Remembering Byron Hot Springs

By Patricia Frumenti

Note: This essay first appeared in the June, 1998 Bulletin of the Contra Costa County Historical Society

I was attending the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Dedication and passed the booth of the Contra Costa County Historical Society and stopped to talk to Mary-Ellen Jones. I mentioned I was familiar with the area and had graduated from Liberty Union (1932-1936), also told her of an interesting incident in my life that she asked me to write about.

My grandfather was an attorney in San Francisco in the early 1900s. He was a good lawyer but a bad businessman who never succeeded in various of his undertakings. One example, with which I'm familiar happened in 1910 when I was eleven years old. My grandfather and two partners (a father and son named Wolters) decided to open Byron Hot Springs and bring it back to its glory years when it was a very popular place for people recovering from various ailments. There were mud baths, hot sulfur springs and an Olympic-size pool enclosed in a building. The younger Wolters was a West Coast Diving Champion and taught my two brothers and me how to swim correctly and dive.

 


 

Since no one seemed concerned that the stock market had crashed six months earlier and the country was in a depression, the project was doomed to fail, but for three glorious summer months my two brothers, (one older and one younger) and I stayed in hotel rooms and ate in the dining room with white table cloths and napkins and fresh flowers on the table. Since children never think of finances when they are young, we never realized what folly this was. We grew up on a ranch between Oakley and Knightsen so this luxury was to be enjoyed. We had no responsibilities except to play and swim whenever we wanted.

My grandfather never drove and always had his chauffeur drive him in San Francisco, but on the weekends when he visited us at the ranch he would have my younger brother David (who learned to drive when he was seven) drive him around in the Model T. Later, at Byron Hot Springs, because of his driving ability, David if no one else was available, would be sent to meet the train and pick up the mail and any hotel guests at the railroad siding. He was ten at the time. It was only a direct road to the hotel and not on the highway but can you imagine any sane adult being willing to have a ten year-old boy chauffeur him? He wasn't even big for his age.

Well, summer ended and we went home to start school again at Iron House which was then located at the intersection of Cypress Road and Sellers Avenue between Oakley and Knightsen.

P.S. My grandfather was vice-president of the Olympic Club in San Francisco for twenty years. He donated the two marble statues that are still standing in the entrance of the Club located on Post Street between Mason and Taylor. It is inscribed Ludwig M. Hoefler - one donated in 1912 and one in 1913.

P.P.S. The younger Wolters had a beautiful sister, "Snooky," who I worshipped. She married an early 1930s Stanford football star, "Bones" Hamilton, who I think, just died last year.


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