Beautiful, musical name - and enchanting city! A city in a class by itself. I am hoping and praying that the last letter, written in the bus depot of Los Angeles, did not reach the Press in time for the April 10 issue. In that case it is "smothered" - and you won't know about the planned trip to 'Frisco. Virgil Jr. was granted a 5-day pass (from Ft. George Wright, Wash.) and asked his father and me to meet him either in Sacramento or 'Frisco. We chose the latter, for we had heard much about the charm of San Francisco. Another time I will tell you about the delightful bus ride - all day Saturday - along the coastal route. But, "If I should die" before next week, I should want you to know about this rocky, crooked, hilly peninsula, out of which only the brave-hearted and the imaginative could fashion a city. The Sir Francis Drake hotel, a 22-story structure, one of 'Frisco's best, was named after the Englishman, one of whose ships, the "Golden Hinde," brought the first white men to set foot in the region of San Francisco Bay. This was in 1579. The first settlers arrived on June 27, 1776, seven days before the American people declared themselves a nation. But it was 70 years before the heirs of '76 raised their flag on this site. Two years later (1848) the name of San Francisco was blazoned in gold on the map of the world. As you know, the Gold Rush of 1848 struck this Bay region like a hurricane. San Francisco became a city almost overnight.
But what of the San Francisco of today? She has the steepest hills, the worst streets, the kinkiest cars that I have seen anywhere. Yet there is a graciousness and charm, courtesy and pride that I have found nowhere else, west of Charleston, W.Va. The people of San Francisco are proud of their city - of its legends, its traditions, its substantial wealth, its beauty, its unique setting. Yes, and they are proud of their antiquated cable cars, which remind one of Fontaine Fox's "Toonerville Trolley." In asking the way to the famed Fisherman's Wharf, we were directed to take the "Mason and Powell" cable car on Market St. Market St., as the collegiates put it, is the main "drag" of 'Frisco. The little cable car had just arrived at Market St. It had reached the end of its cable. So, the "motorman" or cableman, conductor, and a third street car man, who seems to do nothing but throw switches and help turn the cable cars, pushed this little cable car onto a turn table. By man-power alone they turned the "cable," then pushed the car onto the track that paralleled the down-hill track. It was funny to see these three men with their backs against the car, pushing it into place, when it caught the cable. That cable is underground, between the wheel tracks. Its revolving wheel looks to be about 16 inches in diameter. The cable makes quite a noise - rather disturbing to a newcomer. Our hotel - the York - faced Geary and Jones, the latter a cable street. The front end of the cable car is open, with one long bench on each side (room for seven people). The operator and his strange mechanism are in the center. The other half is enclosed, and looks as if it would hold a dozen people. But at the rush hour the limit of passengers is determined only by the number that can get one foot on the long side step - and hang on. Of course we newcomers sat on the open benches, and gaped at the quaint machinery in undisguised wonder. It is no simple matter to manipulate the long cable gear, plus cable brake and wheel brake. The central figure in this enterprise, the "manipulator," made the most of his important position, and dramatized the startling adventure. After we climbed a very steep hill, he warned, "Hold on tight - for the sharpest curve in town." We held on like grim death. A little later he called out. "Hold your hats! - for the steepest hill in California!"
When we got to the foot of the perilous ride, he admonished gently, "Lady, don't squeeze that post so tight; you'll break it in two." Oh, the native San Franciscan has a rollicking good time laughing up his sleeve at us "furriners." But there was not one street-car conductor, bus driver, policeman, or man of the street who was not the soul of courtesy - and took a sort of personal interest in our welfare. All three of us were captivated by this delightful city and its inhabitants.
Next week I'll tell you about Fisherman's Wharf, Cliff House, and as much else as the column will hold.
Florence B. Taylor.
Next - 5/1/47 - San Francisco (Continued) Fisherman's Wharf
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