Just Nosiní Around with Gus
A Biography and Collection of Original Stories
By Norm Wyers
2002

Gus Wurdinger was born in the South of Market district of San Francisco, California, in 1883.  His mother was born in Angels Camp, California, during its heyday; his father was born in Austria and came to the United States, probably illegally, after jumping ship near Buenos Aires and walking over the Andes Mountains.  Until his death, just before he turned ninety, Gus crowded adventure and risk into his life because he could not do differently.  When he was fourteen, he found himself headed for Hawaii and Manila, on his way to fight in the Spanish-American War, after stowing away on a troop ship in San Francisco.  Subsequently, he sailed aboard a barge to Alaska but jumped ship near Seattle and lived there on the streets for several weeks before moving on.  He was a boy hobo in central and southern California in 1901, a porter and bar boy at the Sentinel Hotel in Yosemite in 1902, a miner in Bisbee, Arizona, a vaudeville and stage entertainer, a bartender in Rhyolite, Nevada (during in boom years), even a confidante of Joan Crawfordís in the 1920s.  For many years he was known as Gus the Gardener in Newport Beach, California and as a restaurateur in Ashland, Oregon.  As an old man, still searching for fame and recognition, he walked around the perimeters of Puget Sound in a well-planned bid for publicity and then attempted to ride a bicycle to the East coast the following year.

Throughout his life, he believed that he was jinxed.  Try as he might, his adventures were marred by misfortune and mistake.  He was never able to reach his goal of becoming a celebrity, either on or off the stage.  But his rich ďgift of gabĒ endeared him to hundreds of friends and acquaintances.  And he never quit trying to succeed.

He told stories all his life.  In his last years, he began to write them down.  These stories are remarkable, not for their literary style but for the rich narratives they provide about the life of a working-class man and his family.  Gusís stories were written from the bottom of society, looking up.  They are neither pretentious nor poetic.  However, three of these stories were published in pulp magazines in the 1960s.  Seven more were recently uncovered.

Just Nosiní Around with Gus, authored by Norm Wyers, is a biography of Gusís life.  The book begins with his early experiences in San Francisco and ends several years after his death, when Gusís ashes were dropped off the Golden Gate Bridge by his family.  That was what he wanted, the fulfillment of a promise made by his grandson  before Gus died.  He was a true native son of California, very proud of his roots in San Francisco and nostalgic about his many years in Newport Beach, beginning in 1911 when it was a small fishing village.  Additionally, all ten of Gusís stories about early San Francisco, Seattle, Rhyolite, Newport Beach, San Diego, Yosemite and the Sierra, stowing away on the troop ship, and riding the rails as a  youthful drifter are included in the book, as they were written.

 

About the Author

Norm Wyers is a retired social work professor.  He has published widely in academic and professional journals, but this is his first biographical work.  Just Nosiní Around with Gus was written to preserve the life and personal accounts of his grandfather, Gus Wurdinger, who was born an adventurer and a keen observer of life.  Wyers has resided in Portland, Oregon for nearly three decades and has recently begun to focus on historical writing and video documentaries.

 

How to Order

The book is being sold through Western Places Publishing, P.O. Box 2093, Lake Grove, OR  97035.  It is listed at $20.00 per copy, plus $3.00 handling and shipping.  Retail orders of five copies or more are available at $12.00 per copy, plus handling and shipping.  Orders can be placed by telephone at (503) 635-1379 or via e-mail at: patera@teleport.com.  Either checks or money orders are acceptable.

Orders can also be placed by telephone at (503) 537-8892 or via email at: norm@normwyers.com.

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