Saturday, April 18, 2009

103rd Anniversary of the Great Quake of 1906

Today, April 18th, is the anniversary of the Great San Francisco Quake. Back in 1906 at 5:12 a.m., a magnitude 8.5 earthquake struck the city. Incedible fires raged for two days, destroying much of city itself, from the Ferry Building all the way up to Van Ness Ave. Some people said they felt as if "Hell on Earth" had come to pass.

Locals wasted no time. It wasn't long before people banded together and started to rebuild - fast. The term "Phoenix rising from the ashes" is often used to describe San Francisco itself. It is a place full of strong willed, determined, unshakable people, and always has been. I have always been proud to call it home.

To read more about the Quake of 1906 please use the following links:

Virtual San Francisco Museum
U.S. Geological Society
Great Quake Eyewitnesses

Friday, April 17, 2009

Musee Mechanique

Having been born in 1973, I just missed the forever famous Playland at the Beach. Only my brother, I believe, was lucky enough to have great Playland memories. As for me, I had to settle for trips to Ocean Beach and the always-a-treat lunch with my mom at the Cliff House. It was during one of these lunches that we discovered the basement goldmine. I was in heaven, jumping from toy to toy, almost all of them still fully operational at the time. I remember my mom, overjoyed and shocked at finding her favorite Playland memory: Laughing Sal. She would always tell us kids how no matter how many times she passed Sal, she always had her in tears, until she couldn't laugh anymore.

Ahhh, Musee Mechanique. For many years this mechanical wonder sat underneath the Cliff House in the basement. It was this mesmorizing collection of antique coin operated machines and leftovers from the now debunked Playland. Musee Mechanique was owned by Edward Zelinsky until his death in 2004.

Here's the story, in Mr. Zelinsky's own words:

“My collection consists of more than 300 items, ranging from orchestrations, coin operated pianos, antique slot machines, and animations, down to small bird boxes. Most of the items are displayed at the Musée Mécanique at Pier 45, although I keep some of the more fragile and collectible items in my home.

I started my collection when I was about 11 years old, and that’s a long time ago. I went to the Ellis Theater on Fillmore Street and during the intermission they had a Bingo game. My number was called and I ran on stage. They had a big wheel, I spun the wheel, and believe it or not, I won the grand prize! No, I didn’t win a slot machine or a music box; I won five quarts of motor oil. Well, as I was 11 years old and I didn’t have a car, I carried the five quarts of oil home and then sold the oil to my piano teacher for 75 cents. With the 75 cents in my pocket I rode the streetcar down to Golden Gate Avenue, an area where they sold slot machines and old jukeboxes. For 5 cents I bought a penny skill game that you put a penny in and get five balls and it goes around in a circle. I put pennies in it and taught my parents and my friends to do the same; it acted like a bank. I used the money I saved from the machine to buy more equipment and I visited that area many times over the years. One of my favorite purchases was a slot machine, which is now a collector’s item. At the time slot machines sold for $20-$25, sometimes less. I bought a Charles Fey Liberty Bell slot machine for $25 and sold it for what I then thought was the fantastic price of $200 (it is now worth between $25,000 and $30,000). But that’s the way of a collector-you should have done this and you should have done that.

When I returned from the service after World War II, I again visited Golden Gate Avenue. In the basement of one of the warehouses I found eight picture machines for $10 apiece, including delivery. These machines have been working ever since-first, for a penny. Then, later, I changed them to a nickel and they received the same amount of play. Later on, I changed them to a dime and the number of plays increased. Several years ago, I changed them to a quarter and the number of plays tripled.

In 1946, while learning the painting business, I visited a job in Oakland at the Mills Novelty Company. While I was there, I noticed a Seeburg piano with a xylophone and mandolin attachment. I inquired about it and asked if they would play it for me. As soon as it started playing, several of the mechanics gathered around and tried to make it play better. I asked the manager if it was for sale and he said he would love to get it out of his shop because it was costing the company too much money to have these men play around with the machine. I paid $200 for the piano and had it delivered to my home.

The machine hardly played, so I asked Sherman Clay Piano Company to come out and give me an estimate to repair it. They came out, admired the piano, and said they hadn’t seen one like it in years. But, they had no idea how long it would take them to fix it-or if they even could fix it-which they would do on a labor and materials basis. I called two other piano companies and received the same answer. I finally decided to fix it myself. I did not smoke at the time, but I blew cigarette smoke and then cigar smoke (which lasted longer) through the tubes to see where the smoke led. I finally got it playing, and it’s still playing today.

I seldom sell, but I love to trade. I did a lot of trading with George Whitney, Sr.; we traded music boxes and pianos back and forth. I made one trade with George Whitney that I will never forget. I had lunch with him every third Thursday and Mr. Whitney sat at the same table that he sat at for 20 years. I remember he had a scotch over ice, shrimp cocktail and a minute steak. I tried to copy him, but I couldn’t keep up with him on the drinks. Well, one time I had quite a few drinks, and I was feeling no pain and George said, “Ed, you have a 1904 Franklin, do you want to trade it?” And I said, “George, what will you give me for it?” Well, I don’t really remember the conversation, but I do remember shaking hands with him and Mr. Whitney telling me, “Ed, you are the proud owner of a steam motorcycle.”

Later, we had dinner again and he asked me who got the best deal in the trade. I said, “I don’t know, George, you tell me.” He said, “Ed, I got the best deal. I got a Franklin that’s running and you got a motorcycle that isn’t, and needs repair.” I told him, “That’s funny, George. I thought I got the best of the deal because I got the only steam motorcycle, perhaps, in the whole world.” He called me up a few weeks later and asked if I wanted to trade back again. That’s when I knew I had a good deal. The motorcycle was made about 1912 in Sacramento by a man named Gillingwater. It is still in working condition and is on display at the Musée Mécanique.

Recently, I received an unsolicited offer of $250,000 for the motorcycle. Now I know I really got the best deal!”

Musee Mechanique currently resides in it's temporary home at Pier 45/Fisherman's Wharf. It is still free of charge - and in need of a permanent home. My only hope is that this landmark is kept alive.

Please visit the Musee Mechanique here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Get A-Long, Doggie Diner

I have wonderful childhood memories of the Doggie Diner out by the beach. The site has long since been sold and was known as "Carousel" throughout most of my teenage years, yet the Doggie head remained. Then, in early 2000 hundreds of San Franciscans rallied to preserve the Doggie, as it was set to be demolished. A measure was put before the Board of Supervisors because apparently a local garden center wanted the property for a parking lot. You mean to tell me they couldn't scoot one parking place over to accommodate Mr. Doggie Diner??

What I find even sillier is how the supes were locked in such heated discussion regarding this obvious SF landmark, and how some of them even said labeling it a "landmark" would be lowering our standards....where do they find these people?

To me, there was no argument. How could you even consider destroying that symbol of summer beach days and childhood Playland frolic? He is PURE San Francisco.

Luckily, the doggie was eventually rescued, and moved (of course, as stupid as it sounds) to his new home at 45th Ave & Sloat Blvd. You can even find at and the actual Doggie Diner website.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Going to San Francisco? Bring a bong...

Well, it finally seems that City Hall had found a way to make money on the whole medical marijuana deal, so why NOT legalize it?? I mean, something is only worth doing when there is a profit to be turned, am I right?

I am appalled at the City's blatant lack of concern for those that have suffered way too long and had to self medicate illegaly. My only question is: What is taking so damned long??? When my brother struggled with HIV through the 1990s (before passing away in 2000) he grew his pot in secret, knowing it was the only way to numb the pain. It did a hell of a lot more than the 15+ different "legal" meds the doctors had him on. And we all wondered why he drank.....

So, it all comes down to the almighty dollar. The two most destructive substances, tobacco and alcohol, are the most legal, but everyone freaks out when a City Supervisor wants to make an already socially acceptable (not to mention 100% NATURAL)substance legal. But it took putting dollar signs in the eyes of legislators to make it so. It's the least this city can do. Geeze.

Wanna read more? Grab your stash and head to Pot for Sale, Get Your Pot Here!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Funny things, these fortune cookies...

San Francisco has long been known as a city of innovation and ideas, but just how many things have traced back to the City by the Bay? Plenty, just check out these random inspirations:

The Mai Tai

Here is what Vic himself says regarding the birth of the Mai Tai:
"...I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year-old rum. It was J. Wray Nephew from Jamaica; surprisingly golden in color, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavor particular to the Jamaican blends. The flavor of this great rum wasn't meant to be overpowered with heavy additions of fruit juices and flavorings. I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy Syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle almond flavor. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went in for color ... I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti, who were there that night. Carrie took one sip and said, "Mai Tai - Roa Ae". In Tahitian this means "Out of This World - The Best". Well, that was that. I named the drink "Mai Tai".

read more here>

Denim Jeans

In 1853, the California gold rush was in full gear, and many items were in high demand. Levi Strauss, a young German immigrant, came to San Francisco from New York with a small supply of dry goods with the intention of opening a branch of his brother's New York dry goods business. Shortly after his arrival, a prospector wanted to know what Mr. Strauss was selling. When Strauss told him he had rough canvas to use for tents and wagon covers, the prospector said, "You should have brought pants!," saying he couldn't’t find a pair of pants strong enough to last. Hence, the blue denim jeans were born.

read more here

Chop Suey

It has been common wisdom to say that chop suey...did not exist in old China. The stir-fried hash was invented, according to tradition, in a San Francisco restaurant during the wee hours one morning when a rowdy group of holidaying diners would not hear of the Chinese cook's plea that he had no food. Rather than risk a drubbing, the cook concocted chop suey of the day's scraps.

read more here

The Fortune Cookie

Now here is one that seems to be up for debate. Many stories have circulated about the true origin of this tasty after dinner treat, including one that says a Chinese immigrant named David Jung invented them in Los Angeles in 1918. I don't really know for sure (no one seems to), but what I was always told was that the fortune cookie was invented in1914 by the designer of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. He as in fact a Japanese immigrant by the name of Makoto Hagiwara.

read more here

Monday, April 13, 2009

I left my appetite in San Francisco.....

DISCLAIMER: Please excuse the rather short post, but today is my lazy day, and I am being lazy.

Some of the best food I have ever had came from San Francisco.

Chino's Taqueria
3416 Balboa Street (at 35th Ave) San Francisco, CA
Open Daily 10:30 am - 10 pm
Order (415) 668-9956
***some of the freshest burritos I have ever had in my life (and they are HUGE! - everything HOMEMADE!***

Wayo Sushi Restaurant
1407 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 474-8369
***one of the freshest, most affordable sushi joints in town - and the cozy atmosphere is sublime!***

Joe's Cable Car
4320 Mission St @ Silver Ave
San Francisco
Open 11am - 11pm 7 days a week

***All I can say is wow. Wow.***

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunrise Services on Mt. Davidson

Special thanks to the official Mt. Davidson website for providing content for this article, you can find them here.

There are many monuments which grace the San Francisco skyline: Coit Tower, The Ferry Building, Sutro Tower, but there is one that often goes unnoticed, or unrecognized. I am talking of course of the 100-foot cross which sits atop Mount Davidson overlooking the city. This is the place where Easter Services at sunrise have been a tradition for almost 80 years.

The story behind this monument is an interesting one, as the cross was built and destroyed three times before Margaret May Morgan, the first woman to sit on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and others on the Easter Sunrise Committee, solicited $1+ contributions to built the concrete cross in 1934.

In 1991, several organizations, including the Americans for separation of church and state, sued the City of San Francisco for owning a cross on city (public) land, and several court battles ensued. Eventually the courts forced the City to either tear down the Cross or sell it to a private entity. In 1997, Proposition F was put forth to the voters of San Francisco to allow the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California to become the legal owner of the Mt. Davidson Cross and assume the responsibility for maintaining it. It was unanimously approved.

As for me, I recall my mother always wanted to take us kids to the Easter sunrise service, yet never quite being able to (I am not sure why). The only other memory I have of this monument is that it became the place in high school to hang out and do things that people probably shouldn't be doing at the foot of a 100-foot cross. As I look back now, I sort of wish we'd taken our drinking and smoking someplace else.

Hi Kids / Bye Kids!

I found myself prowling through youtube the other night (I believe just about everyone is guilty of that nowadays) and found myself sitting face to face with some of the most memorable local commercials ever. I tip my hat to three UHF channels:

KBHK Channel 44 San Francisco
KOFY Channel 20 San Francisco
KICU Channel 36 San Jose

Each of these stations brought us the best and the worst in local tv pitchmen. Who doesn't remember Cal Worthington and his dog Spot, Pete Ellis Dodge, Don Young Ford (what a guy!), and the slew of carpet and furniture stores! Carpeteria, MMM Carpets, The Saw Mill (Marty Sherman and George) and below is one of the most memorable late night furniture salesmen, Ed Barbara of Furniture USA whose supposed "joke" commercial was never supposed to air, but it did, costing him his job, and I suspect much more:

But seriously folks, no list like this would be complete without our beloved "King of Credit", Mr. Jewelry himself, the most recognizable face of the, not the Shane Company, it's...

Paul from the Diamond Center, of course.

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