2019; 1939 plus 80

1939 was a milestone year for San Francisco and the world; San Francisco staged the last World’s Fair it probably will ever have, World War Two broke out, and also 1939 saw the first member of my family ever to visit San Francisco. I haven’t counted, but I’ll bet the year of 1939 has the most vintage pictures I’ve posted on my blog. These are a collection of some of the pictures from 1939 that I’ve done comparisons on.

39plusmapuse49milemaptodayWe’ll open up with a 1939 map of the 49 Mile Scenic Drive from the San Francisco Downtown Association, and a current map of the Scenic Drive that shows where the route varies from the original drive today. It also shows that map drawers today show less creativity.

DandTFirstexituseDorthea Lange was a photographer famous for her pictures taken during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. In 1939 she took a number of pictures in San Francisco, including this one from the ramp of the First Street exit off of the Bay Bridge, now called the Fremont Street exit. You can see Coit Tower, the Shell Building, the Standard Building, and the Russ Building among other landmarks in her picture, none of which are visible from here today.

39plusLange1useIn another Dorthea Lange photo taken on the same day in 1939 as the previous picture, you can see the Key System train tracks along with a train that ran from the East Bay across the Bay Bridge and into the Transbay Terminal. The Fremont off ramp, seen in my picture, follows the same path as it did in 1939. Dorthea would have taken her picture near where the Fremont and Folsom street signs are in my picture.

39plusTBTerminaluseAn artist’s rendition of what the Transbay Terminal that opened in 1939 would look like, and the Transbay Terminal on the last day before it closed forever in August of 2010. The Transbay Terminal lasted for over 70 years. The Transit Terminal, that replaced it and opened in 2018, lasted a little over 7 weeks before it closed indefinitely.

39plusLombarduseAn auto navigates the portion of Lombard Street know as the “Crookedest Street in the World” in 1939.

39plusAquaticTwo 1939 cuties swimming at the Maritime Museum in Aquatic Park: The Maritime Museum opened in 1939. (Edwin Rosskam)

39plusOBeachuse A family enjoying a day at Ocean Beach near Seal Rocks and the Cliff House in 1939: Boy does that vintage picture look posed! (Moulin Studios)

39plusSutrosuseA couple more 1939 free-spirits riding their bicycles up to Sutro Heights above Playland-at-the-Beach:

39plusStoogesuseThe Three Stooges were at their peak in 1939 in their short film here, ‘Calling all Curs’. This scene was filmed at Fernwood Street and North St. Andrew’s Place in Los Angeles. (Columbia Pictures)

39plusTenderloinuseThe Tenderloin, seen here at Larkin and O’Farrell Streets in 1939, may have been a little more “tender” back then than it is today. (HuffingtonPost.com)

39plusJonesuseA lady waiting for an auto, bus, streetcar or cab at on Market Street at Jones in 1939. I don’t know if that coat, whatever it was made from, would go over too well nowadays.

39plusGBreakuseGroundbreaking for the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure that opened in 1939: Notice the flags of Japan and Germany; fifteen months after the Fair closed in September of 1940, America would enter World War Two to fight these two countries.

39plusTIFairuseThe road that leads from Yerba Buena Island to Treasure Island showing the Treasure Island Fair that ran from February of 1939 through September of 1940: (FitzPatrick Traveltalks)

39plusCChanuseHollywood visited the Treasure Island Fair in the 1939 film ‘Charlie Chan at Treasure Island’ with Sidney Toler playing Charlie Chan. The Cantilever Bridge that ran from Yerba Buena Island to Oakland is in the background across “Clipper cove’ in both pictures. Clipper Cove got its name from the Pan Am Clipper Seaplanes that took off and landed here during the Fair. The new Eastern Span, still being constructed in my picture, opened during the summer of 2013.

39plusoverTIise‘Charlie Chan at Treasure Island’ has a scene that features a fly over of Treasure Island showing the Fair from a Clipper plane and some landmarks like the Sun Tower and the Administration Building.

39plusDecorativeuseThe Administration Building, an airplane hanger, and the Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts Building, seen here, are the only three surviving structures from the Fair.

39plusmomentosuseI have a few mementos from the Treasure Island Fair that I picked up at a museum sale over 50 years after the Fair closed; a coaster and an official tour book.

24thuseHowever, most dear to me was that my mother, as a teenager, took a train from Grand Forks, North Dakota to spend the summer of 1939 in San Francisco. She stayed with her aunt at this house on the corner of Anza Street and 24th Avenue in the Richmond District. My mom, on the left, is sitting with her cousin Frances. I remember my mom telling me how close she and Frances were, but by the 1990’s they had lost touch with each other forever.







Another look back to the 1970’s (For Jessica, with that urban tough look, but also pretty)

Some of the fine Dave Glass pictures from the 1970’s in this set give these San Francisco locations a hard-edge or seedy look, but also something of a quaint charm in a few of them that’s still there 40 to 45 years later.

Glass18thMissionuse18th and Mission Streets in 1979: E NIE RAABE FOR SHE IFF HE CARES HE KNO S. Well, if he was elected, I hope the first thing he straightened out was that sign.

GlassLibertyuseThe J Line drop from Liberty Street to Delores Park in 1974: Some of those old streetcars are the type they run along the vintage F Car Line along Market Street and the Embarcadero today. This area has the feel of old Brooklyn from movies like ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ when the streetcars rattle past.

GlassLakesideuseMission Street north of 18th Street in 1974: Lakeside Liquors is gone now. It may not have belonged here anyway; this is in the heart of the Mission District, and the nearest lake from here is probably across town in Golden Gate Park.

GlassEllisuseEllis Street at Divisadero looking west in 1977: Road hog! Actually, this was a good thing. In the 1970’s when they were demolishing many old Victorians in the Western Addition, some enterprising people bought a few of these old houses for “pennies on the dollar” and moved them to different locations. They are worth a LOT more today!

Glass21stuseThe J Line at 21st and Chattanooga Streets, heading south toward Noe Valley in 1974:

GlassOctaviauseThe northwest corner of Page and Octavia Streets in 1979: Wow, they had everything you need there; beer, liquor, cigarettes, Pepsi, 7up, sandwiches. How did fruit get in there?






More Wharf wandering

I read somewhere that Fisherman’s Wharf is the second largest tourist attraction in California after Disneyland, and I believe it. During the summer, you often can’t tell the difference by crowd size of either. But winter is closing in and Fisherman’s Wharf has quieted down a little. ‘I Wonder as I Wander’; that’s an old Christian folk song from the 1930’s, popular around Christmastime. I had the song stuck in my head as I was taking these pictures. I sometimes wonder as I wander around San Francisco too, although not always with religious bewilderment, like the person in the song. Today, I was wondering what makes Fisherman’s Wharf so special, and it is special. True, the views of the Bay from certain spots here are stunning, but I doubt if most of the tourists ever see them. Sometimes it seems that the majority of the crowd accepts an hour or two of overpriced parking just to linger around the north end of Taylor Street past Jefferson. That’s okay too, it’s good for business. Me, I usually like to wander around where the bilge rats (the real ones) take their shore leave. Sometimes, it’s kind of  fun to explore the back areas of Fisherman’s Wharf and pretend that you’re a scalawag just off of a ship looking for an opium den, or something like that. However, most vintage pictures were taken at the tourist spots, like the pictures in this set, and they’re fun to visit too.

WharfTayloruseTaylor Street, looking south toward Russian Hill from Jefferson Street: I couldn’t get a date of this picture from skyscrapercity.com, but it looks like the mid to late 1950’s: Notice the Standard Station on the left in the vintage picture. There was a gasoline station on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Taylor Streets from the 1930’s until the mid 1970’s. Originally it was designed to look like a ship, as you’ll see in the next picture.

WharfstationuseThis was a photo I took a few years ago looking northeast across Taylor Street toward where the SS Fill ‘Er Up, or whatever it was called in the 1930’s, once was. By the mid 1960’s the station was remodeled into a more  conventional and less interesting look.

WharfredandwhiteuseDon’t let the locals fool you; the Red and White Tour Boats are not just for tourists.  Like the Blue and Gold fleet, they are a relaxing boat ride with beautiful views of San Francisco that anybody can enjoy. Here’s a boatload of people getting ready to sail in 1950. (redandwhite.com)

WharfRWticketuseThe old ticket office for the Red and White tours in 1940:  (redandwhite.com)

WharflagoonuseFisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon in 1940: This is not only my favorite from the Charles Cushman Collection, but it’s also one of my favorite San Francisco pictures.

WharfGrottouse In 1935, Fishermen’s Grotto Restaurant at Stall Number 9 opened up on Jefferson Street. This view is at the front of the old restaurant looking toward Pier 45 in the 1930’s. (Gene Gallagher Photos)

WharfKinkadeuseJefferson Street looking west from Taylor Street: Life is not a Thomas Kinkade painting, unfortunately.

WharfeatsuseThis view has changed little since 1958 in this picture from opensfhistory.org, and I think it’s a fitting photo. Possibly, most people do come to Fisherman’s Wharf for the food.


Back to the real world

Every once in a while I have to go down to Disneyland and pretend that this is what life is all about. Oh, well, for a couple of days this IS what life is all about! These are some Disneyland attractions from the opening day of July 17th 1955 that are still around:

DisnSWhiteuseSnow White and Her Adventures in Fantasyland, only now it’s Snow White’s Scary Adventures: (Pinterest)

DisnMTwainuse The Mark Twain Steamboat in Frontierland: (Flickr)

DisnSbookuseThe Storybook Land Canal Boats in Fantasyland: (Pinterest)

Autopiaredo Danny Kaye clowning around on the Autopia in Tomorrowland: The Autopia looks more like the Los Angeles Freeway now! (Disney Parks Blog)

DisnMToaduseTwo original survivors in Fantasyland; The King Arthur Carrousel on the right, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride on the left: (Disney Parks Blog)

DisnTrainuseThe Disneyland Railroad, here at the Main Street Station: (Timeout)

Disn2018useThe Main Street Cinema: (Cinematreasures.org)

DisnTCupsuseThe Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland: That’s Vice President Richard Nixon in the center of the vintage picture. The Chicken-of-the-Sea Pirate Ship in the background is gone now.

DisnCastleuseSleeping Beauty Castle: They decorated it really cool for the Christmas Season. That’s the Matterhorn in the background. (Laughing Place)




A few more vintage memories from the Chronicle

I’ve subscribed to the San Francisco on and off since college. Now I’m down to only the Sunday edition from the supermarket I stop at, but occasionally I still subscribe to it on a daily basis. It never was the same after Herb Caen died, but what really bothered me was when the replaced ‘Blondie’ from the top spot in the Sunday comics with ‘Doonesbury’! Still, it’s the best newspaper available for articles on San Francisco history, and their vintage pictures of San Francisco are among the finest. Many of them can be seen at the website SFChronicle.com/vault, where these vintage photos are posted.

CronUSquareuseMime artists Lorene Yarnell and Robert Shields getting married at the southwest corner of Union Square in October of 1972: Robert Shields did a cameo at Union Square in the opening scenes of the 1974 film ‘The Conversation’ starring Gene Hackman.

CronGroucho1useGroucho Marx clowns around with twin students from Washington High School on Powell Street in front of the St. Francis Hotel in July of 1940. My picture would be about where they were walking; the front façade of the hotel has been remodeled since the 1940 picture. On the right in my photo are hotel workers who have been striking against the St Francis and other hotels in San Francisco for employment benefit upgrades.

CronGroucho3use Groucho Marx, sans mustache and glasses, is obviously enjoying his July of 1940 visit to San Francisco as he climbs a light pole south of the entrance to the St. Francis Hotel.

CronPowelluseThe SANTA CLAUS EXPRESS, pictured in my previous post, arrives at the Powell and Market Street cable car turnaround in late November of 1949.

CronBeatlesuseIn August of 1964 the Beatles stayed on the 15th floor of the newly opened Hilton Hotel on O’Farrell Street, technically in the Tenderloin District. Remodeled since 1964, it’s the largest hotel on the West Coast, according to Wikipedia. In the vintage picture, Beatles fans are waiting across the street from the hotel on the Ellis Street side of the Hilton for the Beatles to arrive from the airport.

SealRocks1943Seal Rocks at Ocean Beach in 1943: I’m sure that Seal Rocks are somewhere in that old picture, but I can’t quite focus in on them!

“It’s Christmastime in the City”

These are some vintage Christmas pictures from the San Francisco Chronicle, and also one of my favorite Christmas scenes from an old Bob Hope movie.

CMas2018MarketSanta Claus and his pretty assistant, (Remember, Santa, “naughty or nice”) cross over Market Street from Powell toward the old Emporium Department Store in 1962: The building with DOBBS FOR MAYOR has been demolished and Hallidie Plaza at the BART Station is there now.

CMas20181949UnionSquareuseCMas2018PowelluseUnion Square is the center of Christmas activity, just as it was in 1949. Here, the “SANTA CLAUS EXPRESS” crosses Geary Blvd., past the St. Francis Hotel and Union Square, heading down Powell toward Market Street.

CMas2018OFarrelluseAnother “SANTACADE” cable car, sponsored by the Emporium, crosses O’Farrell Street at Powell in 1962:

CMasTarounduse A motorized Christmas cable car crosses over Market Street at Powell Street toward the old Emporium Store in 1962: The real cable car turnaround at this spot is on the far left in my picture.

SPlumFariesfacebookSugar Plum Fairies at the Christmas tree in Union Square in 1956: They have a bigger tree there nowadays. That’s the Sir Francis Drake Hotel behind the tree in both pictures.

LDKiduse I know, it was made in Hollywood and set in New York City, but whenever I walk around Downtown San Francisco at night during Christmastime I’m reminded of the scene that introduced the song ‘Silver Bells’ in the 1951 movie ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’. Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell sing the song as they walk around New York on a snowy day near Christmas, and the atmosphere of the shopping district of San Francisco during the Holidays always comes close to capturing this movie moment, minus the snow. I don’t know what that headgear Bob Hope was wearing is, but only he would try to pass that off as Santa Claus equipment!

CMasFrawleyuseBob Hope has thugs, like William Frawley here, collecting charity money around town, supposedly for a rest home for elderly ladies, but in reality Hope is collecting the money to keep him from being rubbed out by the mob. However, the young lady in my picture is on the legit, and fortunately doesn’t look like William Frawley!

CMasBouquetuse“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”

CMasredgreenuse“Strings of streetlights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.”

CMassleighuseThey had traffic jams during the holidays back then too. “I wish this was a sleigh!’ a frustrated driver stuck in traffic sings. CMasUSGarageuse“And above all this bustle, you’ll hear, Silver bells. Silver bells”

You can hear the Salvation Army bells from this spot above the Union Square Garage just fine.

CMasUSquareuseI’ll close with a view of Union Square from atop Macy’s Department Store, and the You Tube link to the “Silver Bells” scene from ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’.











Thanksgiving Eve (For Declan)

The rains blew into San Francisco yesterday sweeping away the smoke and bringing a small comfort to the victims and firefighters of the Butte County Camp Fire. I took a walk in the rain around the city yesterday enjoying some of the fresh vistas.

RainMarketStuseMarket Street in 1972, across from the old Emporium Department Store, looking east toward the Call and Humboldt Buildings: (amazingurban.com)

RainSacramentousePowell Street looking down Sacramento Street in 1952: (Skyscrapercity.com)

RainGearyuseLooking west along Geary Blvd. from Kearny St. in the early 1950’s: (opensfhistory.org)

RainOFarrelluseO’Farrell Street looking east from Mason toward Macy’s and the Call Building in 1971: (amazingurban.com)

RainKinkadeuseThomas Kinkade has sometimes been accused of being just a crowd pleasing painter with no artistic ingenuity. I don’t know about that, but I like his San Francisco paintings. He painted San Francisco in a way that the city would be nice if it looked like that, but doesn’t. Many of his San Francisco works are set in the rain. His painting looking down Nob Hill along Powell toward Market Street has almost everything wrong, but it’s still fun to look at. For instance, The Manx Hotel is on the wrong side of Powell Street and the Bay Bridge isn’t south of Market Street. He did get something right, though; the tall building on the left is the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, and would have looked like this from here once. It’s now blocked out forever by the Union Square Marriott Hotel there now.