Crowds and congestion (For Cindy from Lucky’s)

If you think traffic and crowds are bad in San Francisco today, look at some of these wonderful old pictures from SFGate and

crowdsfifthuseFifth and Market Street in early January, 1945: They were probably returning all of those unwanted Christmas gifts, like that ugly sweater with the hearts on it from grandma. (SFGate San Francisco Chronicle images)

crowdsfourthuseHmmm, this must be Fourth and Market! Actually, the curved windows of the old Pacific Building on the right, built in 1907, would give it away, anyway. The vintage picture was taken on Christmas Eve, 1945. The girl on the far left doesn’t look like she’s in a very festive mood. (SFGate San Francisco Chronicle images)

crowdstateuseLooking east on Market Street from Fourth in April of 1960: The old State Theater on the right was getting ready for a visit from St. Francis, the patron saint of San Francisco. That must have been a special show! (

crowdsjohnsuseLooking west on Ellis Street between Powell and Stockton in the 1940’s: The historic John’s Grill is on the left in both photos. Opened in 1908 at this spot, the restaurant will be forever connected to Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon because of a line from Dashiell Hammett’s book.

“Sam went to John’s Grill and asked the waiter to hurry his order of chops, baked potato, and sliced tomatoes.” (SFGate San Francisco Chronicle images)

crowdsutteruseSutter Street looking west from Powell in the 1940’s:

Hey, buddy, you’re in the street!”

That’s what they yelled at me too! (SFGate San Francisco Chronicle images)

crowdsbushuseBush Street at Grant Avenue as it crosses over the Stockton Tunnel in the 1940’s: This spot is mentioned in the ‘Maltese Falcon’ as well.

“Where Bush Street roofed Stockton before slipping downhill into Chinatown, Spade paid his fare and left the taxi.” (SFGate San Francisco Chronicle images)

crowdsdegaulleuseA Parade on Montgomery Street just north of Sutter in April of 1960 welcoming Charles de Gaulle: “Viva la France!” (

crowdskearnyuse Kearny and Market Streets, 1910:

“Goodness, Officer! It certainly is crowded today!”

“Lady,  if you think this is crowded, wait until you see it a hundred and seven years from now!” (

Telegraph Hill revisited (after 34 years)

No, it hasn’t been thirty four years since I visited Telegraph Hill, the vistas from the hill are staggering and I get up there as often as I can. These are just some 1983 and yesterday pictures of mine from up there thirty four years apart. In a February of 2016 post about Telegraph Hill I commented that when I do comparison pictures from a long ago photo I sometimes wonder a little about the photographers who took the vintage shot. Who were they? What were they thinking when standing in the same spot so many years ago? What was going on in his or her life at the time? Did they linger and reflect on the beauty of the view as I sometimes do? It’s probably a sign of old age, but when I do then and nows on my own pictures, I sometimes think the same thing!

ThillvallejouseWe’ll start at Vallejo and Montgomery Streets looking east. I’m trying to figure out what that giant grasshopper with wheels looking thing was next to the ALL VEHICLES OVER 3 TONS PROHIBITED sign on the right in my old picture.

ThillmontgomeryuseNow, here’s an interesting development. When I took the top picture looking south down Montgomery Street from Telegraph Hill in 1983 the camera was leaning slightly to the left. When I took the update in the bottom picture yesterday, I’m leaning a little to the right. However, I don’t think that this has anything to do with my political viewpoints.

ThillcalhounuseCalhoun Terrace looking east, one of those special views that a lot of people don’t know about: This was back when they painted the piers mellow yellow and baby blue. Down on the Embarcadero where that round see-through sculpture is located is where the Exploratorium is now. The Embarcadero still had a lot of that look of sea going-far away places and intrigue about it back then. Let’s get a little higher up now; we’ll take a trip to the top of Coit Tower.

ThillcoitoneuseA 1983 view of the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge: A tanker ship was sailing into the Bay, possibly from some far away location like Sumatra or Bora Bora, or even a more exotic place like Los Angeles!

ThillcoittwouseZooming in closer to the city shows very little noticeable change in 34 years other than the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway.

ThillcoitthreeuseEasily the best view of Downtown San Francisco then or now is from this side of Coit Tower. The story goes here that when the skyscraper boom in San Francisco during the 1960’s was underway the developers wanted to continue as far north as possible. The residents of Telegraph Hill did not want their view of the Bay, the waterfront, the Bay Bridge or the Ferry Building to be blocked. They petitioned City Hall and got the northward skyscraper development stopped. I think the city of San Francisco owes them a debt of gratitude. Now the only thing that will block the views of San Francisco from Telegraph Hill is the fog, like it was trying to do yesterday.

“Bless the beasts and the children”

I like that song and not being in a particularly creative mood I couldn’t think of a better title for this post on the last weekend of the summer of 2017.

Beastsgoatuse1960, where Bush Street used to cut into Market Street:

“So, I’m walking my goat on Market Street! Do you have a problem with that?”

“No, Sir, I do not!”

Heck, if I had a goat, I might even do that too………. No, I wouldn’t! The Mechanics Statue and the Crown Zellerbach Building with its famous turquoise curtains are on the right and the Hobart Building is just to the left of the Zellerbach Building in both pictures.

BeastsKearnyuseKids in 1947 on Kearny Street just up from Broadway: The photographer isn’t identified in the vintage picture posted on Pinterest, but it looks a Fred Lyon photo to me, as he was great at getting pictures like this.

BeastsfirestationuseThe old Fire Station #15 on California Street near Laguna: There’s still a fire station at this same spot only now it’s Fire Station #38, and as much as I love horses, they get to the problem a lot quicker now.

beastslagoonuseFisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon in June of 1987: One of these days they’ll invent a kid that doesn’t stick his or her tongue out when having their picture taken. That little tyke that’s on my left shoulder in the 1987 photo is the same grown up tyke on my right shoulder in the current picture.

beastsdannyuseA 1970’s dude playing with his dogs on Ocean Beach: The bottom photo is my dog, Danny, on Ocean Beach in May of 2011. Danny was over twelve years old when I took this picture, but he ran along the beach like when he was a puppy, and he was still quite a “chick magnet” too!

beasthydeStuseOne of my slides at the foot of the Hyde Street Pier in 1985: I don’t know whose waif that was, but I vaguely remember that I thought it was pretty cool the way she was sitting up on that post just like Huckleberry Finn or something, so I took the picture.

Muni Heritage Weekend Festival

MuniHeritageoneuseI got a chance to check out the second day of the Muni Heritage Weekend Festival today. Muni and the Market Street Railway brought out all of the old stuff to ride on, some of them for free. $2.75 was all it cost for unlimited riding on most of them with a transfer as they traveled from AT&T Park to Fisherman’s Wharf, to North Beach, and along Market Street.

MunipepsibloguseThis clunker (not me) was a 1956 job and they got a lot older.

#42useThe highlight for me was riding the #42 cable car from the Ferry Building to Van Ness Avenue and back. Built in 1906, it’s the oldest cable car in the world. It ran along the old O’Farrell-Jones Line that closed in 1954.

#42upnobuseWe headed up California Street past Chinatown and when we got to the top of Nob Hill there was police activity everywhere!

MunicopsuseWe rolled over Nob Hill to Van Ness and then headed back toward the dragnet. I didn’t like the way that guy on the left in the bottom picture was looking at me.

“Hey, I paid my fare!”

MunimovieuseTurned out, they were filming a scene for a new Ant-Man movie coming out in July, 2018. I always get him mixed up with Atom Ant!

MuniDinkybloguseBack to the Muni Festival: That thing on the right in the top picture is called a “Dinky”. They were combination cable car-streetcars that used to run along Market Street. The conductor in the bottom photo told me that this one built in 1896 is probably the oldest running streetcar in America. He wasn’t as grouchy as he looked, he was just doing that for my benefit.

MuniboatbususeNaturally, everyone wanted to ride the 1934 Boat Tram from Blackpool, England, but I was more impressed with the orange and black Motor Coach built in 1938.


The view from the street

ViewVanNessuseVan Ness Avenue between Broadway and Vallejo in the 1920’s: The house on the far right is still there. (Vintage Showcase)

viewtankouseIn November of 1926 a gun battle between police and Joe Tanko, a gangster and murderer, took place on McAllister near Alamo Square that rivaled and predated the gangster gun battles of John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde. Police stormed the house just behind where the girls are standing in my photo and shot Tanko, the most wanted man in San Francisco at the time, to death. The bullets fired into him were at such close range it was reported that his clothes caught fire from the shells. The vintage photo was taken just after the gun battle.

view11thandmissionuseA Shorpy Collection photo taken at 11th and Mission Street in the 1920’s: The building is still there and they’re still selling tires!

ViewBroadwayuse Joyriding where Broadway begins to climb Russian Hill in the 1920’s: You can just make out the Ferry Building in the background of the vintage picture. They’re near where the eastern entrance to the Broadway Tunnel is today.

Broadwayredo A Cushman Collection photo from the University of Indiana taken in the 1950’s is looking from the opposite view of Broadway than from the previous pictures. Many of the buildings are still there. The movie theater on the right was where the building with the white rooster is today.

ViewLarkinuseViewBullittuseAnother Shorpy photo taken at Larkin and Chestnut Streets during the 1920’s: That’s the clock tower of Ghirardelli Square built in 1911 in the background. This spot has a movie claim to fame as part of the famous chase scene from the 1968 film ‘Bullitt’. That’s Steve McQueen’s reflection in the rear view mirror of his Mustang as he chases the bad guys in the black Charger down Larkin Street.

Back to the 80’s

Now that the fog is back in San Francisco and the temperature in most of the Bay Area is back down to the 80’s, I thought I’d post some more of my slides from the 1980’s.

I know, “Always looking for some kind of lead in, aren’t you, Tim?”

80sSteuartuse1983: We’ll start at Steuart and Market Streets looking west before all the street vendors came. Behind and above me would have been the Embarcadero Freeway.

80sHillsBrouse1983: The Embarcadero near Harrison Street. That’s the old Hills Brothers Coffee Factory on the right. Pier 24 on the left has been demolished.

80'sPier24use Let’s take a closer look at where Pier 24 was. What a perfect location this would have been when the pier was still there for a San Francisco film noir scene; Classy Gene Tierney drives out of Pier 24 in a 1947 Buick. She’s being followed by Dana Andrews who doesn’t know that he’s being followed by John Garfield who himself is being closely watched by Peter Lorre. Meanwhile, Lana Turner has hired Robert Mitchum to follow all four of them! Ah, it would have been a great movie.

80sEmbarcaderouse1983: The Embarcadero south of the Ferry Building. The old YMCA Building with the pointed roof, the Embarcadero Freeway, and the Ferry Building are in the center. The YMCA Building and the Ferry Building can still be seen from here today. Look close at the billboard on the left in the older picture. Like Cola was as a caffeine free cola marketed by 7Up in 1982. The cola didn’t catch on and it eventually flopped. After that, the word Like hired itself out to Facebook and made a fortune.

80'sStocktonuse1983: Stockton Street from above the Stockton Tunnel looking north. On the opposite side, looking south from the roof of this tunnel, was where Sam Spade in the book The Maltese Falcon “looked down into Stockton Street. An automobile popped out of the tunnel beneath him with a roaring swish, as if it had been blown out, and ran away.” I wonder if Sam Spade ever looked down on Stockton Street from this side.

80'spowelluse1983: Powell Street just up from Sutter Street: In 1982 all cable cars in the entire system were shut down for repairs until 1984. It’s hard to imagine San Francisco without cable cars, and it seemed at the time to last almost as long as it took the San Francisco Giants to win a World Series!

‘My San Francisco’ (For Gertrude)

I never paid much attention to Gertrude Atherton. I know about her as a “strong-willed”, snobby San Francisco socialite and author that many consider the grande dame of San Francisco (I’d give the nod to the Ferry Building on that) who, probably, wouldn’t have liked me very much, anyway. I found a copy of a first edition of one of her last books in the San Francisco Library Bookstore called ‘My San Francisco’ published in 1946; Gertrude Atherton died in 1948 at age 90. It’s pretty slow going for the most part, but it does have some interesting moments and fine vintage pictures courtesy of Californians Incorporated, a historic picture collection that I couldn’t find any information about. I discovered a haunted house, a murder mystery that looks like it’s going to be good, and encountered the warmest weather ever recorded in San Francisco working on this project. Three of the location pictures in this post, the Opera House, the Atherton Mansion, and the Humphrey House location on Chestnut Street were taken yesterday when San Francisco hit the highest temperature in its recorded history of 106 degrees Fahrenheit!

GerthouseuseThe top picture is described as being of Gertrude Atherton in front of her San Francisco home. It probably isn’t the famous Atherton Mansion on California Street that she lived in until 1923 when it was then remodeled because the photo looks like it was taken close to the end of her run in 1948 long after she left there. The Atherton Mansion in the bottom picture is reputed to be haunted by a number of ghosts. Of course, there isn’t a house in San Francisco looking like this one that isn’t haunted. It simply isn’t allowed! Hmm, it didn’t look haunted to me!

GertpageuseThe book is autographed “To My San Franciscan” from who looks like someone named “Ann”. Don’t imagine I’ll ever know who they were.

GertCaliforniaStuseThe vintage pictures are fun to look at and one of them cost me money! This one is looking down California Street from near Stockton with the Trafalgar Building, seen in Bob Hope’s 1948 movie ‘My Favorite Brunette’ on the right. It must have been a hotel once.

GertSunuseSun Yat-sen sat on a hill. No, that’s not a proverb; Beniamino Bufano’s statue of Sun Yat-sen at St. Mary’s Square in Chinatown was once on a hill.

GertoperauseThe old Opera House on Van Ness in what looks like the mid 1930’s. “Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!” Who from my generation didn’t learn about the opera from Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in ‘What’s Opera, Doc?’

GertGHighwayuseOf course it has the obligatory view of the Great Highway from Sutro Heights, also from the 1930’s. I’ll bet I’ve been to Ocean Beach hundreds of times, but I’ve never seen it that crowded, although, it may have been yesterday! I didn’t make it out there.

gertTopMarkbest The book has a photo from the Top of the Mark when dinner jackets were required and you didn’t go there unless you were dressed up. There was always an air of sophistication by most of the visitors. Obviously, the rules have relaxed a little up there today.

Gerthumphreyuse 976 Chestnut by Evelyn Curro, c. 1940s, SF Chronicle, 8 Aug 1948, p. 1L (2)On page 128 of the book was a picture of something called the Giffen-Humphrey House of which I had never heard of. The picture is courtesy of Frank Giffen. While reading into the book I learned from Gertrude Atherton about an authoress named Mary Collins who wrote a murder mystery called ‘Sister of Cain’. Mrs. Atherton writes of the house and Mary Collins, “The scene of action of Sister of Cain is that weird old Humphrey-Giffen house on Chestnut Street and the sinister atmosphere she caught in such perfection that the book drove many readers to loiter past it and enjoy a renewal of those shudders beloved by the mystery fans.” That hooked me, and I knew I was going to be loitering past it soon myself once I found out where on Chestnut Street it was located at. A Kirkus Review of the book on the internet reads, “One of the best mysteries I have read in many a moon.” The key figure of the book is Hilda Moreau who “has gone to be near her Navy husband’s sisters and bear his child. Almost at once she is drawn into the vortex of a morbid situation, as the eldest sister attempts to block the carrying out of a strange will by violent and cruel means. She is killed and her secret life comes to light. Sex crazed Sophie, alcoholic Elise, terrified Rose, all are in thrall; only Ann, a doctor, has in part escaped her sister. There’s another death, and another– and an attempt on Hilda’s life before the killer is found.” That was all I needed to plunk down $16.69 on the internet for a copy of the book that I’m waiting for to arrive. I’ll let you know how it is. However, I had a hard time finding where the Giffen-Humphrey House was located at on the internet until I found a story about it from a October, 2011  blog called Alizee by a gentleman named James Williams who writes that he lived in the house around the time that Gertrude Atherton’s book was written, and who may have even been the boy on the porch in the photo from her book. He writes that it was built in 1852, and was the oldest house in San Francisco at the time. The house sat on the northeast corner of Hyde and Chestnut Streets and, unfortunately, was demolished in spite of efforts to save it. Included above are my picture yesterday of where the house once stood and a drawing of the house from the 1940’s by Evelyn Curro. So, there’s my Giffen-Humphrey House story; I don’t usually write passages this long on my blog. I guess a prolific writer like Gertrude Atherton brought that out in me, but she would have written it much better.