History of Waldo Safaris—Safari Beginnings
San Rafael, CA was a medium sized town in the range of about 35 to 50 thousand people. It had one main street drag downtown, but San Francisco was right over the bridge 20 minutes away. Friday night high school football games were the norm in the fall. Everybody in town went and nobody thought of doing anything else. Although a couple of the Waldos played Jr. Varsity football, Waldo Steve had no interest in football and found it boring. Just a bunch of guys running back and forth on a field. The only reason to go to the game was because everybody went there and there were pretty girls to see. But the girls were only interested in what was happening on the field. Time dragged on during these events and it got quite chilly while waiting for the game to be over. Week after week of waiting in the cold for the game to be over became unbearable.
It was the early 70s in the San Francisco Bay Area and Waldo Steve had a hippie influenced older brother. As a result, every issue of Rolling Stone magazine found its way into their home. It was counterculture, alternative, and very limited in circulation. One article in an RS issue discussed strange three –dimensional light objects called holograms that were being developed by scientists down on the San Francisco Peninsula. At that time, such things were radical science fiction. The researchers had built an entire holographic city that filled up a room. The article also said that they were so heavily into what they were doing, that they were working around the clock on it, seven days a week.
In the middle of the next cold football game, Steve had enough of the bore and headed out alone to the S.F. Peninsula. He knocked on the back door of the labs, and the scientists welcomed him in to see what they were doing. It was truly amazing. The following week, he grabbed the Waldos and said “you have go to see this holographic city.” They piled into the 1966 Chevy , smoked and visited the scientists…making instant friends. They had the scientists in stitches, leaving with an open invitation to visit anytime.
The challenge was then on to find the next out of the ordinary adventure. Each week the Waldo scout headed out looking for an alternative activity to football, and each week he grabbed the Waldos and said, “you have to see this”. The Waldos were always game. This was the early 70’s so security guards and security systems were pretty much nonexistent. Gas was 29 to 35 cents a gallon; we had wide range and nobody ever saw the Waldos coming.
After the third field trip, Waldo Dave commented that Waldo Steve comes up with “these unusual adventures,” and that they were like “Safaris.” The next weekend Waldo Steve was at Kaplans Surplus in San Francisco to purchase a Safari hat with his Army surplus field jacket.
The quest for the next “Waldo Safari” was on.
Many Safari adventures would begin with a car wash of the 66’ Chevy Safari mobile. Hitchhiking was extremely common in the early 1970’s. We would pick up a completely innocent hitchhiker and ask him if he minded if we took a minute to get the car washed along the way. They always said that they would not mind. Without saying anything to the hitchhiker, we would go through the rain tunnel section of the auto wash, and then when we got to the hundred-mile-an-hour-winds car drying section we would open up the windows and scream in the deafening wind (emerging with new hairdos and a wide-eyed hitchhiker.)