Two Beaches

BeachTaftuse President Taft’s motorcade moves along Ocean Beach to the Cliff House in 1911.

Beach20'suse Ocean Beach in the early 1920’s: No Playland-at-the-Beach, no sea wall, but the observatory of Adolph Sutro’s  mansion can still be seen on Sutro Heights, although, Sutro had died in 1898. (Vintage photo from

BeachPlaylanduse The old streetcar turnaround at Playland-at-the-Beach, and the same spot today.

BeachSaluse Laffin’ Sal at the Playland Funhouse and today: She hasn’t got any prettier over the years.

BeachCliffHouseuse One of the oldest pictures of the Cliff House I’ve seen. That’s the one that was built in 1858

BeachMarkeruse A neglected Historical Marker is about all that’s left of Playland-at-the-Beach.


North Beach; the other beach: That looks like a good book!

beachmapuse North Beach runs roughly along the western side of Telegraph Hill, and is centered around Columbus Avenue. It was more of a beach area once, as seen in this terrific 1880’s map before much of the Bay to the right of Telegraph Hill, seen at the bottom of the map, was filled in.

Beachkearnyuse A long ago father with children head up Kearny from Broadway early in the Twentieth Century. The intersection at the bottom of the hill, Broadway and Kearny, was once one of the main hangouts in North Beach frequented by the likes of Woody Allen and Bill Cosby, and many movies have filmed scenes in this intersection, such as ‘Bullitt’, ‘The Laughing Policeman’, ‘Kiss Them for Me’, ‘Play It Again, Sam’, ‘Butterflies Are Free’, and ‘The Enforcer’.

Beachpromouse One of the movies that used extensive North Beach locations was ‘The Sniper’ made in 1952.The film startled audiences with its frank subject matter, and dialogue when released. Using taboo expressions like “pervert” “registered sex offender”, and “voyeur,” this disturbing movie follows a maniac through San Francisco as he murders women victims with a telescopic rifle. The film tries to suggest a psychological understanding of what motivates the serial killer. This accounts for the film’s surprising ending.

Beachstalkeruse Beachkilluse What a stalker looks like: The “Sniper”, Arthur Franz, follows Marie Windsor to the Paper Doll Club on Union Street where she sings, shoots her with his rifle when she leaves after her performance causing her to crash back into her own marquee. The Paper Doll Club, popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s was known as the Silhouettes in the 1980’s, and I used to hang out there a lot myself. The building was closed and up for lease when I took the picture.

BeachSniperuse After a long day of shooting another innocent girl to death, the sniper legs it up Varennes Alley to his home, little realizing that the police are closing in on him.

BeachFilbertuse Police Officers Adolphe Menjou and Gerald Mohr rush up Filbert Street to the killer’s house. My Budget Rent a Car makes a nice fill in for the police car in the alley in the 1952 movie.

Beachgrantfilbertuse A crowd gathers at the corner of Grant Avenue and Filbert Street, including a KPIX news truck, as police move in on the sniper.

Beachsnipercrybloguse  The police, realizing that he’s mentally ill when they break into his house, show compassion and don’t kill him. The film closes on an image of the tearful psycho. To be honest, I’d have been happier if they would have shot the creep, but that’s the romantic in me.

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