Monday, June 30, 2014

The Boys of Summer Visit Mare Island, 1945

From the Mare Island Grapevine  -  Friday, February 23, 1945

“Big League Stars Visit Hospital”

“It was quite an exciting day last Tuesday when the world famous baseball players of the past and present baseball world visited the Mare Island Naval Hospital. They helped spread good cheer and enjoyment for the patients and staff members with their humorous stories and jokes of the national pastime.

Ty Cobb
“Among the group were Ty Cobb, the greatest baseball player of all time, formerly with the Detroit Tigers and other clubs; Lefty O’Doul, manager of the San Francisco Seals, formerly with the Brooklyn Dodgers; Dolph Camilli, manager of the Oakland club, and formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies; JoeGordon, now a sergeant in the Army Air Corps stationed at Hamilton Field, former famous keystoner of the New York Yankees; and Joe Marty, also a sergeant at Hamilton Field, formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Others present were Jim Tobin, great pitcher for the Boston Braves; Augie Galan, star outfielder of the Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers; Ernie Lombardi, catcher for the Cincinnati Reds and N.Y. Giants. And last, but by no means least, Oscar Vitt, one-time manager of the Cleveland Indians, who is noted for his deep bellow which is so familiar to all fans of the American League.

Lefty O'Doul
“Probably the most appreciated and truthful statement was made by Joe Gordon when he thanked Tony Lazzari for retiring, thus to allow him (Gordon) to take over.

“After a short movie of the World Series of 1944, Manuel Duarte [owner of the Oakland Oaks] acted as the “Professor” in a Baseball Quiz, in which the patients participated. The winning team with a score of 560 points had as their members Pfc. Straub, Pfc. Pitzer, Pfc. Sims who was high man and Cpl. White. The other team put up a good fight with a score of 333 points. The ballplayers, accompanied by W.A. Brown of the Oakland Tribune brought prizes for the winners.

“Later in the afternoon the players visited the wards where they talked with the bed patients who were not able to attend the theater performance.”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mare Island Names

The story of Mare Island’s naming is a well-known one: General Mariano G. Vallejo’s favorite white mare falling overboard into the wind-swept waters of the Carquinez Straits. The horse was feared lost, but later turned up on the shores of Isla Plana… “the flat island,” and the General, relieved that his favorite horse had survived, renamed the island Isla de la Yegua… “Island of the Mare.”

But there are other names associated with Mare Island that have more obscure origins. The Mare Island Grapevine of March 27, 1953 ran an interesting article explaining the origins of some of those names.


“Gishville, Snake Ranch, Little Siberia and Dublin all are, or were, names of areas of Mare Island --- and where they came from makes for some interesting reading into the history of the West Coast’s greatest naval shipyard.  Most simple to trace down were the names “Snake Ranch” and “Little Siberia.” The Snake Ranch is that area from which the finger piers extend at the southern end of Mare Island.  Back in the days prior to the filling in of that section to turn it into workable area, it was, according to old timers, alive with snakes of many and varied descriptions, including rattlesnakes.

“The fact that in recent years a rattlesnake or so has turned up dead on the ammunition depot grounds, just south of the area in question, bears out the statement.

Mare Island's "Elephant Train"
“Little Siberia in the days BET (Before Elephant Train)* was just what its name implies---an outpost, a haven for exiles, and a heck of a place to get to and from if a person were relegated to shanks mare. Now well built up and full of buildings, the Siberia of yesterday no longer is little, for it fills most of the north end of the shipyard---but it holds its name.

“After all, you have to go “far” north to get there.

“Siberia once was all marsh and water. Old timers (the same ones as mentioned before) recall getting into boats around what is now Third street, and going duck hunting in the area around the lumber storage yard and on north.

“Dublin was a real, live settlement of a dozen or so families which strung out up a hill that no longer is there. The hill stood where the dispensary and supply building 483 now are located and was leveled in the not too distant past.

“Families who lived in Dublin---so named for its large Irish population---included the Horns, Jamison’s, Pearcy’s, Knowland’s, O’Brien’s, McGee’s, Tiernans and Baker’s. There were others, too.

“The Wards and the O’Briens “belong” to the “city,” but actually lived near where the old stables now stand.

“Times were good for the residents of Dublin. The youngsters had the run of the place and went swimming on the “sandy” beaches on the west side of the island.  Yes, we said “sandy.” They had sports teams which competed against town teams from Vallejo and the Navy ran small tugs back and forth across the channel to town --- free for nothing.

“If they couldn’t get a tug, Dublin’s townspeople usually could get a ride with a Mare Island worker who was rowing to work. It was not uncommon to see 10 or 12 men in a longboat making with the oars on their way to or from work.

“Groceries ordered in Vallejo were delivered by ferry to the shipyard and then to the houses by one-horse buggy. The large fruit orchards which once stood behind “officers’ row” were fine places to supplement a lagging menu.

“Gishville, on the other hand, is of fairly recent birth as far as names are concerned. It did not exist by name until World War II.
“During the war the area bounded by Shop 31, Shop 51 and structural shops on the south and west, were used for layout and prefab work of all kinds and was under the supervision of the shipfitters.

“The man who was in charge of the area was Griffin R. Gish, a leadingman shipfitter, who had charge of the “assembly field.”  Gish, who now works in supply joined the shipfitter shop in August,1927. He was promoted to leadingman in 1940 --- just in time to lend his name to Mare Island’s history.”

* The “Elephant Trains” were used at the Treasure Island World’s Fair of 1939-40 to transport visitors around the Fairgrounds. When the Fair closed, the trains were transferred to Mare Island where they were used to convey workers around the Shipyard.