Growing up, I was always a little bit in awe of Jack Sutro. When I was nine his son Steve and I were best friends. Then “Mister” Sutro (I’m 44 today and it still doesn’t feel right calling him ‘Jack’ to his face) ran a tight ship.
Using a 1970s TV analogy — if my other friends’ homes resembled everything from All in the Family to Eight Is Enough (with all the Marin stereotypes of hot tubs and divorce thrown in to boot) the Sutro home was definitely Happy Days (minus The Fonz and any sort of shenanigans). Steve even looked like Richie Cunningham!
As I grew older, I began to view Mr. Sutro as far more than an iconoclastic figure in the vein of Howard Cunningham — great father, loving husband, and an avid 49er fan who wore red and gold on Sundays to support his team. Jack stood for something more — a higher ideal — and everyone knew him to be a gentleman, a brilliant lawyer and a no-nonsense hero of justice in both the courtroom and our community.
Later Judge Sutro sat on the Marin Superior Court and was kind enough to share a few thoughts on his nostalgic memories of Marin:
“I like beef,” says Sutro, “and we used to go to the Victoria Station located near where the Marin Airporter is today in Larkspur Landing “. It was “a really neat place” he remembers because “they created a restaurant out of a bunch of railroad cars, which was unique.” He recalls dining inside an authentic looking train car “but it didn’t have any windows to the outside so it wasn’t like a dining car. You sat in booths and it was rather narrow.” His favorite item on the menu: “They had great burgers!”
“Another place that (my wife) Loulie and I really liked,” recalls the Judge, “was La Petit Auberge” a French restaurant in San Rafael on the East End of town where Indian restaurant Lotus currently resides.
“That was great,” he says, “They had a moving ceiling they would roll open in the summer and it would be ‘open air’.” In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Sutro says, “that was our special night out and generally we would stay there and close the place.”
The Sutro family always kept traditions and I remember spending a particularly fun breakfast with them around 1979 at the Kentfield Fireman’s Pancake Breakfast.
“It’s a Marin tradition and something we’ve been doing every year since the early 1970s,” Sutro says proudly. “Although that was back in the days when I could eat all that stuff. I was ignorant about what it was doing to my body.”
Today, despite the high carbs, butter and syrup, the Judge and his family continue the firehouse tradition. Yet now, his children bring their own children to the breakfast and “everyone gets up on the fire truck,” he says. “It’s a great fundraiser.”