Expert leads tour about robber, railroad, George Lucas

Dick Miner (left), on lawn of San Anselmo Town Hall, tells crowd about community’s history. Photo by Woody Weingarten.

Dick Miner proves that Leo Durocher, major league baseball manager and hall of famer who insisted that “nice guys finish last,” was wrong.

Miner, who virtually everyone agrees is a “nice guy,” is also a winner.

In fact, San Anselmo not that long ago designated him as the town’s volunteer of the year.

And when I chaired the town’s Quality of Life Commission, I handed him our Green Award for pulling non-native growth from Sorich Park and for helping his 80- and 90-year-old neighbors maintain their home gardens because they couldn’t do it anymore.

In addition, he was the composting point-person for the Historic Gardens Project at Alcatraz, the island prison where, if that activity were not enough, he volunteered as a docent.

I’ve also run into the white-haired, white-mustachioed Miner now and then when he’s been picking up yet another award.

Like at a Bread & Roses ceremony where he was honored for volunteering as a host for more than 10 years at musical gigs in rehab centers, jails, homeless shelters, children’s units and senior facilities.

But Miner’s also a history buff who’s been on San Anselmo’s Historical Commission 13 years, been a docent for its museum and single-handedly conducted an oral history program.

He told me he loves coming across “old-timers who want to share their stories” because they stimulate and teach him something new almost every time.

He doesn’t bogart that information — or anything he’s learned from coaching a local girls’ softball team for eight years.

Indeed, he’ll share what he knows with anyone who’ll listen, especially when the animated, sanguine 78-year-old expert on yesteryear sporadically conducts free tours of downtown San Anselmo as part of its Stroll Through History project.

His next one, which in some ways resembles a one-man theatrical presentation, will be tomorrow.

Like all the tours, it will underscore what transpired locally from the turn of the last century (when San Anselmo’s population was 150) to the ‘50s (“when the town was like Mayberry and you could actually find hardware stores” and it had no bars but 11 gas stations).

Others are slated for Aug. 24 and Oct. 26.

The tour — which begins at Creek Park at 9 a.m. and ends roughly 90 minutes later with light refreshments at the Historical Museum —  highlights the historic Hub, the role of the railroad in the town’s development, and the changing character of the town’s architecture and businesses.

It specifically touches, too, on a wannabe bank robber who got away but left his horse; ideas that got away — of building a hotel and landing strip atop Red Hill, as well as digging out a hole for an elevator; the popularity of a pee-wee golf course; and where George Lucas’ old office used to be and “the story is, they used to practice the bullwhip scenes for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ in the street outside.”

A second free tour, of the San Francisco Theological Seminary area, one of the town’s oldest neighborhoods, also lasts about an hour and a half. That one, however, involves stairs and uphill walking and isn’t suitable for strollers or very young children. Participants will meet July 27 or Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. Montgomery Chapel, Richmond Road and Bolinas Avenue.

For that walk, which was the creation of Judy Coy, chair of the San Anselmo Historical Commission, Miner assists her

“Mr. Volunteer,” as more than one local calls him, has lived in San Anselmo since 1971, was a scientist, biologist, and did research for 40 years at UCSF.

That was then, of course; now he’s busy conducting the tours and completing countless other volunteer tasks.

All the while being a nice guy.

To register for the free San Anselmo tours, rsvp to http://strollsananselmo.eventbrite.comor stroll@sananselmohistory.org.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →