Daily grist; “By all means marry; if you get a good wife you will be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Socrates circa 470 – 399 BC
I’m sure we have all heard the old saying, don’t believe anything you read in the newspaper and only half of what you see. That my friends is good advice, because back in July of 1964 I unknowingly created a lot of early California history that is simply not true. How did I do that you may ask? Well really easy to be honest, because all it took was a bucket of white paint and a 4 inch wide paintbrush.
In November of 1963 while on a goose hunting trip in the foothills of Calaveras County with a boyhood buddy of mine, I rented a three-bedroom house on the middle of 17 acres and within a week I had moved my family lock stock and barrel to the little hamlet of Campo Seco, California. At that time there was about 30 or 40 people living in or around the little town, mostly around within a three or 4 mile radius. The town proper was dominated by Pereira’s general store, with the ruin’s of two adobe buildings next to it, and an old board building standing across the street. The old board building had the classic square false front above the roof, a front boardwalk covered by a porch roof, the entire width of the building which was about 40 feet. At that time the building was at least 100 years old and had housed several different businesses over the years including general store, saloon, and house of ill repute, but the last known business to occupy the building back in the 20s and early 30s was a meat market. So, that’s what all the old-timers that live around Campo Seco called it was the old meat market building. So you ask, where does the false history get into this story? Thought you would never ask.
On a hot July evening in 1964, Eddie Pereira and myself were sitting on the front porch of the general store drinking a cold sixpack of longneck buds. It was all those hot, miserable, dog days of summer when even thinking makes you sweat. I sat there and looked at that old building across the street for a couple of hours that hot evening, and we were well into the middle of our second sixpack when the thought struck me. I said to Eddie; do you have any white paint and a brush, without saying a word he got up around back to the shed behind the store and returned with a gallon of white paint and a 4 inch wide brush. So I pulled my 56 Ford pickup in front of the old meat market building, climbed up onto the rack on my truck and from there onto the porch roof. Took my pocket knife out and scratched out an outline of the name Dirty Dog Saloon then proceeded to paint the name into foot-high letters with white paint. That took all of 30 min. to do, handed Ed the bucket and the brush climbed back down in my truck and parked it by the store, then we commenced on our third cold sixpack of Bud, as we sit there and admired her handiwork.
Every once in a while on the weekend some flatlander would stop and marvel at the old dirty dog saloon and take a picture or two of it before they headed out of town. And then, wonder of wonders come spring of 1965. The Sunday edition of the Stockton record always had an insert of six or seven pages highlighting different areas around their circulation area. You could probably imagine my amazement when I read the headline on that little insert paper; spring comes early to Campo Seco, and right there was a halfpage picture of the old dirty dog saloon with an almond tree in full bloom next to it. The article went on to describe in quite lengthy detail of all the famous gun and knife fights that had transpired within the walls of the old dirty dog saloon in years past. I mean whoever wrote that article was really into it tooth and nail! During prohibition the article said, shootings were almost a daily occurrence within the walls of the old dirty dog, and if you were big enough to walk up to the bar they would pour you a glass of illicit moonshine regardless of your age. The old dirty dog saloon was a favorite haunt of the considerable number of miners that worked in the deep rock Penn copper/gold mine about 3 miles north of town.( the Penn mine operated until 1954 ) World War II came along and the old dirty dog saloon closed down for lack of customers, not to mention considerable pressure from the County Sheriff.
That was a pretty good chunk of history I created in the 30 min. it took me to paint that sign on the old meat market building. Sadly, time took its toll on the old building and a heavy winter storm finally collapsed it into a pile of weathered old boards that the fire district burned the following spring.
So just remember folks, don’t believe a thing you read in the newspaper, rumors, and only half of what you see because who knows how many Dirty Dog Saloon’s are created every day by somebody with a bucket of paint and a brush.