Saturday, August 10, 2019

Vintage San Francisco

I seem to have more old slides picturing San Francisco than I thought... I might as well share some of those today!

Here's a neat one dated "April, 1961", with a gentleman posing next to a cross-section of one of the large suspension cables from the Golden Gate Bridge. Holy mackerel! You can read the statistics on that sign, which is helpful. In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world. Quite the engineering achievement - and it is beautiful too.

Not surprisingly, many of the vintage photos of SF feature the famous cable cars, which date back as far as 1873-1890. Of the 23 lines that used to exist, only 3 are around today. I am not terribly familiar with the city, maybe some of you recognize that distinctive, dark building? This photo is dated "August, 1958" - Hitchcock's "Vertigo" came out that same year. I love all of the businessmen crowded on to the cable car!

I zoomed in for a better look at that fun ad on the side, for KROW radio. The design is wonderfully mid-century, and I especially love the shirtless beatnik carrying a flower! KROW existed under those call letters from 1930 through 1959. It is now KNEW talk radio.

Welcome to San Francisco!

I have more cable cars and other 'Frisco, so don't fret now, y'hear?


Nanook said...


Love the jauntily-placed hat on the gentleman leaning on that section of cable. The green car running alongside of the cable car [hold on, fellas-!] is a Lakewood Green, 1952 Mercury, with a new 'bumper-grille'-!

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

That is nice of the guy seated at the rear of the cable car, to hold onto the guy who is standing up. I'm assuming that is the rear of the car, since everyone is facing the other direction.

What the heck is that in the last pic? Did that creature live in the Muni station, and did he feed on human flesh? I feel sorry for that unsuspecting victim around the corner!

Chuck said...

Just watched the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed again yesterday in the 2014 version of Godzilla. What is it about that thing that attracts so many kaiju and natural disasters?

That dark building is the James C. Flood Mansion, the only mansion on Nob Hill that made it through the 1906 earthquake intact.

That last image will haunt my dreams. Yikes!

K. Martinez said...

The most fun way to ride the Cable Car is standing up and holding on. Not sure I could pull that off today with my dang arm acting up these days. I absolutely loved San Francisco in the 60's and 70's. But then I loved Disneyland and everything else in the 60's and 70's. Thanks, Major.

Chuck, my favorite is Ray Harryhausen's hexapus (six legged octopus) destroying the Golden Gate Bridge in "It Came From Beneath the Sea".

TokyoMagic!, In San Francisco, seeing that Muni Metro monster would be just another normal day in the city.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Nanook, you still have a few more cars to go, in that first shot. You have, maybe, another three hours to do so, before the Major gets up and checks this post to see if you named ALL of them.

In that first shot, I noticed the beautiful flowers and cheapy-fencing style - reminiscent of early Disneyland.

I love the fun radio station ad - especially the cute cats and bird.

Fun pictures and nice side-trip today, Major - thank you!


"Lou and Sue" said...

^ oops, Nanook -- I meant the 2nd shot, obviously. Just woke up.


stu29573 said...

I read a review someone left about the Golden Gate Bridge. They were upset because it's not gold. No lie. Hey, I'm from Texas and I know what the Golden Gate is, but goofballs will be goofballs.
I love the graphics on the street car!
The monster? Why? Just...why?

Andrew said...

I think the monster is carefully guarding the model or whatever is behind that glass. It was his life work!

I saw an incredibly cheesy "4-D" movie at my local amusement park recently based off of the film "San Andreas." It included a scene where the Golden Gate Bridge snaps in two (accompanied by lots of blasts of air right at your face, of course).

Dean Finder said...

Can you still ride on the outside of the SF cable cars? It seems like the kind of thing a risk manager would have banned in the past decade or 2.

K. Martinez. There was an episode of the cartoon show "Home Movies" where the kids made a film featuring the Septopus, a reference to Harryhausen's Hexapus.

Melissa said...

Cable Guy has a kind of William S. Burroughs thing going on.

Now I'm seized with an intense desire to put on a rubber monster mask and take selfies at all my local landmarks for people 50 years from now to puzzle over.

Anonymous said...

That last shot was taken inside a BART station. As for the other shots, SF was once a very dapper town. Those cable cars were used for transportation...not necessarily for tourists. I always try to be on the front position of the running board...from beginning to's the best view in town. KS

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I love the name “Lakewood” for a car! Not sure how a “bumper grille” differs from a regular bumper or grille, but I’ll allow it.

TokyoMagic!, I wonder how often a cable car came along? You could hardly cram another person on that one, the way they’re hanging on. That would never be allowed today, I’m sure.

Chuck, I honestly feel that movies destroy landmarks that they are absolutely certain that audiences will recognize. If it was the Bay Bridge, it wouldn’t be so obvious that it was San Francisco. Which reminds me of another movie trope that amuses me; when they show a city like Berlin, or Cairo, and they feel the need to add the country in case you didn’t know. “Mumbai: India”, “Cairo: Egypt”, or “Rio de Janeiro: Brazil”. We know, we know!. Thanks for the ID on the James C. Flood mansion!

K. Martinez, I have never been on a San Francisco cable car, sadly, but yes, why would anybody sit? Standing would be part of the fun! Unless you have an injury of course (sorry). Do you remember my tribute to Harryhausen’s hexapus for an April Fools thing years ago? I’d look it up to link to it, but as usual I’m too lazy.

Lou and Sue, do you really think I don’t get up until 10 o’clock? Of course there are days when I am unable to check in until later in the morning, but still! I’ll bet the creators of that radio ad had no idea how freaky San Francisco was going to be in the 60’s and 70’s.

stu29573, ha ha, boy, some people really are dense. The Golden Gate had that name long before the bridge was there, of course. I wish I knew the story behind the monster, but I sure was happy to find that slide!

Penna. Andrew, actually, what IS in that glass case? Maybe it’s a large model of the city and bay? I honestly have no idea. Everyone knows that when a bridge snaps in two, bystanders are hit with blasts of hot air!

Dean Finder, I agree, I can’t imagine it’s OK to cling to the outside of a cable car anymore. I loved “Home Movies”! Such a funny show. Coach McGurk was my favorite.

Melissa, it’s funny, the man just to the right of the cartoon cat’s tail really does look like Burroughs! Maybe he’s on his way to acquire some morphine. Please take selfies of yourself with a rubber monster mask at local landmarks!!

KS, I figured that the monster pic was from inside a BART station. You can clearly see that the cable cars were really used by the locals to get from point to point. What happened? Did they all just decide they liked driving their cars (and not finding a place to park) better? Such a shame, imagine if the city still had all 23 lines still.

Nanook said...

@ Lou and Sue-

So... you think I don't have better things to do on a Saturday morning than [attempt to] use what little brain power I have left on such frivolous activities as American car ID's-?? Well-!! Okay then - that's either a 1957 or 1958 tan Cadillac sticking-out from behind 'ol Number 54. What's baffling me is just what brand of car the taxicab is. The side trim should give it away - but for the life of me, I can't make a positive ID - even though it feels like a... but then it can't be. Oh well. (Stick to the cable cars for reliable transportation, I always say).

JG said...

These photos make me sad, since this San Francisco is gone forever.

Fortunately I don't cross the bridge every day, but often enough that I don't always gape in awe, although I should.

Yes, the monster is the BART station. He has been replaced by heroin addicts.

As far as I can tell, few locals ride the cable car anymore. It is mostly all tourists, at the end points at least. We rode one recently, on a "vacation-at-home" visit. The Muni conductor was very high-handed about who could get on and off. There were plenty of people hanging on the outside. At one stop, a group of 6 or 7 locals who knew the conductor were allowed on, after some visitors with Indiana sweatshirts were denied boarding on the stop before. The locals rode several stops and got off again, without ever paying a fare or displaying a pass. Typical SF today.

A few weeks ago, we walked from the City Hall garage to the theater for a show, we passed some kids shooting up heroin right in public, cooking the drugs in their little spoon and injecting each other in the neck. Heck of thing to see. Heaven forbid you should use a plastic straw though.