And Halloween weather in the ‘Noir City’

Windy and spooky! Most of the vintage pictures here were taken during the 1940s and 1950s from the rediscovered Life Magazine photographer Fred Lyon.

NoirmasonTurkuseMason Street at Turk in the 1950s:

NoirboothuseGrant Avenue, next to Old Saint Mary’s Church: Well, I hope that they got their Uber ride. Oh wait, Uber didn’t exist back then. The little Chinese telephone booth is gone now.

NoirKearnyuseKearny Street looking south in the 1950s: Fred Lyon’s picture here looks more like a painting.

NoirFairmontuseThe Fairmont Hotel looking north toward the Brocklebank Apartments:

NoirHuntingtonuseThe Huntington Hotel from Huntington Park minus the fog in my picture:

NoirCTownuseGrant Avenue in Chinatown looking north toward Sacramento Street:

NoirTopMarkuseA wonderful nighttime view looking east from the Top of the Mark long ago: (








October weather – 2019

I think I mentioned somewhere on my site that I spend more time in San Francisco during October and May than any other months. The weather is almost always comfortable even when it’s foggy, and there’s something special about San Francisco in those spring and autumn months. I took these pictures on October 16th, 19th, and 20th.

ClayPowellClay and Powell Streets in the 1970s: When those cable cars rattle by at a rocketing nine miles an hour, sometimes I just miss clicking the shutter for a perfect lineup with the vintage picture. (Lindsaybridge2)

PoolEnchantmentGolden Gate Park, looking southeast toward the Francis Scott Key Monument in the 1890s: “I see dead people.” (SF Chronicle)

GGPConcourseA lonely looking picture to me of a gentleman walking toward the Band Concourse in Golden Gate Park in the 1950s: They’re replanting some of the trees gone now. (SF Chronicle)

EmmetThe Robert Emmet Statue in Golden Gate Park, minus the Irish lass from the 1950s: That’s the old Academy of Sciences Building behind her, demolished in 2005. (SF Chronicle)

SpreckelsThis San Francisco Chronicle vintage picture taken May 24th 1954 doesn’t identify where this spot in Golden Gate Park was, but I think it was Spreckels Lake, and if so, this spot here. There’s two asphalt patches on the peninsula that may have been where the trees were back then. Besides, it looks like nobody ever came back to get one of the cars from the old picture still there in my shot! I should have cropped my picture more at the bottom to match the vintage photo but I didn’t want to cut out that gull doing a perfect belly flop.

Oct2019PowellusePowell Street between California and Sacramento Streets in the 1960s: (Marty Bernard)

Oct2019MLaneuseMaiden Lane from the old Stockton Street entrance to the Union Square Garage in the 1950s: I’ve been waiting a long time for them to clear the Stockton Street Muni construction so I could do this one. The Stockton Street garage entrance is gone now.  I’ll bet the girl in blue by the Maiden Lane gate was asking to the people approaching her, “Are you guys doing that Abby Road crosswalk thing for that guy up there taking the picture?” (Phil Palmer)







504With a number of earthquakes hitting the Bay Area recently, special attention was paid to the October 17th 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake anniversary yesterday. I myself decided to be at the exact same spot at the exact same time as I was when the earthquake struck; the Ginsberg’s Pub on Mason and Bay Streets. A lot of people will remember where they were that night, many with sadness over loved ones and friends lost, and although for me it was one of the greatest adventures of my life, it pales in comparison to what happened to them. Here’s my Loma Prieta Earthquake story: A friend of mine named Mike Shanley and I decided to go to Candlestick Park to try to buy tickets for the fourth game of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. We hooked our bicycles to the back of a little four-wheeler I had at the time and headed to San Francisco. We drove through the lower portion of the Cypress Freeway to the Bay Bridge. The Cypress Structure collapse was what caused most of the deaths that day. We crossed the eastern cantilever span of the Bay Bridge and parked at Pier 48 near where Giants Stadium is today. From there, we rode out bikes down 3rd Street to Candlestick Park, but the scalpers wanted more money for tickets than we had, which wasn’t much in those days. I remember seeing the Oakland A’s team arriving at the park in a bus followed by Jose Canseco in a Porsche. I told Mike that I knew of a place up by Fisherman’s Wharf where we could watch the game comfortably, so we rode our bikes back up 3rd Street to the car, drove to Francisco Street where we parked the four-wheeler, and walked a block to Ginsberg’s Pub. We had just gotten a pitcher of beer and a hot dog each when at 5:04 the earthquake hit. I remember saying “I think this is the “big one” to Mike, in reference to the inevitable earthquake everyone in the Bay Area had been foretold was coming. (It wasn’t, and that one is still on the way) I actually felt more relieved than frightened because we were finally getting that one over with and nothing had fallen down on us. We stayed in the building until the shaking stopped, but some customers ran out outside, like they say you’re not supposed to do but what  I probably will do next time. When I walked outside the first thing I saw was a terrified dog running north on Mason toward the Bay, There was an eerie stillness, and when I looked toward Nob Hill I realized the power was out. We didn’t realize that the entire city of San Francisco and much of the Bay area was without power. All telephone lines were dead too. Mike and I had decided to get gas for the car after the game on the way home not before and that was a big mistake; we were near empty. We decided to risk crossing the Bay Bridge with what little gas we had. We got onto the Embarcadero Freeway, but when we approached the Ferry Building traffic came to a stop, and police were directing people away from the bridge. We headed south down Highway 101, but when we were near Candlestick Park I told Mike we were on empty and had to get some gas. We got off at the Paul Street exit and learned then that the power was off over the entire city and no gas was available. We got back on 101 heading south and decided to turn off at the San Francisco Airport before we ran out of gas. Although the airport was on backup electricity, all flights in and out of SFO were cancelled. Back then there was a grass embankment between in and out traffic to and from the airport terminals and I drove the four-wheeler up on the embankment. We made I sign that read, “Out of gas. Don’t tow” and walked into the airport terminal. It was there we learned that the Cypress Structure and part of the Bay Bridge had collapsed, and the Marina District was on fire. Also all bridges were shut down. We stayed at the airport and I kept trying to call my mom and dad who lived across the Bay in Castro Valley throughout the night, but telephone service where we were at was still down. Finally, at daylight, they announced that they were letting people across the Bay on the San Mateo Bridge, and Mike and I decided to once again drive as far as we could until we ran out of gas. There used to be a Chevron Station on the road leading out from the airport and they were on the same emergency power system as the airport apparently, because although all traffic had been diverted away from the airport, the gas pumps there were working and we were able to get gas. We crawled across the San Mateo Bridge along with other traffic, and when we reached the East Bay we found that telephone service was working there. I called my mom and dad to see if they were okay, and I can still hear my mom letting out her breath as if she had held it in all night saying, “Are you all right?” They hadn’t heard from me since the previous day and they knew I had gone to San Francisco. They feared the worst news that some other mothers did get that morning. Well, that’s my Loma Prieta Earthquake story. I kept that “Out of gas. Don’t tow” sign for years and years, but I couldn’t find it when I wanted to take a picture of it for this post. Like the Cypress Structure, the cantilever span of the Bay Bridge, Candlestick Park, the Embarcadero Freeway, Ginsberg’s Pub, and my mom and dad, that’s gone now too.

Intersection Ginsberg’s Pub closed a number of years after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and remained empty for many years before it was demolished about two years ago. This picture at the top looks like it was taken from Google Maps.

MasonStThe Mason Street side of the pub where I stepped out and first noticed the extent of the disaster: (

InsideThis picture from is how I remember what Ginsberg’s Pub looked like inside. It’s also of interest to me because where the two people talking to the bartender on the left were was the exact spot Mike and I were sitting when the earthquake struck!

GE DIGITAL CAMERAI took this picture from my truck in 2013 on the last time that I crossed through the cantilever section of the Bay Bridge. The bridge was deemed unsafe because of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, but wasn’t replaced for over twenty four years. The picture isn’t the clearest, but if you look at the faded section of the roadway just before the cantilever starts, that’s the portion of the bridge that collapsed on October 17th 1989 killing two people.

EFreewayIn August of 1991 I took this slide picture of the Embarcadero Freeway being demolished. It closed days after the earthquake and never reopened.

CandelstickGone too is Candlestick Park, seen here just after it was demolished in 2015.






51 cents for a crushed penny, and worth every cent (For little Alice)

PennyopenuseI know, you see them in attractions all over and maybe they’re pretty silly, but when you see the face of a three year old light up when she sees her penny get crushed  in a penny presser machine, well….. Last Thursday I got a chance to take visiting relatives from Virginia around San Francisco, including the three year old who I had never met.

PennyAmandauseWe started out at the Children’s Playground in Golden Gate Park.

PennyPgrounduseThe Children’s Playground in the 1890s: The Sharon Building is on the left and the merry-go-round is on the right. The Sharon Building was remodeled after being damaged in the 1906 Earthquake. That merry-go-round is never running when I take visiting kids there! I don’t even know if it runs at all, anymore! (San

PennyShgaronuseThe Sharon Building at the Children’s Playground in the 1890s: Either that lady on the right in the vintage picture had the measles or that’s a scarf around her face. (

Pennyslide1usePennyslide2useKids still love any of the slides in Golden Gate Park, just like the picture from the SF Chronicle of the kid in the 1930s, taken at the Children’s Playground. I know, “I’ll bet she has a pair of shoes just like that at home.” Actually, they sell kids different color shoes nowadays. What a square I was to Alice when I told her I didn’t know that.

PennytreesuseThese may be of interest to my arborist friend, Tony; they’re called twisted tea trees, and they’re all over Golden Gate Park.

PennybeachuseDo you know hard it is to get a kid to move on to the next location of the tour on a beautiful day at Ocean Beach?

PennyGGBuse The obligatory trip to the Golden Gate Bridge: I read somewhere that the Golden Gate Bridge is the most photographed man-made object on the planet, and I believe it, but it wasn’t all that crowded on Thursday. (Shorpy Archives)

PennyO'BrienuseBy late afternoon we were on top of the World War Two Liberty Ship the SS Jeremiah O’Brien watching the Blue Angels practicing for their Fleet Week Show on Saturday and Sunday.

PennyAngels1usePennyAngels2useThey practice a lot longer than the actual shows and it’s just as impressive.

PennyAliceuseBy the end of the day, that little tyke had stolen my heart, and all of my energy.

PennysunsetuseSunset from Pier 39: Maybe not as majestic as in the closing scene in the 1957 film ‘Pal Joey’ with Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, but that one was special effects and mine was real. That’s the silhouette of the Jeremiah O’Brien to the left of the Golden Gate Bridge in my photo. The three masts of the old sailing ship the Balclutha at the Hyde Street Pier are on the left.








Protests, progress, and pomp

I took these pictures throughout the first week of autumn from September 21st through September 29th. The weekend of the 21st and 22nd was as pretty as any summer weekend we had this year. On the 25th when I took the pictures around Market Street and Civic Center, the temperature in San Francisco was in the mid 90’s. On the weekend of the 28th and 29th when I finished the set, the temperature had dropped a bit and a wind picked up, but it was still summertime weather. Also, it was great to see so many people wearing SF Giants t-shirts and jerseys around town while they were celebrating the closing of the Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s baseball career out at Giants Stadium; I was wearing mine too.

FallPier45 A protest at Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf by the Chinese community in 1937: The protesters were calling for an end to the United States importing materials to Japan after the Japanese Empire invaded China. (

FallCHalluseIn my September 9th 2019 post about ‘SOMA’ I mentioned a group of Telegraph Hill dwellers who forced City Hall to stop skyscrapers from being built in San Francisco any further north than they are today. These people here on the Polk Street side of City Hall in 1959 were no less heroic in their effort to stop San Francisco from building any more freeways like the Embarcadero and Central Freeways. (Collector’s Weekly)

FallEllisuseI’m old enough to remember when there were a number of gas stations in and around the Downtown and North Beach area of San Francisco. (Not this one though) There was one right in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf across Taylor Street from Alioto’s Restaurant, one on Bay Street at the Embarcadero, one on Pacific Ave. at Columbus, one on the west side of the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building, one on Washington Street at Columbus, all gone now. One of the last holdouts was the 76 Station at 1st and Harrison Streets that was still there in 2018, but recently demolished. The one in this photo was on the northeast corner of Ellis and Taylor Streets. The enormous Hilton Hotel is there now. I’ll bet the owner of the station held out for a lot of money. Well, if eliminating all of the convenient gas stations in Downtown San Francisco is your cup of progress, then it’s a good thing. (Vintage Everyday)

FallMacCoveuseThey don’t sail ships like that into McCovey Cove these days! Sometimes progress gets it right. McCovey Cove, named after the baseball slugger Willie McCovey, was originally called China Basin when this three mast ship in the vintage picture was docked there in 1922. Near the end of the Twentieth Century this spot was basically an area of run down docks. All that changed when the new baseball park for the San Francisco Giants opened in 2000. The docks behind the old ship were where the ballpark is today. My picture was taken on the last day of the 2019 regular season as fans begin to pour into the ballpark to honor the end of the Bruce Bochy Dynasty era. The Giants skipper who led the Giants to the 2010, 2012, and 2014 championship retired on this day. (

FallSTPatuseThe St. Patrick’s Day Parade passes Powell Street along Market on March 17th 1954: This shows a sign of changing times; leprechauns, shamrocks, and pretending to be Irish when you’re not is okay on St. Patrick’s Day. However, although the day and festivities are named in his honor, St. Patrick himself is seldom invited to participate anymore. I suppose he’s considered as politically incorrect as using the word Christmas is nowadays. (SF Chronicle)

FallNixonuseOn July 23rd 1969 the United States President and First Lady Richard and Patricia Nixon were in San Francisco to greet the returning astronauts of Apollo 11 that landed the first humans on the moon. They stayed at the St. Francis Hotel at Union Square. (SF Chronicle)

FallMacysuseA mainly friendly crowd gathered at Union Square across Powell Street from the St. Francis Hotel. (SF Chronicle)

FallprotesteruseThey weren’t all supportive of President Nixon. (SF Chronicle)

FallStFrancisuseMr. and Mrs. Nixon leaving the main entrance of the St. Francis Hotel: (SF Chronicle)

FallPowellcrossuseThe President and First Lady crossed Powell Street about here to great supporters. (SF Chronicle)

FallsignsuseNot everybody was on the same side but they got along, and that’s not a bad example. (SF Chronicle)

FallccaruseFallupPowelluseThe Nixons climbed on a cable car and headed up Powell Street to start their tour of San Francisco before flying out to the aircraft carrier USS Hornet vie Air Force One and the Marine One helicopter to greet the returning astronauts. (SF Chronicle)