Jay and Nikki Chaffin
Chaffin house under construction-1952
kitchen - 1952
Jay Chaffin building house foundation
The Chaffins came to the Monterey Peninsula from the deep south. Jay originally from Tennessee and Nikki from Florida. They first located in a campground next to the Garapatta Bridge 15 miles south of Carmelon highway 1 where George and Joan Savo were staying as well. They and the Savo's would drive to Carmel to work. The Savo's had a shop called "The Garret" featuring Joan's personally hand painted crafts while Jay and Nikki sublet part of the building to start a tailoring business.
Jay and Nikki bought two lots on a hill that sloped into a gully for $175.00 each. At that time this was the average price for lots in the subdivision. If a subscription was made to the San Francisco Chronicle the subscriber would receive a free lot in the Sand City area of the Peninsula near Fort Ord which was windy with only sand dunes and jackrabbits. Although money could be scarce, land was accessible due to the lack of demand in the rural Del Monte Park which except for some sewer and electricity, had few of the amenities of Pacific Grove.
Jay built his home to be similar to the cabins he had seen in the smokey mountains when growing up. Using wood from a mill in the Big Sur area, Jay built the house using hand a hand saw as he disliked power tools. Using large redwood rounds for pier blocks for the foundation piers in place of cement blocks was another savings in cost. The house rests on these redwood rounds today.
Jay and Nikki - Garapatta Bridge campground-1949
The Chaffin house was an ongoing art project. Using materials such as cement for fireplace hoods, scrap tile for handmade bath tubs and kitchen floors were some of the discarded materials with which Jay and Nikki collaborated to create this hobbit like modernist home. Mattresses covered with textiles for couches, a huge section of a redwood tree on a wood cube for a living room table, rich dark coffee strained through a pyrex beaker and jazz playing from Jay's life long record collection (he played drums and had studied both standup bass and Flamenco guitar) was a cross between Beat and Bohemian sensibilities.
Beat or Bohemian was not an entirely accurate description of this home. The Chaffin house was a BS free zone with strong views on art, politics and philosophy. Civil rights and politics were common issues in particular. What struck visitors immediately was the fact that this environment grew out of necessity and un-pretentious individualism. No one was trying to be anything other than living their lives which definitely ran contrary to the conventional mid-century post WWII mindset.
All of the Chaffin family were well read and shelves of dusty books from the Salvation Army and beyond insulated walls along side Jay's abstract paintings , drawings and sculptures. Jay and Nikki were engaging conversasionalists and voracious readers. Intellectual friends from the Peninsula and San Francisco would come to visit, play handmade drums,talk politics and listen to jazz or KPFA radio. No subject escaped analogy or debate and the topic was usually deconstructed to it's essence
Parties happened at the Chaffins. Dancing to jazz, potluck dinners. Wine, food, music and conversation relating to just about everything created friendships that lasted a lifetime in the neighborhood. One can only imagine navigating home late in a dripping foggy summer night with the sound of surf in the distance, a flashlight helping to illuminate a dirt road through the woods after a party at Jay and Nikki's. This was nightlife in Del Monte Park 1950's.