Don’t worry; they’re safe (Part one)

You’d think from these accidents that cable car riding is as dangerous as tiger hunting, but cable car accidents almost never happen anymore. And in even the ones involved in the vintage pictures, few people were seriously hurt. Although, a girl involved in a 1964 cable car accident claimed that it turned her into a nymphomaniac! It probably depends on your point of view on just how tragic that was. These terrific SF Chronicle vintage pictures are from

SafeHydeWashuseHyde and Washington Streets in August of 1974: A cable car derails after colliding with a pickup truck.

SafeJacksonPowellusePowell and Jackson Streets in September of 1955:

“No, thanks.  I’ll wait for the next one.”

SafeWashTayloruseWashington Street just up from Taylor Street in January of 1958: A cable car heading down hill hit the cement truck here, derailed, and slid twenty feet down the hill.

SafeWashnearPowelluse Washington Street west of Powell in 1953: A rare cable car rear ender.

SafePowellPineoneusePowell and Pine Streets, March of 1950:

“I think we cut it too close! I’ll leave a note on their car.”

SafePowellPinetwousePowell Street at Pine looking north in the 1950s

“Hey, guys! Did that cable car just hit our truck and take off? Where does he think he’s going?”

SafePowellSuttertwousePowell Street at Sutter, September of 1957: It must have been Ralph Kramden driving that bus!

SafePowellSutteroneusePowell Street north of Sutter in February of 1974: When cable cars try to sneak in the back door of the bus:








San Franciscana (For the two girls on BART yesterday)

These are some vintage pictures of people and places characteristic of San Francisco and its culture.

CanaCalifStreetuseLooking down California Street toward Dupont Street, now called Grant Avenue, from Stockton Street in 1863. San Francisco is proud of its tough and not always refined past and this location typifies much of the legend. Dupont Street, in the heart of Chinatown, was a dangerous place in 1863, complete with opium dens, slave prostitution, regular shanghaiing, and murders. In 1856, San Francisco dared to build a church in the middle of this godless area, Old St. Mary’s on the left, and it’s still there; you can see it peeking out on the left in my picture. In the far back are some of the three mast ships on East Street, now called the Embarcadero, that many drugged sailors woke up in when they were out to sea after being shanghaied. (

CanaFBuildinguseA streetcar turns around at the Ferry Building during the 1940s: The Ferry Building is probably the major building associated with San Francisco and ranks right next to the Golden Gate Bridge as one of the city’s top icons. To me, it’s just great to see that old streetcars still rattle past the Ferry Building. (Market Street Railway)

CanacablecaruseAnd what says San Francisco more than the clang of a cable car bell? Passengers are no longer allowed to climb on the cable cars while they’re being turned around like here at Market and Powell Streets in the 1950s. We used to do that too when I was a teenager. It’s not a bad regulation; there’s too many people getting on them nowadays, and someone would get hurt. (

CanaMarketStreetuseThe ever changing, never changing Market Street, where a green and yellow streetcar rolls past the old Emporium Department Store in 1971, and nowadays: (

CanaCTownuseChinatown in the 1950s: The most densely populate area in San Francisco and one of the most flavorful, it remains a must see place that visitors simply do not miss when they come to San Francisco. (

CanaFillmoreuseIf San Francisco citizens are anything, they’re outspoken. Regular rallies for a cause date back to before the Civil War. Here, at Turk and Fillmore Streets, was a civil rights march for African Americans in 1963.

CanaFWharfuseA little bit of the Mediterranean at the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon in the 1950s. There were a lot of boats out of the lagoon catching seafood today, but even when they’re all tucked in there isn’t nearly as many as in the vintage shot. Although Italian signs abound in Fisherman’s Wharf, The Italian and Sicilian presence is no longer prominent here. Those are the masts of the sailing ship Balclutha in the background. (

CanaDKingmanuseArtists have a special way of looking at San Francisco. This is on top of the Stockton Tunnel looking north along Stockton Street in Chinatown in a Dong Kingman painting from 1967.

CanaMaritimeuseReminders of San Francisco’s connection with the sea can be found everywhere throughout the city. Here is the Maritime Museum Building, designed to look like an ocean liner, in 1939, the year that building opened. (SF Chronicle)


Things to wonder about; today, anyway. (For Caroline from Belgium)

WonderFBuildinguseConstruction on the Embarcadero Freeway in 1957 that would imprison the Ferry Building for over thirty four years: I wonder why they ever built that thing. (SF Chronicle)

WonderBroadwayuseBroadway, where the Embarcadero Freeway ended, looks like the early 60s: I wonder what San Francisco would have been like if they had completed the freeway. It was supposed to go all the way along the waterfront to the Golden Gate Bridge when it was designed. (SF Chronicle)

WonderCalifuseCalifornia Street down from Stockton Street in 1948 and a picture I took in 2017: I wonder what the House of Lee was. The building to the right of the House of Lee in the vintage photo was called the Trafalgar Building. Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Alan Ladd, and Peter Lorre, filmed a scene in that building in the 1947 film ‘My Favorite Brunette’.

WondeerJoanuseI wonder what Joan was looking at?  Joan Crawford and Jack Palance in a behind the scenes photo on Hyde Street near Lombard during filming of the 1952 film noir movie ‘Sudden Fear’. It couldn’t have been the tourists on Lombard Street because they hadn’t started gathering back then. The camera view is looking south toward Greenwich Street. They still had the cobblestone on Hyde Street back then. (

WonderVertigouseMysterious Judy Barton (Kim Novak) thanks “Scottie Ferguson” (James Stewart) for pulling her out of San Francisco Bay in a poster scene from the 1958 movie ‘Vertigo’. The scene was in front of Scottie’s house on the northwest corner of Lombard and Jones Streets. I wonder if Alfred Hitchcock had any suspicion that he was filming what would arguably be his most studied movie, except for possibly ‘Psycho’, and the quintessential San Francisco film locations movie. (

WonderBullittuseWalter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) and Captain Sam Bennett (Simon Oakland) in front of Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill in a behind the scenes photo during the filming of ‘Bullitt’ from 1968: That’s the Bank of America Building on California and Kearny Streets going up in the background of the vintage picture. I wonder if the new building under construction on the southeast corner of Powell and California Streets will block the view from here of the B of A Building when completed. The steps leading up to Grace Cathedral have been remodeled since 1968. (

WonderPowellusePowell Street climbing Nob Hill in the 1940s: The building on the right in the old picture is the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The Starlight Room at the top of the hotel once had some of the greatest views in San Francisco, rivaling the Top of the Mark. I wonder why the Union Square Marriott built that plain looking hotel and completely blocked most of the view from the Starlight Room. How rude was that?

wonderbluechouseI wonder if they’ll ever paint the Cliff House blue with waves again like they did in 1972.





‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, or is it the maddening crowd? (For Janise)

San Francisco is a quiet and peaceful town to visit on the 4th of July, as long as you’re out of the city by 6:00 PM. Weather permitting, San Francisco puts on a terrific fireworks show the night of the 4th, and I’ve checked it out a number of times.  However, it’s one of the most congested nights in San Francisco for people and traffic, and you have to have a lot of patience with the crowds. Nowadays, like yesterday, I spent a pleasant day taking pictures in San Francisco, and made it home before evening to watch ‘The Long, Hot Summer’ with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and at 9:00 PM, went out to catch the firework shows some of the neighbors put on. That’s my 4th of July tradition these days; yes, it’s come to this. These are a collection of vintage traffic and congestion pictures around San Francisco. I started out in 1937 and ended up in 1973.

4th3rd&MissionuseMission and 3rd Street, looking north toward Market Street in 1937: (SF Gate)

4th5thMarketuseMarket Street at 5th in 1946, looking toward the old JC Penny Department Store:

4thRemedialuseMission Street near 5th in 1948, looking west: Notice the Remedial Loan Company Building on the right in the vintage picture. That’s where Sam Spade made Brigid O’Shaughnessy hock her jewelry to retain him as a detective in the novel ‘The Maltese Falcon’. “You’ll have to hock them. The Remedial’s the best – Fifth and Mission.” Spade tells her. The Remedial’s still around, now named the Provident Remedial. (San Francisco Chronicle photo, courtesy SF Gate)

4tho'farrellstocktonuseO’Farrell Street near Stockton in 1948, looking east: You can see a cable car on the old O’Farrell Line in the background. (San Francisco Chronicle photo, courtesy SF Gate)

4thGearyStocktonuseGeary Blvd at Stockton Street in 1954, looking east: Watch out for the lol! The beloved City of Paris Store, demolished in 1979 is on the right; in the far back of both pictures is the Palace Hotel. (San Francisco Chronicle photo, courtesy SF Gate)

4thCalifuseRoadwork on the California Street Cable Car Line at Mason Street in 1957: On the left is the Fairmont Hotel, on the right are the Mark Hopkins Hotel and the Stanford Court. (

4thVertigouseAlfred Hitchcock filmed a scene where the cable work was being done in the previous 1957 photo in his movie ‘Vertigo’. James Stewart follows Kim Novak south along Mason Street, before turning east onto California Street around the construction area, seen here in the film.

4thMasonPostuseMason Street at Post in 1973, looking north: (SF Gate)

4thMasonGearyuseMason Street near Geary Blvd. in 1973, looking south and probably taken the same day as the previous picture: You can see the letters for the Mason, O’Farrell Garage, blocked by signs in my picture, on the right. (SF Gate)

4thSFTerminaluseBefore I left I stopped by to visit the newly reopened Salesforce Transit Center, closed since September of 2018. The top drawing is an artistic rendition of what the Grand Hall would look like before the transit terminal was built. They got it pretty close. (