Carol Schuldt Interview, Page 1

Introduction | Schuldt interview, page 1 | Schuldt Interview, page 2

Conducted as part of Tales from Kelly's Cove, by Western Neighborhoods Project, May 9, 2013.

LaBounty: Let’s start way in the beginning here. So, your name is…

Schuldt: Carol – C-A-R-O-L Schuldt.

LaBounty: And that’s S…

Schuldt: C-H…

LaBounty: C-H-U-L…

Schuldt: U-L-D as in dog, T as in Thomas, but my friends always call me Schultzie. That’s a nickname – Schultzie.

LaBounty: Did you grow up here in the city?

Schuldt: Yes, I was born and raised here.

LaBounty: What schools did you go to?

Schuldt: I went to Notre Dame des Victoires on Bush Street. It’s still there and it’s an invisible building. You can’t even see it. But, it’s still there on Powell. Powell and Bush. I went to a Catholic school in 1939. Then I went to the old Lowell [High School]. Not the new Lowell. The brick building on Hayes [Street], I think. There’s not a tree, not a bush around it. It’s all a concrete thing. I went there four years.

LaBounty: And, what did your parents do? I’m just curious. What was their history in the city? What did your father do for a living?

Schuldt: I didn’t know my father. I had a stepfather who was a stevedore. Longshoreman. He was in that strike, the big strike [1934 West Coast Longshoremen's Strike] – he came home all bloody. And knocked on the head. It was a riot down by the docks. That was before the war, I think. He came in all knocked around – bloody. Yeah, he was a stevedore. And my mother took care of me and then she, later on, was real good at, in those days it was shorthand, right? And she got a big diploma for that and then she worked at the City Hall for twenty-five years. My mother. Her name was [Grace] Carboni. That was my stepfather’s name, so that’s the history of my mother.

LaBounty: What was your birth date again?

Schuldt: June 26, 1933.

LaBounty: Oh, so you’re celebrating a big birthday coming up.

Schuldt: That’s right. Uh huh, next month.

LaBounty: Yeah, are you excited about it?

Schuldt: Oh yeah! Who knows what… We do everything spontaneously around here.

Carol Schuldt being honored at the Ocean Beach Kelly's Cove Reunion in 2010., 2010 - Photograph by Dennis O'Rorke

LaBounty: So, you went to Lowell. You must have been a pretty smart kid, right?

Schuldt: No, I wasn’t (laughs)… Not a good student.

LaBounty: I thought you had to be pretty smart to get into Lowell back in those days. You say you weren’t a very good student?

Schuldt: No, I was very wild. A wild person. (Laughs).

LaBounty: Well, what neighborhood were you living in mostly?

Schuldt: Okay, then when I went to Lowell I was on Fulton and Stanyan [Street] in an old, old beautiful [house] – made – let’s see – made I think before the earthquake, believe it or not. It’s not there anymore.

LaBounty: Oh really. They took it down, huh?

Schuldt: Yeah. A nice old house that had a wooden basement. It was a wood basement. It was fantastic to be living in… No heat. We had a kerosene thing. No heat in the freezing fog! Yeah!

LaBounty: Wow, and you were at Fulton and Stanyan, so I suppose you probably…

Schuldt: No, I was born in 1933 on McAllister near Fillmore [Street]. I don’t even know, because the neighborhood is not there. In the ‘60’s, they called it ‘urban renewal’ and they knocked down the whole neighborhood. But I was there in the – God, I don’t like that word, but I guess it was kind of like the slums. Because we were very poor in the Depression and, yeah, that’s all knocked down. All Victorian houses. And in those days there was no SSI [Supplemental Security Income], there was no welfare and everybody was in the street begging and dirt and filth and dead dogs. There was no SPCA in my day. There was nothing like this.

Roosevelt did this – all this – money that you can get now. But in my day Market Street was full of handicapped people that couldn’t get – there was no SSI… So, they were all over the street begging on Market.

I’d go there with my grandmother and my grandmother was from the South and she was like me, she was always helping people. I must have got that from my grandmother, and we – save our money and we would put it in a hat. So, pencils and stuff like that.

Market Street was like a… Nothing like it is now. A lot of poor, poverty – starving people in my day… …and filth. There was no Department of – you know – cleaning machines that clean. Everything was filthy I remember. Dead dogs. Rats all over the place.

Yeah, yeah, very… Nothing like it is now.

LaBounty: When you were going to Lowell you were living right next to Golden Gate Park. Did you go to the park a lot?

Schuldt: Oh, yes. That was during the war and so I got away from – it wasn’t a very happy family I came from. My poor mother. Anyway, but we all were in the park and we all, after the war, we helped the veterans who came back. In our day, there was no word… What’s that word when they’re so…?

LaBounty: Post traumatic stress syndrome.

Schuldt: Yes, we called it shell shock in my day when we were kids and we would take care of the soldiers that came back after the war and the Victory Garden in the park, we were there in the Victory Gardens because nobody, everybody went to war to go fight the Germans and so the park was – we had the whole park when we were kids and we’d just have caves and – there was nobody there to tell us – it was just free in those days.

You know, in my day the parents would say, ‘get up, get out, and don’t come back ‘til dinner.’ In my day you never talked to adults … And they let us do – we all went in big gangs of friends and we had tree houses and it was a wonderful childhood. Just wonderful in those days.

LaBounty: So, I often interview older guys who ran around the city and ran in the sand dunes and played in the park…

George Schnapp, Dick Petrocchi, Carol Schuldt, Dick Bruggisser, Jim Gallagher, Pat Cunneen, Tom McFetridge and Don Gehring at Kelly's Cove "pit," 1950s. - Courtesy of Jim Gallagher

Schuldt: Yes.

LaBounty: Girls got to do that too, though, huh?

Schuldt: Well, I was in the park. That was the only… We never went to the beach.

LaBounty: Yeah, but I mean you got to run around the park and – as a girl – you felt safe and it was…

Schuldt: Well, of course it was safe. We had ten friends and little gangs and pockets of little gangs of kids that we’d all fight with the kids, throwing acorns at each other. It was wonderful. Everyone was in the street in those days, Woody. You have to understand.

Everybody was in the street and there was no word “community.” It was taken for granted. Of course it’s a community. These horrible crimes that happen because nobody gives a God-darn what they do next door, but, you know, we lived in a community because we’re all poor, kind of middle – below middle – struggling during the war, after the Depression. You know, very… Very hard.

LaBounty: And you all knew your neighbors.

Schuldt: Of course. We all helped. We had air raids and the lady up the street that had the air raid we’d go in her basement because it was big, so we thought the Japanese were going to come in and bomb us. All the lights went out and the radio came on and then they told us what to do. Turn out all the lights, everything, and then the airplanes would go around. We thought we were going to get bombed by the Japanese. The net was under the Golden Gate Bridge so the Japanese in the submarines would bounce against that anyway.

LaBounty: Were you scared about stuff like that when you were a kid?

Schuldt: Yeah, we were so frightened. And then what’s-her-name, Tokyo Rose, would get on, interfere on the radio and go “hellooooo, this is your GI Joe. Your son is being tortured.” It’d go on and on and we couldn’t get her off because we had to wait for them to interfere, our people. It was awful. Very bad.

LaBounty: And then in the ‘50’s you have the whole, you know, the Cold War and all that. Was that also on the air? I mean, were you worried about bombs and nuclear destruction and all that?

Schuldt: In the ‘50’s?

LaBounty: Yeah.

Schuldt: In the ‘50’s we were, I think just all relaxing after the war and then all the intellectuals would talk about all what you’re saying.

LaBounty: So you were born in ’33, you get out of high school some time, right, at the beginning of the ‘50’s, right?

Schuldt: I graduated in 1951, so I was right in everything – [Allen] Ginsberg, [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti, and I hung out at North Beach.

LaBounty: Oh yeah. Do you remember the first time you went there? Was it friends you went with or…?

Schuldt: Went where?

LaBounty: To North Beach.

Schuldt: Oh, sure, yeah. Yeah. Hungry i [nightclub]. I played the piano at the hungry i.

LaBounty: Oh, did you?

Schuldt: The hungry i was underneath – underneath an old place – you went down the steps, this dark, dark hole. All very mysterious. And in those days homosexual was against the law, so all our friends who were homosexuals they’d have to hide at the hungry i and underneath in a dungeon like, so, yeah, it was terrible.

Very bad. They’d get attacked – homosexuals. Against the law. Because all a big secret. Yeah. And then The Black Cat, that was on Grant [Avenue], and that was lesbians and they had to be careful. Yeah. And, you know, born in the city I love everything. I’m used to everything, so we had a good time. A lot of artists I hung out with.

LaBounty: How did you get into…? Were you an artist yourself or a writer or…?

Schuldt: I was just a wild, wild person, but I hung out with all the intellectuals and the artists. I was just…

LaBounty: You were drawn to them somehow?

Schuldt: Yeah. Yeah. I did… (Laughs) …made a living my own way. I worked on the fishing boat with Billy May, the old (laughs)… on Fisherman’s Wharf. (Laughs). What a time that was. (Laughs). He had dogs on the boat and birds and we’d go out there tuna fishing. It was quite something and I met my husband at Kelly’s. Tambi [Tavasieff].

LaBounty: Well, we should talk about how you first got to Kelly’s then. Do you remember first going there? Did you go there as a kid? Was it the beach or Playland, what drew you out there?

Schuldt: Oh, oh, okay. Interesting. What drew me out there? First of all, my first encounter was Playland, okay, and when we were kids I was always the leader. What are we going to do today? So, I’d get the whole gang. We had a little clubhouse in my basement and we’d go, ‘okay Schultzie, what do we do today?’ I’d go ‘todaaaay, let’s… This is a long trip now, so pack a lunch, we’re going to go to Playland’ and that was my first day on the roller coaster, that horrifying thing, and ‘Laugh in the Dark.’ Woody, it was just so romantic and fun in those days. (Laughing).

LaBounty: Yeah, and you’d go to the Fun House?

Schuldt: Oh, the Fun House with the skirts blowing up. And it was – I don’t know how they did that. It was scary. I don’t mind my skirt going up, but it was very scary. Very powerful, that air thing.

LaBounty: Air coming out through the ground and…

Schuldt: Yeah, yeah, on the ground, but very powerful, very strong. A lot of pressure. I mean, that’s scary. And in the mirrors, you got caught in the mirrors and we’d laugh so much we’d wet our pants and laugh. It was such a great childhood.

LaBounty: And was it relatively inexpensive to go to Playland back then?

Schuldt: Oh yeah! Two bits. Two bits.

Bottom of the slides in the Playland Fun House, 1970s, circa 1970 - Photograph by Dennis O'Rorke

LaBounty: So, you’d go out there for the whole day with your friends?

Schuldt: The whole day. In the fog, I remember, it was always free like it is now. We’d dress warm.

LaBounty: And then when did you hit the beach or did you just go to the beach after Playland or when you were going back then?

Schuldt: This is when I’m little now.

LaBounty: Yeah, you’re little.

Schuldt: Twelve. I’m in grammar school. In high school, I was everywhere. In high school, I didn’t go to the beach much in high school. I just went to parties in high school. Just party, party, party. Russian River was…

LaBounty: Oh yeah, Russian River yeah.

Schuldt: It was beautiful and all my friends’ parents had second homes. Everyone could have a second home in the country in those days – middle class people. You could buy a home, you could also buy a second home – country home – and everyone had a beautiful place in Russian River, so I had a lot of friends that, you know, they’d invite me there.

LaBounty: When it’s summer when it got foggy here people would go to Russian River.

Schuldt: It was so quiet and so beautiful. My grandmother had a boyfriend at Villa Grande and he had a mansion there. I'll never forget that as long as I live. Villa Grande.

LaBounty: Your grandmother, you said?

Schuldt: My grandmother’s boyfriend. He had the biggest house on the railroad at Villa Grande. He had his own windmill pumping the water and everything. It was a mansion and my first night there, we were there all the time, my grandmother and I, Alla Bermeister... (Laughs). We had an, Woody old, what do you call it, a little Ford thing, rumble seat.

LaBounty: Oh yeah, rumble seat. Okay.

Schuldt: And he’d, they’d put me in the back and go… wild life, what a beautiful life, but gone.

LaBounty: When do you think you started going to Kelly’s?

Schuldt: Okay, I must have been in my twenties when I first when there. Must have been in my twenties, Woody.

LaBounty: And what drew you out?

Schuldt: I’m always in the water – I love the water.

LaBounty: Did you swim in high school? Are you a big swimmer?

Schuldt: No, I don’t belong to any organizations. I was never good at organizations. I do everything my own way. I was always self… Do things my own way.

LaBounty: I appreciate that. I’m kind of like that too.

Schuldt: I did everything my own way and I’m mostly alone. I don’t like big crowds and telling me… I like to express myself my way.

LaBounty: No formal organizations and rules and all that.

Schuldt: No, I’m not good at that.

LaBounty: Well, that’s curious because I’ve talked to a lot of people about Kelly’s and I’m wondering about this, even though there’s a community out there, did the people at Kelly’s kind of feel like they were separated or alternative or outsiders in any way from the regular world?

Schuldt: They were – they were against the system. That’s true.

LaBounty: Did you feel like that even back in the ‘50’s that people out there were like that a bit or…?

Schuldt: In that corner – oh God, it’s such an eclectic – there were so many different types. There were a lot of old, old characters. These are all individual characters. We had a wonderful Chinaman – I forget his name, what we called him – and he – he loved – the individuals seemed to gravitate toward that one corner where the wall is – where you can see Seals Rock. Where you have to understand what it is – it’s nothing like it is now. What happened is that the sand shifted in time. The currents of the sand and the water shifted the sand. In our day, what you’re talking about, the sand was not up to the wall like it is now and that you have to walk a long way to the water. The water was high in those days and you were next to the water, closer, you understand?

So, what – this is important – this good question about who went there. It was a mishmash of individualistic people who wanted to do their own thing. Okay, the Chinaman. He loved – and sometimes the sand would go out and the rocks would show. You don’t see that anymore because there’s rocks below that wall, okay? Underneath the sand and he’d sit in those rocks and sunbathe and happy as hell. We were all one big family. Then there was an old Russian lady, Annie, who helped me with my children. She loved my kids. She had to run away from the Communists. A lot of old people ran away from Russia in the corner there. They were refugee people. A lot of them Jews, Russian Jews, had to run away from that Communist thing and, okay, so Annie was part of our family. This is a mishmash of just people getting together who love each other and are individual people. Annie helped me with my kids. I used to run. She’d watch my children with about twenty other people. Run – I’d run for miles all the way to Fort Funston and back and I’d breastfeed, I remember, and then she’d rock them. She was the nanny. Okay, that’s Annie. Very old Russian lady and her story is something else. She got in a train or something and got out of there and landed in China somewhere and from China – oh, their stories. Then there was a Hungarian lady, Bessie. She had to run from the same thing – the war. Right? And, we were all just in love with the ocean. We loved each other and we’d all go in this corner. Then there was Slim. Slim was his name! (Giggling). He’d sit in the corner there – there was a little place to sit, a rock thing. Somebody in the old days made a barbecue pit. He’d sun there. He loved the sun. Then there was Johnny Quarts and Johnny Pints. And everybody at the wall would watch us because they were so original. Johnny Pints was even older. These people were older than me, and we had respect for them because they caught these huge waves. Johnny Pints and the people from the wall would watch us, Woody, right, because we’re happy, really laughing and having a good time. He had false teeth and he’d turn around to the people watching us and take his teeth out and go “whaaaat???”

Then there was Johnny, a policeman. Johnny Quarts. He was an older man and he loved us all and we all loved each other. He’d go in the water and he’d take these huge waves. In my day, there was no wetsuit, and he had the Voit fins and he’d take these ten-foot waves. Oh my God, they were great. Then there was Waldo and then there was, oh God, who… The gardener, Ross. Ross went to – he was the first one to go to the place where they go, Woody, down there.

LaBounty: To surf?

Schuldt: Yeah, way, way down. The big wave place.

LaBounty: Mavericks?

Schuldt: He was the first one. He took us there in 1950-something. He was a gardener. A big man. No wetsuit. He used to wear a little shirt. He’d go, ‘gee, I got this place down the coast,’ and we’d go, ‘where?’ ‘I think it’s called Mavericks. I’m not sure, but come on, big, big waves’ and my husband was a big wave rider, but we were just body surfing. He had a mat. In those days the men had a mat. The older men had mats and fins and a little shirt. He went out in twelve-foot waves and we’d watch him when we were kids and go, ‘oh my God.’ That was a first. Ross discovered Mavericks. Ross, a gardener from San Francisco, okay?

LaBounty: And he body surfed it? Is that what you’re…?

Schuldt: No, he got a mat.

LaBounty: Okay, so he surfed it on…

Schuldt: Woody, a… canvas mat. Nothing like the mats now, but with a big canvas – thick canvas – and he’d go out in this huge, horrible – we never went near that water because it’s very dangerous because of rocks, also, and there’s something spooky about it. You know, women have intuition and I don’t like it – I don’t like it there at all. I used to be scared even watching them, but that was in the ‘50’s. Ross discovered Mavericks.

LaBounty: And, when you’re going there in the ‘50’s and you have these Hungarian and Russian woman and the Chinese guy and – what are people mostly doing? Just kind of hanging out chatting? Are they body surfing? Sunbathing?

Schuldt: Woody, you have to understand, we are all sun worshippers. We’re sun worshippers and we love the water and they weren’t surfers, of course, but they put their feet in the water – the old people – and they’d sit in the sun and it was very peaceful there and clean and nice.

LaBounty: So, they’d kind of bask in the sun.

Schuldt: Yeah, we liked the sun.

LaBounty: And then you said you met your husband there?

Schuldt: In my day… Yeah. In my day, everyone sunbathed, but now this word C, you know, C-A-N-C-E-R, you know, don’t go in the sun, right. I met my husband there, yeah. We fell madly in love.

LaBounty: And he was just out there doing the same sort of thing? Enjoying nature?

Schuldt: He was younger than me. Much – probably he was nine years younger than me. (Laughs). Fell in love with a young kid, but he was developed, more mature earlier because of his family background and we went and got in love.

LaBounty: I always hear people tell me that you guys were out there – you’d be out there in the morning and have a fire and be there until dark, pretty much. Do you remember it that way? No?

Schuldt: We never went out in the morning there. I don’t know who would say that. But, they’re very impressed because without me a lot of people couldn’t go in the water. There’s no wetsuits in my day and that’s another… O’Neill. [Jack] O’Neill is from Kelly’s. He invented the wetsuit, okay? And we knew him. He was even older than our people that were – he was older than us – and he was a big gun, right? Oh wow! He had a beautiful wife and he was so smart and he invented all that. Anyway, so I went – we went in the afternoon. You know, we’d have work to do, but I always had a fire. I always had a fire for all our friends and we’d go around the fire.

LaBounty: Were there fires before you or do you think you…

Schuldt: I think I was the first one, because we were purple and freezing. In those days the water was colder. This year it was cold like it was fifty years ago. Yeah. Back when the current, the Humboldt current… but go on.

LaBounty: Yeah, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that, that you might be the first fire maker out there, huh?

Schuldt: Yeah.

LaBounty: And where did all the wood come from? I guess you had to gather it.

Schuldt: We never brought any wood. It was all driftwood. We’d all collect the wood. That was part of our – kind of a ritual. We’d get the wood and we wouldn’t light the fire until we came out of the water.

LaBounty: Were there other rituals around the fire?

Schuldt: No, just to get warm, Woody. I mean, we’d turn purple. Very cold. Very cold water.

LaBounty: I bet.

Schuldt: But we all loved each other. That brought us together – the beautiful water. Now, they proved that water has a memory and a mojo and in those days there was none of this science like there is now.

LaBounty: Well, I’m curious about that too. I’m curious about spirituality out there too.

Schuldt: It was a camaraderie, I think you call it, because we loved the water and we loved nature and these young kids were great, beautiful born surfers. I body surfed next to them and then we would all take turns. ‘Okay, Schultzie, next wave’s yours! Next wave’s yours!’ We were polite. Now it’s… (Laughs).

LaBounty: It’s different, huh?

Schuldt: Oh my God, there’s no soul, no… (Laughs).

LaBounty: Well, tell me something. You’re out there in the ‘50’s. I can’t imagine there were lots of you, right, at that time?

Schuldt: No. No.

LaBounty: Did that change as we got to the ‘60’s?

Schuldt: No, it was the same in the ‘60’s.

LaBounty: Same group?

Schuldt: It just got more people from other states – kids that would run away from home.

LaBounty: Right. That’s what I was thinking– all the kids coming here in the ‘60’s to San Francisco.

Schuldt: They all went to Haight Street. And then my reputation, they’d – go to that lady, if you want to get off drugs, go to the lady on the beach and they’d all stream down. I’d let them in the house and they’d stay here, try to get them off drugs and they I’d – they didn’t know what I was going to do, but I’d ask them their phone number at home and I’d phone their parents and I’d say, ‘don’t worry, I’ve got your kids here.’

LaBounty: You’re sort of like a mother figure out here for a lot of these kids.

Schuldt: Yeah, yeah, I have a mother complex anyway! (Laughs).

[Schuldt interview continues…]

Introduction | Schuldt interview, page 1 | Schuldt Interview, page 2

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