More on Dong Kingman (For Jessica)

In February of this year, I posted some then and nows that I did on a collection of paintings by Dong Kingman, the highly acclaimed and honored Chinese American water color artist and designer who based a lot of his work in San Francisco. These are some more of his paintings from a book he co-authored with Herb Caen entitled, ‘San Francisco – City on Golden Hills’, published in 1967. Some of the paintings were on two pages which accounts for the line down the middle on a few. Kingman died in May of 2000.

DongNobHilluseCalifornia Street on the top of Nob Hill next to Huntington Park: On the right is Grace Cathedral. Work started on the church in 1928, but was not completed until 1964. When Kingman did his painting here the south tower of the church had not been completed yet.

DongWashingtonuseOne of Kingman’s oldest paintings, on Washington Street looking north along Grant Avenue in Chinatown, painted in 1938:

DongTHilluseI think I like this painting best, the view from Telegraph Hill at Union Street and Calhoun Terrace:

DongGreenwichuseThe Greenwich Steps on Telegraph Hill: Not as well know as the Filbert Steps, they’re barely visible from the street today.

DongBBridgeuseThis is a strange place for an artist to paint a picture! It’s below where the Bay Bridge anchors into San Francisco near Rincon Hill. When we were teenagers, the old-timers in the area would tell us that if you unscrewed those bolts, the whole thing would come down! They thought we believed them. It’s not true, right?

DongTPeakuseIt’s a whole different view today than when Dong Kingman painted his view from Twin Peaks.

‘Puzzle for Puppets’


And also a puzzle for me, at times, trying to follow the footsteps of the characters in this 1944 murder mystery that takes place in San Francisco during World War Two. Patrick Quentin, the author of the book, was actually two writers, Richard Wilson Webb, and Hugh Callingham Wheeler. The locations are well identified and easy to find, although the writers took a “literary license” in describing the lay of the land and the names of some of the San Francisco structures. Two of the locations, however, are described very accurately, if somewhat exaggerated, the Stockton Tunnel and the southwest area near San Francisco Zoo.

PuzzleMarketWW2useThe mystery opens up on Market Street during the war. The main protagonists in the book, navy officer Peter Duluth and his wife Iris, are looking for a place to stay in crowded wartime San Francisco. The above photo, taken during the war about where the book opens on Market Street near 4th and Stockton Streets, fits the opening paragraph well. As I have in the past with their permission, I’ve used vintage pictures from the fantastic website of of the locations I’m posting about, some of them around the period that the novel was written.

{Sailors, thousands of them, crawled up and down Market Street like a plague of blue locusts. Doubtless they brought color and racy vigor and all the other things sailors are supposed to bring to a scene, but I hadn’t come to San Francisco to see sailors.” / “The sailors, jostling against Iris and me as we beat our way forward, were just another of the things like overcrowded hotels and non-existent taxis that were conspiring against our week-end.}

PuzzleStocktonMarketuse{We had reached the mouth of Stockton Street. I took her arm and guided her out of Market Streets Sailors into an almost equally dense mass of harassed shoppers.” / “As we started to climb Stockton, I sneezed. I had felt a cold coming on in the train.}

Here is where they turned into Stockton Street in a picture taken in 1947 and now. Although it does incline a little bit, it isn’t much of a hill to “climb”.

PuzzleStocktonuse{Half way up the block we passed a sign proclaiming a Turkish bath. With wild hopefulness, my wife said: “You don’t supposed Turkish baths rent rooms to mixed couples – I mean, if you explain you’re married?”}

The top picture was taken in 1945, just around the time Peter and Iris passed by here. This is the first block of Stockton Street off of Market. The construction work is due to the Muni Metro extension to Chinatown being completed. Peter mentions the Stockton hill (!) again when he goes back to the Turkish bath later in the book to try to sweat out his cold, probably a good way to get pneumonia! As he leaves the hotel at Union Square that they eventually find, he tells the reader,

{I strode down the hill to the Turkish bath.}

On his way to the bathhouse where he will eventually have his navy uniform stolen to incriminate him in an upcoming murder, he gives a colorful description of San Francisco.

{There’s an elusive something about San Francisco that no other city has. Maybe it’s the flower stalls blossoming on every street corner. Maybe it’s the crazy gradients that make roller-coasters out of the streetcars. Or maybe it’s just the air. But people in San Francisco doing the most humdrum things look like people at the peak of some enthralling adventure.}

PuzzleStFrancisusePuzzlePlazause{The St. Francis Hotel and the St. Anton Hotel stared at each other across the formal flower beds of the park like two rival and opulently upholstered dowagers at a garden party. We tried the St. Francis first. It would have none of Iris’s charm or my blunt instrument. Traipsing across the little park, we pushed through the swing doors and stepped into the haughty vestibule of the St. Anton.}

The only hotel that could have possibly been the St. Anton Hotel would have been the old Hotel Plaza built around 1915 that stood on the northwest corner of Post and Stockton streets. The hotel was still there during World War Two but I don’t know if it had been renamed the St. Anton Hotel; I can’t find any hotel under that name researching San Francisco history. I’ll have to do some more checking. The above two comparisons are of the St. Francis Hotel looking across Union Square to where the Hotel Plaza was, and the Hotel Plaza looking back (sort of) at the St. Francis. Demolished now, the Plaza Hotel was behind the trees in the background on the north side of Union Square.

PuzzleSTunneluse Shortly after checking in to the St. Anton, Iris and Peter receive a mysterious warning that Iris’s cousin, Eulalia Crawford who lives on California Street on Nob Hill, may be in danger. They leave the hotel to take a cable car to warn her and walk through the Stockton Tunnel. I’ve crossed through this tunnel heading in the direction they headed many times and I find the description entering and exiting the tunnel, (leaving out some of the slightly racists comments acceptable at the time) accurate; east does meet west if you’re heading in their direction, which was actually south to north.

{Since it was impossible to get a taxi, Iris and I decided to walk up Stockton and take the cable car over on California.” / “We passed through a long dark tunnel and as we emerged at the other end, we were in another city where unreadable hieroglyphics took the place of names on the stores and the faces around us had lost their Anglo-Saxon features}

The vintage photo is the south entrance to the Stockton Tunnel in 1950, six years after Iris and Peter crossed through here.

PuzzletunneltopuseIris and Peter came out of the Stockton Tunnel into Chinatown here at this end, seen here in the vintage photo from above the tunnel, circa 1950. Peter noticed too that It doesn’t quite look as exotic as the impression that Iris gets, but you do get a feeling of leaving one country behind for another when you walk through the tunnel in this direction.

{Iris, watching the Chinese men and women moving past, made a little crooning sound. Already, I could tell, she was in a world more exotic than this real Chinatown.}

PuzzleCCaruseIn the next paragraph, they’re catching a cable car at Stockton and California Streets heading up Nob Hill to Eulalia’s apartment. They would have to have climbed up the steps at the north end of the Stockton Tunnel and doubled back a block to do that. Here the writers get really confusing! Iris and Peter catch a downhill heading cable car to go up Nob Hill, and the cable car goes up and down hills as it climbs Nob Hill!

{We waited on the precipitous corner of California Street. Soon a cable car bucketed down the hill and ground to a last-minute, breathless stop. We boarded it. Iris chose places in the open section under the shadow of the giant brake lever. We sat there on the absurd benches which faced out towards the sidewalk. That cross-town ride, lurching up hills and zooming down hills added a final touch of insanity to our mission. Iris, clinging to an iron pole like a pole on a merry-go-round, kept her own counsel. Once, as we wheezed up to the great bulk of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, she murmured, “The white rose and the red rose mean blood.}

That sounds like a prophecy to me! When they get to Eulalia’s, they find her brutally murdered with clues pointing to Peter as the killer. They decide not to notify the police, and try to find the killer themselves. How original! They take a cable car back to where they originally caught it. Another reason that I think Iris and Peter were staying where the old Hotel Plaza was Peter’s narration here.

{At last the cable car dumped as at Stockton. We could have waited for another car to take us the four blocks to the hotel, but we decided to walk.}

Four blocks south, California to Pine, Pine to Bush, Bush to Sutter, Sutter to Post would have put them exactly where the Hotel Plaza used to be. Also, if they would have waited for another cable car to take them those four blocks they would have waited until World War Three because no cable car line could have traveled that way. The vintage photo above is California Street at Stockton looking east in 1948.

PuzzleSloatuseA tip as to where he may find a clue concerning the murderer’s identity leads Peter on a late night visit to the San Francisco Zoo area and Wawona Street. Peter accepts a ride from an acquaintance that he doesn’t trust in preference of taking a streetcar. However, playing it safe, he has the man drop him off at Sunset Blvd. and Sloat and walks a number of blocks in the dark past the zoo. Peter gives an eerie description of walking through this area at night back then.

{I was scared of the trolley. After midnight trolleys are infrequent. They are always maddeningly slow, and Wawona Avenue (Peter refers to the steet as Wawona Avenue instead of Street in the book) huddled close to the Pacific on the fringes of the Fleishhacker Zoo, was maddeningly remote.” / “I headed down Sloat towards the sea. I had never been in this district by night. It was desolate beyond word. A few houses straggled on my right. On my left, the bleak edge of the Lake Merced Park stretched away into the darkness. As I hurried on the street curved into the park itself and there was nothing but the darkness and the gaunt skeletons of trees. From the Great Zoo ahead of me, the lonely yowling of wild beasts rose every now and then, intensifying the silence. I quickened my pace until I was out of the park again and turned right into Wawona Avenue itself.}

The David Rumsey Map Collection aerial photograph composition of San Francisco in 1938 shows that there were, indeed, very few houses along Sloat Blvd. from Sunset Blvd to the ocean around this time. The vintage photograph above, circa 1940, shows Sloat Blvd dropping down from Sunset Blvd. and approaching the Pacific Ocean past the zoo on the right. This was the route Peter made his lonely walk before turning toward Wawona Street, probably at 45th Avenue.

PuzzleWawona1usePuzzleWawona2usePeter goes to house on the corner of Wawona and 45th Avenue where a second murder occurs. This murder is even more horrible for Peter because he sees another woman being murdered as it unfolds and he tries desperately to prevent it. Peter narrates that the house was on the corner of Wowana Avenue but doesn’t identify the cross street. The Rumsey photograph map shows that Wawona Avenue only cut three blocks from the Great Highway past 47th to 45th Avenue around this time. After witnessing the murder, Peter states that he walked several blocks toward the ocean to the trolley terminal for the Zoo which was at, and still is, 47th and Wawona, that’s why I’m putting the murder at 45th and Wawona.

{I walked the few desolate blocks to the zoo terminal of the trolley line.” / “An empty car was waiting at the end of the tracks, less than a hundred yards from the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean. I was the sole passenger at first, and by the time the car bolted forward I had only two sleepy sailors as traveling companions. At least my exit from Wawona Avenue had been inconspicuous.}

The top two then and nows are at the 47th and Wawona streetcar terminal. The black and white photo from 1949 shows that it was the L line, as it still is today, that ran all the way out here. The color picture from 1970 of an L Line streetcar turning onto Wawona Avenue from 47th shows that the terminal wasn’t quite “less than a hundred yards from the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean” which is behind where the hill in the background is.

PuzzleCAuditoriumuseThe denouement of the book takes place at a circus being held at a building called the Lawrence Stadium. The only building that this could possibly have been is the Civic Auditorium, now the Billy Graham Civic Auditorium, in the Civic Center. Iris and Peter have learned from clues and tips that the murderer might have something to do with the circus being performed there.

{The Lawrence Stadium was somewhere along Market Street. Iris and I walked down Fillmore.” / “We Reached Market. It was too early for the tidal wave of sailors, but the street was crowded enough.” / “Iris said: “We’d better take a trolley. Oh, there’s one now.” / “The Lawrence Stadium reared up on the other side of the street. It was one of those big random buildings that get put up in cities and then have to be used for something}

Well, that could describe the Civic Auditorium. Circuses were held inside the auditorium, and I learned from SFGate that on one occasion in 1972 two lions got out of their cages and roamed around the auditorium for around three hours before being captured!  The top photo is a 1919 parade by the Hospital Corps passing the Civic Auditorium along Polk Street. The current picture is of preparations being put in place along Polk Street for the 2018 Pride Parade. Well, I’ll leave the rest of the story to anyone interested in reading the book. If you enjoy mysteries set in San Francisco or just mysteries at all, it’s not a bad read. Peter and Iris Duluth are not unlike Nick and Nora Charles only a little naughtier, and it was fun following them around San Francisco.

A 1980’s San Francisco tour

These are some more updates of slide pictures that I took in the early to mid 1980’s. I went back to spots that I photographed long ago, and it felt like almost everything had changed except me!

EightiestourMarketuseMarket Street at Powell in 1985: This was around the time they began running old-time street cars along Market Street, although, they weren’t as “old-time” back then as they are now!

EightiestourEmbSouthuseThe Embarcadero, looking south in 1983, next to Levi Plaza: The old Belt Line railroad tracks were still there and Levi Plaza had only opened up a year or two earlier.

EightiestourEmbnorthuseThe Embarcadero at Broadway looking north in 1983:

EightiestourccaruseThis was taken on Powell Street in front of the St. Francis Hotel in June of 1984, the day the cable cars returned to service after being closed for repairs for nearly two years.

EightiestourCtownuseChinatown at Grant Avenue and California Street in 1983: I may have taken this one while passing by on a cable car, I don’t remember. Old St. Mary’s is hidden behind trees now that weren’t there when I took the first picture. I wonder who that was taking a picture of me while I was taking a picture of him!

EightiestourshipsuseThe Parade of Ships during Fleet Week, 1983, taken from Chestnut Street: This was still during the Cold War, and there was a lot more of a military showing back then. I’m not sure which aircraft carrier that was, but it may have been the USS Abraham Lincoln. You can see the Balclutha sailing ship on the left when she was still docked at Pier 43.

EightiesBAngelsuseWatching the Blue Angels from the Coit tower parking lot in 1983: Look at the kids climbing up on the Columbus Statue on the left. We used to do that too. I was watching the air show from the steps leading up to Coit Tower. Fleet Week had only been revived two years earlier; I wouldn’t even try going up there on Blue Angels day anymore!

Eightiestourtwiliteuse Late afternoon from Telegraph Hill in 1983 and in 2018: It doesn’t feel like thirty five years ago to me. I think that usually means that you’re getting old!

A city in motion

MotionBBridgeuseYou have to enter San Francisco from the Bay Bridge pretty early nowadays to catch traffic as light as it was in this color photo from the 1940’s. (Vintage Everyday)

transpoferrytwo“All aboard for the Dramamine Express!” Those old buses, like the one these ladies are boarding at the Ferry Building during the 1950’s, may not have been as uncomfortable as I’m making them out to be, but I’m sure they’re not as comfortable as today’s Muni buses. (Lucian Rosca)

MotionccaroneuseA cable car crosses Geary Blvd. on Powell Street heading toward Market Street in the 1940’s:

MotionclockuseStreet and sidewalk motion in the 1970’s and today: That’s the old Samuels Clock, installed on Market Street in 1915. The clock, now a San Francisco Landmark, was moved a little from its original Market Street location in 1943. (

hyderedo A scooter and cable car crossing paths on Hyde Street at Chestnut in the early 1960’s: The cable car in my photo was heading down Russian Hill unlike the vintage picture and I could have waited here for hours for a scooter, so I’ll just settle for the cable car. (Michael Bry)

MotionStocktonSutteruseSutter Street looking east at Stockton Street during the 1940’s: This is a wider angle of a clearer photo I posted on June 1st this month showing the location of the legendary Forbidden City nightclub on Sutter Street. (SFMTA)


CrossingsopenuseSometime near the end of 1985 or early 1986, I drove over to Fort Mason to visit the Liberty Ship, Jeremiah O’Brien. She was tied up at there back then and having recently learned about the ship, I had already visited her on previous occasions. Fort Mason didn’t have as much activity back then as today, (although nothing compares to the activity there during World War Two) so I parked in the parking lot and headed toward the Liberty Ship. It was a chilly day and I remember that I was wearing a red jacket with the words ‘San Francisco’ on it that I bought earlier that year in Fisherman’s Wharf. As I approached the ship I saw a number of 1940’s cars parked around the pier the Jeremiah O’Brien was docked at and a group of people in clothing from that period standing around or boarding the ship. I’m sure that the Jeremiah O’Brien charged a fee back then but as I mixed in with the crowd and headed up the gangplank nobody said any thing to me. When I got on board, it was obvious that a scene from some movie being produced was about to be filmed. By talking to some of the crew I learned that it was going to be a miniseries called ‘Crossings’, set during World War Two and starring Cheryl Ladd of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ fame. That was all I needed to hear to decide to hang around. Soon, there she was only a few feet from me walking toward the starboard aft side of the ship for the filming of the burial at sea episode of the miniseries. I moved up a ladder to watch the filming, and since Cheryl was facing my direction during the filming I’m sure that she saw me, or at least I hope so. A number of scenes were filmed around or aboard the Jeremiah O’Brien and here are some then and nows from the movie. Keep in mind that while they were filming these scenes I was always hovering around nearby trying to look cool for Cheryl Ladd.

Crossingsburial1useThe first scene I watched them shoot was a burial at sea. I’m standing about where I was watching that scene long ago; it was filmed just past the lifeboat where the garbage cans are. The Jeremiah O’Brien is now located in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Crossingsburial2The bodies were laid to rest on the side she was docked at in the show so the crane cameras could capture this scene. That’s costars Cheryl Ladd and Lee Horsley in the center.

CrossingsladderuseThis scene was right up where I was at during the burial scene so I had to move back out of the way. Cheryl and Lee move down the ladder from second to first deck.

CrossingsstairsuseCrossingspassagewayuseThey headed to their romantic encounter through this passage.

Crossingsbeduse It’s been a trying day watching sailors buried at sea so even though Lee Horsley is married to Jane Seymour in the film, and Cheryl Ladd is married to Christopher Plummer, they go to Horsley’s cabin and….. “get involved”.

CrossingshammockuseLee and Cheryl “get involved” a lot while aboard ship like here in a hammock on the starboard aft side. It didn’t seem to bother the crew much.

CrossingsFMason1useBack over at Fort Mason, this was the scene that they had just finished filming when I showed up of the ship arriving at port.

CrossingsO'Brienuse The Jeremiah O’Brien’s name was changed to Dorchester for the film. Here she is today at Pier 45.

CrossingsgoodbyeuseA time for, “Gosh, we shouldn’t have done that!” goodbyes. That’s the Van Ness Pier on the far right.

CrossingstearsuseThe inevitable goodbye kiss and tearful parting:

“Why are you crying, my dear?”

“I’m thinking about that cute guy in the red San Francisco jacket I saw on the ship. I may never see him again!”

And she never did!

CrossingsdriveawayuseCheryl drives away, but it’s only half way through the miniseries so they’ll be seeing each other again.

CrossingscloseuseLee Horsley looks back tenderly at Cheryl Ladd, and Cheryl looks back thinking, “I wish that guy I had to kiss would get out of the way so I can see if that fellow in the red jacket is getting off the ship.”

San Francisco in the 1950s…. all in unnatural color

GBridgeredoBy the 1950s, color photography was getting less and less expensive, although, the “natural color” had a little ways to go yet.

FairmontredoI’m not sure that I dislike the look of the Fairmont Hotel lobby back then, but it hurts my eyes!

Tpeaksredo When you make it up to Twin Peaks and the colors are as good as the old photo, you picked the perfect day to be there.

FStandredoGrant Avenue, down from Chinatown: Aw, hope he got a nice tip.

FWharfredo It was nice of that fellow to pose for me at Fisherman’s Wharf. He wasn’t crabby about it at all!

TMarkredoLooks like there’s more than just “natural color” on this old souvenir book, but I’m not going to guess what it is. Same view, different colors, both from the Top of the Mark.

More black and white photos (For Suzanne)

Well, we’ve moved into another month. With less than three weeks of spring left I’m wondering if,

the Giants can avoid a “June Swoon” – or the Warriors will be champions soon – as I update my blog this afternoon.

Yeah, I know. Sorry!

B&WStocktonuseThe southwest corner of Sutter and Stockton Streets in 1946: If you look down Sutter Street in the background of the vintage picture, you’ll see the Forbidden City night club, once San Francisco’s answer to New York’s Cotton Club. (Pinterest)

B&WUSquareuse Union Square in 1948: The I. Magnin Department Store is now part of Macy’s, the City of Paris Department Store behind the Dewey Monument has been demolished, and there’s so little grass in Union Square today it’s hardly worth the name. (Roger Sturtevant)


B&WArmoryuseThe old Armory Building in the Mussion District, seen from Woodward Street in the 1970’s:

B&WCtownuseWashington Street, looking west from Grant Avenue in 1944: The building with the Chop Suey sign in the old photo has been remodeled and was where the Golden Dagon Restaurant, the site of one of the worst massacres in modern San Francisco history, was located.

B&W4thuseIt was a lot nicer when I took my picture looking across Market Street to 4th Street than it was on this cold day in 1935 (SFMTA)