I had a few old photos from a scrapbook I put together in the late 70s after organizing a summer event on the California Delta each summer four five years. I invented the name of the group and even ironed on letters “Mystic Boatmen” on various colored t-shirts. A time before easy screen printing. It took me a long time to cut the cloth letters and iron them onto to the t-shirts. I made t-shirts for all the crew each year. Around May, I’d send the annual letter out announcing the trip and the arrival time and deposit needed to hold the 40′ foot houseboat we rented each summer for three days. The t-shirts are seen in a couple photos.
We met in the little town by the levi up in the delta called Walnut Grove where the houseboat was located. We met at a little place called Al the Wops in Walnut Grove. One of the first photos in the film is at Al the Wops on one of the trips. We are all squeezed together at a table much too small. Maybe it is around the third or last year of the boat trip when we went from 8 on the first trip to 13 on the last.
This first night was usually a long one and it was my main job the next day to get the ship under way along the delta sloughs on our ultimate trip to the Los Isle Club on an island at the end of the trip. Usually, the June days in the California Delta were brutally hot. The whole top of the houseboat was a sunning deck so my crew had to watch themselves from getting sunburned.
I was pretty much inside driving the houseboat always with a cold Coors next to me. Supplied by one a crew member. A number of us were in law school. A few others had already hit it out on their own. One as a stockbroker. Another as a mortgage banker. Many went on to become lawyers. There are many stories from these summers and perhaps I’ll try to give them more reflection some day. I did write a short story about the summer voyages of the Mystic Boatmen called “Strange Night on the Delta.” I still have it on the original paper I typed it on. I think I made copies for the members of the Mystic Boatmen and was finised with everything. Looking back and reading again the story, it is not a bad story at all and captures that something during the boat trip and put into words for the first time. I would call it a
Maybe someday I’ll pursue memories of the boat trips with more gusto as a writer and photographer. The boat trips meant a lot to me. It got me out of LA for a few days and let me see a little of northern California. I was born and grew up in LA my first 9 years. Now, I had returned to it and was ready to move on. The trip to the California Delta (near Sacramento) was always something I really looked forward to. Everyone was either from LA or the Bay Area so there was always a mix between southern and northern California friends.
It was a strange time in San Francisco. It was the years of the murder of Harvey Milk and Diane Fienstein as Mayor. I was just out of law school and now working in downtown San Francisco on the 17th floor of a 30 story building on Market Street. One of the three huge Chevron USA buildings in the Financial District. Working in Chevron’s Land Departmet. I did not fit into the big corporation so it was good to get away for the time with friends and let off steam.
Did this little annual three-day event take on a larger significance in the lives of those who were on this trip. Probably not. Other than a few days of planned, looked-forward to fun, in June of each year. During those years.
Our houseboat might be somewhere on one of the sloughs in the above photo. But then again, the above is such a small part of the vast waterway system called the California Delta, heading down or back from the Lost Isle Club. Check out the photo in the film from the grass shack part of the Los Isle Club with our houseboat apparently sinking in the background behind crew member Ned. I am amazed we were were able to make it back to the rental place.