Florence and Darrell Hannan were just teenagers when they married. World War II was in full bloom and soon Darrell was off to the U.S. Army, serving overseas in the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services). He was in a crack unit that was called upon for espionage and many other deeds better not talked about. He took parachute training and had 15 jumps under his belt. He served in England, France and Germany.
The young couple was introduced to the Delta in 1946. Florence’s father had a cabin on Big Break and they would go there every chance they got. The military interrupted their lives once again when Darrell was called back into the Army during the Korean conflict. It wasn’t until 1957 that they were able to buy their first boat, a 14-foot Aristocraft powered by a 40 hp Mercury outboard. “It seemed like every year after that we bought a bigger and better boat”, Florence said.
They had two children by then, Kathy and Doug. They became a river-rat, waterskiing family. Every summer weekend they would pitch a tent at Orwood Resort, launch the boat, then get up at 5 a.m. to head off to their favorite ski beach. They had permission from the landowner to set up daytime housekeeping on the beach. They terraced the land and made it quite comfortable, but it was essential that they get there first each morning to claim it.
Darrell worked as a carpenter and in 1958 became a general contractor. Maybe Darrell was tiring of pounding tent pegs. Perhaps Florence had put enough hours cooking over a Coleman kerosene stove. Anyway, in 1960 they bought a cabin on Hammer Island and quickly set about remodeling it. Those who knew Darrell during those times could tell you that he was the fastest man on the Delta with a hammer and saw. He never let any sawdust grow under his feet. He got at a job fast and finished it fast. If he had nothing better to do, he would add a room to the house.
Hammer Island is a tiny hunk of terra firma (latin for solid earth) over by Del’s Boat Harbor in the South Delta. On it is an enclave of river people in 17 cabins, some quite elaborate. There is a spot in this island that is the juncture of three counties. So even though it is comprised of a mere 3 1/2 acres, three counties have jurisdiction there (Alameda, San Joaquin and Contra Costa).
Well, they had a good time spending their weekends and vacations on Hammer Island. “But it was hard work hauling all our stuff over by boat”, said Florence, in what has to be the universal island-dweller’s lamnent.
“I felt limited on how much we could improve the property because it was leased land and we could only get short-term leases”, said Darrell. With two other families, they began looking for Delta property to purchase.
They found it in the form of Turner Cut Resort, a decrepit fishing resort that was ready to fall into the water. “I remember standing on the dock and water was almost up to my ankles,” said Florence. “The slips were rotted and falling apart and old barrels served as part of the flotation,” said Darrell. He and his new partners Lefty Hogg and Sam Vacaro bought it on the spot. It was 1967 and Florence remembers crying when she learned they were buying the place.
By then they were living in Santa Cruz and Darrell was constructing a lot of new homes in the area. The new marina owners planned to shut the place down and operate Turner Cut Resort as a private facility for themselves and their friends. They built three 1,000 sq.-ft. cabins up against the inside of the levee and then drew straws to see who got which one.
Four years later, Sam Vacaro sold his share of the resort to the Hannans and in 1985 Lefty Hogg, due to illness did the same. Florence and Darrell and their kids were still having fun waterskiing and messing around in the Delta, but now they also had a resort to run.
They had inherited a marina manager when they bought the place. He was a toothless old river rat named Mel, who claimed he drank 75 glasses of beer every day - and no one ever disputed him on that claim.
Turner Cut Resort is located on Roberts Island, on what is actually a portion of the old course of Whiskey Slough. Turner Cut was dug to help form the levee system on neighboring McDonald Island. Tiki Lagoon Resort neighbors to the south of Turner Cut Resort, Lost Isle is about a mile to the north. PG&E has a major presence on McDonald Island with its huge underground gas reservoir. For decades, the Turner Cut cable ferry shuttled back and forth between Roberts and McDonald Islands, but it was replaced with a sliding-span drawbridge in 1979.
Florence talked about the good old days when she would walk their river dogs down to the ferry and the ferry-tender would give them a ride to the other side. They would reminisce about long ago when there was the remains of the old McDonald Island School across from the ferry and out in the school yard was the carcass of a jet fighter plane, put ther so the school kids could climb around it.
The resort is situated in the heart of agriculture country. The drone of cropduster airplanes and diesel-powered tractors is a familiar one. During harvest time, farm workers would come to the resort cafe to purchase six packs of beer. Marina customers would stop on their drives home to purchase fresh-cut asparagus at a nearby packing shed.
The Hannan’s daughter and son-in-law work hard to keep up the spirit of Turner Cut Resort for generations to come (including their 4 grandchildren). Kathy and Skip McGuinness can still be seen today keeping up the marina while tending to their Santa Cruz lifestyle.