Bodega and Stories of Horror

Portuguese Beach – Sonoma County

This week we tripped over to the coast with Mr. and Mrs. C. A walk along the shore north of the town of Bodega Bay was first on the leisurely agenda. Schoolhouse Beach was closed, so we drove a little farther north to Portuguese Beach. It’s steep where the waves break on the sand, and signs warn you not to turn your back to the surf or to go on the down side of the slope, where an undertow can get you in its grip.

The View Landward

We strolled the length of the beach and back, admiring the view landward and seaward, and then sat on a log. Mr. and Mrs. C didn’t have their frisky Yellow Lab with them, but we’ve seen how she loves to romp in the water at Lake Tahoe or at nearby Salmon Creek Lagoon.

As we were climbing back up the cliff to the car, we met a couple coming down with four dogs, no matter that pets are not allowed on that beach. A tall great dane, two medium dogs with long hair, a tiny dog, and their owner carrying colorful beach ball.

Drowning at Portuguese Beach in 2011

We stopped at the top for a while and watched the Dane canter around joyfully. The mid-sized dogs pushed the beach ball into the waves and along the ocean’s edge — all right at that steep part that is so dangerous. Mrs. C. commented about how many people go into the ocean to rescue their dogs; the people often drown, but if they only had known that dogs almost always manage to get back on their own….

When I was researching for this post I discovered a news story and photo depicting a case of that very thing: a dog owner having drowned when she went after her dog and got caught in the surf. That time the dog did drown also, and it was at just this time of year. These accidents, though not always involving dogs, happen so often on the Northern California coast that the multiplied effect has turned them into horror stories for me.

“Birds” children running downhill from schoolhouse

A bit inland from Bodega Bay, we came to the town of Bodega. Confusing, isn’t it? Both are famous for the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds” being filmed here in the early 1960’s.

I saw it in my teens, and can still recall sitting on the living room floor, self-consciously and silently terrified. Ever since then, when I see crows looking down from telephone wires, I know from the experience of that movie that they have a sinister intent.

The schoolhouse today, a private residence

Hitchcock mixed up scenes from the two towns for the film, and we checked out two of the landmarks that remain in Bodega: the schoolhouse and the church, which stand very close to one another on a hill. Within the last year we Glads and the C. couple watched “The Birds” together. It wasn’t as scary as I remembered, but I still don’t like it. I do like the buildings in Bodega.


On our way back from the beach we first stopped at a historic watering hole in the town; the Casino’s bar was built a hundred years ago by the bartender’s great-uncle. His grandmother still manages the place, opening the doors and closing up every day even in her 80’s.

The dining room (the sign said “Dinning Room”) was most appealing to me. It was fresh and clean and empty that afternoon, tables, chairs and floor of bare weathered wood as old as the bar. A dozen or more deer and elk heads decorated the walls around. I drank an Ace Peary Hard Cider, brewed locally.

After our refreshment we walked along a muddy little track through the grass along the bank above the road, to see the church and the school.

The church is St. Teresa of Avila. Services have been held there weekly since its dedication in 1861. From the church you can look down on the little artsy town of Bodega, as in the photo below.

When we had set out from our house that morning, I decided not to bother with a camera. Then of course I regretted it many times! I was lucky to find all of these pictures on the Web.

I’m happy to say there was nothing horrific about our meandering day. That’s a good thing about enjoying the present moment: one doesn’t have to be subject to artists’ imaginations, to old news articles, or to one’s own memories of bad things. “Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof,” and as there wasn’t any of that sort of thing on our outing, it provided sufficient R&R for my weary soul. Thanks be to God!

Town of Bodega, California

5 thoughts on “Bodega and Stories of Horror

  1. It sounds like a really wonderful outing. I always liked The Birds and my kids think movies from the 60s are terrific to watch — so different from movies today. I always love seeing the old clothing styles.

    As always, beautiful beach scenes!

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  2. I need to go up there and visit that place. It has been years since I went to Northern California. When I was a kid, my Dad had a thing about finding old ghost towns so we went every where. It has been years. I remember visiting that beach, and even then it scared me. Reading what you wrote reminded me of it. I was scared to death of the Birds too.
    When I watched it again there are parts that still bother me too.
    Very nice post. I love the photos.

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  3. I watched one of those documnetary/movie things over the holidays, about Hitchcock and his relationship with the actress from Birds and other movies. Not an encouragement to like his work!

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  4. Great post, great pics, great day trip, isn't it. One of the places I enjoy. I was able to get Tippi Hedren to sign a copy of The Birds (DVD) for my brother, by the way. Truly enjoy your work here. Peace and all good things for you in blogging and in life.

    Sincerely,
    Diane

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