Just about every kid (yup, including Dodge Riedy!) who attended Presidio Junior High School and even some who drifted down hill from George Washington High during open campus lunch periods knew of and at some point dished out for sandwiches at the Little Woman Market. You described her simple fare very well JB and it filled the bill quite well. Not that the variety of school lunch fare served on campus was exactly terrible either (Boy that comment might invite controversy. Whaddya think?).
I couldnít tell you a thing about The Little Womanís life or nationality, whether she was widowed or raised a family. It seemed that she didnít have anyone around to help her at her business. I hope other readers can shed more light on her. I thought of her place a few weeks ago as I was driving down Clement. Her storefront is now unrecognizable. But back 40 or so years ago she was there ready for us five days a week. We thought she was plumb loco muttering non sequiturs with some kind of an accent, but she served up a real good lunch for cheap. Her shop was on the north side of Clement between 28th & 29th Ave. Sheíd sit outside on a small stool sunning herself (Yup, even in the fog, lotta UV no matter what.) and would beat haste behind the counter when she saw her pimple faced customers trooping down the street. She pre-made sandwiches on french rolls stacked and wrapped behind a clear case. Once in a awhile she was apt to overcharge or return more change than the sum of your tab warranted. It was just kind of taken for granted that things evened out over the long haul of a painfully slow school year. Sometimes even the teachers caught a break from the habits of their lunch room and wandered down.
Its amazing when ya think about the number of small businesses that could cling around the outskirts of the larger schools and make a go of it. It seemed that in my older sisters high school days during the Ď50ís that there were more coffee shops and sandwich counter store fronts that served as gathering spots for kids. More than just food, there was the conviviality of belonging and place. Maybe Iím just grousing like the old fart Iíve grown to be. Yup, thatís part of it for sure. As adults making way in our lives we donít have the luxury of time and spontaneity that is offered to the young. This is something that I attempt to impress my students with. They may not yet have the job, the money, or the car they dream of, but they have the luxury of time to spend on themselves, their friends, and to polish their dreams. And sure, they look at me like Iím some kind of nut.
The other thing to realize and appreciate was the humongous bulge in the population of school age kids that the post W.W.II baby boom created. I remember that Presidio had 3 and Washington High had 4 lunch periods to service the nearly 4500 or more kids in a student body of the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. When the Administration occasionally threatened to close down ĎOpen Campusí at lunchtime due of some troublesome infraction, folks seldom could take it seriously because there wasnít the facilities to feed and contain that many kids. It is also worth noting how well the schools of that period were outfitted with the facilities, classrooms, and enrichment programs offering as decent an education as we were willing or capable of letting ourselves engage with. It wasnít heaven, but it wasnít as worn out and stressed as schools often are today.