Easing into May….. and holding our breaths

As I have mentioned in the past, I love to explore San Francisco in May more than any other month of the year; the weather is usually accommodating, and the City is so pretty in the spring. Of course, this won’t be the case this May; the shelter-in-place order due to the coronavirus pandemic has been extended to the end of May, for now. This is causing a lot of people worry and concern, and I’m no exception, but it might also be saving our lives. The reports that some of the restrictions may be eased up a little brought a lot of people out of their shelters on “May Day”, May 1st, possibly in honor of International Workers Day. I took a drive through Golden Gate Park to the coast on May 1st and walked around Downtown San Francisco on the 2nd. Outdoor picture taking has been officially sanctioned now, which isn’t a bad idea because you’ll get to see a San Francisco you’ve never seen before, and hopefully, never will again.

MayBBTolluseThe Bay Bridge Toll Plaza on opening day, November 12th 1936: There was only one camera taking my picture when I crossed the bridge yesterday, and I’ll be getting a pay ticket bill soon. Sadly, this reminds me of a missing man formation; the number 14 toll booth where a lady toll collector was killed in an accident in 2017 is still missing. (Vintage picture, worthpoint.com, posted on Pinterest)

MayLaPlayauseA view of Playland-at-the-Beach, then known as Chutes-at-the-Beach, looking along La Playa from the south side of Sutro Heights in the 1930s: You can see the Dutch Windmill in Golden Gate Park in both pictures. (worhtpoint.com)

MayCabrillouseThe Cabrillo Street turnaround at the Great Highway in the 1950s: The Playland Funhouse is in the background.

MayCHouseuseWork on the Ocean Beach Seawall near the Cliff House in the 1920s: The Sutro Heights cliffs looked so barren back then. (worhtpoint.com)

MayTelenewsuseThis May 8th will be the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, V-E Day. Here, San Franciscans and military visitors are celebrating the news in front of the old Telenews Theater on Market Street. The Telenews was approximately just west of where the corner of Market and Cyril Magnin Streets is now. The roof of the Number One Powell Street Building is in the upper right of the vintage photo. (The San Francisco Chronicle)

MayMarketand5thworthpointMarket Street near 5th in 1966: I’ll redo this one when the vintage F Line Streetcars are running along here again. My picture was taken on another busy day for the police on a Market Street left mostly to vandals and deranged street people during the shelter-in-place. (Pinterest)

MayBrownuseA rally to reelect Governor Pat Brown on Grant Avenue at Clay Street in Chinatown: Well, this is an election year in the United States too. I’m not sure if this was when Brown was elected for a second term in 1962 or when he lost his bid for reelection in 1966 to Ronald Reagan: My picture was taken today in a depressingly empty Chinatown.  (Street Scenes of San Francisco)

MayCaiforniaStuseNormally, I’d wait for a cable car to come along before updating this 1966 photo on California Street between Stockton Street and Grant Avenue, but not I nor anybody else knows when the cable cars will be running again. (ebay)



More San Francisco then and now and NOW

These are three picture sets of vintage picture updates I took around San Francisco in the past that I redid last week. The top pictures are the vintage pictures, the middle pictures are my first updates when San Francisco was a bustling town, and the bottom photos were taken at the same spots only a lot less crowded right now.

GhostLottauseMarket Street at Kearny: The top picture from the San Francisco Library History Room is from 1910, the center photo is from 2016, the bottom photo was taken April 18th 2020, the anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. For almost one hundred years survivors of that disaster met at Lotta’s Fountain on the left at the exact time and day of the earthquake.

GhostKearnyredouseAnother picture taken in 1910 at Kearny and Market Streets looking toward the Palace Hotel on the left: The middle picture was taken in 2017. (opensfhistory.org)

GhostGearyPowelluseThe corner of Powell Street and Geary Blvd, looking from Union Square: The top picture is from 1948, the middle picture was taken on Veterans Day, 2016.

GhostStocktonuseStockton Street at O’Farrell looking north: The top photo from the San Francisco Chronicle was taken in 1951, the middle photo I took on “Black Friday”, November 24th 2017.

GhostEmporiumuseAnother photo from the San Francisco Chronicle in front of the Old Emporium Store taken in 1949: My picture in the center was taken on “Black Friday” in November of 2017. Many of the closed businesses along Market Street, like Bloomingdale’s where the old Emporium was, are boarding up their windows during the shelter-in-place order still in effect.

Ghost7thuseThis August 14th will be the 75th anniversary of VJ Day when Japan surrendered ending World War Two. The top picture is vintage film footage from C. R. Skinner on Market Street at 7th looking east as San Francisco celebrates the end of the war. A tremendous crowd in the background where the streetcars have stopped is surging up toward the cameraman. Also in the background, the Flood Building on the left of Market Street, and the crowned Humboldt Bank Building across Market Street on the right can be seen in all three photos. A million on Market Street was the estimated crowd gathered to celebrate the parade for the San Francisco Giants first World Series victory on November 3rd 2010 when I took my comparison picture in the middle. Although not as important as the end of World War Two, I waited most of my life to see this and I wasn’t going to miss it.




‘Stranger on the Shore’

ShoremeuseI had that song stuck in my head when I went over to SF yesterday. I heard that they may be discouraging people from going to Ocean Beach during the pandemic, but there isn’t any problem; people are practicing social distancing, and there were plenty of social distancing police on hand to make sure they behaved.

ShorechousefromsutrouseA stranger on the shore on Sutro Heights above the Cliff House: (Pinterest and ebay)

PlaylandaerialuseA view of Playland-at-the-Beach from Sutro Heights in the 1970s near the end of its run: You can see the Funhouse and Merry-go-round in the upper right. The new then Safeway in the upper left is still there. (mksgrist.wix.com)

ShorePLobosuseLooking down Point Lobos Road past the Cliff House and Sutr0 Heights toward Ocean Beach in the 1940s: (Pinterest)

Shore2StrangersbloguseTwo strangers on the shore, Although maybe not to each other, at the Cliff House in the 1940s: (opensfhistory and outsidelands.org))

ShoregirluseA Victorian stranger on the shore: (Vintage photography)

ShoreOBeachuseA great colorized picture of Ocean Beach circa 1900: It may be gloomy thinking, but it’s possible that some of the people in the vintage photo died during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919. At any rate, they’re all gone now. (Reddit colorized by Jordan Lloyd)

ShoreSRocksuseFamilies on Ocean Beach with Seal Rocks in the background in the late 1800s:(Worthpoint.com)

ShorestepsuseSo 1970s! They removed the steps on the seawall by the 1980s.  (Pinterest and ebay)

ShorePlaylanduseFor those who remember Playland-at-the-Beach, and I do, the Funhouse was on the left behind where the grass embankment is now, the merry-go-round was in the center where the condo is. (Flickr)











Fisherman’s Wharf, then and now, and NOW

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve read that Fisherman’s Wharf is the second most popular tourist attraction in California after Disneyland. They’re both closed now because of the necessary shelter in place order, basically in place around the world, due to the COVID19 virus. Well, I can’t go to Disneyland yet, but I can go to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s lonely, sad, and depressing at times when I look back at the crowds that could often be annoying, (always excluding myself from being part of the annoying crowd, naturally) but it will be thriving again by summer, as our hopes and prayers wish and ask for. These are updates of updates I did of vintage pictures when Fisherman’s Wharf was the noisy and lively way it will be again soon, and this time we won’t mind all of the people so much, for awhile.

WharfAliotos1useWharfAlioto2useLooking down the end of Taylor Street toward Pier 45 in 1975: (Peter Stratmoen)

Wharfgrotto1useWharfGrotto2useLooking toward the #9 Fishermen’s Grotto Restaurant in 1960: (opensfhistory.org)

WharfviewuseWharfview2useTourists viewing Alcatraz Island through telescopes near Pier 43 ½ in the 1970s:

Wharfsign1useWharfsign2useLooking east from the northwest corner of Jefferson and Taylor Streets in the 1930s: The gas station across Taylor Street that was still there until the 1970s was originally designed to look like a ship. (National Maritime Museum at San Francisco)

Wharfalley1useWharfalley2useWACs and soldiers working up an appetite in front of #9 Fishermen’s Grotto, looks like during the 1950s:

WharfExp1useWharfExp2useLee Remick crosses Jefferson Street at Taylor to a taxicab that will take her to Candlestick Park for the denouement of the 1962 film ‘Experiment in Terror’.

Wharfaguatic1useWharfAquatic2useLooking toward Ghirardelli Square from Hyde and Jefferson Streets in 1975 in a Peter Stratmoen photo: Hey, they’ve removed all of the trees that were in the updated picture I did in 2016.

Wharftaylor1useWharftaylor2useLooking south along Taylor Street across Jefferson in the 1950s; The Wharf was still packed when I did my first update in December of 2018.






More then and nows from a locked down town

San Francisco, like the rest of the world, has extended the shelter in place order until at least May. It’s absolutely necessary during the COVID19 Pandemic. San Francisco, although still just as beautiful, is a lonelier city to visit now, but it does offer once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities for a San Francisco aficionado.

LockdownOBeachuseI observe very little “social distancing” at Ocean Beach in 1948. (opensfhistory.org)

LockdownCHouseuseThe Cliff House closed up tight and there’s still little parking in front. That’s because the Ocean Beach Parking Lot has been closed off and people are still going to the beach.

LockdownChaletuseThe Beach Chalet on the western edge of Golden Gate Park in 1963; now closed and quiet. (San Francisco Chronicle)

LockdownAlamouseAlamo looking northeast toward the “Painted Ladies” after the 1906 Earthquake: (Vintage photo from the California Academy of Sciences)

LockdownLombarduseThe famous Lombard Street, between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, is still open to traffic, but there are few cars or people visiting the tourist site. (opensfhistory.org)

lockdowmhydeuseThe Hyde Street Gripless! The best portion of the entire cable car system looks even quieter than the old 1920s photo.

LockdownGGBridgeuseA closed and empty Golden Gate Bridge Promenade last Friday and in June of 1987 with me and some of my family: This area has changed a lot since then.




‘(Market Street) Abides’

I got the idea for that title after reading yesterday’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle by the journalist Carl Nolte about George R Stewarts’s 1949 novel ‘Earth Abides’; a story about a worldwide virus that kills off most of the earth’s population leaving few survivors. I last read the book when I was about 18 and I don’t remember much about it accept that it was very depressing. Yesterday, I took BART into San Francisco for the first time after the Bay Area shelter in place order was issued to get some pictures along Market Street and that was depressing, as well. The afternoon before, I drove through a quiet San Francisco that, although empty, was still very beautiful. The following day, Market Street was a different experience. With most of the workers, shoppers and tourist gone now, Market Street is basically left to the street people, most of them far beyond any help. Maybe they’re always there, but just not as prominent among the usual crowd of people. With Market Street so quiet, you can hear them yelling and swearing for blocks. Many of them were a lot more aggressive than usual on Sunday, and I was fed up with them after about four blocks. These are a collection of vintage photos of a bustling Market Street that I’ve posted in the past, and updated with pictures of the relatively vacant and uncomfortable Market Street I walked along on Sunday.

MarketLottauseLooking down Geary Blvd past Lotta’s Fountain during the 1930s: Lotta’s Fountain was not only taller then, but it was in a slightly different spot at the intersections of Geary Blvd, Kearny and Market Streets. The fountain was moved back to its original location in 1999.

MarketMontgomeryuseLooking west on Market Street at Montgomery Street after the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906: You can see the old and new Palace Hotels and the Call Building on the left in both pictures. (San Francisco History Center)

Market4thuseA parade on Market Street at 4th St in the 1920s: The crowned Call Building, today’s Central Tower, is in the background of both pictures. The thin Humboldt Building is on the right in both pictures.

MarketGrantuseMarket Street at Grant Avenue in the 1940s: An American Werewolf in San Francisco!

MarketVJuseVJ Day, celebrating the end of World War Two, at Grant Avenue and Market Street in August of 1945: (Vintage picture from the San Francisco History Center)

MarketEmporiumuseMarket Street, across from the old Emporium Department store, during the 1930s: I saw several incidents of police having to deal with the street people during yesterday’s walk.

MarketPowellusePowell Street Looking across Market Street toward the Emporium in 1971: The Flood Building is on the left in both pictures.

MarketTurnarounduseThe cable car turnaround looking north on Powell Street in the 1950s: (Vintage Everyday)

MarketFlooduseA protest March on Market Street at 5th looking toward the old Flood Building in 1966: (The Shorpy Archive)








The “sounds of silence”

This is a brief update to my last overly optimistic post. Things have changed drastically in San Francisco and the rest of the world since two weeks ago. I left the office and took a drive around an empty San Francisco yesterday afternoon.

BroadwayBroadway at Columbus Avenue:

NBeach Grant Avenue, North Beach: Even the Live Worms Shop was closed! (Whatever that is)

THillThe silence even reaches up to the top of Telegraph Hill.

CoitNo trouble finding parking at a closed and quiet Coit Tower.

MontgomeryLooking down Montgomery Street from Telegraph Hill:

FWharfFisherman’s Wharf, as dead as Elvis is:

JeremiahThe Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien tucked in for the duration: If she could talk she’d probably say, “I braved Nazi submarines in the Atlantic Ocean, I’m not afraid of a little bug!”

IMG_0068A spooky and empty Chinatown: The crowds have all gone home.




Chinatown has “been there, done that”

Fear of the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused anxiety in people all over the world and San Francisco is no exemption. As of this writing, the Grand Princess cruise ship heading for San Francisco with thousands of passengers on board has been circling in the Pacific Ocean for days while officials decide on when and where to let the ship dock because 21 people on board have tested positive for the coronavirus and one passenger has died. I’ve been hearing reports of an alarming drop in tourism in San Francisco since the crises started. I myself have been developing a psychological disorder that I call incometaxitis that usually clears up after April 15th, so I decided to get out of the office for a few hours today and go over to Chinatown to visit its deserted and quiet streets. I’m happy to say that “reports of (Chinatown’s) death have been greatly exaggerated”. There were just as many visitors as usual for early March, in fact, even more of a crowd today because of some type of festival going on with dragons and lots of fireworks that I caught the end of. I was thinking about another plague while I was there today, the San Francisco bubonic plague of 1900-1904 that quarantined Chinatown and caused 119 deaths. Although no origin of the plague has ever been established, it’s thought that the virus was carried to Chinatown from rats on board ships that had arrived from Asia, Chinatown was actually roped off for a time at California, Kearny, Broadway, and Stockton Streets to prevent people from leaving. These are a few then and nows I took on today’s visit along with a few pictures from Chinatown I’ve posted in the past. (Source of the San Francisco plague information, Wikipedia)

6A cable car heading up Powell Street in the 1950’s: (The Charles Cushman Collection)

CTownFestivaluseAs I mentioned there was a noisy and fun-to-watch festival happening on Grant Avenue at Jackson Street when I got there.

CTownJacksonuseGrant Avenue and Jackson Street in the early 1960s: It was in an old hotel at this intersection that the first victim of the 1900 plague died. (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

3Grant Avenue and California Street looking north in the 1940s:

CTownCalifuseLooking southeast on Grant Avenue and California Street at passengers boarding a cable car in the 1950s: (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CTownGrantuseThe old Shanghai Low Restaurant on Grant Ave between California and Pine Streets in the 1960s: (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CtownSactouseGrant Avenue looking north as it approaches Sacramento Street in the 1960s: (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

1The Chinese New Year Parade on Grant Avenue at Sacramento Street in the 1940s and the last time I attended the parade in 2017. It was reported that the crowd of parade watchers was considerably lower in February of 2020. I didn’t go this year, either; not because of the coronavirus, but because I’ve “been there, done that” too.












Getting off of your feet for awhile (For Peter, from the Clift Hotel)

San Francisco is a city of hills, and walking around it can tire you out quickly. Herb Caen once said that if you get tired of walking around San Francisco you can always lean against it. These are some vintage pictures a few spots, most of them still around, where you could take a breather when those long days on your feet in San Francisco started to catch up with you.

FeetweepersuseThe northwest corner at the Top of the Mark, “Weeper’s Corner”, looks like the 1940’s or early 1950’s: “Weeper’s Corner” got its nickname during World War Two when mothers, wives and sweethearts sat in this corner watching their loved ones sail off to the Pacific Theater of the war. The Top of the Mark is still a special place to take a break; visitors are no longer required to dress up to come up here, and as far as I know, weeping in this corner is still allowed.

FeetRedwooduseThe old Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel, seen here in the 1950s, is another historic place to relax with a cold one and try to forget about all of the money you’re spending on your visit to San Francisco. (hippostcard.com)

FeetstateuseChecking out a flick on Market Street to get away from it all, like here at the State Theater at 4th and Market Streets in 1952, isn’t going to work anymore; all of the theaters in this area have been demolished. (tumblr.com)

FeetPalaceuseNow, if you really want to make it a special afternoon, lunch in the Garden Court of the Palace Hotel is one of the best ideas for a breather; although, sometimes it’s prettier and cheaper just to sneak upstairs and take a picture of the hotel court. (ebay)

FeetWoolworthsuseA relaxing cable car ride at Powell and Market Streets might bring the energy back to your feet, but the problem is that the wait standing in the long line to catch a car can sometimes be longer than the walk you took around San Francisco.

FeetDrakeuseHotels like the Fairmont, St. Francis, and here at the Sir Francis Drake lobby, seen here in 1928 in the vintage picture, usually don’t mind visitors sitting awhile to relax in their lobbies. Sometimes, they even encourage people to stop and browse on occasions like holidays. (North Point Press)

FeetGearyTheateruseAnd if you need a long rest, you can catch a play at the Geary Theater on Geary Blvd. near Mason Street, seen here in 1910, the year the theater opened. The Curran Theater, west of the Geary Theater, had not been built yet in the vintage picture. (San Francisco Theaters / blogspot.com)

FeetGearyBlvduseThe Geary and Curran Theaters looking west in 1958: Notice what was playing at the Curran Theater. (blogspot.com)

“He’s a what?”

“He’s a what?”

“He’s a Music Man!”

GearyFalcononeuseGearyFalconusetwoI’ll pause for five seconds while movie buffs spot what’s going on here….. Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) in attempting to search the office of Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) in the 1941 film ‘The Maltese Falcon’ is knocked out by Spade. In searching through the pockets of the unconscious Cairo, Spade finds, among other things, that Joel will be attending a play that evening at the Geary Theater. This was where Cairo was planning on being that night in the novel by Dashiell Hammett, as well. (Flare Books / Richard Anobile)




Executive Order Number 9066

9066Executive Order Number 9066, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19th, 1942, forced Japanese citizens on the West Coast to leave their homes and businesses for internment after Pearl Harbor in fear that some may create acts of sabotage in support of Japan’s military machine. The Japanese owners of this business on Grant Avenue south of Pine Street in Chinatown, (there were several Japanese owned businesses on Grant Avenue between California and Bush Streets in 1942) are selling off as much of their inventory as possible before being relocated. Ironically, their shop was the one with the green BLOWOUT SALE sign in the window behind the California flag in my update.