Then Came Birney Jarvis To Lahaina


Birney Jarvis-Hell's Angel, boxer, reporter, sailor, the man whose life inspired the TV series "Then Came Bronson"-has moved to Lahaina.

The six-foot, three-inch, 195-pound ("the worst shape I've ever been in") Jarvis is living with his 28-year-old wife, Joyce, across from Sacred Hearts School on Dickenson St.

"This," says Jarvis, "is where we're settling. I don't want to go other places. After all, I'm 42."

Having wandered over most of the world outside the Orient, he sees Maui as a "mixture of Jamaica, the Grand Caymans and Puerta Vallarta".

Born Dec. 29, 1929, in San Anselmo, Calif., Jarvis grew up in San Francisco. Flunking English in the ninth grade, he lied about his age and joined the merchant marine. For four months he sailed between Seattle and Southern California.

On shore again at the age of 16, he married for the first time. Joyce is his third wife. For the next five years he worked in the office of the Isthmian Steamship Co.

At 21, he was fighting amateur bouts at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

"Feeling I was not strong enough," he quit his managerial position to become a ditch digger for the Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Though people thought he was crazy, the effort paid off. He became a Golden Gloves champion during 1949 and 1950. Out of 56 fights, he lost only one.

In 1953 he went to work for the San Francisco Call Bulletin as an editorial messenger, making deliveries on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

After four years of this, he was encouraged to try writing stories, in addition to making his deliveries.

In 1958, he got his first regular reporting job, with a paper in Hollister, Calif. He stayed with the paper for three months, calling the experience "a good breaking in".

Next he worked for a Redding, Calif., paper which had "big city standards". When he became education reporter, his bosses were "horrified" to learn of his lack of formal education.

To appease them, Jarvis passed the test for a high school equivalency certificate and began taking night courses in criminal law at Shasta College in Redding. After seven months of this, he was offered a reporter's job with the San Francisco Chronicle. He started in Decenber 1959 and worked through November 1965.

This stint was followed by a two-year cruise which took him to the Grand Caymans, where he edited a weekly newspaper. This he followed with a job writing for the Jamaica Star Daily in Kingston.

Sailing back towards the United States, Jarvis found himself in trouble. The caulking began coming out of the hull of his small boat and 300 gallons of water were begin taken aboard each hour. The boat managed to limp in to Cuba, where it was declared a loss.

Jarvis flew home with Red Cross funds, landed in San Francisco with 13 cents in his pocket, and went back to work for the next three and one half years with the Cronicle. Here he met Joyce.

For a honeymoon they boarded a 30-foot trimaran and sailed to Mexico, where they were blown ashore by a hurricane.

Then came a trip to Alabama to visit Joyce's parents, a jaunt to the Bahamas, a 12-country journey through Europe, another trip to Mexico, a few more months of reporting in San Francisco, and then, Hawaii.

A friend decided to sail to Maui on his 31-foot trimaran. Jarvis and Joyce joined him. After 24 days of bucking a nasty cross sea and poor winds, they reached Hawaii.

Now, sitting in Lahaina, Jarvis recalls his Hell's Angeles days. He was a charter member in 1954.

The thing he liked about the Angels, he says, was their approach to life. If they felt like riding from San Francisco to Phoenix for a cup of coffee, they did. It was this all-out, full-bore approach to life which attracted him. "When I do something, I do it all the way."

In 1964, he was voted a lifetime member of the group for defending some of the charges against them in his writings. He said this has been and up and down affair, however.

He writes it as he see it, he says, and goes up and down in their favor depending upon his latest article.

Jarvis says the two-hour pilot film for the "Then Came Bronson" TV series was "awfully glamorized", but still was an accurate relfection of a fragment of his life.

The script was written by a former newspaper friend, turned screenwriter, Denne Bart Petitclerc, who plans to visit Lahaina next week.

The series is about a man and his motorcycle and the adventures they weave themselves in and out of. Though he acted as technical advisor and assistant to the producer of the NBC and MGM production, Jarvis said he doesn't think all that much of the series.

Will Jarvis ride a cycle on Maui?

"No. They want you to wear a helmet. I don't like being told what to do."

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Maui Lahaina Sun

Buck Quayle at The Lahaina Sun

Buck Quayle at the Maui Lahaina Sun bureau circa 1970

Buck Quayle

Reporter/Photographer Buck Quayle in 1971 in Maui with the Cartagenian in the background

Buck Quayle, 2011


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Whale tail

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Maui Girl On Bike