Fond memories of the Cold War

About thirty miles southeast of San Francisco is my hometown of Castro Valley. Almost everybody from my generation who grew up in Castro Valley remembers hearing about the nuclear guided missile site above Lake Chabot; officially called Site SF-31. I think the first person to tell me about it was one of my childhood friends named Ron. I think he embellished it a little by telling me he had seen test rockets fired from there, but that probably didn’t happen. However, even as a kid I was smart enough to know that if the base was a missile site, it was also a target site. However, I decided not to run away. Yesterday morning I took an e-bike ride up to the old missile site. (Thumbnail images)


A nice view of Lake Chabot on the way up: 

Looking over the missile base toward Lake Chabot in an old photo from Military Historian, Dan Sebby of the California Military Department:


I wanted to get to the top so I rode past this first RESTRICTED AREA sign, risking a ticket. 50 years ago I probably would have been shot for doing that.


The heliport at the top must still be in use. They probably had frequent high-profile visitors arriving here at this spot when the base was active; you know, like Nikita Khrushchev.


This was where the nuclear missile launching pads were; straight on back past the green trucks. I decided not to risk getting a ticket this time, and didn’t go beyond this point.


Another aerial photo of the base from Military Historian, Dan Sebby, taken in 1965: I stopped at the entrance to the Missile Warhead Building area.


Still plenty of old barbed wire fencing at the top.


The type of missiles on standby at SF-31: (Dan Sebby)









A Super Bowl Sunday, Saturday (For Amber)

Along Columbus Avenue; at least for now: The name may be changed someday due to accusations that Christopher Columbus massacred Native Americans. Although some historians disagree on that, his character certainly is in question. However, even if they change the name of the street to Queen Isabella Boulevard or something, I’ll still call it Columbus Avenue. Likewise, if they change the name of the Cliff House to Land’s End Lodge possibly when the Cliff House reopens, it will always be the Cliff House to me. Also, Willie Brown Bridge, although it was renamed after someone who I think was a classy San Francisco Mayor, will always be the Bay Bridge when I refer to it. Anyway, yesterday, the day before today’s Super Bowl, I took a bike ride along Columbus Avenue. It was great to see San Francisco coming back to life; people eating outdoors at restaurants, social distance gathering in parks, and taking drives. We’re heading in the right direction, finally. (Thumbnail images)


Like Market Street, Columbus Avenue runs diagonally through San Francisco. It starts at Washington and Montgomery Streets and ends at Beach Street, or visa-versa based on the direction you’re heading. This then and now is where Pacific Avenue crosses Kearny St. and meets up with Columbus Avenue, looking south  down Kearny past the Columbus Tower Building, (that may be renamed too). The old Hall of justice Building can be seen in the back ground of the vintage photo. (


Broadway, looking east from Columbus in the 1970s, the height of its nighttime entertainment era:


Even though Broadway has many historic locations, it will be remembered best as for where Carol Doda started a sensation as a topless dancer at the Condor Club. Carol is seen here on the southeast corner of Broadway and Columbus in 1966, across from the Condor Club she made famous. (SF Chronicle)


Where Grant Avenue runs north from Columbus in 1968: (San Francisco Blog pictures)


A poetry reading at Washington Square in the heart of North Beach in 1960: This was at the height of the beatnik era, which would evolve into the hippie era seven years later. (

Now we’re in Joe DiMaggio country. “Joltin’ Joe” played baseball in the playground here as a kid before breaking in with the Yankees. The playground, seen here looking towards Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, has been extensively remodeled since the vintage picture was taken. (