Gone for good (For Elainna)

These are images of places and things from a past era in San Francisco, gone forever. Unlike ghosts, they’re not coming back. GoneStocktonuseThe old and beautiful streetcars that rumbled their way through town like this one at Stockton and Vallejo Streets in 1916. All four buildings on each corner of this intersection in 1916 are still there. (Vintage picture, Charles Smallwood)

GoneGGBuseThe little Alpine houses for privileged army families under the Golden Gate Bridge: (James Fitzpatrick’s ‘Cavalcade of San Francisco’)

GoneTerminaluseThe old 1939 Transbay Terminal on Mission Street: And what did San Francisco get to replace it, a beautiful new Transbay Terminal that’s been closed for almost eight months as of this writing because of engineering blunders. There are a lot of theories about why that happened, but none them make any sense to me. (SFMTA)

GoneCablecaruse15 cents cable car rides: Powell Street at California in the 1960’s: I hope she got everything she has on there! They don’t let passengers climb on the back of the car here anymore. (Fred Lyon)

GonePier7usePier 7 at the foot of Broadway: Demolished by the 1980’s, it’s now a walking pier. (Opensfhistorywnp5.50049.jpg)

GonePier7twouseIn the 2014 version of the movie ‘Godzilla’, the monster leaves San Francisco past Pier 7 after destroying most of the city.

GonefoguseThat combination of fog, cars, and the Embarcadero that made San Francisco a perfect setting for a film noir movie: (Fred Lyon)

GoneDolores1useThe small snack bar in Dolores Park where Roman Rodriguez strangled Hilda Pagan in 1952: In the vintage photo from Hannah Clayborn’s ‘Historic Photos of San Francisco Crime’ police question Rodriguez at the spot of the murder. When I took my picture several years ago the building where Rodriguez and Pagan met was still there, although a top portion had been added.

GoneDolores2useIn 2015, the building where Hilde Pagan was murdered was demolished during the Dolores Park renovations.

GoneMatador1useBarnaby Conrad on the left and Herb Caen bowling with booze bottles on the sidewalk in front of El Matador in the late 1950’s: The building where El Matador was located in is being remodeled and sits empty today.  (Maxminimus.blogspot.com)

Some say that the magic of San Francisco is gone. I suppose there may be some truth in this. Maybe it left with Herb Caen; or possibly Barnaby Conrad, who died in 2013. Conrad’s El Matador Nightclub on the southeast corner of Broadway and Kearney Street has to rank right up alongside places like the Trocadero or Ciro’s in Hollywood for the number of celebrities who visited there. The years from when he opened his club in 1952 until it closed in the middle of the 1960’s has to be the most glamorous period in San Francisco history. The array of the famous who visited his nightclub is almost unbelievable!  Here’s some of the people who came to El Matador: John Steinbeck, Ava Gardner, David Niven, Danny Kaye, Alex Haley, Orson Welles, Maurice Chevalier, Truman Capote, Duke Ellington, Ricardo Montalban, Sterling Hayden, Erskine Caldwell, Lenny Bruce, Richard Burton, Lena Horne, Jack Kerouac, Jonathan Winters, Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, Mary, Pickford, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Stewart, Hedy, Lamarr, Robert Mitchum, Vivien Leigh, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Marilyn, Monroe. Can you imagine that? (Source: Barnaby Conrad’s ‘Name Dropping’)








A Nob Hill Mystery

Business was slow, and I wasn’t too particularly overworked. I was rubbing two nickels in my pocket together to try and make a dime, (What movie did I get that from?) when a man came into my office. He wanted to hire me to find his missing daughter in her twenties, who hadn’t been heard from in over a month. He showed me a picture of her.

“Nice looking dish! I remarked.

He quickly pulled the picture back. It was the wrong one. That was a picture of his side-dish. He handed me the correct photo. She was cute too, but I’d rather have been searching for his side-dish. I told him that I’d take his case.

“Do you need a retainer?” he asked me.

“Probably, but dental work is so expensive!” I answered.

He looked at me funny and set two C notes on my desk. He left my office.

NMysteryCalifuseI made some telephone calls and learned from one of my “ears” around the City that the girl had been seen recently up on Nob Hill. I took a few slugs of rye from the office bottle, put my hat somewhere on my head, (I got that line from Raymond Chandler) and headed up California Street. (Vintage photo, Fred M. Springer Collection, 1959)

NMysteryfataleuseAh, mysterious Nob Hill. There’s a femme fatale for sure in front of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. I wondered if she knew anything about the girl. I showed her the picture, but all she kept saying was, “Buy me a drink, handsome?”

NMysteryMasonuseI realized I was being followed and ducked behind a car on Mason Street. (John Gutmann, kadist.org)

NMysterymaybysoneuseNMysterymaybys2useI spent the afternoon searching for her. There are a lot of girls on Nob Hill and I followed up on many possibilities, but all I got were a lot of nasty stares. (Fred Lyon and the Shorpy Archives)

NMysterynightoneuse I knew I was still being followed; you can’t fool an old trooper like me who has had bill collectors following me around most of my life. I decided to resume my search after dark. (Fred Lyon)

NMysterynight2useThe problem with searching for the girl at night was that I’m nearsighted, so even if I would have bumped into her accidentally, I probably wouldn’t have recognized her. (Fred Lyon)

NMysteryPUnionuseI started out the next day. I felt that I was being followed again, and looked over toward the Pacific Union Club. Some old detective was shadowing me; his polite smile didn’t fool me. He looked too old for this racket! (Shorpy Archives)

NMysteryHuntington1useI had learned that morning from another one of my tipsters that the daughter may have been seen going into Huntington Hotel. When I got there Harbor Command had arrived before me. They must have been searching for the girl too.

NMysteryHuntington2useRalph Baxter set up a stake-out in front of the hotel.

NMysteryHuntington3useMy old snooper was still following me. He’s so indiscreet!

NMysteryHuntington4useBut Harbor Command wasn’t interested in the girl. They were tailing two thugs who left the hotel and climbed aboard a California Street cable car. When the cable car left, Harbor Command followed it.

NMysteryChalmbersuseI headed over to Grace Cathedral, one place I hadn’t checked yet. When I got there Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) was waiting for me.

“Where’s my witness?” he demanded.


“To use your own parlance, you blew it!” he added.

“Look, Chalmers, I don’t like your questions or remarks any more than Frank Bullitt did when you said the exact same lines to him in ‘Bullitt’. We’re not looking for the same person!”

GE DIGITAL CAMERABut Chalmers was right, I “blew it”. It turned out that my tipster was wrong. It wasn’t Nob Hill she was seen at but Telegraph Hill. It was an easy mistake to make; they both end with ‘Hill’. I never did find her. I gave ten dollars of the two C’s back to my client and spent the rest of it up at the “Weeper’s Corner” at the Top of the Mark, looking down at the Huntington Hotel and wondering who the girl was.














Along the Embarcadero

I often used to put my trusty old bicycle into the back of my trusty old truck, and head to San Francisco for a bike ride. However, like trusty old me, my trusty old truck isn’t what it used to be, so I don’t drive it over to San Francisco too much anymore. However, last Saturday, the last weekend of April, I did bring my old bike back to San Francisco again for a ride along the Embarcadero. As often, I relied on my “go to guys”, opensfhistory.org, for vintage pictures of the San Francisco waterfront to go along with my nostalgic mood. I rode from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building and back on a beautiful and sunny, (too sunny) Saturday morning.

bikeFranciscanuseI started at the Franciscan Restaurant at the Wharf and headed south by southeast. No, not ‘North by Northwest’. The Franciscan has been remodeled since the 1960 picture, but it still has that odd shape.

BikePier43usePier 43 in 1960: Pier 43 has been removed now, but the frame entrance is still there. The old Balclutha sailing ship, seen in the vintage photo, used to be docked there before moving over to the Hyde Street Pier. He’s thinking, “Hey, don’t look at me! I didn’t poop all over this fence!”

BikeMasonuseWhoa! Opensfhistory says that these cars were hit by a Belt Line train near Mason and Jefferson Streets during the 1960’s. Let’s hope they were parked and empty at the time. That’s the old Fisherman’s Wharf Travel Lodge in the background of both pictures. The Boudin Bakery and Restaurant is here today where the crash was.

BikeBeltlineuseHere’s a Belt Line Engine running along the Embarcadero past Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower across from Pier 29 in 1957.

BikeFilbertuseFilbert Street heading toward Telegraph Hill circa 1950: The portion of the hill past the boxcar in the old picture is where the wooden Filbert Steps of Telegraph Hill are. A bandaged Humphrey Bogart climbed the Filbert Steps three years earlier in the film ‘Dark Passage’. Levi Plaza is on the waterfront side of Filbert Street today.

BikePier15useAn organized labor demonstration by dock workers at Pier 15 in 1937: This was organized three years after the 1934 waterfront strike where police fired on Longshoremen.

BikePier9useA fuzzy but likable picture of Pier 9 taken in 1966:

BikeBroadwayuseBroadway at the Embarcadero in 1965: This was a far north as the Embarcadero Freeway, built in 1957, reached. I had picture taking problems with the sun all day Saturday.

BikePier1useAlmost underneath the Embarcadero Freeway way at Pier 1 in 1960: Did I tell you that I was one of the last people to drive on the Embarcadero Freeway on the day of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, October 17th, 1989, before it closed forever?    “Yes, Tim, many times.” We’re getting close to the Ferry Building.

bikeFBuildinguseI arrived at the Ferry Building where this terrific picture was taken. (Not mine, I was shooting directly into the sun.) The vintage photo was taken on February 18th 1939, the day the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island opened.

BikeFerryboatuseA ferryboat chugs over to the Bay Bridge and the Oakland Mole in 1952: By that time the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were making ferryboat travel across the Bay obsolete. By the 1960’s the ferryboats were gone. The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake that shut down the Bay Bridge for one month jumpstarted new ferry boat Service across the Bay to the Ferry Building. One of the new ferryboats, sleeker and more environmental friendly, is heading toward today’s Ferry Building boat dock in my picture.











‘Harbor Command’ visits the Richmond District

HCOpenuseThe television show ‘Harbor Command’, starring Wendell Cory as Captain Ralph Baxter, ran from the fall of 1957 until the summer of 1958. Most of the episodes were filmed around the Embarcadero, but in the episode ‘Lovers’ Lane Bandits’ the Harbor Command takes a trip to the Richmond District. A teenage girl, who attends George Washington High School in the Richmond District, sneaks out of the house after she’s been grounded to meet her boyfriend at a “lovers’ lane’ near the Pesidio. She witnesses a murder there, and, unfortunately for her, one of the killers has seen her, although she doesn’t know that. Captain Baxter learns about the girl through detective work and is desperately trying to find her before the killers do.

HCCabrillouseHCCabrillo2useBaxter goes to the old Playland-at-the-Beach amusement park to talk to her father who works there. Baxter and his partner park at the Cabrillo streetcar turnaround near the Funhouse. The bottom picture is where they entered Playland from the Great Highway today.

HCFunhouse1useBaxter questions a fellow who works at the Funhouse to find out where the girl’s father is. This scene has an extremely rare shot of Laffing Sal in action at the Playland Funhouse. Behind them is the Playland Merry-go-round. The merry-go-round is still in operation today at the Yerba Buena Center.

HCFunhouse2useThis is about the spot where the Funhouse once was.

HC42Balboause Baxter learns from her father that she’s meeting a friend at a drug store at Balboa Street and 42nd Avenue. Here, the two girls leave the drugstore heading west toward the beach. This is the northeast corner where the girls were walking today. I couldn’t get the same line up on the corner because of parked cars.

HC42Balboa2useThe killers stalk behind them in a truck.

HC37Balboa1useWhen we next see the two girls they’re at the corner of Balboa and 37th, five blocks east in the opposite direction from where they were heading the last time we saw them. The girl with the light hair has a real problem; she’s witnessed a murder and she knows she should tell someone, but her dad had grounded her and when he finds out she sneaked out she’s sure he’ll just kill her! Hey, honey, turn around! Your dad probably won’t kill you, but the two guys in the truck behind you will!

HC37Balboa2useWhen her friend goes into the market on the corner one of the killers grabs her. Oh, oh, this doesn’t look good! Somebody had better learn to obey her dad in the future.

HC37Balboa3useHer friend comes out of the store to find that she’s disappeared. This was at the northwest corner of Balboa Street and 37th Avenue.

HC37BalboauseBut this teenager has a guardian angel, Ralph Baxter, approaching the corner where she was taken north from 37th Avenue.

HP37BalboaHer worried friend tells Baxter the direction they went.

HP40Balboa1useThe bad guys turn north off Balboa onto 40th Avenue.

HC40BalboauseHarbor Command misses the turn at 40th and in a action reminiscent to the chase scene in ‘Bullitt’ burn up rubber backing up to 40th Avenue.

HC40Balboa3useThey head up 40th to Geary Blvd.

HPCHouseuseOn Point Lobos Road the Harbor Command police cut the truck off right about here, just down from the Cliff House.

HCFinale1useAs Baxter and his partner approach the truck, they threaten to shoot the girl if the officers don’t back away.

HCfinale2useWhen the teenager faints, (well, I probably would have too) Baxter gets a clear line of fire and shoots the man with the gun. That’s Sutro Heights behind him. He pulls the driver out of the truck, and case closed. The two videos below are the Funhouse scene from the show, and Laffing Sal today in Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf. They say it’s the same one; judge for yourself.






















1906 + 113

Today is the one hundred and thirteenth anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire in San Francisco. For the first time in awhile they didn’t extend the April 15th tax filing deadline so I was able to go over to San Francisco on the day before the anniversary to take some pictures. These are location shots of high density photographs of the disaster, many of them from the Shorpy Archives vintage picture collection.

113HyattuseWe’ll start at the foot of Market Street looking west. The crowned Call Bulletin Newspaper Building, the tallest building in San Francisco at the time, can be seen in the far background on the left in the vintage picture. That was the ruins of an interesting looking building where the Hyatt Regency is today on the right.

113MontgomeryuseWe’re further up Market Street now at Montgomery Street. There are three survivors today from the vintage picture; the Call Building on the left, remodeled now and called the Central Tower, the gothic looking Mutual Savings Bank Building directly across from the Call Building, and the reddish-brown  Chronicle Building, taller now that it was back then. (blogspot.com)

113NewMontgomeryuseNew Montgomery and Mission Streets, looking north toward Market Street showing the ruins of the Palace Hotel and the rebuilt Palace Hotel there today. The building in the background is the one on the right in the previous vintage picture taken at Market and Montgomery Streets.

113CalluseArmy soldiers brought down from the Presidio marching past the Call Building on fire: Woe betides to any looters they may have come across; they shot them on the spot back then! (blogspot.com)

113PineuseWe’ve moved north to Pine Street looking east past Kearny Street. That’s the Bank of America Building on the left center in the current picture.

113FlooduseWe’re up on the top of Nob Hill now. That’s the gutted James Flood mansion, the only mansion on Nob Hill to survive the earthquake and fire. I don’t mind a cable car photo bombing one of my pictures any time. The Flood mansion is now the exclusive Pacific Union Club.

113Stanforduse Looking toward the south western corner of California and Powell Streets where Leland Stanford’s mansion stood. Farther up California Street are the ruins of Mark Hopkins home, now the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

113MarketuseRefugees heading east and west along Market Street near 3rd: The Ferry Building is in the background. It’s interesting how most of them are following traffic rules and staying on the right in both directions.

113FerryuseAnd, of course, most San Franciscans favorite survivor, the Ferry Building; roughed up, but she took it well. In spite of these monstrosities they’re putting up nowadays, like the Sales Force Tower, the Ferry Building is still the “Grande Dame” of San Francisco.









What you miss with Photoshop

Photoshop is a great computer program that even an amateur like me can have fun experimenting with, but you have to leave a lot out to get a decent fade in with then and now pictures. This set is a Photoshop collection of pictures of mine along with the original photos; sort of comparing two comparison types of comparison pictures.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAPSDPassagetwouseA hoodlum kidnaps Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) and drives him to a spot below the southern entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1947 film ‘Dark Passage’. Since September 11th 2001, this area has been off limits to the public.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAPSTaylor2useFisherman’s Wharf near the end of Taylor Street at twilight in the 1950’s:

GE DIGITAL CAMERAPSPland2useOrson Welles exits the Funhouse at Playland-at-the-Beach leaving a dying Rita Hayworth inside in another 1947 movie ‘The Lady from Shanghai’. Welles is walking toward the Great Highway. Playland was demolished in 1972.

PSPointusePSPointtwouseAfter being shot twice and left in an empty prison cell on Alcatraz by John Vernon and Angie Dickinson, Lee Marvin recovers consciousness and swims back to San Francisco from Alcatraz with two bullets in him to seek revenge. That’s quite a feat! The move was ‘Point Blank’ from 1967. The modern picture is the current San Francisco skyline from Alcatraz Island.

PSPortraitusePSPortraittwouseLana Turner enters the old I Magnin Department Store on Geary Blvd. across the street from Union Square in “Portrait in Black’ from 1960.  This is an effort to establish her alibi while she plots with Anthony Quinn to kill her husband. In the background is the St. Francis Hotel on Powell Street.

PSGreenwichusePSGreenwichtwouse“Look out!” Almost a head on crash with a cable car and an automobile at Hyde and Greenwich on Russian Hill: The vintage picture is a Fred Lyon photo from the 1950’s. This picture is sometimes labeled as looking toward Telegraph Hill from Lombard Street at Hyde, but it’s not.

PSWharfusePSLagoonredo“Come all ye young sailormen listen to me, and I’ll sing you a song of the fish in the sea.”

Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon in 1939 in a picture from the Charles Cushman Collection. In the background of the vintage picture is the large gas tank near Fisherman’s Wharf located there from the early 1930’s to the 1960’s.



A ‘Harbor Command’ Tour (For Victoria)

HCOpeneruse‘Harbor Command’ was a thirty minute television show that ran from October of 1957 until July of 1958. The show starred Wendell Corey as police captain Ralph Baxter. You may recognize Wendell Corey as the fall guy in a 1949 movie shown regularly at Christmastime called ‘Holiday Affair’ with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. The TV show has some terrific San Francisco locations, mostly along the San Francisco waterfront.

HCFBuildingfrontuseHarbor Command was a fictional law enforcement agency that worked along with the Coast Guard. Their headquarters was located in the Ferry Building.

HCEfreewayuseThe Embarcadero Freeway was being built during filming of the show and construction of the highway can be seen on the left.

HCPier391useBaxter and another officer in pursuit of a mob leader are shown at the entrance to the old Pier 39. In 1978 the pier was demolished and the tourist attraction that’s there today was built on the old foundation of the pier. The bottom photo is the entrance to pier 39 today.

HCPier392useThe same episode with the previous picture ends with a shoot-out that resulted in Baxter killing the mob boss on the eastern side of Pier 39. Below is the eastern side of Pier 39 today.

HCVNPieruseA shoot-out with Ralph Baxter is a poor prospect, as another bad guy taking cover in the background learns on the old Van Ness Pier in the episode titled ‘Contraband Diamonds’.

HCtower1useIn ‘The Final Score’ a fugitive falsely identified as a murderer climbs the old public announcement tower on the west side of the Maritime Museum and shoots back at pursuing Harbor Command police.

HCtower2useThe Harbor Command police return fire, and the bottom photo is the tower today. Don’t worry, this one ends happily and the innocent man is cleared.

HCAquaticParkuseIn the same episode as the previous picture, as the police pursue the fugitive a sinking ferryboat is shown in Aquatic Park near the Maritime Museum. I’ll have to research what that was all about.  The old and now closed snack bar and restroom building can be seen on the right in both photos.

HCBV1useIn ‘Smallpox’ a man with a vendetta and out to kill the man who framed him, approaches Beach Street from Hyde. He is unaware that he has smallpox and may be infecting many people in San Francisco.

HCBV2useThe camera moves up to show the location is where the Buena Vista Café is. The Buena Vista is still there but with a different sign now.

HCEagle1useLater in the ‘Smallpox’ episode, the carrier is shown at the corner of Jefferson and Powell Streets going in to the old Eagle Café.

HCeagle2useA parking garage for Pier 39 was built on the corner where the Eagle Café was located in the top photo. The Eagle Café was rescued from demolishment and moved across the street and relocated at the top level of Pier 39, shown in the bottom photo.

HCPier17useIn one clever episode entitled ‘Gold Smugglers’ two dental assistants have been forging the doctor’s signature to order gold shipments delivered to his office. They have used the dentist’s molding plates to shape the gold into hubcaps in an attempt to smuggle the gold out of San Francisco on a car ferry. When the doctor discovers their plan they kill him. Here they are seen parking in from of Pier 17 on the Embarcadero where the Exploratorium is now located.

HCEmbarcaderouseLooking north along the Embarcadero and the old Belt Line Railroad tracks from Pier 17:

HCBryanttwouseA Harbor Command squad car races down Bryant Street next to the Bay Bridge entrance heading toward the Embarcadero:

HarborfbuildfbookThe episode ‘Clay Pigeon’ ends in a shoot-out in the southern wing of the Ferry Building with Baxter and his partner chasing a parolee who has been trying to kill Baxter for sending him to prison. Maybe not as loud as gunfire, but it’s a lot noisier in this section of the Ferry Building today.