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.
DICK KIENTZ ~ MARIN'S OLDEST BAKERY
"Sliced bread now offered. New product of San Anselmo Bakery, manufacturers of "Marin Maid" bread. Ten cents a loaf." (14 February 1931 - August Kientz)
GH: Mr. Kientz, could you please tell me how old you are?
GH: How long have you lived here?
KIENTZ: All my life.
GH: How long have you had the pastry shop?
KIENTZ: I've had it since a year ago last October. My Dad had it from 1935 to 1973 and my grandfather had it from 1922 to 1935.
GH: Do you remember what most of the streets here were like?
KIENTZ: I'm not that old, as you know, but most of the streets that are here were here, only maybe not so wide. In my younger years, there was a railroad running through here when I was about your age. It was about the most major change there was. It was abandoned 28 February 1941. Center Boulevard was created on the site of the railroad right-of-way. Guasco's was the freight yard, down where our new park is - is where the station was and also the tower. And let's see - Hawthorne Hills was developed after 1942, so that was a change I've seen. And Red Hill - that was a very beautiful spot before the thunder cut (name given to the road they tried to build) and the slide occurred - but that was a good hiking spot for us kids up on that hill.
GH: Do you remember what the 1925 flood was like?
KIENTZ: I don't remember it... I wasn't here then - I was born in 1933, but my Dad and Grandfather were here and they experienced it. We had a lot of loss in the bakery. It happened so quick. There was a footbridge over here where Ongaro's building is now, the Crossroads, and where all those businesses are, and that concrete slab, and the bridge fell over, or it was undermined, or something like that and caused a flood and in about 10 minutes, the whole town was full of water! There was also a tidal surge in those days (we don't have that any more because of the new ditch) but at a high tide in a heavy rainstorm, invariably our creek went over. The city engineer says, "No, it can't," because we are 27 feet above sea level, but it does back up. We could almost time it on the tide when it does go over. If you want, I could show you a couple of the pictures of that '25 flood... the whole street became the creek (referring to San Anselmo Avenue). The high point on San Anselmo Avenue is the Rossi Building right over to Art Smith, and the low point is San Anselmo Avenue, and Tamalpais, there is about three feet of water on this market. My Dad said that all the lumber stacked to build Franchini's Market which was being built at the time of the flood, wound up down at Bolinas Avenue. It had all floated right out of town. Looking down San Anselmo Avenue, this building which is now the Ross Valley Savings and Loan, was the site of McLaren's Livery Stables.
GH: What were the reactions of the people when the flood started?
KIENTZ: Pretty bad. My grandfather had just brought in a shipment of flour. When the baker's day was done, when the train came in, they would take the delivery truck, and go over to the train depot, and unload the car into our delivery trucks, bring it back to the bakery and unload it. 400 sacks constituted a carload of flour and the 400 sacks were lost in the flood plus all the sugar and other things that were around. My grandfather used to say that the bakers rowed around the shop in the dough troughs, using the peel handles form the oven, it was so full of water. But we had one almost as bad in 1955. We lost our shop, but we didn't lose our store. The one in '55 showed 3 inches over the bricks into the window of the front of the shop.
GH: What happened to all the old buildings around here? They all just disappeared, you don't see them any more.
KIENTZ: Some were taken down. A city parking lot was made out of the property in back of the store, and this used to be a candy factory owned by Bill Fussleman who was our supervisor here for many years, and his wife Ada. A lot of the buildings were torn down to make way for new ones such as the McLaren's Livery Stable.
GH: How much did all the flour cost?
KIENTZ: In those days, it cost about $5 a sack. We pay about $17 a sack now for bread flour. A loaf of bread cost a dime then, and you pay $.67 now. So in those days what he lost was a lot of money. In our prices nowadays, we're talking maybe, with what he lost here being in the thousands of dollars.
GH: Were there any buildings where the Red Hill Shopping Center is?
KIENTZ: No, there was nothing there. The top of that hill is where the school was located. And the road off to the right is where the Sunny Hills Presbyterian Church Orphanage was. I used to deliver bread up there when I was a kid. They had the only swimming pool in town. We all used to bum a swim for a nickle. Their children went to our public schools. They had a dairy, grew their own vegetables and were completely self-sustaining.
GH: What about that picture there?
KIENTZ: That's the Grandaddy of them all! That picture was taken in 1887, taken by P.W. Thompkins, whose house is still here above the Ancho Vista Apartments above the United Market. He took this and apparently the exposure might be from Red Hill, and if you notice, there is no Seminary yet. Out in the back of the Seminary Hill, you'll see there's a winery and a vineyard. This is about where Alexander Hall is now located. A lot of that was dairy from the Butler's later to be called, I am pretty sure, Marin County Dairy. The old Butler house is still standing up on San Rafael Avenue. Later on as the railroad progressed, and the railroad got a little bit fancier, the railroad eventually built a tower, #4 on the site of our park now. There were boxwood hedges in the shape of the Maltese Cross surrounded by lawns. They tore down the tower when the railroad went.
GH: Did your grandfather build the bakery?
KIENTZ: No, he bought it from a man named Richard Gutter. The building dates from about 1910.
GH: How long has your father been working?
KIENTZ: When he retired in October, he had 51 1/2 years actually working. He started when he was 14. I've been in the business since I was 16. I worked all through high school, college, and then I went in the army for a couple of years and came back really steady since 1956 on. Our Rotary Club in San Anselmo is 50 years old this year and we still have a living Charter Member. His name is Tom Minto. (Interviewers mumble their recognition...)
GH: Do you have any memories of Isabel Cook School?
KIENTZ: I went to St. Anselm's, grades 1 through 8 and then 2 years of high school there before they shut the old high school down. Then I went to Marin Catholic and finished up there. But, Isabel Cook is where we had all our summer activities, crafts, etc. I lived on Grove Lane, and it was an easy jaunt up to Isabel Cook School. We used to go down the tracks, as we would say, and then up through the Cordoni property, which was a vegetable garden where Drake is now. We used to swipe the fruit (laughter...) We had a lot of fun in this town. I went to Main School. They used to call it that... now it's Wade Thomas... for my Kindergarten.
GH: Do you have a son?
KIENTZ: No, I've got three girls.
GH: I thought you might be able to pass the bakery on to your son...
KIENTZ: Well, we'll see - maybe I'll have a son-in-law. Maybe I'll have a son, I don't know. I have a girl soon to be 13, another one 7, and another one 4. I've got a spread.
GH: Any more questions?
KIENTZ: You're sitting in a beer garden. The back shop area was the restaurant for an old hotel that sat here and they tore the hotel down to extend San Anselmo Avenue and that's when my father bought the property which was the restaurant for the hotel. The shop itself weas the restaurant, the walls and ceilings are the original and this front part here was a beer garden where they used to sit in the shade and all that kind of good stuff, and that's where Willy Dwyer built this front end here in 1924.