This manuscript was hand type on a manual typewriter. No attempt to edit has been made. This is the way he wrote it.
The included photographs were either copied from published material or family pictures. The originals have not be found at this time (4/2002). The photo copies in this story will be included at a later date. They need digital processing as the quality is very poor.
Copies of this manuscript were made, bound and given to the wife and 5 children of Arthur Bray.
The numbered parenthesizes are for each page of the manuscript.
Ferry Building, 1925 1926
By Arthur Bray, © July 18, 1983
"To my wife, Winifred Marie (Molitor) Bray,
who also had many happy memories of San Francisco".
I Where Am I and How Did Get Here. II My Family and Who Where They. III Ross, Marin County. IV The Problem and I Am on My Way to the Ferry Building. V The Ferry Building VI Piers and Wharfs, North and South from the Ferry Building. VII The Embarcadero and Up Market. VIII Front Street, the Problem Solved. IX Fondest Memories.
Where Am I and How Did Get Here.
California is not a state of mind but a way of
life. San Francisco is memories of happy experiences
and to many hopes of happier experiences and a better
life. Do the people who live in Brooklyn say the same
thing about Brooklyn? I bet they do. This writing is
not memories of sixty-eight years living in the Golden
State, but for two years in 1925 and 1926. I don't propose
to write a history of California, but only to give
a background of my family, as I know it. And lastly of
some of the memories that have stayed with me.
Sixty-eight years ago was 1915, the year I was
born in San Francisco. Sixty-eight years before 1915
would be 1847. So much has happened in this short period,
particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area
The Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo in 1848 allowed
California to be annexed by the United States. In 1848
there were less than 1,000 inhabitants in San Francisco.
California was admitted into the union in 1850. By 1860
the population had increased to some 58,000.
It was about this time that two Bray Brothers
in Virginia decided to come west. As I understand, they
attached themselves to a Mormon Wagon Train and ultimately
arrived in a small town in California, named Santa Clara.
Here they farmed, married and raised their children. My
Grandfather and Grandmother Bray came to San Francisco
about 1885 Their family consisted of my Father, his two
sisters and a brother. I will discuss his family in a
future chapter. My Mother and Father were married in
San Francisco on June 14, 1913. Her maiden name was
Marie Florence Barr. When they were married in San
Francisco she was two days away from her 22nd. birthday.
My Father was 24. ( see next page ).
By 1915 San Francisco had ended 68 years of
rapid growth, numerous depressions, wars, earthquakes,
fires, public unrest, vigilantes and rotten politics.
But at the same time there was a growing culture in
San Francisco that was unique unto itself. The people
had a great pride for the City and they didn't mind
telling a stranger the greatness of the City. They
still bore strangers with their bragging, and would
remind you "don't call it Frisco". All the time the
City and California was growing, and were producing
great artists, architects, writers and scholars. The
City loved its opera and theater, and still does.
I was born in San Francisco on July 18, 1915,
the first of a family of five. The next 68 years to
the present I lived with my parents and my own family
in the Bay Area. From 1915 events happened fast.
World War I, Prohibition, Good Times, Great Depression,
Bridges, Exposition and World War II.
It was the years 1925 and 1926 that the I
relate to a period in my life. I believe it true to
the best of my recollection. My sister Georgia may want
to make a few corrections but she is the only one who
could make them.
Copy of Bray-Barr marriage announcement.
Copy of Arthur Bray Birth Certificate
Picture of 157 Alpine Street, San Francisco
My Family and Who Where They.
In these two spans of 68 years, what spectacular
changes took place in San Francisco. Steamships
replaced the sailing ships, the arrival of overland
trains from the east put the wagon trains and stage
coaches to rest. First horseless carriages,
then streetcars and cable cars converged at the old
Ferry Building. The new Ferry Building was completed
in 1898 along with the new arrivals of automobiles,
taxis and trucks. A new sight on the bay was the
Auto Ferries, which waddled across the bay, up the
Sacramento River, Oakland Estuary, long piers and
other docks. It is the Ferry Building in 1925 and
1926 that these memories are centered.
Before going further, I must relate about the people
in my life those before me and my parents and relatives
that made it happen.
My Grandfather was Arthur Bray I, who married
my Grandmother Effie Swain. My Father was 18 years
old when his mother died, his father had died earlier.
It fell upon my Father to support his sisters and he
was unable to finish high school. This was not un-
usual in those days, and he may not have finished in
any case. His family consisted of a brother and two
sisters. My Aunt Francis married a George Lund and
they had two children, Mildred Jean and George. I
often visited them and remember playing in their sandy
backyard somewhere in San Francisco. My Aunt Mildred.
married Al Cushing, they had no children, but you
would thought I was their first born with the affection
they gave me. Uncle Joe married a close
friend of my mother, Ramona Allen, they had two
children Allen and Barbara. I would visit them at
their home in North Berkeley. My Mother's mother was
Georgia Bella Kendall who married Walter George Barr
about 1885. She was called Nana by all the family,
a beautiful Women loved and respected. Her first born
was Charlie. He later was involved in a gunfight in
the foothills and none of the family would ever talk
about him again, although he was vindicated. Must be
more to the story that was never told. Aunt Bessie
was the oldest of four daughters who married twice,
first to Tom Hoffmann who everybody liked and secondly
to a Doctor Engle, who nobody liked. Her only son was
Richard Hoffmann, who lived with Nana in Larkspur.
Dick was probably five years older than I, but he was
my favorite cousin. I have always remembered the times
he took me along to share his boyhood activities, when
we were living nearby. He became a Doctor and later
delivered my children. Next born was my Aunt Clara, who
first married a Thomas Dunn and then Alan Mc Carthy.
Her two children were Thomas and Alane. Thomas strewed
roses at my Mothers wedding. Alane was a year younger
than I, and we more or less grew up together. The
youngest daughter was Aunt Helen, who married Bill Tice
and had one daughter, Marcia, who was about five years
younger than I. Aunt Helen and my Mother were loving
sisters and enjoyed each others company during their
lifetime. The youngest member of the Barr Family was Uncle
Willard. He was loved and pampered by his sisters, who
hoped he would marry the most beautiful and perfect girl,
they did all they could to help him find this dream girl.
He finally married Kathleen Burke, a City girl. The family
thought he could have done better, but in a short time they
all loved her. Unfortunately she passed away before him and
he never overcame the loss until he died in 1975 in Petaluma.
Uncle Willard was also a favorite of the children for the
next two generations.
My Mother, Marie Florence Barr (My Father called
her Mary) was born in 1892. She was truly a beautiful women,
who loved my Father and her children and always wanted the
best for them. I was born in 1915, my sister Georgia
Dorothy in 1917, my brother Robert Willard in 1922, John
Grandin in 1924 and David William in 1929. When I was ten,
there was an eight year old daughter, that was always to be
at her side, another son three years, who took much of her
time with a skin condition and baby boy who was one year old.
In 1924 she was a busy wife and mother.
I am grateful to my parents and to my forefathers
who came to California, so I could be born in San Francisco,
raised in the Bay Area and marry a California girl. I should
also thank a John Bray who came from London to the new this
country, they say, in 1684.
When my parents where married my Father was work-
ing for Western Pacific Railroad in Portola, California.
After returning from a honeymoon in Niagara Falls they lived
in San Francisco until I was born and then moved to Oakland.
Picture of "My Mother and Father in Brookdale, on July 4, 1913.
There first home was on Lawton Street, then Broadway Terrace.
Sometime in 1918 they moved to 5232 Golden Gate Ave. It
is here my memories begin with a picture of my father running
for the trolley that would start him on his commute
trip to the Ferry Building. Memories also take me to my
grandmothers summer place in Brookdale. I remember taking
the train to Ben Lomond, changing trains to Santa Cruz.
The flu epidemic was real serious affaire? the war, and I
was told to keep the mask on, when on the train. Also at
the time I was forever being teased by my cousins Tom and
Dick, who liked to think I was a German war prisoner.
Their next move was to Larkspur where my grandmother
lived, first to the bottom of the hill and then to
the top of hill across from my grandmothers house. Our home
at the bottom of the hill is remembered because of a horse
and carriage and fancy chickens my Father raised. I think
they were always sick. It was here I ran away from home
for the first time, the warm spanking with a hair brush is
Then up a real steep hill to a beautiful home with a
beautiful view of Mount Tamalpais. I have always felt it
was here that my Father and Mother enjoyed the best years
of their lives. But in less than two years we returned to
the Eastbay, this time to Berkeley and then Piedmont.
We lived in two homes on El Camino in Berkeley,
near the Hotel Claremont. When I was seven I had Asthma,
which was another problem for my Mother, it was no fun for
me or my Mother, who was getting ready to bring a new child
into our lives. Our home at 67 El Camino was the place were
my Uncle Joe married Ramona Allen. The photographer took
the official pictures with the aid of flash powder, which
filled the home with smoke. It so affected my asthma that
I was on goats milk for weeks.
I don't believe the year was out before we were
on the move again. This time it was to be a home on Mountain
Avenue in Piedmont. My Mother had help for the first time,
her name was Nora. She was a walking fool, rain or shine
she would push my brother Bob up and down the hills of Piedmont
and Oakland. To me this was not the best of all the
places we had lived. I went to the same school as Alane, it
was like a private school for a bunch of rich kids. In less
than another year we were on the move again, this time I was
happy to move. This would be the ninth move in nine years.
The twenties would be the best of financial years
for my Mother and Father. They had a happy marriage, children,
friends, automobiles and time for the theater and
sports. Why they were always on the move is beyond me,
when the depression came it was a matter of necessity. On
his way home in the evening he had to think twice. First,
what boat to take and then what train to take. In any case,
we always waited for him to come home, it was the event of
the day with a chance of a box of flicks, Haas Molasses
candy or a pack of gum.
In 1924 we were on our way to Ross in Marin County.
To me this would be the start of my happiest days of my
boyhood. We would live there for almost five years.
Ross, Marin County.
A boy growing up in Ross must be one of the few
boys paradises known, especially if he had a bicycle and a
little explorer in him. He could tour the countryside for
miles around. He could hike to the lakes and streams and
fish to his heart content. He could hike to the top of
Mount Tamalpais, using a different trail everyday for a
week. I was active in Boy Scouts and looked forward to
Scout Camp in Cazadero. There were games of baseball,
skate hockey, handball and racket ball. Forever collecting
milk bottle tops, baseball cards, marbles and pictures
of the heroes in the sport world. There were school outings
with trips to San Francisco for concerts, plays, the zoo
and the aquarium. Weekly movies in San Anselmo or San
Raphael. May Day Festival in Kentfield. The fun of growing
up was never ending.
With babies at home it seemed as though my Mother
and Sister Georgia were forever busy. During school I would
come home, change my clothes, have a snack and off I went.
My Father was a hard working man, he had to be to
support a growing family in a nice home. It was always a mad
rush in the morning to get in to the station on time, if he
missed the train at Ross, my Mother would drive him to
Kentfield. If she couldn't catch up to the train, he had to
wait for the next train. My Mother would pick him up at the
station a little after six, the rose she had put in his
buttonhole had wilted. She always freshened up to meet him,
and he was always happy to return home to his
wife and children. They talked about the upcoming
football game or a play they would be attending. In
the summertime they would plan a trip to the Russian
River. There were family get-togethers at my Grandmothers.
But if the weather was good he would usually work in
the yard, with a picnic in the redwood grove.
Sometimes I would be sent to San Francisco to
bring back six box lunches or a big layer cake.
It would take me three or four hours, but everybody
anxiously waited my return. At Christmas time the
family would go shopping in San Francisco, but more
time was spent seeing the tree in City of Paris, the
decorated windows of the White House or the toy
department at the Emporium or O'Connor and Moffett.
We would have dinner at the Clinton Cafeteria,
with it's live dinner music. We were warned to
only pick-out what we could eat, but because of
the excitement we always ended up with too much.
We would enjoy the Christmas lights in the evening
and stay overnight in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.
If it was vacation time, I would go to work with
him, and spend the day with my Cousins Mildred,
Jean and George. Other times With my Uncle Al
Cushing who had taken me to Alcatraz Island and
other place where he sold his cigars and tobacco.
Uncle Joe would take me to his print shop on Sansome St.
and then to lunch at Schroeders on Front St. But usually
I was with my Father as he made his rounds selling printing.
He called on factories, shops, stores and the City Hall.
He would introduce me to his customers and friends along
If the fleet was in, we would take a launch out to
one of the ships. I remember a ride out to Crissy Field
to see Byrd's North Pole Plane that was on view to the
public. One seldom saw an airplane in those days, but
all boys had read of the World War I Aces. Other times
we would go to opening of new stores or buildings, such
as the Russ Bldg. After one outing, I always looked
forward to the next.
Unfortunately, in the middle of all this happiness, there
was a day of disaster. As I recollect my Mother had taken
my Father to the train station on a cold morning. Evidently
there was a hot fire in the kitchen stove that somehow set
the house on fire. After my Mother got everybody out, she
tried to save some of her most treasured wedding gifts. She
did save some, but she said she did not know why she saved
the ones she did. By the time the One Man Fire Department
arrived and called in engines from other towns, everything
was gone. She had my Father paged at the Ferry Building and
he returned home on the next boat. My Mother said that
neighbors came from all parts of town with offers of
assistance. I went to Nana's house in Larkspur and I
remember the dreams that kept me awake for many a night.
It wasn't long before we moved into another home down the
road and the good life continued. My Mother would always
remember the loss of her wedding presents, but she would
never stop thanking God that we were all safe.
Note. In 1929 we moved back to Berkeley.
The Problem and I Am on My Way to the Ferry Building.
It was the custom at the time for men to work
on Saturday to noon or one o'clock and then to
come home. My Mother expected my Father to come home
and take her shopping, take care of the children or
prepare for an evening of social activity. This activity
was usually a visit to her sisters or friends, which would
consist of chatting, bridge or listening to the Victrola.
I don't think this was one of Fathers best pastimes, as my
Mother was dead against any cigar smoking, cocktails or
gambling and especially poker playing. My Mother did not
include any of my Fathers sisters or brother in the social
activities, except when they were invited for Thanksgiving
Dinner. Then there were turkeys at both ends of the table.
Never the less he would abide by my Mothers wishes. Sunday
was a day of working in the yard or maybe a automobile ride
to the Russian River, or to the ocean. I believe these
automobile rides were more fun than the picnic and swimming,
especially in a touring car. He always had hopes of a golf
game or tennis game with Uncle Bill or neighbors.
But it seems that in 1924 my Father had developed a bad
habit of playing poker with the boys in the shop on Saturday
afternoon and extending thru four or five o'clock. I guess
an occasional sip of bootleg whiskey livened up the game.
I knew nothing of this problem, but would learn in the months
ahead. How my Mother learned of this problem, I don't know.
At one o'clock she would start her phone calls to the print
shop, which would continue every hour on the hour.
The response was always, one more job to figure, a bill
to get out or a delivery to be made. Later a shopman
would tell her he had just left, one more call and he ran
out the front door on his way to the ferry. He would sheepishly
call from the station asking for a ride home. I imagine the
ride home was rather cool, maybe he even walked home a few times.
Thank goodness, for my Mothers sake this only happened on Saturdays.
If there was football game in Berkeley, a dinner party or a special
theater engagement in the City it was no problem as she would meet
him at the ferry building.
But, my dear Mother had conceived of a plan that she hoped would
put an end to this nonsense. As my Mother and Father seldom, if ever,
would quarrel in front of us, I was still in the dark. I agreed
that I would like to go to San Francisco, meet my Father and come
home with him. Although I had some doubts. How come she was trying
to get rid of me, had she planned a special outing with Georgia?
But it was always fun to go to the City, so there was no objection
on my part.
A phone call to my Father, to tell him she had some special plans
and would he meet Artie in front of the Ferry Building at 12:30 and
come home together. He agreed, but little did he know that this was
the beginning of the end of the poker game, and my Mother thought
that this was to be the beginning of some happy week-ends.
I was dressed in my best knickers, garters and stocking. Some
Bandoline on my hair and I was ready to go.
She gave me a note with the telephone numbers of the shop and
home, which I already knew, Sutter 1977 for the shop and ask
the operator for San Anselmo and give her our number 2928.
Also on the note was the address of the shop, 343 Front Street.
She gave 20 cents for a round trip ticket, 10 cents for two phone
calls and 5 cents for a bar of candy. Sometimes the conductor would
not ask for the fare, I guess he thought someone else had already
paid, so I had an extra dime. Always a bag of dry bread for the
seagulls. A kiss goodbye and I was on my way, not knowing what
was going on.
It was a downhill walk to the Ross Station and the ever feared
third rail. The big electric car of the North Western Pacific
arrived on time on its way to Sausalito. There were stops at
Kentfield, Larkspur, Baltimore Park, Corte Madera, then thru
the tunnel to the Mill Valley Junction, past the old sailing
ships in Richardson Bay to Sausalito.
Larkspur was where Nana had lived since 1920. Her son Willard
lived with her along with Dick, who was Aunt Bessie's son. Not
long after we moved to Larkspur, came the Tice Family. My. Aunt
Clara at one time lived in San Anselmo. As you can see the Barr
Family liked to be close to their Mother.
Baltimore Park is remember as the station the men of the family
left in the morning and returned at night. My Father had a horse
and buggy which was used to pick up the commuters at Baltimore
Park. Either my Mother or my Cousin Dick hitched up the horse and
drove to the station. I don't think I ever missed a ride, unless
I had been in trouble during the day. I wonder how they went to
the station in the morning?
Corte Madera was where I first went to school, but only for a
short time. All I can remember was a play I was in at Halloween.
I held am orange lighted candle and don't recollect any rave notices.
At Sausalito it was a short walk to the pier. The Ferry boat was
either the Cazadero or the Eureka. On the lower deck you could
look into the polished Engine Room with the hissing of steam and
the huge shafts. On the upper deck you could see the walking beam
which was driving the paddle wheels. My Father said the Eureka had
the best whistle on the bay, but it always scared me, so I didn't
go upstairs until it had sounded. The lower deck had baggage carts
loaded with chickens and eggs from Petaluma, Milk Cans and vegetables
from the farms in Marin County. There was always Mail Bags. On the
upper deck, I would throw the bread to the ever present seagulls
which followed the ferryboat It was very embarrassing to get bombed
by the seagulls. My Mother would never take any chances. From the
deck ships could be seen coming and going thru the Golden Gate,
the bridges were ten years away. After passing Angel Island and
I could see the Ferry Building with many Ferryboats coming and
going. As we neared the slip you could smell the strong odor of
the creosoted pilings. As the Ferryboat entered the slip the
captain would reverse the paddle wheel and slide into the pilings
to reverse the forward motion. The piling screamed out in pain
and the seagulls lifted themselves into the air protesting the
intrusion. The Deckhands' dropped the heavy lines over the big
hooks. And there I was at the Ferry Building with the clock showing
12:20 ready to be picked up.
( 15 )
Two pictures, one taken of the train station in Ross,
CA (mid 1900) and the other of the SF Ferry Building
taken from the water.
It was about two o'clock, when I wondered if I
should return home on the next boat, call the
office, call my Mother or keep on waiting. Where
was the mix-up? Not only that, I was getting
annoyed with a very persistent lady from the
Travelers Aid Society. She wanted to know if
I was a lost kid, a runaway or an orphan. At
two o'clock I noticed her talking to a policeman.
My Father drove up just at that time to save me
from whatever was about to happen. I was happy
to learn that he had to make some deliveries
before we could go home. Driving with him in
San Francisco was somewhat like an Eastwood film.
Where ever he went he always took the alleys and
side streets as shortcuts. He never liked to drive
on the cobblestones so he would line up the
automobile on the streetcar tracks. I often wondered
why they were the same width. He told me that the
switches would cut the tires so he was constantly
veering off and on the tracks like a drunken driver.
This system would not help on the cable car tracks,
except on one side.
He would never look for a parking space, just
drive to the front entrance wherever he was going
and double parkland leave me in the automobile. This
would drive me out of my mind when a streetcar would
arrive and couldn't get by. The motorman would furiously
clang his bell, and I would sink lower and lower in the
seat and my face would get redder and redder. My Father
would come racing out and with a wave to the angry motorman
and drive away. He would often sit me on the drivers seat
of the Ford touring car with instructions, that if a
policeman should come along, to tell him he was making an
emergency delivery. I think sometimes he went into a
speakeasy or saloon. All this was bad enough, but when
he parked in front of a fire hydrant, I imagined the worst.
The whole city could burn down because of his negligence.
Parking tickets or any kind of tickets did not bother him.
I have been with him when he would take 15 or 20 tickets
to the City Hall and have them fixed. This made him very
popular with his friends and customers. You would have
thought he was a good old son of Ireland, maybe he was.
He parked the Ford and we walked down Commercial Street
to the Ferry building. He bought the Call paper as was
his habit, called my Mother to tell her we where on our
way home. My Mother picked us up at the station, happy
about the turn of events. My Father was happy believing
the poker games could resume next week. I was just happy
being with him and felt like he enjoyed having me around.
My Mother must have felt that if it worked once it ought
to work again. The next Saturday, and Saturdays to come,
would find me at the Ferry Building at 12:20. But now, the
pick-up times began to change to 2:30, then 3:30 and 4:00.
It didn't take me long to figure out that he wasn't going
to meet me until a least 3:30. I don't remember a time that
he came for me and I wasn't there ready to go. So began my
adventures in and around the Ferry Building.
I must add, that I did not make this trip every Saturday,
maybe once or twice a month. There were many other events
to keep me busy. I often went on Boy Scout trips, played
baseball, tennis, a school outing or maybe a birthday party.
And never on a stormy day.
Picture of the Northern side of the Ferry Building looking out over the bay
with a ferry boat pulling away form the dock.
"The Ferry Boat Eureka on Its Way to Sausalito"
The Ferry Building
A San Francisco phenomenon took place every weekday at five
o'clock. If you were a complete stranger to the City standing
on the corner of Market and Front Streets you certainly would
have been aware of this strange situation taking place. At
the stroke of five you might have expected to hear chimes
coming from the Ferry Building Tower but instead you heard
the Wail of a siren. In any case, it marked the exact time
of the day to commence a mass exodus from downtown San Francisco.
Doors flew open from every office building, store, factory, shop
and saloon and the march was on to the Ferry Building. Then more
people came by trolleys, cable cars, taxis and jitneys and into
the portals of the Ferry Building they quickly disappeared.
This stranger would have wondered what was taking place. Was
an earthquake coming, a plague, another gold rush, World War II
or a breakout at the zoo? This scene so disturbed the stranger
that he decided not to join the crowd, but to remain where he
was, and see if these people ever returned. Sure enough, out
of the morning fog, they returned. But he noticed that they
were all revitalized. They ladies had new dresses, hats and
brightened faces. The men were newly shaved, new shirts, shinned
shoes and flowers in their buttonholes. They all briskly returned
to the place, whence they had come the evening before. The stranger
thought, maybe this was the long lost Fountain of Youth.
To be a Commuter in those days was a status sign, as it meant
you were successful enough to support your family
under the shadows of Mount Tamalpais, on the island of
Alameda, the bedrooms of Oakland or the scholarly surroundings
of Berkeley. For many it was keeping up with the Jones.
In no other place in the world was there such a place as the
Ferry Building. It was said that as many as 100,000 passed
through the building each day. Where else in the world could
so many forms of transportation be found all leading to
In the center of the building, just under the tower,
there is a wide stairway which took you to the second floor
where there was a large seal of the State of California set
in tile. On the east wall for the entire length of the
building was a relief map of the state. The map was
separated at the doorways to the second deck of the ferries.
My Mother always liked to board the ferryboat from this level.
From Market Street there was a walkway over the Embarcadero
which also took you to this level.
The map showed all the towns and cities in California and the
winding roads that went from town to town. Where the map was
separated at the ferry entrances there were models of the
industries of California. There was a gold mine model, oil well,
agriculture display, lumber mill, fishing fleet and others
I could relate to the areas within ninety miles of the Ferry
Building, but I had never been north of the Russian River, or
south of Santa Cruz or east past Walnut Creek. Here I could
walk to Eureka or San Diego in minutes. In school, I was always
interested in Geography and during the week I would
think of areas to check out the following Saturday. On each
visit I would always see something I hadn't seen before. Today
the map has disappeared. Too bad.
On the same floor opposite the map, there was another point of
interest. The State of California Mines and Geology Department
had a large display of minerals and rocks that were to be found
in the state. They were displayed in open and closed glass cases.
To me, Gold was the big attraction here. The gentleman in charge
looked like a real professor, and he probably was. I often spent
some time here and the professor must have thought I was a child
genius taking such a big interest, he often asked if I had any
questions. I would tell him I didn't, so he gave me some questions
and then the answers. I thought I had enough of that, said thank
you, and went on my way. Today they are moving the display to
another part of the state. Too bad.
Today the second floor is a mass of cheap offices and narrow
corridors with a large area used by the San Francisco World
Trade Club. Here the members can eat lunch and watch the ships,
from all over the world, on their way to East Bay ports and
terminals. They can look at the bridge and see the trucks
hauling containers from Oakland. They can look down and see
the empty wharfs. The City sure messed up this landmark. There
is no room in the Ferry Building devoted to the days when it
was active, no models, pictures or any paraphernalia. Too bad.
On the main floor just north of the stairway was the Key Route
waiting Room. During the commuter time it would be packed with
homeward bound people. Just over the sliding
door that lead to the ferryboat there were two screens, one
showed slides of advertising merchants in the East Bay. The
other showed animated cartoons. Most of the commuters did not
pay any attention as they were busy reading their papers or
talking to friends they met each evening at the same spot.
There were rows of seats that the gents would give up to the
first lady that came along. It appeared that these gents also
had a pleasure looking at the girls dressed in the flapper
styles of the day. The women with their coats down to their
ankles frowned on this behavior. On the far side of the waiting
room was the candy and tobacco counters, where papas would buy
treats for their children. Also was a large container of Buttermilk,
5 cents per glass, why it was such a big seller, I never could
figure out. Between the sliding door and the ferry slip was a
roadway. Here there would be long trains of baggage carts drawn
by small gasoline cars. These drivers had the reputation of
being on the wild side and you had to look out for them. At
the proper time the big door slid open and people swarmed aboard
the ferry. Most of the commuters had the same seat or spot each
night. The friendships and happenings on and off the ferries was
a story in itself. We always took the Key Route when we lived in
the East Bay or going to a Cal. football game in Berkeley.
Sacramento Northern RR also used the Key Route to take their
passengers to the trains. These were electric cars that went to
Sacramento, via train ferry across the Suisun Bay.
The next waiting room was the Northwestern Pacific ferry.
It was smaller room than the Key Route or S.P. It is where
we would catch the ferry home. People taking the steam train
to Eureka and points north would also take this ferry.
Somewhere in this area there was a telephone substation,
where four or five telephone operators were plugging in and
unplugging their telephone cords. Their chatter when on and on.
"Your number please, please deposit 25 cents for the first three
minutes, sorry sir the line is busy, we will call you back."
They were a busy and a cheerful group. They would wave to me
through the glass partition and I would blush and turn away.
Once I was going to call my Mother, but I was afraid I would
make a mistake and be embarrassed, so I didn't make the call.
Southern Pacific and Western Pacific had their waiting rooms
on the south end of the Ferry Building. These commuters were
complete strangers to the Key Route commuters, also many of the
passengers were overland traffic arriving or leaving for distant
At the end of the building were the automobile ferries that went
to Oakland. To-day you go through a narrow corridor to the Golden
Gate Ferry, which is the only ferry in operation. It goes to
Larkspur and Sausalito, and is not a ferryboat like the Cazadero.
In various locations there were shoeshine stands. These
bootblacks had their regular customers and would often greet
them by name. They were fun to watch and listen to. One Saturday
when my Father had a shine, I also had a shine. I plainly remember
I had a time keeping my shoes on the pedestals, as my legs would
barely reach. I was hanging on the best I could, trying not to fall
off. It wasn't a pretty sight and there never was a second time.
Piers and Wharfs, North and South from the Ferry Building.
Walking north from the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero was
the most exciting part of my Saturday adventures. These were the
odd number piers beginning at the Ferry Building and extending
past Fisherman's Wharf. At the northern end was the Hyde Street
piers for Automobile Ferries to Berkeley and Sausalito. My limit
was about pier no. 27. At pier three were the river boats. The
most important were the DELTA KING and the DELTA QUEEN that
went to Sacramento. The sign said $3.00 round trip. They were
interesting to watch because of varied cargo. There were always
the ""Chinamen"" coming to The City. Most were dressed in their
old country garb with long pigtails falling out of the rice
field hats. Some had shoulder yokes with their baggage tied
to the ends, but they all had their possessions with them.
They didn't take the cable car, but made their way up Washington
Street to the sanctuary of Chinatown.
My Father took me along on a business call to one of the
Chinese Associations. The stores and building on Grant Street
are most interesting and indeed a tourist attraction. But
behind facades live over 50,000 people in an area of some eight
square blocks. No reliable census had ever been made of the
number of Chinese living in this area. What contrasting examples
could be seen of their lives compared to my family. They would
speak Chinese among themselves, while using the abacus, then
nod to my father and the sale was finalized. As we left, one
of ""Chinamen"" gave me a piece of ginger candy, I don't think
I ate it.
My Father talked of the opium dens, gambling. slavery,
concubines, hired murderers (called Boo How Doy) associations
and tong wars. I never saw any of this kind of illegal action,
but I was flabbergasted by what I saw. He said that as long as
he could remember Chinatown was Chinatown and the police
couldn't do much about the problems because of secrecy and the
language. As long as they stayed in Chinatown, live and let
live was the rule of the day, He said he liked to do business
with them as they always paid on delivery.
At one of the piers Uncle Al had taken me aboard a ship that
had just arrived from the orient. He sold cigars, cigarettes
and sundries to the ships officers and crews. While he was
writing up the sale, one of the oriental crew was told to
take me on a tour of the ship. The last place he pointed out
was an open cargo hatch on the deck of the ship. Looking into
the hold was the steerage section. The sight I saw has always
stayed with me. My guess was that there were some 100 Chinese
sitting on the bare deck below. From the light of bare light
globes could be seen men, women and children, looking upward
with hopeful faces. Below could be seen Mothers breast
feeding their babies. The sight I had only seen in National
Geographic. Later. Uncle A1 would explain that the Chinese
suffered from the trip, but would pay the price to live in San
Francisco. He said that later in the day they would be transferred
to Angel island, cleared by the Immigration Department and after
a few days set free in San Francisco.
On another morning about the same time, My Uncle Al took me along
on his weekly trip to Alcatraz Island. From a pier near Fisherman's
Wharf we boarded a government launch for the short and choppy trip
to the island. At the time the island was a maximum security risk
prison for military people. Shortly after arriving I was assigned
a Trusty that would show me the prison and we would return at noon
to have lunch together. The Trusty was a nice young man who seemed
to like the idea of showing me around for the next hour and a half.
He no doubt had been trained to guide visitors around and I think
it took him away from some other chore. The time was well spent as
he was able to take me deep into the island where I was able to see
the old Mexican Dungeons with its thick Concrete Walls and narrow
apertures. It was very damp, dark and musty. We also went through
the Cell Blocks, Work Shops, Library, Kitchens and exercise courts.
As a ten year old I must say I was very impressed, The prisoners
looked at me but did not talk to me and I was told not to talk to them.
The salt air and the walk made me hungry and I looked forward to
lunch. Up to this time I had never eaten, or have I eaten since any
eggs cooked, fried or boiled. I sat at big round table with my
Uncle Al, officials and guards. At other tables sat the prisoners
Above were the walkways with the Armed Guards keeping an eye on the
scene below. Shortly a prisoner brought each person a large platter
of ham and leaky eggs. In this situation what could I do, but eat
the damn things. To this day I can still see and taste them. Other
than that, it was an experience to think about for a long time.
That evening I went to Uncle Al and Aunt Mildred's for dinner
and stayed overnight.
I slept on the sofa in the parlor. I don't think I
slept because of the street lights, streetcars,
trucks and automobiles, it certainly wasn't like
home in peaceful Ross. The next day we had lunch
at the Emporium and she bought me a present in
Hales Department Store. She was a typical San
Francisco Matron, and L liked her. We said goodbye
and I was on my way back to the Ferry Building to
meet my Father.
The Matson Piers were always busy with ships coming
and going to Honolulu. There was a big celebration
when their new ship Mahalo went into service. My
Father did business with Matson and said the ship
was booked solid for months, with lots of Southern
California people. I wish my Mother and Father could
have sailed away on that ship.
Around pier 15 were the Tug Boats of the Red Stack
Company. The ship traffic in the bay kept them coming
and going. I used to think the large tugboats were
the Mama and Papa and the small tugboats the babies.
They seemed to cluster around Mama and Papa in no
particular order. I thought tugboats were most
fascinating. They could mover ocean liners in and out
of the piers, push and pull barges all over the bay,
and up and down the coast. They were kind of cocky,
strong and always in command. The officers and crew
were friendly Swedes or Norwegians, who never told
me to beat it.
At another pier were the Fireboats all steamed up
and ready to go. I had always hoped I would be there
when the emergency arose, but it never did.
There were ever changing activities on the piers north
of the Ferry Building. At that time there were many
Cruise Ships in the Bay. Most important to me were the
Dollar Lines as there ships were name after Presidents.
There were the Japan ships such as the N.Y.K with the
name Maru as one part of the ships name. I remember
Aunt Bessie went on this line to Japan, she was the
only one I ever knew that took a cruise at that time.
Also were the Panama Pacific Lines that could take you
through the Panama Canal on your way to New York or
Europe. There were many other Lines. There was plenty
to see as the ships prepared to leave. Taxis and hotel
buses coming and going with passengers and friends to
see them off. Large Trucks filled with steamer trunks,
suitcase and luggage. Last minute Cargo to be put abroad.
The delivery wagon from Goldberg Bowen delivering the Bon
Voyage baskets filled with fruits, candy and foods.
Pretty soon the Gong and All Ashore who are going ashore.
The mass of paper streamers held by those onboard and
those on the dock waving goodbye. A Blast from the ships
horns and the ships band would start playing. The hawsers
were cast off and the tugs would push the ship out in the
bay. I remember my cousin Tom played on the ships orchestra
during the summer months. On these days I was really swept
up in the excitement of it all.
Closer to the Ferry building were other ships that sailed
up and down the coast. I remember the Emma, Ruth and
H.F. Alexander. In 1932 I went alone on the H.F. Alexander
to L.A. They had a Fourth of July Special of $14.00 round trip.
On Pier 7 docked the S.S. Harvard and S.S. Yale every other
day departed for L.A. at four o'clock. These ships were
loaded with rooters, when University of California
or Stanford played University of Southern California.
St. Mary's Rooters always took the train.
To the south of the Ferry Building were the even. number piers.
These piers extended south past China Basin. My Father never
told me not to, but warned me about going into this area. He
said that I might be alarmed my panhandlers, drunken sailor,
riffraff and IWW's ( I WON'T WORK). I heeded his warning and
never ventured past pier 26, and was never hassled,
Next to the Ferry Building was the State of California Fruit
Building. I don't know the connection. Next to that was the
Railway Express Building. There were always carting crates,
packages, boxes etc. to and from the Ferry Building.
The piers in this area were always occupied by cargo ships
from near and far, loading and unloading. At other piers ships
would be in the processed of being cleaned or repaired. Some
cargo was offloaded onto barges, to be towed to other points.
Some cargo went into freight cars to be picked up by the Belt
Line later in .the day. Much of the cargo went into Custom
storehouses or the Custom House to be held for payment of the
import tax. The Embarcadero was a busy place.
On the Stacks or funnel of each ship there would be an insignia,
such as a "$" for Dollar Lines an "L" for the Luckenback Lines,
etc. I would draw these in a notebook and color them, with crayons.
My Father noticed what I was doing and brought me a large colored
poster showing all the stacks and insignias. I think it was easier
to remember by drawing and coloring them. I was fascinated by the
whole thing, and to this day, I can usually recognize a ships line
It has often been said that San Francisco was the favorite port of
call of the United States Naval Forces. Their invasion of the city
was most obvious by the thousands of sailors seen up and down Market
Street. Their hats had the name of their ship on a ribbon that went
around their hat. Below their bellbottom pants their shoes so shinned
that even the bootblacks at the Ferry Building took notice. The Chief
Petty Officers always stood out, not for their stout side, but for
the many hash marks that were on their sleeve and the ribbons on
For me, it was the exciting time to visit the fleet. I am sure most
of the boys in the bay area shared the same expectation. It seems to
me that launches left from Pier 16. Each ship had its own launch to
take to you to and from its ship, there was no charge. The alternative
was to take a Crowley Water Taxi which would take you to the ship of
your choice, they charged for the ride. The Crowley launches were
covered to keep out the spray or the rain. The only problems was the
fumes that got into the seating area while the launch idled waiting
for the gangway to clear. This gave me a touch of seasickness,
fortunately I was never embarrassed, but came mighty close. I always
enjoyed the pleasure of my Father on these outings. On the way home
there lots to discuss.
The Embarcadero and Up Market.
How do you describe what you could smell, hear see and felt as you
stepped out of the Ferry Building? First, I guess you would smell
The City. The strongest would be the smell of spices, herbs and
condiments. These spices would come off the ships, carted to
Schilling, processed and reshipped, Sometimes it would be stronger
or more exotic than other times. If they ever stopped I think the
smell would last for another ten years. The other smell would be the
coffee roasting at Folgers, MJB, or other old time companies. This
aroma was most pleasant and still exists today. The smell of creosote
and horses was always present with the fumes of the motor Carts that
pulled the baggage about.
The noise would first come from the newsboys selling their papers.
"Wuxtry, Wuxtry, Read all about, Git Yer Call Bulletin" or some
other morning and evening paper. The slap of shoe polish and the
rubbing cloths of the shoe shinners. In the background could be
heard the whistle of-a departing ferryboat or the blast of a horn
from a ocean liner heading for the Golden Gate.
As you stepped outside you might be alarmed by a steam engine hauling
its freight cars up The Embarcadero to their designated pier. You
would hear the streetcar hawker inviting you to ride on their line
(Muni or the Market Street Railways) "Market Street Car, All the
way out Market, Emporium, Hales and the Civic Center, All abroad
Market Street Car". Then the clang of the gongs
and up Market Street they rumbled. The dinging of the cable cars
could be heard as they rounded The Embarcadero and made their way
up the hill. There was the honks of Model T Fords, trucks of all
shapes, jitneys and hotel buses. The drayage trucks had hard
rubber tires and the horse wagons had steel rims, together they
made a continuous chattering rattle as they traveled over the
As I stood there waiting for my Father, I thought that this was
the most exciting people place in the world. Where else did people
dress so well and have the appearance of well being. The men wore
suits and vest with gold chains and watches. They wore fedora hats,
except in the Summer when they change to straw hats or Panama hats.
There were no cowboy hats in San Francisco.
By 8:3G in the morning the commuters had pretty well cleared The
Embarcadero and normal activities had begun. Auto and delivery
trucks were lining up in two rows anxious to get on the next
auto ferry to the Eastbay. Next to arrive were the train travelers
from the valley and the overland travelers from Chicago. The
Southern Pacific advertised sixty-four hours to Chicago. The
porters were busy unloading long lines of baggage and getting
them on hotel buses. There was always tearful greetings, some
in a foreign tongue. Always there would be someone who didn't
get picked up and they would sit on their bags waiting to be
rescued. This scene also working reverse with people saying goodbye.
After a few days rest many of these travelers would board a cruise
ship so the big heavy steamer trunks would be taken directly to the
pier. Taxicabs would pick up the traveling salesmen with their sample
case. Limousines would pick up the VIP's, but rich or poor had to
come by the ferryboat.
Newspaper trucks would drive up to bring the new editions to
the newspaper boys and to deliver the papers to the ferry for
distribution in other parts of the state
Next to arrive where the matrons and mothers with their children from
the cities and towns around the bay. Only in The City would they think
of buying a new dress, a new hat or a pair of shoes. Most would take
the Geary Streetcar to Union Square and shop the department stores.
The ones I remember where The White House, City of Paris and O'Conner
& Moffitt. Eoy, you could sit on a sofa for hours waiting for your
Mother to finish her shopping, so you could have lunch at The White
House or the Pig n Whistle. Later she might stop by Gumps to pick up
a gift, or to Goldberg Bowen to have special groceries delivered. I
remember once when Goldberg Bowen owed my father money, he took it
out in trade and a freight car showed up in Ross loaded with canned
goods. The think the Robinson Chicken Soup lasted years. If Georgia
and I were with her, she would make sure we were on the ferry before
four o'clock to avoid the rush.
If she was alone, like other women, they would meet their husbands
for dinner. After dinner they would attend a play or a musical performance.
I remember them talking about a play called The Miracle, and other plays
they had seen at the Geary or the Curran. If by chance, I was with them
they would go to the Golden Gate Theater for a movie and vaudeville.
As Saturday after Saturday went by my adventures took me up Market Street.
I never would walk farther than Lotta's Fountain. The first building on
the south side was the Southern Pacific RR building. My uncle Willard
worked there. On the north side their was a Fisherman's Grotto
Restaurant with live catfish in the window. A few doors up was the
Haas Candy Store with the large molasses candy puller in the window,
which my Father would often bring home. Also, along the way was the
Williams Cutlery store with the largest displays of knives I had ever seen.
As My Father smoked cigars and smoked a pipe, he would stop at a United
Cigar Store on Market Street to stock up. Now you would think this was
a simple chore, but not so with my Father. He would ask me to wait
outside. He would go to the rear of the store behind a counter partition
and shoot dice for the cigars. I don't know the game but I don't think
he won very often. On one occasion he came out with cigars sticking
out of all pockets. He said he threw five fives, and was most happy.
Jay walking in those days was just as prevalent as it is to-day.
Another custom which hasn't changed; that is not waiting for the signal.
There were four streetcar tracks on Market Street, with streetcars
slowing coming and going. My Father would grab my arm and say "Lets
cross here". My heart immediately started to pound, there was nothing
I could do, but follow. There was exactly 24 inches between these
giant streetcars. I was frozen as those steel walls passed my nose.
I never said anything, but he must have seen me shaking. It wasn't funny.
As the streetcars were lined up one after another,
as far as you could see up Market Street, the motorman
would never stop at a stop sign or a signal. Men would
hop on the streetcar while it was moving. My father
would say "Lets get this one". He would grab my hand
and pull me abroad and pay his nickel. Georgia and I
always looked forward to going on the streetcar, I don't
remember taking the cable car or a desire to take one.
But I am sure we did.
In September 1925 I was given permission to come to
San Francisco. It was the year of the Diamond Jubilee,
with a day long parade and 100 floats. Wow! I was there
before the parade started at ten o'clock and walked up
Market to Taylor to watch it. There were thousands of
people who came to celebrate. Along came the parade, with
dignitaries, movie stars and war heroes. But mostly it was
ladies dressed in white carrying flags. They must have
come from all over the state, their banners' said Native
Daughter this and Native Daughter that. There was Knights
of Columbus, Union members, Shriners and band after band.
About 1:30 I started slowly back to the Ferry Building.
Along the way, I passed a Newsreel Theater with a sign
showing "See the parade on the Silver Screen", I bought
a ticket for a dime. Sure enough there was the beginning
of the parade and it continued on and on. I guess you
might call this the two hour Instant replay. About two
hours later I went outside and the parade was still going,
only there were less people watching.
The parade was to continue long into the evening when it
would turn into a night parade! But it was time for me
to head home.
As I walked down Market Street I passed the Mechanic Statue
and Front Street. On Market Street there were 10 ft. high
clocks on the sidewalk. These reminded me that I had to
catch the five o'clock ferry home, as promised.
In the distant I could see the Ferry Building with its
clock, which had become a part of my life.
Would you believe sometime later, a bunch of idiots would
come along and build a two decker Freeway across the front
of THE FERRY BUILDING.-
In 1983 they put streetcars back on Market Street as a
tourist attraction. We had the pleasure of again riding on
the old Number One Car.
Picture of Number 1 Streetcar and the operator tipping his hat
Front Street, the Problem Solved.
I guess it was the following Saturday, that I walked up
Market Street and took a right on Front Street. As I walked
down Front Street, I passed Harrington's, where my Father
often dropped in for a short one. On the other side of the
street was Schroeders
(Not in the same location they are at today.)
This was the wholesale produce center and on Saturday is was
very quiet. No lumpers, salesman, or truck drivers. The
sidewalks were washed down and the fronts were locked with
sliding iron gates. There was nobody on the street. When I
reached 343 Front Street, I banged on the front glass door
that said Bray Printing Co. After a few bangs, I heard the
elevator coming down, and a pressman unlocked the door. He
hollered upstairs, Hey Bray, your kid is down here". I thought
I heard some swearing coming from the second floor.
My Father came to tell me, we would be leaving in a little
while, and to make myself at home. In the corner near a
window, under a bare light globe, for the first time I saw
and recognized The Problem. I could see and hear the shuffle
of cards, the sounds of dropping coins and the good natured
talking between the players. Occasionally a bottle would be
lifted to pour a touch of bootleg. It seemed to me that it
was kind of a nice get together of friends.
I generally made myself a nuisance running the elevator up
and down, up and down. I climbed up on reams of paper, tried
to set type and other interesting shop activities. It must
of interfered with the concentration of the players as they
left one by one. I don't think they said goodbye. Finally,
my Father checked the ashtrays, turned out the lights, called
my mother and locked the front door.
As we walked down Commercial Street to the Ferry Building,
he said it was probably best that I did not discuss the incident
with My Mother. I don't think I did.
Looking back, I think My Father was happy for an excuse to put
an end to the game. I know My Mother was grateful to solve the
problem. I was getting tired of going to San Francisco, there
was a lot of other things to do.
Next Saturday I was to learn that I had been signed up for
weekly Clarinet Lesson in San Rafael.
A most unforgettable experience was a late night ferry ride
from San Francisco to Oakland. In later years, I was most
fortunate to have traveled to some of the most romantic and
beautiful place in the world. A sunset on the island of
Bora Bora. A night walk on Bourbon Street in the city of
New Orleans. A sunrise in Monument Valley. And they are all
well remembered. I think there is only one other place in the
world that comes close to giving you a sentimental or amorous
feeling and that would be a moonlight ride on a Gondola on
the Grand Canal in Venice, with the mandolin music in the background.
Some ten years later, these ferryboat rides on San Francisco Bay
still tops them all, although maybe personal reasons have
opinionated my conclusions. After a night of entertainment in
the City it was most important to catch the last Automobile ferry
home, or it would be a long ride home by the way of San Jose.
We hurried down Market Street to the Ferry Building and in
the darkness joined a short line of silent waiting automobiles.
The arriving ferry dispersed its San Francisco traffic and we
slowly filed down the ramp. The deckhand directed the automobiles
one to the left and one to the right side of the boat. (I should
have said starboard and port.) Another deckhand would spot your
automobile and block your wheels, if you were first or last on
board. If it was a nice evening you would want to be on the upper
deck, outside the cabin to enjoy this magical experience.
The whistle came on with a long hiss of steam and worked its way
up to a well defined toot. The boat was announcing that it was on
its bedtime trip and was anxious to complete the trip so it could
waddle in the tide until called upon again in the early morning hours.
All the fore cabin shades were drawn, the pilot house was dark and
all lights were out except the green and red running lights. The
darkness enabled the captain to navigate the bay by the reflections
of the city lights, various light house and buoys, and the stars and
moon. Now you were standing at the foredeck rail in almost complete
darkness. It was as though you were the only two people on board
with the unseen captain keeping an eye on you, from his pilot house.
You could feel the throbbing and vibrations of the steam engine as
it turned the paddle wheels. The soapy foam made by the paddle wheels
made an iridescent footprint at the stern of the ferryboat. Lights
from The City gradually faded away as the sparkle of fewer lights
of the Eastbay appeared. Through the ever present whispering fog the
moon and stars would appear. Close together the captain could see
two cigarettes and maybe hear soft spoken words. The spell would
be broken by the whistle of a passing ferryboat dancing across the
bay, or the sounds of the foghorns in the distance fog.
The smell of the salt water, the fresh night air and the fragrance
of an enticing perfume completed the magical sense of being. I do
not believe there is another more romantic time or place. Only a
few people have shared this short and romantic voyage. But, I know
two lovers who have.
Picture of Art Bray on the stern of one of San Francisco's
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