426 - Earthquake Refugee Camps in Golden Gate Park
Nicole: [00:00:00] It’s Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Nicole Meldahl.
David: And I'm David Gallagher.
John M: And I'm John Martini.
Nicole: Hey fellas!
David: Hello, Nicole!
John M: Hey Nicole!
David: Hi, John!
John M: David!
David: Hi, hello John.
John M: David and John!
David: It's great to be back again this week. Thank you for having me.
Nicole: Thank you for having me.
David: And you know what else? We have another guest. Another John is here. Our many-time guest, he might be our most frequent guest, outside of John Martini, because John Martini's now a host, so he is not a guest anymore, but we have the remarkable Western Neighborhoods Project member, Richmond District historian, longtime friend of the [00:01:00] organization, John Freeman is here.
Nicole: Thanks for joining us.
John F: Thanks for inviting me.
Nicole: I mean, you're, I like to think of you as the mayor of the Richmond District. Which maybe Connie Chan won't approve of, but…
John F: I helped, I helped rename it, that's all.
Nicole: Oh, that's all.
John F: That's another story.
David: That's right. I think he's more royalty because he cannot ever be deposed.
Nicole: Oh, lifetime position.
David: Right? He's going to keep that, going to keep that status in the Richmond District.
John M: Something like, like Vladimir Putin.
Nicole: That went very weird real fast.
John M: But it’s very Vladimir Putin.
David: Nicole, what are we, what are we talking about today? What, what could possibly have brought the inimitable John Freeman out of the Richmond District and onto the airwaves?
Nicole: Well, John Freeman and John Martini are here [00:02:00] today to talk about that, San Francisco's most beloved or, maybe, most important annual ritual. Which is remembering the 1906 earthquake and fire on April 18th every year. And because our podcasts are getting increasingly more niche, we're going to talk about the refugee camps that were specifically in Golden Gate Park. So, we brought in our two, heavy-hitting experts to help us talk about that today.
John M: Wow.
Nicole: Let's not all jump in at once!
David: So, I mean, as you know, to quote, to quote our former host Woody LaBounty, “In 1906, something happened.” On April 18th, and this is, I'm doing the remedial part of the podcast right here, April 18th, 1906, about five o'clock in the morning, a giant earthquake [00:03:00] occurred in San Francisco that knocked over a whole lot of buildings, and more importantly, started a whole bunch of fires that burned for three days and destroyed the Northeastern corner, maybe 20%, of the, of the populated city at that time. What that resulted in were thousands of unhoused refugees who had lost their homes. And…
Nicole: And a lot, a lot of them came West. Because our part of town, while there were some buildings that crumpled, it was, it wasn't threatened by the fire like downtown was. So, and they initially went into the parks.
John M: They went to the parks because they were, they weren't going to burn. They were surrounded by open space. Even the big downtown parks like [00:04:00] Union Square, that was the first place that people went to. Nothing's going to fall on you. It was inconceivable that the city would burn to such a degree that they would be in danger there. So, the earliest photographs that we have, taken the morning of April 18th, 1906, show people with whatever possessions they could drag with them. Union Square, famous, and Hamilton Square. Also, the Army posts, the Presidio and Fort Mason. That's where folks gathered.
David: I mean, they were, the people in Union Square, I always, I always admire their optimism, right? Because they just went a few blocks, and went to the park, and some of them bought their, brought their beds or whatever, you know. They were planning to stay. And that lasted about a day, or less.
John F: One of the things that always struck me was the fact that everybody [00:05:00] seemed to be so well dressed. But, if you saw the movie in 1936, which was about the earthquake, everybody is jumping out of windows in their night clothes, and there's this whole feeling of complete panic. The reality was you had time to, you know, to put on your corset and put on your good shoes and all that kind of stuff, and leave. And go see what was happening. Which is, kind of counterintuitive to people who wanted to say that it was a panic time. There was a panic at a point, but not in the beginning.
John M: When you're in the middle of a catastrophe, you don't know the scope of it. I, we look at these people gathered, going, “Don't they know there's a fire coming, they should be running for the hills.” It just happened and it's just dawning on them. And those smoke clouds building in the distance are a giveaway and people are talking to each other and I'm sure they're going, “You think we should move?”
John F: Well, the other of [00:06:00] part of this…
John M: “Go back to my hotel.”
John F: They had great faith that the fire department will take care of it.
John M: Right. Yeah and…
John F: Unbeknownst to them, there was no water, so.
Nicole: And the fire chief had been killed by a collapsed chimney.
John F: Right, California Hotel.
Nicole: Yeah. But we're, that's not the West side portion we're here to talk about.
John F: That's not where we're going.
Nicole: We do have a good, clear overview of what this disaster was. And as folks started coming West, like we said, they initially gathered kind of haphazardly in local parks. But eventually the military sort of took hold of the situation and John Freeman, you were saying that, at first, in Golden Gate Park, the first kind of, like, oh, makeshift camp was in the Panhandle, right?
John F: Right. I mean, you went, you dropped off at the first place you came to as you're working your way West, it's the Panhandle. But it will be a while before people start having to come, well, you're filling up the Panhandle. Now you got to keep starting, [00:07:00] moving West.
Nicole: And these, you know, these are kind of like ad hoc tents, people kind of, making shelters out of whatever they can in, sort of, a loosey-goosey fashion. And then the military gets involved. And what do they do, John Martini?
John M: The military got involved real early because, kind of, somebody had to. The city was just in chaos. The City Hall was ruined. The, they were going to set up a headquarters at the Hall of Justice, the old one on Portsmouth Square, and a couple of hours after the shaker, they realized that's not going to work. So, the Army and the City set up a joint headquarters at Fort Mason. And they made a decision that morning that the Army, who had already come into the city from the Presidio to “law and order,” that they had the resources, and they had the ability, and they had some degree of training, especially in setting up camps, to start handling the [00:08:00] refugees. I've, I found a telegram that was sent by General Frederick Funston, who was the Army in charge here in San Francisco. And he wrote, I'll paraphrase, “I'm going to do everything in my power to render assistance, and I trust the War Department will authorize any action I have to take.” What he's saying is, “I don't have time to talk to you guys. Communications are out, and the mayor's asked us to take the lead. I'm going to do it and, I'm, I hope you authorize what I'm about to do out here.” And one of the first things they did, apparently, what John found out, is in Golden Gate Park, which is our focus, they were basically saying, “Go that way, head that way, head West.”
Nicole: Definitely. And, and we should mention that General Funston wasn't supposed to be in charge, but the guy who was in charge was out of town.
John M: Yeah, Adolphus Greeley was out, way back [00:09:00] to the East coast when the earthquake hit. And, General Frederick Funston, who was second in command, he—whole ‘nother story, whole ‘nother podcast—yeah, he, sort of, rose to the occasion and above. And took tremendous powers on himself in the absence of his boss. But Mayor Schmitz blessed his actions. And what the Army would do, especially the National Guard, became very controversial and that extended into the management of the camps too. If you're not into the military, there's two types of military: the regular Army, people that enlist to serve two years or five years or whatever, and then there's the National Guard. These are the guys that train on weekends, and they are called out in emergencies. Well, in, at the time of 1906 earthquake, the National Guard was not as well trained or as well regulated. Or had as good a reputation as they, as they do today. [00:10:00] And people felt differently about the National Guard than they did about the regular Army.
John F: Let me, let me add that, we also had the West Coast Naval Training Station at…
David: Yerba Buena Island.
John F: Yerba Buena Island, I was going to say Goat Island, Yerba Buena Island. So, they jumped in. As well as the cadets, which today we'd call ROTC, the cadets at the University of California in Berkeley. So, there was a lot of men in uniform, not all necessarily directly under the command of Frederick Funston, but they were all involved in one way or another. And then you had the local police and you had volunteers who could be deputized on the, on the spot, so.
John M: And when you start reading through the correspondence of what's going on, and there were conflicts, there were arguments in the street between the National Guard and the police and the fire department over who's going to blow up these buildings. “Oh no, you aren't.” [00:11:00] That, yeah and communication, remember, we think, oh, well you just get on the radio, and you talk to, you know, incident command headquarters. Oh, no, you don't! You hope some guy driving by in a early car, is going to carry a message from you to Fort Mason headquarters. And so, anyone with a vehicle that ran, it was commandeered. And they were running messages that way. Sometimes it was on foot. If you've never lived through, through a major catastrophe and, thank god, none of us have, but from the readings, no one knew what was going on, on the other side of the block, let alone on the other side of town.
John F: And rumors were, were rampant. I mean, there was a whole bunch of people could have left by the ferry building area, a lot sooner than they did, but they were all told that it's all burned out. You can't go there.
John M: Right.
John F: So, there's these, kind of rumors. And then you hear rumors that, you know, Los [00:12:00] Angeles has dropped into the ocean. It's worldwide, it's international, and people really were very confused. And there was no, you know, you couldn't use your smartphone. It just wasn't going to, it was a wrong time. It was all word of mouth and you had to, you know, kind of make it on your own.
John M: Yeah, so…
David: So, yeah. So, all these confused people are wandering around these, kind of, guys in uniform, who may or may not actually have much, or any, training, are telling them all kinds of different things. And, and these hordes of people are looking for some respite from something: dragging their trunks, and their sewing machines, and sometimes their beds, and they made it into the Panhandle and then into Golden Gate Park. And somewhere along the line, things got official. Right? I mean, it's not just like we're, we're camping. We, we [00:13:00] got some actual camps in Golden Gate Park and the, and the, you know, the relief service became official.
Nicole: Yeah. Didn't it start with stations for free supplies?
John F: Right.
Nicole: Isn’t that where…
John M: You had people just literally camping in the park. That the early photographs show that people were maybe making tents out of blankets, probably under the bushes. Sort of like the Summer of Love. People just, you know, moved into the park, into the bushes. And the first thing you need to do is get them food. And they, they set up, John, where did they, they set up food distribution points, right?
John F: A series of a few food distribution points. And some of that is being run by charitable organizations. Some of it's being run by the military. Essentially the military didn't see themselves as the major feeders. They would do that in the Presidio or down by Fort Mason. But the Golden Gate [00:14:00] Park tended to be other organizations that jumped in and were giving food. So, it could be the Odd Fellows, it could be any fraternal organization, or any kind of charitable organization could have been in charge of food, so.
Nicole: Yeah. And there was even a big supply distribution center down by the Stow Lake Boathouse, right? Because it was one of the, one of the few structures that that could accommodate that kind of work.
John F: That's a, that's fuzzy, because all I did was read it an article, and never have seen a picture, nor do we know much details. But there wasn't a lot of structures in Golden Gate Park in which you could stow things. So, Stow Lake sort of sounds like a great stowing spot. But, I only knew it for rowing, not for stowing, so.
John M: Yeah, the, and the Army was kind of reluctant or, or I wouldn't say reluctant, they didn't know how far to go. Because their only real responsibility was to protect government facilities. The Army posts, the post offices, things like [00:15:00] that. They weren't in the business of being a relief agency.
John F: Right.
John M: But they, that they threw themselves into it. One historian noted that the Philippine insurrection, or the war for Philippine independence, had just wrapped up a couple years earlier. And there were warehouses all over the Presidio and Fort Mason full of these ubiquitous, circular tents that you see. And field hospitals and everything else. And the quartermaster at the Presidio, who's the guy in charge of “things” and “quarters,” where people sleep. He took it onto himself, he opened up all the warehouses and distributed everything to these places. That's why so many of the photographs we see of the tents, they're clearly military tents. They're actually, it's a design that went back to the Civil War. Some of the photographs that we, we look at: it could be a Civil War encampment. Except these aren't soldiers, these are [00:16:00] San Franciscans in 1906 living in these military camps.
John F: Yes, yes. It's a real hodgepodge is what we're, what we're saying, and the degree of organization was as good as it gets. But one of the things has always surprised me is that you see the soldiers, even when they're doing charitable duty, still have fixed bayonets. So, what's going on here? It didn't make a lot of sense in terms of, well, you want to keep a nice charitable presence, but your bayonet is on your rifle. You know?
John M: Yeah, well one, one never knows when the, when the hungry crowd's going to turn south on you. It, it may have just been the dress of the day. You were assigned, a lot of the soldiers, okay, they're ladling soup. A lot of them, some of these photographs show them with arms, but they're clearly pretty relaxed about it. They know nothing's going to go on. But you're assigned to guard duty, that's part of what you have. [00:17:00] The, one of the things about the camps is, John, that they, it started out once people got out of sleeping under the trees, real camping equipment, real military supplies started to arrive. It seems early on, because this isn't written, but it seems early on, they started to just put them up wherever they could. There's pictures in near Children's Playground where the things are just sort of all over the lawn near Sharon Lodge. And at some point, they turn orderly. And this is one of the missing links of who came in and said, “This needs to be straightened up. This just, this isn't right.” And, but within weeks: you had the orderly rows, you had temporary latrines and kitchens being built. And John, run through, if you can, where the camps were located and they were numbered to identify them, right?
John F: Well, there were numbered camps. So, you first have a, kind of a, scattered [00:18:00] situation starting in the Panhandle. Then you're kind of scattering around McLaren Lodge, we call it today, they just called it The Lodge at the time. But you have some areas that are just too hilly in the park to do much as far as camping is concerned. So, people just kind of plopped down wherever they could. At some point, we don't have a clear image of this at all, but our images, many of them on our site, tell us a lot more than is written down. And so, you have to kind of interpret what was going on. But the map on the screen at the moment, shows the two primary camps. One was called Camp Five, that's center, right off of Ninth Avenue in the Sunset, and the other one was Camp Seven. And Camp Seven is very large, but it had you know, you've got hilly terrain. So, you've got the Conservatory of Flowers where you couldn't quite put a tent in front of the Conservatory of Flowers. Or you go up the [00:19:00] hill behind there, no place for a tent. You go down in Coon Hollow, no place for a tent. So even though the territory runs all the way out to Sixth Avenue and comes all the way over to the tennis courts, it's really not as populated as the other camp, Camp Five, which is to our left. And that one, of course, is using what we call today Big Rec. So, they had a large athletic field that they could lay out very well. Obviously, it's going to be a flat surface, so the camp…
David: And into the Arboretum.
John F: Depends upon the terrain.
David: So, but really there were two big, there were two big open spaces: Sharon Meadow, which I guess we call Robin Williams Meadow now, near Children's Playground. And Big Rec, part of what's now the Arboretum and kind of the closed off area in the Park now, the, the Corporation Yard or the Nursery there too was also kind of open. So, these were big [00:20:00] areas where they could set up tents and set up various buildings. And it seems, as you mentioned, that on Main Drive, now JFK Drive, were kind of the support things like other food distribution, or food kitchens, or the, the hospital set up, kind of out that way.
John F: Charitable organizations that were involved, Women's Christian Temperance Organization, Union, they, and many other organizations, set up ways that you could at least leave a message or try to get a message. Southern Pacific was also involved because they were providing free transportation anywhere in the United States if you just signed up for it. So, people could leave, “I'm going to go back and see my, I'll stay with my sister in Omaha.” And that was no problem, “Here's your ticket, go down to the station and take the ferry across to Oakland and leave.” So…
David: Wow. That's a, that's really [00:21:00] different than what we think of as, stories we've heard about Southern Pacific, right? I mean, did they try to collect later?
John F: Southern Pacific controlled this town and controlled the street railway, as well as transcontinental railway and you know, they have a very bad reputation, but in this particular case: they jumped to. They also can tell us that there's 2000, that the population of San Francisco is about 400,000, about 200,000, or about half the population actually left. And how do we know that? Because they had ferry service and they enumerated everybody who came on the ferry. They didn't, they weren't charging them, but they were keeping records. Now, if you went to San Mateo County, that's a different ballgame. Because who knows you were going to San Mateo County? But, as far as going to the East Bay, well enumerated that about half the population went to the East Bay. And may only stayed two days and come back to see if their house [00:22:00] was still there.
Nicole: And so, okay…
John F: It's very hard to say 2000 people permanently left or for a short time. Some were only out a day. You had to get a permit, in Oakland, to come back to San Francisco.
Nicole: So, if we're in Camp number Five, right? Which opened, it was called Children's Playground, although that's misleading, opened on May19th.
John F: Right.
Nicole: 1906. So, about a month afterwards. And so, if you're there, what are we going to find? We're going to find the commanding officer's office, which I believe was identified by a really big flag. Most of the, like, Army designated sites where you could find soldiers hanging about seemed to have a flag out front. Is that correct or is that misleading?
John F: That is correct. But then there was also a secondary sign which identified things, not necessarily as Camp Five, but as Section Four or Section Three. So that you could find, because all those tents looked very similar in a couple of those camps. You wouldn't know them if [00:23:00] you, if you came home in the dark type of thing. So, you'd have to follow the sign out front. And they got kind of cute and they cutesy named their sites different names, but that was the way they organized things.
John M: When I was cataloging photographs for OpenSFHistory, I would notice there were numbers on the tents and I thought, “Oh, you know, Army stock inventory.” And then some of the photos show multiple tents and the numbers are sequential. They were stenciled numbers, they were like your street address inside the camp.
John F: Right, right, right.
Nicole: That, that sounds very efficient, just like the Army. Maybe, once upon a time.
John M: If I can riff for a second on one family story that I have, is that my grandmother and her brother were living in San Francisco in Hayes Valley at the time of the earthquake. And they lived in Golden Gate Park for several days until they could get to the SP train [00:24:00] depot and get home to where the family home was down in, in Salinas. And she didn't tell too many stories, but she did relate one about, which struck me years later, was she said that everybody was wary of the National Guard. And now this is an elderly lady who in military terms wouldn't know difference between a battleship and a rubber ducky. But she knew the difference between the regular Army and the National Guard. So, there's correspondence where the City of San Francisco and the Governor of California are, writing to Washington, D.C. saying, “Hey, please have the regular Army stay around, would you?”
John F: Right.
John M: “They're doing a great job. In fact, boy, we really want that. We can release the National Guard, but let's have the regular Army run the camps from now on.”
John F: Right.
John M: Yeah. So there, there were some concerns. There was organization. [00:25:00]
Nicole: And there was, so nearby to Camp Five, I believe, and tell me if I get my geography wrong, because I consistently do, there was also a field hospital. Field Hospital number 62.
John F: Right.
Nicole: Was kind of set off, set up along the edge of the camp along what we think of as, or what we know as Nancy Pelosi Drive. And this was actually managed by a man named Albert Truby who was from Letterman General Hospital. And there's a whole amazing, like, story with his family in The Presidio. Which you can go to our Facebook page and see a presentation John Martini and I gave about people of the Presidio. So, I recommend that you go see that. But he, but yeah, so they're providing essential services, like helping people get food, security, tents. They're also providing medical treatment, because the Park’s hospital, if I'm correct, that's over near Kezar Stadium now, it was damaged during the earthquake, right?
John M: It was more like an emergency hospital. It wasn't, you know, San Francisco General.
John F: No. Park Emergency [00:26:00] was, of course, on the drainage that comes down from upper Stanyan. So, it did not have good terra firma, and, of course, it got earthquake damage, obviously, no fire damage. So, it lost parts of its wall, parts of its roof, it was inoperable, essentially. And also, it shows a big hole in the street. So, all that stuff was very compromised. Again, this is the same old problem, you put it on filled land, you're going to suffer in an earthquake. That's basically the story, you know. So anyway, one of the things about the Park, I mean about the emergency services in the Park, they projected a lot more problems than they actually encountered. So, a lot of people outside of scratching themselves on berry bushes or something like that, they did not have a lot of real serious broken legs and that kind of thing.
John F: They were much more were, you know, hot pot burn on your hand type of thing, as opposed to something [00:27:00] that was really, needed real serious attention.
John M: John, talk about the one that we haven't really hit on, and that was a big camp on Speedway Meadow.
John F Right. So, Speedway Meadow, if you, David, if you could throw up that, that image on the screen to clarify this. Maybe not. Okay, so there was a third camp in Golden Gate Park, which was called Camp Speedway because it was Speedway Meadows. It was the old speed road where you could take your fast horse. And we know that today as Hellman's Hollow. And up towards the Polo Fields, that was a third choice. What had happened was, the Almshouse, which we today would call Laguna Honda, so it's up on the hill, same place as Laguna Honda but it was the early name. It's not very politically correct to call people indigent and on alms.
John F: That was very seriously damaged. And so, they had a whole [00:28:00] problem with what do you do with people who are aged or are in, you know, or infirm. I mean, what are you going to do with those? So, they created a completely different camp called Camp Six, much further out in Speedway Meadow. And then they also triaged in each of the other camps, as well as the ones that were in squares and parks in San Francisco. And anybody who was in that condition who were elderly and couldn't take care of themselves, they used to say also that they, “couldn't go to work.” That was another euphemism of the day. They then made sure they got them out to another park, I mean, to another location in Golden Gate Park, specifically for people who were not able to take care of themselves.
John M: Wasn't that part of living in the camps? If you were able-bodied, you were expected to work?
John F: All the men who were able-bodied were supposed to go to work. Now, this could be anywhere from being a skilled craftsman, to [00:29:00] knocking mortar off a brick. So, there was a lot of that kind of stuff. And obviously any guy who could move a shovel was down there cleaning, you know, the streets of San Francisco, so.
Nicole: So, the folks went from the Almshouse to Camp Six, and it's, I think, if I remember correctly, they were there until they were moved to Ingleside around October?
John F: Ingleside Racetrack. They, they cleaned off some of the horse hairs in the, in the horse stalls, and whitewashed them, and put in floors, and created a lovely environment in the Ingleside Racetrack. And so…
Nicole: Hey, you know, I grew up in a barn, basically. I feel like those accommodations wouldn't have been that bad.
John F: Yeah, right. Well, when you're, when you're old and elderly, you're elderly and you're a little bit less capable of taking care of yourself. I'm not sure how great it was. They did set up a section, so, that was common eating area, and there [00:30:00] was, you know, recreation rooms. And they make it look very good, that every woman was, was crocheting or, you know, making an Afghan or something. I'm not sure about all that. There's a lot of posed pictures in this whole story.
Nicole: It's true.
John M: There's lots of photos that show kids in these camps.
John F: Oh yes.
John M: Do we know anything about schools?
John F: Yes. They actually did have a school. It's a kind of a kick, because there was an old, retired military guy and his concept of schooling was that you put the children in nice little rows, and you march them. I mean, a perfect time to do botany studies and look at nature and so forth. No, no. Let's march those kids. Let's put, you know, some more, some more rigor in their spine and that kind of stuff. So yes, there was schooling and I'm sure there were some lovely women who, who really knew how to run a school and they had some degree of operating that. But there is a [00:31:00] large tent, there is a picture of it, of the school. And there's another picture of this guy out there looking like, you know, the great sergeant that he thought he was, and the marching kids around the Golden Gate Park.
John F: The other part that needs to be emphasized is that some, not everybody was there for the duration. As John said earlier, people got there for a few days and as they got their resources together, or they found their family on a list or whatever else they happened to do, or they either left entirely or they say, “I have a cousin who lives in Daly City.
John M: Yeah.
John F: And if I can contact them, I will move in with them.” And so there was a lot of that movement. Some moved to Marin County, some moved to Oakland. So, there was a lot of movement. And so, these were not a static kind of camp. It was a very transient camp for many people.
Nicole: Right. And so, Camp Number Six closes down in August of 1907 and we actually had one of our live [00:32:00] podcast audience members commented on a sign in Camp Number Six that said, “Dogs found in camp will be shot.” And was that like a, an issue with sanitation? I know the Army didn't do a great job at running Camp Merritt during the 1898 Spanish-American War with the sanitation. How, is that why dogs weren't allowed or were they?
John F: Well, number one, I'll back you off to that. It's a, it's not Camp Six, it was probably Camp Five.
John F: But it doesn't matter. So that was not the old folks who were writing signs that they didn't like dogs, I think they would've loved a dog. But it was, there was a lot of food around. And I think the idea that, that a dog would wander around and find scraps was probably making them unhappy. The idea that you got as extreme as saying that they would be shot, I think is pushing it a little bit.
Nicole: So, you think it was just one grumpy…?
John F: They didn’t like a lot of marauding dogs. I think it was one grumpy person. And I don't, see I don't think they invited you to bring a dog. I have some wonderful pictures of parrots. [00:33:00] And there's one parrot that keeps showing up in a lot of pictures. I think we have some on the website, but it seems to be the same parrot. And also, parrots living in an apartment was quite common at the time. Having a dog, you had to kind of live in an, in your own home to have a dog, so.
Nicole: Yes. Well, I'm going to be looking for that parrot the next time I deep dive into these photos.
John F: Oh yeah. I'll send you a picture.
Nicole: Oh great. Okay, so we've got Camp Five. We, we've gone through Camp Six, but the largest one was Camp Seven and that's the one you referred to as Lodge Camp because it was near McLaren Lodge.
John F: Right.
Nicole: And there's a lot going on here. This is the territory, it covered Children's Playground, which is why calling Camp Five “Children's Playground Camp” is misleading. But this covered the tennis courts, Conservatory Valley, and interestingly, the Conservatory of Flowers wasn't heavily damaged, if I remember correctly.
John F: Right.
Nicole: Which is ironic because it's a glass, it's just a [00:34:00] building made of glass.
John F: Right.
John M: Funny, neither was Sutro Baths or the, or the Cliff House. Earthquakes are just weird things. Sometimes they'll destroy solid masonry buildings, and a glass palace will just vibrate.
John F: But the geologist will tell you that if it's on solid rock, it is less likely to move. And if stuff is on filled ground, it's like building on Jello. It's going to move, and you're going to lose all those features of your building. Where in the case of the Cliff House, as well as Sutro Baths: very little damage because of sitting out on rock. Or in the case of Sutro Baths, they went all the way down to bedrock when they built that.
John M: Well, we should probably talk about the demise of the camps and what they did with all these people that were living in the tents. I'm sure Uncle John McLaren wasn't doing handsprings of having all [00:35:00] these camps in his park.
John F: No, not at all. So, John McLaren was rather upset, partly because the camps seem to extend much further in time than he wished. Camp Six is an anomaly. It's really so far out, and it's specifically until you can get the older people into another camp. But the other camps, Five and Seven, are a problem and he's not happy. I mean, he's very unhappy because he sees that you're going to have to get them out before the rains come and get them in something permanent. And so, we have Camp 25, which is all along Park Presidio, and there's other camps. So, you had to get them in some kind of permanent, not permanent housing, but at least more, more rain safe housing. But he's got this problem: he needs to seed his lawn for the winter and the winter’s when we get our rain. So, John McLaren had to be extremely unhappy, about [00:36:00] the fact that this camp stuff extends. I mean, look at Camp Five: it extends ‘til November 25th.
John F: In the case of Camp Seven, it's there until December 17th. We're already into rainy weather and you need to put somebody with a real roof over their head.
Nicole: Yeah. And it, and we should say, this isn't just like, “All right, pack up your tents and let's go,” after a weekend of camping. Like in Camp Seven there's a barbershop, there's a Women's Christian Temperance Union free reading room. There's the Southern Pacific information booth. Like, there are massive distribution depots. This is, this is, it must have taken them a really long time to deconstruct all of this.
John F: They would've. I've never seen a write up of it, but I, you can just imagine it wasn't a quick turnaround. And, of course, John McLaren was very unhappy because he's got to do all the, his crew has to do all the work. In fact, he got extra money just to do this, to hire more people, more [00:37:00] gardeners.
John M: Where, where do, where'd all these folks go? Do they move their tents?
John F: They probably, the military probably took care of their tents. Or the civilian organization that was now managing things, got rid of the tents, and now they're moving into more permanent housing. In the case of, I mentioned, Camp 25 which is all along Park Presidio Avenue, from Anza all the way down to Lake Street. That was a huge camp, about 4,000 people in that camp. And then there would be other camps. Lobos Square down in the, the area of near Fort Mason was another large camp. Hamilton has, has cabins or shacks as we call it today. So, there was a number of them: Precita Park, Dolores Park.
David: Duboce Park, Potrero Hill, all those places were slightly more permanent. In fact, those, some of those camps lasted until the end of 1907. So, these people…
John F: Actually…
John M: [00:38:00] But what I'm coming back to is, that they weren't living in tents anymore, right?
John F: No, absolutely.
John M: There at these new camps.
John F: These are real permanent structures. During the summer of 1906 is when they put out the contracts to various contractors. So, there's not one model for all the, let's call them wooden camps or the, the cute little cabins, or if we want to call them today, shacks. Those camps were let out to a series of contractors, so you get varying, varying plans as to what they, their contract called for.
David: So, all these displaced people, they lived in Golden Gate Park for a short period of time. Hopefully they found permanent housing. If not, they probably moved, moved from one refugee camp in the tents to another one in these small wooden houses that we've talked about quite a bit. And I think, Nicole? This might [00:39:00] lead us to the Pearl of the Podcast.
Nicole: Yes! And I'll take the Pearl of the Podcast because, you know, I love this segment of our, our broadcast. Okay.
David: I wrote a very concise Pearl of the Podcast for you, but I see you've added like five sentences to it, so go on.
Nicole: That's because we ran it by John Freeman and he added the extra five sentences. But hey, I support your paragraph of the podcast, John. Okay, so our Pearl is: there were none of what we think of today as earthquake refugee shacks built in Golden Gate Park. Those at Speedway were a long barrack style with patricians, or partitions and some type of common room for meals and recreation. But all other structures in Camps Five and Seven had wooden building, some of which started as family barracks, but morphed into other uses for storage and offices. Paragraph of the podcast! [00:40:00]
David: So, if you take one thing away from this: the earthquake shacks that we see today, and we value so much, that are spread throughout the city.
David: None of those came from Golden Gate Park.
Nicole: No, but you know, what did come from Golden Gate Park tents? One of our favorite San Franciscans on OpenSFHistory, Norma Ball Norwood, was conceived in a, in a tent in Golden Gate Park, possibly near the Conservatory of Flowers. So.
John F: Love it.
Nicole: Maybe that's the Pearl of the Podcast!
John F: I like that.
Nicole: Okay, so now it's time for listener mail. Alright, David, first of all, how does one send us listener mail?
David: Well, in this the 425th…
David: Sixth episode, I think you know by now, that you can send an email [00:41:00] to email@example.com. And that is how you send listener mail, it's our secret.
Nicole: And I'm going to have one of you guys read this one because it's about me and I think it's weird to read one about me. Okay, John Martini's going to take it.
John M: David, and I don't know his last name, wrote this: after listening to Woody's last podcast, David said quote, “I never felt as connected to WNP as when Nicole, barely keeping it together, is thanking Woody and David for all they have done for the organization. True passing of the torch. You are all awesome.”
Nicole: Thanks David. David's in our live podcast audience tonight. So, thanks David, that made me smile, not cry like everything else tends to do these days. David, what did Kevin say?
David: Yeah, so Kevin, also, we got more [00:42:00] mail. Kevin shared a story that might make for an interesting podcast, actually. In the 1970s, there was a motorcycle club based at 26th and California. Two bars on Clement Street were their main turf: The Clement Mixer, now the Clement Street Bar and Grill, and the Nail Keg, which is now the Plough and Stars, one of our favorite little places. The gangs were called the Hardly Sons, and they shared a super cool business card. I think it was, I think that card, that we got a picture of, was kind of their courtesy card. It's like, “Show that and we won't beat you up.” Sort of.
Nicole: Is that what the courtesy card is for? When I think of those cards, I think of like, you know, proper ladies leaving their calling cards at, like, houses for tea. I don't think of [00:43:00] a motorcycle gang.
John M: No, this, this meant you'd paid homage to the gang or something and they that you were going to be in their good graces.
Nicole: Well, who are going to have on as a guest for that podcast? Got to do some digging. Okay, I'll take the long one from Gerard, who thought we had blown the last podcast on Greg Gaar, rock photographer, until Arnold brought up SNACK, which was staged in Kezar by Bill Graham to fundraise for afterschool programs in danger of being cut by the Unified School District. And, super cool, he was there, and he answered my question about why Marlon Brando was there. He said, “The night before the SNACK concert, it was exposed in the newspaper that the school board was hiding multimillions of dollars.” And he remembers, “At 10:00 AM at Kezar, just as the SNACK concert was getting underway, an angry Bill Graham took the stage to announce the funds from the day’s concert was not going to the San Francisco Public School programs, but rather, that the money [00:44:00] would be given to the American Indian movement, also known as AIM. And Brando had famously not shown up at the Academy Awards for his Oscar for The Godfather and sent a Native American to collect his Oscar. But Brando showed up at SNACK to accept the money for AIM.” And I'm not sure if we fully explored where the money actually went for that, but he also said that he totally missed Bob Dylan, who was an unannounced set that night, and he also missed The Last Waltz. Another concert that Greg Gaar photographed, and is on our website, because apparently all the attendees had to wear a suit and he was not in for that.
David: Well gosh, Gerard, that is an awesome detail that, that, you know, as historians doing a podcast on the subject, we probably should have known that detail. So, thank you so much for bringing that up, because that was, that might be the best listener [00:45:00] mail we've gotten, in quite a while. Because it really explained a lot of the stuff that we didn't quite understand.
John M: Now the Pearl of Gerard's email is: what was the name of the Native American who accepted for Marlon Brando at the Oscars?
Nicole: I don't know.
David: Can't remember.
John M: Sacheen Littlefeather.
David: That's right.
Nicole: All right now, now we're nesting Pearls in other segments. This, this is the segment that won't die.
John M: They’re so much fun.
David: And I want to say that, you know, all those letters were, are from podcast listeners, and they were all from Western Neighborhoods Project members. So, thank you Western Neighborhoods Project members for writing in and listening. And one of the perks of being a member, is you can see live, this recording of the podcast. And you could see me roll my eyes and make, and hold my head, and see the absurd hat I'm wearing. That sort of thing. But you know, [00:46:00] I mean, that's only one of the, of the perks. The other perk is the satisfaction of knowing that you're supporting this local history organization that's been doing this for more than twenty years now. And we still need your support. Nicole is the executive director, and she needs your support.
David: We got a huge collection of stuff from the Cliff House and that needs your support. And so, become a member by going to outsidelands.org and clickety, clickety, clacking the little link at the top of any page. It says, Become a Member. So do it.
Nicole: The Pearl of that segment is: we do a lot of cool stuff that you want to be involved in and support. So, donate now.
John M: Yes. Yes.
David: Was I not clear? Was I not clear in my message? You guys got to…
John M: Send us money!
Nicole: [00:47:00] Please send money anyway possible! Okay! Some of the other cool things that we do that you can support with your membership is we have events. So, David, first of all, where can you find all of our events?
David: outsidelands.org. It's right on the front page of the site.
Nicole: Super, duper easy. And John's going to tell us about our first upcoming event.
John M: Okay! The first one, it's going to be April 22nd, 6:00 to 7:00 PM. It's “House Detectives: Tricks for Researching Your Home.” And, curious about your house? Join former Western Neighborhoods Project board member and historic preservation consultant, Richard Brandi, on Thursday, April 22 at 6:00 PM, for a “how to” tutorial. “How to” tutorial, where you'll learn the tricks of searching records that may shed light on the history of your house. How old is your home? Who built it? Did anyone famous live there? These questions can be answered, and Richard will show you how. This [00:48:00] is a technical presentation highlighting various databases and archive sources accessible to the public. Searching the history of your house is a lot like being a detective. You follow leads, you never know exactly what you'll find. This is a Zoom event, it's free, but pre-registration is required. A Zoom link will be mailed to you after registration. If you don't receive it, let us know. That's going to be a good show, because that's one of the most common questions we get is, “What can you tell me about a house at 123 Folsom Street.” Or whatever, yeah.
Nicole: Absolutely. As David always says, “Teach a man to fish” and I don't remember how that goes, but, we're going to give you tools. It's going to be great.
John F: Let me just add that it has become so much easier these days because so much is digitized, so you really need an update. I was doing it twenty years ago and it was torture. Today it's much, much easier because of digitizing so many records.
Nicole: It's true. That one's going to be a good one, and we've already got a lot of [00:49:00] registrations for that one. So definitely get your link soon. And, we also have on April 24th, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM at our office at 1617 Balboa Street, the first of two “Chinese in the Richmond” community open houses. This is, the other one will be in Chinatown, but this one will be in the Richmond District. And we want you to come down, chat with folks from the Chinese Historical Society of America, who was our collaborative partner in this project to illuminate the lives of Chinese and Chinese American residents on the West side. And we want to hear your story. So, you can see pop-up panels of our prior collaboration with them “Chinese in the Sunset.” Chat with folks. And you can also drop off your personal archives; your photos, your memorabilia for a temporary loan, and we will scan them for you to incorporate your story as part of this project.
David: Will, will there be Covid safety measures in place?
Nicole: There will be. You have to wear your mask. You have to practice social [00:50:00] distancing. You won't be able to come inside our office, unfortunately. We're not set up for that yet. But you can gather outside, chat with folks from the project, chat with some of our new board members who will be in attendance as well. And it should be fun. So, we're just starting to dip a toe back into in-person programming with this very exciting project that we're happy to talk to you about. And?
David: Do you have a preview for next week?
Nicole: Yes. So next week we're heading to another park under less extreme circumstances. Join us to learn all about McCoppin Square.
David: Ooh, one of the oldest parks in the city. We'll see you then.
Nicole: Woohoo. Thanks for joining us, John and John. Goodbye!
John F: Goodbye.
John M: Goodbye.
Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.
Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.