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The Last Boat of the Night
By Fred Boland, Machinist 1928-1980
During the years I worked nights I would would get down to the Ferry Building, along with other machinists who lived in Oakland, by various streetcar routes, about 1 o'clock in the morning. We would wait for the last passenger boat to Oakland Pier at 1:20 AM. The last Key System boat had left at 1 AM. The two companies staggered their late night service to Oakland and Berkeley so the wait would not be so long.
The nights tended to be boring and lonely. Except where there were street lights or neon signs, everything was various shades of black or gray. However, there would be an occasional night of drama or excitement, or ludicrousness.
One night on the 7th St. local Red Train, we pulled into Adeline St. station as we had done a thousand times before. There was an old Greek restaurant there called The Bear Cafe. A fellow was sitting at the counter reading his paper, enjoying coffee and pie. As we drew to a stop he realized the train was in. Up he jumped, the paper went flying. Fortunately, it was summer time and the door was open, or he would have taken it with him. The plump old Greek waiter quickly sized up the situation. Grabbing the pie and coffee, he rushed out a few steps behind the patron and right up the car steps. In spite of his age and weight he was an agile man, his apron whipping around his legs and his handlebar mustache bouncing up and down. In utter embarrassment at the turn of events, the man wouldn't take the proffered food. "Go on - eat it", the brakemen said. "We will wait for you". Such was the atmosphere on the last train for the night.
Another night a tall, slim, and quite drunken man was walking up the ferry boat aisle with his cap on sideways to the left. From his waist up he was bent over to the left, in a sort of a curve. One of the regulars hollered "For god's sake, set his cap on straight before he falls over!"
The Frisco cops would draw up every night, a few minutes before the last boat left, and deposit all the people accused of misdemeanors short of murder. We would have all the drunks, thieves, pimps, prostitutes, etc., whether they lived in Oakland or not. It relieved the San Francisco cops, courts, and attorneys of thousands of hours of work.
One night a woman was walking up and down the aisle, swishing her big fanny from side to side, and otherwise displaying all the sexiness she was capable of. One of the guys who had a good evening of fun, but had not had enough, apparently, thinking she was one of the cops rejects, approached her. Of all the ranting and raving that followed for the rest of the trip, we got thoroughly tired of and could have wrung his neck..
There was a tall beautiful girl dressed in black, wearing a black hat with a big wide brim that was on the boat nearly every night. She made a living on the streets of San Francisco, but was as respectful as they make them, once she left Frisco. Shorty Mastrangelo, who had relations with nearly every girl in West Oakland or elsewhere got enthused about getting it for nothing from her. They spent many weeks sitting on a little bench behind the stairs to the upper deck, where no one could see them. Our card game suffered from his absence, but Shorty could care less. Finally he gave up trying and returned to play cards with the gang.