from the old Southern 
Pacific people. Swedes, just. -all Americans, you 
know, a general mix of people. 

Chinese Cooks 

Dunning: You mentioned when you started as a dishwasher that 
the cooks were Chinese. Was that fairly common? Was 
that a usual position for the Chinese? 

Snodgrass: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, we had a house out 
there, and the Chinese cooks lived there in the 
house. Even up until we ceased operations they were 
still living there. They had the best job of anybody 
because they got their board and room and laundry, 
and all their earnings, and they were paid on the 
minute basi s j ust 1 ike the crew, time and a half over 
eight hours, and all that. Their money was all 


Dunning: Are any of the cooks still alive that you know of? 


I don't know. Every time I used to go to Chinatown 
in San Francisco, I would run into one of them, but I 
haven't been there for years. That was twenty-five 
years ago. Fifty-six is longer than that, see. 



Did you see changes over the years in the atmosphere 
or the mood of the ferry from the time you started 

Sure, because when I first started working the crew 
consisted of a captain, a mate, three deckhands, a 
fireman, and an engineer. Then when we got the S.P. 
boats, the crew size increased. In those days, 
that's when they used to call that the happy family, 
because everybody knew everybody. 


Then, there was no union that ever I heard of, 
and there was no eight hour day, so there was no such 
thing as overtime. All of that changed when they got 
to be unionized. 

Snodgrass : 

Approximately what year was that? 

It must have been the early thirties that the Inland 
Boatmen's Union organized the deckhands and firemen. 
Later, just like every place else, the unions got a 
little stronger and feeling their oats. Times 
changed, so you had certain troubles. Other than 


Snodgrass: those little strikes, we really never had too much 
union trouble. 



During the war, we couldn't compete salarywise. We 
had to hire peopl e. We used to say if they were warm 
we would hire them. We could always send them over 
to the steamboat inspection, over to the coast guard, 
and get them an ordinary seamen's certificate. You 
made a lot more money in the shipyards, and we 
couldn't compete with them, so ii was tough to keep a 
crew going. 

You must have lost a lot of people during the war. 

Snodgrass: Well, we had a lot of changes. During the war, 
that's when I started getting up at four-thirty in 
the morning, because I had to get out there, and in 
some cases pick up some of the crew in order to get 
them there at all because it was that tough to get 
people. Sailors, of course, over the years, have 
been a bunch of drunks, or are noted to be. It was a 
rough go to keep the boats going. 

Dunning: Where would you pick them up? 

Snodgrass: At their homes. Out in the war housing in Richmond 
is where a 1 ot of them 1 ived temporarily. Then for a 
1 ong time they had a training center to train sailors 



that worked on the ships going to sea. Those fellows 
would get their training, and then they would have to 
wait for a ship. 

I could call up and order three guys, like 
ordering some bread or something, and they would send 
three guys over, or whatever I wanted. They had 
sailors who looked like the real sailor, little white 
cap, and a duffel bag, and so forth. I would have to 
find them a place to live, a room, in the Point, and 
finance them, because they didn't have any money, and 
take care of them like they were kids. They were all 
nice guys really, but they used to get drunk and get 
in trouble. 

Dunning: Were they pretty young? 

Snodgrass : 


Young, yes. They would be early twenties. So I had 
to advance them money and just about be like their 
father and take care of them. But that's how we used 
to keep going, by hiring those people. They might be 
there a couple or three months, and then they would 
get a call that they would have to go. 

They would go to sea then, so I would have to 
replace them. It was a tough go in those years 
trying to keep the boats operating. 

Did many of the ferry people join the armed services, 
or did they go to work in the shipyards? 

Snodgrass: There weren't very many of them that went in the 
service, because they were all older people. They 
had better jobs. Of course, they could make twice as 


Snodgrass: much in the shipyards counting overtime. After all, 
there were at one time over one hundred thousand 
people employed in the shipyards here. 

Dunning: That must have really increased the traffic on the 
ferry also. 

Snodgrass: Yes, it did. We got a lot of business, a lot of 
business. And a lot of trouble trying to keep things 

Dunning: It must have been pretty hectic. 

Snodgrass: It was. Every time that telephone would ring, 
something had happened. 

Dunning: Were you ever tempted to work in the shipyards 

Snodgrass: No, not really. I was married and had a daughter. 
As far as the draft was concerned, I was the boss of 
an inland waterways transportation company, and they 
didn't bother me. 

I sometimes think that I would have been better 
off had I gone into the service, because I would have 
been able to get a job as a port director or 
something. So they told me. I would have had 
certain pensions, and of course at the ferry, when we 
ceased operations, we got dismissal pay. You got so 
much, a certain percentage of your month's pay for 
every year that you had been there. 


Snodgr ass: 

Of course, there was only one guy that had been there 
longer than I had. He was a firemen. A lot of 
people thought I got paid off with a lot more money 
than I did, but I did get what was then quite a 

I already had a pretty good business built up. 
I knew that I would never be satisfied to go 
someplace and sit behind a desk for eight hours a 
day. I had been doing a lot of this public relations 
business for free, so I was urged to open this 
office, which I did. I had the opportunity of 
course. I was being paid at the ferry all the time 

As a matter of fact, the first retainer I got in 
the public relations business was more than they paid 
me for a month's pay at the ferry. I still have the 
same retainer. 

Dunning: What do you mean by a retainer? 

Snodgrass: I got a retainer from a company for so much money to 
take care of certain things for them. 

Dunning: For the P. R. ? 
Snodgrass: Right. 

Dunning: Have you been in the public relations business from 
that point on? 

Snodgrass: In 1952 I opened up. 


Dunning : 


Did you feel that the ferry was going to be ending? 

I knew. They had already started building the 
bridge. I knew it was limited, because the day they 
opened the Richmond-San Rafael bridge was the day we 
ceased operations. There was nobody that would ride 
a ferry boat if they could go over that bridge, 
that's for sure. 

Dunning: Was there any public outcry against the bridge? 

Snodgrass: No, not really. 


No controversy? 

There's a lot of people that always said afterwards 
that they wish we had the ferry boats, because they 
used to ride back and forth once in a while. If you 
had to wait two or three hours in San Quentin over 
there on Sunday night, or any holiday, you would have 
to wait on both sides, see. We used to move them 
pretty fast in later years, but I can remember when 
there would be a line of cars from Point San Quentin 
back to San Rafael on Sunday night. 

Dunning: All waiting their turn. 

Snodgrass: Right. We kept running until we got them all over, 

Dunning: Was that the agreement usually? 



That's what we always did, yes f pick the last one up 
if it was midnight or one o'clock. That's when they 
usually gave up, midnight or one o'clock. 




What did the waterfront look like in the early years? 
I'm wondering if there were visible changes in the 
Richmond waterfront that you saw. 

Sure there's a lot of changes. You would never 
recognize it now, the way it used to be. 

Can you describe it when you were so very young and 
started on the ferry? 


When I started on the ferry the slip had just moved 
from the old quarry up to where the dock is today. 
The dock is there, and the old office building, and 
the toll gate was there the last time I looked down 
there. That was around past the Blake Brother's 
Quarry then. 

The street went through the Standard Oil, and 
the streetcars ran out there then. That's all 
changed now. You can't even see where the old street 
used to be. It's all Chevron's property now. 

Then later in the war years, the navy built a 
big dock, and it's still there too. Then on out 
farther is Winehaven, and it's still there. But 


Snodgrass: there's nothing there now except the navy and some 
industries farther north. 

But that was all--Blake Brothers used to have 
tow boats. They used to barge gravel up the river, 
so the barges and tow boats went into the Blake 
Brothers. That's long since ceased too, of course, 
but it still looks about the same as it always did 
out there now. 

Dunning: Do you ever go out there? 

Snodgrass: Once in a while I ride out there and take a look 
around, see what's going on, .but not very often 


[Date of Interview: February 19, 1985] ## 

Dunning: Would you describe the organization of the ferry 


It was a private company, actually owned by the major 
stockholders, who were Oliver J. Olson Sr. and Andrew 
F. Mahoney Sr. They, along with Captain Ray Clarke, 
organized the company. Then, for many years after 
Charles Van Damme was in there too. He was actually 
one of the major stockholders. 

Tubby Snodgrass and co-worker, circa 

Left to right: 
M. M. "Tubby" Snodgrass, 
Edith M. Snodgrass (mother) , 
Howard B. Snodgrass (father), 
Kathryn L. Snodgrass (sister) 
Circa 1931. 

Marie Quill in (now 
Mrs. Snodgrass) and 
Tubby Snodgrass. Circa 


Snodgrass: But after Van Damme passed away, then Mahoney was 
president one year r and Olson was president the next. 
They just took turns at being president of the 
company. Their office was in San Francisco. 
Actually, both their sons, Andrew F. Mahoney Jr., 
became secretary of the company, and Oliver J. Olson 
Jr. was the company president until it folded. 

Dunning: Why was their office in San Francisco rather than in 
Richmond or San Rafael? 

Snodgrass : 

Because they were both in San Francisco, Olson and 
Mahoney, and so was Van Damme. They finally moved 
their office from San Francisco over here to 
Richmond. In fact, the building is still out there, 
where the office was. That was long afterwards. 
That was I think maybe about 1930, or '31 that they 
moved from San Francisco over here. 

Captain Raymond Clarke 

Dunning: The story goes that Captain Clarke was the one who 
conceived of the idea of the ferry. Did you hear 
that too? 

Snodgrass: Yes, I heard that story many times. 

Dunning: Did Captain Clarke have a version of it that he liked 
to tell? 



Oh, yes. He would talk about it in a minute. 
Captain Clarke was with the ferry for many, many 
years. As a matter of fact, I ended up being his 
boss. He didn't stay until the bridge was built. I 
can't remember when he left the company, but he had 
other interests. He had the Point San Pablo Yacht 
Harbor, and I don't know what else he had, but he was 
pretty- well off too. 

Dunning: Would you tell me what you recall of the story he 
told you about why he started the ferry? 


No, I can't even remember the story of why he started 
the ferry, except he was a deckhand or something when 
he first started on the ferry. They had the old 
ElleB. I think it was all in the book. [Harlan, 
George H. , an FjaDcisco ^ y erryt>pas. Berkeley: 
Howell-North Books, 1967.] Did you read it in the 
book? That's the boat they started with. 

Of course, there was no other way to get from 
San Rafael to Richmond except to go around by either 
crossing, go up and go across the Martinez-Benicia 
Ferry, or go to take the Sausalito ferry, and then 
come back to Oakland on the ferry. So it was a link, 
the shortest distance between two points, between 
Point San Quentin and Point Richmond. 

Dunning: The Yan Damme was really the first ferry specifically 
built for the Richmond-San Rafael line. The 
was only in commission a few months? 

Snodgrass: Right. Then they had the harles Van Damme, and then 
after that the iy of Richmond, and after that, the 

Snodgrass: City of ao 


Then they bought the Sonoma 

Dunning: Was the Spnoma 

the old Sao Jose? 

Snodgrass: Yes. Then, in 1938, they bought three of the 
Southern Pacific boats, the old steel boats, and 
renamed them. Then they bought the Western Pacific 
boat, the old Ed#ajd T.. Jgffsry, which was supposedly 
the fastest boat in the San Francisco Bay. They 
bought that one afterwards too. 

Dunning: I had heard that when the yan Damme was designed, 
that pedestrians had really not been taken into 
consideration in terms of the design. Mostly it was 
for cars. Also, cattle was not taken into account. 
Is this true? 


No. I know that they used to take cattle on the 
hoof. It was designed as an automobile ferry. All 
of the boats were automobile ferries, but there was 
nothing to keep foot passengers from boarding too. 
[phone rings]. 

They had an upper deck, and all they had to do 
was walk up the stairway to get to the upper deck, 
and on the Carles yan Damme too. As a matter of 
fact, the hajl yan Damme even had a barroom up 
there, and had two little cabins where some of the 
crew, in fact the cook, used to sleep at one time. 


The bar was separate from the dining area? 


Snodgrass: It was all in together, but it was a separate room 
really, right off the kitchen. 

Dunning: What would they serve? 

Snodgrass: I suppose they served booze at one time. 

Dunning: During Prohibition, was the selling of wine and 
liquor completely out on the ferry? 

Snodgrass: It was, yes. 

Dunning: Did the bar close down, or did they sell other 

Snodgrass: When I went to work there in 1924, the bar was never 
used. The room was there until they remodeled it 
later on. It was right off the kitchen, and it was 
never used at all. 

Dunning: Do you recall when it was resumed? Was it 
immediately after Prohibition that the bar opened 

Snodgrass: No, it never did open. 
Dunning: Never did open again? 

Snodgrass: No. We sold beer and wine on the boats after '32. 
We served beer for a long time, and finally we served 
wine too. But the Y3D pamme was no more then. They 
had already discontinued the use of the 

Dunning: Back to the cattle. Were pens constructed? 






No. I don't remember ever being on the boat when 
there were any cattle. I don't really believe that 
in my time out there they did take any aboard, but 
they hadn't had pens before. They just had to hold 
them, put chains up on both ends of the boat. There 
was a chain up there anyway. 

Where -was their destination? Were they coming from 
Richmond, or going to Marin, or ? 

Snodgrass: I imagine they were coming from Marin to Richmond. 

Dunning: And then do you know where they went? 

Snodgrass: Probably to the slaughterhouse out in Oakland. 

[phone rings] 

It could be a busy week. 

I've heard that some of the local ferrymen came from 
Portugal or the Azores, and some of those who didn't 
choose to be on farms or ranches became ferrymen. 

No, I don't think that was right. I never heard of 
that. The Southern Pacific boats had a lot of 
Portuguese deckhands and captains, but I never heard 
of them handling any cattle on the boats. During my 
time--I started in '24--I never remember seeing any 
cattle on the boats. The only thing that we handled 
on the boat was milk in cans, because they had 
regular trucks, hand trucks, that they used for that. 
That may be what somebody was talking about, I think, 
but not cattle. 


Snodgrass: Marin County, of course, was full of dairy farms, and 
still is to a certain extent. I remember that big 
old hand truck that they used. It was like the 
trucks which you've probably never seen around the 
railroad station when they were putting mail bags on 
the mail trucks, like the railway mail clerks used. 

Dunning: You call it a band truck? 

Snodgrass: Well, it was a long four-wheeled truck, on iron 
wheels, with a tongue to guide it. It was just 
pushed on and off. The crew took care of that. 

Dunning: Do you recall any other unusual ^freight? What kind 
of freight was the most common? 


The most common freight would have been on trucks. A 
lot of grapes, apples, other fruits and vegetables, 
and lumber were hauled through there from up the 
Redwood Highway. But just everything you could think 
of, including cattle, but in a truck, not on the 

Dunning: So there may have been cattle after you joined up, 
but it was always on the trucks? 

Snodgrass: Oh yes. Right. 

Ferry iDg_ 

Dunning: Okay. That was sort of unclear to me. It makes 
sense. Harlan also mentioned in his book, and I have 


Dunning: heard this from Stan Nystrom, that San Quentin Prison 
brought additional business, and deputy sheriffs from 
all over California would bring prisoners to San 
Quentin via the ferry. 


Yes, they came on Saturday mornings. They came up on 
the train known as the )wl. They unloaded at 
Sixteenth and Macdonald and put them all in taxis and 
brought them to the ferry. Then we fed them all 
going over, ham and eggs. On the San Quentin side 
they were picked up and taken up to the prison. 

We had some very famous guys. I'm trying to 
remember the guy that threw the,-salt shaker through 
the camera, at the guy trying to take his picture. I 
was on that boat that Saturday morning too, working 
in the kitchen. Who was it? Some murderer, I can't 
remember what his name was. 

They would bring along up to fifty prisoners 
with the deputies. What they had for deputies 
though, were guys that wanted to come up and spend 
the weekend up here. They would just deputize them 
and use them, see. 

Dunning: So some of them were actually civilians? They 
weren't sheriffs? 


Oh sure, yes. There were a couple two or three of 
them that were the gun-packing guys, the deputy 
sheriffs from Los Angeles. These were all Los 
Angeles prisoners, really. 


Most of them came from Southern California? 


Snodgrass: Right. They all came together. 
Dunning: Would they always come in large groups? 

Snodgrass: Right. Every Saturday morning. We used to be all 
ready for them. 

Dunning: How would you prepare for them? 

Snodgrass: Well, we would have some ham already cooked, and the 
minute on the dock we would see the taxis, we would 
start cooking, because we had to feed them all going 
over. They got first choice. They came in and 
actually filled up the dining room. 

Dunning: Any particular prisoners that stand out in your mind? 
Snodgrass: There are, but I can't remember their names now. 

Dunning: I heard a quote from Captain Raymond Clarke that 

"I've dined with the most desperate of criminals." 

Snodgrass: Yes, that's no lie. 

Dunning: Would he just sit down and join them? 

Snodgrass: Yes. He would be sitting in there eating breakfast, 

Dunning: Did anyone try to escape as far as you know? 

Snodgrass: I never remember anybody. But they had no place to 
go, you see. They couldn't get off the boat unless 


Snodgrass: they jumped overboard. They were all handcuffed 
anyway, but they took the cuffs off while they ate. 

Dunning: They weren't shackled at all? 
Snodgrass: No, not really. 


Do you think a few would have tried over the years? 

I don't recall. They had a lot of help along with 
them. I think they had about one deputy for every 
two prisoners, something like that as I remember it. 



I had also read that statistics have proved that 
there was no safer place to be than on a ferry boat; 
ferry sinkings were startlingly few, and in the 
hundred year history of Bay navigation, loss of life 
on the Bay Area was less than one millionth of a 
percent on the ferry. 

I would imagine that's right. I've never heard of a 
ferry boat sinking. They did have one, the old yejka 
Byena I think it was, that was a Key System boat, a 
passenger boat, where they had tanks on both ends. 
When the people all rushed to one end, they would 
fill the tank on the other end. Somebody fouled up 
and they dipped down going across. Some of them, I 
don't remember how many, lost their lives. They got 
pretty wet. That's in the book too, I think. 










Dunning : 

Did you feel like you were out in the sea in that 
short crossing, thirty minutes? 

Well, in rough weather you would, because a lot of 
people used to get seasick. Some of the waitresses 
used to get seasick. It got pretty choppy out there, 
especially with the old first boats we had, 
paddlewheel boats. With the wind and the tide, in a 
real rough sea, sometimes the boat actually stopped 
and you would hear a loud noise when the wheels 
stopped for a second or a minute. It used to bounce 
around quite a bit. After we got the big boats it 
was not bad. 

How about you and seasickness? 

I never was seasick. 

You couldn't have kept your job for so long? 

It never bothered me. 

Pretty amazing. This is sort of a morbid question, 
but before the Golden Gate Bridge, did people ever 
j ump off the ferry for a suicide? 

They might have jumped off the Golden Gate Ferry or 
the Southern Pacific Ferry. I can only remember one 
ever going overboard on our ferry. I guess it was on 
purpose, but they picked him up. He didn't drown. 

I suppose people in order to hit the waterwould 
have to jump forward of the paddles so that they 


Dunning: wouldn't get crushed. It would be rather tricky just 
jumping clear into the water. 

Snodgrass: It would have been easy enough because the paddles 
were in the center of the boat, in the middle. You 
could either be fore, or you could be aft, and clear 
that easy enough. It would be no big problem to 
jump. - The big problem would be the same as on the 
other boats; they would be out to pick you up. It 
wasn't any comparison to the bridges. 



Did the tule fogs occur often? 

Snodgrass : 

Well, they call it a tule fog, but the worst fogs we 
ever had were in the times when we had the lowest 
tides. It was a problem with us because in those low 
tides, all you had to do was get a little ways off 
the course and you're going to be on the mud. 

I think we talked before about the time that one 
of our boats did go on the mud and was there for six 
hours. Of course, they got on the mud several times, 
but never for any great length of time. Maybe two or 
three times in all the times I can ever remember did 
we ever tie up on account of the fog. 

One time I remember, that was even after the two 
bridges were built, it was so foggy you couldn't go 
across to either bridge. The cars just lined up out 


Snodgrass: there. Our boats were steering by the compass 
anyway, so they could still go in the fog. 

Dunning: The compass was really the only instrument? 
Snodgrass: That and the horns. 

Dunning: Yes, the horns and the whistles. Would the ferrymen 
have to memorize those sounds to know what they were 

Snodgrass: No. For a long time we had a bell on the dock. 
After the navy came into Point Molate, they had a big 
foghorn on their dock. There was a bell on Red Rock, 
and of course we had a bell on the San Quentin pier. 
The other horns you would hear would be other boats 
going up and down the San Francisco Bay, so there 
were a lot of whistles blowing. 

Dunning: I would think the ferrymen would have to know exactly 

what whistles were for what to know what to avoid in 
the fog. 


Well, they would have known about the Brothers Island 
and the horn on the other dock there, but those were 
the only horns that they would have to know the sound 
of, because the other horns would have been on the 

Dunning: But it seems like they would have to be able to 
recognize some of those sounds from the boats too, to 
know what they were coming up against. 


Snodgrass: No. I think that when you start hearing those 
whistles you start slowing up. You don't know who it 
is, or what it is, unless it was somebody like maybe 
the ferry boat that used to run from San Francisco to 
Vallejo. But there were lots of boats, and tow 
boats, and freight boats in those days, in the early 

Change. fj.c 

Growth of the Trucking Industry 

Dunning: How does the traffic compare to what you see out 
there now? 


You don't see any. Of course, I'm not out there 
enough to see any traffic now, but there's no traffic 
now compared to what there used to be, because the 
trucking industry has now taken over. 

[phone rings] 

Snodgrass: You don't see barges going up and down the bay like 
you used to see. So that's a lot of traffic out. 
And you don't see freight boats going. 

The only thing that you're going to see now is a 
Standard Oil tanker, or a tanker going up to Union 
Oil, or boats going up to the sugar refinery. 
There's still a lot of traffic, but not like it used 
to be. 



Dunning : 

Was that change gradual? 

Yes, but slowly but surely the trucks took over all 
the freight lines. The boats were too slow. That 
phased out pretty fast. 

Were holidays special on the ferries? 

They were special in that that's when we did a lot of 
business. That was the only thing special thing that 
I know of. 

Dunning: In Harlan's book, he mentions a couple of incidents 
of commuters being given a gift, .or Santa Glaus being 
on the ferry. 

Snodgrass: That might be. That would have been on the other 
passenger ferries, because people commuted there all 
the time. We didn't have that kind of traffic. We 
had some commuters, but not to that extent that they 

Dunning: So it was business as usual? 

Snodgrass: Right. All it meant was more business, much more. 

Dunning: I think I perhaps asked you last time about your 
schedule. Did you get many vacations? 


Snodgrass: Yes, I got two weeks vacation a year, but never in 
the summertime. I had to wait until the busy season 
was over before I got a vacation. And only once, I 
think, did I get off at Christmas, because that was 
another busy time. Well, I got off twice at 
Christmas, because one Christmas I got married, and I 
was married in Portland. 

Dunning: They had to give you the holiday. 

Snodgrass: I was pretty anxious to get up there then. A couple 
of times after I got married, we did go up to 
Portland for Christmas or Thanksgiving, because my 
in-laws lived in Portland. Never in the summertime. 

Dunning: Were you working a forty hour week? How were your 


When I first started to work there, there was no such 
thing as a forty hour week or an eight hour day, even 
for kids. We were probably one of the last companies 
to go to a five day week. 

Snodgrass : 

I was supposed to work five days, but I was on 
call all the time. There was no such thing as a 
forty hour week for me, because I was there on 
Sundays for fourteen or fifteen hours, and weekends 
or holidays. Whatever, if there was any trouble I 
had to go. 

It sounds more like a fifty or sixty hour week. 
That's right, or more. 

Dunning : 

Snodgrass : 


How did your family appreciate that? 

Not too well, but you can't have your cake and eat it 
too. I had a good job in those days. That was a 
real good job. 

Dunning: I have been running into some people that have been 
exposed to health hazards. Was that a problem on 
the ferry, like lung problems? 

No, nobody paid any attention to anything like that. 
That would be no problem on a boat anyway. Nothing 
like that in the ferry boat days. In those days, the 
old-timers at the Standard Oil Company said that the 
bad odors smelled like ham and eggs to them. 

Dunning: Was there a social life connected to the ferry? 

Snodgrass: I think the crew members used to socialize together, 
but I don't think you could call it any social life. 
They just happened to be friends. 

Dunning: Were there any athletic teams? 
Snodgrass: No. We came to work, not to socialize. 
Dunning: Would you describe your work as exciting? 

Snodgrass: I wouldn't exactly call it exciting. Some people 
might have thought it was romantic or exciting, but 
as far as I was concerned, it wasn't very exciting. 



Dunning: You mentioned the last time that you still dream 
about the ferry. Are there any dreams that stand out 
in your mind? 


Not really. I still dream about it. Not as often as 
I used to, but I still do. Every once in a while I'm 
back out on that ferry boat. 

As a matter of fact, I've been known to say to 
my wife when I was coming down here to my current 
office, "I'm going down to the ferry." 

I did that for a good many years. I still dream 
about a lot of things. 

Qber_Bec.llgtiQns_of_tbg_ Ferry 

Dunning : 


This is an opportunity to record anything that you 
think should be remembered about the ferries. Is 
there anything that you would like to add about that? 

The ferry boats were really, for most people, sort of 
a romantic thing, if you want to call it that. The 
kids loved to go on the boats, and it was a real 
treat to go on a ferry boat and be able to go up in 
the restaurant and get something to eat. 

I had a lot of good times. A lot of trouble, 
but I had a lot of fun or good times, because I knew 
everybody. We were all good friends. 


Snodgrass: Not that I was not glad to be finished, because I 
was. Like I told you before, I had two jobs the last 
few years, so it was like having a vacation for me to 
be able to go home Friday and not have to worry about 
going to work until Monday morning. 

People still ask me about the ferry boats, and 
tell me how much they enjoyed going on the boats, 
even if they had to wait for hours sometimes. They 
still liked it. It's not very romantic to go across 
that bridge. 

Dunning: BART is even less romantic. 

Snodgrass: Yes, but very handy. I would have to say that I had 
a good job, and all during the Depression, I never 
missed a day's work all that time. I had a good 
time, so I have no regrets about the ferry. 

People say to me every once in a while, "I wish 
the ferry boats were back." But if they were back, 
they would only use them when they wanted to use 

Snodgrass : 


They wouldn't have to use them. 

And they wouldn't wait like they used to have to 
wait. You know how people are today, they don't even 
want to wait to get across the bridge. 

I was going to ask you a little about World War II 
and the ferry. Did you have to change your operation 
at all? 



No f not really. We didn't change our operation, but 
we had an awful time keeping people working to run 
the ferries. 

Dunning: Everyone went into the shipyard industries, or the 



That's right. The scale of pay to be a deckhand on 
the ferry didn't compare to working in the shipyard. 
We had to have licensed people, so it was nip and 
tuck. We had a lot of part-time people, because 
there were a lot of guys that worked, for instance, 
at the Standard Oil, who had seaman's papers. We 
used to hire them on their days, off, Saturdays and 

It was real tough to keep the boats going during 
that time. That and the problem of buying enough 
food to keep the restaurants going was all part of 
the problem. 

It seems like you probably would have had more 
business then, too, with the shipyards going. 

Snodgrass: Yes, we did have. We paid a lot of overtime during 
that time. But we kept the schedule all the time. 

Dunning: You didn't cut back on the schedule? 

Snodgrass: No, no. 

Dunning: Was it running on a twenty-four hour at that point? 


Snodgrass: No. The first boat in the morning was five-forty, 
and we tied up at ten twenty-three except Saturdays 
and Sundays, and then it was twelve o'clock. 

Dunning: Would the swing shift have already started at the 
shipyards at that point? Did you coordinate with 

Snodgrass: Not really, no, because the only shipyard workers we 
had were the people from Marin City, and they were 
all day workers as far as I remember. 

Dunning: Were there blackouts? 

Snodgrass: We had some blackouts, yes, once in a while. 

Dunning: How would you describe that? 

Snodgrass: I don't recall we ever had a blackout to bother the 
ferries at all. I remember blackouts, but the boats 
were easy to black out anyway, because all they had 
to have were the running lights. 

Dunning: Is there anything else you would like to add about 
the ferries at this point? 

Snodgrass: No, I don't think so. 

Dunning: Well, if there's another time, or even during the 
rest of our discussion today anything comes to your 
mind, just let me know. 

Snodgrass: Okay. 


Dunning: One question I did want to ask. Were logs kept? 
Snodgrass: On the boats? 
Dunning: Yes. 
Snodgrass: Yes, daily logs. 
Dunning: Are they still around? 

Snodgrass: I don't imagine that they're around. I can't 
remember, but I think everything was destroyed like 

Dunning: I just think it would be interesting to 
Snodgrass: Have an old log book? 

Dunning: Just go through a month, or see what was jotted down. 
Maybe the Maritime Museum might have some of the 

Snodgrass: I don't think so. I don't know. But they kept a log 
of the courses and everything like that. 

Dunning: Were there ever any songs or poems written about the 
Richmond-San Rafael ferry? 

Snodgrass: Not that I know of, no. 

Dunning: If you ever hear of any, I would love to hear them. 

Snodgrass: I'm afraid that's out. 






Well, I think I'll switch gears a little bit. Do you 
see Richmond as an historical place? 

I would imagine that Richmond is about as historical 
a place as a lot of other places that are around. Go 
back to the early days of the Standard Oil Company 
and there are some historical spots around here, yes. 
I don't remember anything. Of course, they made 
history during the war right out here in the 
shipyards, building all those boats. I imagine that 
you could call that an historical event. 

That was really a whole transformation in a two year 


I think I will talk about that, but first I wanted to 
ask you about your memories of what Richmond was like 
when you were a child when you first arrived here, 
what it looked like, and who lived here. 


Well, I think the population then was eighteen or 
nineteen thousand, or something like that. It was 
just a quiet little city. I remember you didn't have 
to worry about locking your front door or anything 
like that in those days. I used to get up at five 
o'clock in the morning and walk from Ninth and 
Pennsylvania up to Macdonald Avenue and think nothing 
about it, you know, in the dark. As I recall it, it 

Snodgrass: was just a 

Snodgrass : 


real nice place. Everybody knew 

Dunning: What was the ethnic population pre-World War II? 

Well, there were a lot of Portuguese and Italian 
people. That is, a lot of the people that I went to 
school with were of Italian descent. The only way 
you would know it was by their name. There were very 
few black folks here then. As a matter of fact, in 
school, the only ones I remember were Walter Freeman 
and the Ellison family. They all lived out in North 
Richmond then. Other than that it was just the usual 
mix of people. 

Dunning: What is your ethnic background? 

Snodgrass : 

Well, I guess I'm part Scotch and part English, 
really. My grandmother was born in Nova Scotia. My 
mother was born in Idaho, and my dad was born in 


Dunning: When did you first start seeing changes in Richmond? 

Snodgrass : 

Really, the war is what changed Richmond, because 
just about overnight the shipyards started. There 
were one hundred thousand people working in that 
shipyard out there. That really changed things 


Dunning: Was there any preparation for that? Were people in 
the town consulted on any of the planning? 

Snodgrass: They might have been, but I wouldn't know anything 
about it. They just really started to go to town 
here. It just about happened overnight. 

Dunning: What were the first changes that you saw? 

Snodgrass: When they started the shipyards you saw all kinds of 
people here. A lot of business. People were working 
around the clock and sleeping in the shows, in the 

Dunning: Because they had no place to live? 

Snodgrass: That's right. They had no place to live. Then they 
built the war housing. 

Dunning: Where exactly was the war housing? 

Snodgrass: It was on the Southside, starting on Ohio, down to 
Cutting, and all the way out to Gerrard, and all the 
way to Twenty-third Street. Then on the other side 
of Cutting they had some more housing too, as I 
recall it. But that was all taken up with the 
shipyards out there anyway. 

Dunning: Did you feel any loss of that small town feeling? 

Snodgrass: It didn't take very long, I'll tell you, until you 

Dunning: It must have seemed like a whole different city. 



Dunning : 

Oh, yes. It was a different city. It was nothing 
like it used to be at all. That happened very fast. 
Schools were crowded, everything was crowded. 

Had you already moved to El Cerrito by this time? 

I was married in 1938, just at the end of the year, 
and we moved to El Cerrito in '39. That was our 
first home as a married couple, in El Cerrito. 

Dunning: Were you glad that you were out of Richmond? 


No. I've never been out of Richmond. I have been 
here for years and years. I j u&t happen to live in 
El Cerrito. There's no difference between El Cerrito 
and Richmond, really. 

Dunning: Suddenly, with the shipyards, there were groups of 
Midwe sterner s here, and Okies, and blacks from the 
South. How did everyone get along? 

Snodgrass: Oh, there were a lot of fights and so forth around, 
but I can't remember that they didn't get along. The 
friendliest people in the world were the Okies and 
the Arkies anyway. 

Dunning: You hear lots of stereotypes about Okies, 
you describe an Okie? 

How would 

Snodgrass: I don't know how you would describe them. They would 
call each other Okies if they wanted to kid a little 
bit. "Hey Okie." 


Snodgrass: At the ferry we had some Okies and Arkies that were 
the salt of the earth, really nice people. The only 
thing, in all the time that I was on the ferry, there 
was only one black fellow that ever worked there. It 
just so happened that there were no black sailors. 
This guy was a marine fireman. 

Dunning: What about as deckhands, or in the kitchen, or ? 

Snodgrass: Never had any. 

Dunning: Was that discrimination? 

Snodgrass : 

No. The deckhands had to have seaman's papers, and I 
don't recall even anybody in the kitchen. We hired 
Chinese people, who actually had their own home right 
there, because we had a house for them on the dock. 
So we never had any black folks out there at all. 

Dunning: What about the Asian population pre-World War II? 
I've heard that there were a number of Japanese 
living in Richmond before the time of internment. 

Snodgrass: Yes, we had quite a few Japanese. I remember quite a 
few Japanese kids going to school. They came from 
San Pablo Avenue and vicinity where there were a lot 
of hot houses, and several Japanese nurseries. The 
Oishi family, the Saki family. I remember a lot of 
kids that went to school with me, and they're still 

Dunning: They came back after internment? 

Snodgrass: Those that were interned, yes, 


Dunning: What about the post-war years during the war years 
people had the jobs, so that there was money coming 
in, and then right after the war Kaiser shipyards and 
fifty-seven other war industries left. 

Snodgrass: It got tough. That really changed things around. 




Were there visible changes? I'd like to hear your 
impression of those times. For an outsider it seems 
like the changes would be incredible. I mean, just 
very dramatic. 

Well, I don't remember too much about what happened, 
but all of a sudden there were^a lot of people and 
not enough jobs to go around. Of course a lot of 
people left, too. 

Dunning: Where would they go? 

I guess back home. But a lot of them stayed here. 
There were a lot of black people here then. Of 
course, you know that in Richmond the blacks are the 
majority now. And there are a lot of other 
minorities around here now too. 

Dunning : 

It's easier for me to remember fifty years ago 
than it is to remember twenty-five years ago. 

Actually, a number of people do say that. 

I can remember a lot of things that happened at the 
ferry, but I'm having a hard time right now 
remembering just what happened after the war and how 
things changed, because 1956 was the end of the ferry 



boat days for me. After that, things are harder to 
remember than they were before. 

Snodgrass: I remember how Richmond was still a nice place and 
still had a good downtown and all that, because my 
office was down on Tenth Street, across the street 
from where the Hotel Don is. Then gradually, when 
the redevelopment agency started taking over, the 
downtown started going. When Hilltop opened, that 
was the death knell for downtown. We're trying to 
bring it back now, but not too successfully so far. 

Dunning: Was the downtown supposed to be redeveloped? 

Snodgrass: That was the plan, yes. 

Dunning: This was in the fifties and sixties? 

Snodgrass: Right. 

Dunning: And then Hilltop was built in the early seventies? 

Snodgrass: I don't remember the dates. I moved out of downtown 
in about '68 or '69, I think, right here to this 

Dunning: Were the same planners involved with the so-called 
renovation of downtown and Hilltop, or were they two 
totally different groups? 


Snodgrass: Totally different. 

Dunning: Who were they? Who was involved in the downtown? 

Snodgrass : 

The Hilltop was built by I can't even remember the 
name of the people that actually put that thing 
together out there. Now Chevron Land is out there 
running the show. If you haven't been out there to 
look around, it's worthwhile to look at. 

Dunning: I have. There's quite a bit happening. Do you think 
there can be a thriving Hilltop Mall and a thriving 


I think that the downtown would come back never to 
like it was before, but it would come back if we 
could get one big building started, like the Camino 
West that they're working on now. 



Is that a residence? 

No. That would be an office building. If you got 
the one building started, maybe that would be the 
thing that would trigger a come back. It'll never 
come back all the way like it was before though. 

Dunning: I heard that there were three or four movie theaters 
right in downtown. 


I think it was one, two, three downtown. The old Fox 
Theater is still downtown, I mean the building is 
there. Maybe they tore it down the other day. 


Dunning: What about the development on the waterfront, like 
Marina Bay? There seems to be quite a few empty 
condos at this point. 

Snodgrass: Yes, they've had a problem selling those condos. I 
know the bank is taking it over now r and they've got 
some kind of a sales program going on out there to 
try to sell land. I think they've still got over a 
hundred of them to sell. 

Dunning: Do you have any notions of why it's so difficult? 

Snodgrass: I have a lot of notions about a lot of things around 
here now, because that's part o. my job, but I don't 
have any notions I want to put on that tape. 

Dunning: That's it. I feel like you're holding out. 
Snodgrass: Yes. 

Dunning: You will have a chance to read over your transcript 
and take out anything. 

Snodgrass: Yes, I know, but there's some things you just really 
don't talk about on tape. 

Dunning: I'm just looking for the fullest story. 

Snodgrass: I know, but there's probably a 1 ot of difference of 
opinion about what the problem in Richmond is. 


Dunning: Well, I hoped to document that difference of opinion 
too. Thank you for telling me what you could. If at 
a later time, some things come to mind that you want 
to record, please feel free to call me. 



San Francisco Chronicle, 17 September 

Golf and 12- SI ice Toasters 


ef ore the great bridges were 
built, the world's largest fer 
ryboat fleet sailed San Fran 
cisco Bay. 

Since 1850, when the little Kan 
garoo inaugurated San Francisco- 
Oakland steamer service, about 110 
ferries have worked the Bay, in 
cluding the small fleet running to 

More than 60 million passen 
gers and 7 million motor vehicles 
rode the ferries in 1930, the peak 
travel year. 

The largest system/operated by 
Southern Pacific Golden Gate Fer 
ries Ltd., had 27 automobile-carry 
ing boats on seven routes in 1930. 

SPGG ferries ran from San 
Francisco's Hyde Street terminal to 
Sausalito and Berkeley, and from 
the Ferry Building to Alameda, 
Oakland, Richmond and Vallejo. 

Southern Pacific also ran huge 
paddle-driven passenger-only fer 
ries from the Ferry Building in San 
Francisco to piers in Oakland and 
Alameda, where they met a net 
work of red-colored electric com 
muter trains. 

SP subsidiary Northwestern 
Pacific Railroad operated ferries 
decorated with a huge redwood 
tree painted on their paddle-wheel 
boxes. NWP boats steamed from the 
Ferry Building to Sausalito, where 
commuters boarded electric trains 
for Mill Valley, San Anselmo, Fair 
fax and San Rafael. 

There also was the Six-Minute 
Ferry from Crockett to Morrow 
Cove and the Nickel Ferry between 
Oakland's First and Broadway and 
the Ferry Building, which opened 
in 1898 and was one of the busiest 
terminals in the world until the 

So many ferries jammed the 
Bay that when the fog was thick, 
the boats ran at 40-minute intervals 
rather than the usual 20 minutes to 
minimize the risk of collision. 

CJOliirj 1 ;.4>., uoui SCfletlUlfcS 

called for commuter boat depar 
tures every 15 minutes. Automo 
bile-carrying ferries departed as 
soon as they were filled with vehi 
cles when travel was heavy on 
weekends and holidays. 

Almost every ferry had a dis 
tinctive-sounding whistle so cap 
tains navigating without radio or 
radar could find their way across 
the fog-shrouded Bay by listening 
for familiar sounds and echoes. 

SP and its subsidiaries painted 
their ferries white for visibility in 
the fog. But the upstart Key System, 
formed in 1903 to challenge the SP's 
monopoly of East Bay commuter 
service, put the same orange on its 
ferries as it did on the electric trains 
that met the boats at a terminal at 
the end of a wooden trestle near 
Yerba Buena Island. 

To soothe the nerves of com 
muters, Key put potted palms in 
upper deck passenger cabins. For 
years, the Key System's Christmas 
parties on the ferries were spectac 
ular and the company president, Al 
fred J. Lundberg, would dress up as 
Santa Claus. 

The Alameda-San Francisco 
ferry was a political and social insti 
tution because the island city was 
small and its power structure close- 
knit. For decades, Alamedans of 
any importance rode the same boat 
each morning and Chamber of Com 
merce and City Hall, business was 
conducted over coffee and dough 

Occasionally, an Alameda fer 
ry's lower deck was rearranged so 
commuters could drive golf balls 
into the Bay, allowing commuters to 
practice before tournaments at the 
city-owned links on Bay Farm Is 

Richmond-San Rafael ferries 
had slot machines and were painted 
a bright red and displayed a chain 
symbol to emphasize the transbay 
link. Before it merged into the 

Southern Pacific system, the Gold 
en Gate Ferry Co. painted its boats 

Ferries had a transbay trans 
portation monopoly. During the 
week they carried commuters and 
on weekends and holidays the boats 
were gateways to recreation. 

Northwestern Pacific ferries 
and connecting electric trains at 
Sausalito took pleasure-seekers to 
the steam railroad that ascended 
Mount Tamalpais from Mill Valley. 
NWP steam trains rolled along To- 
males Bay en route to Duncan's 
Mills and Cazadero and rolled 
through the redwood country to Eu 
reka. For many years the NWP 
steam train was the only route to 
the Russian River. 

The San Francisco-Vallejo 
"Monticello Line" ferry carried au 
tomobiles to Vallejo, the entrance to 
the Napa Valley. But a rider didn't 
need an automobile. He or she could 
walk a few steps from the Vallejo 
ferry dock to the electric trains of 
the San Francisco & Napa Valley 
Railroad, which ran to Napa and 
terminated near the geysers at Cal- 

Zepheniah Jefferson Hatch was 
so enthusiastic about his Monticello 
Steamship Co. that he named one of 
his sons, who became the Vallejo 
ferry's lawyer, C. Ferry Hatch. 

Besides connecting with elec 
tric trains for Oakland, Berkeley 
and Piedmont, Key System ferries 
also met the swift electric interur- 
bans of the Sacramento Northern 
Railway, which ran to Walnut 
Creek, Pittsburg, Sacramento, 
Marysville, Yuba City and Chico. 

Graybeards generally agree 
that the best ferry food was on the 
Key System boats although SP retal 
iated with fare prepared by its rail 
road dining car chefs. 

Since the Key System ferry 
crossing took only 18 minutes, wait 
ers had to be prompt and passen 
gers chewed quickly. The most pop 
ular Key System dish was corned 
beef hash concocted from a secret ' 
recipe (forgotten today) and served* 

on genuine china service with a cup 
of coffee brewed from a blend 
made especially for the Key System! 
by MJB. A total of 121,162 orders of; 
the famous hash were consumed 
during 1924. 

Some Key ferries had electric 
toasters that could toast 12 slices o 
bread at once. Commuters consid-; 
ered that to be a culinary and elec j . 
trical wonder of the age. 

The ferries were too successful) 
they generated so much business 
they made bridges financially possii 
ble. But in most cases, the boats; 
hung on for a little while after the; 
bridges opened, often because ferry; 
fares were lower than bridge tolls 
and employees hoped they could! 
survive until they qualified for pen-; 
sions. ; 

The first major ferry abandon-; 
ments occurred in 1937 and 1938,' 
when Hyde Street-Sausalito* and! 
Hyde Street-Berkeley runs weife dis-J 
continued along with service from; 
the Ferry Building to Richmond^ 
Vallejo and Oakland-First ^and; 
Broadway. SP and Key Systenwlibm-! 
muter ferries to the East Bay tyere! 
abandoned in 1939 when theircon-; 
necting electric trains switched to; 
the new Bay Bridge tracks. 

Alameda auto ferry service..was; 
discontinued in 1939 and the Oak-; 
land-San Francisco automobile ser-; 
vice, the last to be operated by the! 
once huge Southern Pacific Golden! 
Gate system that was now bank-', 
rupt, was discontinued on May; 16,; 
1940. , . ; 

Then on March 1, 1941, the com 
muter service to Sausalito wa&dis- 
continued and the electric trains re-', 
placed by buses. ,., .' 

SP kept a passenger-only ferry; 
run until 1958 from San Francisco; 
and Oakland to handle baggage,; 
mail and passengers for its trans-, 
continental trains. RichmondrSan'. 
Rafael boats were abandoned in; 
1956 when the new bridge opened- 
and in 1962, the last of the automo 
bile-carrying ferry routes, was re 
placed by the Martinez-Benicia, 

AUUougVi Uie in*!,. U aUrau^aV 

ferryboat disappeared from the bay 
in 1958, the Ferry Building was bt 
without ferries for long. The first 
new ferries to appear were Wttdst 
boats operated by a Crowley Maflj 
time subsidiary to Tiburon. Wfcen-e 
strike temporarily shut dowiime 
Crowley boats in 1970, the Golden 
Gate Bridge, Highway and 
portation District took over 
vice temporarily. In the same 
the bridge district bought the Go 
en Gate, a rebuilt San Diego tour! 
boat, for Sausalito service. ""*_"* 

Then in 1977, three gas-lur- 
bine-powered (since rebuilt wttb 
diesel power) ferries inaugurate* 
San Francisfio-Larkspur service-ua* 
der the flag of the district. 

However, the longest-livedifeiv. 
ry line was one almost nobody knew, 
about the Valle jo-Mare Island. 
run. Service began in 1851, two 
years before the Mare Island Naval 
Yard was established to repaic. 
wooden sailing ships. 

Standard steam-driven ferry* 
boats made the run until after* 
World War II. Last month, the small: 
diesel-powered launches that shot-^ 
back and forth on the bayV 
ferry route, suspended- ser-- 

Oakland Tribune 
Kay 27, 1986 

Richmond's voice 
of industry to step down 

By Lynn ft/defer 

The Tritwne 

RICHMOND -r Friends call M.M. Snodgrass "Tub 
by," but to most people he is "Mr. Industry." 

Snod grass is the first and only executive director of 
the Council of Richmond Industries, formed in 1965 to 
promote the interests of refineries and smokestack in 
dustries lining the waterfront. 

Every Monday night Snodgrass takes the same seat 
at city council meetings back row, far left Only illness 
keeps him away. 

He never speaks, he's there to observe and report 
back to industrial leaders. 

But his stolid presence is a visual reminder of indus 
try's influence. ,- ; - 

Jnodgrass, 74, will resign his post at the end of the 

year, ihe square-jawed, /plain-talking lobbyist has been 

^increasingly troubled by -chest ailments in recent months. 

It 4s time to slow down, Snodgrass reflected. 

It is also a time of shifting power. The resignation of 

tee man wno was the voice of 
Richmond industry lor more 
than a quarter century symboliz 
es to many political observers a 
changing in the guard. 

The 32-member Council of 
Richmond Industries has seen its' 
.influence ebb. 

Fewer workers in the heavy 
industries lining the waterfront 
live and vote here. 

And as development gobbles - 
"Up shoreline around the Bay,. 
Richmond's waterfront property 
Becomes increasingly desirable 
to commercial and residential 

Industry lost two key battles 
*o waterfront interests last year. 
first, the City Council defeated 
ina 3-2 vote a proposed expan 
SJpn Of a Petromark tank stor- 
depot. Located on the posh 
t Richmond waterfront, the 

ik farm is a tantalizing spot 
Sr housing and retail develop 

Then commercial developers 
^>ent heavily in the 1$85 elec-- 
tjpns to defeat the two council 
members who supported the 
nmk expansion. 

This is not a forewarning that 
industry will disappear, only 
ttiat it has to live with new de 
velopment, observers say. 

Snodgrass was philosophical 
a%out the recent defeats during 
4n interview in his modest Mac- 
otnald Avenue office where he 
alone, without even a sec-, 

s is not the first time we 
election. But things will 
ut after a while. And I'd 
s*y this council is not against 





?y had to be real careful to 
icted," Snodgrass contin- 
Sveryone is so concerned 

Iout the environment these 
ys, about toxics," he said. 

"Once candidates are elected 
atad sit on the other side of the 
cJBuncil table for awhile, they 
Sfert to see things differently." 
. Marion Myers .Snodgrass. 
( with a name like that, it's no 
vaonder most people preferred 
Ipbby") was born in Blackfoot, 
toaho. When he was 12 years old 
h* moved here with his family.* 
flls father opened a variety store 
oft Macdonald Avenue and Sixth 

Before graduating from Rich- 
rfond High School, Snodgrass 
hd started working on the Rich- 
rtwnd-San Rafael ferries as a 
dshwasher and a cook. He 
naoved up in the business until he 
tfecame a superintendent, a job 
h* held until Oct. 30, 1956 when 
tte new bridge made the ferries 

Two years before, Snodgrass 
hud set up a public relations 
Itasiness. He worked both jobs, 
^terting at 4:30 a.m. and not fin- 
irtiing until after the gavel had 
i?tn down on late-night council 
and advisory commission meet 

From the start, most of his 
clients were industries and as- 

piring City Council candidates. 
He is proud of the years he spent 
directing the local United Cru 
sade charitable fund-raising 

Interestingly, while building 
his reputation in industry and at 
City Hall, his brother, Woodrow 
Wilson Snodgrass, was gaining 
-influence in Richmond schools. 

First a teacher at Roosevelt 
Junior High, W.W. Snodgrass 
eventually became superintend 
ent of the Richmond Unified Dis 
trict, and still negotiates teacher 
contracts for the district. 

Tubby Snodgrass works best 
behind the scenes. He seldom al 
lows himself to be quoted in the 
news. It is even more unusual for 
him to speak during public meet 

In part, his success was based 
on strong personal ties with the 
top men in business, politics and 
newspapers. Equally important, 
Snodgrass made sure to know 
what was going on. He read and 
clipped newspapers, attended all 
meetings and traded informa 
tion with those in power. 

Writing press releases was 
hardly necessary when Snod 
grass started his days with 
morning coffee with Chick Rich 
ards, the late editor of the Rich 
mond Independent. The now-de 
funct Independent was "the Bi 
ble" as Snodgrass fondly recalls. 

He phoned and met with indi 
vidual council members regular 
ly, slipping in information about 
industry's stance on the latest 
city proposal during comforta 
ble conversations about families 
and jobs. 

He was especially close to the 
late Mayor Tom Corcoran, who 

died last summer. 

"People criticize me for talk 
ing to Tommy (Corcoran) every 
day. But he was a friend of mine, 
not just the mayor," said Snod 
grass. "We'd discuss a lot of 
things, hash things over." 

In Richmond, if you wanted to 
run for office, if you wanted to 
learn about industry's position 
on any subject, you went to Snod 

"There's no question about it. 
If you wanted to reach an indus 
try, particularly an oil company, 
you had to talk to Tubby," said 
Bert Cof fey, a Democratic Party 
leader who has helped put sever 
al Contra Costa politicians into 

"It was always wise to talk to 
him before deciding to run for 
office," said Don Greco, a two- 
terjm Richmond council member 
who lost his seat last year. 

"He knew who was running. 
He knew what kind of backing 
candidates had. He could tell you 
Whether you would be wasting 
your time," Greco said. 

For instance, Snodgrass cor 
rectly predicted a defeat when 
Greco made an unsuccessful bid 
for the Brookside Hospital 
Board of Directors. 

Greco also worked on the 
campaigns of Council members 
John Ziesenhenne and Lonnie 
Washington, former Council 
member John Sheridan and 
former Supervisor James Ken 

Snodgrass does not believe 
that candidates owe him favors 
after they are elected. 

II always told them that I did 
not want to own them. I just 
watat the right to talk with 

them," Snodgrass asserted. 

He downplays the notion that 
industry used to control Rich 

"I know it sounds corny but 
industries are not interested in 
running the city. All they are in 
terested in is a fair shake and 
good government." 

Snodgrass has agreed to see 
the industrial council through an 
organization overhaul. 

It will become a regional or 
ganization, changing its name to 
the Council of Industries of West 
Contra Costa. 

Snodgrass envisions all the re 
fineries and heavy industries 
along the waterfront up through 
the C&H sugar plant in Crockett 
becoming members. 

It will strengthen industry's 
hand with the numerous regional 
agencies that now exert control 
such as the Bay Area Conserva 
tion and Development Commis 
sion and the Regional Water 
Quality Control Board, said 

He is not disappointed that he 
will not be part of the move. 

"It's kind of a relief. For years 
I've been trying to keep close 
tabs on what happens. Now I can 
go home at 4 p.m. and relax." 

Although Snodgrass happily 
describes plans to spend more 
time with his wife, Marie, in 
their El Cerrito home, he is 
tight-lipped as ever about cur 
rent business. 

His public relations practice 
will continue. But the identity of 
his clients will remain a private 
matter between Snodgrass and 
those who pay him. 

Judith K. Dunning 

Interviewer/Editor Regional Oral History Office since 1982. 
Specialty in community and labor history. 

Project Director, "On the Waterfront: An Oral History of 
Richmond, California." 

Previous oral history projects: Three Generations of Italian 
Women in Boston's North End; World War I and II shipyard workers 
at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston; and Textile mill workers in 
Lowell, Massachusetts. 

Photography exhibitions: "Lowell: A Community of Workers," 
Lowell, MA 1981-1984 (travelling). 

Fishermen by Trade: On San Francisco Bay with the Ghio Brothers" 
Richmond Museum, 1988. 

Play: "Boomtown" based on the oral histories of shipyard 
workers, produced by San Francisco Tale Spinners Theater, 1989. 

Member Richmond Arts Commission, 1988-1990. 

Currently adapting Richmond community oral histories into large 
print books for California adult literacy programs. 

/ns s 

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