images of North Beach San Francisco during the Depression

Optimism abounded in the North Beach District of San Francisco like so many other neighborhoods throughout the nation during the 1920s. It was a time of easy credit and installment buying. Until it wasn’t. On Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929, the stock market crashed and sent everything spinning downward. Banks closed, credit dried up. The exuberant hurly-burly that was San Francisco stuttered to a crawl. It seemed everyone was out of work. There was not much meat but fish from nearby Fisherman’s Wharf was cheap. You ate a lot of soup as well— split pea, lentil, vegetable soup. Occasionally you might splurge and eat at Lucca’s restaurant on Powell and Francisco Streets in North Beach. It had a sign: “All you can eat for 50 cents.” Another local bargain was the San Remo Hotel (top photo), where you could order a Genoa-style full course dinner for less than a buck.

The Depression:

You sought distractions from the Depression in your Upper Grant flat like playing Monopoly or listening to the Philco radio, which ran on vacuum tubes and resembled the doorway of a medieval cathedral.   Jack Benny or Fiber McGee and Molly might hold your interest for an hour before turning the dial to enjoy popular tunes of the day such as “Pennies from Heaven”, “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “We’re in the Money”.   For a nickel (probably saved from your paper route or selling doughnuts door-to-door), you could venture down to the Palace Theater (later known as the Pagoda Palace) near Washington Square to watch You Can’t Take It With You or The Wizard of Oz. If you were really lucky, you might run into Joe DiMaggio at the playground on Greenwich Street (bottom photo) and engage him in a little “stick” ball. But the most likely place to catch him would be at Seals Stadium on 16th Street and Bryant where you could sit in the bleacher seats, which were 50 cents for adults and 10 cents for kids. All of the above helped to forget the fact that your parents didn’t have jobs until World War II kicked everything back into high gear again.

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