Mime Troupe Gorilla Band: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

There is joy and delight in this image from 1968. A motley band marches down the steps of Buena Vista Park. On the Haight Street sidewalk, a smiling mother and her child watches them. Another little girl leaning on the telephone pole across the street waits expectantly.

Mime Troupe Gorilla Band, March 9, 1968.
San Francisco Mime Troupe Gorilla Band at Buena Vista Park, March 9, 1968. (wnp27.3355, negative courtesy of a private collector)

The parade on Haight Street that the Mime Troupe’s Gorilla Band is about to join is part of the “Freedom Festival Week” put on by the Peace and Freedom Movement in March 1968. The San Francisco Chronicle said the point of the festival was to “make the square community aware it has neglected basic arts and has become more warlike than the flower children.”

The Gorilla Band that day had 27 members, including three flag-bearing majorettes, a chorus, a brass section, and, the Chronicle noted, “a man who hummed through a comb.”

When this photograph was taken, the Mime Troupe had been performing political theater in Bay Area parks for close to a decade. Fifty-eight years and a Tony award later, the group still tries. (Can we agree that the political world—presidential tweet by presidential tweet—has almost been put beyond the reach of satire?) The Troupe’s rag-tag Gorilla Band drummed and fifed its way through protests, sit-ins, strikes, and socialist rallies for years.

At Peace and Freedom Party conventions the Gorilla Band would enter with “When the Saints Come Marching In” and open proceedings of meetings with seriocomic renditions of “Yankee Doodle,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” or the Star Spangled Banner (after the “rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air” lyric they would moan, cry, and bewail.)

Under its inviting commedia dell’arte format, the Mime Troupe’s message was societal change and provocation, even if the audience was 99% in agreement from the start. As the Troupe’s Sandy Archer described it in 1970, “the content antagonizes.”

But Mime Troupe messages from a half century ago don’t sound radical today, at least in the Bay Area: women’s liberation, peace instead of war, individuals over corporations, income and health equity, ending police misconduct, protecting the environment. But, radical or not, all these issues are still with us, still unresolved, and still fought over at the highest level of government and social discourse.

This year, we’re knee-deep in fiftieth anniversary Summer of Love commemorations, as lifestyle brands, city officials, tourist agencies, cultural institutions, and counter-culture institutions celebrate the 1967 arrival of thousands of alternative-thinking young people.

But as the calendar inexorably moves on, we will soon be fifty years from the “death of the hippie” parade, the commercialization of a no-cash giving spirit, the arrival in the Haight of hard drugs and hardened characters, and a long bleak struggle protesting the Vietnam War. Type “United States” and “1968” in your browser if you don’t believe me that San Francisco Travel won’t be highlighting any fifty-year anniversaries next year.

But, as the clouds gather, let the record at least show that on March 9, 1968, the Mime Troupe’s earnest, radical, Marxist, clown-ragged Gorilla Band made a mom smile.

The San Franciscans: E. B. and Minerva Power

by Nicole Meldahl

Researching a local found in an OpenSFHistory image.

As we research the places and faces found in our OpenSFHistory archives, we get to meet the people who built San Francisco. Sometimes we’re unable to push past the anonymity of unidentified images, but sometimes we hit the jackpot. After connecting a series of nitrate negatives with similar format and content, we realized they documented the construction of a home on Masonic Avenue; after researching that home, we discovered it was built by a prominent local family whose matriarch had a way with words.

1526 Masonic Avenue under construction, 1910
1526 Masonic Avenue, designed by renowned architect Bernard Maybeck, under construction in 1910. (wnp14.0672, negative courtesy of a private collector).

The shingled house at 1526 Masonic Avenue is known as the E. B. Power house. Erastus Barnum (E. B.) Power was born on November 22, 1869, to Elizabeth Julia (Kent) and Francis Power in Nevada City, California. He was named for his great-grandfather, Erastus Wolcott Barnum, who had the good sense to marry into a family that traced its lineage through the Revolutionary War in New York and back to the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.

E. B. Power was admitted to the bar by the Supreme Court of California in July of 1891, and on December 19, 1895, he married Minerva Lester in San Francisco. Minerva’s family had arrived in Nevada City in 1849. Her grandfather, Zeno Philosopher Davis, left his pregnant wife Sarah in Michigan and headed west in March of that year. After giving birth to a daughter, Cleora Adelaide “Addie” Davis, Sarah followed her husband cross-country with a three-week-old newborn in tow and arrived in Nevada City in October of 1850. The women of the Davis-Lester family most certainly came from hearty stock.

Two years after they were married, E. B. and Minerva had a son, Lester Barnum Power, on November 30, 1897 in Oakland, California. E. B. then went to work as District Attorney of Nevada City in 1899, a position he held until 1901. Shortly thereafter he was appointed as Assistant Attorney-General of the State of California and the Powers settled into a flat in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

In early 1906, Minerva wrote an article about her lovely home for The House Beautiful magazine titled An Attractive Dining-Room in a City Flat. In it, she refers to herself in the third person to describe California Redwood throughout, hand-forged built-ins, “unusual furnishings” such as an oriental rug, and a craftsman dining table like ones seen in the California building at the St. Louis Fair. By the time the article made it to print in September, however, her dining room was gone.

View northwest to Lone Mountain from Masonic Cemetery (near Parker Avenue and Turk Street), 1906.
View northwest to Lone Mountain from Masonic Cemetery (near Parker Avenue and Turk Street), 1906. (wnp27.2462, print courtesy of a private collector).

When the 1906 earthquake and fire burned their city center flat to the ground, the Power family took refuge in the Masonic Cemetery before (by some accounts) moving to a plot of land away from the fray on the edge of present-day Cole Valley and Haight Ashbury. They must have fallen for the quiet and the views because they decided to build a family home there, at 1526 Masonic Avenue. E. B. hired an up-and-coming architect by the name of Bernard Maybeck to build a modest house befitting a prominent attorney.

Maybeck would achieve international fame as the architect of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition’s Palace of Fine Arts in 1915, but prior to that he was known primarily for his work in the East Bay. The home he designed at 1526 Masonic showcased some of his signature touches, and had a sizable backyard—complete with its own well—so the family could enjoy the view.

Backyard of 1526 Masonic Avenue with well and Buena Vista Park beyond, c.1912.
Backyard of 1526 Masonic Avenue with well and Buena Vista Park beyond, c.1912. (wnp14.0683, print courtesy of a private collector).

With construction well underway, Minerva sent a photographic postcard to a friend in Nevada City, describing the home’s progress and the neighborhood’s unfortunate topography: “My dear Mrs. Rector. Here is a view of our new house – this is the front, the front door is open and the latch string is out. Our Indian name for it is Ue-oak-pi or Ogeedonkee + you will know I call it worse than that, if you climb Masonic Ave. hill on a warm day. Best love to you all. Lovingly – Minerva.”

Despite a supposed spite wall erected some time later by a neighbor (and Power family relative) with a grudge, the home in its finished state must have made up for the climb. Members of the Power family lived at 1526 Masonic through the 1940s, seeing Lester through school at the University of California, Berkeley, and enduring World War II. Following Minerva’s death in 1959, the home was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Welland Lathrop and it was rightfully included in the California Heritage Council’s second annual Heritage House tour in 1962.

E. B. and Minerva’s only child, Lester, died in 1973, and, like is so often the case, the family’s prized possessions were unleashed on the open collectibles market. One amazing piece, on reserve at an auction house, is a 35-star American flag used to mourn the assassinations of three presidents, accompanied by a newspaper clipping and Minerva’s handwritten note about it.

What I always wonder is how do these things leave a family’s possession? Who lets them go, and under what circumstances did they give them up? Daylighting personal stories like these are my favorite part of being an historian, because I believe no one deserves to suffer the indignity of being forgotten. If you see me speak, you’ll hear me repeat that often. Buildings, city infrastructure and landscaping—all the things we walk by and take for granted—were put there by people, people just like you and me. My hope is that the work we do here at OpenSFHistory helps us to remember that.

• “Old House Hunter,” (Blog by John Chaix), http://oldhousehunter.blogspot.com, October 10, 2008.
• “Primary Source: Upper Masonic,” FoundSF
• “E. Barnum Power,” Ancestry.com
• “Francis Power,” FindAGrave.com
• “Minerva Lester Power Death Record,” FamilySearch.org
University of California Bulletin, July 1919.
San Francisco Blue Book, 1925.
Bulletin of the John Cary Descendants, by Rev. Seth C. Cary, 1911.
• Lester (A. W.) Family Papers, Bancroft Library, University of CA (BANC MSS C-B 759)
Who’s Who in the West, 1913, pg. 461.
History of the Bench and Bar of California, edited by Joseph Clement Bates, 1912.
An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area, by Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny, 2007.
Sausalito News, October 24, 1962.
Who’s Who Among the Women of California, 1922.
Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance, by Mark Anthony Wilson and Bernard R. Maybeck, 2011.
The Minute Men: Official Bulletin of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, June 1924.

Homewood Terrace: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

In the early twentieth century, the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum at Divisadero and Hayes Streets had over 200 residents, and the aging building was not keeping up with the growing demands on the facility. Also, philosophies on the education and the institutional care of children in need had changed to what was called the “family” or “cottage” plan.

Homewood Terrace, 1941.
Kids playing in front of Cottage 21 in Homewood Terrace in 1941 (wnp14.10359, negative courtesy of a private collector)

This new idea from the East Coast did away with the large dormitory building that conjured workhouses from “Oliver Twist,” and replaced them with cottages that mimicked family homes. Each cottage housed a small group of children supervised by a “house mother.” Ideally, the cottages would be situated in country settings. As one writer explained, “a boy or girl must be indeed incorrigible who cannot find rest and sweetness in the call of a robin or savor of the new cut grass…”

Sold on the cottage plan, the trustees of the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum purchased thirteen acres of Adolph Sutro’s forest in the relatively pastoral Ingleside area along Ocean Avenue, roughly between today’s Keystone Way and Faxon Avenue.

The word “orphan” had become stigmatized, with connotations of destitution and unworthiness. It was also an inaccurate description of many of the children in the care of orphanages. Alongside children with deceased parents lived dependents of the state whose parents were unable or unwilling to care for them. There were also children requiring only a temporary supportive home in a time of family crisis or transition. So with the new facility came a new name: Homewood Terrace.

Homewood Terrace in 1925.
Peerless automobile parked in driveway of Homewood Terrace, 1925 (wnp15.657, glass plate negative courtesy of a private collector)

Homewood Terrace opened in 1921. A half-circle driveway led up from Ocean Avenue to what would become a campus of seventeen buildings on a tree-covered slope: nine residential cottages, an administration building, a gymnasium, a synagogue, a machinery shop, two superintendent residences, a small hospital, and a laundry.

Homewood Terrace from the air, 1920s. Ocean Avenue at bottom.
Homewood Terrace from the air, 1920s. Ocean Avenue at bottom. (WNP collection)

Each cottage housed twenty children—ten boys and ten girls ranging from toddlers to high school seniors—under the leadership of the cottage mother. In each cottage was a kitchen and small library. Each resident had his or her own locker, closet, and separate drawer space. The residents became part of the Ingleside neighborhood, attending nearby Farragut Elementary School, and later, Aptos Middle School. By 1926, over 320 different children had passed through the cottage life on Ocean Avenue. In the 1930s and 1940s, Homewood Terrace took in many children escaping from the Holocaust in Germany. Meanwhile, the forest around the campus disappeared under the carpet of new homes built for Mount Davidson Manor, Westwood Highlands, and Monterey Heights.

By the 1960s, the standards for residential care for children had changed again. In some ways the cottage model had proved a stepping stone to a more progressive foster home system. Instead of just simulating home and family life, boys and girls now lived it. In 1965, the last residents of Homewood Terrace were relocated to seven “real” houses in the Richmond District, and the organization was folded into today’s Jewish Family and Children’s Services agency.

The site became overgrown and its buildings decrepit in the years following the closing of Homewood Terrace. Various developers created schemes for nineteen-story towers and 300-unit apartment complexes. By the late 1970s, neighbors had become antsy for anything. Finally, the mixed-use Dorado Terrace development, a layer cake of stucco walls, utilitarian balconies, and retail storefronts, was constructed in 1981.

More information, images, and memories of Homewood Terrace are at outsidelands.org

Fourth of July, 1862: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

The lantern slide image below has been identified in different places with different descriptions. Some notations say Greenwich Street. Another calls it a mourning procession after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination (I suspect the top-hatted gentleman in the lower center may have sparked this idea, as the silhouette looks very Lincolnian.) Yet a third says it’s a Fourth of July parade. All that was certain was we were in North Beach with Russian Hill behind.

Filbert Street between Powell and Stockton, 1862.
Looking west on Filbert Street across Powell Street, July 4, 1862. Washington Square on the left (wnp13.010, lantern slide courtesy of a private collector)

With the help of a couple of other images, I know the where, the when, and the why. This is definitely Filbert Street looking west up across Powell Street on Independence Day, 1862. Today, St. Peter and Paul’s Church would be on one’s right with the green of the square on the left. Let’s take a closer look at the crowd:

Detail of wnp13.010
Detail of wnp13.010.

Plenty of flags and a regiment of marching men kicking up a cloud of dust. Two riders are entering the gate of Washington Square on the left, leading the parade. The Carleton Watkins stereoview image below pivots the view to the left as soldiers muster in the square. Watkins faced the corner of Union and Powell Streets with more of Russian Hill behind. The diagonal cut of Columbus Avenue that snips off the southwest corner of Washington Square is yet to come. Soldiers muster in Washington Square, July 4, 1862, and a crowd gathers outside the fence.

View of Washington Square on July 4, 1862. South summit of Russian Hill behind.
View of Washington Square on July 4, 1862. Union Street on left. South summit of Russian Hill behind. (Scan of a stereoview card, courtesy of a private collector.)

The celebration of the United States of America’s independence started early on July 4, 1862, as the San Francisco Bulletin reported:

“The booming of cannon and the ringing of pretty nigh all the bells in town, awoke the 80,000 denizens of the city from their sleep and told them that the sun, that was to shine so hotly on the Fourth, had arisen. These were joyful sounds to many, but ‘death’ to late sleepers.”

The Civil War raged in the east and San Francisco determined to show its loyalty to the Union. An estimated 36,000 flags hung out windows from the homes, apartments, mercantile houses, banks, and hotels across the city. The British Consulate flew the Union Jack, which the Bulletin called a “compliment to the day upon which, near upon 100 years ago, it was summarily ejected from so vast a domain.”

The city also wanted to show it was willing and ready to fight. At 9:00 a.m., Brigadier General George S. Wright, in command of the Department of the Pacific, reviewed companies of regular and volunteer soldiers—infantry, artillery, and cavalry—in Washington Square. Wright rode a white charger and entered with Major General Allen. In our image, could the two men entering the square, one on a white horse, be the generals?

After exercises, review, and some rifle salutes, the soldiers led the parade out of the square at 11:00 a.m. and through the city, looping around Mission Street and returning to festivities at the Metropolitan Theater on Montgomery Street.

The parade wasn’t just for the military. Marching bands, drum corps, school children, fire engine companies, Sons of the Emerald Island, Garibaldians, the Scandinavian Society, stevedores, riggers, teamsters, and draymen all turned out with floats, wagons, and even a replica of the Union iron-clad steamship, the Monitor.

The Butchers Association stole the show. As the Daily Alta described them: “First came one hundred on horseback, in uniform—that is, white aprons and check sleeves—and followed by six yoke of fat cattle attended by seven vaqueros in full costume. Then came the slaughterers, sixteen strong on foot, armed with axes and cleavers…”

Forty carts laden with pork joints, mutton, and sides of beef on display came behind. One of the carts had emblazoned on its side: “Pure Beef for friends of the Union—the points of our knives for its foes.”


1. “Fourth of July,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, July 5, 1862, pg. 1.
2. “Celebration of the Fourth,” Daly Alta California, July 6, 1862, pg. 1.

Another view of Washington Square, July 4, 1862
Another view of the day across Washington Square to Union Street and Nob Hill behind. (Scan from a copy print, courtesy of a private collector.)