Sadly, San Francisco - like L.A. - has lost many of the places I once enjoyed so much. Places like:
Playland-at-the-Beach: On warm, sunny days, my family and I would often head down to Ocean Beach (just below the Cliff house and across from Playland). After attempting to body surf in the teeth-chattering waters, we'd dry off and run over for hours of romping around Playland's fun house.
First we'd walk by Laughing Sal and her scary cackle, and then we'd navigate through the maze of mirrors and walk over bridges which burst us with air from below (meant to blow up skirts.) Finally, we'd run free through the fun house. I always ran first to the slick wooden slides that started from way above and ended at the floor. The wood was so polished, I'd fly down half screaming and half laughing. And there was the massive disk - like a giant's record player - that spun us riders until we were flung to the matted floor like rag dolls. Oh, man! The fun we had before people worried about lawsuits!
Of course, we never left Playland without buying It's-It Ice Creams. At the time, the ice cream treats weren't sold anywhere else.
Playland shut its doors for good in 1972, and was soon replaced by condos.
San Francisco Zoo's Storyland: (Photo below: My sister's birthday party at the zoo, approx 1974)
As a kid, I didn't find the zoo nearly as fun as I found the Storyland area they had in the Children's zoo. We'd walk through a castle doorway into a world of fantasy; there I'd spend hours munching on sticky pink popcorn and pretending.
I took my daughter to the S.F. zoo in the '90s, only to find Storyland missing.
After many childhood zoo visits, we ended up at Doggie Diner for a hot dog. I loved that old dog.
The Alexandria theater on the corner of 18th and Geary.
In 1972, we lived just down the street on 18th Avenue. That year the Alexandria had a showing of "Gone with the Wind," and I was blown away (bad pun, huh?).
My mom and I sat in the balcony of the ornate and plush Moderne style theater. The moment the musical score swelled and the dusty beam of light lit up the red velvet curtains...I became a movie lover.
The Alexandria closed in 2004.
The ice skating rink on Kirkham and 48th Avenue - I don't even know the name. We kids just referred to it as the rink on 48th and Kirkham. My friend Cindy and I bought ice skates from the Sears Catalog and took two Muni buses to the rink as often as we could. Many afternoons were spent spinning and doing the hokey-pokey. Or we'd go inside the cabin-like snack bar for hot chocolate and to play Pong. We thought Pong was so hi-tech.
After taking off our skates and heading out of the rink, onto 48th Ave., the warm burst of air was a relief (actually cool S.F. evening air, but relatively warm compared to rink's temps.). Then my friend and I might head over to this little market for a snack before getting back on the Muni toward home.
Busvan furniture - A funky furniture store in the Richmond. It's where the hip (but broke) shopped. While other kids had brown shag carpets, avocado appliances and orange recliners...we had a Freud-does-the-'70s look: Antiques, persian style rugs, Victorian velvet couch, crammed books and potted plants.(Photo: Our livingroom, Busvan chic)
Before I ever heard the word "mall", my friend Cindy and I used to explore Stonestown. It was an outdoor shopping center. There, we posed as mannequins in the Emporium, and bought bags of candy at Woolworth's for under a dollar. We drooled over the hip clothes (platforms, multi-colored knee socks and hip-hugger bell bottom jeans) at Judy's Boutique. And we always ended up at the QFI food court for egg rolls. On weekends we'd walk over to the UA cinema for a Disney Double feature. During intermission they'd raffle off cool prizes, like Schwinn bikes with banana seats. I believe the theater's still there, but now Stonestown's just another generic mall.
Gatorville - San Francisco State University Student Housing
We lived here from 1973 to 1975, while my dad went to the college. The place was full of kids - all races and ages. We practically ran the place during the day while our parents were at work and school. On weekends, our families gathered for potlucks or improvised plays or Beatles-themed costume parties in our funky little community center.
We kids would roam around the SF State campus when bored or when we wanted to sell comic books or Girl Scout cookies. We'd go over to the dormitory called, Verducci Hall (see video clip of demolition). The college girls at Verducci would give us their hand-me-down platforms and maxi-dresses.
In 1975, the college needed the property and we were told to move. So I called Van Amburg, my favorite news anchor on ABC's channel 7 (I know. What kind of freaky kid has a favorite news anchor?), and told him the college was kicking us out. I was angry and I was protesting. It was just a bunch of mildewy barracks, but it was my home. Mr. Amburg said reporters would come by to interview me. No one every showed up...and I even took a shower.
About six years ago, I passed the empty lot where Gatorville once stood, only to see dirt.(photo: Gatorville)
I stumbled upon this Day On The Green website, which brought back memories of my first concert in '79: AC/DC, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent... among others. My friends and I fueled up on coffee at Sambo's coffee shop before sitting in the concert line all night. Once the Oakland Coliseum gates opened, it was sheer madness - everyone ran as fast as they could to find the closest spot on the green near the stage. I went to a few Day On the Green concerts, but they went away with the death of promoter Bill Graham, I believe.