The dark days are gone from the once dimly lit and vaguely foreboding Suisun City waterfront.
The fabled city-by-the-slough now has a lighthouse, an amenity that Suisun City founder Capt. Josiah Wing could only dream about 150 years ago as he helplessly watched lumbering sorghum barges go off course in the darkness and repeatedly slam into waterfront thirst emporiums and mercantile establishments.
(Hence the former nickname of the downtown channel – “Pinball Slough.”)
Today, thanks to a farsighted city council and several soggy citizens who got tired of walking out of Suisun saloons and waking up in San Pablo, a 52-foot beacon now sweeps the treacherous shore.
Think about it, not even San Jose has its own lighthouse. Ditto for Fresno and Barstow …
Ah, how well I remember peering into the darkness from my old Cedar Street apartment as wind and rain whipped the narrow channel and storm-tossed whaling ships were battered to kindling on the rocks before they could safely tie up at the old Sheldon Oil docks.
Every time a marshland maelstrom would roar across the channel in the dark of night, we’d have to put down our drinks, don our slickers and rush to the shore to save a pitifully few survivors, groping frantically in the dark only to find that we’d actually rescued an ill-tempered sturgeon or, perhaps, a wayward city councilman on a waterlogged jet ski.
(Whaddya mean “That’s ridiculous!”? I was there, amigo, and I can tell you it was hell on earth…)
What we would have given for a towering lighthouse when a really big storm – known by old timers as a Soosooon Typhooon – left us at the mercy of the dark and the wind-whipped waters.The lighthouse also is likely to take big bite out of crime along the once notorious waterfront.
I’d venture to say that Suisun City will have considerably fewer pirate problems now that the powerful beam of its new lighthouse is sweeping the channel.
In the old days, when darkness fell on the waterfront like a curtain, all we’d hear of a lightning-like pirate raid would be a few “Arrrr, mateys…” and then the pitiful screams of our women being carried off to San Pablo.
A few wags may opine that the aforementioned womenfolk were actually cheering the pirates on, but in all that darkness, who could tell?
At any rate, you can bet Suisun City Police Chief Ron Forsythe will be spending a lot less of his time knee-deep in the slough holding off waves of blood-thirsty buccaneers with his trusty Walther and rusty cutlass.
Yes, Suisun City’s new lighthouse is what we in the world of municipal boosterism cheerfully refer to as a win-win situation.
Who knows? Maybe even the whaling ships will be docking there again soon, and it just doesn’t get any better than that, amigos…
Originally published July 9, 2006