Tom’s Garden

Growing by the Bay

Category: history (Page 2 of 2)

Video: Newsreel of 1906 San Francisco earthquake

Edison newsreels of earthquake.

Pilgrimage Sites in the Haight

 

Pilgrimage sites in the Haight

Pilgrimage sites in the Haight.

Here‘s a chap who lived through the sixties in the Haight and claims to remember it.

Video: Bob Dylan’s 1965 Press Conference in San Francisco

The video excerpts I originally posted here have come down. This one seems pretty complete. My favorite question was “How wasted is really wasted?”

 

1907 San Francisco Street Map

1907 sf street map

This 1907 street map from the San Francisco History website has great detail. Clicking on the sections of the map at that site enlarges them.

San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

snow in golden gate park, 1932

The San Francisco Public Library’s historical photograph collection is a great resource for old photos of San Francisco, such as this one of snow in Golden Gate Park in 1932. You can search the database online, and if you want print-quality photos you can order them very cheaply. I got several of the photos for Bridge to Understanding, my book on the Asian Art Museum, from this collection.

San Francisco, May 28, 1906

 

San Francisco in ruins, 1906. Be sure to view the large version via the link!

San Francisco in ruins, 1906. Be sure to view the large version via the link!

Here is a remarkably detailed (7000 pixels wide) photo of the city in the wake of the ’06 earthquake and fire. According to the legend on the photo, it was taken from the Lawrence Captive Airship. The photo was marked “copyright the Geo R. Lawrence Co., Chicago,” but works from 1906 have passed into the public domain. Click the image above for a larger view. (When you are at the image you might have to click again to zoom in.)

Emporium Dome, Westfield Centre (Bloomingdale’s), San Francisco

the historic emporium dome

click any photo for a larger view (via flickr)

Recently I visited the Westfield Centre in downtown San Francisco, mainly to get a look at the historic dome that was saved from the old Emporium department store that occupied the same location. I had a personal reason for checking it out, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The Emporium, founded in 1896 in San Francisco, was once the major competitor to Macy’s (and I. Magnin) in the region. In 1927 the Emporium merged with an Oakland-based store, Capwell’s, to form Emporium – Capwell. In 1995 the store was bought out by Federated Department Stores, the parent company of both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s (among others).

On the store’s 100th birthday in 1996, the old Emporium flagship across from the Powell Street cable car turnaround on Market Street — which the company had claimed was the largest department store west of Chicago — was closed. It remained sadly vacant until 2006. Then, in September 2006, Federated opened a Bloomingdale’s on the location as the co-anchor (with the previously opened Nordstom’s) of an urban shopping complex pretentiously called the Westfield Centre.

westfield centre

The Westfield Centre is glitzy, soulless urban schlock. As you can see from the photo at left, it houses some movie theaters, which I haven’t visited yet. The Bloomingdale’s is huge, second in size only to theNew York store, and I suppose it serves as a comfort store for transplanted New Yorkers who crave the consumerist outlets of their past.

It’s probably a fine store, but I was mostly interested in the building’s main historic feature, its dome, which is all that was retained from the old Emporium, other than the exterior facade.

Disappointingly, only glimpses of the dome can be caught from lower floors.

On the upper levels, however, the dome and rotunda can be enjoyed from comfortable chairs, which I suppose would be a pleasant enough place to relax on days when the weather drives you inside.

Part of the reason I wanted to check out the dome and see what Federated had done with the old building is that the Emporium was my first employer when I first moved to San Francisco. Back then the Emporium used to host a carnival on its roof at Christmastime, complete with a full-sized ferris wheel and other rides, food venders, and more (one year they hoisted a working cable car up the twelve stories to the roof). My job was a temporary one — I was their Santa Claus Manager: sort of a stage manager for the Christmas schtick. About half of my Santa Clauses were members of the comedy group Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater (not “theatre” as Westfield would no doubt spell it). Some of the better-known roles of members of the group were Randee of the Redwoods (once a regular on MTV), Ian Schoales (who comments on PBS), and Dr. Science (he knows more than you do). Ian Schoales (Merle Kessler) maintains a blog.

rotunda

Below: Santa Claus material??? Photo of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater by Manoj Patel.

ducksbreath

link: memories of the Emporium

Port View Park, Oakland

carol at 7th street pier, oaklandThe main feature of Port View Park in Oakland is what locals call the Seventh Street Pier. It’s a popular fishing pier that offers good views of the nearby Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. The Port of Oakland Container Terminal is also nearby — not a bucolic feature, but not without interest since the Port of Oakland is the main Bay Area shipping destination. (San Francisco’s piers are no longer major destinations, except for cruise ships. Because the city is on the tip of a peninsula it is inconvenient for ground shipping, whereas Oakland is well served by train and truck routes.)

In the late 19th century there was an enormous pier near this one called the Long Wharf (it opened in 1871). It reached nearly to Goat Island (Yerba Buena Island). Trains ran out the pier to connect up with sailing ships, a process that was fazed out around WWI.

In September, 2004, the park was in effect expanded with the addition of 38 adjacent acres called Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. I haven’t seen this new addition but according to Waterfront Action it features “spectacular views of the bay and shoreline, shorebirds, nearby maritime operations, San Francisco and Oakland skylines, and marine traffic at the estuary mouth;a dramatic observation tower; picnic and barbeque facilities; parking, restrooms, and water fountains; historical exhibits; an amphitheater; free viewing scopes; fishing pier and platforms; the only beach in Oakland; and nearly three miles of pedestrian and bike paths, some of which are part of the Bay Trail.”

map to middle harbor park

Pisco

Frisco Pisco

Frisco Pisco (image via Food 52.

Frisco Pisco (image via Food 52.

I once lived for a time in Guapalo, Ecuador, and later traveled around Peru. So I know from pisco. Pisco is a brandy-like drink that Peru claims as its own. Unfortunately for Peru, however, Chile currently produces and exports more pisco than Peru does. (Peruvians scoff at the Chilean product.)

This has led to considerable hard feelings between the nations, but that’s not the story. The story is–and this I didn’t know–that the drink has a strong San Francisco connection. According to this story in the San Francisco Chronicle,

This style of brandy was once the toast of San Francisco, and Pisco Punch, a drink that was created by bartender Duncan Nichol at the Bank Exchange, a bar that used to stand on Montgomery Street, is said to have been the most popular drink in the city in the 1870s. Unfortunately, Nichol took his recipe to the grave.

The Pisco Sour, perhaps the best-known pisco-based drink in America, is said to have been created in 1915 by Victor Morris, a native of Berkeley who owned the Morris Bar in Lima, Peru, and this cocktail, a simple mix of pisco, lime juice, egg white and simple syrup, has made a big comeback in recent years. The secret to a good Pisco Sour is the angostura bitters that are dashed on top of the drink as an aromatic garnish.

Who knew?

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Pink Floyd: Darkness over Frisco

Don’t Call It Frisco

pink floyd frisco

There’s a laundromat in the city’s Hayes Valley called the Don’t Call It Frisco Laundromat. The name quotes an admonition you will hear often from a certain generation of locals, who will tell you the word grates like chalk on a blackboard. The taboo started, or at least took hold, in 1953 with the publication of San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen’s first book, entitled, well, Don’t Call it Frisco. Caen is much beloved but the truth is he was a bit of an elitist; he had a dogmatic and imperious streak. (I know — back in the day I sometimes had lunch with his power claque.)

“Not Frisco but San Francisco,” Caen prescribed. “Caress each Spanish syllable, salute our Italian Saint. Don’t say Frisco and don’t say San-Fran-Cis-Co. That’s the way Easterners, like Larry King pronounce it. It’s more like SanfrnSISco.” (No one pointed out that the command to caress each syllable and to elide them was contradictory.)

And a generation of independent and free-spirited San Franciscans meekly complied with the columnist’s mandate. Perhaps they were motivated by the suspicion that their city might not in fact be in the same league with New York City after all, so they sought to sweep their underclass underpinnings under the rug, to turn their back on their rough-and-tumble past.

But there’s a long tradition of calling the city Frisco. (The term frisco, meaning a port where ships could be repaired, goes back to Middle English.) Immigrants during the Gold Rush sang:

I soon shall be in Frisco and there I’ll look around,
When I find the gold lumps there I’ll pick them off the ground.
Oh, California, that’s the life for me . . .

Even in Caen’s day Otis Redding sang that he was leaving his home in Georgia and heading for the Frisco Bay. The Youngbloods sang:

I used to love to watch her dance
That Grizzly Bear
I guess she’s gone to Frisco-o-o
To dance it there

james cagney in the frisco kidThe poet Kenneth Rexroth, another contemporary of Caen’s, called the city Frisco, and the beat poet Bob Kaufman wrote a series of “Frisco” poems. Sal Paradise, Jack Kerouac’s alter ego in On the Road, says he is heading for “Frisco.”

Today a lot of people are looser and less uptight that about the city’s handle than was once the case. There’s a tattoo parlor in the Mission district called Frisco Tattoo. A CD of local bands is called Frisco Styles. The Notorious B.I.G. rapped that he was “Sippin’ Crist-o with some freaks from Frisco.” Columnist Stephanie Salter uses the term Frisco regularly. A Barry Bonds fan t-shirt is emblazoned with the slogan Frisco Grooves.

The local hiphop movement called Yay Area hyphy uses Frisco as a “term of endearment.” For example, Frontline’s Now You Know contains these lyrics:

Wah wha wha wha, thats Oakland
Yee yee yee yee, thats Richmond
Hey, hey, thats Frisco
And if you aint from the bay now yo ass know

Letting go of silly, tight-assed prescriptions like Caen’s is a sign that the city is coming into its own, confident enough in itsself not to have to monitor how people refer to it. Those who disapprove of Frisco are trying to own the city,” says screenwriter Theo McKinney. “People should be able to call the city what they wish.”

Do I call it Frisco? Well, no, not really, except sometimes in fun. Which I hope is the spirit of this site.

So don’t call it Frisco. Or do call it Frisco (but be prepared for some rolled eyes). Or, as some folks do, you could just call it “the ‘Sco.” That way you’re covered — you’re cool.

The choice is yours.

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