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Famous Pan Am Pilots - Warren Simmons

Warren Simmons was a Pan Am pilot and an entrepreneur who developed many businesses and was a success at everything he decided to do. His most famous accomplishment was the development of Pier 39 in San Francisco. What isn't so well known is that he also started the Blue and Gold Ferry fleet in the San Francisco Bay to compete with the Red and White fleet.

Warren flew for Pan Am from 1950 until 1970 when he retired at age 43 to spend more time with his business. Over the years he made many of his Pan Am pilot friends who believed in him, millionaires for investing in some of his many ventures. When I first heard of Warren, he had several restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area named Tia Maria. We ate at one often because the food was good. He later sold them.

He also got into the apartment/condominium conversion business and made a fortune when that era was going on.

I never flew with Warren, but did meet him briefly at one of the annual Pan Am Clipper Pioneer reunions. At that time he had built a chain of restaurants called Chevy's, which he later sold to Pepsi Co.

There was a time when there was a shortage of cranberries for margaritas, so he went to Chile and planted thousands of acres of cranberries, and became the world's largest grower and producer of cranberries.

Warren Simmons was also a tennis champion in Napa and had two tennis courts at his home in Napa. To my knowledge Warren was never a musician or a vocalist, or a singer.

After he retired from Pan Am, he worked for 5 years to get plans approved to develop a run down area into Pier 39 as a huge tourist attraction. It was a tough and bitter battle, but he stuck to his guns and finally got the approvals. I believe the pier opened in 1978, and he sold it in 1981.

Pier 39 and Alcatraz

Prior to the time Warren sold Pier 39, there was a restaurant in there that was 5 star. My wife and I would eat there at least once a month. The Maitre d would bring around the fresh fish on a platter for you to choose from. The Caesars Salad dressing was real Caesars Salad dressing (not bottled) and it was prepared at your table. It's the best we ever had.

To top it off they prepared a flaming Cherries Jubilee at your table. It was a spectacular show. And needless to say the Cherries Jubilee was delicious. The only other place where I have had Cherries Jubilee as good was in the First Class section of Pan Am flights. However, they couldn't prepare it with flames on the aircraft.

After Pier 39 was sold, the restaurant apparently changed hands because the Maire d was let go, and the service became mediocre, as was the food. We didn't go back after going there and discovering the change.

Of course, one can't mention Pier 39 without mentioning the seals that took up residency on some of the docks in 1979. They remained there until November 2009 and disappeared. No one knows where they went, or if they'll come back. But they were a huge tourist attraction, with bleachers built on the pier so people could get a better look.

Seals at Pier 39

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