These are some vintage Christmas pictures from the San Francisco Chronicle, and also one of my favorite Christmas scenes from an old Bob Hope movie.
Santa Claus and his pretty assistant, (Remember, Santa, “naughty or nice”) cross over Market Street from Powell toward the old Emporium Department Store in 1962: The building with DOBBS FOR MAYOR has been demolished and Hallidie Plaza at the BART Station is there now.
Union Square is the center of Christmas activity, just as it was in 1949. Here, the “SANTA CLAUS EXPRESS” crosses Geary Blvd., past the St. Francis Hotel and Union Square, heading down Powell toward Market Street.
Another “SANTACADE” cable car, sponsored by the Emporium, crosses O’Farrell Street at Powell in 1962:
A motorized Christmas cable car crosses over Market Street at Powell Street toward the old Emporium Store in 1962: The real cable car turnaround at this spot is on the far left in my picture.
Sugar Plum Fairies at the Christmas tree in Union Square in 1956: They have a bigger tree there nowadays. That’s the Sir Francis Drake Hotel behind the tree in both pictures.
I know, it was made in Hollywood and set in New York City, but whenever I walk around Downtown San Francisco at night during Christmastime I’m reminded of the scene that introduced the song ‘Silver Bells’ in the 1951 movie ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’. Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell sing the song as they walk around New York on a snowy day near Christmas, and the atmosphere of the shopping district of San Francisco during the Holidays always comes close to capturing this movie moment, minus the snow. I don’t know what that headgear Bob Hope was wearing is, but only he would try to pass that off as Santa Claus equipment!
Bob Hope has thugs, like William Frawley here, collecting charity money around town, supposedly for a rest home for elderly ladies, but in reality Hope is collecting the money to keep him from being rubbed out by the mob. However, the young lady in my picture is on the legit, and fortunately doesn’t look like William Frawley!
“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile”
“Strings of streetlights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.”
They had traffic jams during the holidays back then too. “I wish this was a sleigh!’ a frustrated driver stuck in traffic sings. “And above all this bustle, you’ll hear, Silver bells. Silver bells”
You can hear the Salvation Army bells from this spot above the Union Square Garage just fine.
I’ll close with a view of Union Square from atop Macy’s Department Store, and the You Tube link to the “Silver Bells” scene from ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’.