Sam Sirdofsky

image of Sam SirdofskySam Sirdofsky is eighty-four years old and still defying gravity.  She is flying high, working hard at her craft while displaying her talents at several different locations including the Russian River Art Gallery in Guerneville along the Russian River.  Sam was born in Berkeley and holds a BA and an MA in visual arts and art history from the California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Academy of Art.  A long career in illustration placed her work in major periodicals, animated commercials and fun projects such as rock posters (The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Black Keys) and children’s books. 

Sam Sirdofsky’s giclee at the far left recently sold for $40k and is typical of her whimsical spirit.  Her warmth and humor is visible in her work, translating into some great fun.   The Russian River Valley is blessed with so many wonderful artists.  Check Sam out at the R.R. Art Gallery.


The Historic Louvre Saloon in Guerneville

louvre-saloon-canvaThe historic Louvre Saloon in Guerneville along the Russian River was once the most popular watering hole in the area.  Located on the northwest corner of Main Street and Armstrong Woods Road, it served the best spirits from the 1880’s into the 1960’s.  The building still stands, having housed the Russian River Video store for twenty-five years and presently the Community First Credit Union.

The Guerneville & Russian River R.R. Line (an addition to the San Francisco & North Pacific R.R.) used to transport passengers to the Louvre Saloon’s front steps from the ferry building in Sausalito.  An outdoor beer garden (circa 1920’s) was located across the street while inside there was a card room in the rear with rumors of one-arm bandits stationed nearby to relieve you of your money.   In more recent times, boxing great Carl Bubba Olsen used to receive free libations in exchange for the saloon using his name for promotional reasons. (more…)

The Hideaway saloon in west Sonoma County

Images of The HideawayThe Hideaway saloon in west Sonoma County sits on the same site as the 1870 Montesano Station, which served as a depot for the Guerneville & Russian River R.R. line.  The structure burned down in 1920 but not before witnessing the grand ol’ days of the lumber  industry. The present building was built on the original foundation, perhaps explaining why until recently not a square or plumb inch could be found.  For decades the roofline and windows were cockeyed, which seemed a good fit for the eclectic bunch of characters who frequented the joint.   At one time there were several cabins out back for rent while the main lodge served as inn and local watering hole.  Historical legend states that the upstairs housed a six-room brothel back in the day, all the while playing host to a number of supernatural guests.  Former employees testify that they have had numerous encounters of the prankster kind with Evelyn Ripkin, a deceased owner from the Depression era. (more…)

The City/River Rock ‘n’ Roll Hookup

image of sixties rock bandsThe sixties and seventies epitomized a City/River Rock ‘n’ Roll hookup.  Several bands lived within a six-block radius of each other in the Haight Ashbury District of San Francisco during the Summer of Love (1967).  In fact, there were over 500 musical groups in the City at the time, many of them playing at the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland, and the Straight Theater.  That same year, the Monterey Pop Festival helped to  catapulted at least four northern California ensembles  to stardom. The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service all vaulted to the top of the psychedelic acid heap, soon venturing north to the Russian River to showcase their infusion of Indian, jazz, folk and blues.

The Rio Nido Dance Hall and the River Theater in Guerneville were but a few of the venues where these musicians strutted their stuff in Sonoma County. (more…)

Stumptown Daze Parade

Image of Stumptown Daze-the novel & book-canvaThe Stumptown Daze parade this last Saturday in Guerneville was a hoot.  I never get tired of this small town tradition.  All that was the lower Russian River was represented.  You had mounted honor guard, rodeo queens, antique fire trucks, politicians, the El Molino H.S. Marching Band, erotic clowns, classic cars and so much more.   One of my personal favorites was a gray-haired musical group that belted out some nifty dixie and jazz tunes. Never too old to swing.   There was also a ragtag group of folks who live on the edge out here along the River.   They festooned themselves with a mishmash of colorful hats, striped capes, and wide grins.  As my grandfather once said, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”  Everyone was welcomed to participate and why not. (more…)

Korbel Champagne Cellars

Image of Korbel_Champagne bottleImage of T.V. series poster-Combat!Korbel Champagne Cellars was bought in 1954 by Adolf Heck.  The previous four years he had been president of Italian Swiss Colony Winery. Under Heck’s leadership, Swiss Colony developed one of the most successful marketing campaigns in the history of spirits, using “the little old winemaker, me” tagline for its advertisements. After four years at the helm, Heck had transformed Swiss Colony into the largest American winery before moving over to Korbel.  There he continued his winning ways, thinking of creative promotional stunts for the bubbly. One such venture served dual purposes when he hooked up with the producers of the 1962 T.V. series, Combat!, starring Vic Marrow. (more…)

Korbel Champagne Cellars

Image of Korbel_Champagne bottleImage of Korbel_Champagne_CellarsKorbel Champagne Cellars started off with a bang–literally.  According to family lore, Francis Korbel was in Prague in 1848 and fired the shot that started a revolution against the monarch of the Austrian Empire. The young Korbel landed in Daliborka Prison. He managed to escape, however, reportedly with the help of his grandmother who provided civilian clothes that allowed him to stroll out an unlocked gate to freedom, casually smoking a cigar. He soon fled to New York City and then to San Francisco. (more…)

Railroad Misadventures along the Russian River of Old

Image of railroad at Monte RioThere were plenty of railroad misadventures along the banks of the Russian River of old.  The first wreck of the Fulton and Guerneville Line (an offshoot of the SF & NP R.R.) was in 1898.  While a locomotive was switching over to the turntable in Guerneville, it gave a nudge to a string of flats.  The brakes bled and the cars started off on the slight downgrade to Guernewood Park.  At the same moment, the Bully Boy was coming from Mission Gulch (present day Old Cazadero Rd.) with six loads of logs.  On the curve (where Old Caz Rd & Hwy. 116 meet), a head-on crash sent Bully Boy airborne. (more…)

All Aboard the Northwestern Pacific R.R.

image of Northwestern Pacific RR posterImage of Northwestern Pacific R.R. train“All Aboard for the Russian River” was a familiar call back in the day.  It must have been a thrilling sight when the Northwestern Pacific R.R. pulled into Guerneville along the Russian River.  The route began in 1876 and reached its peek in 1926 with 14,000 passengers on a summer weekend (30,000 on 4th of July).  After paying your round-trip fare of $1.25, you would board a ferry at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco for Sausalito.  From there you might do the “Triangle Trip”.  (more…)

Russian River of Yesteryear

Image of the Russian River

The Russian River in rural Sonoma County was THE vacation spot for us City kids.  Only seventy miles from San Francisco, the area provided a sunny haven from those fog-bitten summers.  It felt like the entire world was a cookie jar, and you never got caught.  One adventure after another waited for us.  Trolling for chicks along the banks was a favorite hobby.  God forbid that one of the girls should test our bravado and say hello.  What then?  But for the unseasoned “cruiser”, the Russian River was the perfect place to hone your skills.  Trial by fire (the fire being the unrelenting punishment by God in the form of eternal guilt). 

During the summer of 1953, I remember Harry James and His Music Makers were playing for the last time at Rio Nido.  The Big Band sound was not my thing.  Even as an eight-year-old, singers like Roy Orbison and Bill Haley rocked my world with their sinful music.  But Harry James’s jazzy style would provide the background music for my first kiss.  It was behind the four-lane outdoor bowling alley.  Of course, I had to bring witnesses.  I brought three for insurance.  Francis was her name.  It was a delightful kiss done with the utmost propriety.  Damn.  Years later, my friends would tease me, saying I had kissed Francis the Talking Mule (named after an old-time movie).  Poor Francis.  She deserved better. (more…)