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July/August 2009 home page

Hootenanny on Sand Barr Lane
Gus Kriege, 20th St. about a half block from Sand Barr Lane

With precision born from years of navigating with a sextant and chronometer, the home-brew would be ready on the night of the Democratic Steering Committee hootenanny party. My Grandpa (we called him Johnny) always said that lubrication was essential to keep whatever kind of machine one needed running smoothly. Getting people to talk was easy. Getting them to act on what was said was the tricky part.

In the very early ‘50s, Del Mar was still under the county’s thumb, relying on it for all services. Yet there were many problems. Maintenance of infrastructure was neglected. Accountability was not a priority. The seeds of incorporation were planted, tended and modified in our living room and out on the porch of my home on 20th St.
The founding fathers of our nation would have been proud of the men and women who met here. Taxation without representation was what led the push for incorporation. And, I have heard that the home-brew rivaled that of Sam Adams and his brew masters on the other coast.

Having been a commander in the U.S. Navy, Johnny had a knack for getting people organized. He was not one to bark orders. Instead he instilled in people the ability to make responsible decisions. He hated saluting; instead he worked to maintain respect for all the people, encouraging through example. His working class roots were planted in the blue-collar neighborhoods of Detroit where he witnessed the union building of longshoreman and sailors on the Detroit River.

John Barr with his grandson Gus Kriege on the beach at 20th Street in July,1959.
Photo courtesy of Gus Kriege

His first job was rowing his small skiff loaded with the daily paper out to the swiftly moving ore freighters that plied the Great Lakes. They were making 6 to 8 knots and would not slow down, merely throwing a ladder over the side where the first skiff to reach them would quickly tie on, and the young boy would climb up with a stack of papers, get a handful of coins and quickly climb back down, untie, and row back to shore to await the next ship. Hazardous working conditions to say the least, all for a few cents and some major calluses from leanin’ on the oars.

Anyway, if you’re strolling around and see Sand Barr Lane, now you’ll know Barr is my Grandpa, he was a proud member of the first city council, and he was the second mayor of our soulful little city. As he was fond of saying as a toast, “Fair weather” right before he launched into that famous limerick, “There once was a lady from Nantucket…

First DM City Council sworn in by Bud James, from left to right: Henry Billings, Tom Douglas, John Barr, Clayton Jack and Elwood Free.
Photo: Courtesy Del Mar Historical Society

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