The "City"

June 24, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

There are many famous cities, but the only one I know where one can simply say "the City" and everyone recognizes what he is talking about is none other than San Francisco.  Oh, it is a city in many respects like most, there's traffic, congestion, it's hard to park, it has its share of homeless, etc., but I know of no other place except perhaps Paris that commands such romantic appeal.  While Tony Bennett did much to contribute to San Francisco's legacy it has plenty to offer on it's own to tug at one's heart strings.

For me personally I consider it "my city" even though I've never lived in it.  My family on my mother's side had roots in San Francisco dating well before the great earthquake of 1906.  Although visiting the city infrequently I recall as a boy (in the 1940's) being mesmerized by the hustle, bustle and night lights of the big city, so unlike the small town where I grew up.  When one went "downtown" in those days gentlemen wore suits, ties and hats; ladies would not be seen without hats, gloves, and high heels.  One dressed to go to the city to shop in places like The City of Paris and The White House department stores, the "supermalls" of that early day.  San Francisco's financial district was the Wall Street of the west, headquarters for banks named Bank of America, Wells Fargo, & Crocker Anglo, institutions with roots in the gold rush (two of which endure to this day albeit morphed into a new era).  It was home to the Hearst Newspaper chain, Standard Oil of California, Levi Strauss, and Folgers Coffee.  Fisherman's wharf was then, as it is today, home to a substantial Italian fishing fleet.  The Cliff House overlooked the Pacific Ocean at Land's End (and still does).  The early years listed names like A. P. Giannini, Henry Wells, William Fargo, Charles Crocker, J. P. Getty, William Randolph Hearst, Leland Stanford (founder of Stanford University), Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Mark Twain, and the legendary bandit Black Bart.  In the 1930's the DiMaggio brothers roamed the outfield for the old San Francisco Seals; Lefty O'Doull managed the San Francisco nine in the 40's.  In the early 50's the San Francisco 49ers put together the best backfield never to win an NFL title consisting of Y. A. Tittle, Hugh McElhaney, John Henry Johnson, and Joe (The Jet) Perry; Willy Mays electrified the Bay Area in the 50's and 60's and to my mind no one ever replaced him.  His statue now occupies a place of honor in Willy Mays Plaza at the entrance to AT&T Park.  Oh there is history here; not bad for a city buried in dust and rubble after the devastating earthquake and fire in 1906 when hardly one stone remained atop another.

But I think what really closed the deal for me was the San Francisco Opera which I began frequenting while attending college across the Bay in Berkeley in 1962.  I fell in love with the opera and with San Francisco, AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE!  This was an opera house that echoed with the voice of Enrico Caruso (he sang Carmen in San Francisco the night before the earthquake).  In the 60's one could buy a standing room ticket for $4.00 to hear the finest singers in the world for less than a movie ticket costs today.  Hearing and seeing such artists as Joan Sutherland, Mario Del Monaco, and Giorgio Tozzi was heady stuff for me.  Yes, the San Francisco Opera was world class and remains so today although the $4.00 ticket has long since disappeared.  

My wife and I eventually located to the Bay Area and 47 years later we remain within an hour's drive of the City where we occasionally enjoy a day or two revisiting the sights.  I have maintained an interest in photography all those years but always as an avocation.  Even so, I never made it a point to do much photography in the City, my interest being more focused on landscapes and wildlife.  Over time I managed to photograph most of the United States and Canada, as well as several foreign locations.  Still San Francisco was neglected.  That will change.

The few images I've posted to this website are but a start of what I intend to accomplish.  I hope you enjoy this virtual tour of the City by the Bay.

 


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