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Sewer Walk

by Elaine Molinari

Even now, nearly 30 years later, it's difficult to define the Suicide Club, but certainly challenging mindless tradition was one goal. So was balancing "the hype" - providing an alternative platform for thoughts on current events. And, of course, there were adventures that conquer fears.

On this particular night, we all dressed up, in tuxedos and ballgowns, with rubber waders, and gathered on Grove Street at the entrance to Davies Hall where we mingled with the "swells" who were arriving for the symphony opening night performance. We watched as the line of limos disgorged their satin- and lace-wrapped riders; waved as they dashed up the steps and into the concert hall. Then we turned the other way and headed to Oakland where Gary and John had found a culvert where we could access Oakland's underground storm drain system, and take a 3-mile hike through the storm drains. As I recall, we were supposed to end up on the campus of Mills College.

About half way through we came out from the storm drain into a culvert. At the other end of the culvert, a gate stopped us from continuing our hike. Gary and John told us to stay put on the grassy hills of this culvert while they hiked overland beyond the gate to see if there was access to the drain further on.

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While we waited, we heard people shouting, dogs barking, all from the houses at the top of the hill. Soon a police car approached and shined a spotlight on our crowd. A few of us climbed the hill to talk to the officer; we all knew the value of telling the truth in these situations, and we did. The man paused, then started laughing. "We got a call that there was a KKK meeting going on out here." And with that he left, telling us to be careful and have fun.

Editor’s Note:

Elaine Molinari, former City Guides Director (1985-1990) also co-developed the Coit Tower tour with Masha Zakheim Jewett.

The Suicide Club was founded in 1977 by Gary Warne and several friends. Gary, Elaine, and David Warren were also City Guides. The club was known for its pranks and street theater adventures. Activities such as Don Herron's Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour and the Chinese New Year's Treasure Hunt began as Suicide Club events.