Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

A note found inside Birds of the Pacific Coast

Recently I bought a copy of Birds of the Pacific Coast by William Ayres Eliot at B Street Books in San Mateo.

It is a charming book, filled with color plates (which you can see here) and interesting tidbits, but I bought it because it contained this handwritten letter inserted in its pages:


It says this:

“Those bird watchers who first spotted the two white Crested Laughing Thrushes from Southeast Asia may want to know they’re big (and loud) on Russian Hill, hanging out in Louis Petri‘s lush property and being fed by the fancy likes of Elinor Chatfield-Taylor and Mary Keesling. Noisy devils, but amusing — The birds, I mean. The feathered ones — that is… Heckwithit—”

The two women were stars of the San Francisco social scene in the 1950s and perhaps later. Louis Petri was a wine magnate.

The letter was probably written after 1948, which is when, according to the obituary linked above, Elinor Chatfield-Taylor moved to San Francisco.

The book is inscribed with the name “Vera Gillett” on the flyleaf, but I could turn up no one by the name who might obviously be connected to the big names above.

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Grant Barrett