W.W.II in San Francisco came in the form of many different descriptions and tales. This is the continuation of one of those stories. Chapter Two:
At 08:48 hours on April 2nd, 1942, the outbound U.S.S. Hornet approached the Golden Gate Bridge with its cargo of Doolittle’s sixteen U.S. Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers. A civilian fishing trawler hauled back the anti-submarine net. Tensions were high. The Japanese were winning the battle in the Pacific while the fear of enemy insurgents had shaken the heart and soul of civilians and military at home. The Black Dragon Society (Kokwryukai) had been formed in 1901 to serve the Japanese Empire at all costs. It was a paramilitary, right-wing group that had infiltrated the West Coast of the United States, blending into the Japantowns of Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland.
My biological grandfather, Sergeant Elmer Klausen, a member of the California Grays (a militia group with a checkered past), posted a National Guardsman at the southend of the bridge. (more…)
W.W.II in San Francisco took on many different shapes and sizes. This is one of those stories.
On the morning of December 7th, 1941, a trolley exited the Twin Peaks tunnel, dragging sparks from the overhead wires. Anne Klausen disembarked and crossed three lanes of traffic against the light. A Hudson tooted and smoked to a halt, but Anne didn’t hear the complaint. She stomped along, thinking about her vigilante dad, cussing him out in silent rage. Anne entered an Art Deco building where blue neon letters read CASTRO. The marquee heralded the feature attraction, The Maltese Falcon. The images of Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, however, did little to extinguish the gnashing inside her head. Anne ordered some popcorn from a cashier, blabbing about how a father who was a regular down at Sally Rand’s strip club had no right lecturing his daughter on Catholicism and such nonsense. (more…)
The Saloon in North Beach, San Francisco, is located on Grant Street just a couple of doors up from Broadway. It first opened in 1861, making it the oldest drinking establishment in the City. The building looks much the same as it did way back during those infamous Barbary Coast days when it offered 5-cent Bavarian beer, 10-cent hot Scotch Punches, and cigars. The wooden bar, which was installed in the 1860’s and made overseas, is still in use. At its base, a tiled trench (from yesteryear as well) runs under the the stools, once used as a spittoon and occasionally as a urinal (perhaps during modern times also).
The Saloon was one of those places where easy targets were drugged, hauled up to the east side of nearby Telegraph Hill and imprisoned in one of the Filbert Step cottages to be shanghaied out to sea later. The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed most of the buildings in the area but not The Saloon. (more…)
Gino and Carlo in San Francisco was established in 1942 and a family operated saloon for more than fifty years. The North Beach bar on Green Street has always been known for their cheap drinks, easy vibe and great characters. Frank was a sweetheart behind the bar–low key, mellow and knew your name. Carol Doda would visit after her show sometimes. Pool players and fantasy-sport enthusiasts also gathered here. There might even be a guy hanging out in the shadows with a fedora on, a Godfather waiting to be received.
I remember this time when I got into a conversation with a regular, an old-salt Italian. Let’s call him “Alfredo”. Alfredo started telling this tale about how he was dining at a neighborhood eatery/bar when the owner approached and suddenly collapsed. (more…)
Game three of the 1989 World Series occurred on October 17th. The Oakland A’s had won the two previous outings but the Say-Hey-Kids of the City knew better than to count themselves out. Then it happened. At 5:04 p.m. Candlestick shook under the wagging finger of a 6.9 jolt. And it was all caught on live T.V., a first. Al Michaels cut in on Tim McCarver’s highlights to say, “You know what, we’re having an earth…” and the feed went dead.
There was a loud rumble as the bleachers in right field swayed, fans dashing toward the exits during those frantic fifteen seconds. A worker on a light tower could be seen holding on, his body slapping in the wind like a rag doll. One fan yelled, “Yeah, rock the Bay!” and a rally cry was born. Players milled around the infield with their young ones hiked upon their shoulders. Twenty minutes passed and everyone knew that the game was in jeopardy. (more…)
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake occurred in northern California on October 17th at 5:04 p.m. At the time my wife and I were living part-time on a boat in the Marina District of San Francisco. Huge support poles for the docks and ships’ masts began to crisscross each other. A lady screamed from Marina Blvd. Cars crashed. Honks blared. Propane tanks exploded. Flames shot up. I left a blank T.V. & the World Series behind and went to the parking lot where everyone gathered around a pickup and its radio. Broadcasters sent out alarms, stating that the downtown was buried under eight feet of glass, that the Bay Bridge was down, that the Nimitz Freeway had collapsed.
The overhead wires stopped putting out electricity. The wife disembarked from her commuter bus just outside the Stockton Tunnel in Chinatown and began her three-mile trek to the boat. Wide-eyed pedestrians scurried around, traffic jammed up at intersections, signals on the blink, glass everywhere. She passed through Ghirardelli Square and Fort Mason until she came to Great Meadow Park and scanned the devastation of the Marina District for the first time. (more…)
In November of 1969, 100,000 protestors took to the streets for the San Francisco Moratorium Peace March. I was there as we assembled at Kimbell Park in the Western Addition and wound our way along Geary Blvd. for the four-hour journey to Golden Gate Park, ending up at the Polo Fields for a rally. The Tet Offensive was in full swing, as North Vietnamese regulars pushed into the south. American bodies were needed. Nearly 500,000 U.S. troops were deployed to the conflict, a tenth of that number never coming home.
Those who were protesting the protestors argued that the marchers were all left wing agitators imported from the outside. As evidence they photographed the Communist Party of the U.S., which participated openly with their banner. Labor unions were present with their flags as well, but for the most part the throng consisted mostly of Mr. and Mrs. Average America, walking alongside teachers, scientists, librarians, firemen and even downtown suits. (more…)
I can remember as a kid swimming at the largest heated saltwater venue in the world, the Fleishhacker Pool in San Francisco. You would take a leap of faith and step off the top platform, a distance of some thirty feet to the water (at that end, it was fifteen feet deep). The pool measured a thousand feet long (over three football fields in length) and a hundred and sixty feet wide in the middle section.
The Parks Commission supposedly kept the temperature of the pool at 72 degrees as required for A.A.U. meets, but it felt much cooler with the damp sea breeze coming off nearby Ocean Beach. In 1925, five thousand spectators watched Johnny Weissmuller, the reigning freestyle champion in the world and later of Tarzan film fame, win his event. (more…)
Seal Rocks of San Francisco lies beneath the Cliff House at Lands End in San Francisco. The restaurant has been remodeled in the old neoclassical style with a two-story dining room where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. In recent years patrons would witness only birds on Seal Rocks, but El Nino has driven hordes of the sea lions north looking for food. Sardines, white sea bass, herring and mackerel are luring in the brown fury creatures. Many use Seal Rocks as a resting stop before venturing further up the coast or into the bay to sunbathe near Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. (more…)
The Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco has been reincarnated five different times on the same site near Lands End. Originally it was built in 1858 from the remains of a ship that crashed on the rocks below. Three Presidents and such local luminaries as Crocker, Hearst and Stanford would drive their carriages through the dunes of the Richmond District to watch the horse races on Ocean Beach and have a bite to eat at the diner. But its reputation spread to the unsavory types from the Barbary Coast region of the City and the area soon became overwhelmed with scandalous behavior.
Adloph Sutro, entrepreneur and later mayor, had built his estate on Sutro Heights nearby and would have none of the shenanigans. Money can solve any problem, right? He bought the Cliff House and chased out the riffraff. But good karma was not on his side. For the second time, a ship ran aground. This time, however, the schooner was loaded with TNT and exploded, damaging the Cliff House above. The explosion was heard throughout the City. Sutro repaired the restaurant only to see it burn down soon thereafter. (more…)