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Streetwise: Summertime in the Western Neighborhoods

by Frank Dunnigan
August 2023

Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -

Big Rec, Golden Gate Park, circa 1960 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
BASEBALL CAMP — Baseball camps were popular summer pastimes, particularly with celebrities in attendance such as Lefty O’Doul (dark suit and hat) and Joe DiMaggio (lighter gray suit) at Big Rec Field in Golden Gate Park, just north of Lincoln Way near 7th Avenue, circa 1960.

Campfire Girls cooking at 325 Arguello Boulevard; Mrs. Patricia Thomas, Patsy Mahan, Patsy Ann Cleary, Callie Tilden, July 30, 1942 - SF Call/Seharie; courtesy of a Private Collector.
CAMPFIRE GIRLS (now CAMPFIRE USA) — Founded in 1910 and co-ed since 1975, the organization still offers young people a variety of life skills, service programs, youth leadership, and outdoor activities. Here, a group leader in 1942 instructs young campers on outdoor cooking skills at the group’s facility on Arguello Boulevard in the Richmond District.

Fleishhacker Pool, August 1960 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
FLEISHHACKER POOL — A generous gift to the people of San Francisco by philanthropist and civic leader Herbert Fleishhacker, the salt-water pool opened to the public in April of 1925. It was 150 feet wide by 1,000 feet long, contained 6.5 million gallons of filtered and heated seawater, and was patrolled by a crew of lifeguards in rowboats. Shown here in August of 1960, the pool could accommodate 10,000 bathers at a time. Deferred maintenance and declining attendance (20,000 attendees in 1970 generated only $6,000 in revenue) doomed the facility, which cost more than $55,000 annually to operate. Storm damage to plumbing equipment in early 1971 led to a conversion to fresh water that resulted in poorer water quality, and the pool was closed at year-end. It was finally demolished in 2000 and replaced by a SF Zoo parking lot. The bath house remained (upper left) until a fire destroyed it on December 1, 2012, leaving only a wall with three arched entrances that has been preserved as a reminder of the once-popular recreation site.

Girl Scouts at Lake Merced, June 25, 1958 - Examiner Negative Collection; courtesy of a Private Collector.
LAKE MERCED BOATING — Lake Merced offered city kids the opportunity to enjoy sailing while gaining first-hand experience in boating safety, such as this trio more than sixty-five years ago on June 25, 1958.

Parkside Theatre Summer Program, 1962 - Courtesy of Joseph McInerney.
MOVIES — Back in 1962, the Parkside Theatre offered a great deal: 13 discount tickets for 10 cents each. Many Moms bought large quantities of these tickets as a guarantee that they could enjoy Tuesday and Friday afternoons in a quiet house.

116 Chaves Avenue, 1953 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
NEIGHBORHOOD – Sometimes just hanging out with friends on the front lawn was a great way to pass a summer’s day, such as with these Miraloma Park kids in 1953. With any luck, someone’s Mom might appear with a bowl of popcorn or a plate of PB&J sandwiches. Food always tasted better when eaten outdoors with friends.

Ocean Beach with Playland in the background, circa 1940 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
OCEAN BEACH – One local recreation feature that continues to be available to kids for FREE is a day at Ocean Beach, as it was enjoyed by this trio of youngsters circa 1940.

Barrel of Fun at the Fun House, Playland, 1960s - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
PLAYLAND — A handful of coins could keep kids and adults entertained and fed at the Playland of the 1960s. A ride on the #5-McAllister streetcar (later, bus) delivered customers direct to the doorstep. In addition to concessions like bumper cars, the diving bell, and shooting galleries, deep within the confines of the Fun House there were a variety of other attractions: the “laundry” rotating agitators, the Joy Wheel that would spin riders off as it picked up speed, rocking horses, wacky walkways that moved up and down, the two-story wooden slide, optically-distorted mirrors, and the Barrel of Fun shown here. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of WNP’s Playland podcasts from September 2022.

Steinhart Aquarium, Golden Gate Park, circa 1959 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
STEINHART AQUARIUM — There was something about the cool, dark interior of the Steinhart Aquarium (shown here in 1959 with its well-remembered whale fountain in the front courtyard) that made it a favorite place for kids to visit. From the alligator pit near the entrance to the glass-walled tanks lining the corridors, it was easy to spend hours marveling at the various sea creatures. Like many things from that era, admission was FREE. Now the aquarium is part of the completely rebuilt California Academy of Sciences. See some of the scenes at today’s Academy of Sciences.

Train engine being installed at San Francisco Zoo playground, August 19, 1957 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
ZOO – It wasn’t just the animals that we wanted to see; the retired locomotive, spiral slide, playground equipment, and bricks of pink popcorn and other snacks also attracted kids to the San Francisco Zoo, shown here in 1957. Until 1970, admission was FREE. See some of the scenes at today’s Zoo; read Woody LaBounty’s article about Storyland at the Zoo; and read more about a day at the Zoo in the late 1950s in this Streetwise column from June 2009.

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