Fond memories of the Cold War

About thirty miles southeast of San Francisco is my hometown of Castro Valley. Almost everybody from my generation who grew up in Castro Valley remembers hearing about the nuclear guided missile site above Lake Chabot; officially called Site SF-31. I think the first person to tell me about it was one of my childhood friends named Ron. I think he embellished it a little by telling me he had seen test rockets fired from there, but that probably didn’t happen. However, even as a kid I was smart enough to know that if the base was a missile site, it was also a target site. However, I decided not to run away. Yesterday morning I took an e-bike ride up to the old missile site. (Thumbnail images)


A nice view of Lake Chabot on the way up: 

Looking over the missile base toward Lake Chabot in an old photo from Military Historian, Dan Sebby of the California Military Department:


I wanted to get to the top so I rode past this first RESTRICTED AREA sign, risking a ticket. 50 years ago I probably would have been shot for doing that.


The heliport at the top must still be in use. They probably had frequent high-profile visitors arriving here at this spot when the base was active; you know, like Nikita Khrushchev.


This was where the nuclear missile launching pads were; straight on back past the green trucks. I decided not to risk getting a ticket this time, and didn’t go beyond this point.


Another aerial photo of the base from Military Historian, Dan Sebby, taken in 1965: I stopped at the entrance to the Missile Warhead Building area.


Still plenty of old barbed wire fencing at the top.


The type of missiles on standby at SF-31: (Dan Sebby)









A Super Bowl Sunday, Saturday (For Amber)

Along Columbus Avenue; at least for now: The name may be changed someday due to accusations that Christopher Columbus massacred Native Americans. Although some historians disagree on that, his character certainly is in question. However, even if they change the name of the street to Queen Isabella Boulevard or something, I’ll still call it Columbus Avenue. Likewise, if they change the name of the Cliff House to Land’s End Lodge possibly when the Cliff House reopens, it will always be the Cliff House to me. Also, Willie Brown Bridge, although it was renamed after someone who I think was a classy San Francisco Mayor, will always be the Bay Bridge when I refer to it. Anyway, yesterday, the day before today’s Super Bowl, I took a bike ride along Columbus Avenue. It was great to see San Francisco coming back to life; people eating outdoors at restaurants, social distance gathering in parks, and taking drives. We’re heading in the right direction, finally. (Thumbnail images)


Like Market Street, Columbus Avenue runs diagonally through San Francisco. It starts at Washington and Montgomery Streets and ends at Beach Street, or visa-versa based on the direction you’re heading. This then and now is where Pacific Avenue crosses Kearny St. and meets up with Columbus Avenue, looking south  down Kearny past the Columbus Tower Building, (that may be renamed too). The old Hall of justice Building can be seen in the back ground of the vintage photo. (


Broadway, looking east from Columbus in the 1970s, the height of its nighttime entertainment era:


Even though Broadway has many historic locations, it will be remembered best as for where Carol Doda started a sensation as a topless dancer at the Condor Club. Carol is seen here on the southeast corner of Broadway and Columbus in 1966, across from the Condor Club she made famous. (SF Chronicle)


Where Grant Avenue runs north from Columbus in 1968: (San Francisco Blog pictures)


A poetry reading at Washington Square in the heart of North Beach in 1960: This was at the height of the beatnik era, which would evolve into the hippie era seven years later. (

Now we’re in Joe DiMaggio country. “Joltin’ Joe” played baseball in the playground here as a kid before breaking in with the Yankees. The playground, seen here looking towards Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, has been extensively remodeled since the vintage picture was taken. (

Back to Square one

There are lots of fine Squares in San Francisco; Alamo Square, Washington Square, although that one is more of a Square with the southwest piece chipped off, Jefferson Square, which is more of a rectangle, and Portsmouth Square where San Francisco actually began. Union Square is my number one Square. The title to this post, ‘Back to Square one’ is misleading; it implies a return after an interval of separation, but truth is I visit Union Square almost every time I go to Downtown San Francisco. It’s been relatively empty since March of 2020, and I notice myself feeling depressed often now when I stop there. Like so many other places in San Francisco, the quiet of Union Square these days leaves me with an empty feeling, missing the way things used to be. Herb Caen loved Union Square, as well, although he would criticize the pigeons and crowded parking lot. As with thinking about the cable cars, the Cliff House, and Herb Caen, I get a lonely feeling of something missing in San Francisco more in Union Square than anywhere else in town. But enough of this lamenting, let’s take another visit to the Square. (Thumbnail images)


A trip to Union Square usually begins for me with a BART trip to Hallidie Plaza at the Powell Station, seen here in a vintage picture from the 1970s. The elevator shaft in the Plaza today prevents a perfect line up with the older picture. (

Crossing along Powell Street over Geary Blvd. into Union Square during the 1960s: The St. Francis Hotel is on the left. (Pinterest)


One block further north from the previous picture is the intersection of Post and Powell Streets, looks like during the 1950s. The City of Paris Department store can be seen behind the Dewey Monument, Macy’s was a lot smaller then, a cable car rattles past, and, a gentle reminder that it’s time for a shot of Old Crow Whisky. (Vintage Everyday)


I’ve mentioned in the past that this website is not about my pictures, pleasant snapshots at best, but about the interesting vintage photographs in the posts. I could make an exception with this one; this 1940s one has to be the ugliest picture of Maiden Lane I’ve ever seen. Still I find it intriguing. I don’t know it that’s an artistic inclination with me or a problem! (Vintage Everyday)


The I Magnin Department Store on the corner of Geary Blvd. and Stockton Streets, now a part of Macy’s, under construction in 1947: (SF Chronicle)


One of the best Union Square pictures I’ve seen, looking toward the northwest corner of the park during the late 1950s: The New Millennium make-over took away the 1940s look and feel of the Square, but it’s probably for the best in the long run. (Reddit)


This picture was labeled “The Christmas Extravaganza of 1980” but I doubt if it topped the Christmas of 2020 light show of floating snow crystals at Union Square (SF Chronicle)

New Year’s Eve forecast, paper rain throughout the day (For Steve)

I sure do remember the tradition of throwing calendar pages out of office buildings on December 31st. When we were teenagers we used to love to go over to Downtown San Francisco and walk shin deep through the piles of calendar paper on the sidewalks. It was a tradition that had to go, and it has. The last time I saw anything resembling it was in 1994, and it was nothing compared to New Year’s Eves of the past. These are a few pictures from the San Francisco Chronicle remembering ‘Street Sweepers Lament Day’ from past years. (Thumbnail images)


California Street near Montgomery, 1972:


260 California Street, 1991:

California Street, up from Kearny Street, 1980:


Montgomery Street near Pine Street, 1975: You can’t see much of the Pyramid Building from here anymore.


Sacramento and Montgomery Streets, 1981:






Enjoy this 1930s version of ‘A Trip Down Market Street’ in color

I’ve recently seen this stunning piece of film on YouTube that was posted in November of 2020. Shot in the 1930s, it’s a drive down Market Street from Steuart Street near the Ferry Building to Stockton Street. The filmmakers were obviously inspired by the famous 1906 film ‘A Trip Down Market Street’. It’s been colorized and has had sound effects added for enhancement by NASS, and if you like San Francisco, you’re in for a delightful ride. I took some captures of the movie and did a few then and nows in spots where the film passes, but the important part of this post is the YouTube link at the end of my pictures to the film; it’s a high quality restoration and a fascinating look at Market Street during the 1930s. (Thumbnail images)

The drive starts out at the Hotel Terminal, which was located approximately where the Hyatt Regency is today.


One of the many automobiles following the car being driven by the cameramen throughout the film passes California and Drumm Streets on the left as the Southern Pacific Building comes in to view across Market Street on the right.


Two images passing by Drumm Street where a California Street cable car can be seen on the left, and the same location today.


The trailing autos and a J Line streetcar pass by the Palace Hotel.


They’re at Kearny Street here in the shade of the 1930s Market Street buildings with Lotta’s Fountain, just visible in the shadow on the left, and the Chronicle Building. This Lotta’s Fountain had the extended column added to it in 1916, and was in a slightly different location than where it was originally placed in 1875.

They’re passing Grant Avenue now and the old Wells Fargo Building on the left. William Randolph Hearst’s Examiner Building is on the right.


Another look at the old Wells Fargo Building on the corner of Grant Avenue and Market Street:


The film ends at Stockton Street with people watching a parade on Market Street. Relax now for a few minutes and watch the actual film below.



January 4th already! Where’s 2021 going to?

Just in a silly mood. I spent the First and Second of 2021 moseying around a quiet Downtown San Francisco: San Francisco Restaurants, from #9 Fishermen’s Grotto to the Cliff House, are traditionally packed on New Year’s Day, but not on Friday. Everything was closed, quiet or gone. (Thumbnail images)


Kearny Street looking toward Maiden Lane in the 1940s: A lot less traffic in my picture aturday. (


The northwest corner of Jefferson and Taylor Streets in 1971: The Sea Captain’s Chest; I remember that terrific gift shop from when I was a kid. (SF Chronicle)

A WAC look-back at Fishermen’s Grotto in 1951: (Wikimedia)


The crab traps for the Dungeness crab season on the boats in the Fisherman’s Wharf Lagoon in 1961, and on January 1st 2021 for the currently delayed crab season. (SF Chronicle)


Market Street near 4th Street in 1955: They replaced the old California Theater Building with a current building that has less character (I think) where the Ross Store is now. (

The western portion of the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon, seen here in the 1930s, used to extend from the Taylor Street restaurants all the way to the Hyde Street Pier. (














Welcome, 2021 (For Tricia from the Haight)

You can pick almost any other period in modern San Francisco history, and it would have more enjoyable recollections for the people of San Francisco than 2020. I’ll start out New Year with another look back to the 1960s during a happier and busier time than 2020 when the “Cool gray city of love” became the Cool gray city of hope. (Thumbnail images)


Market Street at 3rd Street looking west in 1963: I wonder what the guy with the clip board was doing? (SFMTA Archives)

Market Street, looking west from Kearny Street in the late 1960s: Morris Plan, I remember them. I think that was another one of those financial institutions I borrowed money from in the 1970s that I never paid back. (Vintage Everyday)


Market Street looking east from Kearny, probably the same day as the previous picture: (Vintage Everyday)


Ah, the legendary Emporium Department Store! The girl boarding the streetcar in the vintage picture may have been a psychic looking 55 years into the future at me. (Vintage Everyday)


Cable cars don’t come into Aquatic Park next to the Cannery at the same spot they did in 1967. The 1982 overhaul of the system rerouted them into the park from the Beach and Hyde Streets intersection. (


BART construction under Market Street is backing up buses between 5th and 6th Streets in 1967. Buses have it easier here today. (SF Chronicle / SF Gate)


Haight and Ashbury: You can’t have a 60s look back in San Francisco without including the “Summer of Love”: and thank you to the ex ‘flower child” Tricia I met last Sunday who was nice enough to pose in the intersection for me. (Reddit)


The Grateful Dead in front of the Mnasidika Boutique on Haight Street in 1967: (


Looking northeast from the top of the Mark in 1963: The building at the lower left of the vintage picture with the curved windows on top was the old Hall of Justice Building on Kearny Street. Many movie and television shows, including ‘The Man Who Cheated Himself’, ‘Impact’, ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, ‘The Lineup’, and ‘Ironside’ filmed scenes there. It was demolished in 1967 and a Hilton Hotel is there today. (

The closing of the Cliff House (Thumbnail images)

I don’t believe for a moment that the Cliff House will close forever! Visited by the likes of Jack London, Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill, and just about every Star and Starlet from Hollywood’s Golden Age, it’s a landmark. If they keep the building in good shape, I think it will reopen when this COVID-19 Pandemic is under control. Where else am I going to go to take then and now pictures? My introduction to San Francisco was as a kid when my parents took us to the Cliff House after we moved to the Bay Area from North Dakota. The three times in life that I’ve been in love, (when I was a kid I thought it was supposed to be only once) I remember wonderful days out there with each girl. In fact, on a long ago December 30th one of the girls and I sat in the Redwood Room and watched the sun go down into the Pacific Ocean. After it disappeared, they rang a bell, as was the tradition at the time. Yes, a lot of the magic of the old Cliff House disappeared after the 2000 renovation, but it’s still the Cliff House. I’ll miss it very much during what I am sure is going to be a temporary hiatus. These are a collection of some of the Cliff House pictures that I’ve posted in the past on my website.


Maybe the oldest picture of the Cliff House that I’ve seen; possibly dating from 1857 when it first opened up: (SF Chronicle / SF Gate)


Buffalo Bill and some Native Americans from his Wild West Show in front of the old Cliff House:

I like this little Victorian toughie.

“Alright, I dare you! Who else wants to make fun of my hat?”

(Vintage picture from The Cliff House Project website) 


The old Gingerbread Cliff House survived the 1906 Earthquake and burned down the following year in 1907.


From the mid 1950s to the early 1960s they had a Sky Tram running behind the Cliff House.  (SF Chronicle)

The view of Seal Rocks from behind the Cliff House in the 1950s: (SF Chronicle)


One of the best things about old pictures of the Cliff House were the cool cars parked out front.

The cars from the 1960s were cool too!  ( 


Police activity at the Cliff House in the 1958 movie ‘The Lineup’, and police activity at the Cliff House in August of 2016:


Bad guys in a truck who have kidnapped a teenager are pulled over down from the Cliff House by Harbor Command Officers in an episode from the 1957 television series ‘Harbor Command’.


Incidentally, did you know that the old Cliff House, like a chameleon, would change colors during different times of the year and periods of the day? On evenings with a blazing sunset on the horizon, it would appear red like the top left picture. During the months of autumn, it would take on a brown, rustic hue, as at the top right. As the darkness of the night approached, it would turn black, like the picture in the lower left. On sunny spring mornings, the reflection from the Pacific Ocean often turned the building blue, as seen in the picture at lower right. Okay, you’ve already caught on that I’m teasing; this was how the Cliff House was painted during different periods from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s.


An aluminum postcard from 1904: And we think our Twenty First Century technology is so great!


My 17 year old mom on the left took a train from Grand Forks, North Dakota to San Francisco and visited the Cliff House long before I did.


My best friend, Danny, sniffed out the trail of Buffalo Bill and his horse on one of our visits there.  (William F. Cody Archive)


Heck, I even took Flat Stella there once!

Postcard picture perfect!

The ‘Less Crowded City’

Well, this will probably be my last post before Christmas, or whatever we’ll be substituting Christmas with for this year. In October of 2017, I posted a series of pictures under the title of The ‘Crowded City’. At the time it sounded to me like the title of a film noir movie. The ‘Less Crowded City’ sounds more like something from the science fiction genre. I don’t think that the year 2020 has turned out to be any less fantastic and frightening than any science fiction movie I’ve ever seen. Several shelter-in-place orders have been strictly followed for the most part by the people of San Francisco, and up until this point the loss of life from COVID-19 in the city has been relatively low for such a crowded area. These are a collection of street scenes during San Francisco’s typical past, and during the last full week before Christmas, 2020. (Thumbnail images)


We’ll start at Powell Street near Geary Blvd, in the 1940s. The skillful talent of jaywalking has become less of an achievement in 2020. (Reddit)


Market Street, where Turk and Mason Streets come in to it in 1968. On the ground floor of the building on the right with the Coca-Cola sign was where the ‘Pepsi-Cola Center for Servicemen’ Center for those in the service during World War Two was located.


One of the most popular hangouts for the “beatniks” of the 1950s in San Francisco was the Co-Existence Bagel Shop on the corner of Green Street and Grant Avenue in North Beach. (Pinterest)


Where the old Co-Existence Bagel Shop was today: (Pinterest)


I’m not sure if I like this painting from the 1970s looking down Powell Street toward the Sir Francis Drake hotel, or not, but it is interesting. Few of the buildings in the work match up to the actual buildings there, and if that’s supposed to be Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower in the background, it isn’t South of Market Street. (


The most famous bookstore in San Francisco is ‘City Lights Books’ in North Beach, named after Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 film. It has been visited by the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Bob Dylan. (SF Chronicle)


The southwest corner of Union Square looking toward the intersection of Powell Street and Geary Blvd. during the 1970s: Men’s hats hadn’t entirely lost their popularity yet. Well, I count three people in my picture. (


Looking across Market Street toward the Number One Powell Street Building; looks like the early 1960s. There’s a lot of interesting things to see in the vintage picture, including an Eddy Street sign on Powell, and also a rare comparison in 2020 that has a cable car in both pictures. (











More hill climbing in the City; weather permitting

San Francisco is a city of hills; from Bernal Heights to Sutro Heights, Buena Vista to Diamond Heights, Twin Peaks, to Mt. Davidson. I forget how many there are, but I’ve been on all of them. However, the three most famous hills in San Francisco are the three hills bordered by Market Street, Van Ness Avenue, and the waterfront, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Telegraph Hill. This past weekend, albeit gloomy weather half the time, I visited all three for some picture taking. The quality of some of my pictures speaks for the weather, but it wasn’t bad for the most part. Saturday was overcast, but actually rather warm for December, so I was able to do some exploring on my e-bike. Sunday was a different story so you won’t have to be a rocket scientist or even an income tax preparer to tell which pictures were taken Saturday or Sunday. There are a lot of trees and plants in these pictures, so I’ll dedicate this post to my blog friend, Tony. (Thumbnail images)


We’ll begin the climbing to the top “av owld Telygraft Hill”. That’s Wallace Irwin’s poetry for “of old Telegraph Hill”, but you’ve probably guessed that. These are views from the Coit Tower steps, pre and post Columbus Statue. Whether he massacred Native Americans or not will have to be debated by scholars; the evidence doesn’t look good for Columbus. However, while they were removing the statue in 2020, why didn’t they cut down those trees blocking the views? With Coit Tower closed indefinitely, you can’t see much from here anymore; although, you wouldn’t have been able to see much from here yesterday through the on and off rain. The vintage picture is from circa 1945. (

The view down Russian Hill’s Hyde Street in 1973: Yeah, you’ll see a few cable cars in the vintage photos on this post. (


Where Powell Street crosses California Street on Nob Hill: I couldn’t get a date on the vintage picture, but it looks like the mid 1970s. (


The view down Broadway from Russian Hill in 1952: The rectangle structure in the center of both pictures is the eastern entrance and exit to the Broadway Tunnel, which opened up in 1952. That building with the red, white and blue colors on the right in my picture almost looks like an optical illusion. (


The view from Pioneer Park behind Coit Tower, circa 1945: You’ll spot the Bay Bridge and Ferry Building a little easier in the vintage picture than in my rainy redo. That was probably fog in the old picture. (


“Well, anyway, did you get the picture, honey?”

Lombard Street on Russian Hill in August of 1956. (SF Gate/SF Chronicle)

Sacramento Street approaching Polk Street in 1941 on the less famous western side of Nob Hill: There’s never any parking around here even during a pandemic, so I had to snap my picture through the rain while driving. Well, at least I got the old Palo Alto Hotel neon sign in. Those two cable cars on the now gone Sacramento Street Line appear to be going in the same direction. I’ll have to do some research on that. (


One of the prettiest and least visited view spots in San Francisco is Ina Coolbrith Park on Russian Hill. In the vintage picture from the early 1970s, none of the Embarcadero Center buildings have been erected yet, except for possibly the Hyatt Regency Hotel. (