Thursday, May. 23, 2019

Bolinas RCA Chief Rigger Made a Difference

By Richard Nielsen · July 01, 2016

 <span>&copy; Richard Nielsen </span>

In 1924, Walter (Walt) Wagner was assistant chief rigger at the Marion RCA transmitting station in Marion, Massachusetts.  Walt was surprised when RCA approached him about being the chief rigger on the opposite side of the country at the RCA transmitting station in Bolinas, California.  In January 1925, Walt crossed the country by train with his wife Alice and their two year old daughter Annie.  RCA was so interested in securing his rigging skills, and his ability to direct others, that they promised him the job of chief rigger and a return to his old position in Marion if, after one year, he decided he did not like living in Bolinas.  Walt and his family lived in a small house at the Bolinas RCA station for ten years.  By that time, the family had grown to include another daughter, Elizabeth (Betty), and Alice was pregnant with their son Walter (Sonny).  They moved into town, and after a time were able to purchase a home on Wharf Road in downtown Bolinas, leaving the isolation of the RCA station behind for good.

Walt was fearless.  He was frequently suspended from thin antenna support cables 300 feet above the ground, swaying in the coastal winds of Bolinas.  At times he disappeared into the rising and lowering fog that frequently encompassed the high towers and antennas.  In the late 1930s, Jimmy Bourne took Walt's place climbing the 300 foot Marconi masts.  Jimmy was a descendant of early Bolinas pioneer Captain Peter Bourne who was the first owner of the ranch now known as the Audubon Canyon Ranch.  In 1961, Walt retired from RCA, having spent the rest of his career at Bolinas. Jimmy Bourne assumed the position of chief rigger until in 1976 he, too, retired.

Walt's daughter Annie is seen with Walt in this picture, taken while they lived at the Bolinas RCA station.  In 1941, Annie married Harvey Crotts, who also served as a rigger in the 1940s, before and after serving in the Army during WWII.  Harvey passed away in September 1972 and Annie lived out the rest of her life in Bolinas, the town she loved, much of that time as Postmaster, passing away in May of 2014 at the age of 91.  Annie is fondly remembered by Bolinas residents, who always looked forward to her singing the National Anthem to kick off the Bolinas parade every Fourth of July for more than 60 years without missing a year.

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