Following in my own footsteps (Part two)

These are updates of slide pictures around San Francisco that I took in May of 1983. Except for the cars, clothes and a few additional ugly skyscrapers, most of the views haven’t changed much. Keep in mind that all of the older photos were taken during the 1982 – 1984 cable car shut down. (Thumbnail images)

California Street looking west toward Front Street and Nob Hill beyond: Bookmania, boy I loved that store! I still have quite a number of books in my library that I bought there.

Looking south toward the intersection of Sacramento and Front Streets from the Embarcadero Center. The tall building on the left, barely visible from here today, is 101 California Street. My earlier photo was taken ten years before a lunatic caused the second deadliest mass murder shooting in Bay Area History in 101 California Street. The little corner Home Savings didn’t survive, and I used to make good use of the Round Table Pizza spot next to Shroeder’s Restaurant. Shroeder’s is still there though; I watched the Giants make it into their first of three San Francisco World Series victories in October of 2010.

California Street, just down from Powell: I’d sure like to have that orange truck in the older photo. You can see the 1983 repair work on the California cable car line down at the bottom of California Street. Cable cars, empty of passengers, were rattling past me all day while I did these updates last weekend; they’re getting ready for their return in August.

I headed down California Street toward Chinatown, as I did 38 years ago. “Slug bug”; notice the two Volkswagens turning onto California Street in the older picture. I don’t know why that seems so nostalgic to me, but it does.

We’ll cross to the south side of California Street to get a look at Old St. Mary’s Church.


I don’t remember the route I followed in 1983, but it’s probably the same one I took last Saturday. This is Pine Street looking down from Stockton Street toward the Bank of America Building.


We’re in ‘Maltese Falcon’ territory now. {Where Bush Street roofed Stockton before slipping downhill into Chinatown, Spade paid his fare and left the taxicab.} Samuel Spade crossed Bush Street here, looked over the edge of the Stockton Tunnel, and walked up to Burritt Alley where his partner Miles Archer had been shot earlier in the evening.

From Bush Street I doubled back down Kearny to get this comparison picture looking up Commercial Street as it climbs into Chinatown. Last Saturday’s redo stroll might have been a lot easier for me in 1983.

The Coit Tower parking lot with the Columbus Statue: Although this slide is dated May of 1983 as well, it’s unlikely it was taken the same day as the previous slides. If that little orange three wheel Go Car would have driven past me in 1983, I probably would have thought it was from outer space!

‘No Escape’

Every once in a while I stumble on to an old film noir movie I haven’t seen yet that has terrific on location San Francisco settings. This time it was the 1953 murder mystery ‘No Escape’. I call it a murder mystery, but you’ll probably guess who the murderer will turn out to be before you’re fifteen minutes into the film. It stars Lew Ayres, Sonny Tufts and Marjorie Steele. The title ‘No Escape’ has a double meaning in the film. First, that you can’t escape from the police and get out of San Francisco if you commit murder, and second, it’s the title of a song written by Lew Ayres’ character, John Tracy. Although the movie poster refers to it as a “Haunting Melody” it’s probably one of the most boring songs you’ll ever hear in a movie. The basic plot of the film follows the three main characters around San Francisco during a police manhunt for a murder suspect, Pat Peterson (Marjorie Steele) who believes she committed the murder, John Tracy, who the police believe committed the crime and are searching for, and Detective Simon Shane, (Sonny Tufts) a police officer who is in love with Pat and doesn’t want her to go to jail for the murder. The story begins with Peterson and her boyfriend, Shane, going to a nightclub where Tracy is playing a piano. Peterson and Shane get into an argument. When Peterson leaves the table, Tracy asks her to join him. When he offers to get Pat a cab home, the night club owner, a slick character named Peter Hayden, intercepts them, slips Tracy some money, and takes Pat home himself. Tracy, who was kind of taken with Peterson, gets drunk and decides to go to Hayden’s studio apartment to give him back his money when he finds that Hayden has been murdered. That’s enough plot. (Thumbnail images)


The movie opens up with a tracking scene of traffic heading south on the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. I know what you’re thinking, “Sonny Tufts! Somebody get me the remote control to guard, and a bowl of popcorn!” Actually, he wasn’t too bad in this movie, if he was ever bad in any movie! I think that was just a running joke that nobody under their 50s would know anything about.

Lew Ayres will be remembered most for his roles in ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, the Dr. Kildare film series, and ‘Johnny Belinda’, although his career was on a downhill slide by 1953.


Sonny Tufts will probably be remembered mainly as another “Hollywood discovery” who was never discovered.

I can’t find out much about Marjorie Steele; she only made four films.

My comparison shot is from a car heading south on the Golden Gate Bridge as well as those in the film, so it’s the opposite view of the movie shot, but it lines up pretty good.


As the camera pans around Downtown San Francisco from Ina Coolbrith Park the narrator refers to San Francisco as one of the most beautiful cities on earth. I’ll back him up on that.

Still just as pretty of a view from Ina Coolbrith Park today as it was in 1953.

The movie switches to a silhouette of a man being smashed over the head and murdered. The narrator tells us that there is no escape from San Francisco when the police throw a dragnet around the city for you. We see a crude map of San Francisco before the movie shifts to different locations around the city as the narrator tell us that you can never get away once the police spring their trap. What’s interesting about this map is the road designated as 5 at the bottom of the picture. This was California State Route 5 that came up the western side of the peninsula, wound around Lake Merced and becomes Sloat Blvd. Opened in 1934; it’s still there today, but it was changed in 1964 to California Route 35 to avoid confusion with the opening of Interstate 5.


The movie highlights on two separate occasions places that you’ll be stopped by the police if you’re wanted and try to get out of the city. First, the now obsolete toll booths on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Also the Ferry Building, if you try to escape that way.

Then the camera moves to other locations of escape where you’ll be nabbed by the police. I didn’t get a chance to do updates on all of them, but here’s some from the movie that I didn’t want to leave out. The toll booths on the Bay Bridge, and the old Southern Pacific Train Depot at 3rd and Townsend near where Oracle Park is today; a major scene in the movie was filmed here. The train station was demolished in 1976. Also, there’s a nice shot of Ocean Beach and the Great Highway.


Tracy learns from a drawing on the floor of the murder scene showing Pat as the Pride of Pinker’s that Peterson works at Pinker’s Department Store at Market Street and Grant Avenue. Pinker’s Department Store is actually I Magnin’s at Stockton Street and Geary Blvd. In the next scene, Shane goes in to Pinker’s and tells Pat that Hayden has been murdered and he has been called into the case. Peterson tells Shane she went to Hayden’s apartment where they eventually got into an argument and she hit him in the head with a vase. Shane lets her know that he has no intention of arresting her.

Shane and Peterson go to her apartment on the corner of Filbert and Mason Streets to decide what they’re going to do. Tracy, who has learned where Peterson lives, goes there to talk to her, but Shane thinks that he is there to blackmail her. Peterson isn’t so sure. Because of the tree, I had to take my update a little further out in Filbert Street to get Coit Tower and Saints Peter and Paul Church in the picture.

If you’re going to film a murder mystery in San Francisco before 1968, you’ll have to include the old Hall of Justice on Kearny Street. Almost every film noir movie shot in the city has a scene there; ‘Lady from Shanghai’, ‘Impact’, ‘The Man Who Cheated Himself’, ‘Lineup’, etc. When the police match John Tracy’s fingerprints found at Hayden’s apartment to him, he becomes the prime suspect, which is perfectly alright with police detective Simon Shane. Are you starting to get the idea who the murderer is? The Hall of Justice, across Kearny Street from Portsmouth Square, was demolished in 1968 and replaced by a Hilton Hotel.

The net tightens around John Tracy, who police believe is hiding somewhere on Market Street, seen here at Market and Mason Streets. Notice the old Esquire and Telenews Movie Theaters where Hallidie Plaza is today.

Still believing that she killed Hayden, Pat begins searching for Tracy to try to help him. They agree to meet at the Powell and Market Street cable car turnaround and begin to fall in love with each other during a cable car ride. What better spot to fall in love? You can see a lot of this corner in this scene and cable cars are beginning to practice for their return in August or September so I was able to get one in my update. Well, I’ll have to leave you dangling on the edge of you seat because I didn’t get a chance to do any more updates. Needless to say, if Pat isn’t falling in love with Shane but Tracy instead, you can guess the denouement.


This time it feels like summer (For Carrie Ann, Christie, Allison, Erin, Julianna, Lila, and Paradise)

Last July, San Francisco was a quiet and lonely town, but for July, 2021 the tourists are back, and I don’t mind it at all! It kind of reminds me of the Munchkins coming out from their hiding after the tornado drops Dorothy and her house down on the Wicked Witch of the East. I know, that’s a silly comparison, but I never resist a literary impulse, even a terrible one. July 5, 6, and 7 I had out-of-town relatives from Texas and Los Angeles in for a visit, including a 13 and 11 year old who had never visited San Francisco. We toured the town up good, and the 11 year old told me that San Francisco was the best place she ever visited. Class is where you find it. (Thumbnail images)


I started the holiday out in Niles on the 4th of July, resting up before company arrived the next day. Niles, California is pure Americana.


Tuesday, one of our stops was Alcatraz. Most of my visitors had never been there. I’m always intrigued when I visit the “Rock”, and especially about the “Battle of Alcatraz” in May of 1946, when a number prisoners rioted and took over much of the cell block. Two prison guards and three of the escaping convicts were killed. Fourteen officers and one prisoner were injured, and two of the escapees were executed for the uprising two years later in San Quentin. It was everything and old James Cagney movie depicts, and more. They sell a comic book out on the island that tells the story pretty accurately.

The rioters overpowered a number of guards, taking some of their uniforms and took over the cell block building.

They were shooting at the officers in the guard towers from the building.

Finally, police and the US Marines recaptured the cell block building by shooting and throwing hand grenades into the Cell block D side of the building. There are still bullet holes from the battle above the passage from Cell block D leading into the library.

Wednesday, we headed up north to Bodega Bay, courtesy of Alfred Hitchcock.

And, of course, the obligatory visit to Alamo Square; I’m not a fan of the show, but I get a kick out of this video the girls put together.

Corner cruising

“Down on the corner, out in the street,” Well, you won’t run into Willy and the Poor Boys in this post, but you might see some interesting people here in this collection of corner captures from around San Francisco. (Thumbnail images)

A Polk Street princess walking her pet raccoon on the southeast corner of California and Polk Streets during the 1970s: In any other city that might seem weird, but in San Francisco…… that seems weird! (Street Scenes of San Francisco)

I reckon I could have picked a sunnier day to be hanging out at the southwest corner of Market and Church Streets to update this early 1970s picture, and a six pack from Jug’s Liquor would have been nice if it was still there. (All liquor stores should be named Jug’s Liquor) However, that’s San Francisco summer weather for you occasionally. That’s the U.S. Mint Building in the background. (Pinterest, Flickr)

The northwest corner of Ellis and Taylor Streets during the 1970s: The rich get richer, “but we can’t get our picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone.” (Street Scenes of San Francisco)

The northeast corner of  what became probably the most famous intersection in San Francisco because of the 1967 “Summer of Love”: The vintage photo was taken in 1973. Hey, the kid in the stroller needs a haircut!  (SF Gate)

Rod McKuen on the northeast corner of Stanyan and Grattan Streets in the 1960s: McKuen was a poet, singer and songwriter who started out reading poetry in North Beach nightclubs with the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in the 1950s. His songs were recorded by many popular artists during his career, including Perry Como, Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra, to name a few. However, he also co-wrote the song ‘Seasons in the Sun’. The 1974 version of that song is regarded by many as the worst pop song of all time! Oh, well, nobody has a batting average of 1000. (Ralph Crane, Fine Art of America)


Looking toward the northeast corner of Grant Avenue and Pine Street during the 1940s; easily, the best vintage picture of Chinatown that I’ve seen: The crowds are back here, many of the shops have reopened, and I even went into Old St. Mary’s and sat through a Mass! That was the first time I’ve been to church since…… well, we’ll go into that some other time.