Thanks to a friend on FaceBook, I found this great video of San Francisco from 1955. It’s a travelog sort of film that makes San Francisco look like Disneyland in many ways. If you think you know the City, see how many places you’ll find that are different today than they were then. I honestly got all of them even though Sutro Baths was closed just after I was born. I’d like to do a remake of this film using the same voice over and locations, but with today’s scenes. Sounds like fun anyone in on it with me?
Sadly, this should have been posted on July 5th, 2013 but I missed it by a few days because I was out and about for the holiday weekend. 75 years ago Herb Caen started his legacy that formed the way a lot of us saw and remembered San Francisco through the eyes of a boy from Sacramento.
Before coming to San Francisco Herb was writing the sports column for the Sacramento Union, nowhere near as prestigious or as fun as his San Francisco columns which pulled no punches when he took on the humor of San Francisco politics, yet he never went too far in calling out the people who ran the City for the rich and stupid.
I wish Herb was alive today. I’d sit down with him at the Buena Vista over a couple of Irish Coffee’s [hold the coffee] to get his thoughts on San Francisco today. I had a dream over the weekend of what this might be like and it goes a little something like this.
Everyone in San Francisco is from somewhere else, but the problem is that nobody stays here any more. We’ve become an amusement park for the new monied elite who don’t mind sitting in front of an overpriced cafe run by a surly student drinking a $7 cup of coffee after being told that it’s so expensive because the growers were paid a fair wage oh and the beans were roasted on the thighs of a virgin in the free trade sunlight of the distant unheard of island of Tubanya.
The typical San Franciscan now hasn’t lived here for more than a year so they don’t know the weather patterns or were you can park a car or buy a beer for under $10 at a bar. San Francisco has become a long stay amusement park where people come for under a year until they’ve spent all their money on rent and food because why cook when you can buy organic? None of them will change San Francisco or add to it, but those who have time and money invested here will change it for them.
Whoever said the best things in life are free never lived in San Francisco today. Then again, they probably never said that 100 years ago here either. People have always complained about the high rents and how expensive it is in San Francisco. They just never made the wages that they do today. The wages today are good for you and me because we have the time invested here so it’s easier for us than it is for someone who came here yesterday. Can you imagine if we made the wages of today back when we talk about a 25¢ cup of coffee? I wouldn’t have to invite myself to the Getty’s dinner parties for the free food.
Wow Herb, I don’t remember you being so grumpy…oh right, it’s my dream.
Regardless of what I think he might say today, what he said 75 years ago started something that turned San Francisco into what it has become. He weaved the history in and out of a story that he sometimes took a little bit of liberties with, but in the end he was a remarkable storyteller that brought his words to life. If you can’t find his archives through your searches at least pick up a copy of Baghdad by the Bay. It’s the book that gave these pages their name.
San Francisco is known for it’s museums, but some of them don’t get noticed. San Francisco’s Cable Car Museum is one of these, even for people who were born and raised here.
If you’re from San Francisco you probably don’t ride the Cable Cars very often and just sort of take them for granted, but they have a history that is truly San Franciscan and the Cable Car Museum is the best place to learn about this. Andrew Smith Hallidae conceived of a cable driven transport system in 1869 and brought it to life in 1873 starting on Clay Street. The hills of San Francisco were just too much for the horses to pull the cars loaded with people so he came up with a way around it that has become one of the main symbols of San Francisco ever since.
The Museum itself was built in 1974 and is operated by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum as a nonprofit educational facility.
Located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.
On display are various mechanical devices such as grips, track, cable, brake mechanisms, tools, detailed models, and a large collection of historic photographs. You’ll even get a close up look at how the cables work.
The museum houses three antique cable cars from the 1870s. The Sutter Street Railway No. 46 grip car & No. 54 trailer and the only surviving car from the first cable car company, the Clay Street Hill Railroad No. 8 grip car. The museum store offers a variety of cable car memorabilia, books, clothing, cards and even genuine cable car bells! Hours for the museum are 10 am – 6 pm, April 1 thru September 30. 10 am – 5 pm, October 1 thru March 31. Open every day except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Admission is Free. Phone: 415-474-1887
I apparently found out today quite by accident that Supervisor Katy Tang is up for re-election for Supervisor of District 4 just after she was appointed to the position. Those who wish to run against her have until June 11th to come up with the $500 to enter the race.
There is one person who entered to run against her, but he’s 64 and has only been here for three years. That kind of thing doesn’t work out for the Sunset District. If you’re going to run to be Supervisor of this district you’ve got to have been born and raised here. This got me thinking because several of the locals out here have asked me over the years, why don’t YOU run for Supervisor.
I thought about that today and it actually isn’t that bad an idea since I was born and raised in the Sunset District 50 years ago and except for a short six year stint living in the Mission District [pre-Hipster] I’ve been in the Sunset District the whole time. I’m a home owner. I frequent many of the local businesses and I know the area from 19th Avenue down to the beach probably better than anyone else who has lived here. I don’t really have the $500 to spare at the moment either, but unlike Matt Gonzalez, I’ve got a suit [three to be exact.]
I have been here long enough to see the changes in the area which have been for good and bad. When my parents purchased the house in 1954 from the McKuen Contractors this was a part of the Parkside District. Pretty much anything in the 94116 area code was the Parkside with Ortega being the Northern Boundary. While the boundries have changed and the Inner Sunset is now lumped in with the Parkside for areas under the charge of Norman Yee, what the City now calls the Sunset has been my home for more years that most people.
It would be tough for me because there is a very strong Asian population and I don’t really speak enough Mandarin or Cantonese without getting my face slapped so I may not go over so well with them. I do realize though that the Sunset has been getting a large influx of Russian and Irish immigrants that are finding their own niches to hang out at. Actually I remember when the Sunset District had a mostly Irish population in the first wave during the 50’s and 60’s. I went to school with most of their kids because my family having strong Italian roots [don’t let the Germanic last name fool you] moved from the Marina along with other Italians from North Beach to San Francisco’s suburbs or the Sunset District.
I’ve seen lots of changes over the years with the outer lands near the beach starting to pick up and creating the new Westside Hipsters™ as I coined the term which are techie based people who like hanging out at cafes and coffee shops without the hipster attitude. I like that. The Sunset District needs to be brought into the 21st century like the rest of the city not just in small places here and there, but more like what the Inner Sunset has developed into over the years while maintaining households instead of apartments.
So what would I do if I was elected Supervisor of District 4? Here’s what I’d do:
Work on the roads. Yes, there has been work on the roads, but it really is more of a small scale of look what we’re doing. It doesn’t affect the entire Sunset District only small parts. The street that I live on had a section in front of my house torn up to work on a sewer pipe over 30 years years ago. You can still see scar on the street today because it hasn’t been repaved in that long. While the Sunset District doesn’t get real seasons other than foggy and not-foggy our roads still need work. We don’t have lots of traffic compared to other parts of the city and because we’re built in an easy to navigate rectangular way it’s easy to drive around the block if a street is being worked on. With the new machines that basically eat the old road in the front and lay down the new road in the back having your street worked on should be able to be held to a minimum.
Crack down on double parking. In the commercial areas of the Sunset we do have a parking problem sometimes which leads people to double park and leave their cars so that if you are parked you have to sit there honking your horn to get the owner to come out and move [which usually doesn’t happen because there are several cars double parked and then never know who their honking at.] If you double park and leave your car, automatic ticket. If you are in your car with the engine off, automatic ticket. If you’ve got the car running you’ll be moved along to circle the block until the person you’re waiting for is ready to get back in the car like we used to.
Stop Muni Switchbacks. While I haven’t needed to take Muni lately I have to say that every time I have, I have not been able to get to where I’m going. Even when it’s the middle of the day during the week they have switchbacks and even though we’re one of the most populace districts in the city the L-Taraval, N-Judah and 29-Sunset should complete their routes.
Ditch the 66-Quintara. This bus line used to have a purpose, but it doesn’t really anymore. There are plenty of ways to get downtown faster now and the 66 hasn’t gone that far in years. It runs from 30th and Vicente to 8th and Judah and that only really services people who want to shop in the Inner Sunset who could use the 71-Noriega and N-Judah to get there directly or the L-Taraval, 48-Quintara and 29-Sunset with a single transfer. If you’re attending UCSF you probably live close by. I would have the 48-Quintara switched to full time instead of only rush hour to serve a neglected part of the Sunset District.
A guaranteed physical and electronic presence. Because I live and do business in the Sunset District you’ll see me around here frequently outside of Supervisor related roles. I will also have a very nice electronic presence to keep everyone in the Sunset District updated as to what is going on here and what I am doing in the Sunset District. I have a large network of people I interact with out here and access to all the tools necessary to building a great community. I can easily guarantee my website will look more attractive than the supervisor pages on sfgov.org.
Acknowledge that more than 50% of the voting population isn’t Asian. Everyone seems to focus on the fact that nearly 50% of the voting population of the Sunset District is Asian, but they don’t realize that means that more than 50% of the population isn’t Asian as well. I honestly don’t like focusing on people in this way because it makes them out to be a singular entity like the Borg on Star Trek or like the 800 pound gorilla in the room metaphor. When I was growing up in the Sunset and attending Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary, Lawton Elementary and A.P. Giannini Junior High School [that shows you how long I’ve been here] there was more ethnic diversity then than now [note of full disclosure: While I have spent the majority of my life in the Sunset District, I did attend George Washington High School in the Richmond District through an out of district permit because they offered Marine Biology and Japanese that were not offered locally at Abraham Lincoln]. Sure there was a much larger population under the category White back then, but it also included people of Hispanic, Middle-Eastern and East Indian descent which have now been separated out. We also had lots more European immigrants back then who were not as Americanized as they are today so when you opened a can of Spaghetti-O’s you were having ethnic food. I am all in favor of bringing your cultural heritage to the table, but I think we all have to remember that we are American and San Franciscan first.
Keep my word and think about what I do. This has been a problem for a long time in the Sunset District. Fiona Ma who was once the Supervisor of District 4 rallied everyone around the idea that she was going to get rid of the overhead power lines in the Sunset. My street was supposed to have them removed by 2010. They’re still here along with almost everywhere else in the Sunset. Carmen Chu replanted part of the median on Sunset Boulevard with grass…golf course putting green grass that has been ignored now and is dying or beginning to look like thick weeds. In the Sunset District why not rip that up and plant a more drought tolerant row of succulents that hardly ever need watering or upkeep? It would save thousands of dollars. Ed Jew, well I don’t think I need to say more there. I want to research or have someone under me research properly anything I want to have done for the Sunset District so that I don’t promise something and am not able to come through or come through badly. I am not a glad handler who likes to show off and go back and sit at my desk. I have to shop and walk around the Sunset District every day. I don’t want to have to face someone that I’ve failed on a promise to.
If you want a taste of old San Francisco you have to go to Blum’s. Unfortunately it closed sometime in the early 70’s. I remember going there a few times. My Grandmother would take me and always make sure she had her proper hat and gloves when she went there.
My family was not a rich family, but they did what they could and would set aside money for special things. My Grandmother tended to frequent places that wealthy women would go to shop and Blum’s was the place they ended their hard day of shopping at. It was a candy store and soda fountain that also served meals I don’t remember much other than the huge sundaes my Grandmother would buy me when we’d go there and she would sit and have her cup of coffee and delicately nibble on her Coffee Crunch Cake.
Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake has been popping up for me recently enough that I had to find out more information about it. Some people refer to it as Blum’s coffee cake, but it’s not a coffee cafe it’s a coffee flavored cake that has some crunchy toffee bits on top. The story goes that Ernest Weil who managed Blum’s in San Francisco came up with the idea when a candy making friend made a mistake and over cooked some coffee flavored candy and it sort of turned into an aerated toffee. Not exactly the way it was supposed to look and it was a bit on the ugly looking side too. Ernest helped him out by smashing it up and putting it on top of a lemony cake with coffee frosting. It was a hit. Apparently it was a big hit that I was too young to realize.
As it turns out a year after making it for Blum’s Ernest Weil left and opened Fantasia Bakery in Laurel Heights. This is remembered because of their florentine cookies my Mom used to get when we’d visit her best friend who lived nearby. These weren’t like the florentines you get in any other store or bakery. They were so sinfully good that my Mother used to joke that she’d have to go to confession after eating one. Odd considering she had given up being a Catholic before I was born.
Today Blum’s and Fantasia are gone, but there is a place called the Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop located in Mira’s grocery store that makes it. They run out frequently I’ve been told so it’s best to call ahead first to see if they have any. If you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, I’ve managed to find the recipe for you:
I figured this would be a fun one to start the weekend off with. While I was looking for movies filmed in San Francisco I actually found a cartoon that was based in San Francisco and it was none other than Bugs Bunny himself. While they do use a few very NOT San Francisco phrases like calling it ‘Frisco it’s still a fun look at how cartoons viewed old San Francisco.
Here’s the story behind the cartoon according to Wikipedia:
Bugs is tunneling cross country to meet his cousin, only to run head first into a boulder which is a large nugget of gold. Bugs is considering keeping the gold safe, while Nasty Canasta sees this and sets up a simple stand claiming to be a banker who can safely store Bugs’ gold. The rabbit falls for the ruse. When Bugs decides to ask for his gold back, Canasta claims the bank is closing and traps the rabbit in the folded up stand while he rides away with the gold. Furious, Bugs vows revenge.
Six months later, Canasta has used his ill-gotten gains to start a casino in San Francisco which is shamelessly rigged in the house’s favor. Bugs enters the casino in the role, playing a hopelessly naive country boy who confuses a slot machine for a telephone. When Bugs uses it to phone his mother for some money, he hits the jackpot much to Canasta’s shock. Hoping to recoup this loss, Canasta convinces Bugs to stay for a game and thinks he is maneuvering the apparently easy mark into playing a game of roulette on the pretense of it being a game of marbles. To build his would-be victim’s confidence, Canasta arranges for Bugs to win on his first spin, but Bugs develops a winning streak on the same number (#23). Having nearly lost everything, Canasta covers #23 with a block of wood and sets the wheel up for the marble to stop on #00, but when it does his subsequent striking the table in triumph causes the ball to accidentally bounce and hammer into the knot of the block of wood, thus Bugs wins again.
Now desperate to win back Bugs’ now massive winnings, Canasta convinces Bugs to try playing draw poker and Bugs literally draws a picture of a fireplace poker. Bugs then pretends to misinterpret Canasta’s description of the importance of having the biggest hand to win by blowing up his glove into a giant balloon. Canasta loses his temper at his would-be victim’s obtuseness. Bugs threatens to walk out, forcing Canasta to grovel in order to coax Bugs to return to the game. Canasta soon regrets that when Bugs, after staking all his money, promptly wins with a Four of a Kind consisting of Aces (Two pair. A pair of ones, and another pair of ones), trumping Canasta’s Full House.
Now with his casino’s bank irreparably broken at the hands of this simpleton who seems physically incapable of losing, Canasta decides to rob Bugs at gunpoint on the pretense of it being another game of chance. Bugs, still keeping in character, naively spins the revolver bullet cylinder like a slot machine and a mass of coins inexplicably pours out the gun’s barrel.
As Bugs’ departs with all the casino’s funds and more, Canasta greedily tries to win money from his gun, only to shoot himself in the attempt and collapses. Bugs pops in and says to the audience (in his normal voice): “The moral of this story is: ‘Don’t try to steal no 18 karats [carrots] from no rabbit.'”
I was able to find a copy of it on youtube so here’s what Warner Bros. thought about old San Francisco. Enjoy!
It’s time to look at some more San Francisco movies and I did a little searching for some other than Bullitt and I found one I had never heard of called, The House on Telegraph Hill. It’s a 1951 movie so it doesn’t have the campiness of the 60’s movies, but there’s still a good car scene the type that you can only make in San Francisco.
If you want to read a synopsis of the movie I suggest you check out the write up at Wikipedia.org since that’s pretty accurate. Let’s just say in the cliff notes version it has Nazis, poison and car brake failure.
OK, Nazis, poison, car brakes fail…Wait, car brakes fail? Must be a good time to introduce the car scene. It seems like there was a time when if you filmed a movie in San Francisco that you had to have a car scene. This was the car driving around all crazy on the verge of crashing and if you were lucky they would drive out of Golden Gate Park and drive off the piers at the Wharf. Geography was always an after thought in movies filmed in SF and that’s usually the fun part when you can tell that Golden Gate Park does not exit onto Fisherman’s Wharf or some other strange place.
Car scenes like this are for the die hard residents who know San Francisco backwards and forwards. Just looking at the clip below I saw streets that several of my friends have lived on now or in the past. For me at least, the car scenes are why I like watching movies or TV shows filmed in SF.