Monday, January 17, 2011

Captain William “Bill” Leale (1846-1918) - Ship Captain; Owner of Historic Home

Leale home, grave marker and ferry

Captain William “Bill” Leale was born on the Isle of Guernsey in 1846. He came to San Francisco in April 1866 where he was hired as a deckhand on the river steamer Reform. He became the master of the steamer Pioneer within six years and commanded a number of other vessels.

In 1880 he purchased the steamer Caroline and the tugboat Frolic. By the 1890s he was the captain of the bay ferries for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

In 1883, he bought a home that had been built in 1853 at 2475 Pacific Avenue in San Francisco. He added a bracketed false front and built a small house in the backyard, which he fitted to resemble a pilot house. Historical records indicate that the house is one of the oldest in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of Pacific Heights.

The house has become famous in recent years as the home of Susie Tompkins, who has hosted some of the most prominent Democrats in America, including President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, future President Barack Obama and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Dean Henry Detton (1908-1958) – Football Star & Professional Wrestler

Dean Detton

Dean Detton was a former University of Utah football star who went on to become a famous heavyweight wrestler in the 1930s and 1940s. He was one of eleven children and two of the nine boys became wrestlers.

He was the world heavyweight wrestling champion in 1936 and 1937. He lost the title after two years to the All-American football legend Bronko Nagurski.

He was known for his trademark toehold and shoulder tackles which combined traditional wrestling with a newer brand of more physical and showy wrestling.

After serving in World War II, he returned to California and promoted new wrestling talent. After a brief period in Southern California, Detton lived the last 14 years of his life in Hayward, California. Detton committed suicide by hanging himself in his tavern The Turf Club. The body was discovered by his wife and son. His wife said that he had been despondent over the financial challenges of his business. A few months earlier, Detton tried to throw himself in front of a moving train, but was only slightly injured.

Detton was a native of Utah and a member of the Mormon church.