‘This Was San Francisco’

In the 1950’s, THE SAN FRANCISCO NEWS ran a series of cartoons created by Albert Tolf. They depicted various historical San Francisco moments and locations throughout the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century, and are fun to look at look at. I recently found a collection of the cartoons at the San Francisco Main Library.

thisferrybuildinguseThe streetcar loop at the foot of the Ferry Building:

this-greenwichuse The stretch up Greenwich Street between Powell and Kearny isn’t as steep as the cartoon suggests, but it’s an interesting piece of San Francisco trivia.

thisnumber5use The old Number 5 still runs out to Ocean Beach, but you can’t climb on top of it anymore.

thiscallbuildinguse The historic Call Bulletin Building at Third and Market Streets has gone through many name changes and much remodeling, but it’s still there.

thischouseuse  Ocean Beach, Sutro Heights, and the gingerbread Cliff House:

thischouseburnuse The old Cliff House survived the 1906 Earthquake and Fire only to burn down the following year.

thispalaceuse The Palace of Fine Arts:

thisbususe The old granddaddy (or grandmommy, depending on your point of view) of the Hop On, Hop Off tour buses:

thisbuffalouse Buffalo Bill did indeed visit San Francisco with his famous Wild West Show in the early Twentieth Century, and my dog Danny may have picked up his long ago scent on one of our Ocean Beach trips!

thisparadeuse “The greatest street gathering of all time in San Francisco.”: This may have been true in 1910, but I was on Market Street in 2010 when over one million people gathered to watch the first San Francisco Giants World Series victory parade.

thispacificuse Pacific “Terrific” Street: This WAS the Barbary Coast. The building Spider Kelly’s was located in still exists behind the trees on the left, and “Baby Face” Nelson of the John Dillinger gang visited there on a trip from Chicago during his crime spree.

‘Our San Francisco’

I think the Our San Francisco editorials in the weekend San Francisco Chronicle are the best thing the paper has been publishing since the Chronicle lost Herb Caen. Here are a few of their vintage pictures.

oursfgrantmarketuse San Francisco Police Department’s first K9 Unit at Market Street and Grant Avenue in 1962:

oursfchouseuse Always the Cliff House: I think I’ll write a poem about it one day if I can think of a word that rhymes with Cliff House besides “titmouse”. Actually, I haven’t seen many pictures of the 1863 Cliff House from what is now called Sutro Heights, and few this clear.

oursfmontmarketuse The 1982 Super Bowl Victory Parade looking north up Montgomery Street from Market Street in 1982: Eddie DeBartolo, Dianne Feinstein, and Bill Walsh are in the middle of the crowd. Compare these photos with the bottom one looking in the same direction from a little higher up in the Palace Hotel for the San Francisco Giants welcome parade in 1958. The two north corner Buildings have been demolished.

oursfbushmontuse Speaking of the Giants, here’s a closer look at their welcoming parade at Montgomery and Bush.

oursftykesuse Tykes on bikes! A rally for bicycle safety lanes in front of City Hall in 1972:

oursfwarriorsuse A welcome parade for Wilt Chamberlain and the Warriors past City Hall in 1962: Judging from the crowd turnout, basketball wasn’t all that popular in San Francisco yet.

oursfbartuse Not quite the way they envisioned it on the drawing board in the early 1960’s, but BART turned out okay. They look like Stepford Wives!

For Patrick

These are some then and nows from pictures my little brother Pat was in. We lost Pat in 1995 at age 32. Life would be a lot nicer now if he was still with me.

It crossed my mind the other day,

how many years you’ve been away.

Those kids you loved, they don’t forget.

They all have kids you’ve never met.

We posed in places from the past,

in spots where you belong.

It crossed my mind the other day,

we still took you along.

cliffhouse2017 The old Cliff House in 1989: Pat is in the black sweater and jeans on the right with his nieces Beverly, Christie, Carrie Ann, Stacy, and our sister Julie. Two of his nieces walking with him, Stacy and Beverly, are in the picture I took last Sunday along with my brother Kevin.

patfantasylandbloguse I seem to spend more time in Disneyland than San Francisco, lately. This was in 1989 and last Friday, January 20th. Doesn’t anybody else notice that witch from Sleeping Beauty peeking out the window behind the castle in Fantasyland?

patfrontierlanduse At New Orleans Square in 1987:

patcarnationuse Friday’s picture was at Carnation Plaza on Main Street; The 1987 one with Stacy and Carrie Ann was in what is now called Riverside Terrace. You still can’t get Stacy to pose normal!

patggbridgeuse Pat, with Carrie Ann and me in 1994, and Beverly and Stacy last Sunday:

26 The previous photo of Beverly and Stacy was taken inside the old Round House Restaurant, recently reopened as a snack bar. They serve good hot chocolate for cold January days like when we visited there.

3rd, Kearny, and Market Streets

“Now, I’m standing on the corner of Third and Market. I’m looking around. I’m figuring it out. There it is, right in front of me. The whole city. The whole world. People going by. They’re going somewhere. I don’t know where, but they’re going. I ain’t going anywhere.” – From ‘The Time of Your Life’ by William Saroyan.

I ain’t going anywhere, either; especially when there’s a Ghirardelli Chocolate Store right down the street. San Francisco has many popular intersections; Grant Avenue and California Street, the heart of Chinatown, Broadway and Kearny, where more movie scenes have been filmed than any other crossroads in San Francisco, and Haight-Ashbury. The intersection at 3rd , Kearny, and Market Streets holds its place in history and photography along with Market and Powell, and Market and the Embarcadero where the Ferry Building is as being THE place on Market Street to meet up with someone.

3rdlottasuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp15.1086.jpg

The most historic thing about this intersection is Lotta’s Fountain, seen here around 1909: Survivors of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire met at this fountain every April 18th, the anniversary of the disaster, for over one hundred years!

3rdkearnyacrossmarketuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp25.1318.jpg

Lotta’s Fountain from across Market Street at 3rd in 1956: The fountain was extended in height in 1916. Behind Lotta’s Fountain is the old Chronicle Building. The two photos are were taken from where the old Call Building is. Just across 3rd from here is the Hearst Building. The Chronicle, Examiner, and Call Bulletin newspapers printed here once led to this corner being known as “Newspaper row”.

3rdcushmanuse Looking east on Market Street toward the Hobart Building in the 1940’s from a photo from the Cushman Collection at the Indiana State University:

3rdlibertyuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp30.0226.jpg

I can’t find too much information about this tower shown in a photo from OpenSFHistory. It was known as the Liberty Tower and stood six stories high. Erected in 1918, it blocked out the view of Lotta’s Fountain from here. It may have even been erected over Lotta’s Fountain, I’m not sure. The clock at the top didn’t show the time, but showed the number of millions raised in contributions toward helping America’s involvement during World War One. There is a little piece written about it in Glen David Gold’s fictional book about the life of Charlie Chaplin called ‘Sunnyside’.

3rdlottacopuse Another one of my favorite San Francisco pictures: It was taken before the 1906 Earthquake and has so much going on in it; from the family hand in hand stepping up to the sidewalk, to the cop bawling out the pretty girl, or giving her directions, or just flirting with her. I hope he was doing all three! In 1999 Lotta’s Fountain was restored, lowered back to its original height, and moved back to the fountain’s original location where it was dedicated in 1875.

A ride along on the California Street Cable Car Line

califopeneruse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp32.0237.jpg

With a clanging of his bell that would rival Quasimodo of Notre Dame, the conductor slams his cable car into gear as if he was in the Indianapolis 500. With a whirling roar the underground cable line grabs onto the car like an octopus, and the historic San Francisco monument screams out of  the California and Market Street terminal at a thunderous two  miles an hour. When they invite me to accept the Nobel Prize for literature like that, I’m certainly not going to snub them like Bob Dylan did.

califdegaulleuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp28.1230.jpg

“France has lost the battle, but France has not lost the war!”

A parade for World War Two general Charles de Gaulle just past California and Battery Streets in April of 1960. He may have been controversial during the war, but they don’t make them like that anymore!

califstmarysquareuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp25.1166.jpg

We’re passing Saint Mary’s Square, seen in the vintage photo from 1959. My photo is a little blurry because we were going at full speed past the square. (That’s right, Tim, blame a lousy shot on something that only travels at the top speed of nine miles an hour!)

grantcorneruse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp25.1703.jpg

This one at California St. and Grant Avenue isn’t a bad comparison considering it’s a picture I had taken on a previous California cable car ride before I saw the old photo.

califbullittuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp14.2286.jpg

Climbing up Nob Hill we approach Stockton Street. These two pictures, the one in 1945 and the one today, are cable cars coming back down the hill. “Come on, cable car conductor, do a Steve McQueen airborne jump over the hill like in ‘Bullitt’!

califfairmontuseI got off the cable car ride for awhile to relax in the Fairmont Hotel lobby.

califfairlobbyuse I don’t know who she is, but I didn’t get that much attention when I was in the Fairmont today!

califgraceuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp14.2085.jpg

At the top of Nob Hill looking west at an unfinished Grace Cathedral in 1952: They were behind time on the church in 1952; about twenty four years! The present Grace Cathedral was started in 1928 and completed in 1964.

califkhruschevuse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp28.0406.jpg

The western end of the California Street cable car line is here at Van Ness Ave. This caravan in September of 1959 was for Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev, another World War Two figure who fought against Hitler at Stalingrad; although, he was as ruthless with his own men as he was with the Germans. A little over three years after this picture was taken he would be squaring off with President John Kennedy in the “Cuban Missile Crisis”.

‘My Favorite Brunette’ revisited

I’ve done posts in the past on this scene from an old grainy version of the film that I have on DVD, but I decided to redo these with a newer and clearer print that’s now available on DVD. The Trafalgar Building was where the parking garage for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Stockton Street is now. This is on the south side of California Street near Grant Avenue. A pretty lady named DeAnna from Security at the hotel allowed me to go upstairs with her to try to get comparison pictures with the scenes of Bob Hope looking down to California Street from the Trafalgar Building, but trees block the view now. Still, it was a nice thing to do, and this is for her. Personally, I think ‘My Favorite Brunette’ from 1947 is Bob Hope’s funniest film and it holds up pretty well today. You also have Dorothy Lamour, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr., Alan Ladd, and even Bing Crosby thrown in for good measure, and they’re all great in this film. Here’s a recap up to the point of this scene filmed in and around the old Trafalgar Building on California Street between Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. Bob Hope is about to be executed at San Quentin for a murder he didn’t commit. (Bob Hope committing murder! The only things he ever murdered were film scripts with his ad-libs!) He explains to reporters how he got into this situation while working as a baby photographer in the Trafalgar Building, and the scene switches to California Street coming down from Stockton in a flashback.

brunetteoneuse The flashback opens up with the camera moving down California Street toward Chinatown from Stockton Street. Below, is this stretch of California today.

brunettethreeuse The camera turns and moves in toward the Trafalgar Building. An early postcard below shows the Trafalgar Building just behind the cable car on the right.

43 This Redwood Empire Association photo offers a clearer view of the Trafalgar Building at the right center.


brunettethreeuse A 1950’s photo shows where the Trafalgar Building stood; apparently, recently demolished:  The building was behind where the HD Supply truck is in the modern picture.

brunettefouruse The camera moves up to the top floor to the Ronnie (Bob Hope) Baby Photography shop. In the bottom picture, Ronnie is going down the hall to ask private eye Sam McCloud if he can become his detective partner. “It only took brains, courage, and a gun, and I have the gun!” he says.

brunettefiveuse Ronnie approaches Sam McCloud who is sweet talking on the telephone to a dame. McCloud turns around and it’s tough guy Alan Ladd! Sam pours himself a shot, and tells Ronnie, “Stick to “Watch the birdie.”, and you’ll die of old age.”

redo After McCloud leaves, Ronnie sits at his desk and fantasies about being a detective. In walks mysterious Carlotta Montay, (Dorothy Lamour) who mistakes Ronnie for Sam McCloud. She goes around behind the desk and begs him for his help. This happens to me all of the time in the tax office.

brunettesevenuse Ronnie learns to his disappointment that Carlotta is married. She tells him her husband has been kidnapped. “I’m in deep, deep trouble!” she says to him, and shows him a picture of her husband. When he asks about the wheel chair, she replies, “My husband is an invalid, he hasn’t been out of that chair in seven years.” “You’re in trouble!” Ronnie agrees. That line alone is worth the price of the movie.

brunetteeightuse Always wanting to be a detective, Ronnie keeps up the charade and agrees to help Carlotta. All the while a creep named Kismet (Peter Lorre) is listening outside the door. She tells Ronnie where he can meet her later on.

brunettenineuse When she leaves, Ronnie goes to the window of his photography shop and looks down to California Street.

brunettetenuse A frightened Carlotta looks around, enters a taxi cab, and drives down California Street followed by Kismet.

brunetteelevenuse Ronnie watches from the Trafalgar Building as they turn left onto Grant Avenue past Old Saint Mary’s. The convertible still parked on California Street is Ronnie’s.

brunettetwelveuse Our hero, and I use that expression lightly, leaves the Trafalgar Building and jumps in his car to follow.

brunettethirteenuse Ronnie pulls away onto California Street. I never let the next day’s garbage pick up or a tour bus stand in the way of a comparison picture. Notice the white framed entrance to the Sing Fat Building on the right in both images.

brunettefourteenuse Ronnie Jackson, Private Eye, turns left onto Grant Avenue and for the rest of the movie gets himself into a world of trouble! Notice the Cathay House Restaurant sign on the left; I think they’re still in business.

My Spanish is a little rusty.

One of the advantages of commuting to San Francisco is riding on BART. Although often criticized, it’s really an effective way to get to San Francisco. When you combine the trip with MUNI, which is another effective way to get around town, you can save a lot of money. Last Monday, as I was coming back from another trip “out in the field” to San Francisco, I was randomly interviewed by a television crew about my opinion of the parking lot fee increase that went in to effect on New Year’s Day. The interview was conducted in English and I didn’t realize until I watched the newscast later that evening that it was for a Spanish television network. I can’t quiet make out what the newscaster is saying in his report, but I seem to have heard the word “loco” frequently in his recap. That’s me walking and driving away in the film too. My “15 minutes” of fame, and I can’t understand a word of it!

Closing out 2016 in the City of Saint Francis

yearendstarwarsuse I may have been in that line! When Star Wars opened in 1977, the only place to see it was the Coronet Theater on Geary Blvd. and the line was blocks long! The trick was to find the nerdish looking guys who wouldn’t fight back, and cut in front of them. Alright, we did it, but we were pretty nerdy looking too so somebody probably did it to us right after! As if I didn’t feel old enough already, the Coronet Theater was demolished in 2007 and is now the Institute on Aging!

yeardendfwharfuse The Fisherman’s Wharf boat lagoon: Castagnola’s Restaurant takes credit for being the oldest restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf, (1916). Their current building was built after the vintage photo.

yearendpolouse http://opensfhistory.org/Display/wnp14.3373.jpg

A bicycle race at the north end of the Polo Field at Golden Gate Park in 1945:
“Hey, what’s the matter with you guys? I said Ready! Set! Go! Didn’t you hear me?”
Actually, I don’t think they had any problem hearing him at all with that foghorn he’s got!

yearendfbuildinguse The south wing of the Ferry Building in the early 1940’s:

yearendccarfairmontuse The Fairmont Hotel and part of the exclusive (like the sign on Dennis the Menace’s tree house “no gurls allowed”) Pacific-Union Club on Nob Hill:

yearendghighwayuse Ah, Playland-at-the-Beach! It always fascinates me that you can see the entire western side of San Francisco from Sutro Heights!

yearendbufanouse Benjamino Bufano’s statue of Saint Francis near Fisherman’s Wharf in the 1970’s: It’s probably my imagination, but that fellow on the left looks like Jesus!

San Francisco movie locations through the decades

A journey from 1906 through the 1980’s to some of the San Francisco film locations that I’ve covered on my blog.

decadestripmarketuse decadestripdowntwouse 1906 – ‘A Trip Down Market Street’: The start of the historic film of a cable car ride down Market Street. The Flood Building can be seen on the left in both images at the top. The film ends at the Ferry Building after traveling slowly down Market Street, and includes wonderful images like the bottom picture just past where 3rd Street and Kearny meet Market then known as “Newspaper Row”.

decadesfattymableuse 1915 – ‘Wished on Mabel’: A happy ending for two lovers, Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle at the bottom of Huntington Falls on Strawberry Hill at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

decadeschaplinuse 1915 – ‘A Jitney Elopement’: Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance race north past Golden Gate Park on an unpaved Great Highway attempting to elope. Sutro Heights can be seen in the distance.


decadesnavigatetwouse 1924 – ‘The Navigator’: Millionaire Buster Keaton leaves his mansion at Divisadero and Broadway in Pacific Heights for a long drive, (across the street) to propose to his girlfriend. Keaton’s mansion is gone now but the stone gates are still there and can be seen in the modern picture. When she rejects him, he tells his chauffer that he needs a long walk, and crosses Divisadero back to his house. The building on the northwest corner of Broadway and Divisadero is still there.

decadeslottasuse 1936 – ‘San Francisco’: The opening scenes of the granddaddy of all disaster movies starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Jeanette MacDonald takes place on December 31st 1905, three and a half months before the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, with champagne being served out of Lotta’s Fountain. They did a good job at replicating the historic Fountain on Market Street for the movie.

thinmanparking 1936 – ‘After the Thin Man’: Nick and Nora Charles, (William Powell and Myrna Loy) arrive at their stately home in San Francisco which was actually Coit Tower. The exterior of the home was never shown. The bottom of the staircase that leads to Coit Tower is on the left in both images.

“Nicky, what’s that portable bathroom doing in our front yard?”

decadesbbridgeuse 1940 – ‘Cavalcade of San Francisco:’ The Bay Bridge near the last western tower is shown in James Fitzpatrick’s travelogue complete with the old riveting.

decadesbornkilluse 1947 – ‘Born to Kill’: “The way of the transgressor is hard.” So quotes the philosophical detective Walter Slezak at the foot of Market Street after reading in the paper that his main antagonist, Claire Trevor has been murdered by her lover and partner in crime Lawrence Tierney. The film ends as he saunters across the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building to catch a ferryboat home.

decadesdpassageuse 1947 – ‘Dark Passage’: Humphrey Bogart climbs down the fire escape of the Tamalpais Apartments on Russian Hill after accidentally killing Agnes Morehead. The lower portion of the escape is gone now, but where it was secured into the wall can still be seen.

decadesmamause 1948 – ‘I remember Mama’: The hustle and bustle of the northern end of the Ferry Building in 1910 from a scene in the film. At first I thought it was a backdrop, but that looks like the corner of Pier 1 at the left front of the movie image.

decadessfearuse 1952 – ‘Sudden Fear’: Romance on Lombard Street, “The Crookedest Street in the World”, between Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. Not really because Jack Palance is planning to kill Joan for her money. When she finds out about the plot “Mommie Dearest” punishes Jack good!

decadespaljoeyuse 1957 – ‘Pal Joey’: Frank Sinatra dodges the cops at the southern wing of the Ferry Building. The bus in the background of the film was loading passengers for the Cliff House.

decadesonbeachuse 1959 – ‘On the Beach’: Gregory Peck’s view through his submarine periscope up Hyde Street from beneath San Francisco Bay proves that everybody in San Francisco has been killed by radiation fallout from a nuclear war.

decadestgardenuse 1960 – ‘Portrait in Black’: After conspiring together with Anthony Quinn and killing Lana Turner’s husband they meet in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Lana’s not dealing with this too well so, naturally, Anthony’s going to have to kill her next.

decadeswinerosesuse 1962 – ‘Days of Wine and Roses’: Lee Remick chases after Jack Lemmon in front of the PG&E Building on Market Street to apologize for hurting his feelings.

“Okay, I’m sorry! I’ll become an alcoholic with you.”

decadespointblankuse 1967 – ‘Point Blank’: Double crossed by his wife and her lover, Lee Marvin is shot and left to die in an old prison cell on the then deserted Alcatraz Island. Marvin swims back to the mainland from Alcatraz to seek revenge. Below is the view of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island today.

decadesplaysamuse 1972 – ‘Play It Again, Sam’: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton on their way to beginning an extra marital affair in a scene at the benches of the old Band Concourse in Golden Gate Park.

decadesbutterfliesuse1972 – ‘Butterflies Are Free’: Goldie Hawn and her blind neighbor, played by Edward Albert, pass by the City Lights Bookstore before turning into the now named Jack Kerouac Alley.

decadestuckeruse 1988 – ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’: Although it is supposed to be in Chicago, Jeff Bridges victory parade traveled down Telegraph Avenue past the old Oakland Fox Theater, closed for many years at the time of the filming. Since 1988, the Fox has been restored and reopened, and is now one of the best places in Oakland to catch a show or concert. Notice how the filmmakers changed the engraving on the left side of the marquee from FOX-OAKLAND to FOX-OAKLANE for the movie.

decadespattyuse 1988  ‘Patty Hearst’: The notorious April of 1974 bank robbery by the Symbionese Liberation Army that Patty Hearst participated in is reenacted in this scene from the movie. The Hibernia Savings was actually named Hibernia Bank at the time. The scene was also filmed at 38th Avenue and Balboa Street in the Richmond District rather than at 22tnd Avenue and Noriega Street in the Sunset District where the actual holdup took place.

A twilight cable car ride

A twilight cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf at Christmastime: The weather really warmed up last night in San Francisco; if I would have done this a few nights ago I would have froze my little trolley off!

twicable1 Hardly any line for the cable cars:

twicable2 I always take the “Hyde Street Grip” from here; it’s a more scenic ride.

twicable3 We’re off, past Union Square! I had to knock a couple of kids off to get the front spot, but they’ll get over it.

twicable4 Heading up Nob Hill:

twicable5 Once over Nob Hill the car turns and heads up Russian Hill by way of Jackson Street.

twicable6 Cable cars are the only National Monument that moves, and the conductor doesn’t dick around with anyone who holds up the ride. He got off here to tell that driver to move his truck or he would!

twicable7 Zooming past Lombard Street: I would have liked to get a clearer picture, but we were going about a hundred miles an hour and the cable car didn’t stop!

twicable8 The Buena Vista Cafe was full up when we got to the Bay, so I stopped in a cocktail lounge at Tarantino’s for some refreshing medicine before heading back.

twicable9 I took the Bay Street run back. It’s a beautiful ride too, but not as many hills. I didn’t fight for the front spot this time.

twicable10 Back where I started at a darker Union Square: There was a reassuring police presence all around Union Square last night because of what happened in Berlin a couple of days ago.