Saturday, July 6, 2013

Recollection: Being in San Francisco in the 1960s - part 3

Part 3 was delayed because I have been sick - a cold - strep throat, and eye infections (the left then the right eye) and I waited to get better - and I am better.  Also, the Tour de France started on 29 June and will end on 21 July, 2013 - this year is the 100th Tour de France and since I am a fan I watch it live every morning on TV for 3 hours (then barely watch TV the rest of the year...) I re-read all the comments my blogging friends so graciously left on my last post.  Several commented that I should write a book about my experiences and memoirs, but that would not be an exciting read - this blog is my book, virtually, where I can recount my recollections.  Thank you also for your emails - someone suggested that I should dictate my memoirs as an "oral history."  Just a few people would listen to that and it could be boring without the pictures.  I prefer to write these past events on my blog where I can include some of my vintage postcards, like those below.  I did not take pictures of Chinatown then but I remember having dinner in many small Chinese restaurants - and it usually cost about $1.00.  I would hop on a cable car on California Street; it was fast and cheap... then.  (Click on collages twice to enlarge.)

I worked close to Union Square and could walk to Pam Pam restaurant, or even Blum's Coffee Shop for lunch.  Below is a postcard of Union Square at the time - Blum's is across Union Square in the center.

On the left of the postcard above was the department store "The City of Paris" with the Eiffel Tower on the roof.  I rarely shopped there as it specialized in clothing for an older and affluent crowd, but I was offered a job there because I was French - I already had a job so I refused.  This store was founded in 1850 by Felix Verdier from France and the same family owned it until it closed in the mid 1970s.  Below are closer pictures of the City of Paris (authors unknown.)

The tall building on the right above was the department store called I. Magnin.  This was a high-end luxury store.  I preferred to shop at Joseph Magnin which was more youthful and trendy.  I bought a pink dress there once that I really liked and wore all the time (see below.)  I also shopped at Roos Atkins - you can barely see the store at the end of the street close to Market Street on the left on the bottom picture above (I bought a white hat there once.)  Close by on O'Farrell and Powell streets was George Mardikian's Armenian restaurant called "Omar Khayyam."  I went there to eat some shish-kebab once and George Mardikian came to break bread with me.  He also offered me a job in the restaurant because I was Armenian (jobs were easy to obtain then.)  But I already had a job so he gave me a copy of his cook-book and autographed it for me.

 For entertainment I would go to North Beach and listen to jazz, or watch some comedy shows at the "hungry i," or look and purchase books at City Lights bookstore.  Below are some pictures of San Francisco in the 1960s (some of my slides did not weather the years well.)

In the spring of 1966 I decided to go back home to Paris, with a stop in the UK.  Jim, a friend from work I had started dating earlier that year, came with me.  First we stayed a few days in London as Jim had never been to England.  It was cool and windy in London so I bought a coat and a brown scarf in Carnaby Street in Soho, which at the time, was famous for hot fashion.  Then we toured the sights.

For several days we drove through the Cotswold's then on to north Wales.  The scenery was delightful and I took many slides - they show their age though.  I'd love to go back and take proper digital photos.

Then after staying several days in Wales and going up to Chester we went back to London and then took the ferry across the Channel to France, where I gave Jim a good tour of Paris - going all the way to the top of Notre Dame de Paris.

Back in San Francisco I changed job as I did not wish to work at the same place as Jim since we were dating.  I quickly found a job at Watson & Meehan, on Folsom Street - a Cummins diesel engine distributor.  There I made a good friend from Taiwan - I-Mei.  She was a Nichiren Buddhist and explained the religion in detail.  Jim and I went to Nichiren Buddhist meetings with her several times and then we joined.  Later though, after we moved from San Francisco, we no longer went to the Nichiren Buddhist meetings.  I still enjoy the philosophy but follow another branch of Buddhism (just as in Christianity there are several branches of Buddhism with a variety of practices and traditions.)  Here is I-Mei below with her little son.

In the 1960s the Greyhound Bus Company used to offer a special Holiday Package from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe in Nevada for New Year - I don't remember how much it cost then but it was very inexpensive.  It included 3 nights and $5 in casino chips.  We went two winters in a row I think 1966 and 1967, or maybe 67 and 68 I am not sure.  We did not gamble but used the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery there.

The year 1967 in San Francisco was when up to 100,000 people from all over the US and abroad came to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.  There was music, sexual freedom, psychedelic drugs, pot, and liberal politics.  A blogger commented last week that "it was shameful about the way that our soldiers were treated upon their return" from the Vietnam War.  This applies to other towns surely, because in San Francisco they were welcome.  Jim was in the military reserve and told me that many veterans came directly to San Francisco - I saw many there.  They were treated at the Free Clinic and found comfort amongst the citizens of the counter-culture communities, even from the bikers - the peace activists there never treated the veterans with contempt as reported by the media.  Jim introduced me to "folk" music - we spent hours listening to Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, and we saw her in concerts in the Bay Area several times.  Later on we also went to see the first performance of the rock-musical "Hair" and I bought the LP album - the refrain "Let the sunshine in" stayed in my ears for a long time...

1967 was called "The Summer of Love"  A song written by John Phillips of the group The Mamas & the Papas was created to promote the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.  The song was "If you're going to San Francisco" and went on ... be sure to wear flowers in your hair... It was made popular by Scott McKenzie.  Actually we saw both the group the Mamas & the Papas and Scott at that festival on Sunday June 18, 1967 and they sang that tune among others like "California Dreamin" and "Monday, Monday."

Jim and  I were married on Saturday June 17, 1967 and went to the Monterey Pop Festival the following day.  I already wrote a post about our wedding last year for our 45th wedding anniversary, see "Recollection - A San Francisco wedding in 1967." On the top left photo above are Vince and Leslie on the left, me, then Jim and George on the right.  Jim and I moved to an apartment on Guerrero Street near Market Street, just one block off Dolores Street in the Mission district.  I was still modeling for Clairol and had to go to their hair shows at the Fairmont Hotel.  The Fairmont is on top of Nob Hill and is a massive, luxurious hotel opened in 1907 - it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  I never took pictures while I was there but below are vintage postcards of the hotel, the view of San Francisco from the hotel in the 1960s, and on the bottom left the current view of the front of the hotel (courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

We did not have a cat or a dog but still had our bird.  Unfortunately our parakeet, Dimitri, passed away from a cold.  We then acquired Diego, a cockatiel.  I taught him to speak and he was very friendly - he would perch on my shoulder all the time.  Dimitri is in the black and white picture and Diego in the colored picture below.

In May 1968 Jim and I went back to France to see my family but first we stopped in Holland for 10 days.  It was tulip time and the flowers were gorgeous.  I took many slides but the colors have faded.  We were in Amsterdam at a bed and breakfast (I am at the left window on the top floor below,)  then the Keukenhof Gardens, Gouda, Volendam, Marken and other places.

Once in France, we went on a tour of the Chateaux de la Loire then on to the south of France to Monaco and a stop in Italy.  We rented a car and my mother came along.  Being the month of May, the weather was perfect.  We stopped in St. Tropez where there was a festival that day and I took pictures of charming little children wearing folk costumes from the Provence.  I am standing at the entrance of my parents' house on the left below and on the right is one of the towers from the Azay-le-rideau castle.

We did not realize that by traveling in May 1968 we had chosen the month that became a watershed for French life.  That May 68, youth revolted.  There was a general strike with several millions of workers going on strike and paralyzing the country.  Students took to the streets in Paris to protest and set up barricades.  There were riots with 400 people hospitalized.  Unrest spread all over France.

We were pleased to return to peace loving San Francisco.  Jim went backpacking with our friend George - they went to the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park.  Unfortunately they did not have a tent and encountered a blizzard...

George is on the left on the photo above.  In my last post I mentioned that since the early 1970s we had lost track of George, unfortunately.  Well - because of the Web - we found him last week.  I was reading comments on books on Amazon and saw a comment by a George Smith.  I clicked on the name - what were the chances?  and I recognized him!  From there I did track him and since my last post we have exchanged several emails.  He even sent me an old picture he took of me in a painting class at the San Francisco Art Institute where we both studied - here it is below.

It is so wonderful to find old friends.  It reminds me of the lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel's 1968 song "Old Friends" -

"Time it was and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you..."
- Simon and Garfunkel


All these old photographs are printed in my mind.  The 1960s are now gone and some of my friends have passed on.  I am grateful to have all these remembrances to write about as the past would be so empty without these long ago images.  I would not have stayed uprooted half-way across the globe from Paris if it had not been for San Francisco - the city was good to me.  I read somewhere that nothing good is ever lost, it stays within you.  It becomes part of you.  As we left San Francisco that last day of 1969, another good friend, Roland, gave us a portrait of Jim and me and our new baby daughter Celine which he had painted.  I see the painting in the hall daily (I moved it to take its picture.)

When we left that last day of December 1969 we thought we would be back to San Francisco within 3 or 4 years - but we never did .... until this last June.

33 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Your life has been so rich in experiences. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing them. They are always fascinating to read.

Nadezda said...

Hi,
It's nice to look at old photos and remember that was long ago,
friends, travel, meetings, concerts and music.
I was interested to find out more about San Francisco, your trip to England also left a lot of impressions and photos.
I wrote my recollection in the last post 'June in downtown of St. Petesburg', as well.
Have a nice weekend!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Isn't that amazing that you had not been back to S.F. for all these many years....! These are great pictures and such rich wonderful memories, my dear Vagabonde...the 60's were an important decade for me, as it obviously was for you....! (I cannot remember if we talked about my association with or to, The Byrds! Seeing that poster....AMAZING! Also, I chanted, too---For almost two years....! (Personally I liked the practice but I found a lot of the Americans brought their own Religious Biases with them, and I found that a definite negative...)
That particular Simon & Garfunkel song is one of my very very favorites! I LOVED seeing all the pictures you shared today---ALL of them! Your Wedding Day....So very lovely! Isn't it GREAT that you found a mate who loves traveling as much as you do!! You and Jim have seen soooo much of the world together! And how really wonderful that you documented it all! And now, we get to see it, too!!!! BRAVA, my dear.

Marja said...

oh what a lot of stories you can tell and what a lot of great pictures to show. A treat it is and I loved it all.
What stood out is your encounter with Buddhism. I find it very intriguing and just a short time ago I had the privilege to go to a talk in chch of the Dalai Lama. He sure is a presence.
Of course I didn't miss you pictures of the Netherlands.
I still have to go to Gouda and Volendam one day as it is far from where I live (especially with the traffic jams nowadays in Holland)
I absolutely love the photo from you painting. very beautiful. Are you still painting?
and how great to find a friend back through the internet. What a happy coincidence. Aren't we privileged with this modern time
access to internet, to the world.

gigihawaii said...

What a great post! I love all of your pictures, especially that of the painting of you and your family.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Oh, how I loved this post with all your pictures. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities and since my daughter lives about 90 minutes away in Santa Cruz, I have had the opportunity to visit this grand city by the bay a few times. It is a fabulous town and there is so much to see.

I also got married on June 17,1967. It seems so long ago but other times, when the memories come flooding back, it seems like yesterday when I was young and life was so full of hope and dreams.

DJan said...

What a wonderful chronicle of a life filled with adventure and travel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, VB. And the pictures have faded to almost sepia and perfect to capture the feeling of the time! Thank you for sharing this with me. I feel very privileged. :-)

Mona said...

I love reading your post and seeing your pictures. I was a child of the 60's so this is all such good memories..
Love, Mona

Marguerite-marie said...

c'est vrai que tu racontes simplement la vie que tu avais dans les années 1960, Tu étais vraiment très belle et élégante. je continue ma lecture.
Bises de bretagne

Unknown said...

Well this is from George. Now I live in Clovis, near Fresno, and yes I still backpack with my wife Arlene. And we will get together for sure. Maybe we will go back up that trail out of Hetch Hetchy some spring. We have travelled like you, but the Sierra Nevada is still my favorite place. I hope you will be able to show our reunion on your blog-you and Jim are both my very dearest of friends.

rosaria williams said...

What a fascinating story! You have a great memory, and a great collection of photos to go with it.

Magic Love Crow said...

Wow, thank you for sharing all of this! I love the pictures and the stories! Take Care ;o)

Scriptor Senex said...

So many memories you have brought back for me - thank you ever so much. Carnaby St was the place to buy clothes and I went there with some girl friends and we spent a small fortune!
Chester has hardly changed since you were there in the 60s except that the area in your photo is pedestrianised so there are no cars to be seen.

David said...

Vagabonde, Well by comparison, I sure have led a dull life! We do love San Francisco...as a place to visit and experience. Our son was conceived in Hayward and that was definitely a good thing! We spent this weekend helping a couple of San Franciscans search for a new home in East Tennessee...with our greenery, lakes and mountains...plus our much, much lower cost of living. Your story sure has been interesting! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Perpetua said...

Vagabonde, I have so enjoyed these posts about San Francisco in the 60s, so full of personal memories and fascinating social history. I must say I'm amazed at the sharpness of your memory and the amount and variety of photos and souvenirs you have of those years. A wonderful read!

dkzody said...

I discovered your blog from the lovely comment you left at my site. I too love SF, having lived there only 15 months, though. It has become a very expensive place to live. Your friend George, on the other hand, lives in my current community, Fresno. Small world.

Retired English Teacher said...

Another fascinating read, my friend, has captured my imagination. You really have lived such a fascinating life. The fade photos are perfect. Time may have faded the images on film, but it has not faded your memory. You have such a great collection of memories made even more rich by the various photos, collections of postcards, and histories that your readers enter the world you once knew in awe. Thanks for sharing this time with us.

You were quite a beauty in your day. You still are. Isn't it interesting how back in the sixties we always wore skirts? I miss the styles of the day. I dressed in a very similar way as you did in the sixties.

betsy said...

Thank you for these wonderful posts and pictures.
The New York Times has an article today about the wonderful healing power of nostalgia, and what a solace it can be to remember the past. And to think that once nostalgia was thought to be mental illness!

Thank you again!

Al said...

What a great series of recollections. I have to admit some jealousy regarding your musical experiences in the '60s - several of my favorite bands (Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane) were based there, and I was just a little young and on the wrong continent to see them!

Vicki Lane said...

Your blog is such a wonderful memoir -- you do an amazing job of coordinating all the pictures. Thanks you for all the time you spend creating this richness!

.•♫•. Nancy .•♫•. said...

•✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰
Un petit coucou amical chez toi

Merci pour cette très belle publication !!!

GROS BISOUS de Paris
Bonne continuation !!!!!
•✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰ •✰

Ginnie said...

I'm so sorry you have been under the weather! And I'm sure you're watching the Mont St. Michel time trials right now for the Tour du France. What a small world.

I feel the same way, Vagabonde...seeing my blog as my "book" or journal keeping track of everything. And having finally just finished the river-cruise trip, I can attest to the excitement of getting it all out there for posterity! BRAVA to us both.

I love that you have so much to literally see of all those years ago, back when I was graduating from university (1967). And to think you spent all the time in Dutchland, where those cities are now so familiar to me! I love it.

Jim said...

You were certainly thankful, I am sure, that you recorded through photos your trips and and stay in San Francisco. This is a great account of that time period and wasn't it a good time to be young! I am amazed at all the jobs you were offered...time are so different now for young people.
In 1970 Joan Baez performed here in Nova Scotia at an open-air concert on a very hot day. It was magical to see her and I got a picture of her and her infant child at the time.
A truly tumultuous time but one that I so loved for so many reasons....as I see you did too!

France said...

Je viens te dire bonjour et je vais repartir j'ai tant de choses encore à faire
Merci pour cette chanson de
Simon et Garfunkel
je ne cesse de les écouter
ils sont sublimes je trouve
bisou

Friko said...

I think we who were young in the 60s and 70s, and had the freedom to roam far and wide, had a very good time of it. How much more we learned of life and other nations and peoples than those who stay at home, grow up and marry, have children and live all our lives in the same places.

You remind me very much of those days; I am glad for them.

dritanje said...

Another wonderful post Vagabonde. And many of the places you mention have memories for me too, The City Lights Bookstore, your trip to Chester and north Wales (I'm just back from there, in fact) and of course the music of that time, Hair, Joan Baez, it is in my bloodstream. Wonderful you have all these photos too from that time - I do like your pink dress!! Thank you!

claude said...

Coucou Vagabonde !
Quel beau et intéressant post, comme d'habitude d'ailleurs !
Tu es comme moi, tu aimes te souvenir. Sur mon autre blog, j'écris mes souvenirs d'enfance.
Je ne sais plus qui a dit que quelqu'un qui n'a pas de souvenir n'es rien.
Charmant le tableau de vous trois et j'aime les premières images vintage de SF.
Bises

Kay G. said...

What a beautiful post!
I love that you found your friend from just looking at some reviews on Amazon, that is just wonderful!
Fantastic photos here, I love you in your wedding dress! I remember the 60's very well, and I remember that in some places the soldiers from Vietnam were treated badly and even spit upon, but like you, I never saw this, not in Georgia anyway!
Once again, a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

Pat said...

Such a wonderful post. Such wonderful memories and how great you have found an old friend.
You look so pretty and that gorgeous hair.
I remember the clothes - the mink stoles and Paris '68.
The song 'The Windmills of my mind,' always bring that time back to me. Thank you.

Arti said...

Oh VB, these photos, your words, the music, just brought back numerous memories. You're a thorough historian, collector of keepsakes, keeper of memories. You ought to sort these all out and get them printed. Not just as a book, but as a visual journal.

Anyway, I immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1970, a teenager with my family. We left HK and landed first in San Francisco, stayed with relatives for a few days before flying up to Vancouver. Those few days in SF gave me my first taste of North American life. The music of course had been there all along, in my life, even while still in HK. And they're still here with me now forty some years later. ;)

France said...

BOnsoir je viens de te lire et tu es donc née dans le Gard et bien moi j'y vis mais je suis née en Bretagne
je repasse demain si tu es ok car je suis fatiguée depuis plusieurs jours
je pense à cause de cette chaleur
Je te souhaite
une belle soirée et à demain

Elaine said...

I enjoyed reading about your time in San Francisco. When I graduated from high school in 1963 I hoped to go to Berkeley to study, but by the time the scholarships I needed came through I was making wedding plans. If I had managed to go, I wonder if our paths would have crossed.

madretz said...

Your time in San Francisco was a pivotal part of its history. Your stories brought me back to that time. Having been in San Francisco for just over 3 years, it's still a magical place for me. We've been in the Bay Area for over 20 and have always wanted to be here. We hope to never leave. I bet it was quite a visit for you and your husband to return this past summer. Thanks again for sharing your history.

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