A couple of things:
1. A friend told me to check out the Camera Obscura at the Cliff House, which I'd never done. It's a small building down below the restaurant, with a rotating lens that gives you a moving 360° panorama of the beach and Seal Rocks. Also, in the Cliff House, on the left side of the bar, there's a large monitor with photos of early San Francisco, including Sutro Baths, the original (and spectacular) Cliff House circa 1900, and Playland at the Beach*. You can get a beer and watch the procession of old photos.
2. Last week I got a book titled The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld by Herbert Asbury. I didn't realize how lawless and violent San Francisco was in its early days. It was like Deadwood, the TV series.
Here are a few other books (I know there are hundreds) on San Francisco:
•San Francisco Memoirs: 1835-1851: Eyewitness Accounts of the Birth of a City By Malcolm E. Barker
•Carville-by-the-Sea: San Francisco's Streetcar Suburb by Woody La Bounty: "…In the 1850s and ’60s local San Francisco transit companies used horse-drawn railcars on city streets. The arrival of cable cars and electric streetcars spelled the doom of the equine-pulled variety. Many of these vehicles were dumped on the then-unsettled sand dunes near Ocean Beach. In 1895 the Market Street Railway Company placed a newspaper advertisement in the San Francisco Examiner offering horse cars for $20 ($10 without seats). By September of that year the cars were already put to a wide variety of uses, including: a backyard children's playhouses, a real estate office, and a shoemaker's shop. Also notable was 'The Annex', a 'coffee saloon' operated by Colonel Charles Dailey in one of three cars he rented from Adolph Sutro." I knew nothing of this. Unfortunately, the book is out of print, and used copies are rather expensive.
•The Discovery of San Francisco Bay: The Portolá Expedition of 1769-1770, The Diary of Miguel Costansó. For 250 years, the Spanish galleons returned from the East with their cargoes of silks and spices and made their way down the West Coast, around Baja California, and then to Veracruz. In all that time they never discovered the Golden Gate or the vast bay beyond it. In 1769, a Spanish expedition was heading on foot north along the coast and a group of hunters walked up onto a ridge in what is now Pacifica, and looked down on the bay. What a sight!
•The Gate: The True Story of the Design and Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge by John Van der Zee. Struass wasn't the designer at all. It was engineer/artist Charles Ellis. This is a great story of our magnificent bridge.
Growing up in San Francisco, I thought the whole world was like this. Little did I know.
*Laughing Sal is now on display at the Santa Cruz boardwalk.