Today in My History
While You Work
Cast (updated 7/16)
30 December 2020
I nodded off watching a PBS special on Laura Ingalls Wilder, describing what the Little House on the Prairie was really like. I went to bed thinking about my neighborhood, where I lived for the first 18 years of my life and thinking about the things I remember passing on the 0.8 mile walk to St. Brigid grammar school each day.
If you lived out in "the avenues," in San Francisco, you lived in a house with a small front yard and a back yard and a garage and...you know, a regular house. We lived in a flat on one of the steeper hills in San Francisco. If you went down the hill and turned left, you were on the steepest hill in the city.
That's the bedroom my sister and I shared on the right, then the stairs up to the front door. The next pair of windows was my parents' bedroom and the bay window was our living room, where the TV was and where I liked to sit and watch cars trying to make it up the hill in the rain, coming to a stop sign at the top of the hill. The windows at the bottom gave light to the basement of the series of flats.
To go to school, I walked up the hill to where the Bellaire market was and turned right onto Union Street. The first half of the block was flat and the second half went downhill to Hyde Street.
The cable car ran on Hyde Street and when I was in high school, I rode the cable car about 4 miles to Geary Street where I caught the bus up the hill to my school. I loved riding the cable car, which only cost me 15 cents. I always sat outside on the first seat. It was early morning and there were few other riders, so I almost always got my favorite seat.
On that intersection of Hyde and Union Streets there were businesses on each corner. The Searchlight Market was a larger market than the Bellaire and owned by a guy named Louis Rosenthal, who was a friend of my parents. When I was home sick with measles, he sent a kitten home with my mother. We named it Socksie because it had 4 white feet. It eventually ran away when it was an adult.
Across the street from the Searchlight Market was the original Swensen's Ice Cream. It ultimately became a chain, but I remember when it was first built. My father was so excited to take Jeri there for her first ice cream cone (the detail of the photo above) when she was old enough to walk that far.
Diagonally across from the Searchlight was a drug store. I used to buy movie magazines there each month and when I got my first Brownie box camera when I was 10, the drug store was where I had my film developed.
I continued down Union street one block to Larkin and turned left. At the bottom of the first street there were apartment buildings on each corner. In one of them my friend Stephen's aunts lived and in the other his grandmother lived.
A block farther down was the launderette where my mother took my father's white shirts to be cleaned, starched, pressed, and folded.
I turned right onto Green St. where my friend Georgette lived. In front of her house one day, I saw the "f-word" written on the concrete. I have always wondered why seeing that word made me nauseous. I don't remember ever hearing or seeing the word before and I certainly didn't know what it meant, but it made me want to vomit seeing it written on the street.
My friend Gayle, Georgette and I walked down to Polk Street. To the right was the Alhambra Theater, where Karen and I went to movies every Saturday, but we turned to the left to head up to Broadway Street. There was a Safeway before you got to the corner. This was the "big" supermarket, where my mother shopped if she had a lot of food to buy.
We turned right onto Broadway. You could see St. Brigid's church in the distance a block away on Van Ness Avenue. Before you got to the corner you passed Notre Dame hospital. It was an old folks home and I was terrified of the old people in there. I don't know why, but old people always frightened me as a kid.
We crossed Van Ness Avenue and past the church. There was a parking lot on the back side of the church which was the playground for the grammar school. No playground equipment, just a big concrete space where we could play games like "Red Rover" and "Mother May I."
At the end of the block was St. Brigid School.
One of the nuns told me recently that they always stood outside the school waiting for parents to pick up their kids because of the drug dealers in the area. That certainly was a surprise for ME.
I made that walk every day for 8 years until I graduated and moved to high school, which was too far away to walk, so I took public transportation.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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This is entry #7587