Wednesday, October 01, 2014

San Francisco in the Movies — Before the Tourists Came and the Families Fled

For me, I much prefer a San Francisco in memory. Real town.  Hard working people.  Families.  Sophisticated shopping for the rich and upwardly striving.  A real amusement park, Playland-at-the-Beach, for the masses.  That gone, too.   Produce and plants and factories.  Ships of the world docking at dozens of mighty piers, offloading and on-loading.  Short line freight trains sharing space with city streets.

Today, I go over there and feel crushed under noise, obnoxious congestion,  and tourism, crushed by more high rise condos going up, still, over land fill by the bay, down there where the wrong earthquake could reap a tragic outcome.  Jackhammers pound incessantly away.  People, struggling to pay rent, are run out of their rent-controlled spaces (evicted) their buildings being converted over for office or retail rising on new technology, or more high rises to favor the rich. Digital dough is swamping this town. Sure, a beautiful city.  But I like it less and less.  Not at all sure, had I the money, that I would even want to live over there. 

Some remarkable photography of the city that was comes through, unexpectedly, in movies made way back when.  Other night, I saw The Lineup, and marveled at black and white images, snapped  off my screen.  This is may give you as flavor of how the city looked and felt before Oakland's deeper water ports stole away San Francisco's shipping trade to containerized ships,  Before Pier 39 turned the place into a Disneyland. 

The Ferry building is now a thriving food arcade, pricey and fashionable.

Ships of commerce once docked along the Embarcadero.  

Some forty-plus piers thrived with shipping activity. Now, they house amusements and museums and offices,  or have been demolished to make way for a ballpark and condos.

A short line railroad once used these tracks.  Now,  they run a collection of old city street cars, loaded with tourists, headed for Pier 39's trivial attractions.  Slow as snails.   If you go, walk.

It was a working class town, believe it or not.  In my youth, I was employed for a time as a clerk for Planters Peanuts.

I love this shot, showing the Cow Palace in the background, about ten years after it was built. Ringling packed the arena the first year.  Turnaways.   

The iconic Golden Bridge retains its majesty, but soon, its famed architecture will be compromised by the installation, just under the deck of nets designed to catch and thwart mortals seeking to bring their lives to an end.  

The Palace of the Legion of Honor, intact.

Sutros Baths, just above Playland, was a great place to go, full of atmosphere, penny arcade amusements, old Barnumesque exhibits, model circus wagons by Bill Taggart, an ice rink, and. in its glory days, several giant swimming pools.  It burned down in 1966, the cause highly suspicious.

By the time The Lineup was filmed, the pools had been shut down.  Sutros was nearing its end.  The ice rink was about the only major draw.

One of the best scenes from the film.  The chief gangster, in a wheel chair, left, comes to collect a stolen treasure.   Little does  he know he's about to go ice skating, but on wheels rather than blades

 Oops! Bye, bye!

The Bay Bridge and Treasure Island form one fabulous backdrop.

When asphalt assaulted the city's beauty.  This is probably the Embarcadero freeway.  Below, a rare view of it, still under construction when the film was shot, around 1957.  It was a monstrosity, perhaps, fatefully speaking, the driving reason for the 1989 earthquake, which effectively rendered it inoperable.  And so it was taken down.     

Another thing about going to San Francisco.  And here, you need to listen to me!  I used to love to walk across the city, from the Ferry Building out to Ocean Beach, nearly every week.  But I came close twice to being hit by a car, and learned that San Francisco was the most dangerous city for pedestrians in California (evidently, no longer true).  Still ...

If you go there to walk, revise what I said above -- don't!


Douglas McPherson said...

Wonderful pictures. Would love to be driving through those streets in that time in that car with the white roof.

Kathy said...

David, I too truly love the San Francisco in my years of growing up in the 50's. What great pictures you show of this wonderful city of yesteryear......and how I love reminiscing of those enchanting times. Thanks for the memories.