“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“No, your past.”
Well, my past anyway. For quite a number of years now, I’ve gone over to Downtown San Francisco on “Black Friday’, the day after Thanksgiving that officially opens up the Christmas Season. The crowds are not a problem if you go over there to take pictures, as I do, rather than to go shopping. (You’re supposed to shop on Black Friday?) I knew that this Black Friday was going to be different from any of the past because of COVID-19, and I wanted to experience it. These are a collection of Black Friday pictures that I’ve posted on my website in the past along with updates from this year’s Black Friday. Some of the pictures may be mildly depressing because of the lack of bustle and obvious happiness apparent in the older photos. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea to visit Downtown San Francisco during the Holidays, and the crowds will be showing up this year, as well. For being, possibly, the densest city in the United States per square mile after Manhattan, San Francisco has a remarkably low death rate from COVID-19. People in San Francisco are doing what they have to do to get over this and it’s safe to go there if you’re cautious, wear a mask, and keep in small groups. If for any reason, go to Union Square. They have a light projection of moving snowflakes on the buildings along all four sides of the square that’s great to see. (Thumbnail images)
2016: Two very poor quality pictures of mine, if I do say so myself, on Stockton Street between Geary Blvd. and Ellis. Traffic was closed along here back then due to construction of the Muni extension along Stockton Street to Chinatown. I believe that this was the first year that they carpeted the two blocks for pedestrians, and it was a great success.
2019: Stockton Street had reopened to traffic by then, so Grant Avenue between Post Street and Geary Blvd., along with Maiden Lane, was closed off and carpeted for the season.
2016: Powell Street, looking north from Ellis Street, on a rainy Black Friday in 2016. Look at that crowd heading toward Union Square that day!
2012: Union Square at Geary Blvd. in 2012: Except for a lack of people in my current picture, and make no mistake, there is, this view hasn’t changed at all.
2016: Geary Blvd. and Stockton Street, looking toward the Neiman Marcus Department Store: We’re going to look inside Neiman Marcus next.
2012: The Neiman Marcus Christmas tree looking up toward the old stained glass rotunda from the City of Paris Department Store. This year’s tree looks nice, but it ain’t a Christmas tree.
2017: The southwest corner of Union Square: There was something noticeably happy and easy going in the older picture that’s missing right now.
2017: The Macy’s display window on the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell Streets: No little puppies of kittens to adopt this year.
2017: O’Farrell and Stockton Streets, same corner as the previous picture: No crowd control necessary this year.
2018: The cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets: Well, at least they have a decorated cable car this year, but it won’t be running.
2012: Probably my favorite SF Christmastime picture, taken at Maiden Lane. I miss the arch wreaths and the opera singer.
2018: On Black Friday Eve of 2018 I took some pictures around Union Square comparing images from the 1951 film ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ from a scene that was supposed to be set in New York City on a Christmastime evening, to a San Francisco evening during Christmastime. The movie scene was where Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell introduced the song ‘Silver Bells’ as they walk around Downtown New York, although the scene was probably filmed at the Paramount Studios in Hollywood. These last five images are from the movie images in the top photos, Black Friday, 2018 in the center, and Black Friday, 2020 in the bottom pictures.
William Frawley, dressed as Santa Claus, helps to collect donations to charity for Bob Hope’s character, the Lemon Drop Kid, although Hope is actually planning to use the money to pay off the mob. The 2018 comparison is in front of the Geary Blvd. entrance to Macy’s. No Salvation Army collectors in front of Macy’s this year, only protestors on strike against the department store.
“Strings of streetlights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.”
Powell Street, looking north from Geary Blvd:
“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile”
Looking east along Geary Blvd. from Stockton Street:
“I wish this was a sleigh!’
A frustrated driver stuck in traffic sings in the film and a traffic jam along O’Farrell Street in 2018. This isn’t “Christmas Past” this year, even the Macy’s sign is partly out of order.
“And above all this bustle, you’ll hear, Silver bells, silver bells”
What you’ll hear this year from Union Square above the parking garage are horn blasts and loud drum pounding from the Macy’s demonstrators.