Category Archives: San Francisco History

Mayor of All the People: James Rolph, Jr.

James Rolph, Jr., or “Sunny Jim,” as he was known, served more mayoral terms in San Francisco than anyone else.  He was elected four times to office.  These elections were not close, instead they were landslides in Rolph’s favor.

Young Rolph had many jobs growing up including newsboy, clerk, and messenger.  Eventually, he started a shipping company with friends that allowed him to open his own bank.  In addition to his career, his public persona was also greatly enhanced by all the work he did leading a 1906 Earthquake Relief Committee.  All of this was just the foundation that eventually led him to run for public office and serve as mayor of San Francisco from 1912 – 1934 when he resigned the position to run and be elected as governor of San Francisco.

During his reign as mayor, he helped this great phoenix of a city rise from the ashes of the earthquake and grow strong.  The civic center area was rebuilt, the International Exposition was held, and several infrastructure projects were accomplished.

His nickname, “Sunny Jim,” comes from that fat that he was a very jovial and personable character.  He was known all over San Francisco as being generous and of good humor.  He was a man who could talk to anyone about anything and make them feel comfortable and at ease.  He was truly the “Mayor of All the People.”  There is even a story of him inviting Communist demonstrators into his office in city hall for a visit, instead of ordering violence to be carried out against them like what was happening in other cities throughout the nation.  You can’t get anymore San Francisco than that.

Never underestimate a person who is described as having “a great personality.”

Cheers!

Mike

Source:  Historic San Francisco:  A Concise History Guide, by Rand Richards.  (I can’t recommend this book enough.  It is awesome.)

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Filed under San Francisco, San Francisco History, Uncategorized

Native Americans in San Francisco

Raymond Dabb Yelland, Lands End, San Francisco, CA

As with the rest of the United States, we are not the first to inhabit this peninsula.  The first  people to call this home, at least the first as far as we can tell, were the Native Americans.  Imagine if you will a San Francisco composed of sand dunes, marshes, and wetlands.  A place of relative peace and calm which migrating birds often called home during at least some part of the year.  The swamps were rich with life and clean, truly clean, water was abundant.  This of course was before the gold miners of 1849 dumped large quantities of mercury into the streams and rivers.

This virtual paradise was inhabited by many, many tribes which appear to have gotten along in relative peace.  Each tribe, numbering from 40 – 400 had a territory where they hunted, fished, and collected all that they needed.  The area was so rich in resources that the tribe’s needs were easily satisfied.

It is estimated that around 17,000 Native Americans called the bay area home for many centuries, possibly even dating back to a time long ago when the shores of San Francisco started at the Faralon Islands and the bay was a beautiful meadow.  Some of the tribe names are listed below:

Yelamu Tribe – San Francisco area

Humen Tribe – Marin area

Huchium Tribe – Oakland area

Aramai Tribe – Daly City area

Urebure Tribe – San Bruno area

What will the bay area look like in 1,000 or 2,000 or even 3,000 years?  Will the future inhabitants remember us?  What will they think our name was and how will these future historians think that we lived?  Let your imagination go for just a moment, and imagine that they are actually alien archeologists studying the earth and trying to figure out its past and how people lived and survived in San Francisco during the early 21st Century.

Cheers!

Mike

Source:  Infinite City:  A San Francisco Atlas, by Rebecca Solnit (If you are into San Francisco history, you need to buy this book.)

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Filed under San Francisco, San Francisco History, West Coast

San Francisco’s Culinary Side

When you visit San Francisco, or if you live here, you will be delighted by the incredible food experiences that can be found in this great city.   First of all, you can find any type of food here from any country, and often made and served in the traditional manner.   In addition, many of the local, yet world-renowned, chefs perform something called “California Fusion” where they take the traditional recipes and add more modern ways of cooking and manipulating spices in order to give the taste buds a feast.  It’s not all about the food, but if you are a foodie, you will find yourself spending several evenings wiling away the hours at a local restaurant taking in the food and the ambiance.

Going out to eat is not always a precursor to the main event in San Francisco.  Instead, it is the main event.  Don’t be surprised if you end up waiting in line for thirty minutes to an hour and  a half just to get into some of the better restaurants.  Better does not necessarily mean expensive in this case.  For example, check out the line at Dotty’s Cafe on the weekends and you will see people waiting for extended lengths of time to get extraordinary breakfast fare at a very reasonable price.

Located on the West Coast, full of entrepreneurs, and home to large number of immigrants, San Francisco has always been a place of exotic and diverse food choices.  Many new menu items have grown out of this creative culinary melting pot including the following:

1.  The Hangtown Fry.  This is a dish of scrambled eggs mixed with oysters and bacon.  Pair with this with a thick slice of Irish soda bread and you will have an incredible brunch.

2.  The Popsicle.  According to city legend, this item was invented in the 1920’s in Neptune Beach, an amusement park in Alameda.

3.  Rice-A-Roni.  Yes, it really is a San Francisco treat.  It was created by an Italian family in the 1950’s in the Mission District.

4.  Hot Pink Popcorn.  This item could be acquired in the past in Golden Gate Park and the zoo.  You can still get it in the Mission at the Wright Popcorn and Nut Company.

5.  Wine.  Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are literally a 45 minute drive North.  Needless to say, the city shamelessly ignored  the Federal Laws pertaining to Prohibition in the 1930’s.

That’s all for today.

Cheers!

Mike

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Filed under San Francisco Entertainment, San Francisco History, San Francisco Tourist

The Tenderloin

Nestled between the Civic Center to the south, the prestigious Nob Hill to the north, and sitting west of Market Street, you will find the very well-located and derelict community called the Tenderloin.  After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, this area was rebuilt with tourist hotels, theaters, churches, and apartments.  Since World War II, the area has declined and is now notorious for drug deals, crime, and prostitution.  In recent years, it has begun the “gentrification” process and slowly the neighborhood is being rehabilitated.  The area called the Tender Nob is a perfect example of this.  As the buildings get redone and more and more respectable businesses begin to populate the area, the city loses one of its very few areas where someone of moderate to low-income can find affordable rent.

There are two reasons why it is called the Tenderloin.  First, it is referred to as the underbelly of the city.  Second, in previous times cops were paid quite a bit more money to walk the streets of this area, and they were then able to buy the best cuts, or most tender cuts, of meat.  Some say that the cops were also given deals on these cuts of meat by the merchants in the area because they wanted police protection.

According to Wikipedia, the Tenderloin is also famous for the following:

*  Rae Bourbon,  female impersonator, was arrested in 1933.  At the time, he was broadcasting live from Tait’s Cafe at 44 Ellis Street his show entitled, “Boys will be Girls.”

* In August 1966 at Compton’s Cafeteria (Turk & Taylor Streets), one of the first gay riots occurred.  Police were in the process of arresting a drag queen, and it erupted into civil disobedience.  This riot pre-dated the famous Stonewall Riot in New York City.

*  The movie and book, The Maltese Falcon, are based on San Francisco’s Tenderloin.

Most guide books will not tell you about this area of the city, even though it is almost a stones throw from so many tourist places in the city.  They do this area an injustice.  Some of the safer areas of this region have fantastic restaurants, coffee shops, and theaters.  Cafe Royale, Brenda’s French & Soul Food,
Exit Theatre, Golden Gate Theatre, Dottie’s Cafe, and Hooker’s Sweet Treats are just a few of the locally owned, successful businesses that make the trek into this area well worth it.

For more information on the Tenderloin, check out the blog called “The Tender,” at http://thetender.us/

Sincerely,

Mike

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North Beach

This area of the city is nestled near Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, and has a long history as the Italian section of San Francisco. By the 1930’s, one tenth of the city’s population was Italian. It was home to Italian notables like the great chocolatier, Domingo Ghirardelli; and that baseball sensation, Joe Di Maggio. In fact, Joe renewed his wedding vows to the beautiful Marilyn Monroe on the steps located in front of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. This is the one of the few churches, if the only church in America, with the street number 666. No kidding.

North Beach was settled in the late 1800’s and received its name because it was the Northern waterfront. Because of landfill and new construction, this characteristic of the area changed drastically over the past 100 years. San Francisco is always trying to find new ways to add livable space to this tip of the peninsula community.

The area thrived after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. In fact, three and four-story Edwardian homes appeared magically all over the area in order to offer cheap housing near the bay. Many of these structures are still around today, and they definitely add to the charming appeal of the neighborhood.

Eventually it became home to the Beatnik culture, and places like Vesuvio, Specs, and other businesses which encouraged radical self-expression popped up all over the area. This is also the place where you will find City Lights Bookstore which boasts one of the largest collections of Beat literature and history.

Finally, the area also was, and is, a center for nightlife. Walking down the streets at twilight you can smell the Italian food from the restaurants, hear the music of live bands seeping out into the streets, and you can even check out a peep-show. Starting in 1964, people rushed to North Beach and caused traffic jams in order to see the topless dancer, Carol Doda, perform at the Condor Club. Shocking!

North Beach is a magical place, and best experienced in the early evening on into the night.

Cheers!

 

Mike

Source: San Francisco: A Cultural History, Mick Sinclair (This is an awesome book, and I highly recommend it.)

 

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Filed under San Francisco Art, San Francisco History, San Francisco Living, San Francisco Tourist

Global Warming Threat

The reclaimed lands are marked in pink.

Everyone who lives in or near San Francisco is very aware of the threat of global warming.  For example, if you talk to someone from Alameda, you realize that they definitely take the prospect of global warming and the rise of the sea seriously.  Alameda, on average, sits only 4 feet above sea level, and any rise of the bay/sea is going to be catastrophic for this historic village positioned on two islands in the bay.

The City of San Francisco also has reason to be alarmed about the sea level.  There are large portions of this city that were reclaimed from the bay.  The founding fathers often used parts of abandoned ships, sand from the tops of hills, and whatever they had in order to fill in the marshes, the inlets, and small creaks near the bay to make more usable land.  In the past, entrepeneurs paid very high prices for land that was actually covered by the bay.  They then would cheaply fill it in and make large profits selling off prime bay front property.  It’s amazing to look at the old maps and realize how much land was actually reclaimed and in use today.  For example, Mission Bay used to be a rather large bay, but now it is just the size of a small creek surrounded by mid-rise apartments/condos, AT&T Park, and the newly developed campus of UCSF.  As the sea level, and bay level, rise, these parts will once again be underwater unless something is done in the next 100 years.

At some point we have to take the blinders off our eyes and admit that global warming is real.  Imagine, there are still people, often brainwashed by their preachers or politicians, who say they don’t believe in global warming.  Is it really that hard to believe when we already see proof around the world of the effect of the polar ice caps melting?  Only when we are able to face this problem head on will we be able to formulate long-term solutions and save the land through the use of levees and dykes.  If they could do it in new Orleans they can do it in San Francisco, but now is the time for action.  Ignorance at times may be bliss, but in this instance it is short-sighted, ludicrous, and dangerous.

Mike

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Filed under California, San Francisco, San Francisco History, San Francisco Living, San Francisco Nature, Uncategorized

Golden Gate?

Golden Gate I  6.14.11

If you have been around San Francisco for any amount of time, you will definitely see a reference to the Golden Gate, the most obvious being the Golden Gate Bridge.  You will also hear the term used in almost any song talking about San Francisco.  We now have restaurants, apartment houses, businesses, hobby clubs, etc. using the name to show themselves as local and loyal to the Bay Area.

The term Golden Gate refers to the entrance of the bay between Marin and San Francisco which is now connected by the bridge.  Before the bridge, the name was still used for that specific area.

Why Golden Gate?  Many think it is a term relating to the California Gold Rush.  It makes sense, but it is incorrect.  It was actually named by John C. Fremont after he first viewed the entrance to the bay.  It reminded him of the sea entrance to to Byzantium, now called Istanbul.  The entrance to that historic harbor is named Chryoceras (Greek for Golden Horn).  The geographical characteristics, as well as the possible commercial uses of this area, are what led Fremont to name this area of the bay Chrysopylae, or Golden Gate.

Cheers!

Mike

Reference:  San Francisco Memoirs 1835-1851: Eyewitness accounts of the birth of a city, by Malcolm E. Barker

bay 6.14.11

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