Noe Valley Voice July-August 1999

Letters to the Editor

The Little Man' of 28th Street


The article by Bob Crowley about Al Frey's toy store ["Noe Valley Stores and Students: The Way It Was," May 1999 Voice] certainly brought back memories!

I didn't know Al Frey or his toy store because his location on 24th Street was on the "other side of town." Rather, I remember a similar store closer to my home on 28th near Church, which my brother and I frequented back in the '70s.

I didn't know the owner's name, but we used to call him "The Little Man." Like Al Frey, he had toys all over the place! And other odds and ends galore: costume jewelry, wrapping paper, ribbon, household items -- a real mixed bag of "useful" things. And there didn't seem to be set hours for the shop. You just kind of knew when "The Little Man" would be there.

He was a small man, kind of hunched over, but he always gave us a smile and a greeting. (His wife didn't seem as friendly toward us children.) Again like Al Frey, he was very trusting, always willing to make a sale, even at dirt-cheap prices. I believe he must have given my brother and mother numerous discounts just for buying a few items here and there.

The only thing I did not like about the shop was you couldn't walk around too well because it was SO CLUTTERED -- and I never did like rummaging through lots of stuff. However, for those who did, the shop was a real field day.

When my brother and I had the urge to build a model, we knew where to go: to "The Little Man." He had the best selection of ship models, airplanes, and cars -- model ships were my favorite!

We kids knew what we wanted, too. When we opened the door of the Little Man's shop, we would point to the model high on the shelf, and down it would come. Many happy hours would be spent at home assemblying those models!

It was with sadness that we learned in the late '70s or early '80s that the Little Man's wife had died and he had closed his shop and moved to Nevada to be closer to his children. The shop has since been remodeled -- all the toys and knickknacks are gone -- and is now home to another Noe Valley mainstay: a manicure shop.

Anne Sekara

27th Street

A Homeowner Who Feels
Locked Out


I am both a real estate appraiser and a property owner in Noe Valley. I purchased a duplex with a "tenants-in-common" partner. Soon thereafter, she made it impossible for me to live in my own unit. Now I find that if she and I settle, I still cannot live in my own unit. That's because in order to make my mortgage payments (I couldn't afford to leave the place empty), I had rented it out.

It is dangerous to the real estate market and to the economy of San Francisco for home buyers to be unable to live in their own properties. With the high cost of housing in this city, a tenants-in-common arrangement has become one of the few viable means of ownership. But if would-be property owners are unable to occupy their units, they will not buy.

When there are no buyers for real estate, there is no value for real estate. This creates a lower tax base, due to limits placed on real estate taxes by Proposition 13. When the tax base is low, other services suffer as well. The City-by-the-Bay can only lose in this downward spiral.

There is an active rent board under which tenants may voice their problems with landlords, and this continues to strengthen tenants' rights. This is the way the process should work, not by enforcing artificial controls.

Mayor Willie Brown is already choosing routes that will force Section VIII and low-income renters to leave the city. Now he is forcing entry-level and small property owners out as well. This is as unfair to tenants as it is to owners.

What's more, it creates the same kind of atmosphere we had in Berkeley, where there was no incentive to renovate properties because there was little value to the buildings on the open market.

Joselle Merritt-Dennis

Writing from Oakland

We Swear We Didn't Pay Her


Hi, I love the Voice! I look forward to each and every issue and always read it cover to cover. I especially liked the article about Noe Valley's bed and breakfasts ["A Guide to Noe Valley's Hidden Bed and Breakfasts" by Pat Rose, May 1999].

We have always had our fair share of out-of-town guests, but since recently moving to a very small house (with a very large wonderful garden), we just don't have room to put people up. Your story was a godsend, so you can imagine my consternation when I realized I had inadvertently thrown the May issue away. Then I remembered reading that you had a web site. I typed in to see what would happen, and lo and behold, there you were with the article I was looking for.

I am so elated I just had to write and tell you what a wonderful contribution you make to the great place we call home: Noe Valley.

Melinda Ramm

Via e-mail

Mother Was an '06 Survivor


I am writing to say thank you for the many enjoyable articles Florence Holub has written in the Noe Valley Voice. I came across them on your web site. It has provided much pleasure to one who left the area in 1950.

I was born in 1924 and lived on Castro Street near Hill Street. Before that, my great-grandfather bought a home for his family in 1870, on Guerrero Street near Liberty. At that time, there had been a name change on nearby streets: Napa Street became 20th Street, and Alta Street was changed to 21st Street.

My mother went to James Lick School in 1902. (One of her classmates was Gordon Sproul of U.C. Berkeley fame.) She was living on 26th Street at the time of the 1906 earthquake. She recalled the violent shaking which caused the piano to bounce from one wall to another wall. She felt mad, because she was only 16, and the world was coming to an end. Still, in the days that followed, she found a great community of people who lined up at the food distribution centers and who all offered to help one another.

My mother married in 1914 and lived in a house on 21st Street opposite Rayburn Alley.

Memories come to mind with almost all the streets Florence mentions. Her column on 1920s Mayor "Sunny Jim" Rolph was great. I have been to his house on 21st Street. I have also enjoyed the pictures of Noe Valley, especially one of 24th and Castro. The northwest corner had Dr. Fraher, my dentist; the southeast corner, Dr. Crowe, our family M.D.

Thanks again for the nice articles.

Robert Kinney

Carmichael, Calif.

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