- The Safest Driver in the State of California
The story of Nell A. Leavitt - by Woody LaBounty
- The Birth of Westwood Park, Part II
More on the creation of San Francisco's first residence park for the middle class. - by Woody LaBounty
- Bicycles West
The ways the bicycle madness of the 1890s reached the west side. - by Woody LaBounty
- Park-Presidio Improvement Association of San Francisco‘s Richmond District
A report on a twentieth-century neighborhood group. - by Woody LaBounty and Lorri Ungaretti
- Barney Farley, a Character Study
Boxing coach, roadhouse operator, saloon keeper, and Ingleside character for over fifty years. - by Woody LaBounty
- The Jets of Larsen Park
Remembering the Navy jets used as play structures in a park on 19th Avenue. - by Woody LaBounty
- Ocean Beach’s Tornado House
How one Sunset District house got turned around in 1930. - by Woody LaBounty
- Aviation in the Ingleside
When land along Ocean Avenue acted as airstrips for early planes and flying machines. - by Woody LaBounty
- Chicken at the Sea
The history of two distinctive Great Highway buildings, both residences that were once restaurants. - by Woody LaBounty
- Mr. Hot Dog Rancho
Memories of a western-themed hot dog and hamburger joint on Geary Boulevard. - by Woody LaBounty
The Circle of History
by Woody LaBounty
(Originally appeared in the WNP member newsletter, January 2007)
Well, perhaps it isn't a circle, but certainly there's some shape to the way a chance meeting can develop into a fascinating story. Most of the material members see in the Western Neighborhoods Project newsletter or on the Web site comes to us in a fairly convoluted way.
In February of 2006, I met a woman at the Balboa Theater's birthday celebration. She told me her 88-year-old father had grown up in the Outer Richmond district and perhaps we'd be interested in interviewing him some time. In May 2006, she, her father, and I took a ride in the rain to view Richmond blocks through his memory of the 1920s and 1930s.
We heard about the Alexandria, Balboa, and Coliseum theaters; streetcars rumbling up different paths to the beach; Land's End shipwrecks; and fishing on "Dead Man's Rock" with Italian fisherman. He saw the Golden Gate Bridge being constructed; attended the opening years of the new Lafayette School (1927), and Presidio Junior High School (1930). He remembered when the renowned Pacific Cafe on 34th Avenue and Geary Boulevard was a grocery store owned by Mrs. Clark and then was Minchen's Drugstore. (Across the street, on the southwest corner of 34th and Geary, Minchen's father ran another grocery where he bootlegged liquor during Prohibition). Then the gentleman mentioned Hall's Soda Fountain on Balboa that his friend Dottie's family ran, and how he thought he had some photos of it.
I had never heard of Hall's, but, soon after, had two wonderful photos in the mail courtesy of William Hall's daughter. Some checking of old San Francisco directories showed William Hall, "confectioner," was in business next door to the Balboa Theater (where this whole story started) from about 1928 to 1934. The 1930 United States Census lists the entire Hall family (William and Hazel with three daughters) living upstairs from the shop at 3626 Balboa Street.
Playing history detective, I can more specifically date the store interior shot. In the upper left corner a sign reminds customers of Mother's Day on May 12. In the time period we're working with, that means either 1929 or 1935. Because beginning with the 1934 San Francisco directory a Mrs. Jennie Simpson appears to take over the shop at 3626 Balboa, the photo is very likely from 1929.
So, with help from a new friend, her father, and Dottie (and her next-door neighbor Bryan, who had the photos scanned for us), we have two wonderful images of Richmond history, when candy stores and soda fountains were community meeting places and the family running them lived just up the stairs.
Contribute your own stories about western neighborhoods places!
Page launched 26 April 2007.