Angus MacFarlane Interview
Nicole: [00:00:00] It's Outside Lands San Francisco, Podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Nicole Meldahl. And I'm joined today for another very special interview podcast by Angus MacFarlane. Angus, welcome to the podcast again.
Angus: Thank you. Thank you.
Nicole: So Angus, you've been an integral historian friend of WNP for, well, as long as I've been with WNP, which is over 10 years now.
Angus: I think it's probably double, excuse me, double that when I first met Woody and got involved in this. So, let's go 20 years.
Nicole: That's a nice round number. I like that. And we're having you back on the podcast because you have a new campaign to rename a water feature in Golden Gate Park. So, that sort of reminded me that while I know a lot of your history, at least the history that you do, I don't know your history. [00:01:00] And I think we should all get to know you a little bit better. So, you ready for it Angus?
Angus: Go for it.
Nicole: All right. Let's go way back like Barbara Walters, maybe this is your lifestyle. Angus, are you from San Francisco?
Nicole: Oh, I'm shocked.
Angus: I was brought here, I don't wanna say against my will, but I was too young to consent, at the age of six by my parents. We moved from San Diego.
Nicole: Oh, whereabouts in San Diego are you from?
Angus: It's a neighborhood that doesn't exist as a neighborhood, as part of the city, San Diego City College campus.
Nicole: Oh wow.
Angus: So, it was close to downtown. It was right across the street from where the old Balboa Stadium used to be, which no longer exists, sadly.
Nicole: Are you telling me the city evicted you all to build a college?
Angus: I don't think we had anything to do with the college being built where we lived, but it sure had a lot to do with us coming to San Francisco.
Nicole: So, it's not called the MacFarlane College [00:02:00] is what I'm hearing. Oh, well that's a bummer. So what year was that when you came here?
Angus: This was 1954.
Nicole: And why'd your parents decide to relocate you, as it were?
Angus: Well for one thing, the neighborhood had been designated for, I guess, demolition for the campus to be constructed. My dad was in the Merchant Marines and San Diego really wasn't a shipping town. It was more of a fishing village back in those days. So, San Francisco was a good shipping town, it’s a strong union town. So, we came here because we were pushed out of San Diego and pulled towards San Francisco.
Nicole: And where did you guys settle once you got to San Francisco?
Angus: Believe it or not, the Haight-Ashbury.
Angus: It was on Downey Street, upper Downey, so South of Haight Street. This was before I had any sense of neighborhoods per se, but I knew that there was territory to explore, streets to wander, features to investigate. We lived, like I say, in the, well, the upper end of [00:03:00] Downey Street, but lower in relation to the Haight-Ashbury but it was just across the street or down the hill from what we called Statue Hill, because there was a statue on top of that hill. It's Mount Olympus. You may have heard of that.
Angus: So, the neighborhood was just ripe for a kid with a bunch of other kid friends to just explore all over the place.
Nicole: Yeah. What was it like growing up there? Like, did your dad go to work every day and your mom was home or, you know, like…
Angus: Oh, he went to work and he stayed at work. He was on ships that literally went around the world. He would be gone for maybe a couple of weeks, a couple of months. He was, I guess you would say an absentee father, but not that he had abandoned us.
Angus: But that was his, his job, his profession. My mom was a working mother also, so it was the time when latchkey kids dominated the landscape.
Nicole: Latchkey kids turned out to be the best historians, let me tell you.
Angus: We didn't know limits. We, we did not recognize boundaries.
Nicole: So, you're wandering around the Haight [00:04:00]-Ashbury district. Now, of course, this is before the Summer of Love, so wasn't all hippies and drug use and things like that, so you weren't just strung out on, on, on grass and just wasting your days away, right?
Angus: No, that comes later. But it, it, it, was a time and an environment for, for kids to explore. And there was freedom of, of movement. We didn't have this paranoia that the 24-hour cable news cycle would have parents in a tizzy because some kid in Vermont was kidnapped. So, you become a potential victim in San Francisco.
Nicole: Oh yeah. I grew up in the milk carton, missing children era. So, I was definitely kept pretty close to home. I'm jealous. Now what were your favorite haunts in the neighborhood that you would frequent as a kid?
Angus: It kind of had a radius. There was my school. Of course, I went there every day. That was back in the days when we had neighborhood schools. So, I went to Dudley Stone as it was called then.
Angus: There was Haight Street, which was the commercial area with the Haight Theater that had [00:05:00] its Saturday matinees. There was Golden Gate Park, which was within easy walking distance. Buena Vista Park, which was with an even easier walking distance, Statue Hill, which was just a stroll. So, we basically had, had, you know, an environment that just demanded kids come and investigate and be kids.
Nicole: That sounds like so much fun. Was there any like ice cream store or anything in particular in the neighborhood that you would like spend your hard-earned kid money on?
Angus: There was a candy store on Haight Street. We called it Sweeney's. And it was your basic, you know, candy store, some toys, things like that. And I subsequently learned, actually just recently, that the famous Beefeater-costumed gentleman, I think at the, was it the St. Francis Hotel?
Angus: His name was Sweeney, but that was his dad who ran it. I never knew that.
Angus: So, Sweeney's was a, you know, a place for us to drop in and, and spend our nickels and dimes [00:06:00] because for a nickel and a dime you can get a lot of candy back in those days. So that was, that was a place that we would, you know, patronize. And of course, the Haight theater on Saturday matinee day. But it was just a, kids managed to find a way to fill time.
Nicole: It's true. It's such a, it's a more wholesome vision of the neighborhood than what we normally think of the Haight-Ashbury as. Did you ever go bowling where the Amoeba records is now?
Angus: I did. I did. Went bowling, learned to play pool. Didn't play pool very well, but learned to play pool. But the Haight back then was a little urban village.
Angus: That was part of the urban mosaic of what San Francisco was. San Francisco was a collection of neighborhoods that were self-sufficient. Everything you needed was there. And if it wasn't there, you could take one of many buses that took you downtown to get an appliance or, or something else that wasn't available in, in the, the many, many, many commercial outlets on Haight Street.
Angus: So, it was, it was a lot different than it is now. [00:07:00] It was, I, I can't say it was wholesome, because I didn't know what that word meant, but it was a safe place. It was a convenient place. Everything that we wanted was right there. And this is another project that I'm working on, is the history of the Haight-Ashbury pre hippies. Because if you were to Google “history of Haight of the Haight-Ashbury…”
Angus: It begins in 1967. Like this is where the, the marijuana flower ship landed and the cannabis flag was planted, and that's where history began. But I was there before that.
Nicole: It’s true. I was researching some Summer of Love stuff when the big anniversary happened in 2017, and yeah, it's all, it's all about psychedelics and like all that Janis Joplin, things like that. The only reference they really make to the neighborhood prior to that was the fact that the housing stock was so run down in the neighborhood that it made it available for people to live cheaply. That's like the only real reference I found of it. But we're getting into the modern era and we're not done with [00:08:00] Angus, your past. Let's talk about your schooling. So, we know you went to Dudley Stone. Where did you go from there?
Angus: Well, again, this was back in the days when you had neighborhood schools. So, Dudley Stone fed into a couple of junior highs and I was consumed or fed into the Roosevelt digestive system. So, I went to Roosevelt Junior High out on Arguello Street, which was a real introduction to another part of San Francisco. This was the Inner Richmond, a different socioeconomic class. Made a lot of great friends and had some wonderful experiences at Roosevelt, grades seven through nine.
Nicole: And you wrote an incredible history of Roosevelt for us. It's in one of our old issues of the member magazine. What about your time there sticks out? Any teachers or any kind of hijinks that you got up to at Roosevelt?
Angus: Well, this was again, academically it was a huge step from having one classroom, one teacher for the entire semester, to 5, 6, 7 classes a day with 5, 6, 7 teachers [00:09:00] with passing time, lockers, hallways. I mean, it was, it was a huge step towards maturing, you know, handling that thing. And then I enjoyed it. I loved it. And there I got into my first organized athletics. I was on the track team.
Angus: And that stayed with me. Well till now, you know, I, I, I can't run because that hip replacement, but it's, you know, part of my, my genetic makeup that running is a part of me. So, Roosevelt introduced me to competitive athletics. We were a very athletic group of kids in the Haight-Ashbury. We were playing all kinds of sports all the time. Tackle football on the street. We'd go to the park and, and pickup games with bigger kids, challenge them. So, Roosevelt really channeled it into a legitimate, organized activity that I carried on through high school and into college.
Nicole: And the building's so beautiful. I, I grew up in, in all of the like 1960s schools that were built all around Southern California to deal with all of us or all the baby boomers in my parents' generation. And that [00:10:00] building is brick and it's gorgeous and it has portraits of Theodore Roosevelt in various places, which I enjoy.
Nicole: Oh, what was it like wandering those halls? Was it, was it sort of overwhelming or did it just feel normal?
Angus: Well, they took us for a getting to know it field visit when we were still sixth graders. So, you know, being on the inside was not a shock. You know, we, we had already seen it. We'd been let around, we'd been introduced, you know, to some of the, the big kids. But the first day was, you know, kind of a, a, a terror written anticipation because we were told all these hazing things that would be done, we'd be thrown into trash cans. We'd be, you know, given swirlies in the bathroom and, and this and that. And so, my buddies from the Haight-Ashbury, we, we just banded together and walked around in a group like, you know, we we're, we're gonna stick together. They're gonna have to, you know, pry us apart. But that never happened. That never happened
But that was you know, kind of the introduction to, okay, now you're part of the bigger world. And like I said, we [00:11:00] got into a situation with kids from a totally different socioeconomic stratus, you know, professionals. We have fact kids whose father were UC professors, and they got great grades in science, you know. They under, they understood what a, what a periodic table meant, you know, not, not just, you know, our arbitrary letters on a, on a chart. So, it was a you know, keep up or, or, or, you know, get left behind. You know, they also they also tracked us, you know, based on academic potential and that, and somehow, I got tracked into the, the high achievers. So, it was exciting. It was really great.
Nicole: Isn't it funny when you go back to these campuses now cause, the what is it, the San Francisco Historical Society was doing their meetings there and these places that felt so big and overwhelming for big kids and like everything's at a smaller scale and you feel like a giant there as an adult. Like all of the bathrooms are really low. And things like that. So, what year did you graduate from Roosevelt?
Angus: 62. [00:12:00]
Nicole: And where did you go from Roosevelt?
Angus: Then I went, again and we're talking neighborhood schools, so that was back in the day where if, if you didn't move or didn't have plans for your family to, to be moving, you knew where were you gonna go all the way through high school. So I went to Polytechnic, which was the, the neighborhood school, across the street from Kezar. But the trauma about that was that I left so many kids behind who I had made friends with at Roosevelt, who went on to Washington or to Lowell High School. And I was, was just devastated because for three years we were close friends. My neighborhood buddies I still saw, and I figured, well, you know, I'm gonna see them anyway, but I really wanna stay with my friends from Roosevelt, but I couldn't.
Nicole: Yeah, I feel that I went to a different high school. I went to a Catholic high school that the rest of my public-school friends went to the public high school in my, in my neighborhood. And it was a bummer to leave them behind. But you got a fresh start, right? You got, you got to, you got to make your own myth. Angus, who did you become in high school? Like what were your [00:13:00] experiences there? Were you, were you the straight A student who was very like into books and reading? Were you sort of the wild kid who got up to all kinds of nonsense? Were you like the, the football quarterback? What was high school like for you?
Angus: Well, this was back in the day when there was no grade inflation. So, if you got an A, you earned an A. And, and there, there really, there were no straight A students. There were not dumb kids.
Angus: But you know, there was no curve or teacher's pet or anything like that. So, a straight A was an anomaly. for, for, not, not for me, but, but for everybody. And the same thing at in junior high.
Angus: So, I, I still, you know, I had study habits and things like that. And again, I got onto the track team, the cross-country team also. And if, I, I, I, I tell people, if I hadn't been a jock, I would've been a nerd.
Nicole: I like that. Maybe that's why I've always liked you, Angus. Cause I felt the same way. Like I was on the softball team, but I was reading poetry at night at [00:14:00] home and my friends on the team were like, what are you doing?
Nicole: I like reading that stuff. So, you're hanging out at Poly, which you know is not there anymore. People might be familiar with the gymnasiums, which still remain. But the school itself closed down I think in the seventies. Right.
Angus: It, the student body was, was moved out, but the building itself was used when Mission High School was undergoing seismic retrofit. So, it became Mission High School. The building stood there until, into the eighties, but it wasn't being used. It, it was actually more of a, a homeless encampment.
Nicole: Yep, that, that tracks.
Nicole: For the city. Yep. And when you weren't in school, during high school, like what were you up to but were, when you weren't in school and running track, were you, you know…
Angus: Well, it, it pretty much, it was my entire day. We'd have school, you know, during the school hours and afterwards we'd have practice.
Angus: And it was just part of my routine. I enjoyed it. I looked forward to it. The, the days of meets were, you know, sweaty [00:15:00] palms and heart palpitations and wished I could get over this. And then when it was over, I'm looking forward to the next one. So, it was, and then of course, you know, homework at home and on the weekends by then my folks had moved out to the Sunset District.
Angus: So, I kept in touch with my Haight-Ashbury friends. So, I would, you know, take the bus out there and on the weekends and during summer vacation, I'd hang out with them. I didn't really get established in the Sunset neighborhood social structure. So, you know, my, my my day was you know, kind of like, kid in in high school in the sixties, I didn't have a car, so I didn't have that, you know, you just hop in and drive around and go to drive-ins and stuff like that.
Nicole: Yeah, it's the city experience versus the suburban experience. I definitely did a lot of car cruising, which actually sounds really bad when I say it like that. So don't get the wrong impression.
Angus: Oh, no, no. I, I, I, I know all about it. I had a friend who lived, a friend I made in San Francisco who moved to San Jose, and I would come down and spend part of, you know, a week or two during the [00:16:00] summer. And that was a big thing down there, cruising the main.
Nicole: A hundred percent. We did that in Pasadena. A hundred percent did that in Pasadena. So, it's, when you tell me these stories, and I, and I understand a little bit more about you, I can see what subjects you gravitate towards as a historian. I think that's true for all of us, right? Like we're just into what we're into. But I'm always curious, when you were in school, did you love history class or did that come later in life?
Angus: It was another class. I did well in it. I, I re, because I retained information. So, I had some good teachers who were interesting, but not inspiring. I, I still remember them to this day, but they didn't, you know, lead me into a, a history major. In fact, I was an engineering major when I went to, to Cal because I was you know, science-oriented, numbers objective quantification. So that was my, my big thing. But then, without, you know, intending to, I, I became interested in history little by little, by little by more, by more, by more.
Nicole: Yep. [00:17:00] So you graduated from Poly, what year?
Nicole: Ooh, optimal time to be coming out of your teen years and into your early twenties.
Angus: And looking over my shoulder to see if the draft is after me. If I'm gonna be, you know, a candidate for wearing army fatigues, or, or that, that was, that was a terrifying time. It was…
Angus: Well, spooky.
Nicole: Absolutely. And you didn't get drafted.
Angus: Didn't get drafted.
Nicole: So, you got lucky there and it, it sounds like you went to Cal.
Angus: I went to Cal. As I said, I was an engineering major, but this was back in the day when, well to back up a little bit, my folks lived in the Sunset District. It just didn't happen the way it should have been. I didn't have any residence or, or place to live in Berkeley. So, I had to take a Surface Street car all the way from the outer sunset down to the Trans-Bay terminal, catch a bus, go across the bridge, transfer to another bus to the campus. So, I was literally getting up at five o'clock in the morning to get to campus. And then afterwards [00:18:00] I was there on an athletics scholarship also, and then, to run cross country. And I was coming home literally just beat. And it came to the point where I'm either gonna drop out or flunk out, because it was just more of a burden that I could handle. So, I dropped out my first semester, went to City College, rehabilitated myself, went back to Cal as a junior in 68, and graduated as a sociology major now, so from engineering to sociology at Cal.
Nicole: Oh my gosh. So, what, why the shift? Like, why, why did you decide sociology?
Angus: Well, I still had the, the interest and, and, and the comfort with dealing with numbers and formulas and, and, and the scientific aspect of life. But I took a sociology course at City College my first semester and really enjoyed it. And thought, this, this is fascinating. And the whole world was like a, a sociology lab at that time. You know, the social movements, the anti-war movements, and we're talking about this abstractly in the classroom, but also talking about it [00:19:00] in, in, in real life, in the classroom, and then experience it, like I said, in the laboratory of the streets. So, this is just fascinating. So, I picked that up because it's a you know, just a fascinating topic that you really can't quantify.
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. That's why I love history so much is you get to learn so much about human behavior just by tracking the past movements of human beings.
Angus: Yeah. Yeah.
Nicole: So, you go back to Cal. You graduate with a sociology degree.
Nicole: What year did you graduate?
Nicole: 71. So we're, we're heading into the peak Fleetwood Mac era.
Angus: 70, 70, 70.
Nicole: 70. Okay, so what do you do after that? You no longer have to commute. You're back in town. You've, you're, you got a new degree. You're just looking, you're looking for ladies and, and trying to, trying to do history in San Francisco?
Angus: Well to back up there was no commute. I was, now I was living in Berkeley.
Nicole: Oh, okay.
Angus: So that, yeah. So that was an experience. So, then I came back to San Francisco and the, you know, the fairytale, if you [00:20:00] graduate, you know, then you know, doors will not only open for you, there will be people opening the doors, inviting you in. And that really didn't appeal to me. This was back in the day, whether it was disdain for working for corporations or working for the man, or you know, selling your soul. So, I worked my way through college at Safeway, and I was making okay money, but it was also very inexpensive to attend Cal back then. So, I graduated and the only thing that really changed was that now I had a degree and I'm working full-time at Safeway, like yeehaw! You know, this, this, this is not what I, what I thought about.
So, I went to grad school at State. And thought, looked around this, this, this is not where I want to be. So, I had a motorcycle, which is my only form of transportation. So, in the spring of 71, I hopped on my motorcycle, which I named Norton. So, Norton and I cruised the country for the summer of 71. And I thought about stuff and I came back home and, you know, figured, well, you know, I, I really gotta get my [00:21:00] act in. So, I went back to Safeway. I went back to graduate school. But then, you know, life you know, kind of pushed me this way, pushed me that way. And eventually I wound up working for the city. In a, got into a profession that I spent 30 years at, that I really enjoyed was, you know, everything that I wanted in a, in a job. It was intellectually challenging. It was everything but boring and here I am.
Nicole: What did you do for the city exactly?
Angus: I was a juvenile probation officer. So…
Nicole: And what did that mean for your day-to-day?
Angus: My day-to-day was, I had no control over it. I first started in doing child abuse investigations. And this was something I, I was not prepared for there. There's no academic training for that.
Angus: And I got a little bit of on-the-job training, but I had a wonderful, wonderful social worker partner, who taught me that, I had a good work ethic, but that work was not a four-letter word that you could find fun in anything and not a mean, malicious, you know, laughing at the unfortunate kid that, you know, has been chained to a [00:22:00] toilet because he pooped in its, in its diaper and stuff like that. But that, you, you, you can survive, which you never thought you could survive. So, I went from doing child abuse investigation to delinquency investigation. Finished up as a supervisor of a unit. And, and here I am.
Nicole: And how did this feed into you? Because you're one of the most active historians that I know. You write for all kinds of publications. You're always researching new things and doing new things. When did you transition, or maybe you were always doing history on the side. How did history become a part of your active life?
Angus: It was really an existential moment. I was getting close to retirement.
Angus: And like I said, I, I'd worked as a probation office for 30 years and the, the building that I worked in, it's still there. The people knew that it was built in 1950. That before that the juvenile probation department, the juvenile court was in a building down on Otis Street down in, in the Mission, [00:23:00] south of Market area. And, you know, I thought, okay, that's interesting that, that, that's a fact, but it really doesn't mean that much to me. But as I was getting closer and closer to retirement, I began to think about, why am I doing this job? And, you know, not in, like I said, an existential manner, even though it was an existential experience. You know, how, how was I led to this, but how did my profession come to be? How did, you know, working with quote “troubled kids” become a profession? And also, where was the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department before Otis Street? So, I began looking through some of the old stuff in the closets that, you know, they had up there, the old annual reports and things like that and went back to the teens and then you know, where the, the buildings were, what the probation officers did, how many there were, and it was okay, but I wanted more.
And I knew something about San Francisco history, just, you know, by being in San Francisco. My main interest at that time was baseball, you know, sports history. So, trying to, you know, wrap up my you know, why, why am I [00:24:00] here search professionally, I began going through old newspapers, microfilm, and things like that. Seeing how juvenile delinquency or, or that kind of stuff was reported at the 1850s, the earliest newspaper, the Alta. And I'm running these things through the microfilm reel and I'm coming across some incredible things that didn't jive with the history that I had read about San Francisco, including baseball history. That this is inconsistent with what's in books. And, you know, back, back then late 1990s, early 2000s, books were kind of like the internet. You know, it was, if it was in a book you believed in. Well, here it is in a contemporary newspaper account of, for example, baseball being played 10 years before the books say it was being played in San Francisco.
Angus: I thought, well, this is, this is weird, you know, so I just made a copy of it. I'm running through some other things and more and more and more, I'm, I'm finding out things that, okay, this is really interesting. [00:25:00] Let me make another copy of this, you know, screenshot. And I'm, you know, getting more and more and more copies off the microfilm and it just became, not an obsession, but a real fun thing to do after I retired. And I found things that you know, nobody knew about that I kind of made you know, part of common knowledge, like the dynamite factories in the Sunset District.
Angus: Nobody knew about that. I didn't know about that. You know, other things. So, it was just a like a bit of curiosity, kind of like a, why am I here? Why am I doing this moment, to defining all of these great things that I really wanna follow up on this and I wanna share it.
Nicole: That's, I mean, That's the fun part of being a historian. And can we just tell kids today who are studying history, how easy they have with all the newspaper databases being digitized and like you being able to do all this research from the comfort of your home. Because when Angus was researching, microfilm is so annoying. I had to start out researching on that too.
Angus: [00:26:00] Oh yeah.
Nicole: Like, oh my gosh.
Angus: It's kind of like, I don't know if, if, you know, you're familiar with this, but the, the legend or the myth or the folk tale of John Henry, the steel driving man.
Angus: Going off against the steam engine, I feel like okay, I was John Henry, you know, with my, my sledgehammer in each hand going off against the steam engine to, to lay that rail.
Nicole: It’s true. Well, I do appreciate how many resources we have at our fingertips in our own living room. There was something so satisfying, and there still is, about going to archives, not everything's online folks, going to archives and like moving boxes around and like, you know, getting the dust off, off these boxes that haven't been touched forever. You really feel like you're mining for history gold.
Angus: Oh, yeah, yeah. Getting the, the stains of, of, of the old ledgers that are crumbling and inhaling that dust of, of the ages.
Nicole: It's true. If I die of some sort of lung disease, I want someone to just say like, killed by history,
Angus: Damn. Yeah.
Nicole: But, and you really are, of all the [00:27:00] historians, I mean, we know so many great historians here in the city, but you really do mine for gold and come up with some amazing nuggets. And I, I just so appreciate your approach. Like everything about what you do and what you get interested in, you can feel how interested you are in it. I feel like some historians are kind of like, yeah, I researched this stuff cause I'm supposed to and here's my academic treaties. You're like, oh my God, I found this cool stuff.
Angus: Well, thank you.
Nicole: And your research is so good. Like you just, you get every single nook and cranny and you present it so well. What was the first, you said the dynamite factories. What was the first kind of subject that you got really into?
Angus: Well, as I said, as I was going through the microfilm, I was, I was finding things about San Francisco that I really had no, no, no framework to attach it to. But it was interesting. So, I would, you know, take a picture of the article and save it. And, and, and maybe I'd find something else to follow up on. The, I think the first thing I, I found, or one of the earliest things has, has to do [00:28:00] with the history of the Inner Sunset. And it went back to seeing a newspaper article in the 1860s about a land riot or a squatter riot.
And it was in a place that had no defining locations. It, it was out in the Inner Sunset, but one article said it was out by Lake Honda. Another said it was beyond the Mission. Another one said it was past the orphanage. And like, well, this, it, it, it's, okay where, where is this place? But the story I, well, I followed up on, and you know, back in those days, the newspapers were really, and pretty thorough in following up on interesting cases. So, it turned out that this was a squatter riot on a piece of property in the Inner Sunset that, you know, through you know, various owners and other things resulted in the dynamite factories being built there. And the inner, the history of the Inner Sunset developing from that.
Nicole: And we shared a similar research obsession with the Baird family. [00:29:00]
Angus: Oh yeah.
Nicole: Which is the gift that keeps on giving. We're gonna have to do a full podcast series on this one day, Angus, because like every, we think like scandalous families are a modern-day concept, but they really are not. And like that one, Angus and I both realized we had done research on our own about this family when we came together on a certain subject and I can't remember what, and we were both like, ohh.
Angus: Exactly. Exactly. And the Bairds, or one of the Bairds, ties into the history of the Haight-Ashbury. So, it, it's, it's really kinda like a tapestry of, of, of historic threads just being woven in San Francisco.
Nicole: It's so true. That's the thing. You, you hit that on the nail, like, I love how history all connects us to each other in every place here. When you, especially when you limit your research to a certain small area like San Francisco and the west side. I tripped across them because there was a photo of David Baird in Spanish American War uniform on the Presidio on a random photo album page that someone had donated to the [00:30:00] Presidio Army Museum. And then all the information had gotten lost. So, I started researching him just cause his name was written underneath his regiment information. And of course hit paid dirt immediately cause he was a huge scandal on the west side. And like not all things you research are that interesting. You know, sometimes you're like, all right, he served his thing and he married a woman and like lived a happy life and died. Not the Bairds.
Angus: Yeah, they were, you know, to be kind, were pretty dysfunctional.
Nicole: That's true. Maybe we'll just leave that at that and then move on and, and tell everyone like forthcoming treaties on the Bairds. Please stay tuned. But, but we, just to keep this podcast moving along cause we, you and I could just talk about all the things you're into for days. I feel you got really into the Sunset. I know you've done some, you just recently had quite the journey tracking down some, some Spanish history that's sometimes difficult to nail down. What was the [00:31:00] journey you just finished Angus?
Angus: Well, it wasn't Spanish history, it was San Francisco history. And you probably remember three years ago we got together at the Little Shamrock, another historic spot in San Francisco to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the discovery of San Francisco Bay. This and, but we, we were kind of troubled as we sat around the beer and the pizza at that Little Shamrock that the recorded or in, in, in books or, or written sources, the date of discovery is non-specific. Was it November 2nd? Was it November 4th? Who discovered San Francisco Bay? Portola gets the, the credit, but he was sick with diarrhea the day that hunters had gone up to Sweeney Ridge and saw the Bay. And, and that, that inconsistency, you know, bothered me, bothered us, but it bothered me a, a whole lot and I just kind of, not drop everything and, and follow up on this, but what, what, what's the story on this? And I went through, you know, the available easy, low-hanging fruit sources of the [00:32:00] discovery of San Francisco Bay, and there's not a whole lot about it. It's not, you know, like, a, a thing that we have scholars, you know, sitting around tables and, and having debates and that it, it was written in Bancroft what happened and some other sources.
But I, I was really, you know, curious, well, you know what, what really happened? And I read a book that was published at the time called Alta California. About a, it was written at that time also, by a young man who recreated or, or followed Portola's Trail from San Diego all the way up to Sweeney Ridge. And he's writing of what he's experiencing at, at the time, what Portola experienced at, in his time. Bits of local history. It's great writing. So, it, it, it fascinated me. And then there was one point where he says that Sergeant Ortega was gone for three days with eight men. Well, you know, I didn't read about that anymore. We're, this is, when they came to Pacifica, which was their northernmost point on their, their journey, which by the way, if you don't know, they were [00:33:00] lost. They were totally lost at this point. So, Portola, excuse me, Ortega goes off for three days, comes back and says things that were written down that really weren't very helpful. Well, what, what did he do for those three days? And that, that just kind of, you know, stuck in my mind. And I'm familiar with the Bay Area. I, I, you know, drive down Highway 1 to Pacifica a lot, and I know it's not that long of a drive. And I, I began thinking, well, maybe he did something really significant during those three days. Cause that, that's, that's a large, large piece of time. How do you fill it?
So, to make a long story short, I thought, well, okay, let me start with this hypothesis. He left and, and it's documented that he left on the morning of November 1st, returned on the evening of November 3rd. So, filling in those 60 hours, I created a scenario where Ortega and his eight men on horseback rode up the coast along the beach. There is a, a very critical [00:34:00] point at Muscle Rock where if you don't hit the tide right, you're, you're stranded. If you hit the tide right, you can continue on from Pacifica all the way up the coast to the Cliff House. So, I, I looked at that, thought about that, wondered well a horse travels four miles an hour. It's 15 miles from Linda Mar to where I'd figured they might have, not ended, but had seen San Francisco Bay at the Legion of Honor. So why not? So, I had to get back in running shape. I, I didn't, I hadn't run for a long time and I didn't really think about running, but I was gonna recreate Ortega's trek from Linda Mar to Legion of Honor, which I did, not quite on the anniversary of, of his doing it in 18, 1769, but about six weeks ago. And I walked from Linda Mar to Legion of Honor in six hours. Which to me, it demonstrates that, okay, Ortega could have done this in six hours or less. What did he do with the rest of his time? [00:35:00]
Angus: He didn't turn around and go back. He didn't come back for another day and a half or, or two days. So, my, my, my theory is, is that he explored San Francisco. That he, he went along the waterfront, Presidio, Marina, North Beach, got to Telegraph Hill, looked out there, saw the natives, and their, their reed boats. And again, this is a scenario there, there's no documentation. Ortega didn't document any of this. But I'm satisfied that Ortega did discover San Francisco Bay on November 1st and discovered San Francisco on November 1st. And if you look, you will not find anywhere who discovered San Francisco, that that's a missing element in, in our history. So, this was my research, like I corrected you, not Spanish history, but San Francisco history, but involving the, the Spaniards coming to, to San Francisco and to California.
Nicole: People think that history is pretty [00:36:00] set, right? You know that we're all just people who uncover some things in books and portray them in a certain light. But it's, there's still so much to get. There's so much that's forgotten and there's so much stuff that needs to get worked out. And I'm so impressed at one, your commitment to doing this, but also, I make a joke a lot about how historians can't do math. That's why like we do history. But you really bring the numbers game into your history work. You quantify so much about dates and timing and, and that story really brings that to the forefront for me. I think that's what makes you a really impactful historian in the way you approach your work.
Angus: Well, I like to fill in the gaps and…
Angus: You know, to, to get recognition for someone who did something worthy, but didn't receive the, the, the proper recognition. And in this case, it's Ortega and what he did. We don't know what he did, but we can surmise that for 60 hours he was gone from, from [00:37:00] Linda Mar and he, you know, four of those hours would've taken him to San Francisco to, to Legion of Honor and the great view of the Golden Gate. And he was a scout. He's Portola's chief Scout. He just would've been pulled, you know, like, like a fish on, on a line by what he saw, just the way it opened up. So, you know, I, I enjoy filling in the gaps and getting recognition to, to those who didn't get it properly. Like my latest project Patrick Quigley.
Nicole: Yeah, that's a great transition. We didn't even script that. It just happened naturally. So, we've actually been on our podcast before talking about the Quigley family in episode number 317. So, we're not gonna get into the full history there. Go listen to that episode right now, dear listeners. But just in one sentence, who is Quigley?
Angus: Quigley is the man who should have the credit for creating Golden Gate Park.
Nicole: So that's a great teaser to [00:38:00] go back and listen to the old episode. But of course, right now in San Francisco, we're rethinking a lot of people that places are named after, and you’re encouraging people to rethink a very big lake in Golden Gate Park. So, what's going on? What do you wanna get renamed in Golden Gate Park for Quigley?
Angus: Well, I'm kind of like that cartoon dog in Up Doug, “squirrel, squirrel.” You know, something, I, I, I have a, a project I'm working on and then something tracks, attracts my attention. So, I was completing my Ortega project, hoping to get back onto my Haight-Ashbury project, and I saw this article in the Chronicle that Stow Lake is named after an Anti-Semite. And that that is something that is unacceptable these days. And my immediate thought was, well, if we're gonna rename it, you know, the man, or, or the person who deserves the greatest consideration, should be the man who created the lake. I mean, not with his own hands. He wasn't there with a pick and shovel and a wheelbarrow.
But he was, Patrick Quigley was [00:39:00] the chief of, the foreman of construction. And he oversaw, for 40 years that he was on the job in Golden Gate Park from 1872 to 1912, into his eighties. I emphasize into his eighties. Imagine working every day as a laborer in your eighties. Or as a desk worker into your eighties, and he did this. And you will not find him anywhere. His, his, his name is not on documents. It's, it's not on the internet. In fact, it's not, I went through Park Archives. I couldn't find his name in any of the Park Archives. He exists in public records, city directories, census, other things like that. And his obituary has some real wonderful highlights of his life and his career, that more than anybody makes him worthy of having the lake that he created named in his honor.
Nicole: Yeah, he sort of disappeared under the gravitas of the grandfather of Golden Gate Park, John McLaren, and some of those [00:40:00] folks. But he definitely needs more recognition. So, Angus, what are you asking folks? Like, how can, how can we help you get Stow Lake renamed?
Angus: Well, right now I seem to be a one-man band. You and Chelsea are helping me out here. They're, they're, like I said, I, I learned of this through an article in the Chronicle that indi, showed for the first time Stow Lake is named after an objectionable person. And, in the article, it named three decision makers on the board of supervisors, Aaron Peskin, a couple of others who, whose district covers Golden Gate Park. And if you give me a moment, I can give you the name of the main supervisor. I spoke with the public relations persons for the Park Commission. And it's not calendared. It, it's something that might get before the commission. I would like to, you know, push this to happen, to have an open discussion. If there are other suggestions, that's fine. If Stow is objectionable, it should be removed. If there are other worthy names, then they should all be considered. [00:41:00] Of course, I'm gonna wave the banner of Patrick Quigley. But there are two supervisors who their district covers Golden Gate Park who would be the people to contact. And I can take a time out and look it up real quick. Or…
Nicole: It's Connie Chan, right?
Angus: Oh, Melgar and Connie Chan. So, Supervisor Myrna Melgar, Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan.
Nicole: Yeah, they’re, I mean it's, it's, it's funny cause it feels like, oh gosh, renaming something seems like too big of a, too big of a task, right? How can we as just normal San Franciscans undertake this? But really, it's just like one step at a time. So now you all know that there's a podcast all about quickly so you can get your research done. And we are gonna be putting up a QR code in the window where you can learn more about Angus's quest. And maybe you can write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with, with offers to help Angus on contacting district [00:42:00] supervisors. Cause the more people who reach out to your district supervisor and say, hey, I wanna see this happen in my neighborhood that you represent, then the more likely that Angus will achieve his dreams. And we all want Angus to achieve his dreams.
Angus: Well, thank you very much. It, it, again, this is something that was dropped literally on, on my lap that I, I had no expectation of doing this.
Angus: And it, it, it's kind of exciting. Kind of exciting.
Nicole: I feel the same way about running Western Neighborhoods Project Angus.
Angus: Well, that was, you know, just going back, one of the things that motivated me in, into finding out more about the history out there is that for a long time there was a belief that San Francisco history ended at Van Ness Avenue. Nothing happened west of Van Ness Avenue. And this, I, I found out so much that has been going on out here. My co- historians, John Freeman, Lorri Ungaretti, Richard Brandi, you know, they're, they're, there're bunches of them who have [00:43:00] swept away some of the sand of the Sunset and the Richmond District and the Outside Lands to show that there is history out here.
Nicole: I couldn't have said it better myself. And that kind of language is what makes your article so amazing. Readers, if you're members, you can look forward to a December issue of our membership magazine that features a wonderful article about Angus's quest to get Stow Lake renamed. And I know we're running a little bit long and I had all these questions like had queued up for you, but there's just a couple ones that I, I definitely want you to answer. And one is, if there's one thing in San Francisco that you could bring back, if you could, from the past that's not here anymore, what would that thing be? It could be a food or a place or some kind of experience.
Angus: Ask your next one while I ponder that.
Nicole: This is worse. So, okay. The, the next one is, why is history [00:44:00] important?
Angus: Well, I, I, I have this little tagline that I attach to emails, that history never gets old. And it, it doesn't, it, it, it's still alive. The characters may be long gone, but there are stories. There are personalities. There are lessons. There are morals. It, it, it's just a never-ending story.
Nicole: It's true. Now I'm thinking of the movie, A Neverending Story and relating it to our history work, and it feels very and, it feels very appropriate. So okay. Where do you take tourists when they're in town?
Angus: I usually just put them in my car and I drive around. One of the places I will take them and it, it's more of, you know, to get this off the checklist, but to the Haight.
Angus: But, but more to explain to them how much this has changed and that the Haight-Ashbury is not Haight Street. You know, people will come from all over the world. They'll walk down Haight Street. [00:45:00] They may go in to a shop and buy a candle or a t-shirt or, or, or, you know, go to the dispensary. But that's not Haight Street, I mean, that's not the Haight-Ashbury. So, I'll, I'll show them the, the real Haight-Ashbury and the different architectural styles, the different little mini neighborhoods and that. So, but I would just put people in my car and just, just drive around and kind of free associate in my mind, you know, where, where is the car gonna take me?
Nicole: I do the same thing when I tell people that, they're like, oh, you're so L.A.
Nicole: But you're from San Diego. So maybe that's just, it's just baked in us. All right. You got one more chance to answer. What would be the one thing you would bring back? Or we can just pass.
Angus: I would, I would bring back the Haight-Ashbury of my childhood.
Angus: Because it's selfish, cause it's bringing back my childhood. And that was a great time. I mean, this is a great time also, so it's not like I, I, I have no hope for the future or the present stinks or whatever. But my friends that I'm still in touch with, we, we congratulate ourselves, even [00:46:00] though we had nothing to do with it, of growing up at a great time in a great place. Yeah, probably every kid will say the same thing about where he or she grew up.
Nicole: Maybe. Some of the people I grew up with don't like where we grew up, but I think that makes complete sense to me because your writing and your research, it's all very hopeful, right? You are excited about finding new things and you wanna share that with people, so that they can see the San Francisco you now understand. And I think everything about who you've explained to me that you are in this podcast comes through in your history. So, I really appreciate you taking the time to share all this with us.
Angus: Okay, can I do one thing?
Angus: Okay. You mentioned the article. I wanna give a shout out to Chelsea and her great editing.
Nicole: She's behind me. And I think she heard that.
Chelsea: Thank you, Angus.
Nicole: I know I'd be lost without her.
Angus: Okay. [00:47:00]
Nicole: Alright. Well, that concludes the Angus MacFarlane portion of the podcast. Angus, you're welcome to stick around, but the rest of the podcast is just me reading listener mail and stuff. So, if you wanna stick around, great. If not, you can just quietly...
Angus: Okay. I'm, I'm gonna, I'm gonna fade away, fade away.
Nicole: Thank you so much, Angus. This was so much fun.
Angus: Thank you.
Nicole: Enjoy the rest of your holiday decorating and I'll see you very soon.
Angus: Stay safe. You too, Chelsea.
Chelsea: Good night.
Nicole: Alright, now we have listener mail. So, first of all, dear listeners, I think you know that I'm advocating for pigeon posts in sending us listener mail, but the more traditional and easy way is to send us an email, email@example.com. Or you can take advantage of our social media presence. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. You can comment on the podcast there. [00:48:00] It's very, very easy. Cause the internet, as we already talked about in this podcast, makes things easier.
Our dear friend Margaret and her history poodle said, “more Chelsea, please.” That was after our last podcast where it was an interview with Chelsea Sellin and she went on to say, obviously I love all the podcasts, but the Chelsea episode was so much fun that I needed to write in. You two are hilarious together, and it's fun just hearing what's happening behind the scenes. It's funnier because Chelsea's right off the scene looking at me while I'm reading this. We're together all the time everybody.
Chelsea: Thank you, Margaret.
Nicole: And she goes on to say all this fundraising talk made me think it might be worth telling people that you are a Smile.Amazon charity choice. Neighborhood without the S though. That's right. Fun fact, our incorporated nonprofit name is Western Neighborhood Project. Cause we're nothing if [00:49:00] not a branding nightmare friends. It's only a 0.5% kickback to you but it's at no cost to the users. And yes, it does help.
And we are quick to point out cause we brought this up in the past and people were like, what are you doing advertising Amazon. We do prefer that you shop local, obviously, always. But we also know that you're all shopping on Amazon too, because we've all tried to kick the habit and can't. So, when you are there, go to Smile.Amazon first so that you can support local even when you're not shopping local.
All right, now it's time for benefits of membership and donating. And as I look into my cat's eyes from behind my laptop, she is telling me that you all should become members of Western Neighborhoods Project. I mean, what a better way to end your year than getting the satisfaction of knowing that by clickety, clickety, clacking the big orange button and sending us a little bit of money, a year or monthly, that you're supporting [00:50:00] this community nonprofit work. And for that support you get kickbacks. That's not the right word that I wanna use, cause that makes it sound dirty. But you get a quarterly membership magazine, discounts on events, and other exclusive perks. Plus, of course, it supports our OpenSFHistory program, which is chugging along despite our focus on the Cliff House collection this year, which is still very much in the collection. And its care and exhibition take time and money. And yeah, this podcast, which is free for everybody, downloadable at various points in the internet and, and bringing joy to you every week. So, please consider becoming a member.
And that takes us into announcements. So almost all the Cliff House collection, actually now that by the time this podcast airs, all the Cliff House collection has returned to the WNP clubhouse on Balboa, which is in [00:51:00] the final throes of being reorganized. Once that's done, we'll be sort of hibernating into the new year with new programs and all kinds of fun stuff. So, stay tuned for those announcements. But until then, we are looking for both volunteer help and donations. There are several volunteer opportunities. Most immediately, and something you can do from the comfort of your home while on break during the holiday, we are looking for volunteers to help us transcribe our old podcasts. This helps us meet an accessibility initiative that we're pursuing in the new year with our new website, things like that. So, if you're interested in listening to this podcast and helping us out at the same time, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to help Arnold, more specifically, with this effort, cause he's been working really hard on this.
And as for donations, our winter cam, appeal campaign has started. It's live and we do need your help. So, [00:52:00] we're actually in an incredible position where membership dues cover one, but not both of our employees’ salaries. Guess whose salary it covers? You don't know. And most of the WNP's work relies on individual contributions. And I'm telling you this is not a marketing tagline, right? It's true. We really need your support to survive.
So, to encourage that support to get that tax deductible donation at the end of the year. We're sort of sweetening the pot. We've got a special offer this year. Donations over $75 are eligible to receive a limited edition Trad'r Sam's enamel pin designed by our dear friends at San Francisco Neon. And donations over $125 are eligible to receive an authentic Cliff House mug. Please know that this is one of the mugs that we bought at the Cliff House auction, and it does not say Cliff House on it. It is like a legit diner mug that was used at the Cliff House. So, it's kind of [00:53:00] small and it's plain white. So don't be surprised. We need to get it.
Otherwise, while you wait for our public programs to relaunch in March 2023, we hope you continue to enjoy this free podcast and we would love to hear your requests cause we're actively planning next year. So, what kind of history walks, what kind of lectures, panel discussions, podcast episodes, what do you want from WNP in 2023? We're here to listen and we wanna serve you this history your way.
So here it is, a preview for next week. We are getting into the holiday spirit with one of our jolliest members for this very special Christmas Eve episode. So, let's give another shout out to Angus MacFarlane and his dog Ichabod. And thank you so much for being with us tonight. We will see you next week.
Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and [00:54:00] 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.
The Outside Lands San Francisco podcast is also available as a subscription via iTunes and by RSS feed.