When the two Virgils and I climbed aboard the quaint little cable car at Powell and Market Streets, we were headed for Fisherman's Wharf. It seemed strange to climb a steep hill to reach the "North Beach." But you just can't go places in San Francisco without climbing a hill. There are fourteen of them, several famous in their own right! We passed through the western end of Chinatown, once the infamous center of bloody tong feuds, opium dens and brothels - but now a respectable and bustling community. Even the humblest chop suey joint may have pagoda-like cornices on its roof. About half of Chinatown's population of 16,000 are immigrants from the mother country, many of whom still cling to the ancient customs and ancestral religion. We had to forego a leisurely tour of the city, due to our very limited time. At last the bumpy little "Toonerville Trolley" disgorged its passengers at Fisherman's Wharf. To tell the truth, I would rather stand on Telegraph Hill, and look at it than walk along its sidewalks and smell it. Only a short distance from where the trolley dumped us out, were the great wooden vats, filled with steaming water, where huge crabs had just been cooked. There seemed to be thousands - but maybe just hundreds of the giant cream-colored creatures, lying on their backs. Their "torsos" must measure at least 3-1/2 x 5 inches, that is. Unlike the little cold spring crabs of the Pennsylvania hills, these creatures have at least eight legs. (I should have counted). Many men were busy, chopping off the shells, and preparing them for the famous dinners served in these wharf restaurants At each restaurant door stood a waiter, or "hawker" in snow-white uniform, proclaiming the excellence of the sea food in his emporium - and bidding you come in. Not quite able to stomach the odors we hurried along to the wharf, where the brightly painted fishing boats were anchored. We had hoped to see the fresh arrival of a fishing boat, full of crabs, or sardines, rock cod, sole, or flounder. But we missed that treat, and saw only an occasional wind-tanned fisherman mending his huge net, or working on the boat itself, where it had been drawn up on a platform that dips into the lagoon. A few patient, optimistic, seagulls watched for that tempting morsel of fish that might be thrown into the lagoon. But that Monday morning - at 11 o'clock - was strangely devoid of excitement.
Standing on the west end of the wharf, and looking west, we could see the beautiful Golden Gate bridge, its great suspension cables draped as gracefully as a rope of pearls. Two colossal pillars stand in the bay, and between them is the longest single span in the world. The one disappointing feature is its color - red - dull red. Why couldn't it be aluminum paint, that glistens in the sun - and accentuates its grace? They should have consulted us before making such a grievous error. Seriously, though, we think it must be because terra cotta paint is more resistant to the corrosive salt water and air. After all, the city fathers must be practical. We decided we must have one seafood dinner - and that it had better be at Joe DiMaggio's famous restaurant - so that we could write home and torment Charlie and Tommy. They would be so envious. We weren't quite prepared for such swank. One look at the menu, and we suddenly knew that we did not want a crabmeat dinner - at $2.50 per. To save face we quietly agreed that we would order a salad, then go elsewhere to complete our dinner. Virgil Sr. ordered tomato stuffed with tuna, Virgil jr., tomato and shrimp, and I, avocado and shrimp. (95c apiece). Well, those were the most attractive salads I ever saw - served on oval platters, like two giant eggs on a nest of crisp shredded lettuce, with luscious mayonnaise, and garnished with bright pimiento, pickles and peppers. All the French bread we could eat - and all the coffee or tea we could drink. V. Jr. and I could not quite finish our salads - so abundant and so rich were they. I do heartily recommend Joe DiMaggio's restaurant for fine foods. (With great pride North Beach residents point out the playground at Mason and Lombard Streets, where they say Joe learned to play baseball.) We took a street car to Sutro Heights - at the northwest corner of S.F. - to see the famous Cliff House - a restaurant and rendezvous of many famous people. Being surfeited with food, we did not even look into the famous dining room, nor the bar and Sequoia Room (cocktail lounge) finished in redwood. But we did visit the gift and curio shop, which is said to be the largest in the world. Downstairs are quaint old music-making contraptions - glorified "nickelodeons" - which were in vogue during the gold rush era.
Cliff House - of white stucco - is built right out on the cliffs of Sutro Heights. From its glass-walled dining room or from its southern veranda you can look south along three miles of marvelous beach. "Playland," they call it. Also, from these same vantage points, or from the windowed curio shop you can look out on Seal Rocks, only 400 ft. away. These rocks are covered with brown-haired seals sleeping, lolling, "visiting" in the sun. As I looked through the telescope, two young things (two girl seals, I think) were whispering secrets in each other's ear - and probably giggling. At any rate, old Daddy Seal rose up from his sunny cot, reprimanded them sharply, and they behaved like chastised teenagers. The column is overflowing, I fear. But I would like to write you one more letter on delightful San Francisco.
Florence B. Taylor.
Next - 5/8/47 - San Francisco - Telegraph Hill
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