Thursday, March 31, 2011

Admiral Daniel J Callaghan Society -- March 31, 2011

Today I took a day off so I could attend the Saint Ignatius Downtown Business Lunch. This was the first one I had attended since the early 1990s. There was a much bigger crowd today at the Marines' Memorial. The school is inaugurating an Admiral Daniel J Callaghan Society to provide scholarships to kids who want to go into the military. Admiral Callaghan, SI 1907, won a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where he died on the bridge of the cruiser San Francisco. His great-great-granddaughter, who is a student at SI, was there, as were three of his crew who were with him at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal. The retired Senior Chief organizes the Memorial Day services at the San Francisco Monument.

Two of my classmates who attended Annapolis, retired Captain Dennis Murphy and Admiral Jim Shannon, were there. We had two tables full of members of our class. Dennis introduced Jim, who spoke about changing Naval doctrines and some of his experiences, and his thoughts about Admiral Callaghan living through the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, and then going to Annapolis, serving in FDR's White House, then commanding the San Francisco through Pearl Harbor and leading a vastly outnumbered and outgunned task force into battle at Guadalcanal.

He also spoke about Father Paul Capitolo, who is retiring. Everyone loves Father Capitolo. I asked him what he will be doing. He said he is not looking forward to being around other retired Jesuits -- being around the kids has kept him young.

One man said "It's hard to find places to honor the military in San Francisco."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Farley Granger, RIP -- March 30, 2011

I was sad to learn that Farley Granger has died. He made Rope and Strangers on a Train with Alfred Hitchcock. The only other movie I can remember him in was They Live by Night. He played confused very well, especially against Robert Walker in Strangers, which is a movie I always watch when it turns up on television.

It was warm today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Benny Bufano #6 -- March 29, 2011

Hillsdale Mall developer David Bohannon commissioned sculptor Benny Bufano to provide sculptures to decorate the new mall in San Mateo. Bufano opened a studio on the mall site in 1955 and created ten of his famous animal sculptures. I took this photo of "Rabbit" on 13-December-2010.

Today the weather was sunny and relatively warm.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Comic Book #3 -- March 28, 2011

I have mentioned it before, but I always enjoy seeing the Axis leaders get their comeuppance. On the cover of Batman Number 18, August-September, 1943, Batman and Robin use a large firecracker to celebrate the Fourth of July and blow up Emperor Hirohito, Adolph Hitler, and Benito Mussolini. The cover promotes the sale of War Stamps and War Bonds, to pay for the war effort.

It didn't rain today. It was cold.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Rate War Opened -- March 27, 2011

From the 26-November-1895 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. Click on the image for a larger view.

The Hatch Brothers, originally from Monticello, New York, founded the Monticello Steamship Company to operate ferries from Vallejo to San Francisco. Learn more about it on my ferryboat site:


The Steamer Sunol Carried Passengers to Vallejo for Ten Cents.


Southern Pacific Officials Angry Because Their Steamer Is Not Patronized.

The rate war between San Francisco and Vallejo is in full blast. Passengers can now travel at any price ranging from 10 cents to $1. The lower rate is charged on the steamer Sunol, owned by Piper, Aden, Goodall & Co., 25 cents is the fare on the steamer Herald, owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, while 75 cents, the round trip, is charged by Hatch Bros on the steamer Monticello. The rate by the railroad is $1 each way.
The merry war began yesterday afternoon and strange to say the railroad steamer was not patronized. The steamer was there and the train agents were only too willing to sell tickets, but the people would not buy them. When it began to near sailing time there were only four passengers in the Herald, while the Monticello had about twenty and the Sunol sixty in their respective cabins. The owners of the latter boat depend principally on their freighting business and have only gone into the passenger trade to protect themselves. The $5 or $10 they will make out of the latter traffic will just about pay for the extra coal and that is all they expect or hope for, according to R. J. Q. Aden, one of the members of the firm.
The Monticello was the first to get away yesterday. She left promptly on time and was well up the bay before the Sunol got under way. The latter went away with a rush, and Captain Dye was confident that he would catch the opposition before Selbys was reached. The Herald remained at her moorings until the last minute, waiting to pick up any belated passenger who might come along. Once a start was made the captain seemed to be in no hurry, and the chances are that the railroad boat was a bad last on the run to Vallejo.
Agent White of the Southern Pacific is vary much worked up over the new state of affairs. He considers the cutting of rates a suicidal policy and holds up his hands in horror at the idea of carrying passengers on a three hours' run to Vallejo for 10 cents when they can get the same rate for a half-hour trip to Fruitvale or a fifteen-minute run to Oakland. According to him the railroad had no fight with the owners of the Sunol, and he cannot conceive why they wanted to come in and cut the rate to 10 cents.
"We don't want a rate war," said H. Hatch of Hatch Bros., "but now it is on we will stay with it. 1 don't know whether we will cut rates or not, but I suppose it will come to that in time. We are giving the people of Vallejo, Port Costa and Mare Island a good service, and I think they appreciate it. If they desert us and patronize the 10-cent boat why well and good, that may end the fight, but time will tell."
A. E. Pryor of Piper, Aden, Goodall & Co. says the 10-cent rate has come to stay. It costs only a few dollars more for coal with which to make time, and the steamer might just as well be carrying passengers at 10 cents a head as not. And so the merry war goes on.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tennessee Williams 100 -- March 26, 2011

On the 100th birthday of Tennessee Williams, it seems appropriate to post a photo of a real streetcar named Desire. New Orleans RTC 952, built by Perley Thomas in 1923, ran on the Desire route in New Orleans. It sometimes displays the route sign.

Tennessee Williams was a playwright who was virtually a poet.

I took the photo on 11-August-2009. It shows 952 turning from Mission Street into the Embarcadero, making a short turn on the F line. The Audiffred Building behind it, which survived the Fire and Earthquake in 1906, would fit in well in New Orleans.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The New York Factory Fire -- March 25, 2011

From the Valentine, Nebraska Democrat, 06-April-1911. Today the Republicans are trying to destroy the right to collective bargaining and roll back workplace safety rules.


Fire Marshal's Inquiry Reveals Fact
Workroom Was Death Trap -- 86 Victims Are Identified.

New York. Of the 141 employees, mostly girls and women killed in a fire in Triangle Shirtwaist factory at the corner of Greene street and Washington place Saturday, 86 have been identified.

Seventy of the bodies were those of girls and young women, the remaining sixteen those of men. There are 12 injured in the hospitals. Scores of others more or less seriously hurt were taken to their homes.

The building was occupied by a number of factories , and at least 1,500 persons were at work when the fire started.

The victims were either burned to death or were crushed into lifeless forms on the pavements when they leaped to escape the swift rush of fire<>

Not since the burning of the excursion steamer General Slocum , off North Brother's Island In 1904 , when 1,020 persons perished, has the city been so excited by a fire horror.

At least fifty of the victims were killed by leaping from the windows of >the seventh floor, and floors above.

Many perished in the flames on upper floors, remaining, afraid to leap until the fire surrounded them.

A great crowd gathered around the scene of the fire. Factories in the neighborhood were soon emptied of their employes.

Some of the revelations, brought out >by Fire Marshal Beers in his public inquiry into the causes of the fire show that the poor girls in that panic rush to escape from the flames found traps at every turn.

It seemed that the very arrangement of the workroom was a trap, with 700 women, jammed back to back at their machines. When the panic started, the narrow aisles became blocked with chairs and the girls were in confusion before they even started for the doors. Then there was a scarcity of exits, the inward opening doors and the death-trap "fire escapes."

"The fire, without any question, started from a cigarette or a match thrown into a pile of lawn clippings -- light cotton stuff , " said Marshal Beers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Hard Work Being a Cat #45 -- March 24, 2011

I took the photo on 19-March-2011.

We had heavy rain in the morning and afternoon. I got soaked going to work and coming home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, RIP -- March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor died. She led a tough life, but she did a lot of good for AIDS awareness and other charities. Her acting was always interesting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moon -- March 22, 2011

Saturday night the skies were cloudy, so we missed the perigee-syzygy. Here is the less-full moon this morning, visible after I left Montgomery BART station.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pulp #22 -- March 21, 2011

The Whisperer, a mysterious man in grey who spoke in a bellowing voice -- no, wait, he spoke in a whisper -- made his debut in 1937. I have not read any of his adventures, but I have heard that they are among the most violent of classic pulps.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slapstick #7 -- March 20, 2011

The March, 1922 issue of Picture Show magazine featured an out-of-makeup portrait of Charlie Chaplin.

The image comes from the excellent site AceCovers:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy Saint Joseph's Day #3 -- March 19, 2011

Happy Saint Joseph's Day to my fellow Joes.

March 17 was the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. Without the military and political leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi, it might never have happened. My grandfather was a great admirer of Garibaldi and used to tell me about him. He was a Nizzardo Italian, from the area around Nice, which the Savoys gave to France. He was offered a generalship in the Union Army, but wanted over-all command of the army and demanded abolition of the slaves. It didn't work out.

Friday, March 18, 2011

East Bay Terminal Being Demolished #6 -- March 18, 2011

I took this photo of some of the remaining streetcar tracks on the ramp of the East Bay Terminal as it was being demolished on 28-February-2011. I was looking east from First Street.

It rained very hard today. A water spout appeared off the Sunset District. A tornado hit Santa Rosa.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lurline Ocean Water Baths -- March 16, 2011

The Lurline Baths at Bush and Larkin were a popular indoor swimming spot from 1894 till they closed in 1896. The baths were supplied with ocean water by a pier and a pumping plant located near the end of Balboa Street at Ocean Beach. I remember when Playland-at-the-Beach was being torn down in the 1970s seeing a round brick building that I had never known existed. It was the pumping plant for Lurline Baths.

From the 20-May-1911 San Francisco Call.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

DVD: M Hulot's Holiday -- March 15, 2011

I received the Criterion Collection DVD of Jacques Tati's M. Hulot's Holiday for Christmas. I had only seen it in a poor print on television. The images were beautiful and the sound was as clear as Tati intended it to be. The recurring piece of music brought back memories of summers that I have never even experienced.

The film starts with the people of France heading out for their August holiday. Some people ride trains, others zip along in fancy autos. One person, whom we don't see right away, is driving a rickety little car that makes all sorts of curious noises. The only glimpse we have of the driver is when he stops to pet a dog who had been sleeping in the middle of the road through a village.

The auto arrives at the beach along with the other vacationers. The driver proves to be a gangly man with a pipe. In the lobby of a hotel, vacationers read, do work, or just sit around separately. The driver opens the door and returns to the car to get his bags. The wind blows around everyone's papers. This is our introduction to Tati's character, Monsieur Hulot. In a conventional story, the powerful wind would represent a new spirit entering the lives of the vacationers. In a Tati movie, it is not that simple. After he lopes into the room, bows to everyone, is ignored, and registers at the desk, everything settles back to normal.

M. Hulot's Holiday has many features of a silent comedy, but sound is a critical element of the movie. There is dialog, but it is never important to the story, since there is not a story. Most of the time it is another background noise. Some sounds are apparently never noticed by the characters, like the oomph noice made by the swinging door to the dining room.

Many things happen, a pretty girl arrives, Hulot tries to go horseback riding with her, they are the only ones who dance at a masked ball while almost everyone else listens to a depressing speech on the radio, but it all leads nowhere. At the end, Hulot can't even get to say goodbye to her. It all reminds me of the long summers when I was a kid, even though we never went to a place like this.

The disc includes a 1936 short, "Soigne ton gauche" by René Clément, which stars Tati as a farm worker who daydreams about being a great athlete. When a boxer knocks out his two sparring partners, Tati joins him in the ring, trying to read a "How to Box" book.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Door #9 -- March 14, 2011

Too late for last month's For the Love of Film (Noir) blogathon (, here is the doorway of the Hunter-Dulin Building. According to researchers like Don Herron of the famous Hammett Walking Tour (, Sam Spade and Lew Archer's office was in the Hunter-Dulin Building. Brigid O'Shaugnessy would have walked through this doorway. The building was also the home of NBC's West Coast Orange Network.

I took the photo early in the morning on 18-February-2011.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Alley #17 -- March 13, 2011

Chelsea Place is up Bush Street from Burritt Street, where Sam Spade's partner was killed. I like the bricks on the building on the right.

It rained today. We took a quick trip to Half Moon Bay to buy some presents at Bay Books.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pneumatic Fire Alarm Signal -- March 12, 2011

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde wrote the series of articles which gave this blog its name. Here, thanks to Google Patents, is an example of one of his many patents, in this case for a pneumatic fire alarm signal.

United States Patent Office,



SPECIFICATION forming part of Letters Patent No. 242,803, dated June 14, 1881.

Application filed August 31,1880. (No model.)

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, Peter H. Vander Weyde, of the city of Brooklyn, Kings county, State of New York, have invented some im provements in Pneumatic Fire-Alarm Signals, being an improvement on the invention for which Letters Patent were granted, No. 213,536, dated March 25, 1879, which improvements are set forth in the following specification.

My invention consists in a peculiar method of starting a pneumatic fire-alarm by the melting of a separate piece of an easily-fusible alloy, consisting of four parts bismuth, two of lead, one of tin, and one of cadmium, described in the patent granted to me March 25, 1879, No. 213,536, and which melts at as low a temperature as 140° to 150° Fahrenheit, which can still be lowered by the addition of arsenic, gallium, or mercury in small quantities. I obtain thus an automatic fire-alarm without the intervention of electric currents, in the manner described in the adjoined drawings.

Figure 1 of the drawings illustrates my invention. Fig. 2 is a modification for which I intend to make separate application for Letters Patent.

The piece of alloy may have the form of a small block, A, placed over a hole in a plate, C C, and preventing the plunger B from entering this hole. This plunger may be propelled by a weight, as shown in H, or by springs, as shown in K and O. It may also be retained by suspension from above, the links being secured by a pin of the same alloy. This plunger may enter a cylinder like a pump-piston, and so cause by its descent a wave of compressed air to be propelled in a system of tubes, T T, with which it is connected; but I find it more reliable to cause this plunger to act upon a flexible membrane placed under the plate C C. This membrane may be rubber, or even very thin sheet metal. It is stretched over a funnel-shaped piece, E, attached to the series of tubes T T, and will by its depression send a wave of compressed air through the same. These tubes are at their extremity attached at the office of a hotel or warehouse, cabin of a ship, &c., to the signal-receiving alarm box Q by means of the lever L, acted upon by the flexible diaphragm M, which, by bulging outward by the wave, will start the wound-up alarm-clock contained in the box and ring the bell D or give any other kind of audible or visible alarm.

It is evident that such an alarm will be started as soon as any of the thermostats A supporting the weight H or springs K and O melts by the heat of an incipient fire. If, however, several such thermostats are attached to the same series of tubes, the effect of the compressed-air wave upon the membrane M, working the alarm, would be diminished in case all the other membranes were allowed to expand or bulge out. This, however, is effectively prevented by the rigid perforated plates C C, placed over all the diaphragms except that of the receiver M L Q.

It is evident that, instead of the elastic membranes described or piston arrangement referred to a kind of small bellows could be used, or any other device which will permit of a sudden slight depression of the air and send an air-wave through the tubes.

Experience has shown me that it is desirable not to close hermetically this system of tubes and connecting diaphragms, because in that case atmospheric changes in temperature or pressure will cause the membrane to bulge outward or inward in proportion that the temperature ascends or descends, or the pressure decreases or increases, which in either case interferes with the proper operation. In order to prevent such interference, I make one small pin-hole in the tubes or in an additional short tube, N. This will not in the least interfere with the propagation and proper action of a sudden wave, as this has no time to spend itself through so small an aperture, while it will allow the interior air to be kept always in equilibrium with the external air, whatever be the changes of the thermometer and barometer, because they always take place very gradually and have time to diffuse themselves through the small aperture referred to. It is advisable to place these thermostats at the ceiling, near the staircases or elevator-shafts, and, in general, in such places as are most likely to be reached first by the ascending currents of hot air, which always precede an incipient fire.

The greater reliability of iron tubing over stretched wires for communicating the alarm-signals referred to is self-evident.

What I wish to secure by Letters Patent is —

1. The combination, with a pneumatic fire alarm tube, of a plunger retained by a piece or plate of fusible alloy, which, by its melting, will cause the plunger to be propelled by a weight or spring and act upon a diaphragm, bellows, or on an air-pump, and operate the signal, in the manner set forth.

2. The combination of the pneumatic tube, the flexible diaphragm, plunger, and plate of fusible alloy with a rigid perforated plate, as A, between the diaphragm and the plate of alloy, which prevents reflex action between the various diaphragms, as set forth.



J. W. Lasperre,

L. B. Heuser.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunamis -- March 11

Last night Japan had a monster 8.9 earthquake. They can't count the dead yet. Tsunamis went up to three kilometers inland.

This morning the phone rang at 5:11. The school secretary told us that all schools in Pacifica were going to be closed today because of a tsunami warning. KCBS said that BART might close the transbay tube, and that beach areas of Pacifica were being evacuated. The Great Highway was closed, even north of Golden Gate Park.

I considered working from home, but I'm glad I didn't. It was a busy day at work. KCBS kept reporting that the tsunami warning was getting extended from 10am to 11am to 1pm to 3:30pm.
There was no damage in Pacifica. Boats were damaged in Crescent City and Half Moon Bay.

The image is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Tsunami Warning Site (

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tommy Bermejo, RIP -- March 10, 2011

Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, across the street from Saint Monicas Church and School, opened in 1965. Tommy Bermejo and his wife Elmy served Mexican food influenced by the Yucatan. My family ate there many times and they always greeted us warmly. They were always willing to feed the sisters and the priests. They were very generous to the church and the school. Tommy was a wonderful guy and I was sad to learned that he had passed away last week. Fortunately, the kids are keeping the restaurant going.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday -- March 9, 2011

There was a big crowd at Saint Patrick's today. I wound up with the group in the hall downstairs.

I took the photo of Saint Patrick's on 14-February-2008. I like the look of morning sunlight on bricks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras -- March 8, 2011

Today is Mardi Gras. In honor of Mardi Gras, here is a photo of famed New Orleans reed player, band leader and composer, Sidney Bechet, playing his famed alto saxophone. Bechet led a troubled life. He was deported from France after a women was shot during a gun battle between Bechet and a fellow musician. He went to the UK, where he picked up the soprano sax and got deported after an assault. Back in the US, he played and recorded regularly. He returned to France in 1950 and spent the rest of his life there. I always enjoy listening to his music.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Train Station #32 -- March 7, 2011

Central Pacific's 1869 depot at Seventh and Broadway in Oakland. This is from the May, 1914 Pacific Service Magazine, published by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Firehouse #41 -- March 6, 2011

The former Engine 31, built in 1908, sits at the top of Green Street on Russian Hill. When fire equipment was horse drawn, many fire houses were built at the tops of hills so the equipment could arrive quicker. The property was sold at auction in 1959. Louise M Davies, namesake of the symphony hall, remodeled it as a home. I took the photo on 22-March-2010.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Magic #3 -- March 5, 2011

To play the Palace in New York was the height of accomplishment in vaudeville. Le Roy-Talma-Bosco were a popular team of magicians. Servais Le Roy was a Belgian magician. Talma (Mary Ford) was his wife and an expert coin manipulator. Bosco was the rotund comic relief. There were several Boscos over the years. John Bosco is the patron saint of magicians.

Headliner Irene Franklin was a singer who performed for many years with accompanist Burt Green. Kathleen Clifford was a male impersonator.

The ad is from the New York Tribune 05-December-1915.   

Friday, March 4, 2011

Henri Salmet -- March 4, 2011

Aviator Henri Salmet, flying in a Blériot monoplane, made the first non-stop flight from London to Paris on 07-March-1912. The image is from the 30-March-1912 Chicago Daybook.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jean Harlow 100 -- March 3, 2011

Today is Jean Harlow's 100th birthday. She was a wonderful comic actress who died at 26. Here she appears with Laurel and Hardy in their silent short "Double Whoopee." She went on to be a star at MGM.

The image comes from the excellent site AceCovers:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Red Balloons -- March 2, 2011

It rained for most of the day. The Game Developers' Conference has been going on across the street at the Moscone Center this week. There are a lot of people attending. After lunch today, some cheese brain released hundreds of red balloons, some with cards attached. Many landed on the roof of Moscone South. Many landed in the bay. Aerial spam.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jane Russell RIP -- March 1, 2011

Three RIPs in a row. Jane Russell was an actress who overcame a lot of jokes about her appearance to have a good career as an actress and a singer.

Some years ago a San Francisco theater revived her only 3-D movie, The French Line. I remember seeing all the peoples' heads ducking when she turned around. Sorry Ms Russell, I had to repeat that story.