Memorial Day has always been a time to honor the departed. For many decades in San Francisco, thousands of people paid their respects by streetcar. From 1902 until 1949, the 40-line ran out Mission Street and continued south all the way to San Mateo, passing the cemeteries of Colma along the way. So many riders would head for the cemeteries on Memorial Day that extra streetcars would be added, many of them running on an extended version of the 14-Mission line or (like the streetcar pictured around 1940 in Colma) a shortened version of the 40-line.
Some of the track in the center median along this part of the route survived until just a few years ago. And of course the cemeteries remain the dominant presence in the town of Colma.
The streetcars of the F Line have many attracted fans, lots of dedicated Muni employees, and even a board of directors, but they never had a mayor — until now.
Meet Owen Thomas, the new mayor of the F Market Streetcars on Foursquare, the location-based social networking site. Owen became the mayor after he used Foursquare to “check in” on the F Line more times than anyone else.
A San Francisco resident who lives on the northern side of Telegraph Hill, Owen started riding the F Line after Muni rerouted the 10 Townsend bus, “I ride the F with a TransLink — I mean, Clipper — card. It’s where the early 20th century meets the late 20th century,” Owen says. “I get a total fanboy thrill when I see a streetcar with a paint scheme I’ve never seen before round the corner past Hotel Vitale.”
Want to steal Owen’s mayoral crown? Just check-in via Foursquare whenever you climb aboard an F Line streetcar. Meanwhile, the F Market also has lots of fans on Yelp (3.5 stars!) and, of course, a thriving community of photographers on Flickr.
Even with the unseasonal rain we’re having, the long-awaited historic streetcar protective canopy is going up in a hurry out at Muni’s Geneva Division. The main frame is almost done, just one week after the first steel was erected. It will be fully paneled on the rear and sides to protect the vintage streetcars from the elements when they’re not in service. The front will be open to facilitate streetcar moves (the building has its back to the prevailing winds, so the open front shouldn’t be a problem. Doors would have added considerable costs). Completion date remains October.
July 1 marks the 150th anniversary of rail transit on Market Street. No, that’s not a typo. Rail transit started on Market before the Civil War with a steam engine. We’re putting together an exhibit on this anniversary for our San Francisco Railway Museum, to open this summer, and have come across some interesting shots we’ll be sharing here from time to time.
This one appears to have been taken around 1940. Click on the picture and you’ll get a GIANT view of this shot that shows some incredible street detail. Of course, there’s Market Street Railway streetcar No. 778 on the 15-line, crossing from Kearny onto Third, headed for the SP Depot at Third and Townsend, which then offered trains to LA, not just San Jose!. There’s an outbound K-Ingleside Muni “battleship” of the same class as preserved Nos. 130 or 162. We can’t read the number, so it actually could be one of those two.
San Francisco’s unique Wiley “birdcage” traffic signals, identical to the one preserved in our museum, guard the intersection. There’s the classic deYoung Building, long-time home of the Chronicle (though by then it had moved to Fifth and Mission) looming over the intersection; the deYoung Building is back at the same old stand today after being disguised behind aluminum panels for decades until recently (but now it’s a Ritz Carlton timeshare).
Most fascinating to me, though, are the businesses along the streetfront: a restaurant featuring oyster loaf; a billiards parlor, a chiropractor, Gene Compton’s, part of a popular restaurant chain back then, and my personal favorite discovery: Carl Wilke’s cafeteria in the deYoung building, whose sign peeks out from behind the 15-line streetcar.
As a teenager working in my family deli, in the Grant Market the next block up (Grant & Market, natch), I would walk a few doors down to the Central Tower (former Call Building) kitty corner from the deYoung Building. Carl Wilke was still in business in the mid-1960s, but across the street. I’ll never forget the man. He must have been in his 80s by then, but he still worked there every day. Slender as a reed (probably why he lived into his 80s!) with slicked back white hair (all of it!) and a pencil-thin mustache. He always wore a white shirt and tie, and a starched waiter’s jacket. He was the picture of formality and dignity — running a cafeteria.
THIS picture definitely predates me, but it’s a kick to see a living link in Mr. Wilkie (as I always called him) between these days and times I actually remember.
(Great open-faced turkey sand, by the way. With veg and mashed probably was about a buck and a quarter.)