Who Were the Becks?

Submitted by krinehart on April 2, 2014 - 2:07pm

An application to demolish a home that was once owned and occupied by Chris and Lucille Beck was reviewed by the Petaluma Planning Commission meeting on March 25, 2014. The house is located in an area known as Cedar Grove Park which is bound by Petaluma Boulevard North to the west, the Petaluma River to the northeast and Lakeville Street to the south.IMG_0109

During the meeting the question of when the house was built was discussed. An evaluation prepared in 2002 states that "the single story hipped roof house appears to have been first constructed in the 1930s." A planning commissioner as well as a member of the public stated that the house was more likely constructed in the teens or early 1920s. Further research is needed to determine whether or not that is the case. Meanwhile, knowing a bit more about Chris and Lucille Beck may be of interest.

I first came across the name Chris Beck while gathering information on the Sonoma County Fair back in 2011 in preparation for a 75th anniversary museum exhibit. Chris Beck joined the Sonoma County Fair Board in 1949 and replaced Joseph T. Grace as president in 1956, the same year he was killed in an airplane crash. The plane was piloted by Mr. Beck and his passengers Louis Basso, a Sonoma County Fair concessionaire, and Kenneth J. Carter, Sonoma County Fair manager also perished. Beck Arena at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds was named in honor of Chris Beck.

Chris Beck was born in Petaluma in 1905 and was the son of Christian H. Beck and Elise Bahr Beck, natives of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. According to the census Chris was living on Magnolia Avenue with his parents, maternal grandfather and two young cousins: Sophie Bundesen and Edna Prizgint in 1910. Chris Beck, Sr. operated a poultry ranch.

Lucille, Chris’ wife, was born in 1903 in Nevada to Julian and Veronica Birdart Giraud, both of whom were French. In 1910 the Giraud family, which included Mr. and Mrs. Giraud; Lucille and her two sisters: Eugenia and Dorothy and brother Julian, were living in Battle Mountain, Nevada where Julian, Sr. raised sheep. The family later moved to Petaluma and resided on Gossage Avenue. Julian died in 1928, the same year that Lucille and Chris Beck married.

In 1930, Chris and Lucille Beck resided with Chris' parents at 827 B Street. The census for that year lists both Christian H. Beck and his son as livestock dealers. Lucille is employed as a merchant working at an art goods store. According to voter registration records Chris and Lucille remained at 827 B Street through 1938.

In April of 1940, when the census was taken, Chris Beck owned and occupied a home on Cedar Grove Park along his wife and two lodgers: August Lauritzen and David Pepper. The census taker valued the house at $4,500.

According to city directories, Chris, Lucille and Veronica Giraud were still living at Cedar Grove Park in 1950; however, at the time of Chris' death in 1956 their residence was 40 La Cresta Drive.

Petaluma Argus Courier articles from November 1956 tell of how Chris Beck, Louis Basso and Kenneth J. Carter had flown to Wilcox, Arizona in Mr. Beck's Beechcraft Bonanza, a single engine plane. Mr. Basso owned a cotton ranch near Wilcox. Rather than flying back to Sonoma County, the men decided to fly first to Los Angeles where they planned to spend a day or two. After taking off from Wilcox the plane reached an altitude of about 500 feet when it suddenly dove straight back down into a field, exploding as it struck the ground.

The same articles describe Chris Beck as one of the West's best known livestock buyers who owned a wholesale meat business in Petaluma for many years, was a part owner in the Petaluma Livestock Commission and retained extensive ranching interests in Sonoma and Marin counties. In addition, Mr. Beck was a member of the Petaluma Elks Club, Odd Fellows, Eagles, Optimist Club, Sonoma County Trail Blazers, Cow Mountain Hunting Club and the Petaluma Golf Club. Mr. Beck was survived by Lucille (1903-1989) and their sixteen year old son, Chris Hansen Beck (1940-2012).

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