It will need some editing (All in fun)

The next novel I write, which will actually be the first novel I write, which will probably never get written, will be a crime thriller set in San Francisco during 1937. It will be inspired by the photographs of Ken Cathcart, whom I wrote about in the previous post, and will be in first person format. The protagonist will be on the run, either hiding from the police, the mob, or the United States Treasury. The novel will open up in Chinatown, just the place for my hero to hide who’s being pursued by the police for a murder he didn’t commit, or the mob for skimming money, or the United States Treasury for absolutely nothing; I haven’t worked that out yet. The following is a working draft of my novel.

Cathcartkiduse{I headed for Chinatown. I had friends there and was certain that I could lay low until the heat was off. As I headed up Grant Avenue to California Street, I approached a young lad holding a shoe shine box.

“Hey, mister, let me shine your shoes or I’ll shoot you!”

I began to wonder if I may have come to the wrong place.}

CathcartWaverlyuse{My destination was the Lee Building at 109 Waverly Place. When I approached the temple I spotted the lookout on the second floor. He was called a “lookout” because if you didn’t look out when you were around him, you could vanish! It might be a good place to hide, but it also may be more trouble than it was worth. I decided to move on.}

CathcartSixCouse{My next stop was the Six Families Building on Stockton Street. The families associated with this building had a history of assisting people in need. When I asked them if I could find temporary shelter in the building they asked me which of the six families who owned the building was I a member of. When I asked them who the names of the six families associated with the Six Companies Building were, they replied, “Kong Chow, Ning Yeung, Sam Yup, Yeong Wo, Hop Wo, and Yan Wo.” Being Irish, I wanted to be very careful about which family name I selected. While I was trying to decide which one to pick, they quietly closed the door.}

CathcartSpofforduse{The Free Mason Building in Spofford Place; just the place to hide! After all, they hid Sun Yat-sen from assassins at 36 Spofford Alley while he was in exile trying to raise money for his revolution; although the current tenants here probably aren’t aware of that. I knocked on the door and a man answered. I told him I was in danger, and asked him if I could hide out here for awhile.

“Who do you think you are, Sun Yat-sen?” he replied, and slammed the door in my face.}

CathcartColumbususe{I stopped to rest at the corner of Columbus and Kearny. I wondered if I’d shaken the people who were after me, I wondered if I could find a place to sleep, I wondered how much money I had, and I wondered if those really were female impersonators at Finocchio’s up the hill.}

CathcartInternationaluse{Ah, the International Settlement on “Terrific Street”, a “terrific” place to hide out! Why, even “Baby Face” Nelson came here to hide out in July of 1934; except he died four months after that. That’s not encouraging.}

CathcartDianause{Well, at least I can get a meal at Diana’s Café; the food stinks, but she doesn’t charge much. She said to me when I left, “Don’t complain about my coffee, you’ll be old and weak someday too.”} *

* I swiped that one from Mad Magazine: Author

Cathcartexplosionuse{Diana had told me that there was a place on the corner of Sansome and Jackson Streets  where they would put me up for the night, no questions asked. However, shortly before I arrived there, the building was blown up in a terrific explosion! I knew that the bomb was meant for me. I was frightened thinking about the violent type of people who would go this far to get me. I was filled with rage over thoughts about innocent people who may have been hurt because of me. But most of all, I was absolutely delighted that I wasn’t in the building when it exploded.}

Well, this is as far as I’ve gotten with the outline of my novel. Maybe it’s best that I stick with taking pictures instead. (Photograph source, ‘Gold Mountain, Big City’ by Jim Schein)


Ken Cathcart’s Chinatown

GMountaincoveruseRecently, I learned of a new book published in 2020 about San Francisco’s Chinatown in the past. Titled ‘GOLD MOUNTAIN, BIG CITY’, it’s an oversize book by author Jim Schein displaying much of the work of a mapmaker and photographer named Ken Cathcart while he lived in San Francisco during the 1930s. At $39.00 from, it’s a little pricey, but if you’re as intrigued by Chinatown as I am, it’s well worth it. Besides, there isn’t much else to do these days other than staying at home and reading a good book.  Besides wonderful vintage pictures of Chinatown and North Beach by Cathcart, mostly taken from 1937 to 1939, the book also includes a foldout map of Chinatown drawn by him in 1947. The book explores all of the areas drawn on Cathcart’s map. I had a great time during this past week, myself, exploring locations covered in the book, and taking pictures. I also know that there’s some concern and a little resentment by some people toward the residents living in Chinatown lately over COVID-19, and there shouldn’t be. Wikipedia states that Chinatown is “the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan”, yet Chinatown has a remarkably low death rate from COVID-19. Chinatown is gradually and carefully coming back to life, and ‘GOLD MOUNTAIN, BIG CITY is a perfect way to visit there, either staying at home and reading or by going on location. My updates of a few of Ken Cathcart’s pictures are in black and white also; they turned out better that way.

CathcartMandarinoneuseGrant Avenue, between Jackson Street and Pacific Avenue, looking north in 1937: The old Mandarin Theater is in the background.

CathcartMandarintwouseLooking south in the opposite direction as the previous picture from Pacific Ave in 1939: The Mandarin Theater is on the right.

CathcartGrantSacramentouseLooking north on Grant Avenue past Sacramento Street in 1937: That’s a cable car from the old Sacramento Line passing by. You can see life starting to come back to Chinatown.

CathcartWaverlySacuseWaverly Place at Sacramento Street in 1938: Although considerable remodeled now, that’s the same building on the corner.

CathcartPlaygrounduseThe old Children’s Playground on Sacramento Street between Stockton Street and Grant Ave in 1937: an effort is underway to restore and preserve the old playground.

CathcartNWestGrantWashuseThe northwest corner of Washington Street and Grant Avenue in 1938: I like the old awning better.

CathcartGrantSacnorthuseThe same corner of Washington Street and Grant Avenue as in the previous picture, looking north in 1938:

CathcartChinaTheateruseThe Great China Theater, now the Great Star Theater, in 1938: They’re still putting on operatic shows at the Great Star Theater, although they have been closed since March because of the pandemic shutdown.

CathcartLadiesuseThese ladies in 1937 are coming out of the restaurant called Jackson Chow Mein seen in the previous picture next to the Great China Theater. There’s still a restaurant there today called Bund Shanghai Restaurant, but it’s take-out only due to the pandemic.


More on ‘Dark Passage’

DPLombarduseThe last time I rode the “Hyde Street Grip” up over Russian Hill to Downtown San Francisco I was able to get a spot to hang on to the outside of the cable car as we passed over the top of Russian Hill. This picture is looking down Lombard Street as we pass. The next block we approached is Greenwich and Hyde Streets; ‘Dark Passage’ territory. ‘Dark Passage’, of course, is the 1947 film noir set in San Francisco starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

DPHydeoneuseDPHydetwouseDPHydethreeuseAs we rattled toward Greenwich Street, we’re approaching the spot in the film where Humphrey Bogart boarded a cable car in his escape after causing Agnes Moorehead’s accidental death.

DPTamalpaisuseOn the west side of Hyde Street at Greenwich is the Tamalpais Apartment Building. In her top floor apartment here, Agnes Moorhead panics as Bogart tries to make her confess to killing his wife, which he went to prison for. She crashes through the window of her apartment and falls to her death. Well, there goes his alibi!

DPRooftopuseBogart goes the roof of the building and climbs down the fire escape.

DPFEscapeoneuseIn this cutaway shot of Bogie descending the stairs, you can see the old Hyde Street Reservoir.

DPFEscapetwouseDPFEscapethreeuseBogie jumps to the ground from a ladder below the stairs that no longer exists. You can see the fastening markers where the ladder used to be in my picture.

DPGreenwichHydeuseAs sirens approach, Bogart crosses Hyde Street to catch a convenient passing cable car to make his escape. Well, they did run more often back then, and as of right now they’re not running at all. This is looking down Greenwich Street toward Telegraph Hill.

DPHydeandGWichapproachuseWe’re getting ready to hook up with Bogie as we approach Greenwich.

DPHookupuseAnd right about here is where he jumped on a cable car, but he wouldn’t have found much room on ours. Bogie climbed on just about where the first parked car we’re approaching is.

DPgetawayuseDPTamalpaiscloseuseOnce on board, Bogie looks back at the Tamalpais Apartment Building. He can’t worry too much about Agnes Moorehead now; he’s got a date with the Dame de la crème, Lauren Bacall. I’ll close with a link to a film clip of the Tamalpais Apartments escape scene below.

The “real” streets of San Francisco (Part two)

A couple Augusts ago I posted ‘The “real” streets of San Francisco, ‘Part One’ as a follow up to a previous post I had done about the television show “The Streets of San Francisco’. There are some fine websites on the internet posting collections of vintage San Francisco photos;, the Charles Cushman Collection, and the Shorpy Archive, to name three of the best. There’s an interesting website I found last fall called ‘San Francisco Pictures’ (clever title). I can’t get much information on who sponsors the site, but they have thousands of good quality vintage San Francisco pictures that they categorize by street name and I’ve been having fun doing then and nows on them. They often name a source for their vintage pictures, and I’ll list those with my post.  We’ll start with the northwestern most picture, ignore Alfred Hitchcock’s advice, and travel south by southeast.

StreetsClayJonesuseClay Street looking east from Jones in 1978: Not a big change here, a few more buildings and they finished the Embarcadero Center. (Gosta Knochenhauer)

StreetsSacramentouseOne block south and three blocks east brings us to Sacramento and Powell Streets, looking east in 1965. (Bousquairol)

StreetsSacramentoPowelluseWe’ll step across Sacramento Street and back three years to 1962. Hmm, a full hour coverage of THE BIG NEWS from KPIX, Channel 5. A long way back from CNN and FOX.

StreetsBushPowelluseWe’ll travel south along Powell Street to Bush Street in a terrific picture from the SFMTA Photo Archive looking north up Nob Hill in 1914.

StreetsBushuseLooking east along Bush Street from Powell in 1967: I suddenly have a terrific urge to buy a six pack! (Douglas Campbell)

StreetsUSquareuseEast to Stockton Street and down to Geary Blvd. looking toward Union Square in 1928: It’s nice to see trucks that are older than the one I still own. (Gordon Morales)

StreetsOFarrelluseOne block south to O’Farrell and one block west brings us back to Powell Street looking north in 1961: I’d like to have got a shot over the hood of my car, but I take DO NOT ENTER signs personally. The green building on the right, I know, most of the buildings in the old photo are green, was where the old Omar Khayyam Restaurant used to be.

StreetEllisuseOne block south on Powell and east on Ellis Street brings us here, looking southeast down Ellis Street toward Market Street and the old Humboldt Building in the 1940s: Just behind me is John’s Grill where Sam Spade ordered lunch in the novel ‘The Maltese Falcon’. They’ve opened up with sidewalk dining again. I’ll have to stop by there again for lunch next time I’m in the area and buy a Brigid glass that they sell as souvenirs, named after Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the femme fatale of ‘The Maltese Falcon’. (Bennett Hall)

StreetsMarket&SansomeuseWe’ve headed east on Market Street to Sanome and Sutter Streets in 1963: That looks like a red Ford Fairlane Station Wagon on the right in the vintage photo. (JF Ciesla)

StreetClayandSansomeuseWe’ll double back north to Clay Street looking north along Sansome Street in 1929: Why, It hasn’t changed a bit! Actually, you’re not going to find anything left in the vintage photo from this spot today. Some of the buildings in the far background on Sansome may still exist today, but they can’t be seen in my photo. I couldn’t catch a speeding car zipping past in a blur in my picture. (SFMTA Photo Archives)



V-J Day plus 75

All of the vintage images in this set were taken on Market Street seventy five years ago, August 14th, 1945. Forever known as V-J Day, victory over Japan, it was the day Japan surrendered ending World War Two. San Francisco went into an orgy of celebrating and some of it wasn’t pleasant, but you can’t tell from these images. Let’s go back to that day for a moment and remember how important it was. Although I took most of my pictures this past week, I plan to go over to San Francisco on August 14th and walk around again where my comparisons were taken. Almost certainly, most of the people in the vintage images are gone now, but they had their moment to be proud of and they enjoyed it. It will feel strange again standing in the same spots they did and thinking about their moment in time. San Francisco, and the United States, for that matter, will probably never experience anything like it again.

VJ75TurkuseCelebrants climbing the Admission Day Monument at Turk, Mason, and Market Streets: The view is looking west along Turk Street. The monument was moved to Montgomery and Market Streets in 1977. (San Francisco Chronicle)

VJ75MasonMarketuseThe opposite view of the previous picture of the Admission Day Monument from ground level, looking back toward Market Street: (West Virginia & Regional History Center)

VJ75ParmountuseA crowd passes by the old Paramount Theater between Jones and Taylor Streets in a scene from wonderful color footage by C. R. Skinner: ‘Junior Miss’ wasn’t getting that much attention that day. Eh, Leonard Maltin only gives the film two and a half stars anyway. The Paramount was just east of the old Crocker Anglo Building on the corner of Jones and Market Streets and is blocking out the view of the Golden Gate Theater, seen in my picture.

VJ75PepsiColaCenterLooking past sailors and stalled streetcars toward Mason and Market Streets in more film footage from C. R. Skinner:

AmongGGTheateruseRevelers on top of a streetcar stopped at Market and Mason Streets: Behind them is the Golden Gate Theater. (SF Chronicle)

VJ756thuseLooking southeast across Market Street toward 6th in more footage from the C. R. Skinner film: The streetcar on the right has the message KEEP FAITH WITH OUR FIGHT. Many of the buildings in the vintage image are still around, including the tall white building at 6th and Market Streets, remodeled and green today.

VJ75StocktonMarketuseMore Streetcar partiers on Market Street looking north toward Stockton Street: West Virginia & Regional History Center)

4thAt the same intersection as the previous picture, a fellow picks up the rear portion of a streetcar, broken off and left on Market Street: (

VJ75MarketGrantuseLooking east along Market Street from Grant Avenue: (

VJ75girltoneuseVJ75girltwouseVJ75girlthreeuseVJ75girlfouruseVJ75girlfiveuseI’ve posted this series of images from C. R. Skinner’s footage in the past, but it really is a wonderful period piece. It took place on Market Street at Jones. In the top two photos, the girl in pink doesn’t seem too bothered when a lady near her is hugged by a passing sailor. In the third image another sailor grabs the girl in pink for a hug, placing a cap on her head. In the fourth image, the sailor has the girl in pink bent over in his arms and might being going a little too far. “Hey, buddy, no means no!” In the fifth and bottom picture, she breaks away and throws the cap back at him, angrily. “What’d I do? What’d I Do?”

VJ75girlsixuseHere’s the same spot today where “pretty in pink” valiantly fought for her honor.

VJ75kissuseMany people know about the famous Times Square New York picture of the sailor kissing a nurse on V-J Day. Well, there was a lot of kissing going on in San Francisco on August 14th 1945 too. This picture was taken at the intersection of Market and Taylor Streets with the Warfield Building in the background. They were a little farther out in Market Street, but if I took my picture that far out a tree would have blocked the Market Street entrance to the Warfield Building, seen in both photos. You can see part of the Warfield sign of Loew’s Warfield Theater that would later become the Fox Warfield Theater, and not to be confused with the glamorous Fox Theater, in the upper right of the vintage picture. I know, you may be wondering the same thing I was; did they get married? Maybe they were dating and did, but possibly they never saw each other again after August 14th 1945. The little jerk behind them almost spoils the picture. (West Virginia & Regional History Center)