Here's another interview transcript conducted by the Maritime Museum of San Diego published in 2004. The interview was conducted in Oct-Nov 2003 in three separate parts, but here they are merged together.

Maritime Museum of San Diego

Interviewed by Mark Allen

Interview conducted at Mr. Kettenburg's home

Transcribed by Myrtle Cox

Comments in brackets added by Paul’s son Tom Kettenburg


PK: This is Paul Kettenburg on October 9, 2003.

MA: I’m Mark Allen. Tom Kettenburg is also present and will probably be commenting.

MA: I have some questions about what it was like growing up a Kettenburg, maybe you could answer for me. Your dad—you mentioned that when you got your Model T your dad actually allowed you to bump your age forward a little bit to get it. What was he like as a father: was he a doting father, [or] real stern? How would you describe your dad?

PK: My dad was very much in favor of anything I wanted to do, that was something that could be carried on as the years went by. I don’t remember any ideas that he was unhappy with; there might have been some. He was very much encouraging me to do things that he thought were worthwhile. Of course, he had no background of boating when he came to San Diego—he grew up in Pittsburgh. He didn’t do any boating back there; the only boating he did was in the wintertime. He would take the family down to Florida and he would rent some kind of a little boat and puddle around down in the Florida area.

MA: Now, do you remember, now–you were born here in 1913, so you wouldn’t remember the Florida trip. Do you remember where the family would go in Florida though, any particular place they would go boating?

PK: They went to Palm Beach in the wintertime from Pittsburgh. He had a fella there that had been working with him when he installed all of his electric generating equipment and he could take over and run it while my dad was gone.

MA: I remember hearing that the family wintered out at San Diego once and that’s what made San Diego appealing later on. Do you know what year that was?

TK: It was 1908 or 1909. [Summer 1908; returned to PA about 9 months later]

PK: He came out and they rented a place in La Jolla. My mother and two sisters and two brothers stayed there in La Jolla, and he got on a ship and went over to Japan and China and back.

MA: Your Father did at that time? And the family stayed in La Jolla. Well, just a pleasure trip?

PK: Yes, apparently my Mother didn’t feel like she wanted to go to that; she did a lot of traveling with him, but he went over there and spent that time there and then they went back to Pittsburg and then he sold out the business in ….when? In 1910?

TK: It was probably in that time period. He came back to Pittsburgh probably about March of ‘09. In 1909/1910, winter, is when I think that’s when he went down to Florida.

MA: I should probably confine the questions more to things you actually remember yourself, rather than the real early stuff. About your dad: since obviously I never had an opportunity to meet him, if I’d met him on the street what kind of personality did he have toward others? Was he kind of an imposing guy? A big guy, short guy? What was he like?

PK: He was very friendly, always willing to talk to whoever was there and wanted to talk and if they were interested in some of his background why he would go along with them. He decided he would rent a boat down there in Florida and decided that when he came out here, he sold his business…

TK: The Utility Co. took over and….

PK: Yeah, bought out his generating plant there and he was going to go down to Florida and buy out a plant that was available down there. They were going to take a ship to go to Florida with all the furniture and everything, because they had sold out everything in Pittsburgh. So, they had everything all packed up and ready to go and they put the ship in drydock for awhile, so he said "The heck with that, let’s go to California." So he took all the stuff that was going to go on the ship, put it on the railroad, and they got in the car and they came out here to San Diego. They rented a house out in La Mesa. [Probably Fall 1912. They most likely came out by rail]

MA: Do you happen to know on that trip to La Jolla, where he went to the Orient and the family stayed in La Jolla, did George or anyone do any boating, did they rent a boat? No one ever told you stories about that?

PK: They were all too young–this was 1908, the oldest boy was 8 or 9 years old and everyone else was younger than that, so they were just kids.

MA: They just "hung out" in La Jolla. When you were a child, it sounds like your dad loved engines, was he a tinkerer as well? Did he enjoy taking things apart and putting them together?

PK: Well, his hobby was machining. When he came here he had a lathe and some machine shop stuff that he had in Pittsburgh and he brought that all out here and set it up. And then when they built the house here on this property they had a two car garage and half of the garage was set up for his machine shop. With a lathe and other stuff that he had in there, grinders and all…. [also brought out the 4 cyl. engine from his 1907 Daimler to put in a boat.]

TK: He also had a solder bucket so he could heat up soldering irons.

PK: He had gas heat in there so he could heat up his irons and stuff.

MA: He didn’t have anything particular he was working on–he just loved to tinker with engines and stuff?

PK: Yeah, so he had that shop set up here and when he decided that after he got the house built that he ought to have a boat, with the water, the bay, down here, it was a nice place to have a boat. So he bought about a 22- or 23-foot little powerboat from one of the neighbors here, called the Joyselle. It wasn’t much of a boat, so he decided that maybe it would be fun to build a better boat. So he bought a set of plans from William Hand, the designer of speedboats, for a 22-foot boat. He got the plans there and brother George took over and laid the plans out on the floor of the basement of the old house, for lofting it, and he told my dad, "You know, this would be a better boat if it was 24 feet".

MA: Right, it had that extra 2 feet.

PK: So Dad wrote to the architect and said "What do you think of increasing the length of the boat?"

MA: He actually wrote a letter to William Hand?

PK: He wrote back and said "It will ruin it," but he did it anyway; so he let George do it anyway and it turned out to be a heck of a lot better boat.

MA: So George must have grown up tinkering in your dad’s machine shop too, I assume.

PK: Probably.

MA: How about you? Did you spend a lot of time in the machine shop when you were a kid?

PK: George was not a machinist, he never had any interest in doing any machine work. He wanted to build boats. He was more of a carpenter. He did all the carpentry work on this boat and he was only fifteen. He was fifteen and I was five.

MA: What got him started with doing the carpentry work, did he build toy boats before that or do you have any idea what …?

PK: I don’t know. It just came "out of the blue." The fact that he had this idea that the boat would be better if he lengthened it, that just came out of the blue. It was just something that was just in his head. He had never had any background, that anybody knows about, of any designing or anything like that.

MA: Did he help the carpenters build the house? I mean he would have been, let’s see, how old would George have been? He would have been a little kid. Well, we know that he didn’t.

TK: He was only nine years old when the house was built.

MA: Yeah, that’s my question. They probably set him off to the side where he could bang some nails or something.

TK: Why don’t you tell the story about when you helped Granddaddy, your dad, overhaul that Cadillac that he bought, that used Cadillac. That might be more instructive as to what Granddad would do in regards to machine shop work.

PK: My dad bought a 1917 Cadillac touring car, a used car, and he decided that he should overhaul the engine, so he took the engine out and took it all apart and overhauled it. He cleaned up and took all the instruments, had them all doctored up and when they had the engine out, I could stand on the floor, underneath, and hook all the instruments up on the dashboard for him. Standing in there putting wires back in.

MA: That’s a pretty big car.

TK: There was a space between the firewall and the dashboard.

MA: I thought you were talking about actually inside the box.

PK: I had to stand on the floor to do this.

TK: In those days, the oils were lousy and the gas was lousy so you had to de-carbon the engine every 1,000 or 2,000 miles or so cause they would get choked up with carbon. Basically you had to tear the engine down every 2 or 3 years at least and do that. That’s what he was doing.

MA: Your dad obviously had a real passion for tinkering and doing stuff like that. Did he have any other real passions, things that he just loved? I mean, obviously he enjoyed boating, right?

PK: He loved to travel. When they lived in Pittsburgh, he did a lot of traveling to South America and to Europe on the ships. He really enjoyed traveling. In 1926 he made arrangements to take my Mother and Dad and two sisters on an around-the-world cruise. They left out of L.A. and went over to the Orient and around and ended up in Europe. They spent some time in Europe and then came home. Then at that time, George had just been married and Bill, George’s son, was born in January and they left in February on this trip, so George and his wife and baby came and lived in the house and house-sat for me, I guess.

MA: You were a pretty little kid.

PK: I was 12 and was going to school.

MA: Did you get a little mad because you were left behind? Or did you want to stay behind?

PK: Oh no, at that age, it didn’t turn me on one way or another. So, George was living here at the house and in the meantime, Dad had set George up in the boat business. After he built the first boat and sold it and built the second boat and sold it, he finally told George, "Hell, if you want to build boats I’ll set you up in business." So he built the third boat and then in 1926 he got an order to build four Sun boats.

MA: This was well after his buying aircraft engines and….

PK: They’re still around.

MA: You were still building some power boats at that point?

TK: We were building power boats in 1927-1928.

PK: He had about 50 [engines]. This one was sitting out in the backyard.

MA: He must have been a doting Father you had, to put up with 50 "Hissos" [Hispano-Suiza aircraft engines] in the backyard. Crated up, I suppose. What was your Mom like? Not everybody would put up with having 50 aircraft engines in their backyard!

PK: My Mother would go along with whatever my dad wanted to do.

TK: Well, it was such a big yard, a big house–we had a whole block. She probably never saw the damn engines. She never went in the backyard.

PK: It went all the way from that street [San Fernando] up to that street [San Gorgonio]. It had the same depth that way.

MA: Yeah, there was plenty of room to stash 50 engines?

PK: It went back 150 feet back this way. So, they didn’t bother her any; they were all out in the backyard. She looked out toward the bay; that was her interest: to watch and see what went on. In those days we had a 180 degree of the bay, now we’d have about 2 degrees. The house was built so it had a complete, unobstructed view of the whole bay and city and everything. The front yard was from–which is where that house is now–had a bunch of grapefruit and orange trees and lawn, so she could sit up there and look over the top of this, and watch all the stuff going on. She wasn’t concerned at all about the backyard.

TK: She liked holding teas, didn’t she Dad? And bridge clubs?

PK: Yes, she belonged to a bridge club and they met at people’s houses, and every once in awhile a whole bunch met there at our house.

TK: Tell the story about the sauerkraut in the barrel in the basement. Don’t you remember that? Didn’t it blow up? You kept putting more juice or something on it and you told the story about they kept fermenting it and fermenting it and pretty soon it blew up? Don’t you remember that?

PK: That’s kind of gotten out of my mind.

MA: Well, it sounds like I probably wouldn’t be able to directly apply that to the history of the Kettenburg Boat Works. We’ll let that story go until….


TK: By way of explanation: Grandad, I know he liked real German sauerkraut and normally when he was travelling, like on the 1926 trip which was Cunard, he would take a North German Lloyd Steamship Line because it was German, not that he spoke German, but he just liked being on a German ship and they had German food and he smoked cigars–not the expensive ones–but he liked cigars. What kind of booze did he drink? He drank a little bit, didn’t he?

PK: He liked whiskey. He had a shot of whiskey every night.

MA: I never thought to ask, but as a German family here in the First World War, was there a sense of prejudice at all, did he ever mention? He was American-born so he never had a German accent or anything.

PK: No, he never had. His father had been in the Union army during the Civil War. He became an officer, he enlisted as an enlisted man and ended up as a Captain. In fact he was in the battle of Gettysburg, his name is on the thing that they have there at Gettysburg, and his brother is also on there.

TK: During World War I, there may not have been as much anti-German prejudice on the West Coast as there was on the East Coast. Also, in 1918, we didn’t have our name on any buildings here and there was no Kettenburg Boat Works signs anywhere. It was just the Kettenburg family and that was about it.

PK: There were never any problems that I ever heard of.

MA: Back to the Kettenburg family, did your mom and dad both approve of career choices that sons and daughters made or did they think"Oh, George should really go off to college?"

PK: My oldest brother, Robert, went to college; he graduated from Stanford, and the older sister, Julia, she went to college, she went to Cal. She graduated and got a teacher’s certificate to teach grade school.

MA: Do you have a little Cal/Stanford rivalry in the home there when you were a kid?

PK: No, I don’t remember anything. My other sister [Ella] went to State College a little bit up there, but she didn’t go very long to college. Both of my sisters got acquainted with young Navy officers that were on destroyers here in San Diego; one was an Ensign and the other was a J.G. well the J.G. got acquainted with my older sister and the Ensign got acquainted with the younger sister, Ellen. They were on a destroyer here in San Diego and they used to get invited out. When either one of the guys had the duty on Saturday night, he invited my sister to come out and have supper on the ship, and they would always say "If I can bring my little brother, I’ll go." So I used to go out….

MA: Do you remember which destroyer, or was it several different destroyers?

PK: No, I should remember the name of that. I can’t remember that right now. I think the number was 307 or something like that, Paul something-or-other. [USS Paul Hamilton] It doesn’t matter. So I got acquainted with them and we’d go out and have supper on Saturday night on the destroyer. Finally, that particular hull of the destroyers became a problem, and they decided to junk them and transfer them [equipment and crews] into destroyers that had been in storage down at the 32nd Street Naval Station. They brought one of those ships out and tied it alongside the ship that was being de-commissioned and they took all the modern gear off the ship that had gone bad and put it on the other ship. I used to go down there in my speedboat on Saturday afternoons and watch them taking these destroyers apart.

TK: There’s a little-known story about that; they were bringing a lot of equipment from the old destroyers over to the ones that were commissioned and de-commissioned the old ones. The big problems were the boilers on the ships that were operating, so it was cheaper to junk those and transfer the equipment over to the newer destroyers.

MA: Before I forget, we were on the subject of your Mom a few minutes ago. Did she enjoy sailing? Did she go out?

PK: She was not interested in sailing.

MA: He [Kettenburg Sr.] got a boat, but it was a power boat.

PK: He was interested in powerboats, because they had engines; that was his hobby, engines.

MA: Your Mom just sort of stayed home, or did she enjoy going out boating?

PK: Well, these speed boats were not the kind of boats that the women would be interested in going on. She never paid much attention to it.

TK: But your sisters went out on it.

PK: Yes, my sisters would go out on the boat. Their boyfriends were taking them out and running the boat.

MA: I’m just curious about the family as you were growing up. What was Christmas like in the Kettenburg household? Was it a huge deal or was it small, intimate or a big gathering?

PK: At Christmas we always had a Christmas tree and we had what we always called the den, which was kind of behind the living room in the house, towards the west. It was my dad’s office and he had a place in there where he could lay down and take a snooze if he felt like it It had a little mattress on it, it was about 7 feet long and about 3 feet wide, and every Christmas he’d take that mattress out of there and set up the Christmas tree in there and put all the gear around it and all the–well, it looked like grass–and he had a little model railroad, a wind-up, and he put the track around there so this train would run around the tree, and the tree was all decorated.

TK: Did they have electric lights on the tree? Do you remember?

PK: Yes, the trees had electric lightbulbs on it, so it was all lit up.

TK: So they did that pretty much every Christmas?

PK: Yes, every Christmas.

MA: Sounds like a nice home to grow up in.

PK: The thing about it is, he would shut that room off so none of us kids could go in there, and he would set up the whole tree, set the whole thing up, and then Christmas Eve–Christmas Eve was the big deal for them–and Christmas Eve he would open it up and we could all go in there and he had everything they bought for us on there, all wrapped up, and we had the Christmas opening and everything there on Christmas Eve.

MA: That’s neat.

TK: Then after dinner? What did they do then, it was after dark.

PK: Yes, after supper, on Christmas Eve. They had all the things in there, and I know they had kept asking me what I wanted for Christmas, and he didn’t tell me whether he was going to get it or not, but I’d tell him what I wanted. I didn’t want a lot of stuff, but there were a few things I wanted. Like I wanted a tool box, and one year I wanted a .22 rifle, and so whatever it was.

TK: And a bicycle, maybe? I’m sure there was a bicycle in there somewhere.

PK: Yes, it wasn’t a big deal, but everyone had the things that they most wanted.

MA: Were you all a church-going family or not involved in any particular church?

PK: Mother was Catholic and all of us kids came up Catholics. Dad never became a part of any church. If there was an interesting sermon at the church, he would go with my Mother and listen to the sermon.

TK: According to the history I have, there’s a history called Pittsburgh and Her People. It’s a four-volume history of Pittsburgh that I kind of inherited from my Uncle Bob indirectly, and there’s a section in there of the Kettenburg family in Pittsburgh and apparently his grandfather, senior George William Kettenburg, a Civil War vet, was a pillar of the Methodist Church back in Pittsburgh, one of the Methodist Churches, so presumably my Grandfather was also brought up that way, but I don’t think he ever practiced it once he got out on his own.

PK: Mother’s family were all Catholics.

TK: That was the Eyth family.

MA: I was just going to ask you, Paul, about your Brother George, Jr. and about how he was regarded by the people that worked for him and with him. Was he real easy to get along with? Was he a driven person? What was he like?

PK: He was really easy to get along with, he was never pushy and anyone that was working for him, he tried to help them get going in the right direction. He was always very friendly with the people working for him. He respected them for what they were doing, and if they had some information or ability that he could use, he was glad to work with them and take any information that they had to do whatever was being done.

TK: But, he was also able to impart his knowledge and to teach his expertise, as much as he could, to you and to anybody else in the yard that was coming up in the business.

PK: Yeah, one of the things, he had this basic ability to design boats. Nobody has ever been able to figure how he came by it. He designed some fine boats: the "Poggy III," he designed. After "Poggy 1" and "Poggy II," he never bought any more plans.

MA: Why did he name them "Poggy"?

PK: Well, that’s another story.

MA: Go ahead.

PK: My Sister, Ella–she was the younger of the two, she’s the one that really raised me–she had a pug nose, so when she was a little kid, apparently, my dad called her Puggy, because she had a pug nose.

MA: So Puggy became Poggy?

PK: Yeah, so when they built the first speedboat, he decided to name it "Poggy."

MA: Was George real close to Ella and your dad?

PK: Oh, yeah, they got along all right. I never remember any problem between any of the kids.

TK: They were real close in ages, because George was Jan. ’04, or sometime in ’04, Julia came along in May of ’05 and Ella was born in July ’06.

MA: When you were talking a few minutes ago (to take us back away from George for the moment), you were talking about the Navy and how as a kid you used to go out on the destroyers once in awhile with your sisters. Bob Crawford mentioned to me that you had told him a story about getting a ride on a submarine once too? I’d like to hear that.

PK: Well, I had this little speedboat.

MA: How old were you when you got the speedboat, by the way?

PK: I must have been in sixth grade, maybe 12 years old. What happened is that George built this little 13-foot outboard speedboat and nobody bought it. So, one day a guy came in selling Hallett Marine Engines, which were little 4 cylinders, about 20 horsepower [actually 8 hp], with a reverse gear and everything, and George thought, "Gee, that would be good to put in this boat that I built," so he bought one of the engines and installed it in the boat. When he got it installed in the boat he said "Here, Paul, this would be a good boat for you," so he turned it over to me.

MA: Had you dreamed about getting a boat of your own, or was this just "out of the blue"?

PK: It was just out of the blue, so gee, I’m ready! So, you steered it with a tiller at the back, right off of the transom, and a propeller and everything down underneath.

TK: How did it start? Did you hand-crank it?

PK: Yeah, hand-crank it. It had a little crank on the front of the fly-wheel. So, I had this little boat, it probably did about 18 or 20 miles per hour. It would get up and plane. In the meantime, Dad had bought this ways and dock from the Portuguese that they didn’t have any more use for. The Portuguese developed an area at the foot of McCall Street and, when their boats got too big to handle it, they decided to get out of it, and my dad bought it from them and they used that. While they were building boats up here, they were hauling boats down to there to the foot of McCall Street. But, anyway, there was a dock down there and he had a hoist on the out on the dock so I kept this boat down there on that dock. I’d come home from school in the afternoon (I was going to Cabrillo then), and I’d ride my bike, and I’d stop down there and put the boat in the water and buzz around the bay for a little bit, put it back up there, and come home.

MA: You must have been a popular kid with your classmates, having your own boat!

PK: Well, I didn’t get much from the classmates; they were all Portuguese and they were involved in boats and stuff. But, I was going out past the S-[class] submarine which was tied up to the Navy fuel dock, and I went out by there and as I was going by, I saw a guy standing up and waving like mad, and I wondered, he must want something. So I stopped, and he called to me and said "How about a ride?" I said "Sure, come on." So, he got in there and we rode around the bay for about a half hour and I brought him back and when we got back he thanked me for taking him and said "How would you like to go out on a submarine Saturday?" And he turned out to be the captain of the submarine. Boy, I about went crazy!

MA: How old were you, do you think? About 12? You’d just gotten the boat practically?

PK: Yeah, this was probably in about 1927, around in there.

TK: Would this have been the summer when you were building the Sun boats [1926], or after the Sun boats?

PK: This would have been after the Sun boats.


TK: Your mom and dad were back then?

PK: Oh, yes, they were back.

TK: They took a trip around the world from February 1926 til–when did they get back?

PK: They got back at the end of 1926.

TK: So, this was probably early ’27 you’re talking here, the warmer-weather part of the year.

MA: Well, listen, I interrupted you in the middle of a good story and I apologize, so go right ahead.

PK: Well, anyway, the captain of the submarine invited me and he said "Be down here at 8:00 Saturday morning; we’re going out." So, I got down here and tied my boat up around behind the float where the submarine was and went on, and got onboard the submarine and we went out about half way to the Coronado Islands. They submerged and we sat down there for about, maybe an hour, and finally we came back up and came back in and I got home a little before noon. I got off, went back and put my boat back down at the dock, came home and it was just a little before lunch. My Mother was sitting there in the kitchen making lunch and she said "Where have you been?" I said "Oh boy, I’ve been out on a submarine!" And about that time, my dad walked in to the kitchen and he said "What did you say–you were where?" and I said "I’ve been out on a submarine." Boy, you know, all hell broke loose and he hit the roof. As far as he was concerned, submarines were absolutely prohibited. Because his Father was in the Civil War and, you know, they had all the problems with submarines, so that was all he knew about submarines, was what his Father had talked about from his knowledge of what happened during that time with submarines.

TK: Tell him what you said to them when they asked you what you were doing down there in the submarine.

PK: My dad said, "What were they doing out there?" and I said, "They were looking for leaks."

MA: Well, that must have gone over well. What did your Mom say? "Boys will be boys"?

PK: It didn’t bother her; she didn’t have much reaction to it. She didn’t have any knowledge about problems on submarines. That was quite a trip! My dad was pretty uptight about that.

TK: You didn’t get to go out on your boat for awhile, probably.

PK: No, I was off the boat for about 2 weeks.

MA: You were grounded, literally grounded.

TK: He must have bought that dock then. Did he buy the dock in ’26 from the Portuguese?


PK: He had bought it before; I think he bought that dock from the Portuguese in about ’25.

TK: Oh, really. OK. So, this was before they even built the Sun boats, they built the dock. They launched the Sun boats down here. They took them off the ways and just launched them. . . .

PK: They didn’t try to put them on the ways, they took them down here, and put them out at low tide, and let the tide take them.

TK: You never launched any boats from there; you maybe hauled some and repaired a few.

PK: Yeah, it was just for hauling boats out and repairing. What they did, the power boats that they built here in the back yard, they launched them down there at the foot of Kellogg Street and took them over and then if they had to do anything to them they hauled them out and did it there on the ways.

TK: They were not too large to be able to haul out on those ways?

PK: No, you could haul the Agillis on the ways. That was the biggest boat he built: 47 feet.

MA: Now, when you were a kid growing up in the house, was George or your Father a subscriber to any of the major magazines like The Rudder or Yachting? What kind of publications did you have around the house?

PK: Well, I think Yachting and Motor Boat were the only two publications at that time of any consequence.

MA: No, The Rudder was out there; I don’t know if he subscribed to….

TK: Yeah, The Rudder was a very old one from the turn of the century or before. When we tore down the house in 1955, there was a ton of National Geographics going back into that era, and also when Life magazine came along they took Life; there were a lot of those sitting around.

PK: My dad was quite a reader. He never went to bed before midnight. All of us went to bed 8, 9 or 10 o’clock.

MA: What did he love reading?

PK: Oh, all kinds of books. He had a library full of books.

TK: He had a lot of classics. My Aunt Julia inherited most of those, I got some of them from her, he had classic leather-bound volumes of Sir Walter Scott, almost, you name it, there were tons of them. He didn’t read junk, he read the good stuff.

MA: Did you inherit the "reading bug" or did one of the other kids, or was that his thing?

PK: That was his thing.


TK: I think it skipped a generation, because I like going to bed late and staying up late reading and getting up late.

MA: You liked working in a library?

TK: Yeah, I think it came over to me instead of Dad.

PK: Yeah, he liked to read. My Mother didn’t; my Mother was always up early. Of course, I was always up early because I usually would get up and go down to the bay. I’d maybe go over to North Island and go through the Army junk pile over there and bring back stuff that I could make ….coasters [scooters] out of.

TK: Now, one of the things I’m interested in–from a perspective of German predictability–tell him about your dinner menu during the week; you know: what you ate on Monday, on Tuesday. Do you remember, because it was pretty much the same every day.

MA: Your Mom kept to a regular schedule, is that right? Interesting.

PK: Yeah, she kept a schedule. Of course, Friday was no meat day except Dad–he had meat.

MA: [That might] mark him out as being different than the Catholics.

PK: We either had macaroni or spaghetti or whatever for Friday, or fish. Of course, after they built that first speedboat, why they went out and did fishing out off the kelp beds, trolling for barracuda. I used to go out with them.

TK: You used to get seasick when you were a kid too.

PK: Yeah, boy I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to go, but everyt ime we got past Pt. Loma I got seasick.

MA: Did you get over that as you got older? Or did you always get seasick?

PK: Oh, yeah I got over that and once I got over that, nothing has ever made me seasick. But, I remember as a kid, I still wanted to go out, and getting sick didn’t bother me.

TK: They would troll for these barracuda using an artificial lure?

PK: They had, what you call, a bone-jig, with a hook on the end of it, and it had a piece of metal wire about 2 feet long tied to the fish line. On those boats, they put out about 2 of those, one on each corner at the back of the boat. When the fish would hit it, they’d haul him in, shake him off the hook and put it back out again. Just right outside the kelp beds out there.

TK: So you used to eat a lot of barracuda, when they were able to catch it.

PK: Yeah, some days they’d come in with 8 or 10 barracuda.


MA: Now, who would go out fishing again? The family? George?

PK: Yeah, George and Dad, that was about the size of it. My older brother, Bob, was off to college and so he didn’t get involved in it, but George and Dad went out and ran the boat, mainly on Saturdays when George wasn’t in school, cause George was going to high school.

MA: I should ask you about the neighborhood back when you were growing up. Were there a lot of Portuguese, or were they further down?

PK: Well, the Portuguese were all down by the waterfront along Rosecrans, down here in La Playa, and then they were also in Roseville.

MA: What were your neighbors like around you?

PK: Well, there weren’t too many neighbors. This house next door, it was here before the folks built their house. It was originally owned by a doctor who did the quarantine station, Dr. McKay. He never lived there; I think his son, I guess, lived there [with his mother].

TK: Well, Mrs. McKay was living over there [house immediately to the south] at the time, because she owned this whole property. She owned this lot here, and she sold this lot–actually 2 lots–to Granddad in 1913. That was Mrs. McKay. Her husband was a quarantine doctor and her son was also a doctor.

MA: You had a whole city block to yourselves, so I guess the neighbors never complained about the noise in the "boatyard," or did they?

PK: No, they didn’t. The property across the street was another block, and it was owned by—a house that’s still there.

TK: Dr. Foster.

PK: Yeah, Dr. Foster was there, and this part over this way was all planted with things from a garden, berries and stuff.

MA: Were there any kids in the neighborhood to play with?

PK: Yes, the [McKay] house next door here got sold to a family that had a daughter that was just a little bit younger than I, and a son that was a little bit older than I. The boy and I got to be real close.

TK: That was Morrie Tombler?

PK: Yeah, Morrie Tombler. He and I did a lot of things together. He was old enough to get a driver’s license before I did; he was a couple of years older than I. His folks bought him a Model T Ford coupe and boy, we used to go tearing around, I learned to drive in that. And then, the property across the street here became another house, down by the lower house; it was the upper one first.

TK: This was on San Fernando or San Gorgonio [Streets].

PK: Yeah, San Gorgonio. The gal there was really into bucks, so she built that house up there and then she built the house down below for her daughter and her husband. They had a son that was a couple of years older than I and he lived over there. So, between he and Morrie Tambler and, let’s see, Dick Cook?

TK: Dick Cook was around wasn’t he?

PK: Well, he was around, but…..

TK: Because I have pictures of you and your little [sailboat] PDQ with Dick Cook in it. That’s when you were, like, 7 years old.

PK: Dick Cook’s family lived down around Rosecrans, his father was an Army sergeant. They had two girls that were the same age as my two sisters, so when I was born, my sisters were bragging about having a little brother and one month later, almost to the day, these other two girls had a brother: that was Dick. He and I pretty much grew up together. His father, pretty soon after that, moved up here into an Army house in Ft. Rosecrans with their family. Another story: the wife of this Army sergeant was up at the old, what was known then as the "Old Spanish Lighthouse", running the little deal where they sold candy and postcards to the people that came in the lighthouse to see what it was all about. So she was up there on Saturdays and I used to go up there with Dick, her son, and we would run the store for her on Saturday afternoons while she went shopping. He ran the candy and postcard counter and I was up in the tower telling people what they were seeing, looking out over the Bay and Coronado.

MA: A tour guide as a kid, huh?

TK: Did they charge people to go up in the tower in those days or just to buy the postcards?

PK: No, the only thing was that they bought postcards. It had been abandoned in its early age because it was up too high.

MA: In 1891 or 1892.

PK: You could drive up there for free. It was a dirt road, not paved or anything.

MA: Did you used to play at Ft. Rosecrans as a kid?

PK: Yes, I did, especially at Ballast Pt. We used to go down there when the smelt were running the tide. We’d to go down there and get smelt.

TK: They were called smelt then, now they’re called grunion. The same thing, I guess.

PK: Yes, they were the same thing. I’d go down there and then the next day I’d come home with a bag of those and bring them in, cut their heads off, clean them and scrape them and give them to my Mother and she would fry them for us.


TK: Well, that was when they had those disappearing rifles down there.

PK: Then they had 12-inch mortars, and they had a battery of 12-inch mortars just inside the reservation on top of the hill, which is up there where all the Navy is now.

TK: It was called Battery …..? [Whistler]

PK: Yeah, that was all up there, and we used to go up there and chase around and some of the bars on the doors were bent and we were able to get through them. We used to have a hell of a time up there.

MA: I’ll bet!

PK: It was still Army up on Ft. Rosecrans, and the commanding general, he had a son that was just about the same age as I.

TK: That was Jake Mack.

PK: Yeah, Jake Mack. We were up there on a Sunday and we were piddling around and the mortars were sitting there, and we pulled a lever, and Geez! the whole thing went……

TK: The breach-block came off, clanged open.

PK: They were having an inspection the next day and this kid’s Father, the commanding general, took all these big-shots up there, and here were all of these breach-blocks lying all over!

TK: Good thing you didn’t kill yourself when the block came down–you would have been a much-smashed little kid.

PK: That was some of the things we used to go and fool around there. Dick Cook and I did a lot of things together, and then when Morrie and Denny–Andrew Dennison–and I, the three of us, we used to get into trouble. One day we heard that a car had gone over the cliffs at Sunset Cliffs, that’s down at the beach. So, we went over there and looked at it and we thought, Gee, they’ll never get this out of here and there’s a lot of stuff here that we can use.

TK: It was sitting on its top, right?

PK: Yeah, it was upside down. The wheels were up and I guess they had got the guy out of it that was in it. So, we were down there and taking the thing apart, and all of a sudden somebody up at the top yelled down "What are you doing down there?" One of the guys, Henry Dennison over here, says "We’re picking parts, why?" And he says "We’re the police, and you’re under arrest for stealing parts off the car." So, this was the crack of dawn in the morning on Saturday morning, it must have been about 7 o’clock. They took us over to the police station in Ocean Beach and booked us there . . . .



Mark Allen (MA): Paul, I just figured we could continue where we left off when we were talking before. We had been talking a little bit about your brother, George. I was curious – he seemed like he was so busy with his designing boats and such, how did he ever find time to court the woman who became his wife? Who was she and how did he date her? 

Paul Kettenburg (PK): When he met her, her father was an army officer at Fort Rosecrans, an army doctor. She apparently was going to high school at the same time George was, and they met, and being out there at Fort Rosecrans they got acquainted and started to go together. Finally her father retired from the army and set up a doctor's office here in town. Her mother was in charge of the medical library in the medical-dental building which was downtown on the top floor of the medical building. Her mother kind of ran it I guess, and she took a fancy to George and thought that George would make a good husband for her daughter.

MA: Was her father quite so sure about George?

PK: Well, he kinda went along with whatever happened. He didn't argue with his wife, so she kinda kept things going, finally they married.

MA: Did George have a car when he went to high school?

PK: No, he didn't.

MA: They were at San Diego High, right? How did they get back home on Rosecrans? Trolley?

PK: The trolley went all of the way. The end of the trolley track was right there at the government gate, right at the foot of Kellogg, right where you turned off to come up here. That was the end of the trolley, so you took the trolley there to what's now down there by Von's, it ran back and forth there, and then the streetcar came over from Ocean Beach and met at that point, and went down along Rosecrans all the way downtown.

MA: It's a shame they've ripped out all the trolley lines and now they're putting them all back.

PK: That's a lack of foresight, I'd say. At that time Rosecrans wasn't even paved.

MA: Let me ask you more, 'cause I don't know anything about George's wife. What was she like as a person?

PK: She was a very pleasant person, she was not very aggresive. She never got involved in any of the business or social things. Her whole interest was in raising her two children.

MA: That would be Tom, no, your son is Tom. I was getting mixed up.

PK: George W., who is known as Bill Kettenburg now. He's really George W. the fifth. [formerly used name George W. Kettenburg III]

MA: I could see how one wouldn't want to carry that name around .......

PK: He does go by G. W. Kettenburg now in his banking and accounts and stuff like that, but he's always been known as Bill.

MA: His Mom, did she go sailing with her husband much, did she care for it?

PK: No.

MA: She just loved the man and not his work, huh?

PK: That's right. She never got involved in any of the social part of yachting, that I ever knew of anyway. In those days it was not nearly, it wasn't anywhere near the social goings-on as far as yachting. When you were sailing you were sailing, period. When you got through sailing you came home. It wasn't like it is now where all these yachting functions going on in connection with yachting. Not really yachting.

MA: Did it seem then like it was more just about the love of sailing? How was it different? Can you tell me more about that? It sounds like you were saying that the way the yachting scene was back in San Diego was different than it is now.

PK: Well, in those days the youngsters [like me] weren't involved nearly as much, and they got along alright. The wives were not involved in the yachting, the yacht club was almost entirely men, very seldom you saw any of the wives around. Even when I was first getting involved, when the San Diego Yacht Club was still over at Coronado, I'd have to go into the head and washroom, and all the guys were sitting around playing cards or something, and they'd always look around and say, "What are you doing in here?"

MA: Because you were a kid.

PK: Yeah. It was a gentlemen's club, really. It wasn't until along in the later ’30s and on up that the women became involved as they have been in yachting. When I was running around as a little kid, there weren't any women around the yacht club or any of the sailing operations.

MA: One thing that came up in a previous interview you did was describing the way that the yard worked in the Depression. I know you left to take a job back east about 1933, but you mentioned something in the interview about George keeping guys employed in the yard when there was no work, even putting them to archery practice. It just sounded fascinating to me. Could you describe what the yard was like during the Depression, from what you remember? The crash hit in '29 and people just stopped ordering boats, pretty much?

PK: Well, it didn't slow down until the early 30's here. In '29, '30 and '31 George was building the PCs, it was brand new and there was a lot of activity. He was building them for $1800, which is hard to believe now, but that's the way it was.

MA: How did that stack up with the price of a comparable boat back then? Was that just an incredible deal?

PK: It was pretty much comparable. The reason the people bought the PC was they liked the way they sailed and they liked everything there was about them.

MA: Was there any competition being built up in Los Angeles at that time or anywhere along the west coast to the PCs?

PK: That didn't come in until after the PCs started, then they started building the - can't think of the name – they were a boat about the same size.

MA: Where were these boats being built?

PK: They were being built in Wilmington, Wilmington Boatworks.

MA: Is that Wilmington in the L.A. area?

PK: Yes, L. A. harbor.

MA: Who was the designer of them, any idea?

PK: Gosh, that's a good question, I'm not sure.

MA: Did they get started doing the similar boats just because of the PC success?

PK: Yes, just because they were popular and George was selling PCs up in the Newport Harbor area, and some of the people up there decided that maybe they ought to have a boat to their own design, and they designed these other boats that were just about the same size, same accommodations. It was a good race between us, nobody went off and won everything. Can't think of the name of these boats, but they were around for years.

MA: Was Newport the first place outside of San Diego that Kettenburg started selling boats, or simultaneously starting in other places, 'cause I know they shipped some off to Hawaii.

PK: The people that had them, those are the boats that went to Hawaii. The Navy took them out for them. The tug took them out there and they got out there and won the races so outstandingly that the people out there decided that maybe they ought to buy them, so they bought them and the guys all came back and bought new ones back here 

MA: So there was actually no Kettenburg sales rep that went to Hawaii, there was just the word of mouth? So people were writing letters from Hawaii, or they were phone calling and saying, "Can you build us a PC?"

PK: Once these went out there, because the Navy took them out, the guys .......

MA: I still want to know how Joe Jessop or whoever talked them into taking the boats out there.

PK: Well, Joe Jessop had a lot of good connections with the Navy. He had all kinds of real good connections, and so he apparently talked them into taking four of the boats out there, and when they got out there the people in Hawaii decided they were pretty good boats, so they bought them and the guys didn't have to bring them back.

MA: There was no official sales apparatus or anything.

PK: No, nothing, it was just the owners of the boats on their own.

MA: Was the same true up in Newport, or was there somebody you had working for you up there?

PK: They didn't get really going in Newport until the end of World War II. Then we did have a fellow in Newport that was selling the boats up there.

MA: That was more in your area of business after you got back from working (in Chicago)?

PK: Yeah.

MA: Now during that time when things started tapering off in terms of business for Kettenburg during the Depression, you found a job back east. Was that because there wan't enough work in the boatyard for you?

PK: Well, in the boatyard, by 10:00 in the morning we were all through with everything we had to do. During the Depression I had met some kids in high school from Chicago, and after the Depression their father went back to Chicago. [Tom Kettenburg believes Paul meant to say "after high school graduation."]

MA: I thought I would ask a little more about what it was like at the boatyard during the depression. You decided to go back to Chicago to join your girlfriend back there, and things had already dropped off to the point where you were saying that by 10:00 in the morning there was not a whole lot of work for anybody to do. That story you told before about George having you guys learn archery in the afternoons, can you tell me a little more about what the yard was like at that point, and did he keep the guys that were working for him working for him, or how did ......?

PK: Well, most of the guys that were there, I mean there wasn't anything else for them to do, whatever work there was to do they were there to do it, and those fellows that were involved in the early days, pretty much stayed with the yard right on through.

MA: How many guys did George have working for him at that point? Do you remember any of their names?

PK: Oh gosh, it wasn't over 5 or 6.

MA: They were all local guys? Were they specialized? Were they all carpenters?

PK: There were carpenters and painters, mainly, and it wasn't until later he got into the mechanical work. Of course, with the ways there they had boats come in that needed mechanical things, so they had to have mechanics. My Dad moved his machine shop, all that he had at the time here at the house, down there and they added on to it and made it into a real machine shop.

MA: Were they building some speed boats still in the early 30s and late 20s in the yard?

PK: Yeah. In the late 20s they were building – the last speedboat that they built here was in about 1928, and it had a Hisso [Hispano-Suiza engine] in it. They built various size boats. They were built as an individual project, each one. There was no production.

MA: And then the PC orders started coming in, so was it a family decision to set speedboat building aside?

PK: Whatever somebody wanted to buy. George was building PCs, and if somebody came in and wanted a powerboat, he'd build it. He'd find and hire people to work on it. He'd do the design work.

MA: Was there any kind of fad that sort of changed in there, because obviously all of the earlier boats that George was building were powerboats. Did you sense that people were getting into sailing more?

PK: What happened here originally was that he was building powerboats here in the backyard, then the yacht club came up and wanted him to build these four Sun boats. They were 22-foot sailboats. So he hired carpenters or whatever he needed to work on them here in the backyard. He built those, and then some fellow down at the yacht club decided he wanted a Star boat, so he came up and asked George to build a Star boat. So George built that boat, taking advantage of what he felt were the differences in the dimensions that you were allowed to build a legal Star boat. He felt that if he could build one he could build two. 

MA: He sort of slightly modified from the conventional Star boat?

PK: It was still a Star boat within the plus or minuses you were allowed with the drawings, but it was still a legal Star boat. He built the first one and then went ahead and built the second one and nobody bought it. My Dad bought a set of sails for him and they put it in the water and he went out and decided to race it. I was his crew. So we went out there, and those 2 boats were so much better than the other boats, with the exception of Joe Jessop's. Joe Jessop was first in all the races and that other boat and us were second and third. We got sailing and got acquainted with the people who were doing the racing down there. About that time Dad had decided this is not the place to build boats, so he bought the property down there for George and built the original building. He put in the ways, the dock, and everything there to make a boatyard out of it. [Tom notes that construction was in 1929.]

MA: And Gene Trepte actually built those things for your Dad?

PK: He built the building.

MA: Was he a family friend or just hired him?

PK: Just hired him, he was available. It was Walter Trepte, Gene's father. He started the business. I guess he was interested in boats. Anyway, he's the one that built the building there, the original tin building - wood frame and corrugated tin [galvanized iron]. George and I were sailing the Star boat so we got pretty well acquainted there. One day we were down there at the yard and Joe Jessop came in and was talking to George. He said, "You know, we're looking at bigger boats so our girlfriends or wives could be able to sail with us." He started telling George what they had in mind. They were talking about a one-design, a Swedish 30 [20?] square meter, maybe some of those boats, and George thought for San Diego he could build a better boat than that. [Tom Kettenburg notes that they were also talking about an "Atlantic Coast one-design."]

MA: Were you actually hanging around the yard that day? Were you working as a "go-for" then?

PK: I was doing whatever there was to do.

MA: Do you remember if they were just standing around chatting, or what? 

PK: Yeah, George and Joe were just chatting and I was standing there, maybe I had been talking to George about something else, and Joe came by. He started telling George about the fact that the Star boats were not comfortable for what they wanted to do, so they were looking at these other boats. George, out of the blue, said "Well, you know it seems to me I could build a better boat for San Diego than those." Joe's comment was, "Well, if you want to build one why don't you build one, and we'll wait and we won't do anything until you get that built and see how it goes." They were in no big sweat, so they held off any further dealings that they had. George just out of the blue designed what became the PC.

MA: Did he sketch anything out for Joe at that time, or later on?

PK: What he did was carve out a model, an inch to the foot, with layers of wood that could come apart. He carved this model out and that was the design. When he got the model built the way he wanted it, took the layers apart, laid them out on the loft floor and made the measurements for the PC hull design.

MA: He basically shaved the wood until he got the proportions he wanted.

PK: I helped on that. He laid it all out and all I did was tack down the battens wherever he said to tack.

MA: It's a heck of a way to learn design.

PK: He got this PC built, got it in the water, my Dad bought him some sails. Dad was paying for it—George didn't have any money. 

MA: Where was George living at the time?

PK: At that time he was living somewhere in the upper part of San Diego. [Mission Hills] He had rented a house up there. Then he rented a house down there on what is now Scott Street, a lot closer to the yard. That was in the ’30s.

MA: I don't know anything about what Joe Jessop was like as a person, since he was such an amazing character in the local area, was he just a huge forceful guy? Was he a little guy, big guy? What was he like?

PK: He was just a very gung-ho sailor. He was very friendly, he wasn't pushy or anything. He was interested in talking about anything he was interested in. Joe Jessop probably had a lot to do with how the interior of the PC was laid out; a couple of bunks, the cockpit setup, in the seat arrangement. I think Joe Jessop had a lot to do with that. As far as the hull and the rig, that was George's.

MA: Was Joe the kind of guy who lived and breathed sailing? Did he have other passions or pretty much this?

PK: He really was, he was the outstanding sailor in the San Diego area for quite a few years. I mean, nobody could touch him. Star boats and then he got the PCs, and then he went in to other bigger boats. Whatever Joe Jessop was sailing, boy, that was it. He was really an outstanding sailor.

MA: When George built the two Star boats, you couldn't sell either of them, right?

PK: Well, one of them sold. The second one, nobody came along and bought it.

MA: So you guys ended up sailing it and racing it. Was there a conscious decision on George's part or your part or your Dad's part that, you know, if we go out and go sailing people are going to buy our boats because it's such good advertising if you win. Was there a conscious decision, or it was just that you had a boat and we might as well race it?

PK: That was the whole thing about it. Neither George nor my Dad were promoters. They did what they liked to do and the people that were around there liked what they did. That was the whole thing because they didn't do any promoting in any way, shape or form. If somebody wanted to buy a boat they came in and ordered it. They didn't do any advertising or any promoting. These guys came in from the yacht club to build a Star or the Sun boat. George put the plans together and built the boats.

MA: Kind of a low-key kind of guy.

PK: Yeah, very low-key. He was not a promoter. Of course, he was very interested in boats and sailing, and as a result of the Star boat he got interested in sailing and so did I.

MA: Was that the first racing he ever did?

PK: Yeah. He had never done any racing like that. I was still just a kid. Kids in those days didn't sail like they do now. I had done a little sailing. George had built a little skiff for me so I could race one of the Portuguese down here in the skiff.

MA: How old were you when you had that skiff?

PK: I must have been about 9 or 10. I had that skiff and I beat the Portuguese kid in his boat, and somehow or other we got an idea to put a mast in it, got a sail, so I sailed it back and forth down here at the foot of Kellogg Street.

MA: Talking about sailing, and starting to race. That must have been something. Your first race and you start winning pretty much right away, like with the Star boat..

PK: We didn't win any races 'cause Joe [Jessop] was winning them all. We were maybe second or third or fourth.

MA: How big a field of other boats–10 or 12, or less than that?

PK: There must have been about 6 or 8 boats.

MA: So not a huge racing field but still enough to catch people's attention that you were starting to come in so well.

PK: Well, we got acquainted with all the guys that were sailing. Up until that time we had been doing pretty near all powerboats, so we never got acquainted with the sailboat people.

MA: A real different group, right, a whole different ball game.

PK: Yes, a whole different ball game. So once George got acquainted with the sailing group, then it became a whole different ball game, especically when he came up with the Star boat he built. The two of them were damn good boats. Everybody began to think well maybe he's got something there.

MA: Joe Jessop really kind of moved in a whole different social class from you all....a prominent jeweler’s family. Once that connection got established with Joe and you all, did you see him socially at all, did he invite you over to his house, or was there still kind of a distance?

PK: It was still the yacht club. Anything social between us was only at the yacht club. As far as I ever knew, there was never any social dealings with going to various homes and that sort of thing.

MA: I'm guessing you were pretty well off, the family, I guess, your father had done well in the utility, but was there a sense of any kind of class difference between you guys and most of the people in the yacht club, were you sort of the poor relations, or did you get treated as equals, or how do you remember it?

PK: My Dad was pretty much in with the group when the club was over in Coronado. My Dad donated a fairly good contribution to build the new club over at Coronado, the one they finally moved over here to Point Loma. That made him a life member of the San Diego Yacht Club. At that time he was able to transfer that to George, so George became a life member of the yacht club.

MA: I've never really been around yachtsmen except just in very recent years, but do you sense over time that there was any kind of shift in yachting, 'cause I've always been sort of prejudiced and thought of yachtsmen as kind of the really wealthy end of the community. Has there been a shift in your mind in how yachting was back then to how it is now. Obviously there's been a shift in more women and kids involved, but how would you describe it?

PK: Yachting in those days was strictly a group of people that were interested in doing whatever kind of yachting they were doing; sailing or powerboating or whatever it was. That's the reason they were members of the yacht club because they were interested in boating

MA: It wasn't social snobbery then?

PK: No social thing about it at all. As I remember it at that time, there were no social operations as far as the yacht club was concerned, just powerboating, racing. The San Diego Yacht Club had powerboats and that's how Dad got involved with it over there at Coronado. When they moved over here, the same thing. They had powerboat racing around what is now Shelter Island. It wasn't an island, it was a sandbar and only came out of the water at low tide. That's my first trophy there from a race around the sandbar. It had George's name on it 'cause he owned the boat, but I was the driver so ended up with the trophy.

MA: What year was that?

PK: That must have been about the middle ’20s.

MA: So you were a kid. That must have been pretty exciting.

PK: Yeah, I think I might have been 12. That race was probably '26 or '27 so I was probably about 13.

MA: Did you have some pretty envious schoolmates back then? How many other 12-year olds are racing powerboats. Were you real popular at school because of that?

PK: Well, living down here, most of my friends were kids of fishermen, so they were a fishing family, and that was pretty much the buddies I had. Their fathers were fishermen. There wasn't a lot of socializing.

MA: You didn't have a lot of girls hanging out with you because you raced the powerboat?

PK: No. Girls were the last things in our minds in those days, especically in my mind.

MA: You were more focused on boating mostly or cars?

PK: I got involved in antique cars back in the ’20s. I built the first Model T when I was in high school, and my Dad let me raise my age a year to get a driver's license so I could drive it.

MA: Can you tell me a little bit about that around-the-world cruise in 1930 that you all took a tramp steamer was it, or an ocean liner, out of San Pedro?

PK: Well, it was an ocean liner but it wasn't a cruise ship. It had about 200 passengers. The accommodations were beautifully done. It was a brand new ship. It was the Chichibu Maru. The Japs had built three of those ships and this was the third one, and it had two Burmeister-Wain diesel engines. They were double-acting diesel. They were about a 24-inch bore cylinder with a 60-inch stroke. They were big engines, about three decks from the center line of the crank shaft up to the cylinder head. It was in its first year of operation so they had a factory engineer from the engine company there teaching the crew how to run the engine.

MA: A German engineer?

PK: No. He was from one of the countries north of Germany, maybe Denmark. He spoke perfect English and he was a heck of a nice guy. His whole operation was to teach these Japs how to run these engines, and it was all done in English. I got acquainted with him about the first day out, 'cause he was riding with the first-class passengers and eating in the dining room and all that, so I got acquainted. I started asking him about the engines and he invited me to come along with him. I sat there with him while he explained to the Japs how to grind valves, how to do this and that. I got a helluva education. It took us about a month to go from L.A. to Hong Kong, with a stop in between. The ship was loaded with pig lead, gettin' ready for World War II. They loaded pig lead on in L.A. We went to San Francisco and we were there for 2 days, they loaded pig lead on up there for 2 days. When we went out of there the ship was low. So we went on over to Hawaii and then Yokohama. They spent 2 days there unloading, then we went to Kobe and they spent 2 days unloading there. When they got all of that pig lead out of there that boat was floating like a cork.

MA: You came back to San Diego about [December] 1943. I wanted to ask you about George. He died in 1952, right, of cancer? How long did he suffer from that? Was that a sudden thing or was that a slow ....?

PK: It was about a year. I've always felt it was caused by copper paint dust that he had breathed in.

MA: "Occupational hazard." During that year when he knew he was on his way out, was he still working in the yard during that year, or was he starting to go down real fast?

PK: He was mainly interested in passing the information on to those of us that were there in the yard.

MA: That would have been you, Bill, Morgan, Bill Kearns, and Charlie Underwood? When George knew he was going to die, was that about the time when you all sat down together and tried to figure out how the business was going to be run, or was that after George died?

PK: No, it was before George died. [First partnership agreement was drawn up in 1947, revised later.]

MA: Could you tell me about that, how you got together and formed the way the boatyard was going to be run.

PK: We got together and George decided to make the 5 of us partners.

MA: This would have been right about that time or earlier?

PK: Well, this was when he was getting into the problems with his cancer, so he set that up that the 5 of us were principal partners, and then there were about 3 or 4 additional people that were a step down. When he died it ended up just 5 partners who were running the whole show. "Bud" Caldwell was one that was in it. He's a member of the yacht club, has a PC down there. [Caldwell was never a partner.]

MA: Somebody I should probably talk to.

PK: He was very active in the organization.

MA: Was there anything formal, was there a sit-down meeting at some point, or was it all just kind of did that transition work into 5 partners?

PK: The 5 partners and this other group, we all used to get together every once in a while when George was there, and even after he passed away we did. After George passed away I kinda became the lead partner.

MA: Was that an understanding that was established when George was still alive, that you would lead, or is that just how it naturally happened

PK: It just naturally happened, I guess because I had been so close to George, with the name and everything. Bill, of course he was the only other Kettenburg, but he was so much younger. He was about 10 or 12 years younger than I. Still, I wasn't all that old at that time.

MA: Paul, I notice your voice is starting to get a little scratchy, so why don't we call it a day, if that's all right. Would you be willing to be interviewed again sometime?

PK: Sure.


This is Mark Allen and this interview is with Paul Kettenburg, with the assistance of Tom Kettenburg. The date is the 21st of November, 2003. And Paul, I wanted to ask you just a general question first, and that is why do you think that you have such a loyal following in San Diego for Kettenburg boats? People are passionate about their boats. What’s your opinion about why you’ve got such a huge following?

Paul Kettenburg: Well, these boats were designed, basically, for the San Diego conditions. Which covers pretty much most of Southern California, and carries on up into Seattle and that area. But basically, the boats that we produced were produced specifically for the San Diego conditions.

MA: Can you describe those conditions a little bit?

PK: Well, wind velocity is anywhere from 5 knots to 15 knots. That’s kind of the typical wind conditions that we encountered here in this area. It also worked out pretty good for Newport Harbor, but, of course, San Francisco was a whole different ball game, and L.A. Harbor was kind of in between.

MA: I think there’s a lot more that’s made people passionate about their boats than that—so that’s obviously one of the things, but are there other factors that you can put your finger on, that have gotten such a devoted following for Kettenburg boats?

PK: The only thing I can say in that regard is, we designed ‘em as something that we would like to sail. And it turned out that a lot of other people liked the same thing we did. That was the basic thought of the thing. Of course, George and I were very active in the yacht club so we were close to the people that were sailing, and we spent a lot of time discussing the different aspects of boats, and we kinda came up with the kind of thing that people really wanted.

MA: Now the people who bought Kettenburg boats, in the writing that I’m going to be doing about Kettenburg Boat Works, one thing I’d like to spend a lot of time on, is writing about how people in San Diego—there was kind of a network of people that owned Kettenburg boats, and they included a lot of important people both politically and socially. And were connected with each other through owning Kettenburg boats. I know the name Hartley comes to mind, but can you talk about anyone else that was a big Kettenburg fan, besides Hartley and Jessop that you might say was sort of significant in San Diego’s history?

PK: Offhand, I have a little problem remembering names these days.

Tom Kettenburg: I could probably supply a couple of names: I know the Trepte family