gerrie reichard on 77 drought

Paul Penna writes: “This (photo) by Gerrie Reichard is from the July 21, 1976 Twin Cities Times story about how my father was dealing with the drought.”

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Thoughts & Memories

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If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. Mantra of my youth.  — Heather Gold

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I find it interesting that Governor Jerry Brown was California’s governor during the 1976-1977 drought, and now he has to deal with it again. — Kathy Kobil-Rizer




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Writer Peter Anderson Remembers Gov. Brown’s Rain Drum

Peter Anderson's headshot from his Marin IJ column during the '80s.

Peter Anderson’s headshot from his Marin IJ column during the ’80s.

In Marin, it was horrible. Nobody could water their lawns or gardens. Showers were severely limited. Fines were heavy if you exceeded your rationed amount. Neighbors sometimes stole from neighbors by hitching their hoses to next door. Swimming pools went empty. Dishes and silverware never looked totally clean. It was a downer.

In late 1977, I was writing for a Marin weekly, Pacific Sun, as their Sacramento correspondent. I scored a real coup by interviewing Jerry Brown, who was in the third year of his first term as Governor.

Gov. Jerry Brown in the Seventies

Gov. Jerry Brown in the Seventies

The morning of the interview, I was ushered into his private office. He was seated on a white sofa. Above him on the wall was the famous “Whole Earth” painting by his friend Steward Brand. On the coffee table was a drum, and Brown, knowing I was from Marin, was beating the drum and humming for rain. He explained that an Indian friend of his from Marin had given him the drum and exhorted him to use it as a drought-buster. Two weeks later, right around the time my cover story/interview came out, the Marin drought ended! Next time I ran into the Governor, drinking beer and playing Liar’s Dice at David’s Brass Rail, I commented on the timing. He merely grinned, and said, “What else did you expect? Miracles happen.”

MMWD drought 1976

Photo by MMWD – found on KQED

By the way, what a lot of people don’t recall is that Marin was absolutely bone dry, and, at the midnight hour, the head of the Water District, a no-B.S. guy named Dietrich Stroeh, got a pipeline built across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge in record time, shaming bureaucracies infamous for massive consumption of time. He got it done in less than a month. There was a vacant right lane on the top level of the bridge, and pipe was laid from the Contra Costa Water Agency all the way into the entrance of Marin near San Quentin. It literally saved Marin County. Sadly and stupidly, the pipeline was taken down a few years ago. Now we are up against it again. Stroeh has written a wonderful book explaining his heroism. I did early research for the first few drafts of his book — it is called “The Man Who Made It Rain.” It can be found on Amazon.

People, start banging your drums.  – Peter Anderson


What are your memories of the 1976/77 Drought?  Got photos?

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  1. On our vacation to Texas that summer, the Dallas Morning news did a story on us coming from Marin to play on our cousins’ lawn, drink from the hose and play in sprinklers…all about us escaping the drought. Been feeling like I have to pull that article out.

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