S.F. Paddle Wheel Ferry circa mid 1930’s

The history of San Francisco Ferry service(s) began in the 1840’s (before the Gold Rush aka: 49’ers) and continued between San Francisco and Marin until the Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937.  The North Pacific Railroad ran the ferry line between San Francisco and rural Marin; but for many the history of San Francisco ferryboats is about Juanita Munson and Charles Van Damme.

Juanita Munson

Juanita Munson was a wild woman and Charles Van Damme was a very wealth man.  Juanita, according to some, was Sally Stanford’s sister.

Charles Van Damme was a self-made man who operated the Richmond San Rafael ferry.  Van Damme was born in Little River, and the Van Damme State Park in Mendocino is named after him.  He probably never met Juanita, but their names are linked because of the Charles Van Damme Ferryboat.

VD ferry 1

Built in 1916, the Van Damme was a sidewheel ferry used to transport cars, cattle, and people between Richmond and San Rafael before it was beached in Sausalito and became the home of  “Juanita’s Galley.”

J Galley

J Galley 2Juanita a little bit older but still having fun.

The Galley was loved by all, including the highly acclaimed San Francisco restaurant critic Herb Caen.  Patrons included: “The Hell’s AngelsRobert MitchumSterling HaydenJoseph CottenNoel Coward and other celebrities, as well as lawyers, judges and politicians who were regular hangers out at the Galley. The Smothers Brothers, Shelley Berman, the Kingston TrioJonathan Winters and Bill Cosby found their way across the Golden Gate Bridge following late-night performances in San Francisco.”  By Styrous.

Now you are invited to take a ride on a ferryboat.  Note the era, mid 1930’s, and the last scene with cars having the right-of-way in pedestrian crosswalks.

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Sadly, this is all that’s left of the Charles Van Damme ferry and Juanita’s Galley.

J. Galley 3

The novel Midnight Run 1932 fictitiously uses the San Francisco-Marin ferry in its bootlegging activities.

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