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James C. Leach ~ Lansdale Station and 4th of July

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James C. Leach ~ Lansdale Station and 4th of July

Posted: 926510400000
Classification: Biography
Edited: 1018660201000
Surnames: Leach, Mills, Martin, Kerry, Farrington, Jones, Anderson, Halliday
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.


Born in Liverpool, England in 1887, James Leach came to San Francisco when quite young. He was 19 during the 1906 Earthquake. It was Easter Week, he said to us and the kids were all on vacation, when it hit. He found himself helping people evacuate the Valencia Hotel. When the second big tremor hit, Mr. Leach was on top of the 8th floor of the Mills Building. "I felt an up and down feeling," he said, "The building swayed some." Back at Second and Nakomis, young Jim crawled into his father's mill where they made store fittings and he managed to save some valuable papers within the crumbling brick building.

The Leach family had purchased some land in San Anselmo in 1904, so it was there during a very rainy April through July season that the family spent summer in a very large platform tent in what is now the Lansdale Section of San Anselmo. And it was Mr. Leach that suggested the name "Lansdale" to the railroad people.

James Leach along with Donald Perry remember the one and only San Anselmo bank robbery around 1913 and like Mr. Perry (Leach) was an eye witness. "In fact, I saw the horseback bankthief hightailing it - I was building a house on Pine Street and along came this man carrying a canvas bag that later proved to be about $750." AS the bank bandit rode off, George Martin, the Marshall, fired his gun at the thief. Also, just arriving by train was Robert Kerry, from Richmond, Virginia, and witnessing the dashing bit of banditry as the train pulled into the station, Mr. Kerry pulled out his gun and fired too. Robert Kerry was in San Anselmo to visit his brother Willis.

It was on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard where the Farrington Jones Realty office now stands that Jim Leach began his realty business in 1906. In an old picture his name sign went across the top of the roof of his office building.

The San Anselmo 4th of July was a grand occasion. They called the occasion "The Horribles" - everyone dressed up including the flag-draped and decorated horses. The San Anselmo parade of 1909 got a real show from cowboys of the Anderson Brothers film productions. They also would have horse races. Mr. Leach remembers one time on this race from the bank (where Bank Street is now) to Bolinas Street, where it was so muddy near the mill there, that they had to put down saw dust and shavings to soak it up. Elizabeth, (Jim's sister) raced the cowboys on her black Arabian Mustang - 12 years old and her blond hair flying in the wind - and she won!

We asked Mr. Leach if he remembered the occasion of the putting up of the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, he remembered that day in May of 1937, when it opened the first day to people walking only - "I walked across it the first night it was open."

GH: What about the old buildings in San Anselmo. Do you remember them?

Mr. Leach answered telling us about two buildings that were moved from Ross Street at the end of the lane (present location of 10 Bank Street owned by Don Halliday).

James Leach tore down the old San Anselmo School that was a redwood frame one. A brick one was later built and called the Main School (now the school on this site is called Wade Thomas School). When the sale of the school went up, James Leach agreed to tear it down for $600. It ended up being 2000 square feet of redwood lumber. He them built three houses out of the wood. "Doors and windows from this old school were used on houses all over San Anselmo," said Mr. Leach.

In 1911, James got his first auto. It was a Marion for $600. It was like a surrey and had a convertible top. He recalls that Chevrolets were called "Baby Grands" (around 1914).

In 1917, Mr. Leach was drafted into WWI and went overseas. He was a "Shave Tail" as they called them or Second Lieutenant. He was with the Third Division at the Front in France.

He remembers that where the Tamalpais Theatre now is, there used to be a little white candy store. He remembers how his father could recite Shakespeare by the hour and his mother playing piano on many a joyful gathering of friends and family. "My father was a very good singer." There were five familiies that shopped in San Rafael that, "Mrs. Tomkins could tell by the sound of the horse's hooves," he recalls.

The interview ended on a very enjoyable note as Mr. Leach brought out a box of candy. Everybody enjoyed eating them. And so ended a very fine afternoon spent with a pioneer of San Anselmo real estate development and a man with a ready smile who shared a lot of history for the Golden Hindesight project.

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