The following interview was published in Vol. 1 No. 1 of the Golden Hindesight in 1975, a magazine project designed by San Anselmo teacher, Bernie Griff with his students in the 6th grade class at Wade Thomas Elementary School.
THE ROY FARRINGTON JONES INTERVIEW
GH: Do you want to start by telling us what your family recollections in San Anselmo are?
JONES: Well, they were always in the Real Estate and Insurance Business. We lived in the same home. After my dad passed away last year, my daughter and her husband bought it. Dad lived in that house 52 years, and the kids will probably live there another 52 years or so. But, as for recollections in San Anselmo, we had electric trains, floods, a snowstorm in 1931 or so, we went up to Tamalpais in an old Oldsmobile touring car with isinglass windows. We had 10 cent movies on Saturdays, and the loges in the old Tamalpais Theatre were old wicker chairs, and you had little boxes that you walked into. Things were fairly quiet in town; we had two police officers who went to three; we had two fire engines. Old man Cartwright was the fire chief and his car was a Chevrolet touring car.
GH:How about recollections from your father... I heard tell that there was a bank robbery on this street. Could you talk about that?
JONES: I've heard that story told to me by people who saw it. The bank was at the corner of Sir Francis Drake and Bank Street where the Young and Old Antique Store is now, and the way I heard the story is from Bob Carey, an old-time real estate broker in San Anselmo; he's dead now. But, his brother was coming to town from the East, and he was somewhat reluctant to come because it was the wild and wooly West, and as he was descending the steps of the train (the station was right across the street from the bank) a man was backing out of the bank holding two guns, and over one arm was a saddlebag of money, and he mounted a horse which was tied up in front of the bank and rode on out through Pine Street. Well, Jim Leach's brother, Bill, was building a house on Pine Street at the time, and Hank Foot, who was a treasurer of the bank went back on into the bank and got a rifle, and it was a clear shot between here and Pine Street, and he began firing shots at the departing bank robber. One of the shots hit very close to where Bill Leach was shingling his roof, and obviously Bill Leach got excited and fell off the roof, shingles and nails following him.
GH: you mentioned the oldest house in San Anselmo...
JONES: The Tompkin's is the oldest house as far as I know. Another one that would be a close candidate would be the Carrigan house. We used to have bootlegging in the attic.
Looking out the street there, one thing that's fun, is that nowadays people don't seem to walk to school. They've got school buses which in this area seems kind of foolish. When I was a kid, kids coming from the very remote places used two taxi cars -- an old Desoto, and a Model A Ford -- the school district rented a franchise from the San Anselmo Taxi Co., run by Mr. Whittaker and Mr. Siples. They would drive up in front of the school and there'd be a half dozen or so kids that lived so far from the school that they had to be driven. Otherwise, we all walked. Now where I was raised when I was a kid, Sequoia Park, you'd be absolutely astonished to see school buses. I used to walk from there to Wade Thomas every day.
GH: It's mostly for the younger grades because of the traffic.
JONES: Oh, this was Highway 101. Sir Francis Drake Blvd. was Highway 101. Red Hill was 101, and you had the railroad track which you had to worry about too. The third rail wasn't fenced in all the way, only at certain selected points, at a vehicle access, for maybe 50-75 feet and around the depots. The rest of the way was more or less open. There was enough juice in the third rail that if you hit it, it would kill you.
GH: Does your family have any stories of the earthquake?
JONES: My Dad at the time of the earthquake was 16 years old. The old family house was built in 1869 at a cost of $33,000. There were 7 1/2 acres at the corner of Mission and Irwin in San Rafael. My Dad's recollection of the earthquake was of being awakened at 5:18 in the morning, the house was shaking somewhat ... a few of the chimneys fell, and he figured the best place to be was under the bed which is where he went. Other than that he had recollections of seing San Francisco burn from the Tiburon side.
GH: You mentioned that you went to school here in San Anselmo, did you go to Red Hill or Wade Thomas?
JONES: I went to Main School. Wade Thomas was the Superintendent's School in those days. An old red, brick school house. It had a top floor where the Kindegarten was, and due to the Field Act which is the Earthquake law, any school building of two stories was a no-no. They finally had to dynamite it. But the building was a very attractive brick building with pine floors, and desks screwed into the floor, inkwells to dip the gal's pigtails in if you wanted. We wrote our essays with a straight pen that we dipped into the ink.
GH: Now would that be right on the site where Wade Thomas is now?
JONES: On that block, but you have to recognize that Kensington Avenue used to run straight over to Woodland. One thing, right on down in that same area, as we'd walk to school, as you came from Pine Street, you'd cut diagonally across that tip of land where all those houses are over to Woodland Avenue, and just at the high point of the rise, there was a willow tree, and there was a spring there. Tied to that tree was an old brown Jersey cow that we'd pass by every day.
GH: We've been over to the Bancroft Library and seen Drake's plate of brass.
JONES: I've held that the thing about that plaque more than anything, is that it gives a continuity in history that no other part of the country has now. Our history now dates from June 17, 1579. Most people think of the history of the area as beginning the 4th of July, 1776, with the founding of the Presidio and Mission Dolores.
GH: I am wondering fi you heard about Red Hill School while you were going to Main School, and Isabel Cook.
JONES: At Main School, we had K through 8th grade. The way the system worked in those days, Red Hill School where Isabel Cook was the principal, went to the 7th grade, and Yolanda School went to the 7th grade. When the students got to 8th grade status, they automatically went to the low 8th and the class was maybe 60 students. The year I graduated, the biggest class they ever had was 75-80 students, January 1939.
JONES: I remember we used to call an old, old police dog Richard Bruno Hauptmann because the dog's name was "Bruno."
GH: What were the 1932 telephone numbers? The judge had number "one." The numbers started with 1 and went right through; e.g., San Rafael Land Title Company was 13, the Day's Pharmacy was 11, my grandmother was 107, etc., all through th eoperator. San Rafael City Hall was 800 and Ross Hospital was 3000.
JONES: It used to be that if you had any number over 2000, it was known you were in Ross Valley; anything under 2000, you were in San Rafael. It was one way you knew where people were.
GH: Was your father's Real Estate office the first in San Anselmo?
JONES: No. First in San Anselmo could have been Jim Leach or Fred Croker. We've only been in this building since 1930. Before this we were at 220 Main Street, and before that in the old Masonic Building in San Rafael. Main Street is now Sir Francis Drake Blvd. My father went into the insurance business, because at one time he was thinking of succeeding his father as a Doctor. My grandfather founded the Marin Medical Society, and was co-founder of the first hospital in the County.