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Rumors Behind the News:
The Mystery of History
SOMETHING TO DECLARE: It's been 225 years since July 4, 1776, when the 13 United States of America made their Declaration of Independence to England's George the Third. Have you read it lately? Do you have a copy? Type in www .declarationofindependence.com on your computer and see what happens.
It seems to me the complaints of the colonists to King George III embodied in the D of I could be mistaken for a letter that Friends of Noe Valley might write to our current King George, George Bush II. His lordship's true feelings about this fine city, in the heart of which we live, were most tellingly revealed by his chief of staff, Andrew Card. When the New York Times inquired as to whether Bush's recent visit to California might include a stop in San Francisco, Card replied that no way would the president make a trip "into the belly of the beast."
It just seems apropos, after that, to think about how the Declaration of Independence starts out: "When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with one another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and the nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
Oh, let me count the causes....
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DOESN'T LOOK A DAY OVER 224: As you San Francisco historians know, on June 29, 1776, while the 13 colonies were just gearing up to celebrate the first Independence Day, the city of San Francisco was born. The official birthing happened about a mile northeast of Noe Valley, on the shores of Lake Dolores (La Laguna de Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores), which was a lagoon at the bottom of a creek that still runs under 18th Street. A mass was celebrated there by Father Francisco Palou, who was the chaplain for a small band of Spanish soldiers sent here by Captain Juan Bautista de Anza to build a military outpost at the Presidio.
According to historian John B. McGloin, author of San Francisco: The Story of a City, "Palou and others had encamped there two days previously to await, in the sheltered area protected from fog by Twin Peaks, the arrival of supplies that were to be used in establishing the Presidio." Ah, just a typical S.F. summer.
You can go see the plaque that marks the spot where this first Spanish expedition set up camp. It's near the corner of Albion and Camp streets, which is between 16th and 17th streets, and Valencia and Guerrero.
So in keeping with tradition, on Friday, June 29, 2001, at 10 a.m., Father Maurice McCormick celebrated an anniversary mass at Mission Dolores to commemorate both the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and Father Palou's first mass in Yerba Buena 225 years ago. Father Maurice also led a procession to the cemetery behind the old Mission, where the singing of a 16th-century Aztec hymn honored our forefathers, the Ohlone Indians, and the early Hispanic pioneers and settlers.
According to the curator of Mission Dolores, Brother Guire Cleary, this year's event was very special, since there was a dedication of a new statue of Saint Francis, with two Ohlone Indians representing the first marriage at Mission Dolores. The Ohlone tribe inhabited these hills until Father Palou and the Spanish soldiers took up tenancy at Lake Dolores, that last week of June 1776.
Brother Guire points out that the namesakes of our valley, members of the Noe family, are buried in Mission Dolores. You probably all know that Noe Valley was part of the larger Rancho San Miguel, which was granted to José de Jésus Noe by Pio Pico, the Spanish governor of California, in December 1845.
If you are hungry for more Noe Valley history, mark Saturday, Sept. 15, on your calendar. The neighborhood will hold its annual history day at the Noe Valley Sally Brunn Library. East & West of Castro Club president Paul Kantus is asking anyone who can lend local memorabilia (photos, school yearbooks, posters, newspapers, etc.) to give him a call at 647-3753.
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CLASS OF THE CLASS OF 2001: Our own James Lick Middle School graduated 125 eighth-graders last month, making this one of their best years ever. Special kudos go out to Daniel Chin, Nawal Wahhab, and Jack Mirkinson, who all graduated with 4.0 (straight A) grade averages for their entire three years at Lick.
Lick's dynamic new principal, Janice Daniels, did her part to keep the school moving on up. According to Janice, "It was a great year here because we have a wonderful staff."
Janice commended her two school ambassadors, Monica Magtoto and August Cooper, "who were true community builders." Their job was to welcome and escort visitors around the school, and show them what's what.
Lick students recently have been encouraged to get involved in decision making within the school, and in monthly meetings with local merchants, to get closer to the Noe Valley community. Many shops have been exhibiting the students' artwork. Also, says Janice, "there was a tightening up of the rules and regulations and dress code," with potentially gang-associated red and blue clothes banned in favor of a white shirt with black slacks or skirt.
According to Janice, the start of this year "was quite challenging for me, when a student kicked a ball that hit me and broke my foot." There was a lot of creative writing about that incident, she added.
Janice says she is already looking forward to Aug. 27, when the fall term starts anew for the 590 enrolled students. Hey, teach, let's have a little summer vacation time!
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HOOP SKIRTS: Cheers to St. James Elementary School's fifth-grade girls' basketball and volleyball teams, for scoring three CYO championships in the last two years. They remain undefeated, with a 270 record. "It's pretty amazing," said head coach Raquel Fox, who just happens to be an alum of the Fair Oaks Street school (besides a lawyer at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic). "These girls are not only great athletes, but honors students as well."
Raquel attributes part of their success on the court to their school smarts. "They pick up on skills quickly," she explains. "Playing on these teams gives them such a sense of empowerment, and they learn about team spirit and perseverance."
A nod of approval also goes to St. James' fourth-grade girls team, who earned CYO championships in basketball and volleyball this year.
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SOMETHING TO ESCROW ABOUT: Don't be alarmed if you can't find Zephyr Real Estate on 24th Street this summer. The office at 4040 24th Street is shutting down for remodeling on July 1, but all 35 agents will keep on plugging at a temporary location at 1414 Castro Street.
The renovations should be completed "about the first of [next] year," says Zephyr manager Randall Kostick. He says the company hopes to host "some community activities" once the sawdust has settled and the new, bigger facility is up and running. Perhaps some neighborhood art shows? A street fair?
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GRIPES OF WRATH: While we're on 24th Street, what exactly is going on at Bell Market? Everyone in the neighborhood seems to have a story to tell about a visit to our local grocer, and none of them has a happy ending. We've got empty shelves and favorite items that are no longer stocked. Everything seems to be a Ralph's brand, which may do well in Riverside, Calif., but just doesn't cut it here. The clerks and checkers are constantly taking special orders, and promising that "new items are coming in."
On a recent foray, I couldn't even find a can of Ajax -- you know, the foamy cleanser. And the only milk in the case was Ralph's, no Clover in sight. No big bottles of Star red wine vinegar, no flamin' hot Cheetos. All my favorite meat sauces have vanished.
Who is this Ralph anyway?
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MATCH, SET, BOULDER: And then there are the gripes of many local tennis players who apparently have to endure the summer without the single tennis court at Douglass Park. The Rec and Park Department has a full year to make some minor repairs needed because a boulder fell from the hill above. Nothing has been done, nor is there any sign that anything will be done.
My gripe with Douglass Park is that the bathrooms seem to be locked when everyone is there and open only when no one is there...although, obviously, it's hard to verify that. And the bathrooms at Upper Douglass Park field have been closed, possibly since Harry Truman was president. It being summer and daylight savings and all, you'd think the closed toilets would make an impression on those in charge of our parks....
I do like the gripe a disgruntled gentleman left on the Voice answering machine. He said he wanted to know why there were "unhealthy, deplorable conditions" on the sidewalks of 24th Street, "especially near the coffee shops," and he admonished, "they are supposed to have the sidewalks cleaned every two weeks and they sure aren't. It looks disgusting!"
I agree. Bring back the steam cleaners, and quick.
If you've got any gripes, grouses, or grumps about the neighborhood, don't keep them all bottled up. Call and leave a message at the Noe Valley Voice office, 821-3324, or write 'em down and send 'em to me.
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PARKING, 25 CENTS: The movement to get parking meters installed on 24th Street from Castro to Diamond has stalled. The Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association circulated petitions in support of adding metering to that block, and forwarded them to the Department of Parking and Traffic this spring.
According to M and P president Bob Roddick, there has been one informal meeting so far with merchants, residents, and the DPT, "and there seems to be some compromise, but there haven't been any more meetings scheduled, and my calls to DPT have not been returned."
Neither have mine, Bob.
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OUR CONDOLENCES go out to Noe Valleon Peter Gabel and his family over the loss of his mother, Arlene Francis, who died on the last day of May at the age of 93, here in San Francisco.
Peter is president of the community-driven New College of California, where he first started working as a law professor in the mid-'70s. Many of you longtime Noe Valleons might remember seeing Peter writing his doctoral dissertation at a spool table in the old Meat Market Coffeehouse (now Miss Millie's).
Arlene Francis was truly a pioneer for women in television. In the 1950s, Peter points out, "she was appearing on shows on all three networks: chief editor and host of Home on NBC, panelist on What's My Line on CBS, and host of Soldier Parade on ABC." Before that, she was an actress on Broadway. "She started acting in the '30s with Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater," says Peter, "which is where she met my dad."
She had spent her later years in San Francisco, close to her son, and had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Peter's father, Broadway actor Martin Gabel, died in the 1980s. "I treasure the time she and my now 6-year-old son Sammy got to spend with each other," says Peter, "and I know she enjoyed her last years here in San Francisco."
Peter said recently his mom "did something she had wanted to do all her life, but was always too busy to do...and that was paint." Her works are currently on display at the elder care home where she lived.
Peter hopes the Noe Valley Ministry can arrange to have a local exhibit. "Doing her painting was one of the only ways my mother could communicate and express her thoughts to all of us in her later years," reminisces Peter. Painting "gave her the strength to live with her disease and still be productive."
You might check out Peter Gabel's book, which was published last year, The Bank Teller and Other Essays on the Politics of Meaning. It is available at Cover to Cover, where Peter hosted a book reading last fall. "That was fun," he says.
It has been fun for me, too, but: I gotta call this 30. Have a great summer, get yourself involved in some neighborhood activity, and for heaven's sake, keep out of that belly of the beast.