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Outside Lands Podcast Episode 465: Pacific Coast Swimming Championships

In 1913, the Pacific Coast Swimming Championships were held on the West Side. Can you guess who was the superstar athlete and toast of the 1912 Olympics who dominated the meet? This week, Nicole and Arnold describe the exciting competition at, surprise, the Sutro Baths.
- Jul 16, 2022

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 465: Pacific Coast Swimming Championships Outside Lands Podcast Episode 465: Pacific Coast Swimming Championships

(above) Sutro Baths, Jul 1913

Possibly the Pacific Coast Swimming Championships, held at Sutro Baths July 4-5, 1913. Swimmers lined up at start of race. Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaiian world champion swimmer, at right. Lincoln Johnson, one legged swimmer, second from left. Crowds looking down from bleachers. [G45 SSU-017] (GGNRA/Behrman GOGA 35346)
Martin Behrman

Podcast Transcription

WNP465: Pacific Coast Swimming Championships

Nicole: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Nicole Meldahl.

Arnold: And I'm Arnold Woods.

Nicole: Hello again, Arnold.

Arnold: Hello Nicole.

Nicole: How are you enjoying this immaculate summer weather that we're having on the west side these days?

Arnold: It's unlike the usual summer weather, it seems. Getting a lot more sun and not as much fog these days.

Nicole: I am still a Southern California idiot where I look outside and I'm, like, overcast equals cold. And so consequently, I am sweating when I'm up here and working at the Cliff House, which is where I'm at tonight.

Arnold: And we'll get into what's going on at the Cliff House later in this podcast because we want to.

Nicole: Well, it's kind of all up in this podcast in many ways.

Arnold: Pretty much all we [00:01:00] do these days.

Nicole: You know, it's interesting history. And since it is July and the fog is settling over the Outside Lands, which means if we time travel to 1913, it's the perfect weather to go swimming at Sutro Baths. And honestly, that's not really a bad idea because some of the pools were heated and you could also visit the museum, which ironically, we have made happen again here, next to the Sutro Baths. You could also maybe hear bands perform. You could also get something to eat. There were unlimited options in Sutro Baths. You could see and be seen in your extremely flattering wool bathing suit.

Arnold: You know, we've mentioned it here before on this podcast, and we say it all the time in our curator’s tours of The Museum at The Cliff. Sutro Baths were incredible, even if they never turned a profit. But that doesn't mean the Sutros didn't try. [00:02:00] On weekends, they would schedule tons of special events, much like our weekends at the museum

Nicole: Fact.

Arnold: And these range from novelty performances to swimming competitions to lure people in. In fact, we have several gorgeous advertising posters to prove it, that are on display in our naked, or Naiad Cove exhibit right now at The Museum at The Cliff.

Nicole: Not naked. Nobody's naked here. Oh, that's not true. Some, one of the porcelain Muses does have her top draping, very scandalously. So, but anyways, a great example of these competitions was the Pacific Coast Championships held at Sutro Baths on July 4th through the 5th, 1913. Cause we're just all about 4th of July weekends on this podcast right now. This was one of the more popular events at the Baths, largely due to the participation of one man, Duke Kahanamoku. So, who is [00:03:00] this Duke you might ask? This is not a Bridgeton reference, I swear. Second podcast in a row that I brought up Bridgeton, so you know what I do in my off hours. Duke was a native Hawaiian and a world champion swimmer. In fact, at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, he set the world record for the 100-meter swim. And in 1913, he also held the world record for the 50-yard swim.

Arnold: So, discussions first got serious about bringing Duke to San Francisco for a swimming championship in February 1913, in connection with Portola Week. Newspapers conjecture that if Duke said yes, there wouldn't be a “swimming site around the bay, indoor or outdoor, that would be big enough to accommodate the crowds that would turn out to see the famous Hawaiian world champion in competition against the best swimmers of the coast.” End quote. Duke had performed in an exhibition at the Olympic Club after the Stockholm Olympic Games, but he had never competed here, so this would be a [00:04:00] coup if they got him.

Nicole: Absolutely. And I feel like Dr. Emma Sutro Merritt heard that shade, like, oh, there's no place big enough in San Francisco to host this event. And she just like rolled her eyes and let out another, what I've quote termed “a patriarchy sigh.” And if you don't understand it, joke, we definitely do not have time to explain what that means in this podcast. But also, you probably aren't listening to this podcast, so we're probably all good. Before the end of the month, her Sutro Baths and 4th of July weekend had been identified to host the meet. The Bath could reportedly seat 7,000 people and hold 10,000 people comfortably. And although reports at the time, conflicted stating that the main tank was 85 feet in length, or perhaps 225 feet long, and 75 feet wide, you know, close. Another said that the tank was the longest in the country, which I do tend to believe since [00:05:00] when it was constructed, the baths were the largest swimming palace west of the Mississippi.

Arnold: Now, to get these championships at her facility, Emma fronts the money for this multi-event competition and is quoted as saying she would quote, “spare no pains to make the affair the biggest and best in the history of swimming on the Pacific Coast.” So, what she did is she paid for improvements to the Baths. Which included a starting platform for takeoffs, bulkheads for turning and diving platforms that conform to new rules set by the Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, as we all know it as. So that the diving platforms would be considered official.

Nicole: And in case folks don't know, the AAU had been around since 1888 and was formed to set standards in amateur sporting. Although if you read Patrick Moser's book, Surf and Rescue, about George Freeth and his struggles to earn a living as a lifeguard in Southern California and compete as an amateur athlete [00:06:00] around this time, it seems like their standards were a bit loosey-goosey. But the AAU is responsible for the training pipeline of Olympic athletes that we're familiar with today. Which makes sense because we're dealing with world championship swimmers here.

Arnold: So, one of the newspapers at the time said quote, “the affair is expected to be one of the greatest events of its kind ever held on the coast” because again, hyperbole, no pressure. All kidding aside, it was a pretty big deal, “sanctioned by the Northwestern Association of the AAU and the Southern Pacific Athletic Association. This was an innovation in the history of swimming on the Pacific Coast, and its announcement should set the followers of the sport agog.” One of those old timey phrases that we love reading and we don't use nearly enough anymore.

Nicole: So true. And it's true that the organizers took great pains to attract acclaimed talent in every role. Even the starter, Jay Scott [00:07:00] Leary was a former American champion, described as, and I quote, “one of the greatest swimmers of the old school that the Pacific Coast has ever produced.” End quote. His participation ensured that races would start by the books and one paper said, and I quote again, “the fact that such an expert is to hold the gun for this big meet assures the competitors that they are all going to get off the marks right, that none is going to get an advantage of the other, and that the starts will all be on the square.” At the time, Leary held the record for the 100-yard swim, and a big to-do was made over the fact that he was likely to start the race in which his record would be broken.

Arnold: And the chance to see these records broken was one of the main draws for the championships. This was an era where the swim records are being broken at a shocking rate. Something spoken about in the newspapers leading up to July 4th weekend. Those hailing from coastal [00:08:00] areas had an obvious advantage, but of course, the advantage was described in, let's say, overly racist ways. In discussing a world record held by Arthur Wickham of Australia, one newspaper said “Wickham, it is not generally known, is not a white man, but a native of the island south of the Hawaiian Islands. These South Sea Islanders literally live in the water and are natural swimmers. The same as Duke and the other dusky skin boys of the Hawai’i Club team. It is doubtful if there are any of the local boys who will be able to place in the first three.” End quote.

Nicole: Okay. The festivities were overseen by a man named Coffman, who was a swimming instructor in San Francisco with the YMCA. The program would include participants from athletic clubs and other organizations throughout the coast. And newspapers continued saying, and I quote, “invitations will be sent to crack swimmers throughout the United States to compete.” So, it should be [00:09:00] noted that in old timey parlance, the word crack was frequently used to describe people of superior excellence and ability. But even knowing this fact, as we do, it's still super funny to read.

Arnold: The biggest deal by far is that Duke Kahanamoku formally accepted the invitation to compete in March 1913. If the Duke had passed on competing, Coffman planned to invite, quote, “one of the best swimmers in the east to compete. Although he would've been eligible to swim only in the special races since the races were only open to Pacific Coast State residents.” As one newspaper reported quote, “the acceptance of the Hawaiian swimmer saves many complications.”

Nicole: I’m just imagining the committee being like, oh my God, please say yes, please say yes, please say, oh, thank God. Particularly Dr. Emma Sutro Merritt who was like, “I've spent so much money on this. We really need Duke to come through.” So [00:10:00] he didn't come alone. He totally brought his crew members of the Hui Nalu Club, who, which I'm sure I mispronounced, of Honolulu. In May, 1913, Kaufman wired money to pay expenses for the Honolulu team to make the trip to San Francisco in June. And oh boy, were people excited for their arrival. But then something almost terrible happens. Duke is called for jury duty in Honolulu on June 10th. Newspapers reported that, and I quote, “strenuous attempts have been made to have the Duke relieved, so he that he can participate in the big meet for the honor and glory of Honolulu. But Federal Judge Sanford Dole declined to release him.” A fun fact, Judge Dole was a cousin of the Pineapple Doles. So, you know what, I smell collusion here.

Arnold: Luckily the president of the Hui Nalu Club, W.T. Rawlins, was also an attorney. Always hopeful to have a lawyer [00:11:00] on your team, so everything works out.

Nicole: Winks at Arnold.

Arnold: The Hawaiian Club sailed for San Francisco on the steamer Wilhelmina on June 18th. The captain and crew made sure that the team could train in a special tank rigged on the forward deck. Duke even constructed a special harness to maximize the small space that they had. They arrived on June 24th and San Francisco was so excited.

Nicole: They really did. They were like, oh, they're on the boat. Oh, the boat is left Harbor. Oh, the boat is sailing here. Oh God. The boat's here. It's so funny. Not a lot going on in 1913, you know. Anyways, entries closed on June 20th. Clubs participating besides the Hui Nalu and the Healani Boating Club from Hawaii included the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Los Angeles YMCA, the Redondo Club, the Neptune Club of Santa Cruz, and the Albatross Club of San Jose. They all send competitors. Locally we’re represented [00:12:00] by the San Francisco YMCA. And also, the Sutro Baths had its own team. And, of course, we had the Olympic Club, which brought out their best, including Walter Pomeroy. who held records for the swim across the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay at the time.

Arnold: It wasn't just the men though. Let's talk about the ladies for a minute.

Nicole: Yeah!

Arnold: The best women's swimmers of their time competed at the Sutro Baths that weekend, a fact that had attracted considerable notice. It was the first-time title contests were held on the coast. The Hawaiian Club brought Ruth Stacker, who at age 19, set another new record in the 50-yard swim less than a month before coming to San Francisco. You had Mrs. Catudal of L.A. Mrs. Beulah Sodered of Santa Cruz, who swam across the San Francisco Bay in 1912. Dolly Mings of Redondo Beach, and Georgia Carmany of Santa Barbara, a well-known swim instructor. It wasn't just [00:13:00] all people from elsewhere. Locally, we had Mrs. Terle Desch who held the 50-yard swim title. We had Marguerite Brack who was still in high school, but hold, held the record for the 50- and 200-yard events in the National Women's Lifesaving League. Of course, this doesn't stop the local press from constantly calling them all mermaids and sea nymphs. Because, you know, this is what we were then.

Nicole: Constantly, they're like, “Ooh, totally, the mermaids are in the pool now.” I'm so frustrated. Then they're like, “Oh, FYI, they hold these world records.” Also, I should point out, it may sound like all these women held competing records. But at the time, as the AAU was trying to professionalize, like you could hold records in different environments, like the National Women's Lifesaving League and things like that. So, these records were very local based, not like a world championship record to clarify. Okay. So yeah, the ladies were bringing it, but [00:14:00] all eyes were on the Hawaiians who trained at Sutro Baths every day. And considerable mention was made of their unique swimming style. Newspapers were quoted, and I quote, “the work of the two Hawaiian teams is being keenly followed and the work of the islanders is causing considerable interest. The Hawaiian swimmers yesterday used a stroke practically the same. It is a stroke different in several items to the old cable crawl and produces wonderful speed.”  So, what they're talking about, like the differences they're talking about, are pretty much in all aspects of the swimming style that they're using. It's their different breathing techniques, different arm action, with Duke benefiting from his exceptionally long reach. The leg action was also different. And the wake of George Cunha was described as evoking the trail of a high-powered motorboat, giving him phenomenal speed. Okay, I just can't speak English anymore. My bad.

Arnold: So, we have [00:15:00] to talk about a particular article because it's right in some respects, but it's so wrong in the way they write it. There's an article in mid-June of that year that read, quote, “the dark-skinned Hawaiians are in great shape and should carry away several of the titles when they sail back to the islands. Should Duke start in all these events at Sutro, there will be new Coast records established in some of them if he's in his best form. This wonderful Hawaiian shows times in the island championships, which none of the local swimmers can touch.” So, racist, yes. But wrong? No. Cause this is gonna prove a little prophetic.

Nicole: It's true. Duke was untouchable, but the Hui Nalu Club also had Fred Wilhelm, who had only been competing for two months and already held the Hawaiian record for the mile with expectations that he would break the half mile record soon. Plus, he used the crawl stroke, which I'm [00:16:00] told is remarkable, although I know nothing about competitive swimming. But Cunha brothers, George and Lawrence, representing the Healani Club were also big contenders. George being one of the few swimmers who gave Duke a run for his money.

Arnold: There was a big story coming up to the event.

Nicole: Yeah. Huge.

Arnold: It's a doozy. It appears, and this is, you know, I'll use that word again, “the papers were agog.” Because the Duke had an earache. But it turns out it's, you know, okay. As it is getting towards the actual swimming championships, it's reported he’s feeling fine. And he said, bring on the races.

Nicole: Again, all newspaper articles were like, oh my God, he has an earache. Oh my gosh. Oh, what's gonna happen? Oh my. Well, we're gonna tell you what happens. So, finally the championship weekend arrived. There would be high diving and fancy diving competitions, which means they used one of those [00:17:00] newfangled fancy diving boards, which is technical swim language. There were also to be novelty events like trapeze diving and, my personal favorite, something called water baseball, which is described as the regulation national game played in the water, accepting the floats used on which the fielders are allowed to stand. I don't know what this game is. I thought maybe it was water polo, but it is not. And it kind of feels like the game True American on the New Girl where like, no one knows the rules to this, but everyone wants to play. So anyways, if you know what water baseball is, please email us because I want to start playing this sport immediately during the summer.

Arnold: I hope there's some early film of a water baseball game.

Nicole: To be fair, I did very little to figure out what this was. So, maybe there is.

Arnold: So, we've told you about the men's events and the women's events, but there was also races for juveniles, meaning boys, either under 12 or under 16, as [00:18:00] well as a race for the seniors, men over 40. You know, old timers.

Nicole: Old people.

Arnold: And as somebody now approaching 60, that makes me feel even older. They had the events for the women. By the way, keep an ear out for how local newspapers describe women competing over the weekend as opposed to what they're describing for the men. It gets pretty wild.

Nicole: Yeah. Like they're competing just like the guys, right. But they're like, “Oh, competitions.” Also, women did some stuff too, like every single timem it's just so obnoxious. Anyways, conditions were great. The water was heated to 70 degrees, which is the right warmth for racing. I'm not sure if that's still true, but it definitely was in 1913. And the athletes were ready to try their best to best Duke, who was entered in every single race except for one. Duke wasn't a distance guy; he was more of a sprinting guy. Everyone wondered if Duke would tire himself out by competing in so many events. But one newspaper noted, and I [00:19:00] quote, “It is a peculiar thing, however, with Duke, that the more work he gets, the faster he swims in meets.” Those who had purchased reserve tickets from the YMCA at the corner of Golden Gate and Leavenworth took their choice seats and over 5,000 people arrived on the first day ready to find out if all of these premonitions would come true.

Arnold: And like we said, up top, this is all happening on Independence Day, July 4th, 1913. And the races get started at, well, 2:00 or 2:30 depending on which account you read. The newspapers declare that the events would quote, “make history,” as quote, “one of the biggest advertisements that the city could ever have received to herald the Exposition City's name to every nook and cranny of the world.” And you'll note, the word “exposition” was in there because as always, from 1911 until the opening of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, every major sport event in San Francisco [00:20:00] was proclaimed as evidence the city was clearly the right choice to hold the upcoming world's fair. We get back to our insecure little sister city here of San Francisco.

Nicole: Suck it, everybody else. We do cool things here. So, the first race of the day was the 440-yard, and I quote “to give Duke the chance to warm up, then attempt to break Wickham's world record in the 50-yard event.” Now, is it ethical to structure a meet in order to give one athlete an advantage? I'm not so sure, but you know, oh well, Duke is awesome and everybody loves him, so who cares? Again, pointing out that the AAU was still a bit loosey-goosey in its standards. And spoiler alert, no world records were broken on July 4th. A huge bummer since newspapers proclaimed, and I quote, “there is not the least doubt that World's records will be smashed and broken so badly that the meet [00:21:00] will make natatorial history for the whole world to conjure with.”

Arnold: Not only are there no world records on July 4th, something goes down in the women's race that day, which was called “a good one” in the local papers. However, Dorothy Becker showed remarkable speed and Dolly Mings came in second in the 50 yard. But unfortunately, some of the girls beat the starter and many of them didn't heed the signal to come back. Dolly actually paused in her swim when called back, but continued to swim after seeing everybody else pushing on.

Nicole: And still made second.

Arnold: Still made second. None of their times would count. And so, they actually rescheduled that race to open the festivities on July 5th, since the crowd had already left the building, which I guess means it was the final competition of the day. Shocking that they left the women for the end. I guess that allows the crowd to leave before having to actually watch the women swim. I don't know. The juvenile championship was a [00:22:00] dead heat and also had to be re-swum the next day.

Nicole: Yeah. And don't worry, the second day delivered. Newspapers said, and I quote, “never in the swimming history of any section of this country has there been such a remarkable meet pulled off as came to a conclusion yesterday.” End quote. I hope any of the articles that are gonna come out about The Museum at The Cliff are just like half as…

Arnold: …flowery, as that?

Nicole: Almost every event swam set a new record. And I quote, “even the girls in their races took big chunks off the previous best marks established.” Even the girls. How about that? Another newspaper said that and I quote, “Girls races were interesting and the quarter mile had more fight and zip in it than any man's race ever swam here. Their 50-yard swim was again held and Dolly Mings set a new world record while Margar Brack [00:23:00] of Lick High School beat Dolly in the 440-yard race and set a new coast record by half an arm's length. Now that is swimming at its best.

Arnold: And the man of the hour, the Duke, he pretty much met the standards everybody was expecting. He won every race in which he was entered, by quote, “by a handy margin all while being treated for an abscess in his ear, which caused him considerable pain and loss of sleep.”

Nicole: He’s sleep deprived. He just annihilated it.

Arnold: He sets the Pacific Coast record for the 50-yard and beat a record set by Lincoln Johnson, who had been proclaimed the one-legged marvel of the YMCA. Beats Lincoln Johnson's record by 10 seconds in the 440-yard. De Villepion also broke his own American record in the 50-yard breaststroke.

Nicole: Yeah, and we have photographs of this, by the way, in The Museum at The [00:24:00] Cliff in our new exhibition, Naiad Cove. Duke also beats Leary's record in the 100-yard, a record that was first broken by Ernie Smith an hour and 30 minutes earlier, until Duke beat his new time. Newspapers were like, oh, he got to hold the record. He got to beat Duke for like an hour. The excitement was described as intense as Leary acted as, and I quote, “accessory to the crime of breaking his own record by starting the race.” Honestly, we don't do journalism, not anymore. But you know, it's not all about Duke. Ludy Langor of Redondo set a new coast record in the half mile and set two new worlds records and I quote, “which are liable to stand for many years, unless Duke himself beats the times.” In the same article they call Ludy, the Human Fish. And you know, what a better name to have.

Arnold: [00:25:00] The final swim of the meet was the 300-yard relay, which quote, “caused the balconies to ring with enthusiasm.” Newspapers declared that, quote, “the meet was the greatest swimming event ever pulled off in this city.” The Indoor Yacht Club, which was represented by Commodore Frank Hennessy, presented a silver trophy to the team winning the entire meet, which surprise, surprise, surprise, the winner was the Dukes team, Hui Nalu.

Nicole: Also, what is the Indoor Yacht Club? Because I feel like this is the kind of yachting regatta experience that I can actually be a part of.

Arnold: It, may e related to the YachtCclub at Spreckels Lake?

Nicole: Like the Model Yacht Club where we just sit around and like we sit in jaunty outfits and we talk about yachting.

Arnold: Something else for us to investigate.

Nicole: Here for it.

Arnold: Anyways, the newspaper said that quote, “the cup is one of the most elaborate ever presented for an [00:26:00] athletic event in this city, and will be a big feature in the clubhouse of the team winning it.” We need to get reports of what the Hui Nalu Club did with that trophy.

Nicole: Duke just took it home.

Arnold: In second place was the Redondo Club, which received a silver cup, presented by George Larson. And Swimming Commissioner Lou Stewart presented a silver cup to the California swimmer who scored the most points of the meet, which was Cliff Bowes. So gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to all the men who placed in events. While the girls got championship medals in their events.

Nicole: Yeah, they're like, also the girls got something. I have to say that all the names that we've said today, if you look into, you know, swimming at all around this time period, which I've started to do. These are like very big names. They pop up again and again. So, this was big stuff. So, after the meet was over, many of the competitors, [00:27:00] they weren't done swimming competitively. So, we've got Duke, Lincoln Johnson, Dolly Mings, Ludy Langor, Georgia Carmany, Beulah Soderer, Marguerite Black, and Walter Pomeroy. They all decide to swim against each other across the San Francisco Bay in a competition overseen by the South End Rowing Club. They start from the Vallejo Street Wharf at 1:00 PM on July 6th, and they head for the Alameda Pier aiming to beat Pomeroy's record. The women were accompanied by boats from the Dolphin Rowing Club. My oh my, how chivalrous of them.

Arnold: And surprise, surprise, surprise, Pomeroy wins again. But there is still a dispute over the decision because the watches of the two officials differed in time. And despite the fact that AAU rules clearly had standards to respond to this type of situation, and we're talking about the loosey-goosey AAU rules of the time.

Nicole: Figuring it out.

Arnold: Also, only Pomeroy and Langor were considered official [00:28:00] starters since you, since a bunch of the others started early for some reason. And most of the men quit because the water was too cold.

Nicole: Yeah. They all just gave up and one guy started like eight minutes early for no reason. Get it together, you guys. So, none of the women finished, but they were described as “plucky and strong”. When Carmany was pulled out of the water, one newspaper described her as showing, and I quote, “more condition than many of the men's swimmers since she required no assistance.” Also, she stayed in the freaking water. All the guys were like, oh, it's too cold. I'm done with this. And she was like, I wanna keep going. She was given a diamond gold medal sponsored by Techau Tavern, despite not finishing simply for being in the water for over three hours. Like people kept being like, just quit. Like, doesn't matter. Like, where all the guys got out of the water already. And she was like, I'm gonna keep trying.

Arnold: I can tell [00:29:00] you, I wouldn't last 10 minutes in the bay.

Nicole: Oh, I would die. I would die.

Arnold: So, after all this, the Hawaiian Club heads to Southern California, Redondo Beach and Long Beach, where they did some exhibitions of surf riding.

Nicole: Yeah. Also, something I'm getting into in this book by Patrick Moser about George Freeth, which is awesome, and stay tuned because we're gonna do some programming with him. Anyways, so in conclusion, a few episodes back, we told you about how John Harris was denied the right to swim in the baths because he was a black man. And this week we're able to tell you about the triumph of a native Hawaiian who was invited to swim in the very same place 15 years later, and absolutely crushed it as the main attraction. How America has and continues to deal with race never fails to make absolutely no sense. Which is why it's been so hard to figure out, right? Like [00:30:00] how do you fix something like racism, an infection, that common sense and basic human decency tells us shouldn't be happening. And obviously this is not a question that we're gonna answer today. We're not even trying to answer that, but it's something I personally think about a lot and I'm definitely not an expert. But it seems like sports have been, if not a solution for this issue, at least an antibiotic that alleviates some of the symptoms. And maybe there's something that we can learn from that here.

Arnold: And we also have to remember that, you know, the Sutro Baths went from the Harris case in 1897 where they're denying a black man to get into, you know, nearly 20 years later or 15 years later, allowing a, quote “dark-skinned Hawaiian” to swim there. In fact, promoting that and getting large crowds for that. To about another 10 to 15 years after that, again getting sued for racial discrimination for not letting a black man swim there. So…

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: They [00:31:00] couldn't keep it straight there.

Nicole: And apparently, we learned this because like a 97-year-old woman came in to The Museum at The Cliff to see our new special exhibition with her family. And she talked about how her dad, she's an Asian-American woman, her dad was required to have a Department of Health certificate stating that he was free of disease in order to swim at the Baths. And this is much later, as far as I understood. You know, in the 1920s or so. So yeah, a very mixed record for how the Sutro Baths treated people when they came through their turnstiles, for sure.

Arnold: So, Nicole, we get to that part of the program where we say, “Say What Now?”

Nicole: Oh, and this one's so good. It's so long because I got so into this story. So you know, Duke was an amazing swimmer and blah, blah, blah. But in [00:32:00] May 1913, he was part of a love triangle. That month, the San Francisco Call’s beauty contest winner, May Josephine Bennett, was being pursued by a Honolulu druggist named Mr. Schoen, whom she had met when the Call sent her to Hawaii for a week. He bid her farewell from the dock when she left, and I quote, “because no one could keep him away.” And Arnold, what happens next?

Arnold: Well, she's coming back to San Francisco. So Schoen decides he needs to come to San Francisco and everybody was sure he was on his way specifically to propose to May. Rumors that May muffled as untrue. But the Call pointed out, quote, “in making this very definitive denial, she musingly twisted the ring on the third digit of her left hand. Although on inspection, the ring turned out to be a garnet. The gesture looks suspicious.” This is a 100% real newspaper article at the time.

Nicole: [00:33:00] Absolutely true. So, rumors spread that he was giving up his business to take over her family's ranch. Rumors he did not deny. He had sent her, and I quote, “several dandy pictures of himself, and she had also given Schoen her portrait.” But Duke was also coming to San Francisco at the same time, and he had, and I quote, “paid not a little attention to Miss Bennett in Honolulu.” And he had written to her. Plus there was a Dr. M. Schutz, a surgeon who met her on the ship home. So, oh May, you little player.

Arnold: I like that double negative in the quote from the paper.

Nicole: I know.

Arnold: “Paid not a little attention.”

Nicole: It's such a good article.

Arnold: Now May was financially independent, at first because her father, J.F. Bennett of New York, wanted her to be able to take care of herself should she ever be thrown involuntarily on her own resources. And finally, [00:34:00] because she liked to do things for herself.

Nicole: Oh yeah, she did.

Arnold: She's described as a, quote, “working girl,” although probably not the working girl that we hear about sometimes.

Nicole: Not that kind. Although people didn't look too fondly on girls who earned a living anyways.

Arnold: Right. And she was focused on studying music. Wanted to perform on stage, perhaps in an opera, although she admitted, singing in a church choir would be more proper.

Nicole: Yes, May, it would be.

Arnold: And although she did point out, likely in response to a leading question, she was not considering becoming a nun.

Nicole: In all of these articles where women are quoted, you know, in the olden times you can hear the journalist being like, I'm gonna ask you this leading question to get a response that I wanna print. Anyways, this article is amazing, going on to describe how May's ancestors had been cited for bravery in English and American Wars. And also, that Abraham Lincoln is her great uncle. Allegedly, I have not looked into this. And then her grandfather was, [00:35:00] and I quote, “an old-time newspaper man of San Francisco,” and also it mentions that her father had no intention of making her into suffragette, because, whoa, to shutter the thought. But merely that he wanted her to learn what it was like to work for herself so she could appreciate the comfort she was born into. This is an incredibly modern family for 1913.

Arnold: And this article finishes with a quote from May, where she said “I might get so used to buying everything that I wanted, some other man might be afraid to try to pay my bills out of his salary.” End quote. The reporter then asked, “Whose salary are we talking about? Was it Dukes?” To which she replied and quote, “I wasn't necessarily talking about any of them.”

Nicole: Burn! All hail, [00:36:00] May Josephine Bennett, queen of 1913.

Arnold: I am assuming she didn't end up with any of these guys.

Nicole: You know, I didn't have time to follow up. So, the Say What Now segment is specifically designed for articles like this, where in my research notes, I was like, bonkers ass article about May Josephine Bennett. Has nothing to do with Duke's, like, actual swimming competition, but need to return to. And then here you are listeners. So, the new WNP logo is just gonna be of May Josephine Bennett. Proving that, since Jane Austen, any woman named Bennett is gonna be amazing.

Arnold: Thus ends the story of Duke and the Pacific Coast Championships of 1913.

Nicole: With a huge non-sequitur.

Arnold: Which makes it time now [00:37:00] for Listener Mail. And Nicole. How do we get listener mail?

Nicole: Oh, it's so easy. You just email us podcast@outsidelands.org, or you can hit us up on the socials, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. We're on all of them. And…

Arnold: So, one of our listeners, a gentleman named Mike, he said, quote, “I've been binging your podcast and loving it.”

Nicole: Yes!

Arnold: “I've been a fan of the website for years, but just recently got into the podcast. Great job. I love local history of the area and I grew up in the Sunset.” He then had some suggestions for us. He said, “I'm sure you're looking for new subjects to cover and I recommend Boudin Bakery. Though established in 1849 on Dupont, and then later moved to Broadway. It moved to 10th and Geary in 1907 because [00:38:00] of, you guessed it, an earthquake. Legend has it that Louise Boudin, the founder's wife, Isadore, passed away a few decades later, saved the mother dough from the fire and headed west. My grandfather started working there in the ‘30s and bought it in the ‘40s, and my family owned it for decades. And my dad was president and my uncle bought it back after we sold and runs it now. My grandfather is the guy on the bag and in pictures in the bakeries. We will definitely take Mike up on this request and we're gonna see what we can find to get him on our podcast as a guest soon.

Nicole: Yep. I'm chatting with him hopefully next week about how far we can take his story here, cause it is awesome and he seems super sweet. So, stay tuned. You'll be hearing about Mike soon. And we would also like to remind you that we are planning a Playland memories podcast for Labor Day weekend. If you visited Playland before it closed in 1972, please send [00:39:00] us your memories of it. We're looking at having several people, all the people, all the people, relate their memories of Playland, either live on the podcast or an extended listener mail for the podcast. And we really look forward to hearing your stories of Playland soon. So, email us podcast@outsidelands.org.

Arnold: And people with stories about Playland, well, a lot of them tend to be members of our organization. And you too, if you're not already, can become a member of the WNP.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Arnold: All you do is you go to any webpage on our websites, outsidelands.org or OpenSFHistory.org. You'll see a big orange button at the top where you can become a member. Or if becoming a member is a little too much for you, you can hit the big donate button instead and donate to helping us keep this history alive. And if you become a member, you get our quarterly membership magazine. You get discounts and events. You get other [00:40:00] perks along the way. Your membership also supports all the good work we do, which, primarily right now, means a free Museum at The Cliff. In the Cliff House every weekend through sometime in August, and everybody gets into that for free.

Nicole: Oh yeah.

Arnold: So, you can help support that. Your membership money also helps us keep the OpenSFHistory site alive. It's got over 54,000 old historic photos of San Francisco on it. Also helps keep this podcast alive, which we keep free to everybody to listen to. We're not behind some paywall to listen to this. So become a member and enjoy supporting history of the west side of San Francisco.

Nicole: Absolutely. And speaking of all the cool things that you get to do with us, I think it's time for announcements. Okay. Really our, we just have one big announcement, which we've been announcing for a long time, but we really want you all to come visit us [00:41:00] at our expanded Museum at The Cliff. We have a brand-new exhibition in the former Cliff House restaurant space. It's called Naiad Cove. It's an immersive experience, thanks to projections by artist Ben Wood and audio soundscapes created by Andrew Roth, who also created the soundscapes for, you know, casual places like Filoli down south. So, we've got some heavy hitters that truly make this building come alive. You can see artifacts from the Cliff House auction on display. We got the big guys out. We've got the cowboy here, the carved bear. And of course, our beautiful muses who might not be muses. We're looking into that. And you can also see all kinds of fun things, including hand painted signs by a man named Reino Niemela, who was in charge of creating all the signage for Playland at the Beach from 1937 to 1972. This is a really cool thing. It's his first show [00:42:00] ever. We're working directly with his son. And let me tell you, it might be one of my favorite things about this exhibition. You can see these signs, look to your right and see where they were down on Ocean Beach. So, there's no replacement for experiencing this history here, and we're only here until August 21st. John Lindsey of the Great Highway Gallery and I co-curated it. It's been blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. John cut himself a couple times. He had to replace the labels. So please come and experience this with us. We're open weekends only. Saturdays and Sundays 11 to 5:00 pm, because it's exhausting staffing a massive exhibition with a one employee shop. It's totally free, and, but the History Gallery is, you can just walk on in and experience it how you will. But if you want to come see the special exhibition, we do ask that you grab your tickets in advance or at the door. We just ask that you register. So, we can [00:43:00] keep sort of a headcount of who's visiting, but it's also totally free and 100% kid friendly. There is so much stuff for your kids to do here, it's insane. But fun for the young at heart as well. So…

Arnold: And in addition to all that.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: In addition to coming up on the weekends, keep an eye on our events page because there may be some other special events happening up here that you can come to.

Nicole: Yep.

Arnold: We'll keep that secret for the time being until they become official, but keep an eye out for that.

Nicole: Until we're officially approved by the National Park Service.

Arnold: And you've probably seen our projections out the back window of the gift shop. And that artist who did that, Ben Wood, is planning some projections out the south windows of the Cliff House. So, you can contribute to that. You can email Ben with pictures or old videos of the Kelly's Cove area that you have from way back in the [00:44:00] day. His email address is wood.ben1@gmail.com. So, please check that out. We've also made that announcement on our social media, so you can see more information about that there. We hope you contribute to the Ben Wood experience of projections at the Cliff House.

Nicole: Oh my God, I'm only referring to this as the Ben Wood experience from now on. Yes, absolutely. And the curator's tours are coming back. We're gonna do three separate ones. There's gonna be a History Gallery tour. There's gonna be a Naiad Cove tour, and then there's gonna be a very special John Lindsey tour of all of the amazing photographs that he curated, and I'm pretty sure I told him about that. We'll see. Okay, that's it for today, friends. Arnold, what's our preview for next week?

Arnold: Well, next week will be one of our interview podcasts. And the guest will be…we're not gonna tell you right now.

Nicole: Tune in to find out. I plan these on the fly. All right, [00:45:00] thank you again Arnold for another wonderful romp through local history.

Arnold: Always a joy to be with you, Nicole.

Nicole: And thank you listeners for being with us. We will see you next week.

Arnold: Bye now.

Nicole: Goodbye.

Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.

Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.

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