March 24, 2010 > History: The Ferry Hayward
History: The Ferry Hayward
February 1923 brought a flurry of excitement to Hayward with the christening of a San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railway (later the Key System) ferry named for the city. While many towns around the Bay had ferries named for them, the Hayward, and her sister boat, the San Leandro, were the first, and up to that time, only turbo electric ferries to go into service transporting commuters back and forth across the Bay. These modern, million dollar machines were to have a significant impact on the transit system's capacity for moving people. They were thought to be the wave of the future, providing a much quieter ride for commuters than what they would have gotten on the older, steam-powered ferries. It seemed only fitting then, that a small, though enthusiastic, contingent of Haywardites traveled to Los Angeles for the ferry's christening on February 15, 1923 under the auspices of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce.
The San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railway, which became the Key System in late 1923, was the public transportation system of the East Bay created in 1903 by mogul Francis Marion "Borax" Smith from the consolidation of smaller individually operated transportation systems. It consisted of a series of electric streetcars (later busses) and ferries that connected the East Bay communities to one another and to San Francisco. Ferries operated from the Key Route Pier, which extended from the Oakland waterfront almost to Yerba Buena Island, not far from the path of the Bay Bridge today. The streetcars traveled out to the end of the pier where passengers then boarded one of the ferries to take them to San Francisco.
The Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation in San Pedro built the ferry Hayward and the San Leandro. Keels of both boats were laid in June 1922 but the Hayward was completed before the San Leandro and therefore christened first. The designer, John B. Matthews was a naval architect and engineer for the Terminal Railway system. Turbo electric engines and the overall steel design of the boats was not new to shipbuilding at the time, having been used in large war ships for several years. However, Matthew's ferries represented the first time this technology was adapted for commercial use on a smaller scale.
The Hayward Chamber of Commerce gathered a group of 25 citizens to make the 400-mile journey to Los Angeles with everyone packed into a caravan of automobiles. Chamber secretary Mark Lee led the group that included E.W. Burr and his family (superintendent of the Alameda County Sugar Company and member of the Hayward Rotary) and Mr. and Mrs. R.A. Kolze (President of the Board of Trustees for the town of Haywards - an early version of the city council), among others. The guest of honor on the trip was the boat's sponsor 17-year old Chandler Oswill. She appears in many of the photos holding a large bouquet of flowers. Miss Oswill was the daughter of William and Ethel Oakes Oswill. William Oswill was the manager of the local PG&E office. Miss Oswill won a Chamber of Commerce contest for Hayward's prettiest girl, the prize being the trip to Los Angeles, accompanied by her mother, to christen the ferry.
The group left Hayward at 7 a.m. on February 13 and traveled through the Central Valley, greeted as they entered each town along the way by the local Chambers of Commerce. They spent the night in Bakersfield and continued on to Los Angeles. They made a side trip to Griffith Park before heading to the Gates Hotel, in downtown Los Angeles, where they spent the night. The group had dinner and then climbed back into their cars to head over to Hollywood to see the new Douglas Fairbank's movie "Robin Hood." Early the next morning, the group headed to the harbor for the ferry's launching.
Several dignitaries attended the launching including W.R. Alberger, vice-president of the Key Route system; Matthews, the architect; a representative from Lloyds of London who insured the transit system; Fred Baker, president of the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Corp; W. Edgar McKee, chairman of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission, and a representative of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. With the slightly redundant pronouncement, "Hayward, your name is Hayward," Miss Oswill smashed a bottle of California champagne over the bow of the sleek new ferry and it slid gracefully down its ramp and settled into the water. The Hayward contingent and all the dignitaries then climbed aboard the boat for a ride around the harbor followed by a luncheon at the California Yacht Club. The group then climbed back into their cars once again and began the return trip to Hayward, this time traveling along the coast route. The quick trip, long drive, and packed schedule seem to explain why everyone looks so exhausted in the final photo!
After the launch, the ferry went through a rigorous shakedown and then began the trip up the coast to the Bay Area under the guidance of Captain Howard D. Hickman arriving March 23, 1923. The Hayward went into service for the Terminal Railway in July of that year. Hayward's sister ferry, the San Leandro, was christened a week after the Hayward and entered service in August of 1923. Both ferries could carry 3,000 passengers and featured a restaurant with room for 80, two fire fighting boats, and eight life rafts.
During World War II, both ferries were requisitioned by the government for war service and sent to the Portland Shipyards where they transported war workers. Both ferries returned to the Bay in September 1943, where they continued to carry workers back and forth across the Bay. Following World War II, ridership on the Key System began declining and the large fleet of transbay ferries was no longer needed. Moore Dry Dock Company in Oakland bought the Hayward for scrap in January 1948 and burned the one-time wonder of commercial transportation to the ground to salvage her steel frame. All that remains of the Hayward today are a few snapshots, a sign that hung on the side of the ferry in the collection of the Hayward Area Historical Society, and possibly her captain's wheel in a private collection.
Special thanks to John Christian for his contributions to this article.