“Sneakin’ Sally through the alley.” That line has, absolutely, nothing to do with this collection of San Francisco alley photos, but I like it, so I threw it in. Top row, left to right; Mary Pickford, Hollywood’s first “America’s Sweetheart” came to San Francisco in 1918 to film ‘Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley’. Film scholars and this amateur movie sleuth haven’t been able to positively identify the alley used in the movie, but many think it may have been Waverly Place as it empties into Washington in the right photo. Ninety eight years is a long time, and things change, but there are still a lot of things about this location that don’t line up to me. Still, it’s the favorite comparison, so, I’ll include it here, and keep looking. Second row from the top; Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” character chases a terrorist suspect, who has detonated a bomb in the men’s room of the police station Harry works out of, up Osgood Alley in North Beach in the 1976 film ‘The Enforcer’. To me, this is what a San Francisco alley is supposed to look like; it levels out at the bottom of Telegraph Hill on to Pacific St where the old fire station is, and is surrounded by old brick buildings. Btw, Harry caught him; like Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, he always gets his man! Second row from the bottom; Buster Keaton, here at 2nd and Minna Streets from the 1922 movie ‘Daydreams’. The building at the end of the alley was demolished before 1939 to build the Trans Bay Terminal. In the center photo Keaton races west down the alley ahead of, just about every member of the 1922 San Francisco police force as a streetcar passes heading south on 2nd. At the far right, looking east down Minna Alley in the modern picture, you can see the end of the demolition of the Trans Bay Terminal Building in progress. Bottom row; I like this comparison of children in a Chinatown alley. The photo on the left is by turn of the 20th Century photographer Arnold Genthe, a fellow who had nothing better to do than to go around San Francisco taking pictures. Now, I ask you, “Who does that?” Actually, his photographs of early San Francisco, particularly, Chinatown are considered masterpieces, and one of his pictures, taken down Sacramento Street after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is considered one of the ten best photographs of all time. Although not as quaint as the pre 1906 picture, children in Chinatown today still have a customary flavor in their style.
When Coit Tower opened the concept of a psycho shooting at people with a high powered rifle from the top of the building would have been unimaginable! But that was 1933, and this is 1972, I mean, it was when this episode of ‘The Streets of San Francisco’ was filmed. The sniper is shooting from the first left window from the center of the tower. The sniper’s view from Coit Tower and the view today: Papa Cop (Karl Malden) and “Buddy Boy” (Michael Douglas) arrive on the scene.
A plan is put into place. They’re going to try the old, “Drive around the Columbus Statue to make him think that you’re leaving and then rush the building.” trick. “Go!” The approach. The takedown.
“Bridges? We ain’t got no bridges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ bridges!”
Well, San Francisco does have bridges to show you. Upper left, rare color film of the Bay Bridge in 1940 from James Fitzpatrick’s ‘Cavalcade of San Francisco’. Hey, that crazy guy’s going the wrong way! Oh, I forgot. Look at that riveting! Upper right, “Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Will you do the Fandango?” The old Stone Bridge at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park makes a great place for Scaramouche to hide under while being chased by the King’s soldiers in the 1952 film of the same name. The setting was supposed to be the Normandy section of old France, but most of it was filmed in Golden Gate Park, including Speedway Meadow, Rainbow Falls, the Band Concourse, and the Shakespeare Gardens. This movie also features the longest sword fighting scene in cinema history, according to Leonard Maltin. Lower left, Margaret Lindsay crosses over Butchertown Bridge, today’s Lefty O’Doul Bridge, and is kidnapped by boat after learning that her sister Bette Davis has been murdered in the 1934 movie ‘Fog Over Frisco’. She’s having a bad day! Today, lots of people who are having a bad day cross over the Lefty O’Doul Bridge when the Giants lose! Whether this scene was actually filmed at Lefty O’Doul Bridge can be argued, but it lines up pretty good with today’s Lefty O’Doul Bridge. Lower right, Kirk and Spock at the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1986 movie ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’ Spock could see into the future! He’s saying to Kirk, “Someday, a silly girl who hasn’t been born yet, and can’t make up her mind whether she’s a blond or brunette, will be sitting on this chain rail next to us!”
San Francisco Churches: Upper left, the green Jaguar parked in front of Mission Dolores was driven by Kim Novak in the 1958 film ‘Vertigo’. Parked behind her is Jimmy Stewart’s Desoto. Miss Novak portrays a woman who believes that she is being possessed by the spirit of a lady named Carlotta Valdes who killed herself in 1857, and she must do the same thing. I feel better about my own hang ups now! Upper right, two intriguing individuals at Grace Cathedral; Robert Vaughn, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Dianne, the Girl from T.R.O.U.B.L.E. Both made an impression on my life; one of them was a childhood hero, and one of them gave me my dog ‘Danny’. No, Dianne wasn’t the childhood hero. The steps to the entrance have been remodeled since the Robert Vaughn scene from ‘Bullitt’ and the balcony he’s looking from has been removed. Lower left, dazed survivors of the 1906 Earthquake wander down California Street passed a burned out Old St. Mary’s Church in Chinatown on the left, and St. Mary’s today, seen behind the pagoda building. The biblical passage under the clock above the entrance is from Ecclesiasticus, Chapter 4; “Son, observe the time and fly from evil” (I wasn’t that good of an altar boy, I had to look that up) Lower right, Cecil B DeMille made two versions of ‘The Ten Commandments’, the 1956 film that deals, largely with the Exodus, and the lesser known 1923 movie that is two stories in itself; the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, and a modern day (1923) story of two brothers, one good, one bad. The modern story was filmed mainly in Washington Square during the building of Saints Peter and Paul Church. The evil sibling who is contracting the construction uses faulty cement for the foundation which causes a wall to collapse on the mother of the two who has come to visit her good son working on the structure, and kills her. The wicked brother goes insane because of this. The only reason that I can see for the updated part of the movie, is to show what can happen to us if we break God’s Commandments. Of course, that doesn’t explain why the kindly mother had to get crushed, but I try not to examine these lessons too deeply.
Gone, the old Transbay Terminal Building: My picture was taken on August 3rd 2010, four days before the Transbay Terminal closed forever. That building in the background of the vintage picture was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and had to be demolished. Gone, old timers in Chinatown who still referred to Grant Avenue as “Dupont Gai” or Dupont Street up until the 1980’s: This was the street’s original name until after the 1906 Earthquake. Gone, many of the vintage Victorian houses in the Western Addition near Fillmore, demolished in the 1960’s and 1970’s: However, some of these houses, like this one, survived, when they were sold for practically nothing, relocated and restored. Here is this lucky one today on Ellis Street near Divisadero. (Dave Glass) Gone, Haight-Ashbury during the “Summer of Love”: Gone, the trains that used to run to Fisherman’s Wharf: That’s the Cannery Building on the right.
Kearny Street near Jackson: See the little tower near the bottom of the enormous Bank of America Building? If you did notice that, you might have thought to yourself, “Now, why does that look familiar?” It’s gone in the modern picture. We’ll get back to this in a moment. (Vintage pictures by Peter Stratmoen)
Looking down California Street from Grant Avenue: This fellow seemed to have a propensity for taking pictures on dark and gloomy days; the Edgar Allan Poe of 1970’s photography. Notice the building with the clock on it on the left in the older picture. You may wonder, “Now, where have I seen that before?” And then you’ll think to yourself, “Oh, yeah, the previous picture! I can’t remember Tim’s pictures from one to the next!” I should have posted this on the Fourth of July; that building was the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company Building. It was designed to look exactly like Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both adopted. It was demolished in 1986.
Looking down Ellis Street from Powell: Did the sun ever come out for Mr. Stratmoen? You can see the John’s Grill Restaurant on the right in both photos. Although it’s a favorite of Maltese Falcon aficionados today, it wasn’t as well known for its connection to the book and movie back then. Time has made a relic of it. (I know, who’s going to notice John’s Grill when the picture has a pretty girl with a Victoria’s Secret bag in it!)
On a more serious note, notice the Imperial Palace Restaurant in the modern picture. Although small in scale compared to the events of these days, two years after the vintage picture above was taken this was the scene of San Francisco’s worst mass shooting in modern history. On September 4th 1977, a Chinatown gang attempting to kill members of a rival gang opened fire on customers. Five people were killed, and eleven others were injured. None of the victims were gang members. It came to be known as the Golden Dragon massacre, which was the name of the restaurant at the time of the shootings.
“Yea, ho, little fish, don’t cry, don’t cry.”
Whenever I go to Fisherman’s Wharf, I think of that song Spencer Tracy sang in ‘Captains Courageous’. Well, maybe not whenever, but sometimes when I go. Well, maybe not sometimes, but today. I picked a perfect day to step back into time, and explore Fisherman’s Wharf in 1975. We’ll start at Aquatic Park. Trees block the view of Ghirardelli Square from this spot today. (Vintage photos from Peter Stratmoen) Hyde and Jefferson Streets: Some things don’t change in 41 years, like, passing cars ruining a picture. That’s the old Del Monte Cannery Building on the left. Taylor Street, looking south from Jefferson Street: You can just see a little of the Sea Captain’s Chest Gift Shop sign at the right. The Sea Captain’s Chest was THE place to buy gifts at Fisherman’s Wharf for decades and can be seen in the 1962 movie ‘Experiment in Terror’.
Alioto’s and #9 Fishermen’s Grotto: Hey, where did all those people come from?
Jefferson Street, east of Taylor Street: The Wax Museum is now Madame Tussauds. The Eagle Café was in the same place in 1975 as it was when it opened in 1928. When the Pier 39 Garage structure was scheduled to be built in 1978, the Eagle Café was going to be demolished. Instead, they relocated it across the street to the top level of Pier 39. My picture is from the Pier 39 Garage about where the Eagle Café originally was. The Golden Hinde is a replica of a ship captained by Sir Francis Drake for an expedition he took in 1577. Built in 1973, she sailed from Plymouth, England to San Francisco on her Maiden Voyage and arrived in May of 1975, where she docked at Pier 43. This area has changed drastically since 1975. The only thing left of Pier 43 is the archway, Pier 41 next to it was demolished in 1976, and Pier 39 was razed for the tourist site that’s there today. As nighttime approaches, a billowing and carnivorous fog threatens to devour the Hyde Street Pier. Gawd, I’m a lousy writer! Several more ships have been berthed here since 1975, like the Balclutha, built in 1886, and seen at the end of the pier.