Camp Meeker Beat: RRTFCFSC; History Project
Things are quiet and calm in Camp Meeker. We’re still getting a bit of rain, enough to help us through the dry months. Everyone is feeling well-fed and friendly after the VFD’s pancake breakfast last month. But here’s the real sign of good times: the most controversial item on the Camp Meeker Board’s agenda? A decision on what color to paint the handrails going down to the bridge. I like it.
Things being calm and peaceful, I can spread the word about some current activities you might want to get in on. The Russian River Trust Fund of Community Foundation of Sonoma County (RRTFCFSC, say it three times fast) is accepting applications from non-profit organizations for projects serving communities along the western end of the Russian River (Forestville to the ocean). This does not technically include Camp Meeker, but I figure enough of you readers have ties to the river communities that you might have some ideas they like. The max grant amount is $5,000, and the deadline is July 15. Call Robert Judd at the Community Foundation: (707) 579-4073.
In other news, the Camp Meeker Board kicked off their History Project with a special meeting a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t able to make this meeting, but suffice to say I’m a huge fan of the idea. In a nutshell, what we want to do is gather information about the rich history of Camp Meeker and publish it. Ambitious? Sure. But there is a rich history in our little gem of a community, and we want to grab it while memories are fresh.
What kind of history, you ask? Let me give you a thumbnail history. You will then see areas you know something about. Maybe you have some old pictures, or Grandma’s old stories. Send them to me here and I will make sure they get where they need to go.
Camp Meeker started as a lumber camp cutting redwood logs for Boss Meeker’s sawmill. Boss Meeker lived in the Meeker Mansion, and vied for local Big Kahuna status with Occidental’s “Dutch Bill” Howard. He was neither Dutch nor was his true name Bill, but you probably know that since you eat at Howard’s. The redwood logs were then loaded on to the cars of the North Pacific Coast Railroad and send down to Sausalito and onward. Also on the train were tourists from San Francisco and points south, making day and weekend trips to what was becoming a nice little getaway destination. Eventually, Boss Meeker started selling logger’s cabins as vacation homes, and a number of SFPD firemen bought them. Ever loyal to home, they started naming streets after the city streets they kept safe: Tower Road, Market Street, Van Ness.
The resort was bustling, with a Post Office, a Hotel, and other amenities. Every summer, they would dam up Dutch Bill Creek and create a swimming hole. Things were doing nicely until the railroad shut down in 1931. Fortunately, a few years later the Golden Gate Bridge opened, and people could now drive up in their motor cars. Still, things got quiet until the late sixties, when the Great Haight-Ashbury Diaspora sent hippies “back to the land” in droves. Many ended up in Camp Meeker, causing some friction with the salt-of-the-earth old timers. Eventually, everyone became friends, and a period of cultural ferment followed: the Camp Meeker Players put on plays on a stage near where the Firehouse is today, and there was a weekly talent show. Luminaries such as Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and (it is rumored) Charles Manson put in appearances (er, not at the talent show). The eighties and nineties came in, and all that counterculture stuff tapered off.
That brings us up to today. The resort is gone, the dam is gone, the railroad is gone. Most of the vacation cabins are now lived in year-round. Many of you reading this are saying “I was there, and you got it all wrong!” Cheerfully stipulated. That’s why I want you to write in and tell me what I got wrong, and tell me how it really was. Send in pictures, old postcards, ghost stories, nasty rumors… everything. We want it all.