There’s a Facebook page devoted to San Francisco nostalgia succinctly titled ‘San Francisco Remembered’. It posts vintage pictures of San Francisco that are contributed to the page by members who have joined the group. For nostalgic San Francisco photos on Facebook, San Francisco Remembered is at the top of the list. A number of the pictures contributed are from public sources, many of which I’ve covered on my site, but a number of them appear to be from personal collections and may not have been seen anywhere before. These are a few of the pictures from the group that I did a then and now on. I’ll list the contributors of the pictures as the source.
A picture taken during World War Two looking down Mason Street from California Street next to the Mark Hopkins Hotel: That looks like a World War Two spy from and old movie on the far right if I ever saw one. (Phil Davies)
Looking north on the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1950s: I took my picture a couple of years ago on a drive to Muir Woods and I thought it makes a decent match up to the old photo, although I’m not in the same lane. (Carl Yorke)
That’s the old east entrance to the Union Square Garage on Stockton Street during the early 1940s, now long gone. Most of the street is fenced today now due to construction of the underground Muni Metro Railway extension to Chinatown. Someday, I’d like to redo this one. (Randall De Rijk)
The crosswalk at Powell and Market Streets looking toward the old Emporium Department in 1974: It looks like a rainy and miserable day in the vintage picture, which, surprisingly, it wasn’t when I took my photo last Sunday. (Lily Costello)
Turk, Mason, and Market Streets: Based on the movie showing at the Esquire Theater, it was taken in 1940. Comrade X is a silly and delightful look at Russia from the United States viewpoint of the country at the time, and one of my favorite Clark Gable films. I actually enjoy it more than some of his better made movies like ‘San Francisco’ or ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’. Also, Hedy Lamarr is absolutely ravishing in this movie! The columns of the old Bank of America Building where the Fun Center was are gone now. (Gianni Corso)
That silver Toyota behind the tree is parked just about where Steve McQueen’s famous green Mustang in ‘Bullitt’ was parked. The store on the left at the southeast corner of Taylor and Clay Streets where McQueen buys an armful of TV Dinners at the beginning of the film is still open. (Pete Georgas)
I worked in Downtown Oakland a long time ago. I was a long stringy haired party at night, sleep in late guy back then who knew as much about banking as I did about quantum physics, but the father of a girl friend of mine who worked for Bank of America got me a job at the Oakland Main Branch and this turned out to be some of the best years of my life. I took BART there yesterday between rain storms to walk around and think back on those days.
I worked at Bank of America on 12th and Broadway, in a building seen on the right from an early 1900s postcard. A tower was added to the building in the 1920s, and when I worked there it was owned by the San Francisco Giants owner at the time, Bob Lurie. The area, which was in decline when I worked there, had become even more uncomfortable by the 1990’s, but they’ve done a nice job of rejuvenating things around this part of town since then.
A half a block or so from the building we worked in was and is DeLauer’s. This was a great store for buying snacks, cigarettes, or any of the culturally significant photography magazines like Playboy that we guys bought for their interesting articles. The vintage picture is dated 1935. I didn’t think Kay Jewelers went back that far, but I looked it up and it goes back to 1916! (The Trip Beautiful website)
14th Street and Jefferson, down from the City Hall Building in 1915: Back when I worked in the area, if you wandered too far off Broadway you could end up being listed as “overdue and presumed lost”, but this part of town’s a lot quieter today. (Worthpoint.com)
San Pablo Avenue and 17th, looking toward the Oakland Tribune Building. The vintage picture would have to be in 1943, that’s when ‘Sahara’ was released. It’s one of my favorite Humphrey Bogart movies, a tough war movie that holds up well today, and has a refreshing role for a black actor, Rex Ingram, whose character is portrayed as both brave and intelligent. That wasn’t the norm for the usual stereotyping of blacks in 1943. The Esquire Theater, opened in 1916, was demolished in 1953. It was where the New Parish and the Curry Up Now restaurant are today. You can still see the Oakland Tribune Building peeking out in the center of my picture. (University of California Archives)
Telegraph at 19th Avenue in 1941: This is another area where they’re taking steps in the right direction. If you wandered around this area after dark when I worked here, you were probably a masochist! That part of the building on the left is the now reopened Fox Theater which was closed and abandoned when I worked in Oakland. (The Oakland Tribune)
The old fountain where Telegraph Avenue comes into Broadway:
Smith’s Men’s Department Store on the corner of 14th Street and Broadway in the late 1960s: When I was twenty two I bought an overcoat at Smith’s; it cost me 75 bucks! That was a lot of money when I was twenty two. (It’s a lot of money now) I still have that coat and I wore it to Downtown Oakland yesterday when I took these pictures. Smith’s is long gone now, and the part of the building the store was in is empty.
Charlie Chaplin was just starting to make his name in the movies when he came to Downtown Oakland to make a short comedy with Ben Turpin called ‘A Night Out in 1915. Some of the scenes were filmed here in what was once ritzy apartment neighborhood near Lake Merritt.
When Chaplin made his movie in Oakland he stayed at the old Oakland Hotel on 13th. The mammoth building had become a hospital by World War Two, but was closed and abandoned by the time I worked in Oakland. We liked to go down there and make-out on the old benches in front of the building. Yeah, I used to do that too! It’s back open again and is thriving as a retirement center, and I didn’t see anybody making out there yesterday!
“It only takes a tiny corner of this great big world to make the place we love.”
Anybody who loves old movies and San Francisco will probably know what that’s from. Well, we’re into February. My, where has 2019 gone? These are a collection of comparison pictures I took over the last two weekends.
We’ll start out waaaaay back in January, the weekend before last. I’m driving into San Francisco across the Bay Bridge. All things considered, I’m not too unhappy with this one. The vintage picture is traffic heading west along the eastern cantilever portion of the bridge during the 1940’s. That’s a lot of traffic, looks like something was going on. Maybe it was a 49ers game out at Kezar Stadium with Frankie Albert quarterbacking. My picture was heading west on the new East Bay Bridge Span completed in 2013. (SF Chronicle)
This is looking east on Market Street toward Stockton Street in 1952. (SF Chronicle)
From Market Street I headed up Nob Hill for a comparison of this 1950’s photo looking north along Powell Street as a cable car climbs Nob Hill. The Fairmont Hotel on the left can’t be seen from here today due to the portion of the Fairmont Hotel and Garage completed after the vintage picture was taken. (Gene Wright)
I headed down Powell toward Union Square. These are the kind of then and nows I love to try taking. This is looking down Powell toward Sutter Street in during the 1960’s. The Sir Francis Drake and Chancellor Hotels are still there, and cable cars still “climb halfway to the stars”. (Jimo Perini)
I stopped at Union Square on the way home. This San Francisco Chronicle World War Two photo of ladies of the American Women’s Volunteer Services selling war bonds was taken in September of 1942. That’s the Dewey Monument behind them. They’re looking out from above the Union Square Garage entrance on Geary Blvd.
When I got back down to Market Street, there was a pro life anti-abortion demonstration proceeding along Market Street that closed the street down from Civic Center all the way to the Ferry building. The vintage photo is a 1967 anti-Vietnam War demonstration in 1967 heading in the opposite direction of last weekend’s turnout away from Civic Center along Fulton Street.
The following weekend, yesterday, I headed back to San Francisco to close out the set, and get back in time to watch the Super Bowl. Back in my youth we used to go to a lot of plays in the Theater District on Saturdays. I don’t often anymore, it’s easier now to sit home on Saturday nights and watch reruns of ‘Gunsmoke’. I saw some very popular plays, from ‘Evita’, ‘Curse of the Werewolf, and ‘Showboat’, to ‘Phantom of the Opera’. One of the worst plays we saw was the one that I liked the best; a dreadful thing called ‘The Boys in Autumn’ starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas portraying Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in their senior years. It was awful, but seeing those two guys together was priceless! When we went to most of the plays we always parked at the O’Farrell and Mason Street Garage, seen here in the early 1970’s. (SF Gate / SF Chronicle)
Children braving the pigeons in Union Square in 1955: In the background is the St. Francis Hotel. There is an enormous amount of San Francisco history surrounding this hotel. Actor John Barrymore was staying here when the 1906 Earthquake and Fire occurred. “Fatty” Arbuckle’s career was ruined in 1921 when he was accused of raping a girl in the hotel and causing her death. Like the clock at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, many people met at the clock in the St. Francis during World War Two. In 1975, Sara Jane Moore tried to kill President Gerald Ford with a handgun as he exited the hotel. In September of 1944, one of the most significant military decisions of World War Two was finalized during a three day conference in the northeastern wing of the St. Francis Hotel. I’ll go into this next. The northeastern wing of the hotel is the first wing just to the left of the Dewey Monument in these pictures. (Gene Wright)
In the opening chapter of James and William Belote’s book about the battle of Okinawa, ‘Typhoon of Steel’, the authors write about a three day conference held in the northeast wing of the St Francis in September of 1944 to determine the final campaigns of the Pacific Theater of World War Two; whether the United States would invade the island of Formosa or the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa as Admiral Nimitz and General McArthur, who were not at the meetings, had agreed upon earlier in Hawaii.
“The conferees gradually relaxed as the three days of deliberations got into full swing Perhaps the luxurious surroundings of their hotel suites had something to do with it. Within the limits of its wartime rationing allowance, the St. Francis served excellent meals in an elegant surrounding of fine oak and mahogany paneling in (Admiral) King’s suite.”
The conference ended with the decision to invade Iwo Jima and Okinawa, so it’s not far-fetched to say that the final agreement that led to these two battles was made in the St. Francis Hotel. Considering the staggering loss of military and civilian life in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, it will have to be left to posterity to decide if this was the right decision. There’s always the argument that the development of the atomic bombs the following year made the campaigns unnecessary, but no one could have known that at the time.
Looking down Powell Street toward the St. Francis Hotel in August of 1962, and a rainy February in 2019: The northeastern wing of the St. Francis on the corner of Powell and Post Streets is in the center of the two photos: (opensfhistory.org)
In case you’re not familiar with the title of this post, click on the link below. I know it’s as corny as can be, but it’s still a showstopper!