Today in My History2000: Back to Basics
2001: Oh, My Aching Back
2002: Spinning Straw into Gold
2003: Everything Old is New Again...and Again...
2004: Stop the World, I Want to Get Off
2005: Biting the Hand that Feeds You
2006: Still Horny After All These Weeks
2007: How Big is a Cubit
2008: A Little More Stupid
2009: Boston's Newest Resident
2010: Four Tennis Racquets
2011: In a Mist
"Little Shop of Horrors"
Books Read in 2012
"San Francisco Confidential"
Most Recent on My Santa Barbara, April 2012
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CITY OF THE DEAD
17 May 2012
Yesterday at the book store, it had been my plan to read Henry V, since I am going to see the play on Friday. But -- well, it's Shakespeare and I was falling asleep by page 3. I got up and wandered around the store looking for anything that caught my eye. On one of the display shelves, I found a book called San Francisco Confidential by Ray Munro. It is subtitled "Tales of scandal and excess from the town that's seen everything." I finished the book during my volunteer stint, but enjoyed it so much I bought it to keep.
The book starts with early scandals in my home town, but much of it is devoted to things that happened during my lifetime. Things like the murder of Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk by Supervisor Dan White (professed homophobe, who was actually having an affair with a male fireman at the time he killed the two politicians). Things like Patty Hearst's kidnapping and subsequent actions. Things like Jim Jones and how he went from local politician to the megalomaniac who caused the death of hundreds on his compound in Guyana.
Lots and lots of fun things to read because I was either there when it all happened, or remember reading out it.
One chapter I found particularly interesting because I didn't know the whole story.
My grandparents are buried in the Catholic cemetery in Colma, the town just south of San Francisco. I remember going to one of the funerals, but don't remember which grandparent it was. When I give tours of San Francisco to people from out of town, I take them past the only two cemeteries in the city, one of which is attached to the old Mission Dolores, and which contains graves from people who died during the very early days of the city, the late 1700s to the middle 1800s. The other cemetery is the military cemetery on the Presidio land, which used to belong to the Army but with military downsizing in the early 90s, the Army pulled out, leaving buildings which are gradually being taken over by businesses. But the military cemetery remains.
All other people dying in San Francisco must be buried outside the city. Colma has a population of 1,500 people, "and 1.5 million underground," says its mayor.
Apparently in the 1930s, San Francisco (which has no room for "expansion" because of the water on three sides) decided to close all but the 2 cemeteries I talked about, and the remains in the other cemeteries were dug up and moved to Colma As a result 73% of Colma's 2.2 square miles is zoned for cemeteries, the town's web page says. Hearses outnumber hotrods in the town.
When the job of moving the bodies was "undertaken" (pun intended) San Francisco became a macabre scene of rotting and ancient remains piled in the streets. Young men played soccer using old skulls as balls. Nobody ever made an accurate account of bodies that were moved to Colma, but in 1993 300 bodies, apparently Gold Rush workers, were uncovered by accident during restoration work on the grounds near the Palace of the Legion of Honor. And additional eleven thousand bodies may still be buried under the museum.
Wyatt Earp is buried in the Jewish cemetery there (his wife was Jewish) along with Levi Strauss; Joe DiMaggio is buried in the Catholic cemetery, Tina Turner's dog is buried in the pet cemetery. There is a military cemetery there too that you drive along side when taking one road into San Francisco from the airport.
Because there is so little land for building homes, Colma has become an exclusive, rich suburb. The city gives its residents free tickets to the opera and Giants games in San Francisco (or did in 1996, when this book was published).
The town motto is "it's great to be alive in Colma."
I'll bet there is little call for a noise ordinance in Colma!
PHOTO OF THE DAY