The post below was transcribed from My Bag by Joe Fitzpatrick published in the Monterey Peninsula Herald on Friday, January 10, 1975. Mendocino in the 1970s was a different place than it is today. Things moved at a slower pace. The article describes accurately but with some humor how things were at that time. [TITM]
THE WAY WE WERE … So Nutty Elayne said look, how about New Year’s Eve in Mendocino? I said where? And she said Mendocino. I said fine, since Pacific Grove was closed that night anyway. But can we stand the pace, I wondered? Nutty said she wasn’t sure – after all, we’ve only gone the Gilroy route, and Castroville, and Salinas in years past! But this was something bigger than all that, and we knew we needed help. So we recruited another couple to make the trek with us. Let’s just call them Roy and Irene, for want of better names—names don’t really make a difference anyway, do they? … But now then, where in the Sam Hill do you STAY in Mendocino? Glad you asked – THE place to say is the unbelievably kooky Sea Gull Inn! Write that down! If you ever get to Mendocino (100 miles north of Bodega Bay) and you don’t stay at the Sea Gull Inn, you’ve blown both cards and spades!
THE WAY IT IS … The Sea Gull Inn has an excellent restaurant, nine guest rooms (!), Spartan charm, lumpy beds, noisy plumbing, no ice, cardboard walls, and no secrets in the guest rooms! I mean you can hear the slightest … well, never mind.
Not only that, but it has no telephones, no television, no radios, no swimming pool, no friendly helpful tour guide, the floors slant funny, the doors don’t close true, and room service is on the do-it-yourself plan!
In short, it’s an absolute delight! A refreshing oasis in a world that has gone mad with crummy, plastic, classless motels.
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT … Above the john in our bathroom is a neat little hand-lettered sign saying, “Please jiggle handle on toilet. Thank you. The Management.” You feel like facing the thing foursquare and murmuring “You’re welcome,” as though management was waiting to hear! Or maybe, it crosses your mind, just a simple “Our pleasure” will do.
By the light switch in the bedroom is another hand-lettered sign saying, “Water level very low. Please use water sparingly.” So you jiggle the handle again – a sort of Pavlov’s dogs reaction! But it works – I mean, it makes both you AND the management feel good!
DINING OUT IN MENDOCINO … dinner at the Sea Gull is the de rigeur thing in Mendocino! And little wonder. The food is exceptionally good! Try the superbly prepared oysters, or the surprisingly tender steak sandwich ($3.95), or the sweetbreads, or the lamb chops! You won’t go wrong.
BUT WAIT A MINUTE … We’re here for New Year’s Eve, and all the gaiety and frivolity that goes with it, remember? So we sit in the weird little bar that’s furnished with soft pillows as well as carpeted seats and wait for the magic moment.
Strangely, it’s almost mortuary quiet as we sip away the minutes enroute to 1975. No hoopla, no noise, just soft conversation. You wonder if your calendar is right. But then a bearded, spacey fellow at the bar turns and asks if you have the correct time. “Exactly midnight,” you reply, checking with Mickey Mouse on your arm. With that, he pulls a kazoo from his picket and plays Auld Lang Syne!
I ask you, when is the last time you heard Auld Lang Syne played on a kazoo? No answer is necessary. But that’s how you ring in the New Year in Mendocino! Oh, Nutty Elayne just HAD to holler out “Happy New Year” as we departed a few minutes later, but not too many in there understood it.
THE MOURNING AFTER … New Year’s morning is probably the worst morning ever invented for amateur drinkers (you’re in over your depth, Clarence), but it’s a can of corn for us pros – didn’t bother Roy and Irene and Nutty and I one darn bit! We were up and around by 10:30 and cha-cha-ed our way up to the office to pay the bill! (It’s a laugh a minute with us, you probably can tell!)
But on the tightly-locked door to the office and restaurant was another of those neat little hand-lettered signs saying, “Closed Jan. 1 to March 1, Happy New Year!”
“Happy New Year, yourself, Mendocino, we love you!” we hollered in chorus, which we had rehearsed.
And then, just for old time’s sake, we went back and jiggled the handle one last time!