California (9)

Tattoo Based on My Dad’s 1917 Drawing

Lloyd,

I first saw that 1917-18 drawing your father did a few years ago and I knew I wanted to have it as a tattoo someday. I finally was able to make that happen with an artist here in Phoenix, Arizona named Kyle Huskey. I chose him for the task as he does very well with fine line work and texture. Attached is a photo of the tattoo. I think he did the drawing justice!

Thank you,
Ben Garza
Cottonwood, Arizona

My dad did this drawing when he was in high school (Lick-Wilmerding) in San Francisco in 1917-18 or so. He had to go to work after high school, so never got the chance to develop his artistic side. I put it on my blog two years ago and lo and behold! I’m sure my dad would be blown away.

Post a comment (5 comments)

Lowell High School, 1949–1952

This is an uncorrected chapter of a book I’m working on provisionally titled Live From California: The ’60s — Before, During, and After — 1935-1973.

It’s sort of an autobiography of my first 38 years, which includes my observations on the ’60s. Having grown up in San Francisco, going to Lowell, which was the edge of the Haight-Ashbury district, having dropped out of the straight world in 1965, I have a different take on what went on in these few years, before everything — at least in the Haight district — fell apart.

Lowell, class of 1952. There were about 250 of us.
Note the eight or so of us facing each other — not the camera — in the second row down from the top. (Click or hover over the image for a zoomed detail.)

Lowell was at the Corner of Hayes and Masonic streets, just across a narrow strip of park from the Haight-Ashbury district, until 1962, when it moved out to the Lake Merced area.

Lowell was the one high school in San Francisco you could attend, regardless of what district you lived in. It was one of the best high schools in the country and many graduates went on to Stanford or Cal (UC Berkeley).

(Interestingly, Lowell was the subject of a New Yorker article titled What Happens When an Elite Public School Becomes Open to All in March, 2022. There was no test required to get into Lowell in my day, but in intervening years, demand to attend was so great that testing was required and this became a controversial issue ​— ​too much to cover here.)

I had skipped 5th grade,* so was a year younger than my classmates. I didn’t know many kids there when I started; most of them were from different parts of the city. For the first two years I hung out with a few kids, and had a steady girlfriend, Cora Mae Bolles.

*Mrs. Wasp, my fifth grade teacher told me I should study to be a lawyer, I guess because I argued so much.


Teachers

My two favorite teachers were Mrs. Cooper, who encouraged me to write, and Jack Patterson, the journalism teacher. Years later, at a reunion, three of us discovered we were in our present occupations (English teacher, staff the San Francisco Examiner, and publisher) ​— ​largely due to “Captain Jack.”

Patterson had been a captain in the Marines and had a Silver Star from World War II. He was small and wiry, bald, and had piercing blue eyes that twinkled with humor and mischief. It turned out he was gay, although he never came on to us.

He was a great teacher. I remember to this day how he described the “five w’s and one h” of journalism that, he said, should be in the first paragraph of every news story: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

And how a journalist’s duty was to report objectively (as far as that was possible). Opinion was for the editorial page. How relevant that is in these days of “fake news.”

He got fired eventually. At the time, he owed money to a bunch of friends and since he’d lost his job, he decided to rob a bank in Texas. He entered the bank with a tear gas gun and a .22 pistol. The tear gas gun didn’t fire, so he fired the .22 in the air three times. He was apprehended before he could get away, and because of the gunshots, was imprisoned for armed robbery.

One of Patterson’s former students had been Pierre Salinger; Pierre had been the editor of The Lowell, the school newspaper. Pierre went on to become President Jack Kennedy’s press secretary.

From jail, Patterson got in touch with Pierre, who got Kennedy to issue a pardon and he got out of jail. The athletic director at Stanford gave Patterson a job on the campus. I’m so sorry I never went to thank him in person for his guidance.


Sports

Football

I’d played football in my neighborhood in earlier years, but for some reason didn’t go out for high school football until my last year.

I wasn’t successful. For one thing, all the other guys had two or three more years of high school experience than I did. For another, the football coach was also the swimming coach, and he didn’t want me playing football.

I wanted to play halfback ​— ​I knew I could run and catch passes from neighborhood games ​— ​but the coach made me play defensive halfback. The first time at practice, our 220 lb. fullback George Schwarz broke through the line and was charging towards me. I weighed 150, and decided then and there I wasn’t going to put my head down and tackle him. Law of physics, or self-preservation. I didn’t get to play too much that season.

In later years, I was glad I wasn’t the football star I aspired to be, as I saw all my football friends suffering years later from the contact aspect of the sport ​— ​something that wasn’t noticeable in younger years.

The 1952 Lowell football team, which ended up with four wins and five losses. The highlight of the season was an upset of favored Washington, 6–0, on a second quarter pass from quarterback Pete Kistler to wide receiver Gary Friedman.

But a couple of good things came out of football:

  1. Each night after practice at the polo fields in Golden Gate Park, we had to run around the ¾-mile track in full gear. I did it faster than anyone else, and it led me into going out for cross-country and then running the half-mile on the track team.
  2. On the bus to and from practice I started sitting next to Gary Friedman, a star wide receiver. Gary liked me, even if I wasn’t playing football at his level. He “adopted” me, in a sense.**Looking back, I can see that at various times in my life, people have “adopted” me. It happened again at Stanford, and a number of times in the publishing business ​— ​people who for some reason liked what I was doing and helped me move along through life.


Swimming

I was on the swimming team — ​diving during 10th grade, the 100-yard butterfly my last two years. I was on what they called the 130s, a team for lighter weight, smaller guys and I got first place in each event. But it wasn’t the same as varsity swimming.

Track

Bob McGrouther and I were the school half milers. Bob was 6′4″, and the track coach said I took 3 steps to every 2 of Bob’s. Bob was consistently faster than me. My best times were 2:06 in the half mile, and 4:53 in the mile. Good, not great. (Bob ran the half mile in 2:03 and a sophomore, Pete Ryder, ran the mile in 4:45.)

(These were years when you didn’t have to concentrate on one sport, as nowadays.)

My three best friends, the guys I hung out with, went to parties with, had adventures with turned out to be Gary, John Brazier, and Ron Chapman.
Read More …

Post a comment

Growing Up in San Francisco

I’ve never been busier in my life. Along with a personal situation that’s taking a lot of time, I’m working on publicizing our just‑finished book Rolling Homes: Shelter on Wheels (our best book in years!), running Shelter Publications, and starting an autobiography of my first 38 years (1935–1973), which includes my take on the ’60s, provisionally titled Live From California: The ’60s, Before, During, and After — 1935–1973.

For these reasons, I hardly have time to post here, However, I’ll be putting up pages from the book-in-progress from time to time.


My parents on their honeymoon at Weaver Lake in the Sierras.

My mom and dad were married in San Francisco in April, 1934. It was in the middle of the Great Depression. In August of that year, they took the Suntan Special, a train that ran from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, for a vacation. According to my mom, I was conceived on that trip, and born in San Francisco in April, 1935.

My folks rented an apartment across from the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District and then, when I was two, bought a house on Ulloa Street, near the Forest Hill District.

I was the first-born in the family, and my parents didn’t quite know how to cope with me. I wasn’t so much rebellious as curious and energetic. Plus at an early age I didn’t believe in following rules just because they were rules. I wanted to have fun.

At one point they took me to a psychiatrist and I remember having a great time hammering wooden pegs into different shaped holes and answering his questions about ink blots. I suspect he told my folks that I wasn’t psychotic, just high-energy. Years later, when my mom was in her 90s (she lived to be 103, so apparently I didn’t do any lasting damage), she would laugh and reminisce about my stunts. “You remember when you…”

She told me that one day, when I was 2 or 3, she tied a rope around my overalls, and to the garage door handle so I couldn’t get out into the street while she did the dishes. A few minutes later, standing at the kitchen sink (on the second floor), she looked out the window and saw me walking down the street naked. (It was a long leash, not as bad as it may sound in this day of Precious Parenting.)

Mom, with my brother Bobby (in later life, Bob) on left, me on right

I had a happy childhood. My parents loved each other. Our family was a happy one. We always had food and shelter. I’ve often thought how lucky we were, especially when I hear about traumatic childhoods. In many ways, it was the best of times.

I’m writing all this stuff about early years to give you a picture of my background, attitudes and outlook on life, which all led me to finally breaking out of the prescribed plan for my generation: high school/college/military service/successful business career.

I also have to admit that I’m having fun looking back at our lives in the ’40s and ’50s and sorting through the family photos, scrapbooks, and documents — some of which go way back.

The Neighborhood

154 Ulloa Street

There were 26 kids on our block (the 100 block of Ulloa Street). On any given day, there would be at least a dozen of us playing in the street. Kick‑the-can, hide-and-seek, bike riding, rollerskating, riding Flexi racers, playing football or baseball. No parental supervision at all, ever. No little league, no lacrosse, no automobile transportation to distant soccer fields. We were on our own.

There was a cave about half a mile away; we never went very deeply into it. In wet years, there was a shallow lake across from our house and we had a raft.

There was a Catholic church across the street and everyone on the block was Catholic except for us. My Mom was a Christian Scientist. (We never went to doctors.)

Kindergarten, West Portal Grammar School. I am third from left on bottom row.

There was a pony rental place a mile or so from our house, where we’d go during birthday parties. Speaking of which, at one of Bill Floyd’s birthdays, we went to see The Phantom of the Opera with Claude Rains at the Empire theater. I was so terrified by the scene at the end when the Phantom’s mask is pulled off (to reveal his face disfigured by acid) that I had to sleep in my parents’ bed that night.

During World War II, there was a large community vegetable garden on a quarter-acre lot next to our house, and we raised a ton of vegetables. My dad, being a hunter, was the official gopher trapper.

The whole city was our playground. We went all over it on foot, bikes, roller skates, streetcars, and buses. We walked to school, about one mile to West Portal Grammar School, 1½ miles to Aptos Jr. High. We’d ride four miles on our bikes to Golden Gate Park.

Some city kids made their first skateboards in the ’40s by taking apart metal roller skates and mounting the wheels on a piece of wood. On our block, the Guzman brothers built a funky flat-roofed little house on roller skate wheels and rode it down the hill. A bunch of us then did the same — maybe the first RVs!

We’d stay outside until our mother would call us for dinner: “Low-eed, Bob-ee.”

Hitching Streetcar Rides

The “L,” “M,” and “K” streetcars ran through the tunnel (my initials), which was about a mile walk from our house. They had cowcatchers on both ends, which were lowered at the front end. When the direction of the car was reversed at the end of the line, the cowcatcher would be cranked up on the back end via a cable through a round fitting in the center.

We would creep up behind a slowly moving car (crouching so the conductor, who was in the back, wouldn’t see us), then run up and jump on the cowcatcher.

We rode all over the city. The big deal was to ride through the two-mile-long dark tunnel from West Portal Avenue to Castro Street — sparks flying overhead from the electric trolleys — whoo! There are lots of recessed alcoves where someone on foot in the tunnel could jump when trains came by. The trains probably went 20–30 mph, rocking through the darkness, to emerge into the dazzling daylight at Market and Castro.

Neighborhood Notes

There was a lady we called “The Crab,” who would spray us with a hose when we rode by her house on bikes; one Halloween we put the traditional flaming paper bag full of dog shit on her porch. During World War II, everyone saved bacon grease in cans to donate to the Army (to be used for manufacturing explosives); we also flattened tin cans and recycled them.

The Tower Market was a few blocks away; we learned how to get on the roof. Down the block was another market where we got whipped-cream-filled chocolate eclairs for 15 cents.

San Francisco Was a Port

Until the ’60s, the city, surrounded on three sides by water, was a shipping center. The waterfront was a deepwater port, dating back to the clipper ships, with a series of piers. It was (is) called The Embarcadero, and when we were kids, it was a city within the city, with its own hotels, bars, and restaurants. Loading and unloading of ships was controlled by the Longshoreman’s Union.

Fisherman’s Wharf, now a tourist mecca, was at one time the fishing center of the west coast, with its 16-foot Monterey Clipper fishing boats modeled on the felluca sailing fishing boats of Genoa.

I mention this because this was the city of our childhood and one would never guess this by looking at the tourist-oriented, sanitized, palm-tree-lined waterfront of today.

Fishing in the City

Around the turn of the century, my grandfather had a bait and tackle shop at the foot of Polk Street (in later years, it became Muni Bait), and that’s how my dad got started fishing. He and his friends went fishing in the ocean and they also fished for trout in lakes in the Sierras.

My grandfather used to import hexagonal bamboo rods from Asia and tie on the casting guides with red and gold silk thread. It’s a craft he taught my dad, and that he taught me.

My brother and I had our city version of fishing, which didn’t require any parental transportation or guidance. We would walk down to the streetcar tunnel, carrying fishing rods and a crab trap, and take a streetcar to Van Ness, where we’d catch a bus down to the Hyde Street pier.

We’d catch crabs and use the orange part of the innards as bait to catch perch. We’d go back home on public transit and our mom would cook a fish dinner.

The City Was Our Playground

We’d ride bikes out to one of the two huge abandoned windmills at the beach, sneak in the boarded-up door, and climb the ladder to the top, which was 75 feet above the ground.

We’d ride to Golden Gate Park to a large pond that had a concrete bottom, and we could ride (about pedal-deep) all around the pond. We roller-skated around the city, using skates with metal wheels that you clamped onto your shoes.

We roamed in the eucalyptus groves of Mt. Davidson and Twin Peaks (had a big rope swing up there).

Playland-at-the-Beach

Sal was rescued when Playland was demolished (in 1972) and today is at the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

This was an amusement park out at Ocean Beach, with a fun house that all kids loved. There was a spinning disc that you hopped on; as it speeded up, riders were ejected. There was a revolving barrel, in which you tried to stay upright as it spun around. (Think of the lawsuits nowadays!) There were long, curvy slides and mirrors that made you look taller or shorter or distorted.

The Hot House, serving Mexican food, was open for 40 years and reportedly served 12,000 tamales a day, Unusual for a Mexican restaurant, they always brought you a basket of hard sourdough French bread with lots of butter. The Pie Shop sold 14 types of pies (they were good!). The It’s-It ice cream sandwich (a disk of vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate) was invented at Playland.

There was also a roller coaster and other carny type rides and games, plus Laffing Sal, a gap-toothed, red-haired, freckle-faced, 7-foot-tall automated figure in front of the Fun House that waved her arms and cackled raucously. (A bit scary for little kids.)

Sutro Baths

Nearby was the magnificent Sutro Baths, a huge oceanside glass palace with six swimming pools filled with salt water. (Next to the Cliff House.) It seems kind of unbelievable now, but we took everything in the city for granted. There were pools of different temperatures, a diving pool, a cold pool. People wore old-fashioned, wool bathing suits. You can still see the foundation just north of The Cliff House.)

It was never a commercially successful operation and burned to the ground in 1966.

(To be continued)

Post a comment (12 comments)

Crystal Voyager — Music by Pink Floyd, Photography by George Greenough —1973

Crystal Voyager: Echoes from Jacob H on Vimeo.

In 1971, Bob Easton and I were putting the finishing touches on Domebook 2 at his home in Santa Barbara. Bob said his next-door neighbor was a surfer and liked to use the large white walls of Bob’s house on which to project his surfing films. Should I invite him over, said Bob. Well, duh…

When it got dark, over came the neighbor — George Greenough, with a projector, and as we watched George’s footage of hot dog surfers in Southern California, Bob played an Albert King blues album.

Later in the early 70s, when Bob and I were working on the book Shelter in Bolinas, George came up from Santa Barbara with the footage for this film, and we showed it to friends in my dome, and then to everyone down at the community center. He subsequently made a deal with Pink Floyd where they projected this footage along with their song “Echoes” in concerts, and George used the music in his 1973 film, “The Crystal Voyager.”

George was the originator of in-the-tube surf photography, using a homemade 30-pound waterproof camera mounted on his shoulder, riding a homemade spoon kneeboard. Resolution is a pretty crappy 240p, but you get the idea: you are inside the chamber of the tube with the barrel getting smaller and smaller, like the f-stop on a camera, until — wham! — psychedelic bubbles, turbulence, and spinning.

George went on to become a surfing legend legend and now lives in Australia.

Post a comment (1 comment)

California Today: What to Know About California’s New Housing Laws

It’s Monday. Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed two bills aimed at easing the state’s housing crisis. Plus, firefighters are scrambling to protect some of the world’s oldest trees from flames.

No matter where you live, you’re probably familiar with the exorbitant cost of housing in California.

The state’s median home price has crept above $800,000, more than double what it is nationwide. Among the 50 biggest cities in the country, we’re home to the top four most difficult places to afford a mortgage. And half of all Americans experiencing homelessness live in California.

Our housing crisis has a seemingly simple solution, according to the laws of supply and demand: Build more housing.

But for decades, resistance from suburban homeowners has stalled development as the problem has only gotten worse.

On Thursday, the state took a step toward creating higher-density neighborhoods as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two high-profile housing bills.

Though the bills, Senate Bills 9 and 10, endured intense opposition in recent months, neither is all that revolutionary, said Conor Dougherty, a reporter for The New York Times who writes about economics in California.

But the package of housing reforms passed in California over the past four years, including these two latest measures, “is probably the biggest change in housing in 50 years or more,” Conor told me.
Read More …

Post a comment (7 comments)

Drought in California

Photo of Lake Shasta in 2019 (when the drought was much less severe than now in 2021) by Bruce Warrington

Much of the Western half of the United States is in the grip of a severe drought of historic proportions. Conditions are especially bad in California and the Southwest, but the drought extends into the Pacific Northwest, much of the Intermountain West, and even the Northern Plains.

Drought emergencies have been declared. Farmers and ranchers are suffering. States are facing water cutbacks. Large wildfires are burning earlier than usual. And there appears to be little relief in sight.…

www.nytimes.com/article/drought-california-western-united-states.html

Post a comment (1 comment)

California Faces Another Drought as Lake Beds Turn to Dust – A Photo Essay

Water shortages and dry conditions are already affecting the state as the governor has declared an emergency in 41 of 58 counties.

Verdant hillsides losing their hue, receding reservoirs with bathtub rings of newly exposed earth, crops withering in the fields.

These are the visions of California’s parched landscape as the state braces for another potentially devastating drought. Water shortages and exceptionally dry conditions are already beginning to hit home.

The state is facing yet another hot, dry summer ahead, and the governor has declared a drought emergency in 41 of the state’s 58 counties. More than 37 million Californians reside in these drought areas, according to the US drought monitor.

“This is without precedent,” Newsom said at a news conference announcing the first two declarations in April, speaking from the bed of Lake Mendocino that had been reduced to arid, cracked clay. Not long ago, he would have been standing under 40ft of water. ‘Oftentimes we overstate the word historic, but this is indeed an historic moment.…’

The photos are shocking.

www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/30/california-drought-water-shortage-photo-essay

From Maui Surfer

Post a comment (2 comments)