New Year’s Eve, 1943: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

Seventy-five years ago, San Francisco did its best to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Grim realities of World War II intruded, but the San Francisco Chronicle noted a new optimism in the gayety: “[T]aking the predictions of the war analysts at their face value—collapse of Hitlerism in ‘44—San Francisco turned New Year’s eve into a bibulous, roisterous, raucous prevue of victory.”1

The Examiner offered a more measured assessment: “With a strange mixture of abandon and restraint, San Francisco accorded 1943 a reasonable facsimile of the traditional year-end sendoff last night, and then settled back for a more or less sober inspection of A. D. 1944.”2

Each of the major hotels, constrained by wartime price controls, set a standard price for an evening of dining and dancing: $8.03 per person, tax included, drinks extra. They had all sold out a week earlier. A San Francisco Examiner photographer found a happy foursome at the St. Francis Hotel.

St. Francis Hotel on New Year's Eve, 1943.Naval Lieut. and Mrs. E. E. Rodenburg, Lieut. W. E. Petway of the Army and Miss Carolyn Lewis at the St. Francis Hotel on New Year’s Eve, 1943. (wnp14.10055; San Francisco Examiner photograph. Courtesy of a private collector.)

Despite rationing and shortages, there was no lack of alcohol to be found and a city burgeoning with war workers and servicemen and women able to buy it. A quarter could get a small glass of wine, while it was “two bucks for vari-colored concoctions with a fancy wallop.”3

Over at the Pepsi-Cola Center at Market and Mason Streets, servicemen and women had their own sober party:

Elevated view at New Year's Eve party at Pepsi-Cola Center at Mason and Market Streets, December 31, 1943.Elevated view at New Year’s Eve party at Pepsi-Cola Center at Mason and Market Streets, December 31, 1943. (wnp14.10058; San Francisco Examiner photograph. Courtesy of a private collector.)

The soda company had transformed a former bank building into a hospitality center in March 1943. The flags of the Allied nations hung in the lobby and over the next three years volunteers would serve almost five million nickel hot dogs and hamburgers—and innumerable gallons of free Pepsi-Colas—to U.S. military and Allied nations personnel in uniform stationed in or passing through the city.

Market and Mason Street view to Pepsi-Cola Center, circa 1943Market and Mason Street, view to Pepsi-Cola Center, circa 1943. (wnp27.0703; Courtesy of a private collector.)

The American Legion ran upper levels of the building as dormitories and an entire floor was reserved just for women in uniform. The WAACS, WAVES, SPARS, Women’s Marine Reserve Corps, and Army and Navy nurses had two lounges for their use, one named for Eleanor Roosevelt and the other for Madam Chiang Kai-shek (Soong Mei-ling, First Lady of the Republic of China). Eleanor’s lounge had a blue color scheme, while the Chiang Kai-shek room, of course, had a Chinese theme with reds and blacks. A thirty-foot-long powder table had complimentary cosmetics. Here is a group of WAVES preparing on New Year’s Eve for a night “ashore”:

WAVES Mildred Campbell, Eleanor Jones and Inez Hanson, and Margaret Kilroy of the Marine Corps, at the Pepsi-Cola Center, December 31, 1943.WAVES Mildred Campbell, Eleanor Jones and Inez Hanson, and Margaret Kilroy of the Marine Corps at the Pepsi-Cola Center, December 31, 1943. (wnp14.10056; San Francisco Examiner photograph, courtesy of a private collector.)

On February 26, 1946, with the war over and a lessening of military personnel passing through town, the Pepsi-Cola Center closed. A reported 11 million men and women used its facilities in the three years it was open. The building still stands at the northeast corner of Market and Mason Streets, addressed as 944 Market, with its ground floor available for lease as of December 2018. Here is an artist’s rendering included in the marketing package:

944 Market imagined as a flagship clothing store. (

We here at Western Neighborhoods Project wish you a “roisterous, raucous” and safe New Year’s Eve.


1. “S.F. Has One of Her Gayest New Year’s Eves in Years,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 1, 1944, pg. 1.

2. “S.F. Greeting to New Year Slightly Sober,” San Francisco Examiner, January 1, 1944, pg. 1.

3. “More About Gayest S.F. New Year’s,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 1, 1944, pg. 7.

Welcome to SFO: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

Many of you may be traveling through San Francisco International Airport during the holidays, fighting your way through check-in lines, waiting out flight delays, and taking off your belt and shoes for the TSA. The whole thing can be overwhelming, and personally, I go to great lengths to avoid flying because of it. (Amtrak just had a sale on “roomette” compartment train tickets…) To soothe jangled nerves I provide these idyllic images of San Francisco Airport in days gone by.

San Francisco Airport terminal, circa 1950.San Francisco Airport terminal, circa 1950. (wnp100.00657; Lumir Cerny photograph. Courtesy of SCRAP Negative Collection.

Ah… looks like the “Airport Limousine” bus at the terminal doors, dropping off passengers who shuttled in from the city. Shall we stop for a cocktail at the “Café” bar on the left? In these days, the lobby of the airport looked more like the inside of a classic big city train station: leather sofas, Spanish tiled floors, wrought-iron chandeliers, and a coffered ceiling.

In 1954, a new terminal was built. Before we go inside that, let’s remember where we parked our car first:

San Francisco Airport parking lot with terminal in distance, circa 1959.San Francisco Airport parking lot and terminal, circa 1959. (wnp25.3803; courtesy of a private collector)

Smaller than many a Target store parking lot today… Some of these views were in collections taken by the commercial photography firms of Lumir Cerny and Morton-Waters in the 1950s. They were rescued by the staff at SCRAP, a fine nonprofit that serves as a “creative reuse center, materials depot, and workshop space” on Toland Avenue near Bayshore Boulevard. Recycled fabrics, buttons, stationary, plastics and wood are accepted and, in turn, are reclaimed by teachers, artists, and creators/educators of all kinds. Occasionally, photographic materials, such as historical negatives or prints too important to be cut up for a grade-school collage find their way to SCRAP. We at Western Neighborhoods Project are helping to find more appropriate homes for these images and, in the process, are able to scan and add them to OpenSFHistory for public enjoyment and education.

San Francisco airport terminal interior, 1950s.San Francisco airport terminal interior, 1950s. (wnp100.00665; Morton-Waters Co. photograph, Courtesy of SCRAP Negative Collection.)

No lines at the United Airlines counter. No one towing their luggage around the concourse because it was all checked at the door. Shall we grab a San Francisco Call-Bulletin newspaper from that paperboy?

Also found at SCRAP were a series of construction images of the two hangars built on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The massive buildings were constructed by the federal government as part of a planned airport to serve the city and used during the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) of 1939-40 as the Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts and the Hall of Transportation. During the GGIE, and shortly after its end, Pan Am’s China Clipper seaplanes docked at the cove beside the hangars. A third building, a curving moderne-style structure meant to act as the terminal and administration building for the airport, survives along with the hangars. (Check out the Treasure Island Museum organization, which hosts some great history programs and exhibits inside the administration building.)

West airplane hanger under construction on Treasure Island, July 30, 1937.West airplane hanger under construction on Treasure Island, July 30, 1937. (wnp100.00420; Morton-Waters Co. photograph, Courtesy of SCRAP Negative Collection)

Take a look at this great video of the terminal building and a Pan Am take-off from the cove. The clip is courtesy of our friends at the Prelinger Archives. The longer home movie taken by John H. Summers additionally has amazing 1940s footage of San Francisco Airport.

The Navy took over Treasure Island during World War II and San Francisco’s airport instead grew out of Mills Field in Millbrae. Of course a 400-acre island could never have handled the 550-passenger Airbus A380 airliners or the more than 50 million people a year who travel through SFO these days, but taking off from the bay in an elegant China Clipper might be worth taking off my belt and shoes.

An artist’s 1930s conception of the planned airport on Treasure Island. The three buildings were constructed, but the multiple runways (and air traffic shown!) never existed.

Lifesaving Station: A Closer Look

by John Martini

“You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.”
— Unofficial motto of the U.S. Lifesaving Service

Few people know that Golden Gate Park once had its own Lifesaving Station. Not for park visitors, but rather for coastal steamers and sailing ships that found themselves in harm’s way along Ocean Beach and the cliffs of Lands End.

Life Saving Station in Golden Gate Park, Fulton Street and La Playa in background. (Building with tower was Lifesaving Station in Golden Gate Park, Fulton Street and La Playa in background. (Building with tower was “Cycler’s Rest” roadhouse.) Crewmen with rescue boat on horse-drawn carriage, circa 1900. (wnp70.0243; Marilyn Blaisdell Collection, courtesy of Molly Blaisdell)

Before the 1870s, ships that wrecked along America’s shores were essentially on their own. Except for local citizen efforts, there was no centralized, professional lifesaving agency in the country. To fill this critical need, Congress created the United States Lifesaving Service in 1871. Before long, Lifesaving Stations began to appear along coastlines and lakeshores around the country.

California’s first station was the “Golden Gate Park Lifesaving Station,” located at the corner of Fulton Street and Great Highway in 1878. Crewmen lived at the station and were ready at a moment’s notice to effect a rescue of crews and passengers. The lifesavers relied on two primary pieces of rescue equipment: beach carts, containing a complicated assemblage of ropes and pulleys for firing a lifeline to a stranded vessel and rigging ship-to-shore rescue slings called “breeches buoys;” and self-bailing, self righting surf boats that the lifesavers rowed out to ships in distress, hence the nickname “surfmen.” The latter role was the most dangerous, since ships tended to need rescuing in the worst weather the Pacific Ocean could muster.

Seven men posing in front of surf boat 'Golden Gate' on wheeled cart. Lurline (Olympic) Pier and Seal Rocks in background, 1920s.Seven men pose on Ocean Beach in front of surf boat “Golden Gate” on wheeled cart. Lurline (Olympic) Pier and Seal Rocks in background, 1920s. (wnp66.024; L. N. Wallace photograph, Laurie Hollings photo album; James R. Smith Collection)

The crews from Golden Gate Park trained frequently on the sands of Ocean Beach opposite the station, drawing huge crowds that watched the dramatic practices. Sometimes the lifesavers rigged a breeches buoy along the beach, using a small cannon to fire a lifeline to a replica ship’s mast set into the sand. Other days, they launched their lifeboats into the surf and rowed out through the breakers, out past Seal Rocks, and then back to the beach. Due to the distance between the station and the surf line, a team of horses hauled the boats on wheeled carts across Great Highway and down a ramp to the sand.

The original station buildings were constructed in what might be called U.S. government Victorian architecture, and originally included a Chief Keeper’s residence, lifesavers’ dormitory, boathouse, and various sheds and stables. In 1914, the station became part of the newly created U.S. Coast Guard, but its mission remained unchanged.

U.S. Lifesaving Station. Close-up of building with uniformed staff, circa 1910.U.S. Lifesaving Station. Close-up of building with uniformed staff, circa 1910. (wnp15.1058; Pillsbury Picture Co. #PP7680; courtesy of a private collector.)

In the 1920s, the Coast Guard began replacing the aging Victorians with more mundane-looking structures. A former lifesaver name Torleksen purchased one of the 1870s buildings from the government for $75, moved it to a vacant lot at the corner of 47th Avenue and Cabrillo Street, plopped it on a new foundation, and moved in. It’s still there.

Surprisingly, the station continued its lifesaving mission through the end of World War II and beyond. By the 1950s, though, improved communications and rescue techniques (think “helicopter”) had made many Coast Guard rescue stations around the country obsolescent. The ten-man crew of Coasties working at Golden Gate Station received orders in October 1951 that they were being reassigned to new duties. According to a story in the San Francisco News, the station’s last day of operation was November 1, 1951.

However, the buildings remained in place long after the Coast Guard departed, and although their demolition date is unknown, this author remembers passing the weathered and abandoned buildings through the late 1950s. Perhaps some reader can remember the exact date of their removal?

Lifesaving Station buildings in Golden Gate Park at corner of Fulton Street, 1945.U.S. Coast Guard buildings in Golden Gate Park at corner of Fulton Street, 1945. (wnp14.4631; Waldemar Sievers photograph; courtesy of a private collector.)

Maguire’s Houses: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

While processing photographs from the collection of Martin Behrman, now in the archives of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, I was struck by two Mission District scenes with particularly descriptive captions on the image.

View to northwest corner of Folsom and 20th Streets, February 22, 1887.View to northwest corner of Folsom and 20th Streets and grocery and liquors store run by Charles G. Friedrich, February 22, 1887, 11:35 a.m. (wnp71.1614; Martin Behrman Negative Collection / Courtesy of the Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives GOGA 35346, F810 RE-023.)

We spend a lot of time trying to pin down not only locations of images in the OpenSFHistory collection, but also dates. We often have to make vague guesses like “1880s.” Rarely do we get the exact date, much less the time of day: 11:35 a.m.! Here is the west corner of the same block on the same day:

View to northeast corner of Shotwell and 20th Streets, February 22, 1887.View to northeast corner of Shotwell and 20th Streets and Philip Faubel’s meat market, February 22, 1887. (wnp71.1613; Martin Behrman Negative Collection / Courtesy of the Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives GOGA 35346, F810 RE-022.)

Both photographs document the northern block face of 20th Street between Shotwell and Folsom Streets, and the notations make special mention of the residential flats— “Maguire’s houses”—in the middle of the block with the undulating roofline. A grocer and a butcher, respectively, occupy the corner buildings. Groups of neighborhood children pose. A line of street trees is visible. In the first photo there’s a mailbox on a lamp post. The scene projects a refined urban neighborhood, while the water tower visible in the background of the second photograph gives a clue that the infrastructure of city life is relatively recent. At the time these images were taken the block east was mostly open land with greenhouses and a large portion of the block beyond that—between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street—was described on maps as “Swamp.”

The Maguire mentioned was Thomas G. Maguire, born in Ireland, who owned the entire south third of the block. He lived in the corner building on Folsom above the ground floor grocery store/bar run by Henry Mangels and later by Charles G. Friedrich. The other corner business, at 20th and Shotwell, was rented to butcher Philip Faubel. Maguire’s sons, Augustus Benedict Maguire and Joseph Maguire, lived off and on in different residences on the block while running a dry goods business on Mission Street and dealing in real estate and insurance. Thomas was a former plasterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, but the rents must have been good, because by the time of these photographs he was describing his profession in the city directory as “capitalist.”

Much of the Mission District burned in the fires following the April 18, 1906 earthquake and it was a close call for Maguire’s property. A fire at 22nd and Mission was contained after much effort on the first day, and early on April 20, 1906, the great conflagration from Hayes Valley was stopped just a couple of blocks to the west.

Into the 1910s, Maguire’s row of flats still lined the north side of the street and the old water tower still rose behind them. The meat market became a saloon after the earthquake, but the Folsom Street corner still had the grocery store. During World War I, more industrial and commercial warehouse business began creeping south and west from the bay. In 1920, the Maguire properties finally succumbed to the changing character of the neighborhood. A 20,000-square-foot brick warehouse for a carpet cleaning company replaced the old grocery, butcher shop, and flats. The warehouse still stands in 2018, much older than the flats were when they were demolished, and is now serves as the factory for the Timbuk2 messenger bag company.

Northwest corner of 20th and Folsom Streets, December 2, 2018.Northwest corner of 20th and Folsom Streets, December 2, 2018. (Woody LaBounty photo)

Daly City Plane Crash: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

Seventy-five years ago this week, in the middle of World War II, residents of the Outer Mission and Crocker-Amazon neighborhoods heard the roar of a plane circling low overhead, then an explosion.

Firefighters hose down 73 Alexander Avenue, December 5, 1943.Firefighters hose down 73 Alexander Avenue, December 5, 1943. (wnp14.4086; courtesy of a private collector.)

When we first found a series of ten news negatives in the OpenSFHistory collection, a cursory glance had us assuming the event was a common house fire. Then we came to this shot of a woman goggling at an aircraft engine in her yard.

Mrs. Ralph Carboni at 52 Alexander Avenue looking at the plane engine that had thudded against her living room wall on December 5, 1943.Mrs. Ralph Carboni at 52 Alexander Avenue looking at the plane engine beside her house on December 5, 1943. (wnp14.4092; courtesy of a private collector.)

On December 5, 1943, a U.S. Army fighter plane fell from the cloudy skies, tore through high-tension electrical wires, clipped the top of a house, and crashed into a suburban street just over the county line in Daly City. Explosive ammunition shells, fuel, and the aircraft engine flew in all directions along Alexander Avenue between Roosevelt and Templeton in the Crocker Terrace neighborhood. The body of the poor pilot landed with a thud on the roof of one house, while one of his severed hands ended up at the front step of another. Chunks of sidewalk and street concrete ripped through walls and “the entire street had become an inferno from high octane gasoline.”1

Another plane had crashed into nearby hills. The two fighters had departed San Francisco Municipal Airport together on a routine mission, flew in formation, and careened out of the sky within minutes of each other, both pilots killed. Early conjecture was a midair collision, but military officials quickly called the two accidents “purely coincidence.”2

On the street, one house, 73 Alexander Avenue, was totally destroyed by the exploding fighter and a fire ignited by airplane fuel. No one had been at home; the property had just sold to new owners who planned to move in that very day. (This close call must be a family story that has never been forgotten.) Two neighboring houses had been knocked half a foot of their foundations. A thirty-pound hunk of metal fell through the bedroom ceiling of Harold Udby at 48 Alexander Avenue—narrowly missing his canary—while the pilot’s body landed on his roof. “We heard three or four explosions. I look out and saw the street blazing with gasoline, which was running in a river down the hill. My car was standing by the curb, also ablaze. I could see the house had been moved on its foundations and that the whole side of it was aflame. So we grabbed the children and beat it.”3

View to southeast and San Bruno Mountain. 73 Alexander Avenue collapsed and on fire. December 5, 1943.The shell of 73 Alexander Avenue collapsed and smoldering. December 5, 1943. View to the southeast with San Bruno Mountain in background. (wnp14.4088; courtesy of a private collector.)

Most of the residents of the street had been home on the Sunday morning and it was considered a miracle that, outside the pilot, no one had been injured or killed.

The U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), the predecessor service of today’s U.S. Air Force, brought on 193,000 new pilots during World War II, with another 124,000 candidates either failing to qualify or dying in training accidents. More than 54,000 accidents were suffered by the USAAF in the continental United States in those years, resulting in more than 15,000 fatalities, or the equivalent of a World War II infantry division. The same day the two planes came down in Daly City, a third fighter crashed in a vacant Santa Rosa lot, killing another pilot. These are the deaths in war that don’t get made into Hollywood movies, but count just the same.4

Fire and police from Daly City, assisted by San Francisco squads, contained the fire on Alexander Avenue while Navy patrolmen and Army military police scoured the area for unexploded ammunition. The Army opened a board of inquiry investigation into the accidents. Two days later, a general told the press that an inexperienced pilot attempting to avoid low clouds was the cause of the crash and that any Army fliers who flew lower than 1,000 feet in nonemergency situations would face court-martial. The war went on.5

Military and law enforcement examine wreckage after Daly City plane crash, December 5, 1943.Military and law enforcement examine wreckage after Daly City plane crash, December 5, 1943. (wnp14.4090.jpg; courtesy of a private collector.)


1. “Plane Crashes,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 6, 1943, pg. 1.

2. Ibid

3. “Plane Crashes,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 6, 1943, pg. 10.

4. Bernard C. Nalty, ed., Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the United States Air Force, Vol. I. (Air Force History and Museums Program, USAF, 1997), pg. 259; Marlyn R. Pierce, “Earning their Wings: Accidents and Fatalities in the United States Army Air Forces During Flight Training in World War Two,” Ph.D. dissertation, (Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University, 2013.)

5. “Low Flying Put Under Ban Here,” Oakland Tribune, December 8, 1943, pg. 20.