Maritime Museum of San Diego
Oral Interview with
October 9, 2003
Interviewed by Mark Allen
Interview conducted at Mr. Kettenburg's home
3225 Kellogg Street
San Diego, California 92106
Transcribed by Myrtle Cox
Comments in brackets added by Paul’s son Tom Kettenburg
PK: This is Paul Kettenburg on October 9, 2003.
MA: I’m Mark Allen. Tom Kettenburg is also present and will probably be commenting.
MA: I have some questions about what it was like growing up a Kettenburg, maybe you could answer for me. Your dad—you mentioned that when you got your Model T your dad actually allowed you to bump your age forward a little bit to get it. What was he like
as a father: was he a doting father, [or] real stern? How would you describe your dad?
PK: My dad was very much in favor of anything I wanted to do, that was something that could be carried on as the years went by. I don’t remember any ideas that he was unhappy with; there might have been some. He was very much encouraging me to do things that he thought were worthwhile. Of course, he had no background of boating when he came to San Diego—he grew up in Pittsburgh. He didn’t do any boating back there; the only boating he did was in the wintertime. He would take the family down to Florida and he would rent some kind of a little boat and puddle around down in the Florida area.
MA: Now, do you remember, now–you were born here in 1913, so you wouldn’t remember the Florida trip. Do you remember where the family would go in Florida though, any particular place they would go boating?
PK: They went to Palm Beach in the wintertime from Pittsburgh. He had a fella there that had been working with him when he installed all of his electric generating equipment and he could take over and run it while my dad was gone.
MA: I remember hearing that the family wintered out at San Diego once and that’s what made San Diego appealing later on. Do you know what year that was?
TK: It was 1908 or 1909. [Summer 1908; returned to PA about 9 months later]
PK: He came out and they rented a place in La Jolla. My mother and two sisters and two brothers stayed there in La Jolla, and he got on a ship and went over to Japan and China and back.
MA: Your Father did at that time? And the family stayed in La Jolla. Well, just a pleasure trip?
PK: Yes, apparently my Mother didn’t feel like she wanted to go to that; she did a lot of traveling with him, but he went over there and spent that time there and then they went back to Pittsburg and then he sold out the business in ….when? In 1910?
TK: It was probably in that time period. He came back to Pittsburgh probably about March of ‘09. In 1909/1910, winter, is when I think that’s when he went down to Florida.
MA: I should probably confine the questions more to things you actually remember yourself, rather than the real early stuff. About your dad: since obviously I never had an opportunity to meet him, if I’d met him on the street what kind of personality did he have toward others? Was he kind of an imposing guy? A big guy, short guy? What was he like?
PK: He was very friendly, always willing to talk to whoever was there and wanted to talk and if they were interested in some of his background why he would go along with them. He decided he would rent a boat down there in Florida and decided that when he came out here, he sold his business…
TK: The Utility Co. took over and….
PK: Yeah, bought out his generating plant there and he was going to go down to Florida and buy out a plant that was available down there. They were going to take a ship to go to Florida with all the furniture and everything, because they had sold out everything in Pittsburgh. So, they had everything all packed up and ready to go and they put the ship in drydock for awhile, so he said "The heck with that, let’s go to California." So he took all the stuff that was going to go on the ship, put it on the railroad, and they got in the car and they came out here to San Diego. They rented a house out in La Mesa. [Probably Fall 1912. They most likely came out by rail]
MA: Do you happen to know on that trip to La Jolla, where he went to the Orient and the family stayed in La Jolla, did George or anyone do any boating, did they rent a boat? No one ever told you stories about that?
PK: They were all too young–this was 1908, the oldest boy was 8 or 9 years old and everyone else was younger than that, so they were just kids.
MA: They just "hung out" in La Jolla. When you were a child, it sounds like your dad loved engines, was he a tinkerer as well? Did he enjoy taking things apart and putting them together?
PK: Well, his hobby was machining. When he came here he had a lathe and some machine shop stuff that he had in Pittsburgh and he brought that all out here and set it up. And then when they built the house here on this property they had a two car garage and half of the garage was set up for his machine shop. With a lathe and other stuff that he had in there, grinders and all…. [also brought out the 4 cyl. engine from his 1907 Daimler to put in a boat.]
TK: He also had a solder bucket so he could heat up soldering irons.
PK: He had gas heat in there so he could heat up his irons and stuff.
MA: He didn’t have anything particular he was working on–he just loved to tinker with engines and stuff?
PK: Yeah, so he had that shop set up here and when he decided that after he got the house built that he ought to have a boat, with the water, the bay, down here, it was a nice place to have a boat. So he bought about a 22- or 23-foot little powerboat from one of the neighbors here, called the Joyselle. It wasn’t much of a boat, so he decided that maybe it would be fun to build a better boat. So he bought a set of plans from William Hand, the designer of speedboats, for a 22-foot boat. He got the plans there and brother George took over and laid the plans out on the floor of the basement of the old house, for lofting it, and he told my dad, "You know, this would be a better boat if it was 24 feet".
MA: Right, it had that extra 2 feet.
PK: So Dad wrote to the architect and said "What do you think of increasing the length of the boat?"
MA: He actually wrote a letter to William Hand?
PK: He wrote back and said "It will ruin it," but he did it anyway; so he let George do it anyway and it turned out to be a heck of a lot better boat.
MA: So George must have grown up tinkering in your dad’s machine shop too, I assume.
MA: How about you? Did you spend a lot of time in the machine shop when you were a kid?
PK: George was not a machinist, he never had any interest in doing any machine work. He wanted to build boats. He was more of a carpenter. He did all the carpentry work on this boat and he was only fifteen. He was fifteen and I was five.
MA: What got him started with doing the carpentry work, did he build toy boats before that or do you have any idea what …?
PK: I don’t know. It just came "out of the blue." The fact that he had this idea that the boat would be better if he lengthened it, that just came out of the blue. It was just something that was just in his head. He had never had any background, that anybody knows about, of any designing or anything like that.
MA: Did he help the carpenters build the house? I mean he would have been, let’s see, how old would George have been? He would have been a little kid. Well, we know that he didn’t.
TK: He was only nine years old when the house was built.
MA: Yeah, that’s my question. They probably set him off to the side where he could bang some nails or something.
TK: Why don’t you tell the story about when you helped Granddaddy, your dad, overhaul that Cadillac that he bought, that used Cadillac. That might be more instructive as to what Granddad would do in regards to machine shop work.
PK: My dad bought a 1917 Cadillac touring car, a used car, and he decided that he should overhaul the engine, so he took the engine out and took it all apart and overhauled it. He cleaned up and took all the instruments, had them all doctored up and when they had the engine out, I could stand on the floor, underneath, and hook all the instruments up on the dashboard for him. Standing in there putting wires back in.
MA: That’s a pretty big car.
TK: There was a space between the firewall and the dashboard.
MA: I thought you were talking about actually inside the box.
PK: I had to stand on the floor to do this.
TK: In those days, the oils were lousy and the gas was lousy so you had to de-carbon the engine every 1,000 or 2,000 miles or so cause they would get choked up with carbon. Basically you had to tear the engine down every 2 or 3 years at least and do that. That’s what he was doing.
MA: Your dad obviously had a real passion for tinkering and doing stuff like that. Did he have any other real passions, things that he just loved? I mean, obviously he enjoyed boating, right?
PK: He loved to travel. When they lived in Pittsburgh, he did a lot of traveling to South America and to Europe on the ships. He really enjoyed traveling. In 1926 he made arrangements to take my Mother and Dad and two sisters on an around-the-world cruise. They left out of L.A. and went over to the Orient and around and ended up in Europe. They spent some time in Europe and then came home. Then at that time, George had just been married and Bill, George’s son, was born in January and they left in February on this trip, so George and his wife and baby came and lived in the house and house-sat for me, I guess.
MA: You were a pretty little kid.
PK: I was 12 and was going to school.
MA: Did you get a little mad because you were left behind? Or did you want to stay behind?
PK: Oh no, at that age, it didn’t turn me on one way or another. So, George was living here at the house and in the meantime, Dad had set George up in the boat business. After he built the first boat and sold it and built the second boat and sold it, he finally told George, "Hell, if you want to build boats I’ll set you up in business." So he built the third boat and then in 1926 he got an order to build four Sun boats.
MA: This was well after his buying aircraft engines and….
PK: They’re still around.
MA: You were still building some power boats at that point?
TK: We were building power boats in 1927-1928.
PK: He had about 50 [engines]. This one was sitting out in the backyard.
MA: He must have been a doting Father you had, to put up with 50 "Hissos" [Hispano-Suiza aircraft engines] in the backyard. Crated up, I suppose. What was your Mom like? Not everybody would put up with having 50 aircraft engines in their backyard!
PK: My Mother would go along with whatever my dad wanted to do.
TK: Well, it was such a big yard, a big house–we had a whole block. She probably never saw the damn engines. She never went in the backyard.
PK: It went all the way from that street [San Fernando] up to that street [San Gorgonio]. It had the same depth that way.
MA: Yeah, there was plenty of room to stash 50 engines?
PK: It went back 150 feet back this way. So, they didn’t bother her any; they were all out in the backyard. She looked out toward the bay; that was her interest: to watch and see what went on. In those days we had a 180 degree of the bay, now we’d have about 2 degrees. The house was built so it had a complete, unobstructed view of the whole bay and city and everything. The front yard was from–which is where that house is now–had a bunch of grapefruit and orange trees and lawn, so she could sit up there and look over the top of this, and watch all the stuff going on. She wasn’t concerned at all about the backyard.
TK: She liked holding teas, didn’t she Dad? And bridge clubs?
PK: Yes, she belonged to a bridge club and they met at people’s houses, and every once in awhile a whole bunch met there at our house.
TK: Tell the story about the sauerkraut in the barrel in the basement. Don’t you remember that? Didn’t it blow up? You kept putting more juice or something on it and you told the story about they kept fermenting it and fermenting it and pretty soon it blew up? Don’t you remember that?
PK: That’s kind of gotten out of my mind.
MA: Well, it sounds like I probably wouldn’t be able to directly apply that to the history of the Kettenburg Boat Works. We’ll let that story go until….
TK: By way of explanation: Grandad, I know he liked real German sauerkraut and normally when he was travelling, like on the 1926 trip which was Cunard, he would take a North German Lloyd Steamship Line because it was German, not that he spoke German, but he just liked being on a German ship and they had German food and he smoked cigars–not the expensive ones–but he liked cigars. What kind of booze did he drink? He drank a little bit, didn’t he?
PK: He liked whiskey. He had a shot of whiskey every night.
MA: I never thought to ask, but as a German family here in the First World War, was there a sense of prejudice at all, did he ever mention? He was American-born so he never had a German accent or anything.
PK: No, he never had. His father had been in the Union army during the Civil War. He became an officer, he enlisted as an enlisted man and ended up as a Captain. In fact he was in the battle of Gettysburg, his name is on the thing that they have there at Gettysburg, and his brother is also on there.
TK: During World War I, there may not have been as much anti-German prejudice on the West Coast as there was on the East Coast. Also, in 1918, we didn’t have our name on any buildings here and there was no Kettenburg Boat Works signs anywhere. It was just the Kettenburg family and that was about it.
PK: There were never any problems that I ever heard of.
MA: Back to the Kettenburg family, did your mom and dad both approve of career choices that sons and daughters made or did they think"Oh, George should really go off to college?"
PK: My oldest brother, Robert, went to college; he graduated from Stanford, and the older sister, Julia, she went to college, she went to Cal. She graduated and got a teacher’s certificate to teach grade school.
MA: Do you have a little Cal/Stanford rivalry in the home there when you were a kid?
PK: No, I don’t remember anything. My other sister [Ella] went to State College a little bit up there, but she didn’t go very long to college. Both of my sisters got acquainted with young Navy officers that were on destroyers here in San Diego; one was an Ensign and the other was a J.G. well the J.G. got acquainted with my older sister and the Ensign got acquainted with the younger sister, Ellen. They were on a destroyer here in San Diego and they used to get invited out. When either one of the guys had the duty on Saturday night, he invited my sister to come out and have supper on the ship, and they would always say "If I can bring my little brother, I’ll go." So I used to go out….
MA: Do you remember which destroyer, or was it several different destroyers?
PK: No, I should remember the name of that. I can’t remember that right now. I think the number was 307 or something like that, Paul something-or-other. [USS Paul Hamilton] It doesn’t matter. So I got acquainted with them and we’d go out and have supper on Saturday night on the destroyer. Finally, that particular hull of the destroyers became a problem, and they decided to junk them and transfer them [equipment and crews] into destroyers that had been in storage down at the 32nd Street Naval Station. They brought one of those ships out and tied it alongside the ship that was being de-commissioned and they took all the modern gear off the ship that had gone bad and put it on the other ship. I used to go down there in my speedboat on Saturday afternoons and watch them taking these destroyers apart.
TK: There’s a little-known story about that; they were bringing a lot of equipment from the old destroyers over to the ones that were commissioned and de-commissioned the old ones. The big problems were the boilers on the ships that were operating, so it was cheaper to junk those and transfer the equipment over to the newer destroyers.
MA: Before I forget, we were on the subject of your Mom a few minutes ago. Did she enjoy sailing? Did she go out?
PK: She was not interested in sailing.
MA: He [Kettenburg Sr.] got a boat, but it was a power boat.
PK: He was interested in powerboats, because they had engines; that was his hobby, engines.
MA: Your Mom just sort of stayed home, or did she enjoy going out boating?
PK: Well, these speed boats were not the kind of boats that the women would be interested in going on. She never paid much attention to it.
TK: But your sisters went out on it.
PK: Yes, my sisters would go out on the boat. Their boyfriends were taking them out and running the boat.
MA: I’m just curious about the family as you were growing up. What was Christmas like in the Kettenburg household? Was it a huge deal or was it small, intimate or a big gathering?
PK: At Christmas we always had a Christmas tree and we had what we always called the den, which was kind of behind the living room in the house, towards the west. It was my dad’s office and he had a place in there where he could lay down and take a snooze if he felt like it It had a little mattress on it, it was about 7 feet long and about 3 feet wide, and every Christmas he’d take that mattress out of there and set up the Christmas tree in there and put all the gear around it and all the–well, it looked like grass–and he had a little model railroad, a wind-up, and he put the track around there so this train would run around the tree, and the tree was all decorated.
TK: Did they have electric lights on the tree? Do you remember?
PK: Yes, the trees had electric lightbulbs on it, so it was all lit up.
TK: So they did that pretty much every Christmas?
PK: Yes, every Christmas.
MA: Sounds like a nice home to grow up in.
PK: The thing about it is, he would shut that room off so none of us kids could go in there, and he would set up the whole tree, set the whole thing up, and then Christmas Eve–Christmas Eve was the big deal for them–and Christmas Eve he would open it up and we could all go in there and he had everything they bought for us on there, all wrapped up, and we had the Christmas opening and everything there on Christmas Eve.
MA: That’s neat.
TK: Then after dinner? What did they do then, it was after dark.
PK: Yes, after supper, on Christmas Eve. They had all the things in there, and I know they had kept asking me what I wanted for Christmas, and he didn’t tell me whether he was going to get it or not, but I’d tell him what I wanted. I didn’t want a lot of stuff, but there were a few things I wanted. Like I wanted a tool box, and one year I wanted a .22 rifle, and so whatever it was.
TK: And a bicycle, maybe? I’m sure there was a bicycle in there somewhere.
PK: Yes, it wasn’t a big deal, but everyone had the things that they most wanted.
MA: Were you all a church-going family or not involved in any particular church?
PK: Mother was Catholic and all of us kids came up Catholics. Dad never became a part of any church. If there was an interesting sermon at the church, he would go with my Mother and listen to the sermon.
TK: According to the history I have, there’s a history called Pittsburgh and Her People. It’s a four-volume history of Pittsburgh that I kind of inherited from my Uncle Bob indirectly, and there’s a section in there of the Kettenburg family in Pittsburgh and apparently his grandfather, senior George William Kettenburg, a Civil War vet, was a pillar of the Methodist Church back in Pittsburgh, one of the Methodist Churches, so presumably my Grandfather was also brought up that way, but I don’t think he ever practiced it once he got out on his own.
PK: Mother’s family were all Catholics.
TK: That was the Eyth family.
MA: I was just going to ask you, Paul, about your Brother George, Jr. and about how he was regarded by the people that worked for him and with him. Was he real easy to get along with? Was he a driven person? What was he like?
PK: He was really easy to get along with, he was never pushy and anyone that was working for him, he tried to help them get going in the right direction. He was always very friendly with the people working for him. He respected them for what they were doing, and if they had some information or ability that he could use, he was glad to work with them and take any information that they had to do whatever was being done.
TK: But, he was also able to impart his knowledge and to teach his expertise, as much as he could, to you and to anybody else in the yard that was coming up in the business.
PK: Yeah, one of the things, he had this basic ability to design boats. Nobody has ever been able to figure how he came by it. He designed some fine boats: the "Poggy III," he designed. After "Poggy 1" and "Poggy II," he never bought any more plans.
MA: Why did he name them "Poggy"?
PK: Well, that’s another story.
MA: Go ahead.
PK: My Sister, Ella–she was the younger of the two, she’s the one that really raised me–she had a pug nose, so when she was a little kid, apparently, my dad called her Puggy, because she had a pug nose.
MA: So Puggy became Poggy?
PK: Yeah, so when they built the first speedboat, he decided to name it "Poggy."
MA: Was George real close to Ella and your dad?
PK: Oh, yeah, they got along all right. I never remember any problem between any of the kids.
TK: They were real close in ages, because George was Jan. ’04, or sometime in ’04, Julia came along in May of ’05 and Ella was born in July ’06.
MA: When you were talking a few minutes ago (to take us back away from George for the moment), you were talking about the Navy and how as a kid you used to go out on the destroyers once in awhile with your sisters. Bob Crawford mentioned to me that you had told him a story about getting a ride on a submarine once too? I’d like to hear that.
PK: Well, I had this little speedboat.
MA: How old were you when you got the speedboat, by the way?
PK: I must have been in sixth grade, maybe 12 years old. What happened is that George built this little 13-foot outboard speedboat and nobody bought it. So, one day a guy came in selling Hallett Marine Engines, which were little 4 cylinders, about 20 horsepower [actually 8 hp], with a reverse gear and everything, and George thought, "Gee, that would be good to put in this boat that I built," so he bought one of the engines and installed it in the boat. When he got it installed in the boat he said "Here, Paul, this would be a good boat for you," so he turned it over to me.
MA: Had you dreamed about getting a boat of your own, or was this just "out of the blue"?
PK: It was just out of the blue, so gee, I’m ready! So, you steered it with a tiller at the back, right off of the transom, and a propeller and everything down underneath.
TK: How did it start? Did you hand-crank it?
PK: Yeah, hand-crank it. It had a little crank on the front of the fly-wheel. So, I had this little boat, it probably did about 18 or 20 miles per hour. It would get up and plane. In the meantime, Dad had bought this ways and dock from the Portuguese that they didn’t have any more use for. The Portuguese developed an area at the foot of McCall Street and, when their boats got too big to handle it, they decided to get out of it, and my dad bought it from them and they used that. While they were building boats up here, they were hauling boats down to there to the foot of McCall Street. But, anyway, there was a dock down there and he had a hoist on the out on the dock so I kept this boat down there on that dock. I’d come home from school in the afternoon (I was going to Cabrillo then), and I’d ride my bike, and I’d stop down there and put the boat in the water and buzz around the bay for a little bit, put it back up there, and come home.
MA: You must have been a popular kid with your classmates, having your own boat!
PK: Well, I didn’t get much from the classmates; they were all Portuguese and they were involved in boats and stuff. But, I was going out past the S-[class] submarine which was tied up to the Navy fuel dock, and I went out by there and as I was going by, I saw a guy standing up and waving like mad, and I wondered, he must want something. So I stopped, and he called to me and said "How about a ride?" I said "Sure, come on." So, he got in there and we rode around the bay for about a half hour and I brought him back and when we got back he thanked me for taking him and said "How would you like to go out on a submarine Saturday?" And he turned out to be the captain of the submarine. Boy, I about went crazy!
MA: How old were you, do you think? About 12? You’d just gotten the boat practically?
PK: Yeah, this was probably in about 1927, around in there.
TK: Would this have been the summer when you were building the Sun boats , or after the Sun boats?
PK: This would have been after the Sun boats.
TK: Your mom and dad were back then?
PK: Oh, yes, they were back.
TK: They took a trip around the world from February 1926 til–when did they get back?
PK: They got back at the end of 1926.
TK: So, this was probably early ’27 you’re talking here, the warmer-weather part of the year.
MA: Well, listen, I interrupted you in the middle of a good story and I apologize, so go right ahead.
PK: Well, anyway, the captain of the submarine invited me and he said "Be down here at 8:00 Saturday morning; we’re going out." So, I got down here and tied my boat up around behind the float where the submarine was and went on, and got onboard the submarine and we went out about half way to the Coronado Islands. They submerged and we sat down there for about, maybe an hour, and finally we came back up and came back in and I got home a little before noon. I got off, went back and put my boat back down at the dock, came home and it was just a little before lunch. My Mother was sitting there in the kitchen making lunch and she said "Where have you been?" I said "Oh boy, I’ve been out on a submarine!" And about that time, my dad walked in to the kitchen and he said "What did you say–you were where?" and I said "I’ve been out on a submarine." Boy, you know, all hell broke loose and he hit the roof. As far as he was concerned, submarines were absolutely prohibited. Because his Father was in the Civil War and, you know, they had all the problems with submarines, so that was all he knew about submarines, was what his Father had talked about from his knowledge of what happened during that time with submarines.
TK: Tell him what you said to them when they asked you what you were doing down there in the submarine.
PK: My dad said, "What were they doing out there?" and I said, "They were looking for leaks."
MA: Well, that must have gone over well. What did your Mom say? "Boys will be boys"?
PK: It didn’t bother her; she didn’t have much reaction to it. She didn’t have any knowledge about problems on submarines. That was quite a trip! My dad was pretty uptight about that.
TK: You didn’t get to go out on your boat for awhile, probably.
PK: No, I was off the boat for about 2 weeks.
MA: You were grounded, literally grounded.
TK: He must have bought that dock then. Did he buy the dock in ’26 from the Portuguese?
PK: He had bought it before; I think he bought that dock from the Portuguese in about ’25.
TK: Oh, really. OK. So, this was before they even built the Sun boats, they built the dock. They launched the Sun boats down here. They took them off the ways and just launched them. . . .
PK: They didn’t try to put them on the ways, they took them down here, and put them out at low tide, and let the tide take them.
TK: You never launched any boats from there; you maybe hauled some and repaired a few.
PK: Yeah, it was just for hauling boats out and repairing. What they did, the power boats that they built here in the back yard, they launched them down there at the foot of Kellogg Street and took them over and then if they had to do anything to them they hauled them out and did it there on the ways.
TK: They were not too large to be able to haul out on those ways?
PK: No, you could haul the Agillis on the ways. That was the biggest boat he built: 47 feet.
MA: Now, when you were a kid growing up in the house, was George or your Father a subscriber to any of the major magazines like The Rudder or Yachting? What kind of publications did you have around the house?
PK: Well, I think Yachting and Motor Boat were the only two publications at that time of any consequence.
MA: No, The Rudder was out there; I don’t know if he subscribed to….
TK: Yeah, The Rudder was a very old one from the turn of the century or before. When we tore down the house in 1955, there was a ton of National Geographics going back into that era, and also when Life magazine came along they took Life; there were a lot of those sitting around.
PK: My dad was quite a reader. He never went to bed before midnight. All of us went to bed 8, 9 or 10 o’clock.
MA: What did he love reading?
PK: Oh, all kinds of books. He had a library full of books.
TK: He had a lot of classics. My Aunt Julia inherited most of those, I got some of them from her, he had classic leather-bound volumes of Sir Walter Scott, almost, you name it, there were tons of them. He didn’t read junk, he read the good stuff.
MA: Did you inherit the "reading bug" or did one of the other kids, or was that his thing?
PK: That was his thing.
TK: I think it skipped a generation, because I like going to bed late and staying up late reading and getting up late.
MA: You liked working in a library?
TK: Yeah, I think it came over to me instead of Dad.
PK: Yeah, he liked to read. My Mother didn’t; my Mother was always up early. Of course, I was always up early because I usually would get up and go down to the bay. I’d maybe go over to North Island and go through the Army junk pile over there and bring back stuff that I could make ….coasters [scooters] out of.
TK: Now, one of the things I’m interested in–from a perspective of German predictability–tell him about your dinner menu during the week; you know: what you ate on Monday, on Tuesday. Do you remember, because it was pretty much the same every day.
MA: Your Mom kept to a regular schedule, is that right? Interesting.
PK: Yeah, she kept a schedule. Of course, Friday was no meat day except Dad–he had meat.
MA: [That might] mark him out as being different than the Catholics.
PK: We either had macaroni or spaghetti or whatever for Friday, or fish. Of course, after they built that first speedboat, why they went out and did fishing out off the kelp beds, trolling for barracuda. I used to go out with them.
TK: You used to get seasick when you were a kid too.
PK: Yeah, boy I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to go, but everyt ime we got past Pt. Loma I got seasick.
MA: Did you get over that as you got older? Or did you always get seasick?
PK: Oh, yeah I got over that and once I got over that, nothing has ever made me seasick. But, I remember as a kid, I still wanted to go out, and getting sick didn’t bother me.
TK: They would troll for these barracuda using an artificial lure?
PK: They had, what you call, a bone-jig, with a hook on the end of it, and it had a piece of metal wire about 2 feet long tied to the fish line. On those boats, they put out about 2 of those, one on each corner at the back of the boat. When the fish would hit it, they’d haul him in, shake him off the hook and put it back out again. Just right outside the kelp beds out there.
TK: So you used to eat a lot of barracuda, when they were able to catch it.
PK: Yeah, some days they’d come in with 8 or 10 barracuda.
MA: Now, who would go out fishing again? The family? George?
PK: Yeah, George and Dad, that was about the size of it. My older brother, Bob, was off to college and so he didn’t get involved in it, but George and Dad went out and ran the boat, mainly on Saturdays when George wasn’t in school, cause George was going to high school.
MA: I should ask you about the neighborhood back when you were growing up. Were there a lot of Portuguese, or were they further down?
PK: Well, the Portuguese were all down by the waterfront along Rosecrans, down here in La Playa, and then they were also in Roseville.
MA: What were your neighbors like around you?
PK: Well, there weren’t too many neighbors. This house next door, it was here before the folks built their house. It was originally owned by a doctor who did the quarantine station, Dr. McKay. He never lived there; I think his son, I guess, lived there [with his mother].
TK: Well, Mrs. McKay was living over there [house immediately to the south] at the time, because she owned this whole property. She owned this lot here, and she sold this lot–actually 2 lots–to Granddad in 1913. That was Mrs. McKay. Her husband was a quarantine doctor and her son was also a doctor.
MA: You had a whole city block to yourselves, so I guess the neighbors never complained about the noise in the "boatyard," or did they?
PK: No, they didn’t. The property across the street was another block, and it was owned by—a house that’s still there.
TK: Dr. Foster.
PK: Yeah, Dr. Foster was there, and this part over this way was all planted with things from a garden, berries and stuff.
MA: Were there any kids in the neighborhood to play with?
PK: Yes, the [McKay] house next door here got sold to a family that had a daughter that was just a little bit younger than I, and a son that was a little bit older than I. The boy and I got to be real close.
TK: That was Morrie Tombler?
PK: Yeah, Morrie Tombler. He and I did a lot of things together. He was old enough to get a driver’s license before I did; he was a couple of years older than I. His folks bought him a Model T Ford coupe and boy, we used to go tearing around, I learned to drive in that. And then, the property across the street here became another house, down by the lower house; it was the upper one first.
TK: This was on San Fernando or San Gorgonio [Streets].
PK: Yeah, San Gorgonio. The gal there was really into bucks, so she built that house up there and then she built the house down below for her daughter and her husband. They had a son that was a couple of years older than I and he lived over there. So, between he and Morrie Tambler and, let’s see, Dick Cook?
TK: Dick Cook was around wasn’t he?
PK: Well, he was around, but…..
TK: Because I have pictures of you and your little [sailboat] PDQ with Dick Cook in it. That’s when you were, like, 7 years old.
PK: Dick Cook’s family lived down around Rosecrans, his father was an Army sergeant. They had two girls that were the same age as my two sisters, so when I was born, my sisters were bragging about having a little brother and one month later, almost to the day, these other two girls had a brother: that was Dick. He and I pretty much grew up together. His father, pretty soon after that, moved up here into an Army house in Ft. Rosecrans with their family. Another story: the wife of this Army sergeant was up at the old, what was known then as the "Old Spanish Lighthouse", running the little deal where they sold candy and postcards to the people that came in the lighthouse to see what it was all about. So she was up there on Saturdays and I used to go up there with Dick, her son, and we would run the store for her on Saturday afternoons while she went shopping. He ran the candy and postcard counter and I was up in the tower telling people what they were seeing, looking out over the Bay and Coronado.
MA: A tour guide as a kid, huh?
TK: Did they charge people to go up in the tower in those days or just to buy the postcards?
PK: No, the only thing was that they bought postcards. It had been abandoned in its early age because it was up too high.
MA: In 1891 or 1892.
PK: You could drive up there for free. It was a dirt road, not paved or anything.
MA: Did you used to play at Ft. Rosecrans as a kid?
PK: Yes, I did, especially at Ballast Pt. We used to go down there when the smelt were running the tide. We’d to go down there and get smelt.
TK: They were called smelt then, now they’re called grunion. The same thing, I guess.
PK: Yes, they were the same thing. I’d go down there and then the next day I’d come home with a bag of those and bring them in, cut their heads off, clean them and scrape them and give them to my Mother and she would fry them for us.
TK: Well, that was when they had those disappearing rifles down there.
PK: Then they had 12-inch mortars, and they had a battery of 12-inch mortars just inside the reservation on top of the hill, which is up there where all the Navy is now.
TK: It was called Battery …..? [Whistler]
PK: Yeah, that was all up there, and we used to go up there and chase around and some of the bars on the doors were bent and we were able to get through them. We used to have a hell of a time up there.
MA: I’ll bet!
PK: It was still Army up on Ft. Rosecrans, and the commanding general, he had a son that was just about the same age as I.
TK: That was Jake Mack.
PK: Yeah, Jake Mack. We were up there on a Sunday and we were piddling around and the mortars were sitting there, and we pulled a lever, and Geez! the whole thing went……
TK: The breach-block came off, clanged open.
PK: They were having an inspection the next day and this kid’s Father, the commanding general, took all these big-shots up there, and here were all of these breach-blocks lying all over!
TK: Good thing you didn’t kill yourself when the block came down–you would have been a much-smashed little kid.
PK: That was some of the things we used to go and fool around there. Dick Cook and I did a lot of things together, and then when Morrie and Denny–Andrew Dennison–and I, the three of us, we used to get into trouble. One day we heard that a car had gone over the cliffs at Sunset Cliffs, that’s down at the beach. So, we went over there and looked at it and we thought, Gee, they’ll never get this out of here and there’s a lot of stuff here that we can use.
TK: It was sitting on its top, right?
PK: Yeah, it was upside down. The wheels were up and I guess they had got the guy out of it that was in it. So, we were down there and taking the thing apart, and all of a sudden somebody up at the top yelled down "What are you doing down there?" One of the guys, Henry Dennison over here, says "We’re picking parts, why?" And he says "We’re the police, and you’re under arrest for stealing parts off the car." So, this was the crack of dawn in the morning on Saturday morning, it must have been about 7 o’clock. They took us over to the police station in Ocean Beach and booked us there . . . .
[END OF TAPE]