Merry-Go-Round Cafes

Cardboard America

The Los Angeles Times – July 15, 1930

In 1930 a chain of “revolutionary”cafes opened in the West. Gustav and Gertrude Kramm’s idea of an cafe that served food on a rotating conveyor belt would be a smash hit and fade away in a short time.

The Los Angeles Times – July 15, 1930

The very first Merry-Go-Round Cafe location opened on January 1, 1930 at 245 East First Street in Long Beach, California Revolving Table Cafés, Ltd. was the name of the parent company that owned the idea. The restaurant was the first to be opened but was never intended to be the only one. Franchising began almost immediately.

The Los Angeles Times – April 27, 1930

In April, 1930, as the franchise was hitting stride, the corporation started by the Kramms would open a revolving table manufacturing plant in South Gate. Seven cafes would open in a six month span and the revolving table was a smash hit.

The concept was a hit. The concept was intriguing and the food cheap, which was a hit during the early days of the Depression that ravaged 1930s.  Lunch would only cost 35 cents, and dinner with an entree, salad and sides would only run 50 cents.

By the end of 1930, the now thriving chain would sponsor the Ralph and May Weyer Show on Los Angeles radio station KREG. The couple were semi-well known vaudeville and radio entertainers. The attention would grow the brand even further.

Within a year, there would be several Merry-Go-Cafes located in the West. These are the locations I have found so far. I have a feeling there are more, so this list may be amended later:

  1. 245 E. 1st St. – Long Beach
  2. 122 American Ave. – Long Beach
  3. 538 S. Spring Street – Los Angeles
  4. 1304 S. Figueroa – Los Angeles
  5. 639 S. La Brea – Los Angeles
  6. 672 S. Vermont – Los Angeles
  7. 2nd and James Street – Seattle, Washington
  8. 171 O’Farrell Street – San Francisco
  9. Denver, Colorado
  10. 137 W. Ocean St. – Huntington Park
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Merry-Go-Round Cafe – San Francisco, California

In 1931, the revolving table concept was taken up a notch. The new idea involved conveyors on two levels. The top layer displayed sandwiches, salads, and desserts and the bottom was solely for taking dirt dishes back to the kitchen. The entire thing moved slowly and easily enough for people to grab there food and dispense of their dishes without any major effort.

Business thrived through the early 1930s. As the Depression began to take hold and the fad of automated cafeterias fizzled out, the franchises started to struggle. In some locations the prices for lunch a dinner dropped by a nickle each. It didn’t matter.

One by one the individual locations would close.The final location to close was the 137 W. Ocean Avenue location in Long Beach. New owners took over the fledgling restaurant in 1938. It appears that that location remained open at least until October of 1943.

Long Beach Independent – September 15, 1938

There was a Merry Go Round Cafe in San Bernadino that was open in the late 1940s and early 50s but I think it just had the same name.

University Club of Los Angeles New Year’s Dinner, 1935 – Los Angeles, California

Cardboard America, Uncategorized

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New Year’s Dinner
University Club
New Year’s Day
Telephone “Custer” the number of reservations you will want for Dinner after New Year’s Game – Trinity 8651
Many of your friends have already made their reservations.
Service from 5:30 to 8:30 P.M.
$1.25 per person.

Lehr’s Greenhouse – San Francisco & San Diego, California

Cardboard America, Close Cover

“DINE IN A GARDEN IN FULL BLOOM”

The Times – November 17, 1972

Lehr’s Garden Restaurant opened at 740 Sutter St., San Francisco in November, 1972. Housing both a full florist shop and restaurant, the glass-enclosed “dining spa” was designed to look like and actually be a greenhouse.

By the time restaurant opened, the proprietor Murray Lehr had been a part of San Francisco for more than 25 years. Lehr, a hotelier by trade, had and currently owned and several hotels around the area.

The Olympic Hotel, at the corner of Eddy & Taylor Sts., was Lehr’s first major property. He sold that in the early 1950s.

In October, 1954, Lehr purchased  the Hotel Claremont in Berkeley-Oakland from Claude Gillum for $2 million. Gillum had owned and operated the hotel since it opened right before the 1915 San Francisco Exposition.

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Hotel Claremont

Less than two months later, Lehr sold the property to Harold Schnitzer of Portland, Oregon who, in turn, leased the building right back to Lehr with an agreement that Lehr operate the hotel on a long-term lease basis.

Ukiah Daily Journal – February 24, 1964

 

Lehr began management of the Claremont on January 1, 1955. The hotel would become his pride and joy.

Known for its big name entertainment and beautiful atmosphere, the Claremont thrived through the remainder of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s.

In 1957, 88 year-old Frank Lloyd Wright unveiled plans to balance on stilts above the the Claremont a “wedding chapel in the sky.”

Lehr said the planned chapel would cost upwards of $50,00 and would be octagonally shaped glass and steel with a peaked roof. Wright described the planned chapel as “a gay little thing with a certain springly spirit.” Nothing ever came of the plans.

The hotel’s buffet; touted as the largest, longest and most bountiful buffet table in the West, was nothing short of extraordinary.  The Garden Room, filled with flowers and plants, many grown in Lehr’s personal greenhouse, was THE place for lunch on Sutter. Lehr would also stage spectacular ice shows, open a Prime Rib Room and even hosted something called “Matcharama.”

The following blurb appeared in the The (San Mateo) Times on October 28, 1966:

TONIGHT IS THE BIG NIGHT at the Hotel Claremont, Berkeley. The world premiere of “Matcharama,” wherein men and women attend the dancing the Claremont’s Terrace Room will fill out a questionnaire, which will be transmitted by electronic remote control to Phoenix, Ariz., and in a few seconds back will come the answer mating compatible partners. Murray Lehr announced that the first couple who marry through meeting at “Matcharama” will be given the Claremont’s bridal suite and a wedding reception at the Claremont as his guest.

I don’t know if any couple ever married from “Matcharama.”

In late 1971, Lehr would leave the hotel to set out on his path. Being well versed in the large restaurant business and a lover of flowers, he wanted to combine both of his loves in one space. Using the formula of the popular Garden Room in the Hotel Claremont with the added element of his being a full floral shop.

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Lehr opened The Greenhouse and Potting Shed (the official name) in the restaurant spaced attached to the Hotel Canterbury on Sutter Street.

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The restaurant a success from the day it opened. Offering a garden atmosphere and good food, the Greenhouse would become a popular eating spot in San Francisco.

Photo of Lehr's Greenhouse Restaurant - San Francisco, CA, United States. Hoping someone who cares will see these.  Love the prices and the artwork!

1975 Lehr’s menu Found on Yelp. Original uploader unknown

In 1977, Lehr’s purchased several statues from Italy and had them imported to the restaurant to add to the greenhouse feel of the place.

On December 31, 1979, a second Lehr’s location opened at 2828 Camino Del Rio South in San Diego, California. The location would be run by Murray Lehr’s son Dean.

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Located beneath a freeway overpass, the Greenhouse, like it’s San Francisco predecessor,  would contain a florist and would be famed for its food and Sunday brunches.

Lehr’s Greenhouse in San Diego, however, had a much younger vibe than the original location. Throughout the early-mid 1980s, the San Diego location was a party scene. Getting in early on the “Disco Sucks” movement of 1980, the restaurant would host dance parties, concerts and battle of the bands competition sponsored by local radio stations.

Murray Lehr died in 1987. Dean decided at that point that is was time to close the San Diego location and moved to San Francisco to tend to the original Lehr’s and his father’s hotels.

Lehr, who helped with the building of the San Diego location had originally secured a long-term lease for the property from the state of California. The Greenhouse building at the underpass went through numerous different restaurants and sit idle for years. In 2014, Lehr sold the building. The place had become such an eyesore by that point that the new owners were hit with a $1,000 graffiti fine due to the visibility of the property from the freeway.

The original location would struggle throughout the 1990s and limp into the new millennium. The original location finally closed on February 16, 2005. Years of declining quality and lack of patrons finally ended the 33 year-old restaurant’s run.

Lehr’s Greenhouse left an indelible impression on both San Francisco and San Diego as I have found numerous posts from patrons reminiscing about their experiences eating in the greenhouse restaurant.

Carolina Pines and Carolina Pines, Jr. – Los Angeles, California

Cardboard America
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Carolina Pines postcard from the Illinois Digital Archives

The original Carolina Pines restaurant opened in either 1923 or 1924 or 1925 (even the restaurant would use all three years in their advertising) at 4619 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The proprietor, Rose Satterfield, opened the small cafe and tea room in with a seating capacity of just 12 people.

Rose Satterfield was described by the Los Angeles Times as a “tiny, dimpled, gray-haired widow with merry blue eyes, who knows she looks well in pink.” She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina and had no intentions of working for a living.

However, in early 1924 her husband died and Rose had to find a way to earn a living. With $600 to her name, she moved to Los Angeles in hopes of finding prosperity. Satterfield knew that she could provide delicious Southern cooking in an area that did not have authentic Southern food. The restaurant succeeded and became a success.

The Los Angeles Times – September 9, 1929

In September 10, 1929 the restaurant moved to its own building just down the road at 7315 Melrose Ave and the seating increased to over 200 people.

A renovation took place in 1931 and the hours were extended from 1pm to 8pm during the winter months and the restaurant was finally open on Sundays.

Over the years, the Carolina Pines gained a reputation as a place with good food and moderate prices. As the Depression gained a stronghold in Los Angeles, prices were reduced in order to lure customers to the restaurant to spend their hard-earned money.

Satterfield was known for closing the restaurant once a year for at least two weeks to go on a summer vacation. However, during the 1932 Summer Olympics that took place in Los Angeles, the restaurant and tea room remained opened to accommodate the numerous people from all of the world that were in town to watch the games.

Carolina Pines became known for its homemade pies. Rose made every single pie by hand, almost 600 pounds worth of dough a day. The pies, served in the Tea Room, became the Carolina Pines go-to-food. In 1933,  Satterfield announced that you could purchase a pie for home consumption. The move proved to be popular and business increased even more.

As the years went, Carolina Pines became a Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times – January 8, 1941

restaurant institution. The pies, the desserts, the hot rolls and  the Southern Hospitality all felt authentic. Unfortunately, the racism of the day, especially Southern racism and the restaurant’s use of  African-American servants and “Mammy” added an extra element of Southern authenticity.

1940s and 1950s advertising for Carolina Pines featured a racist caricature of a black woman telling patrons to “Dine in the gracious atmosphere of the Old South.” Later in the decade a minstrel show was added as part of the evening entertainment.

On January 10, 1947, two well-dressed, armed bandits walked into the restaurant and forced cashier Nellie Paynter to hand over the contents of the register. The thieves got away with $1089. I never found any evidence that the pair was arrested.

The Los Angeles Times – July 7, 1948

Rose Satterfield died in 1938 at the age of 63. The new owner was Julius Davidson. After a few years, ownership would be passed to his sons, Stanley and Marvyn and their business partner Sumner Ravitch.

In 1948, Carolina Pines celebrated their 25th anniversary, I think. In 1934 they celebrated their 10th anniversary and 14 years later they celebrated their 25th. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

To celebrate the remodeling the existing restaurant as completed remodeled. More seats were added, a new parking lot built, and a cocktail lounge added. The cocktail lounge was a change for the old restaurant, as for years Satterfield swore that the restaurant didn’t need a bar or lounge to survive.

On November 27, 1953 the restaurant was robbed again to by two men at gunpoint. However, Davidson was able to call the police and give a description of the men and their car. The men were arrested hours later with several thousand dollars and a loaded pistol in their possession.

In the summer of 1955, it was announced to the newspapers that a new Carolina Pines restaurant would soon open at the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Los Angeles.

This restaurant would be a revolutionary for the time concept. It would be a 24-hour coffee shop specializing in good, simple food. The restaurant would be called  Carolina Pines, Jr. as a nod to the original franchise. The food would be the same quality, price and portions but it was not a chain.

The new restaurant was  designed by noted Googie-style architect Eldon Davis, would be ultramodern in its design and amenities. A 40-foot sign, emblazoned with the Carolina Pines, Jr. name in neon, would be

The Los Angeles Times – July 3, 1955

Carolina Pines, Jr. opened in October 1955 and it become an immediate hit. The restaurant catered to third shift workers, night owls and insomniacs. The food was good and cheap and the coffee plentiful.

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Postcard from my collection of the original location

In 1960, the original Carolina Pines would change locations to a newer, modern space. Davidson felt the move was a necessary step to  help bring in newer clientele and distance the brand from its Southern, more race-driven past. A Geisha Room would be a fixture of the new location at Century and Aviation across from Los Angeles International Airport. The restaurant, now called Carolina Pines International, opened in April 1960.

I don’t think the move worked, as I cannot find anything on the original Carolina Pines or Carolina Pines International after 1961.

A new location, another Carolina Pines Jr., also designed by Armet & Davis was announced in June 1961. The new location at 6th and Vermont in Midtown featured an unusual and beautiful design.

The Los Angeles Times – June 4, 1961

The $250,000 restaurant would hold 134 patrons in the 5,000 square foot space was designed with a roof system of eight thin-shell concrete arches and an air-conditioning system that could control the air-flow evenly. How I wish I could have seen it.

On October 29, 1965, the third Carolina Pines Jr. location opened at 16624 Ventura Blvd in Encino, California. Business was booming and the giant corporations took notice.

The Davidsons and Ravitch would ultimately sell the franchise to the Hyatt Corporation in 1968 .Shortly after the announcement all three Carolina Pines Jr.  coffee shops would be re-branded as Hyatt Coffee Shoppe locations. Within three years the Hyatt Coffee Shoppe brand would fold and every location closed. After nearly 50 years, the Carolina Pines name ended with a whimper. The buildings would all be torn down by the 1980s.

She Doesn’t Even Want to Be Buried in Detroit

Come Home Soon, Uncategorized

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Mailed from Los Angeles, California to Mr. George A. Neumann of Detroit, Michigan on March 3, 1922:

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Dear Bro
Called on Effie Walch today and had a nice little visit with them. They just love it out here. Mrs. Walch said she doesn’t even want to be buried in Detroit, she a real good memory but is surely getting old. Love to all, Teresa.

1909 Portola Festival – San Francisco, California

Cardboard America

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April 18, 1906. A date that no San Franciscan at that time would ever forget. The fires that raged on for three days after added to the devastation and destruction. The events of those days  could have wiped the town off the face of the Earth, but San Franciscans had resolve.Nearly 500 blocks, numerous business and homes were destroyed in the four mile path of the flames.

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For the next three years San Franciscans would endure food lines, temporary shelter,  denizens leaving the area, political corruption, labor strikes and the dirt and grime of a city being rebuilt. Morale was low. The local media was so focused on the labor strife, grafting and pure, unadulterated Asian-bashing that it did little to strengthen resolve.

Construction would continue day after day for the better part of summer 1906 through 1909. Slowly, what building remained after the disaster were repaired and hundreds of new buildings were erected. By the end of 1908, San Francisco was an entirely new city and the citizens wanted to show off their accomplishment to the world. They also wanted a BIG party.

In early 1909, it was announced that San Francisco would have a grand celebration called the Portola Festival.

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The San Francisco Call – January 22, 1909

On February 1, 1909 Mayor Edward R. Taylor made the following proclamation:

“Whereas, the 140th anniversary of the discovery of the bay of San Francisco by Gaspar de Portola, first governor of California, occurs in this year; and whereas, the public-spirited citizens of San Francisco, in response to a general and spontaneous demand, have planned and perfected an organization for holding and are now engaged in preparing the details of a festival, to be called the Portola Festival, which shall at once commemorate the discovery of San Francisco bay and afford opportunity for public rejoicing over the splendid present and the still more splendid future of the city, and, at the same time, draw back to their old home the San Franciscans scattered throughout the world; and whereas, it is the common wish of those citizens who seek the welfare and desire to hasten the progress of San Francisco that this festival shall become a fixed annual institution and feature of the city’s life; and whereas, the success of this festival and its establishment as an annual event will promoted and further assured by giving it the official approval and sanction of the municipal government…..”

The Portola Festival was officially set in mention.

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The San Francisco Call – February 2, 1909

The festival’s theme and name was designed to honor Juan Gaspar de Portolá’s discovery of San Francisco Bay in October 1769. Portolá, or at least the myth of Portola, was chosen as a symbol to evoke the past ideals of Old California. Red and yellow were chosen as the festival colors in honor of Portola’s homeland of Catalonia.

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The San Francisco Call – March 23, 1909

The date was set for October 19 through 23, 1909, perhaps not coincidentally. With the mayoral election in early November, Mayor Taylor wanted to showcase the new city and ensure that he was shown the leader of the rebuilding process and that he would be the man to lead San Francisco going forward.

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Immediately after the festival was announced, the city and civic leaders began to hype the five-day festival as the celebration of a lifetime. Advertising and editorials began to appear in local newspapers with Spanish-themed illustrations.

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The San Francisco Call – March 14, 1909

With a theme firmly in place, festival organizers set out to find a beautiful young woman to be the queen of ceremonies. In order to identify a suitably beautiful young woman for such a grand festival, a prize of $100 was offered for a photograph of the most beautiful young woman in the state.

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The San Francisco Call – March 12, 1909

After the search became public in early March, questions arose.How did you pick the most beautiful woman in the state? Will the selection be fair?

The San Francisco Call raised those questions and concerns in a piece that appeared in the March 13, 1909 issues:

The most beautiful woman in California! Here’s a pretty how d’ye do. Who fling the golden apple of discord on the well spread board of California? Why, then, if you must know, it is done this time by a committee and not a goddess, because of a sad verity, our goddesses are tin, and, in fact, the great American committee as an institution can beat the whole heathen mythology in the infinite variety of its functions and the popular confidence in its omnipotence. But the Paris of this perplexing judgment is not yet named. No doubt Mayor Taylor, as a man of sensibility, should succeed to the vacancy, and should be able to fulfill the job without bringing on a war or making scandal for the divorce court like the late incumbent. Paris was bribed, we all know that, and sold the prize to the highest bidder. Juno offered him a kingdom, Minerva military glory, while Venus promised him the fairest woman on Earth for wife. The transaction becomes a little confused when we find that Paris had to steal another man’s wife to make good on the price of his judgment. From that followed the Trojan war, to Greece the direful spring of woes unnumbered told in song and story.
Of course, the competition set afoot by the Portola committee will be conducted with strictest propriety and will be rigidly chaperoned by Mayor Taylor. No doubt the co-operation of Judge Graham as the official guardian of the home and hearthstone would be a valuable guarantee against funny business which sometimes makes people laugh out of the wrong side of their mouths. By the way of abundant caution the competition will be conducted through the medium of photographs. While the photograph may not madden to crime or inflame the imagination, it has the important merit in the eyes of a blameless and timorous committee that it does not scratch. Yet we have our doubts, and we may be permitted to wish the promoters of Portola’s fame a safe delivery of their rash, presumptuous enterprise. God save you, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, for the embattled womanhood of California accepts your challenge, and there you stand with no other means of defense than a wastepaper basket. Don’t say you were not warned.

The competition was intense and speculation ran wild, For five weeks, the newspapers were filled with speculation. Some articles are outright rooting for specific candidates.

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The San Francisco Call – April 10, 1909

The contest ran through April 17th. After examining thousands of photos from all over California, the Portola Festival jury chose Miss Virgilia (often misspelled as Vergilia) Bogue, age 23, as the most beautiful woman in California.

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Oakland Tribune – May 8, 1909

Bogue, the daughter of railroad executive Virgil Bogue and his wife Cybil, was just 22 at the time. She stood 5’9″ and was said to carry a “regal beauty.” Bogue would be prove to be a very interesting choice. Before the end of the year she would published a steamy (for 1909) romance novel called “The Strength to Yield.” The story was a thinly-veiled re-telling of Virgilia’s romance with a married Italian man.

NOTE: I had originally written an enormous section here on the fascinating life of Virgilia Bogue but decided to dedicate an entire write-up to her instead of slowing the story of Portola to a screeching halt.

After the queen was chosen another competition was held. This would be an art compeition to design the official poster for the festival. The contest, also with a $100 prize, would take place shortly after Bogue was chosen queen. The official rules were:
the poster must be in four colors, finished by June 12, the size must be 22 x 28 inches and Miss Bogue’s face, drawn from a photograph, must be incorporated.

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San Francisco Chronicle – May 26, 1909

Bogue’s image and likeness would appear of most of the advertising for the festival over the next six months. The winner of the contest was Randall Borough.

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The San Francisco Call – June 27, 1909

However, the image on this postcard did not translate well from the poster.

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However, there were many different types of artwork used to advertise the festival, and most of the did feature a likeness or photograph of Virgilia.

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Now that the Queen was chosen, the search was on for a man to play Don Portolá. The committee chose who they though best embodied the caballero spirit of Portolá. 70-year-old Nicholas Covarrubias of Santa Maria, California was picked. Covarrubias, was born to a Spanish immigrant in Santa Barbara in 1839.

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The San Francisco Call – August 19, 1909

Covarubbias was a former Santa Barbara sheriff and had gained local fame as almost professional “carnival king” and a showman horse-rider. The selection was widely praised.

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For months the preparations had been made. A King and Queen were chosen. Naval ships from all over the world were set to arrive in the Bay. Festivities too numerous to name planned. Multiple parades laid out. Many roofs across the city were painted red as a welcome to visitors.

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The San Francisco Call – September 13, 1909

However, by July the scope of festival had far surpassed the committee’s budget and a call was sent out asking for liberal contributions.

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The San Francisco Call – June 22, 1909

Over $25,000 was raised and the festival announced it was able to continue with all of their grandiose plans. However, less than two months later, another plea went out and this one asked for $100,000 to complete the festival. Postcards and buttons would be created to aid in the fundraising. The postcards, some of which are featured in this post, were a big success and doubled in raising awareness all over the globe.

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San Francisco Chronicle – September 13, 1909

Money wasn’t the only thing the Portola committee needed to ensure a successful festival. Women were asked to provide as much time as they could. One article states that the “success of coming October fete depends largely on the gentler sex.” The call worked. Women of society and housewives joined in planning and organizing. Portola was truly a community affair.

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San Francisco Chronicle – September 18, 1909

In August another contest was held (wow did these people love their contests!) to award The Portola Committee’s “Working girls’ contest.” The winner would receive, yes, you guessed it, $100. She would also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition and British Columbia.

August brought the news that Colonel J.K. Ritter would lead a gayly uniformed cavalry called the Dragoons in the parades. The troop, called San Francisco’s handsomest men and most expert horsemen, would lead a mounted drill to escort the parades.

On June 8th, it was announced that President William Howard Taft would be attending the opening night of the festival. The president would make a toast at the beginning of the festivities. Speculation raged on for weeks about what he might say. The toast was kept under wraps and would not be revealed until the opening night.

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The San Francisco Call – September 8, 1909

Sports festivities were planned including an automobile race, auto show, an amateur wrestling tournament, a tennis tournament, a golf tournament, swimming races, boxing matches, a balloon race and an Association Championship of Football was scheduled between the stars of California and the stars of British Columbia. The biggest sporting spectacle planned was Don Nicolas de Varrubias, the Fiesta King himself, in a scientific bullfight with no gore or blood.

The rest of the festivities ranged from a fireworks spectacular; an exhibitions of airships and airplanes; bands and music galore; decorations of all kinds; a carnival; receptions and parties day and night; and a major display showing the city’s new electric grid and power with a lighting spectacular of over 30,000,000 candlepower. An immense bell on Third and Market was suspended 125 feet air in the air and would be illuminated. It was the largest single piece of electrical display attempted.

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The San Francisco Call – September 25, 1909

To secure accommodations for the expected crowd the Portola Information bureau advertised the need for 50,000 rooms. Local citizens could offer a room in their homes and apartments and make some extra money.

The festival opened on Tuesday, October 19th, with a religious ceremony in St. Mary’s Cathedral blessing the event. Don Gaspar made his grand entrance by sea through the Golden Gate. Stepping ashore at the Mission Street Pier No. 2, he was greeted enthusiastically by his subjects. He then mounted a horse and headed down Market Street.

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The San Francisco Call – October 19, 1909

On opening night, President Taft made his toast to the cheers and delight of the rowdy crowd:

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Postcard commemorating President Taft’s Portola toast

Postcard.org has a great write-up about the festivities that followed:

For five days festivities of joy and spectacle reigned.  There were two days of huge parades with marching military and fraternal units, bands, and floats on Market Street.  A formal dress ball and a masked ball were featured on two of the evenings.   An automobile parade with 1, 600 decorated vehicles wound the lengths of Van Ness Avenue and Market Street.  In Oakland 200,000 people cheered auto racers as they sped 12 times around a 21 mile course that circled from Melrose to Hayward and back.   Every evening of the festival there were fireworks displays in Union Square and a tightrope walker high above Third and Market Streets to awe the crowds.  Over the course of five days 75,000 visitors took launches out to tour the warships, with the Japanese vessel leading in popularity. 

The culmination of the festival was called the Historic Pageant with floats moving along Market Street depicting historical events, surrounded by costumed marchers.  Along with the moving floats, were seven immense stationary floats or tableaux.  Each was 46 feet long, mounted on rail flatcars and weighed more than 60 tons.  Starting at the Ferry Building Plaza, these floats were stationed about two blocks apart along Market Street.  All were decked in lights and featured bands and space around them for dancing.  Many of these tableaux had cascades of real water to dazzle the crowds.  

All week long San Francisco resembled Mardi Gras, but more so on the last night of the festival.   Most of the revelers wore costumes, and confetti covered them like a snowstorm.  Besides what was thrown by hand, there was a volcano float that spewed out confetti.  

An enormous jubilee called the Historical and Electrical Parade and Pageant closed the festival. With crowds estimating between 800,000-1,000,000, a closing parade passed the throngs as a final sendoff. California’s history was presented with seven brilliantly decorated and illuminated floats. One float in particular is mentioned in numerous articles and being a “wonder to behold.” A float depicting Yosemite, in which real water fell over its manufactured cliffs. Queen Virgilia waved to her adoring crowd for the final time as the queen.

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The San Francisco Call – October 24, 1909

By the time the festival had drawn to a close, citizens and businessmen were alike in calling the event a roaring success. The festival had drawn more than one million visitors to the new San Francisco. The auto races thrilled, the parties roared, the parades were grand. The city came together with unprecedented unity, including support of the Asians communities. For years the local press and citizens had vilified Asians in the area, especially the Chinese. But everyone praised the spectacle of the Japanese float and the beautiful cherry blossom that adorned it and the Chinese floats in particular dazzled. The dragons, lion dancers, flowers all made for a beautiful display of Chinese art and ingenuity.

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The San Francisco Call – October 24, 1909

The Portolá Festival was originally planned to be an annual event. It was not. There would another one in 1913 and one more in 1948, in an attempt to bring post World War II business to San Francisco. The other two festivals failed to live up to the enthusiasm and spectacle of that week in 1909 when San Francisco showed its new identity off to the world.

I Didn’t Know Which Bank To Rob

Come Home Soon, Uncategorized
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Horticultural Building at State Fair Ground. Scene each year of California State Fair.

Mailed from Sacramento, California to Mr. J.B. Hosmon of Oroville, California on September 7, 1934:

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Dear J.B. –
Sorry you can’t come this week end to bet, I didn’t now whether you were serious about trusting me to place your bets and being very honest I didn’t know which bank to rob.
Amorett & I are going to the horse show tonite – F.B.

1971 & 1972 San Francisco 49ers Schedules

Collected Items, Uncategorized

These two mini-schedules advertise the San Francisco 49ers schedule in 1971 and 1972.

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The first matchbook is sponsored by Ross/Atkins, Champions of the Clothing League. The 49ers would finish 9-5 and make it all the way to the NFC Championship and lose to the Dallas Cowboys.

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The second matchbook, advertising the 1972 season is sponsored by Dewar’s “White Label.” The 1972 49ers would finished 8-5-1, win their division and lose to the Cowboys again in the playoffs.

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I Hope You Are Feeling

Come Home Soon

This is the first post of a new series called Come Home Soon. This series will highlight postcard messages from the past. Some of the cards are wonderfully written notes, some are confusing, many are misspelled and all of them are one of a kind.

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On the Road to Alpine Tavern – Mt. Lowe, California

Mailed from Mt. Lowe, California to Miss Florence Price of Los Angeles, California on May 31, 1913:

I hope you are feeling, we missed you to-day and missed your mother also. – Catherine Pugh