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Born in 1941, Peggy grew up in Coral Gables, Florida, and developed an early passion for interior design. She moved to the Bay Area around 1960, attended San Jose State University and got married in 1964. In the late 1960s, she lived on Napier Lane, studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, worked at Warren Hinckle’s Ramparts magazine and her son, Steven, was born in 1970. Peggy has worked steadily as an artist since the early 1980's and worked for more than 20 years as a facilitator at Creative Growth in Oakland. She married artist Ed Handelman in 1985, and she and Ed now have neighboring studios at their home on upper Grant Avenue.

Transcript: Peggy Huff (1941- )


The following oral history transcript is the result of interviews with Peggy Huff on March 18 and April 1, 2022. The interviews were recorded at Peggy’s home at 1644 Grant Avenue in San Francisco, California, a flat she shares with her husband, artist Ed Handelman. The interview was conducted and transcribed by John Doxey, manager of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project.

Format: Originally recorded on a Canon XA11 camcorder. Duration is approximately one hour, 16 minutes.

Attribution: This interview transcript is property of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers. Quotes, reproductions and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Peggy Huff, March 18 and April 1, 2022, Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project.

Summary: Peggy Huff was born in 1941 and grew up in Coral Gables, Florida, with her parents and sister. Her father, Van Ellis Huff, invented a jalousie window and traveled frequently around the Caribbean and South Pacific drumming up business. Peggy started college at the University of Georgia, where she studied interior design. Following her mother’s death, Peggy moved with her father and sister to the Bay Area, where Peggy enrolled at San Jose State University and continued her interior design studies. While at SJSU, she met and later married (in 1964) a recent graduate named Marshall Ward, who was embarking on a real estate career. After a few suburban years in San Carlos and Bel Marin Keys, Peggy and Marshall moved to Napier Lane on Telegraph Hill in 1966, which Peggy found a delightful change. Peggy and Marshall developed friendships with neighbors, including Grace Marchant, who was hard at work creating her famous garden on the Filbert Steps. Peggy’s passion for art took off in this period, and she studied painting from 1968-70 at the San Francisco Art Institute. Peggy also held part-time jobs at an interior decorating firm and a publication (Ramparts) run by journalist Warren Hinckle. Her son, Steven, was born in 1970, and the family moved to Hyde Street soon afterward because their Napier Lane property was dangerous for an active toddler. Peggy moved to Marin with Steven after she and Marshall divorced in 1972, and she built food preparation and quilting businesses to support herself. A friend introduced Peggy to artist Ed Handelman in 1974 at a North Beach event and a romance soon developed. Peggy eventually moved into Ed’s apartment at 1644 Grant Avenue, soon after their 1985 marriage. Peggy has been able to work steadily as an artist since the early 1980s and until recently maintained a studio at the Hunters Point Shipyard. From 1994 to 2015, she worked as a facilitator at Creative Growth in Oakland, a rewarding experience in which she mentored developmentally delayed artists in mosaics and other media. Peggy’s paintings are frequently influenced by nature and light, such as those found in the Florida Everglades, and her works have been featured in galleries and competitions. She and Ed have developed a large circle of artistic friends, many of whom live around North Beach, and Peggy is enjoying working at a home studio rather than one that requires a commute. Her son Steven lives with his family near Nagoya, Japan, where he’s active as a ceramicist and runs a language business. Ed Handelman is also the subject of an oral history in this series.

In this interview, Peggy speaks of growing up near Miami in the 1940s and ‘50s; her father’s business as a jalousie window inventor and salesman; her early interest in interior design; her freshman year at the University of Georgia, where she joined a sorority; moving to the Bay Area with her father and sister and her transition to San Jose State University, where she studied interior design; meeting Marshall Ward, a recent graduate working in real estate; her 1964 marriage to Marshall and the couple’s early residences on the Peninsula and Marin County; her excitement at moving to Napier Lane in 1966; recollections of Grace Marchant and the beautiful garden she developed; studying at the San Francisco Art Institute in the late ‘60s; the birth of her son Steven in 1970; her part-time jobs at an interior decorating firm and with Warren Hinckle’s Ramparts publication; her divorce in 1972 and subsequent move to Marin, where she built catering and quilting businesses; meeting Ed Handelman in 1974 at an Old Spaghetti Factory event; moving into Ed’s North Beach apartment in 1984; her 20-year career as a facilitator at Creative Growth in Oakland, where she mentored developmentally delayed artists; her painting studios at the Hunters Point Shipyard and Pier 70; the development of her painting career and the influences of nature and light on her work; the community of artist and neighborhood friends she and Ed have developed over the years; her recent transition from a large studio at Hunters Point Shipyard to a small home studio; changes she’s observed in the neighborhood over the past four decades; her involvement with Shipyard Trust for the Arts; her son’s work and family in Japan.

Peggy Huff has had opportunities to review the transcript and has made corrections and emendations. The reader should keep in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.


JOHN: [00:00:23] OK. So we're ready to begin. This is John Doxey from the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project, interviewing Peggy Huff on March 18th, 2022 at her home on Grant Avenue in San Francisco. We're sitting in Peggy's new studio. So I wanted, Peggy, to just cover some of your early life first. Maybe you could tell me where you were born, and your date of birth.

PEGGY: [00:01:01] OK. I was born in Miami, Florida, in 1941 … April 14th, 1941. And … yeah, lived there for 16 years.

JOHN: Where were you born?

PEGGY: In Miami, Florida.

JOHN: In Miami, Florida. And did you live in Miami the city or did you live near Miami?

PEGGY: OK. The hospital being in Miami. And then we lived in Coral Gables.

JOHN: OK. And your … what was your father and mother's names, and what did they do? What was their…? Yeah.

PEGGY: [00:01:46] My mother was from upstate New York, and my father was from Illinois initially. And then he and his mother to … and father … moved to Colorado for the silver mining. And they spent a considerable amount of time in Colorado … until they moved to Florida. At which point my father met my mom in Florida, probably about the late ‘20s, early ‘30s.

JOHN: Had your grandfather been a miner? Prior to your father or…?

PEGGY: [00:02:29] You know, I know very, very little about my grandfather. But he did go to Colorado … to Eureka, Colorado, with my grandmother. And they stayed there probably, I'd say nine years. And then … either he went back to Illinois. And I'm not sure of the history, but he went back to Illinois. And from what I've learned on 23andMe he remarried. And that's … and I didn't follow it any further than that... [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, 23andMe Holding Co. is a personal genomic and biotechnology company that is best known for providing a direct-to-consumer genetic testing service in which customers provide a saliva sample that is laboratory analyzed to generate reports relating to the customer's ancestry and genetic predispositions to health-related topics. The company's name is derived from the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a diploid human cell.]

JOHN: And what was your father's job? What did he … how did he earn a living?

PEGGY: [00:03:09] My dad … he went to school at the University of Florida sometime in the ‘30s, and he developed the jalousie window. And his company was Protect You Jalousies. And it … basically it was a louver window, from the French louvers. [Transcriber’s notes: Per Wikipedia, a jalousie window is a window composed of parallel glass, acrylic or wooden louvers set in a frame. The louvres are joined onto a track so that they may be tilted open and shut in unison to control airflow, usually by turning a crank. “A popular hand-cranked glass, aluminum and screen window combination was … designed by American engineer Van Ellis Huff and found widespread use in temperate climates before the advent of air conditioning.” Jalousie windows were a popular feature in mid-century modern houses, especially those built in warm and humid climates; A louver is a window blind or shutter with horizontal slats that are angled to admit light and air, but to keep out rain and direct sunshine. The angle of the slats may be adjustable, usually in blinds and windows, or fixed]

JOHN: He patented that? That design?

PEGGY: Yes, he did a patent on that, yeah.

JOHN: And was he traveling around promoting and selling the product?

PEGGY: He did indeed. He traveled primarily in the Caribbean and in the South Pacific, in Guam.

JOHN: Is that a kind of window that's particularly effective against storms or that kind of thing?

PEGGY: [00:03:51] Yes, it was meant to be. And I think it's certainly changed by now. And I don't know if they're still producing them. But at that point in the ‘30s … in the ‘40s when he developed it, it was meant to be able to handle storms.

JOHN: And what about your mother? Was she working also, or did she stay home and take care of you and your sister?

PEGGY: [00:04:17] Well, initially she was teaching school at a middle school. And then once … my sister was born, and then I was born four years later, she really took over the housekeeping and the upbringing. Yeah.

JOHN: And you remained in Coral Gables throughout your time in Florida?

PEGGY: Yeah, we stayed in Coral Gables. Mm-hmm.

JOHN: And what type of schools did you go to? Did you go to public schools?

PEGGY: [00:04:46] At first I was at a school called … let's see … it was a Merrick. Merrick Demonstration, which was part of the University of Miami. And after Merrick Demonstration, I went to junior high school, and then into high school at Coral Gables High. [Transcriber’s note: Merrick Demonstration School was named after George Merrick (1886-1942), a real estate developer best known as the planner and builder of the city of Coral Gables, FL, in the 1920s, one of the first major planned communities in the U.S.]

JOHN: [00:05:07] And when was it that you began, you think, to have your earliest kind of exposure to art or developing an interest in artistic things?

PEGGY: [00:05:22] I suppose when I was pretty … really quite young. But then it hadn’t been a major distraction because art classes were not given. The only thing that was given were finger painting classes. And then once I got into high school, it was just drafting and mechanical skills.

JOHN: So drafting as though you were going to be an architect or that sort of drafting?

PEGGY: [00:05:47] That's right. Yeah.

JOHN: Mm-hmm. But that was your earliest kind of exposure to drawing of a sort?

PEGGY: [00:05:52] Yeah. Yeah. And of course when you didn't have the … when I didn't have the exposure in school as a child, I would use the wall in my bedroom, which didn't go over well. But they were just finger paint, so it was no … big deal. [chuckles]

JOHN: When you did in high school, the drafting class … do you feel like there was some kind of a spark that, you know, that this was something that you were particularly interested in?

PEGGY: [00:06:20] No, it was … it was not interesting at all. Because it was too much measurement. [chuckles] Measure twice and cut once. And that's been my mantra… [chuckles]

JOHN: Did you say that, when we talked previously, that there was a family friend who was an interior decorator?

PEGGY: [00:06:41] Yeah, that's right. And as I was a senior in high school, a good friend of mine's father had a store in Coral Gables. And that was … aside from my mother taking me to a small museum at the University of Miami periodically … I would go into his store and just be overwhelmed by the culture that he had. So much, so many pieces from different cultures. And the colors and the designs and the fabric. So I thought, well, maybe interior design would be something that I would be interested in doing.

JOHN: Was that quite a bit different than, say, what you were exposed to at home or directly through your parents?

PEGGY: [00:07:26] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

JOHN: And did you, when you were young and growing up, you know, up say ‘til the high school years, did you do any traveling outside of Florida?

PEGGY: [00:07:38] I did some traveling. My father had an associate who lived in Cuba. And … my sister went to Cuba when she was probably eight or nine years old. And when I was eight or nine, I went to Caracas. So, I mean, they traveled all around that area with that particular venue of selling the jalousies. So I was…

JOHN: So you'd accompany your father then on a on a business trip?

PEGGY: [00:08:08] Well, no. I went on my own…


PEGGY: …to Caracas and stayed with the family.

JOHN: And then … did you attend college after high school?

PEGGY: [00:08:21] Yeah, I went to … first year I went to the University of Georgia. And then I came out to California and San Jose State, San Francisco State and the Art Institute.

JOHN: [00:08:36] In … at University of Georgia what were you planning to study … when you started college?

PEGGY: [00:08:42] Well, I was planning on studying … I was still planning on studying interior design. But of course, I had to take care of the basics. We didn't at that time, I don't know what it's like today, but at that time it was … there were no other alternative courses.

JOHN: What brought you to California, to San Francisco? How did that all happen?

PEGGY: [00:09:06] Well, I was away at the University of Georgia. Prior to that … I was a senior in high school when my mother had died. And then I went away to the University of Georgia. When I came back, it had been decided that our home was up for sale, and my sister and father and I would be jumping in the car and traveling to California. My dad had a history of loving San Francisco, so he wanted… [Transcriber’s note: Peggy explained in a post-interview meeting that her father hoped that moving to California in 1960 would promote a healthier lifestyle for himself and his family.]

JOHN: Had he come here on business?

PEGGY: [00:09:38] Yeah, on business, yeah. Yeah.

JOHN: And so that must have been quite a surprise that you returned from college and you found that this was … that these plans were already...?

PEGGY: [00:09:50] That's right. I had really no voice in the matter. And this is what happened, yeah.

JOHN: Were you excited or disappointed that you'd have to be leaving Georgia after one year?

PEGGY: [00:10:00] Oh, no, I was I was thrilled to be leaving Georgia. [laughter] Really thrilled. So, you know, it was good. But I think I was more stunned when I went home and found out that we were moving. And I was so stunned that I just sort of went along with the game. And … but in hindsight, it was…

JOHN: That's a big move.

PEGGY: [00:10:25] It was a big move.

JOHN: What was it about San Francisco that your father found appealing?

PEGGY: [00:10:30] Oh, he liked the liked … the light, the building, the excitement. Yeah.

JOHN: Did you say that he was a sailor?

PEGGY: [00:10:42] He was … he's a sailor. I'm sorry, yeah, I was just thinking he was not in the Marines or the Navy because he didn't qualify. But he was a sailor in Florida. He sailed a considerable amount … in the bay and then in the Caribbean. [Transcriber’s note: Peggy refers here to Biscayne Bay.]

JOHN: And did … was that part of the attraction that because San Francisco's on the … has its own bay and its own opportunities for sailing that he could do that here?

PEGGY: [00:11:08] That’s right, yeah.

JOHN: So did he have a boat when he lived here?

PEGGY: [00:11:11] He did not have a boat. But he did some sailing with friends, and he was looking to live in Sausalito because he'd get to know people and possibly be affiliated with the sailing crowd. He just realized he couldn't stay. [Transcriber’s note: Peggy explained that her father realized all his friends were in Florida, prompting his return to Florida.]

JOHN: What did you do then when you came to San Francisco? Did you immediately enroll in San Jose State or was there some gap or what happened? [Transcriber’s note: Peggy explained that she and her sister and father initially stayed at the Mayflower Hotel on Bush Street after arriving in San Francisco, and she remembers watching a Russian Sputnik satellite from the roof of this hotel in 1960.]

PEGGY: [00:11:39] Yeah, I was … I looked at San Francisco State and I looked at San Jose State, and I realized that being somebody who wasn't from the city I didn't want to go to San Francisco State, although it was six and one half. I did end up at San Jose.

JOHN: And what … were you continuing to study toward the goal of being an interior designer?

PEGGY: [00:12:06] Yeah. Yeah. Until I took a couple of painting classes.


PEGGY: And I realized, “Wow, this is a possibility.” And that was not being encouraged, but that's where I was going in my mind. Yeah.

JOHN: So you … did you begin to do painting or art on your own? I mean, perhaps inspired by the classes you took?

PEGGY: [00:12:29] I did. I did at what time I had. But of course, I had to work. And I ended up working at an interior design company.

JOHN: To get experience in the field?

PEGGY: [00:12:40] Yeah, to get experience.

JOHN: And did you meet anybody in college? I mean, what was your social life like?

PEGGY: [00:12:50] The social life was … it was, you know, interesting. I … my … I have to preface this with my father was rather adamant that I belong to a sorority when I was at the University of Georgia. Because someone that he knew had written a letter for me. So that was naivete played a role is like, “Oh, OK, I'll do this.” And so I lived … and that was the group, that was my social group was living. I didn't get to know the people who were necessarily living with or I was in class with, but mostly at the sorority house and that whole scene.

JOHN: And so you were in a sorority at the University of Georgia and then you joined the same sorority at San Jose State as well?

PEGGY: [00:13:39] Yeah. Mm-hmm. So it was it was minimal. But I got to know some … one or two interesting people who were studying art. [Peggy explained that she befriended an art history professor and a member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters at San Jose State.]

JOHN: And did you meet your … the man who became your husband there?

PEGGY: [00:13:52] Yes.

JOHN: He was a student also at San Jose State?

PEGGY: [00:13:54] Yeah, he had just graduated. So he was in the fraternity right next door. And…

JOHN: What is his name?

PEGGY: [00:14:02] Marshall. Marshall Ward.

JOHN: Marshall Ward.

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: Is Marshall Ward still alive?

PEGGY: [00:14:07] No. He died about five years ago.

JOHN: And what did … so he had finished already college. Was he already working when you met him?

PEGGY: [00:14:18] No. He actually wanted to go out and see a little bit of the world. So he traveled to Japan, spent a considerable amount of time in Japan. And then he traveled to Europe and spent some time over there.

JOHN: And so tell me a little bit about, if you don't mind, about what happened with Marshall, how you … the romance and getting married. How long between meeting and getting married was there?

PEGGY: [00:14:49] Well, let's see, OK. We met … we had a few dates before he took off for Japan. And apparently … he called me when he got back from his world tour, and apparently I had left, lost an earring in his car. [chuckles] It sounds very racy, but [chuckles] anyway, it was a lovely earring that my dad had given me many years ago. And so he called back. He said, “I just got back and I found this earring. So, you know, let's go out.” So we went out, and then that was the history.

JOHN: One thing led to another.

PEGGY: [00:15:36] Yeah. And we had a really good time together. A lot of laughs, a lot of journeys to the mountains. And good times.

JOHN: And so what year was it that you got married?

PEGGY: [00:15:50] We were married in ‘64. And we were married until ‘72.

JOHN: And the marriage resulted in one child?

PEGGY: [00:16:03] Steven. Steven. Yeah.

JOHN: Interesting that I think Steven is in Japan also. Is that…?


JOHN: Is there … was he introduced to Japan through Marshall in any way?

PEGGY: [00:16:16] I believe he was. And he was also introduced also because of ceramics. Because he studied ceramics when he was at college. And he just wanted to go to Japan. And he bicycled around Japan, and he ended up studying at Shigaraki, which is an artist in residence ceramic school. [Transcriber’s note: Steven attended Evergreen Valley College in San Jose. Per internet research, Shigaraki has been known for centuries as one of the great pottery regions of Japan, and is famous for the warm tones of the clay found in that area. Located 20 miles east of Kyoto, the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park is a hub for intercultural exchange, the sharing of technical expertise and advanced applications in the field of ceramics. The institute offers studio space to creative professionals to research and develop new work and has an artist in residence program.]

JOHN: By the way, your … had your father stayed in San Francisco?

PEGGY: [00:16:44] Ah, no.

JOHN: And also your sister?

PEGGY: [00:16:47] My sister went … after about four months she decided to go back because she was studying to be a medical technician and she couldn't get a job because they had different regulations here. And so she went. Plus the fact that she had a boyfriend, a pretty steady boyfriend in Miami.

JOHN: So she went back there and...?

PEGGY: [00:17:09] She went back there.

JOHN: Did she live her life then in Florida?

PEGGY: [00:17:12] And she’s still there, yeah. [Peggy explained that her sister became a doctor, got married and raised two children in Florida.]

JOHN: And your father returned also?

PEGGY: [00:17:17] And he realized that even though he explored around Sausalito, he realized that all of his friends were in Florida. And he just was not ready to make new friends. So he went back.

JOHN: Did he ever remarry?

PEGGY: [00:17:35] He never remarried.

JOHN: So let's continue on with you here in the Bay Area … So you married in ’64. And what year was Stephen born?

PEGGY: [00:17:53] He was born in ‘70.

JOHN: In ’70. So did you and your husband Marshall continue living in the South Bay or did you come to San Francisco?

PEGGY: [00:18:03] Let's see … we started in the South Bay, in San Carlos. We lived up on this hill in San Carlos in an old house. Then we moved to Bel Marin Keys because he was in real estate… [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Bel Marin Keys is a waterfront community located east of the city of Novato in Marin County. The community has approximately 700 homes, an most of the homes sit either on one of the many Lagoons or on Novato Creek. Bel Marin Keys was a planned community built between the late 1950s and late 1980s. Phases 1 through 4 were completed, but phase 5 was never built and instead the land is in the process of being restored back to wetlands.]

JOHN: I see.

PEGGY: So he figured there was something going on there. After Bel Marin didn't work, because it was still … everything was under development. After Bel Marin didn't work, we moved back to Belmont.

JOHN: Back to the Peninsula.

PEGGY: [00:18:37] Back to the Peninsula where it was … I mean, I was, what, 26 and it was really boring. [chuckles]

JOHN: Were you working at this time?

PEGGY: [00:18:47] I was working, yeah, yeah. I had a couple of jobs. And, you know, one was with a drafting … and we did some drafting, real minor drafting, and other secretarial work.

JOHN: You had given up on interior design by that point?

PEGGY: [00:19:02] Yeah, you know, I sort of worked my way in the outskirts of interior design. And it was … I worked at one place in Palo Alto called … I don't know … Today. Design Today, something like that. And then … like I say, I worked for the drafting company for awhile. [Transcriber’s note: Peggy explained that she worked at a Danish furniture store in Palo Alto.]

JOHN: Did you ever try … I mean, post-college or maybe even while you were still at San Jose State, working in interior design and find that that wasn't your cup of tea?

PEGGY: [00:19:32] Yeah. So this is when we're down the Peninsula. So we finally moved to San Francisco where there was something that was going to be happening. We moved to Napier Lane.

JOHN: On Telegraph Hill?

PEGGY: [00:19:45] On Telegraph Hill. And I went out and I started pounding the pavement down on Jackson Square thinking, “OK, this is where I can maybe find something.” And I looked and I looked and I interviewed. And, you know, I'd get a little call here and call there, but nothing really panned out, you know. Until I worked at … oh, what’s his name … Warren Hinckle’s paper. And I just can't remember the name of his paper at that time, which was down on Jackson Square. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Warren Hinckle III (1938-2016) was a San Francisco-based political journalist. He is remembered for his tenure as editor of Ramparts magazine, turning a sleepy publication aimed at a liberal Catholic audience into a major galvanizing force of American radicalism during the Vietnam War era.]

JOHN: This was in the late ‘60s?

PEGGY: [00:20:22] Yes. Uh-huh. This was in, yeah, ’68, ’69.

JOHN: What was it like to live on Napier Lane at that time period in time?

PEGGY: [00:20:31] Really exciting. And met some wonderful people, really wonderful people who lived, and who still live up there. And, you know, it’s great.

JOHN: Did you live near the Grace Marchant…? [Transcriber’s note: Per, Napier Lane resident Grace Marchant started planting her world-famous garden in 1949, working the steep hillside day in and day out for 33 years. Grace was born in 1886 in South Dakota and migrated with her young daughter Valetta to Southern California in 1912. To make ends, meet she worked a variety of jobs, including as a stuntwoman in silent films and later as a wardrobe mistress for RKO and 20th Century Fox. Valetta danced as a chorus girl for RKO and the Fanchon and Marco vaudeville troupe before they both moved to San Francisco in 1936. During World War Two, mother and daughter both worked building Liberty Ships in Sausalito. Grace began the beautification of Telegraph Hill at age 63 in 1949 when she moved into the house at the corner of Napier Lane and the Filbert Steps. At that time the area was an unsightly garbage dump full of an astonishing variety of debris. Despite suffering from spinal arthritis, Grace cleaned up the hill herself, hauling debris to the cliff’s edge and tossing it over the side. She continued to garden until her last few months, dying at home in 1982 at age 96. But in her last three years she had help from her next-door neighbor, Gary Kray. Grace taught Gary how to garden, and he took over after she died, spending the rest of his life tending her garden for the benefit of the community and anyone lucky enough to discover this oasis of calm. Following Gary’s death in 2012, Paula Mc Cabe, who had helped Gary for 10 years, assumed the gardening responsibilities at that time, with assistance from her husband, Larry Habegger.]

PEGGY: [00:20:43] I was just going to say she was right next door. Yeah, yeah.

JOHN: Did you ever work in her garden?

PEGGY: [00:20:48] I did not work in her garden. My dog did. [chuckles] And, you know, bless her heart, she never said a word about “Peggy, keep your dog out of my garden.” [chuckles] I just sort of … we worked it out.

JOHN: After having spent so much time on the Peninsula and a little bit in Marin … what was your feeling about living in San Francisco? Was it a pleasant surprise?

PEGGY: [00:21:18] Oh, no, it was just what I wanted! It was stimulating, it was … and I eventually ended up at the Art Institute for a couple of years just finishing my … well, I had already gotten a degree, but I got a B.A. in painting at that point.

JOHN: What were your years at the Art Institute?

PEGGY: [00:21:33] Sixty-eight to ‘70.

JOHN: You finished, completed a degree at the Art Institute?

PEGGY: [00:21:40] Yeah, yeah. It was part time.

JOHN: In painting was it?

PEGGY: [00:21:43] Mm-hmm. It was part time ‘cause I still had a part time job … prior to when Stephen was born.

JOHN: What was it like to be at the Art Institute at that time?

PEGGY: [00:21:54] Well, it was very exciting. And yet I felt a little … I was a little isolated. I had another life, married to a realtor. And I didn't really integrate into the Art Institute maybe until my last six months or so. So I didn't … you know, I had a lot of wonderful teachers there, but I didn't have a rapport with a lot of my peers.

JOHN: Can you remember the names of some of your teachers?

PEGGY: [00:22:29] I think my favorite was Gerald Gooch. [Transcriber’s note: Per, Gerald Gooch (born 1933) is a San Francisco-based artist who taught at the San Francisco Art Institute from 1966-71 and has also taught at Laney College in Oakland.]

JOHN: Was he a painter?

PEGGY: [00:22:34] He was a printmaker.

JOHN: A printmaker.

PEGGY: Yeah. And Jay DeFeo. And a MacLean. I can't remember his first name, MacLean. You know … Steigewitz was another one. [Transcriber’s notes: Per Wikipedia, Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) was a visual artist who first became celebrated in the 1950s as part of the community of Beat artists, musicians and poets in San Francisco. She is best known for her monumental painting The Rose, which was acquired by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1995. For years DeFeo taught art part-time at various Bay Area institutions, including the San Francisco Art Institute (1964-71), Sonoma State University, the California College of Arts and Crafts and UC Berkeley. She received her first full-time position at Mills College, where she taught from 1980-89.; Peggy stated that the artist she refers to is John MacLean, but correct spelling of this name is unconfirmed and transcriber was unable to find information about this artist via the internet.; Peggy refers here to Norman Stiegelmeyer, who (per askART) was born in Denver in 1937.  Stiegelmeyer was a long-time resident of Mill Valley. A visionary surrealist, he taught for many years at the San Francisco Art Institute. He died in 1985.]

JOHN: What do you feel they … you learned from them? What were the things that you took away from those…?

PEGGY: [00:23:05] I think from Gooch was just his appreciation of whatever I was working on. It was an honest appreciation. And I think from DeFeo it was just her ability to be alive in whatever she said and what she was looking at and her whole energy. So, you know...

JOHN: What was DeFeo’s first name?


JOHN: Jay?

PEGGY: Uh-huh.

JOHN: It was a woman, Jay DeFeo?

PEGGY: [00:23:40] Yes. Mm-hmm.

JOHN: Is that J-A-Y-E?

PEGGY: [00:23:42] J-A-Y, yeah.

JOHN: So at this point, I mean, you were working part time. You were going to the Art Institute part time. You were … I guess Steven wasn't quite there until maybe the end of your Art Institute time?

PEGGY: [00:23:58] That's right. Yeah.

JOHN: You had a lot going on. Where did your own painting come into play? When did you have time 

for that?

PEGGY: [00:24:08] I had … at Napier Lane we had a basement or a room downstairs. Basement. So I would … I had set up downstairs to work in that area. And there was enough room. Just there wasn't enough air. So that's pretty much … you know, whenever … it’s like being home. Whenever I had the opportunity, I'd go downstairs and do some work.

JOHN: [00:24:34] Did you and Marshall and Steven live anywhere else in San Francisco before or after Napier Lane?

PEGGY: [00:24:40] Yeah, we moved … when Steven was one and a half, it was decided that we should move because it was a little dangerous once he started crawling. And our back porch just was not enclosed. So it was just time to move.

JOHN: And so where did you move?

PEGGY: [00:25:03] So we moved over to Hyde and Bay Street. And that was a good move. It was still a little … it was a beautiful place, but it was a little isolating. So … for me.

JOHN: So were you on Hyde or on Bay?

PEGGY: [00:25:16] Well, we were right on Hyde right by the cable car. Mm-hmm. So it was … a really nice place.

JOHN: Mm-hmm. And your husband was continuing to work in real estate at this time?

PEGGY: [00:25:31] In real estate, yeah. Mm-hmm.

JOHN: And … what … you said your marriage ended in 1972?

PEGGY: [00:25:45] Seventy-two, right. Yeah.

JOHN: And did you continue then living in San Francisco … at that point?

PEGGY: [00:25:51] No. At that point, I wanted to be out of San Francisco. So Steven and I moved to … well, first we were in Corte Madera. Larkspur, Corte Madera and then we settled in San Anselmo.

JOHN: And did Marshall stay in San Francisco?

PEGGY: [00:26:10] Yeah, he stayed in San Francisco.

JOHN: And did you share the raising of Steven?

PEGGY: [00:26:15] Yes, we did. Yeah.

JOHN: So part time with each parent then?

PEGGY: [00:26:18] Mm-hmm. And then, of course, he ended up moving up to Santa Rosa, where he met a woman that he'd known years ago. And so Steven would go up there. And Marsh had started horseback riding by then. So Steven went into horseback riding.

JOHN: Did you say when we spoke earlier that you began working as a … in catering?

PEGGY: [00:26:45] Oh, yeah. Yeah.

JOHN: In Marin County?

PEGGY: [00:26:47] I started in Marin. When I was living in San Anselmo, I just started cooking for other people. And I would cook at home and then take it to their home. Or I'd cook at their house. It was really simple.

JOHN: That was a business though?

PEGGY: [00:27:02] That was my … well, it was. Yeah. Sort of…

JOHN: You were paid for that?

PEGGY: [00:27:06] I was paid for it, but it didn't … I didn't have a name. Like I didn't have a truck. [chuckles] So it was the beginning of that era.

JOHN: Was it … it was word of mouth that you would find people?

PEGGY: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

JOHN: Were you doing anything else as well to earn money at that time?

PEGGY: [00:27:21] That was pretty much it. It was all freelance and on-call.

JOHN: And at this time were you continuing to paint?

PEGGY: [00:27:32] I didn't paint at this time. I would do sketching or I'd take a life drawing class. But no, there was no time for painting.

JOHN: And then it wasn't too much longer after that that you met Ed Handelman, is that correct?

PEGGY: [00:27:49] Yes, Ed Handelman. Yeah. Ed Handelman! [laughter] Yeah, it was in 19 … I had a studio. Well, I did … I take my words back. I did paint. I had gotten into quilting and I had a business. In the back, in the garage. And this was in about ‘74, ‘75. And Ed, I had met by then, he came over and he renovated the whole garage. Put in a window in the garage, set up some tables, cleaned it up. And I set up a business where I was making jackets. Quilted jackets from combination of different fabrics.

JOHN: Is that something that you had learned when … earlier in your life?

PEGGY: [00:28:41] No, not really. It was just something that I just started piecing things together and taking scraps of things. And pretty soon I was working with somebody else. And she said, “Why don't we start a business?”

JOHN: [00:28:54] And would you sell directly to people, or did you have … an outlet where you sold things?

PEGGY: [00:29:01] Our only outlet was when people had heard of us and they would commission us to something. Or else we ended up doing … for two years we did the Pacific Arts and Crafts Fair, which was at Fort Mason. And then I got distracted and I started doing something else after about three years of this.

JOHN: Let's go back to Ed Handelman for a minute.

PEGGY: [00:29:25] Yes.

JOHN: Ed Handelman, who I should say is also interviewed for this same oral history project. [Transcriber’s note: An oral history of Ed Handelman is available at]

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: And is also an artist. And Peggy's husband.

PEGGY: Mm-hmm.

JOHN: How did you meet Ed? Did somebody introduce you?

PEGGY: [00:29:43] I had a studio in Tiburon. I shared it with a woman. And that's when I was doing quilting. And I’d say it was ‘74, ’75. And it was at the old … I want to call it Brownie’s Pasture, but it was the old railroad station. [Transcriber’s note: The woman with whom Peggy shared a Tiburon studio was named Mary Lucas. Peggy appears to be referring here to Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon.]

JOHN: In Tiburon?

PEGGY: In Tiburon. Which is no longer there. It's just condominiums everywhere. The building became an architect's office probably in the … sometime in the ‘60s. And then there were no more architects. So it was sort of artist studio space for a few people. And the woman I shared the studio with introduced me to Ed.

JOHN: [00:30:32] Were you in those days coming to San Francisco frequently, even though you were in Marin?

PEGGY: [00:30:37] No, I wasn't. No. Steven and I were still living in San Anselmo, and I hadn't been coming into San Francisco at all.

JOHN: And where was your first date with Ed?

PEGGY: [00:30:52] So my studio mate Mary was a filmmaker also. And Ed and I met at … Spaghetti Factory was having a … I can't remember the name of the gardens, but the Spaghetti Factory … Mary was giving some films, showing some films at the Spaghetti Factory. [Transcriber’s note: Per the San Francisco Planning Commission and the San Francisco Chronicle, the Old Spaghetti Factory, located at 478 Green Street, was a cafe, cabaret and restaurant owned and operated by Frederick Kuh from 1955 to 1984.In the heyday of the Beatnik period, from the mid-'50s until the early '60s, the place was renowned not only for serving bargain-priced pastas but was an incubator and magnet for local artistic talent.; Peggy explained that the films were actually shown at the Savoy Tivoli, which was connected to the Old Spaghetti Factory.]

JOHN: Where Ed Handelman worked.

PEGGY: [00:31:16] Where he worked at one time, yeah. And so we went there, and there was Ed. And one thing followed another. And pretty soon I came into town for one of his openings, his art shows. And then we started dating, seeing each other.

JOHN: Was your shared artistic … interest in art one of the things that attracted you both to each other?

PEGGY: [00:31:43] It was. You know, it was one of the things that attracted us. And I think it was … a lot of it was, well, I don't want to use the trite word soulmate. [chuckles] But, you know, someone that I knew and we knew each other well by that point, yeah.

JOHN: And as I understand, Ed was already living in the house where the two of you are currently still living…

PEGGY: Right now.

JOHN: … beginning in 1974.

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: And he's been here ever since. And what … when did you move in with Ed?

PEGGY: [00:32:20] I moved in … probably it was ‘83, ‘84.

JOHN: So for eight or nine years, you had a relationship where you had separate...?

PEGGY: [00:32:31] Traveled, yeah.

JOHN: OK. And Ed also has a daughter, Ana.

PEGGY: Yeah. Ana. [Transcriber’s note: Ana Handelman is a North Beach resident and the daughter of Ed Handelman.]

JOHN: Who … did you … I'm not sure at what age she was when you came into Ed's life, but did you participate in sort of raising Ana?

PEGGY: [00:32:55] Actually, no. I moved into the city, and Ed had talked about this. And I moved in, and Ana was living here at the time. And then it was … it got a little crowded. So she moved on. She decided that, you know, she wanted to continue getting her own place and find her jobs and...

JOHN: [00:33:17] How old was she at the time that you moved in?

PEGGY: Probably 18. Yeah.

JOHN: So finishing or already finished with high school?

PEGGY: [00:33:25] Oh, yeah, definitely. Yeah. [phone ringing in background]

JOHN: And so when was it that you began working with the Creative Growth art center in Oakland? [Transcriber’s note: Per the organization’s website, Creative Growth is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland that advances the inclusion of artists with developmental disabilities in contemporary art. Founded in 1974, Creative Growth is a leader in the field of arts and disabilities, establishing a model for a creative community guided by the principle that art is fundamental to human expression and that all people are entitled to its tools of communication. The Creative Growth Studio is home to over 140 artists who work in a variety of media and is facilitated by professional artists. The Creative Growth Gallery exhibits and promotes Creative Growth artists by placing their work in major collections and institutions worldwide.]

PEGGY: [00:33:37] Let's see … let me just say this. I started catering when I came into the city. I started in the food business until the early ‘80s or so. And then I went to Creative Growth at about 1992 … I had volunteered there for one year, and then I’d come in and I’d do fill-in jobs. So overall, I started about 1994 working there. Until 2015. [Transcriber’s note: Peggy explained later that she taught art at a San Francisco public school in the Bayview from 1985-90.]

JOHN: And tell me a little bit about … how would you describe the program and what you did there?

PEGGY: [00:34:23] Well, I…

JOHN: What sort of people attend that program?

PEGGY: [00:34:28] OK. So they’re artists who are … they’re students and artists who have graduated from high school. Generally speaking, they've graduated from high school. And they have challenges, both physical and mental challenges. And they are also in that school because someone has seen that they have some kind of an artistic flavor that they're interested in. Creative Growth has been around since, I believe it's ‘74. It started in San Francisco.

JOHN: There's something called Creativity Explored in San Francisco, right? [Transcriber’s note: Based at 3245 16th Street in San Francisco, Creativity Explored provides gallery and studio space for artists with developmental disabilities to create and sell their work. The nonprofit was founded in San Francisco in 1983 by Florence and Elias Katz, who also founded Creative Growth in Oakland in 1974.]

PEGGY: [00:35:10] Yeah, that's that was a part of it. And I guess they needed to have a more diverse … not diverse, but at another location geographically. So they started the one in Oakland.

JOHN: And how many students … artists, students were there in the program…?

PEGGY: [00:35:26] Any given day there were probably 100 students, give or take, any given day. And then in my class … I was hired to teach mosaics. In my class, I would have a combination of maybe eight in the morning and maybe six in the afternoon. Some combination like this.

JOHN: Was this your first experience as a teacher in a kind of teaching capacity?

PEGGY: [00:35:58] No, I was teaching when I started my studio in the early ‘80s in Hunters Point. I had hooked up with someone who was teaching in the neighborhood … Bayview-Hunters Point. And she was teaching in the grammar school. So I was hired to teach in that level at the time.

JOHN: At a grammar school in the Hunters Point area?

PEGGY: [00:36:25] At a grammar school, mm-hmm. Yeah.

JOHN: And had you had any previous mosaics experience?

PEGGY: [00:36:33] No, not at that point.

JOHN: [00:00:00] And…

PEGGY: [00:00:02] But I will say this: when I had been working with quilts earlier, it was pretty much putting scraps together. I don't mean scraps, but different patterns together. So it sort of segued...

JOHN: Somewhat similar to mosaic.

PEGGY: [00:00:17] And then the food. [chuckles] Yeah.

JOHN: And how many days a week would you go over to Oakland?

PEGGY: [00:00:26] It started to be four days a week. And then I had an issue with my knee. And then it was three days. It worked for me to be three days a week.

JOHN: And for how long did you continue working with that organization?

PEGGY: [00:00:43] I was there until, I think 2015, 2017. So basically I was there for almost 20 years.

JOHN: Or even more than 20 years.

PEGGY: [00:00:54] It could have been more, yeah.

JOHN: And how … did you did you find that rewarding? What was...?

PEGGY: [00:01:01] Oh, exceedingly rewarding. I just … loved working there. I really made some close friends. The teachers, who are all artists, and the people who were the administrators were all wonderful people. Easy to talk to. The artists themselves ranged in abilities. From not wanting to do … or not able to do anything no matter how much you put in front of them, whether it was … you know, I would move into drawing if it had to be … to others who were just, you know, completely creative, flourishing.

JOHN: Have many of the people who participated continued on as maybe full-time artists or making art a very important part of their lives?

PEGGY: [00:02:01] Yeah. They're still there. They … it's not like they are out in the world.

JOHN: I see. So it's not as though someone would attend for just a few years. They would continue indefinitely?

PEGGY: [00:02:13] Indefinitely. Unless somebody decided they needed to quit. Some people were able to go back to college if they were interested or work a job. But it was minimal, it was all very minimal. And they would come back. Or somebody might decide that for some reason, and I don't know what their reasons were, that they couldn't come back, but they were … I'm thinking of a couple who were excellent artists.

JOHN: And have you maintained contact with people that you...?

PEGGY: [00:02:46] I’ve maintained contact with the … well, I don't like to say “teachers” because the term “facilitator” was used when I was still there. I'm still in contact with the people. But not so much the artists themselves.

JOHN: Did the program evolve in the 20 years that you were there?

PEGGY: [00:03:07] Oh, my god, yes. Yeah, yeah. I mean the director took it to New York, to Switzerland, to Japan, to different parts of Asia. He just really made this center known around the world.

JOHN: And … so you were working initially four days and then later three days at the center. Did that leave time for you to develop your own art and work on your own art at Hunters Point?

PEGGY: [00:03:41] It was catch as catch can, so to speak. And, yeah, probably once I recovered on Friday from working in Creative Growth, I would be able to go on the weekends. Yeah.

JOHN: And painting has been the medium that you've done the most?

PEGGY: [00:04:02] Yeah, right.

JOHN: [00:04:07] Why don't we take a little break?

PEGGY: [00:04:09] OK.

JOHN: So, Peggy, when we left off, we were talking about your time at the Creative Growth art center and maintaining connection with some of the artists…

PEGGY: Mm-hmm.

JOHN: …who were there and some of the other facilitators.

PEGGY: Mm-hmm.

JOHN: And did you have a … I know that you had a studio until very recently at the Hunters Point…


JOHN: But did you also have one at Pier 70?

PEGGY: [00:00:52] I did have one at Pier 70.

JOHN: Where did that come in?

PEGGY: [00:01:00] Let’s see. Eighty-four I started at Hunters Point Shipyard. And then at some point I heard about a studio in the East Bay. And I thought, “Oh, it will be easier to get to the East Bay because the Embarcadero Freeway was still up. I can get to the East Bay and be at this other studio in no time.” So I thought, “I'm going to do that.” So I took a year off and went … and had a studio there. And I realized that … there was a futon factory below me, and the smells that were coming up through that, even though there was a fan, was just something that I didn't want to live with. So I came back to San Francisco and went to Pier 70. [Transcriber’s note: The Hunters Point Shipyard is the country’s largest artist studio community, providing studio space for more than 300 painters, sculptors, printmakers and other artists.; the Noonan Building at San Francisco’s Pier 70 has for many years featured affordable studio space for artists.]

JOHN: Was Ed Handelman also at Pier 70?

PEGGY: [00:01:51] He had a studio. It wasn’t the same. I was sharing the studio with somebody else. So I was there for, oh, maybe two years. It's Pier 70. And Ed, I think, had wrapped it up by then, and he'd moved back home. Yeah.

JOHN: And then you went back to Hunters Point after some time?

PEGGY: [00:02:10] Then after a couple of years and, you know, things work out sharing the studio, I ended up getting a studio in Hunters Point again. But it was not in the main building. It was one of the outskirts.

JOHN: Were you … I know that because you were working several days a week and you had other commitments…

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: … family commitments and things, that you didn't always have as much time probably as you would have like for painting. But was … what was your output like in these years in the, say, the ‘80s and ‘90s and into the 2000s?

PEGGY: [00:02:52] In the sense of my imagery or how much or quality?

JOHN: I mean, were you having shows or selling your work in galleries?

PEGGY: [00:03:04] Oh, yeah. Thank you. Yeah, yeah.

JOHN: How were you…?

PEGGY: [00:03:07] Periodically I would find a gallery that took my work, and I would … I know I went to Santa Fe once and had a show down there. I don't remember what year that was. And of course, I would be sending out … we had slides at that time. So … one would submit their slides to either a gallery or to a show if a show, a competition was coming up. So I would submit slides to a competition. And, you know, they were … I showed two competitions, one in New York, maybe one in Wyoming. It was scattered competitions.

JOHN: And your work itself, I mean, you're making these lovely paintings that are … can be seen in this studio of … that are inspired by water lilies.

PEGGY: [00:04:03] Well, the Everglades primarily. Yeah. ‘Cause … you didn't say it, but I don't want to be necessarily equated with Monet's water lilies. And I don't know how to separate myself from it, but … maybe it's there, but it's not something I've been thinking of.

JOHN: He doesn't have a patent on water lilies.

PEGGY: [00:04:24] [chuckles] No, but it's not like, “Oh, I'm going to do some water lilies.” Because it's just...

JOHN: What was it … can you tell me what was it that initially interested you in that that concept or that shape? Was there an experience where you maybe saw water lilies?

PEGGY: [00:04:44] Oh, of the … well, it was mostly of the Everglades. And it was someone I had met about five years ago who showed me a picture, a photograph of her home in Wisconsin overlooking a lake. And the light was just so that it showed … they weren't water … they were just the pads, the lily pads. And I thought, “Boy, between the light and the shapes, you know, this is” … it just happened to work at the right time. And I came back to the studio, and I just started working with my memory of being in the Everglades, of being … growing up in Florida, growing up on Biscayne Bay. So I think some of the first ones were of Coconut Grove in Biscayne Bay. And then it sort of moved to the Everglades. But it was all about light and color. And once I got into the Everglades, it was the knowledge of the beauty and the chaos that's happening.

JOHN: Through development and things like that?

PEGGY: [00:05:51] Yes, yes. Yeah.

JOHN: And that's a motif or a kind of design that you're continuing to work with. Maybe … what were some of the earlier things that you did in sort of earlier stages of your painting?

PEGGY: [00:06:15] OK, so prior to that I was doing landscapes. But they were sort of abstract.

JOHN: And were these based on photographs that you had taken?

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: Or memory or…?

PEGGY: [00:06:28] I would say they would start with a photograph, and then it would just start evolving. Maybe it was a memory. Maybe it was just the way something was beginning to develop on the paper or the canvas. And pretty soon these shapes would happen. Or the colors, you know, it was not planned.

JOHN: Were you putting the paint onto wet paper or wet canvas or…?

PEGGY: [00:06:53] No, no. But I didn't really have an image going in.

JOHN: And would you … the resulting painting, when you were finished, did it resemble the original photograph…?

PEGGY: Not at all.

JOHN: …or was it becoming more abstract then?

PEGGY: [00:07:17] Not at all, yes. It would be much more abstract and not recognizable.

PEGGY: [00:07:37] A lot of the imagery that I was working on [prior to Peggy’s water-themed work] was of the Central Valley. Because it was plains, and some verticals and some plains. [chuckles] So … and I had to look up the names of cities and valleys just to give the painting a name. Because it didn't really … I didn't have any particular place in mind. It just…

JOHN: Would you take … did you take a lot of trips to the valley then? The Central Valley?

PEGGY: [00:08:06] Yeah, we did take. Mm-hmm. [Transcriber’s note: Peggy mentioned trips to Grass Valley and Sonora.]

JOHN: And, you know, you and Ed are both artists living in San Francisco, and you have had studios at Pier 70 and Hunters Point. And I'm sure you have developed a kind of community of artist friends and … is that the case?

PEGGY: [00:08:28] Yes. Uh-huh, yeah.

JOHN: Is there any kind of … do you have opportunities for bouncing ideas? And … I don't know. Intellectual collaboration artistically with other people, other artists?

PEGGY: [00:08:46] Yeah, somewhat. I think, especially when I was out at the shipyard, the people would come by. And they actually would have some groups coming by who were just artists. Maybe once every two months we’d get artists together, and they’d go to about four different studios in the afternoon. And, you know, people would throw out ideas what they thought, what they … you know, what spoke to them, what didn't. And it was really … a good thing. It was a great community. Around San Francisco, you know, I just go to someone's home and I’ll admire their work. Or maybe it's not something that they've done but their collection, you know. And somebody will come here and they'll talk about my work. It's … not that we sit down and discuss art as such.

JOHN: And just recently, I understand within the last couple of months, you decided to give up your studio at Hunters Point. Can you tell me why that was and…?

PEGGY: [00:09:57] Well, at 35 … well, I'm calling it 35 years out there, give or take a couple of years. It got to be … it was a beautiful studio and so much light. It got to be a lot of work getting out there. If it was either the football … well, it wasn't the football because they moved, but baseball, basketball, the crowds on Third Street. And I suppose the expense of the studio and maybe I wasn't going out there as much. I guess I'm just dealing with other things in my life right now, more than going … driving out half an hour out there. After I've, you know, packed my lunch and figured out when I come home. Is this a good time? Am I going to get a parking place? [chuckles] So everything. And I feel really good having moved. It's not much space but, you know, like a goldfish I'm adapting.

JOHN: And so you are … you and Ed are now working in the same…

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: … you know, right next to each other.

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: How is that going so far?

PEGGY: [00:11:14] It’s fine. You know, I think there's probably some kind of a myth about artists living together and working together. But we don't fit into that myth, that is like can be destructive or irritating. I haven't … come across that line yet. Not with someone like Ed. [chuckles]

JOHN: He's pretty easy going.

PEGGY: [00:11:39] He’s, yeah.

JOHN: [00:11:44] I think we'll take a pause now and we'll come back to this at our next meeting.

PEGGY: [00:11:50] OK. That sounds good.

JOHN: [00:01:01] OK, this is our second meeting with Peggy Huff. Today is April 1st. April Fool's Day 2022.

PEGGY: [chuckles]

JOHN: And I'm with Peggy Huff, again in her home studio. This is John Doxey from THD Oral History Project. Peggy, when we left off in our last conversation, you were finishing telling me about your time working at Pier 70 and then Hunters Point.

PEGGY: Uh-huh.

JOHN: And we got pretty close to the present because it was just a couple of months ago that you gave up your studio…

PEGGY: That’s right, yeah.

JOHN: … in Hunters Point and moved into a home studio. Did you have this home studio already? Part time that you used…?

PEGGY: [00:01:59] Well, I had the home studio, but I wasn't using it much for painting.

JOHN: Mm-hmm.

PEGGY: And the studio was about 500 square feet at Hunters Point. And I brought it all in here into this little tiny space. [chuckles] So…

JOHN: How is the transition going? Are you getting accustomed to this new…?

PEGGY: [00:02:17] Yes, I am getting accustomed to it. And I could … I'm really happy that I've made the move. It's just … it was just time.

JOHN: Are you working in a … like a different size canvas and things now more?

PEGGY: [00:02:29] Well, for now. And when it gets a little lighter and warmer, I'll go out into the backyard and paint out there.

JOHN: [00:02:42] I think that’s Ed doing some work in the next studio. [Transcriber’s note: sounds of work coming from nearby room.]

PEGGY: [00:02:46] It is, it is. Yeah. Should I have him shut the door?

JOHN: [00:02:49] I think that would be good.

So I just wanted to get back to the fact that I believe you've lived here on Grant with Ed since 1984, is that correct?

PEGGY: [00:03:49] ’84, right. Uh-huh.

JOHN: And I'd like to just ask you a little bit about, you know, how the neighborhood was in ‘84, which is nearly 40 years ago now…

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: … compared to today, in 2022. What kinds of … I know that's a pretty general question … but can you think of some of the changes you've noticed in, you know, maybe not just your block, but in the North Beach Telegraph Hill area?

PEGGY: [00:04:23] Yeah. And I'm sure everyone has mentioned this and it is the population. A younger population that's moving in, has moved in, and families. Now they're not so many families now, but there were about … a lot of more families about 10 years ago. And…

JOHN: You mean … it seems like there's fewer families now?

PEGGY: [00:04:48] There’s fewer families now, yeah, than there were 10 years ago. And a lot of young professionals.

JOHN: [00:04:57] Prices have gone up in general, wouldn't you say, related to both rent and purchased homes?

PEGGY: [00:05:03] Yeah. I suppose they have … of course they have. And of course we have rent control, which really helps. And as far as downtown … North Beach itself, it was very quiet during … well, let's say, 2018 during the market crash. And a lot of places shut down. And there's always a resurgence of places that are coming back. And it's pretty much, I think, North Beach and Telegraph, you know, North Beach and Grant Avenue have pretty much come back to full … status now. It's always crowded, so you know … but when I moved here in ‘84 I wasn't around the street much because I had the studio out at the shipyard and then when I didn't have that I had catering work.

JOHN: And you were going over to the East Bay to teach quite a bit of your time?

PEGGY: [00:06:05] Well, I hadn't started … that came in the beginning of the ‘90s. So between … once again between going over to Creative Growth to teach, and then making time to get out to the studio, I didn't really mingle a lot.

JOHN: Yeah, I meant just in the course of your approximately 40 years at this address…

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: … a lot of your time has been spent working in other parts of the Bay Area.

PEGGY: [00:06:31] Yes, and looking for a parking place. [chuckles] Yeah.

JOHN: [chuckles] OK. And I'm just thinking a little bit down the road, I mean, do you see yourself and Ed remaining here? Do you have any, you know, goals or plans for the future?

PEGGY: [00:06:48] There are no goals. No, we’ll stay here. Yeah, definitely.

JOHN: This is your place.

PEGGY: [00:06:54] This is … yeah, I mean, I think about how great it would be to be outside of the city. But we have our family up in Santa Rosa, so we go visit the family in Santa Rosa. Or we take a road trip. Which is not so frequent, but we get out and that satisfies my out of the city.

JOHN: And I take it that you and Ed have quite a robust circle of friends in the North Beach area?

PEGGY: [00:07:21] Yes. Yeah, we do.

JOHN: How would you say that you've met most of the people that you know and hang out with?

PEGGY: [00:07:30] Well, first of all … I'll sort of start it off with until the pandemic every year, for about 10 years, we would have a holiday party.

JOHN: Here in your home?

PEGGY: [00:07:43] Here in the home, yeah. And it was … they were always fantastic. Great parties. And, you know, every year we'd meet a new person like yourself and Katherine. Oh, yeah, we can’t forget Katherine, John. [chuckles] But, you know, walking down the street, or going for a glass of wine at Audrey's house, and then I meet somebody else. [Transcriber’s notes: Peggy is referring here to interviewer John Doxey and partner Katherine Petrin.]

JOHN: Audrey Tomaselli?

PEGGY: [00:08:07] Yeah, Audrey Tomaselli. And then I meet someone else and … who just lives around the corner, I never knew that person before. When the pandemic started, I met Susan Weisberg, who lives right around the corner. And she said, “You know, we should just sort of have a glass of wine together. We know each other from just walking on the street.” And so that's sort of how I've met people. It’s just, you know, somebody breaks the ice. [Transcriber’s notes: Audrey Tomaselli was a long-time neighbor of Peggy and Ed in North Beach. Audrey was also a leader of THD’s oral history program. She has since moved to Sacramento.; Susan Weisberg is another nearby neighbor.]

JOHN: It's a … it seems a friendly, kind of receptive place for...

PEGGY: [00:08:39] I think it's really friendly. And it's small enough to feel comfortable … once you've seen someone around long enough, you know who they are. Some people don't want to be bothered, but it's OK. They're usually not my age, so...

JOHN: One thing that I always, you know, remark on to myself about North Beach is how although there's so many people coming from outside all the time, tourists and visitors from other parts of the city … but there's also a bit of a small town feeling, isn't there?

PEGGY: [00:09:08] Yeah. Yeah, very much so I think. And I don't see a lot … there's a woman who lives … Patricia O'Donovan I think is her name … she lives on the corner and I don't see her much. But, you know, she's always at the parties and she's … we have a really great friendship, but I just don't see her too often. So there are people sprinkled around. And there are a lot of people that are my age. And younger people who actually know Ana, so they know us. And so, “Hi Peggy, Hi Ed.” [Transcriber’s notes: Patricia O'Donovan lives near Peggy and Ed in North Beach.; Peggy is referring here to Ed’s daughter Ana Handelman.]

JOHN: And for the record, Ana is Ed Handelman’s daughter.

PEGGY: [00:09:48] Is the daughter, yeah.

JOHN: Let's go back in time a little bit to something we talked about previously, which was your time living on … near the Grace Marchant gardens…

PEGGY: Uh-huh, yeah.

JOHN: Can you tell me a little bit about your … a little more detail about your time there and what it was like?

PEGGY: [00:10:09] OK. Let's see, I'm trying to … my husband Marshall and I were living in Belmont in the mid-‘60s to the end of the ‘60s. And we just got … it was so quiet, and I knew there was a lot happening in San Francisco. So we talked about it and we looked around and we looked at quite a bit in San Francisco. And Marsh, having been in real estate, was able to really scope out some pretty good areas. And he scoped out Telegraph Hill, and he got to know Grace Marchant. And pretty soon she said, “Yeah, this place is going to be empty. Number 10.”

JOHN: So you … and Marshall found out through word of mouth, through Grace herself...?

PEGGY: [00:10:59] And through Grace, yeah. Yeah. And so we moved out of Belmont and right into Napier Lane … for probably there for about seven years.

JOHN: And what was the kind of place that … was it a small apartment? What was the housing?

PEGGY: [00:11:15] It was actually a small house. And I don't know the history about the house, but I do know that … it was pre-earthquake. And there was a main level. And then the downstairs was just a small storage area, basically, which I used as a studio. And then the upstairs, which is a really tiny little set of stairs that goes up to the upstairs, a very small bedroom. But we had a great view over the Embarcadero. [chuckles]

JOHN: Were there a number of houses like that, clustered together?

PEGGY: [00:11:58] Yeah, there are. Yeah, they’re still there. They've done a little building up there, right next to number 10. But…

JOHN: And what were … can you tell me a little bit about what the other neighbors in that area were like?

PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: Were they of a certain age, generally speaking, or...?

PEGGY: [00:12:18] Well, let's start with Grace. She must have been in her late 70s when we moved in. And she was … [chuckles] well, she was lovely, but she just … the only people she wanted around were basically the people who were interested in her garden or the people she played bridge with. And those are the people that she spoke with, excuse me. And she admitted to me once, she said, “You know, I'm not crazy about people.” She said, “I like my cats.” And she did have the cats. And we had a dog, which took advantage of her garden and left many calling cards.

JOHN: Did she … how did Grace...?

PEGGY: [00:13:06] She never said a word to me. She never said a word.

JOHN: Maybe she appreciated the fact that the dog took an interest in her garden.

PEGGY: [chuckles] Fertilizing or something.

JOHN: Did you ever help out at all with the garden or was she inviting people help?

PEGGY: [00:13:20] No, no, no. I mean, I think there's probably the history there. The history that we heard was that she had a very severe form of arthritis. Do you have this history already?

JOHN: I believe so.

PEGGY: [00:13:34] Yeah, yeah. And anyway I’ll finish it up. A very severe form of arthritis. And when she moved up on the hill and the doctor said, “You know, you're not going to live much longer.” And she was in her 60s. Well, she started cleaning up that garden, which was bottles and trash and just went on. And she would clean that garden up until it is what it is … was, what, in the ‘70s. And it’s kept up.

JOHN: And you lived there for how long?

PEGGY: [00:14:05] About seven years.

JOHN: About seven years.

PEGGY: [00:14:09] Mm-hmm. Yeah. And the woman who lived down … upstairs from Grace was Edith. And Edith was a minister. But, I don't know, maybe the Unitarian Church. And she was, you know, she was the same age as Grace. And right next to us was Liathan O'Donovan. And Jill Fenton. And a couple of other people whose names I don't recall right now. Yeah. It's a pretty quiet lane. Pretty quiet.

JOHN: I'm sure it became … more and more popular as it became more and more beautiful, though.

PEGGY: [00:14:56] Oh, it did. And the tourists weren’t up there as much as they are today. I mean, there of course were tourists. But … and then the birds. The birds were not there yet. So…

JOHN: The parrots.

PEGGY: [00:15:08] The parrots were not there yet. So people were not attracted to that. But also I forgot about Valetta, Grace's daughter, who lived over on Greenwich. And there used to be just a little path that you could walk, and there still is, over to Greenwich street. And that garden is quite spectacular as you know, yeah. It wasn't … you know, she had done some work, but it wasn't Grace's garden… [Transcriber’s note: Peggy refers here to the flock of Cherry-headed Conure parrots that are often seen around Telegraph Hill. The flock gained fame as a result of filmmaker Judy Irving’s 2003 documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”]

JOHN: Is Valetta still with us?

PEGGY: [00:15:36] I don't think so. I don't think so.

JOHN: Something else that we didn't … I'm jumping around a little bit here, but we didn't mention in our previous conversation was the Shipyard Trust for the Arts. [Transcriber’s note: Per the organization’s website, the Shipyard Trust for the Arts (STAR) is the nonprofit advocacy organization of the Hunters Point Shipyard Artists, a studio community of more than 300 working artists and musicians in the historic naval shipyard in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco that also includes the nearby Islais Creek Studios and Eclectic Cookery.]

PEGGY: [00:15:51] Yeah. Mm-hmm.

JOHN: That's something that you were involved with.

PEGGY: [00:15:53] That was, yeah.

JOHN: Can you tell me what that was, or is?

PEGGY: [00:15:56] That was the nonprofit that they created in probably ‘80, ’90 … the late ‘80s, I think. [coughs] And…

JOHN: At the Hunters Point...?

PEGGY: [00:16:10] That's right. At Hunters Point ship … for the artists to have some kind of representation and to get the word out what was happening and to try and get grants. And the Tides Foundation out at the Presidio … I don't know if they still maintain their grants, but they probably do.

JOHN: So it was in some way a collective of the artists that worked at the Hunters Point shipyard?

PEGGY: [00:16:35] Yes. But they were only … at STAR there were only about … oh, I don’t know, on the board … eight people who were on the board. And I became part of the artist in residence committee. So, and you know, every two years we’d put out the proposal for artists in residence.

JOHN: Were you one of the founders of STAR then?

PEGGY: [00:17:00] I was not. I was more … I wasn't a founder as much as I was sort of like one of the first people in. Yeah. On the board. Yeah. So, you know, I just. You just go make … you know what a board’s like. You make your comments and your opinions. [chuckles]

JOHN: Your son, Steven, who lives in Japan. I believe he's a … you said he was a ceramicist...

PEGGY: Right.

JOHN: And I believe he's married to a Japanese woman, is that right?

PEGGY: [00:17:36] He's married to a woman from Venezuela.


PEGGY: Well, she was originally from Chile. And then her family moved in ’62 …. Pinochet. To Venezuela. And that's where she lived, she and her family lived. And she … they were both studying at a school, Shigaraki, in Japan. And that's how they met. [Transcriber’s note: Peggy appears to state an incorrect date here. Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) seized power in Chile in a 1973 coup d’etat, overthrowing the government of President Salvador Allende with the Support of the U.S.. Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990.]

JOHN: And did you say that Steven is also an economist, or is he a full-time ceramicist?

PEGGY: [00:18:12] Oh, no. His wife is, you know, has evolved into someone who teaches at the University of Nagoya. And she teaches … now she teaches something with economy. And I'm not sure specifically what it is, but... [Transcriber’s note: Nagoya University is a Japanese national research university located in Chikusa-ku, Nagoya.]

JOHN: And is Steven a full-time artist or does he do...?

PEGGY: [00:18:35] No, he has work also. He has developed an online program that teaches people around the world English or Japanese. And he has hired other people around the world … this is how Zoom works, right? He has hired other people to participate and to be a part of teaching English. And his daughter got involved in teaching. She's probably teaching Japanese. And so he still does that. So he's pretty much a … he contracts out the language...

JOHN: And he and his wife have children?

PEGGY: [00:19:18] Yeah, two kids. Alba, who's 20, and Sora is 23. Yeah.

JOHN: And they're fluent in both languages I imagine.

PEGGY: [00:19:29] Oh, yeah. Yeah.

JOHN: And have they been to visit you recently or...?

PEGGY: No. It’s been…

JOHN: I guess during the pandemic everything came to a halt.

PEGGY: [00:19:36] No, it was really at a halt. So I was there in … it's four years ago. And that was the last time we saw each other.

JOHN: In what part of Japan do they live?

PEGGY: [00:19:49] They live near Nagoya, outside of Nagoya. In a little … that they built, a home that they built in Mihama is the name of the town that they're in. And, you know, they have a really good life. They're doing what they want to do in their art. And it’s … couldn't be happier.

JOHN: Although it's a long way away from you.

PEGGY: It is a long way away. Yeah, it is. Yeah.

JOHN: Has Ed joined you on a trip to Japan?

PEGGY: [00:20:17] Once. Yeah. And that's going to be it. [chuckles] And I don't know the way things are with the pandemic going like this all the time [moves hands in up and down wave pattern] if we can really get back there or when they'll come here. ‘Cause they don't want to be quarantined in the house for a few days. Yeah, it's just awkward.

JOHN: There could come a time.

PEGGY: [00:20:45] Yeah. Oh, I'm sure there will be.

JOHN: I think I'll just finish up my questions and then let's take a look at some photographs…


JOHN: …and art of yours. But just to say, I think we touched on this a bit last time … what it's like to be here in the same place with Ed all the time? I mean, you're...

PEGGY: [00:21:10] Oh, right. It's … just very natural. It's no different than when I had a studio out at the shipyard. You know, we really … can appreciate each other's space and … and being artists, we do have a seclusion side to us. And so that's … works fine.

JOHN: And do you feel you have more time now to dedicate to art than you have previously?

PEGGY: [00:21:49] Yes, I do, yeah. And I do feel that way. I mean, it's more spontan… you know, I can just draw or I can just paint. And I don't have to go through the whole set up. I don't have to drive to Hunters Point Shipyard. I can, you know, it works out really well. Yeah, it's a little small, but … and this table was … belonged to Steven's great-grandmother, who grew up in Michigan. And this was from the old farm. And everyone in the family wants this table. [chuckles] I said, “You can have it. I just, you know...” [chuckles]

JOHN: But they might have to wait a while.

PEGGY: [00:22:35] Yeah. Yeah.

JOHN: And artistically are there some any new directions that you're thinking about going? Any new explorations?

PEGGY: [00:22:44] You know, I can’t really … it's interesting because I have been thinking about it. But nothing comes to mind until I actually have my hands on. Nothing. There will be a stretch...

JOHN: Good.

PEGGY: ‘Cause I've never been able to stay with one particular … image, I say, for longer than four years. So I think I've run my time out with the Everglades. [chuckles]

JOHN: OK, I think … is there anything else that we haven't talked about that you'd like to share?

PEGGY: [00:23:30] I can't think of anything offhand that … not really. I think we've covered it.


PEGGY: Yeah.

JOHN: [00:23:37] Well, if we think of anything else, we'll come back to it. But I'd like to look at some photos and some art with you.


JOHN: I'll pause the recording for now.

PEGGY: [00:23:45] OK.


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