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THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or e-mail editor@noevalley voice.com. Please include your name, address, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Be aware that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.
The Grandmother We Never Met
Editor's Note: After observing the 100th-anniversary ceremonies on TV and reading various earthquake reminiscences in the Voice, 71-year-old Richmond District resident Shirley McKeever wrote to tell us a poignant story involving her grandparents, Peter and Mary "Mamie" Maloney, who lived on 24th Street at the time of the disaster. She also sent us a copy of a 100-year-old letter, written by a young woman named Minnie Coleman who was taken in by the Maloneys after the quake. The document has more than historical value to McKeever and the rest of her large extended family. "It makes us closer to the grandmother we never met. We weren't alive at the time of the quake, so it gives us a more personal feeling for Minnie and Grandpa Maloney, too. It helps their memory live on." The Voice is grateful to McKeever for sharing her family history.
The Aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake
Homes destroyed and homes left standing. People looking out for themselves and people helping others. This describes the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.
Peter Maloney's house at 3969 24th Street, between Sanchez and Noe streets, was left standing. Peter, who owned his own horse-shoeing business, and his wife "Mamie" were very compassionate people. They took in five families and sheltered them in their large sub-basement, which Peter and his brothers had built a few years earlier.
The letter [reproduced at right] tells the story: "...We almost surrounded by fire, all our cloth got burned;...slept out in the street;...seven miles burnt of San Francisco;...earth sunk 8 feet;...the houses all fell over;...people kill and burnt to death;...shop is all gone and I have no money and no work..."
Minnie Coleman wrote this letter to her sister, Emma, in Oregon. "I am staying with a lady; are on a hill;...they are five family staying with her."
Minnie had heard about a family in Noe Valley offering shelter to the homeless. She knocked on the door at 3969 24th Street. Opening the door, Mamie saw a mother holding a young child. Herself a mother of five, Mamie took pity on Minnie and took her into her home. At night, the women and children slept sideways across the beds, so that four or five could fit on a bed.
Ten months later, as San Francisco was being reborn, Mamie gave birth to Imelda, my mother. But 13 months after the birth, in the spring of 1908, Mamie died of influenza.
In the years following the quake, the Maloneys had kept in touch with Minnie Coleman. She was working as a midwife, since Levi Strauss & Co. had burned down and she'd lost her sewing job. A few months after his wife died, Peter Maloney asked Minnie to return to 3969 24th Street as a housekeeper. He converted the dining room to a bedroom for her and her son, Frank. For the next 25 years, Minnie helped raise the six children of "The Lady Who Took Her In."
Though Minnie went to live with my mother a few years after Imelda got married in 1931, my grandfather stayed in the 24th Street house for the remainder of his life. After a long career as a blacksmith, he died in 1943 at the age of 84. (Born in Galway, Ireland, he had immigrated to the United States in the early 1880s.)
My mother, who had five children, 10 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren, lived to age 95. Minnie, whom we called "Nana," lived to be 100. She was the only mother my mother ever really knew.
Now, a hundred years after the 1906 quake, Peter Maloney's (Grandpa's) house is still standing. (It is now owned by a family of dentists, Drs. Barry Kinney and Coragene Savio. They have had it renovated, but kept its historic Victorian style.)
Also, Minnie Coleman's very old 1906 letter still exists, "to tell the story." My family is considering donating the original letter, along with my grandfather's 1898 citizenship papers, to the California Historical Society.
Field of Dreams
Dear Noe Valley Voice, Friends, and Neighbors:
I was puzzled after reading your "Noe's Parks Better Than Most, But Still Need Renovation" article in the May 2006 issue. Like Olga Milan-Howells, I was surprised to learn that a recent survey gave an A grade to the playground at Upper Noe Recreation Center. I used to go to the park, but just found it too unsafe and dirty.
After attending a Friends of NVRC (Noe Valley Recreation Center) meeting, I learned that the criteria used to grade the park was developed by the Neighborhood Parks Council in conjunction with the city's Recreation and Park Department based on a survey created by the National Program for Playground Safety. After I completed my own audit using their form, I would say our park scored a negative on 17 out of 24 criteria on the playground report card. (For example, I answered "no" to: Are the platform guardrails securely in place? Supporting structure securely anchored? Equipment free of rust, corrosion, or rotting? Playground free of hazardous materials?)
The good news is that our park will soon begin a large-scale renovation. After it's done, I hope we can bring back some of the spirit we enjoyed in years past. I remember walking down Sanchez Street, my baby in the stroller, to meet up with other infants and toddlers (and parents and caregivers) at the park. Around 10:30 a.m., everyone would set up chairs in a half-circle in anticipation of the arrival of Jim the Musician. As soon as Jim started to strum "The Wheels on the Bus" on his guitar, all the children would get up, clap, dance, and sing along, with huge smiles on their faces. After music time, the kids would ride on the tricycles, climb on the structures, go down slides, or have a tea party inside the play houses. All of these amenities were available in the indoor gym, which kept us dry on rainy days.
On nice days, there would be kids swinging on the swings, building sand sculptures, or running and climbing on the play structures in their bare feet. Lou would be shouting to his tennis students, "Nice shot!" Sometimes in the afternoon, teenagers would have a friendly game of hoops in the basketball gym. On Wednesdays, you could see seniors playing bingo. In the distance, we'd see happy dogs chasing after tennis balls or wrestling their pals in the dog run....
But I also have new dreams for the park. The recreation center building has so much potential. The stage with the luxurious velvet curtains has been neglected, but I see great possibilities. Wouldn't it be nice to see the kids dress up and put on a show for their parents? I can imagine applauding for a children's choir. Or how about a dinner theater where the actors perform Fiddler on the Roof or My Fair Lady while food is being served at tables covered in white linen?
I can see a quiet room with puzzles, small toys, cozy cushions, and books for those children who may need some time alone before getting back to playing in the ball pit with their friends. I want to see the arts and crafts room filled with toddlers squishing play dough, finger painting bright colors onto rolls of paper, or cutting and gluing construction paper. I'd like to see all the old broken toys replaced by new or used toys in good condition. I imagine older children learning how to cook in a better equipped kitchen. I can visualize the neglected patch of grass and weeds outside the kitchen as an organic garden where children can learn about where their food comes from. The field will host countless baseball games. We'll have picnic tables, benches, and a safer playground for the kids. We'll have a wonderful restroom with kid-sized toilets and sinks. Last but not least, our new park will stay safe and clean with the help of our friends and neighbors.
The park and recreation center is scheduled to close in July for the 18-month renovation. I look forward to rejoining this community as soon as it reopens.
Member, Friends of Noe Valley Recreation Center
P.S. For more information on how you can help our recreation center be the best park it can be, contact us at Friendsof NVRC@yahoogroups.com.
Playground Report Card Mystifying
Regarding the Upper Noe Recreation Center, I was shocked at your report that the Neighborhood Parks Council gave our park an A. As a close neighbor and user of this park, I would rate it a D minus. As it happens, the online report from the Neighborhood Parks Council actually gives the park 72 to 78 percent ratings on the various components that are considered. Even with "grade inflation," I don't know how or why your reporter translated this to an A.
It is also somewhat frustrating that much of the maintenance work at this and other Noe Valley parks is being performed by our neighbors, and Rec and Park takes the credit. It would seem Rec and Park is more than happy to do less as the neighbors and taxpayers do more.
Editor's Reply: Our story was based on a Feb. 11 survey and report released by the Neighborhood Parks Council. In May, the report and the A grade for Upper Noe were still posted online at www.sfneighborhoodparks.org/pdf/PlaygrndReport06 .PDF. The report we believe you're referring to listed data from a survey conducted in 2005 (see www.sfneighborhood parks.org/pdf/rptIndividParkEvaluationSummaryPublic.pdf). We're not sure why there's such a disparity in the ratings. But it's clear the Feb. 11 survey was conducted by volunteers at a "Love Your Playground" event cosponsored by the city.
Mistake Locked in Stone
Your May issue had a photo of a misspelled Alvarado Street concrete sidewalk marking ("ALVARDO ST" at Alvarado and Noe). At the other end of Noe Valley, spelling is not the problem, but maybe dyslexia is. "30 TS" is chiseled into the corner of 30th and Castro streets.
Talks Stones and Leaves
Thank you for your great article last month on my newly released book, Beach Stones ["Artist Captures the Soul of Beach Stones," May 2006]. I'm writing about one small change, however.
The correct date for my upcoming talk at the San Francisco Center for the Book is Friday, June 9 (not June 7), at 7 p.m. I will be talking about the making of both of my books, Beach Stones and Leaves & Pods. The center is located at 300 De Haro Street at 16th Street; www.sfcb.org. I look forward to seeing folks there!
Dufty Gives Birth to Miffed Homeowner
As the father of a daughter who has been in a very happy lesbian relationship for seven years, I was happy to read about Supervisor Bevan Dufty's unique approach to fatherhood ["Bevan Dufty's News: 'I'm Having a Baby!'" May 2006]. However, as a straight man who has lived in the Castro for 20 years, I was surprised to learn that he voted with the recent Peskin anti-homeownership legislation that was passed 7 to 3 by the Board of Supervisors, without inviting the San Francisco Small Property Owners to participate. As the owner of a three-unit building, one of which I've lived in all those years, I feel that my interests were not at all represented.
So good luck to him and the mother of his child in finding a place to live and raise their child. I'm thinking about selling the place just because of legislation like this. Maybe he could come up with the money and deal with my two neighbors. (Once the lease is signed, we don't use the words "tenant" or "landlord.")
It is my property and those of thousands of others that this legislation affects the most. I don't think it's okay for people like Peskin, Ted Gullicksen et al. to give our property away and ignore us, especially when our property taxes are paying their salaries!
The board was scheduled to have its second vote in late May, before sending the legislation to the mayor. I hope that Supervisor Dufty saw fit to change his vote. Or that the mayor vetoed it. Or failing that, I hope I live long enough to get to the polls in November. (I'm 75.)
Treating Small Landlords Like Enemies
When will our supervisors stop putting forth housing legislation that pits senior, disabled, and HIV-positive renters against senior, disabled, and HIV-positive neighborhood landlords?
District 8 has one of the highest percentages of small rental buildings in the city. The people who own them provide housing that gives our neighborhoods their character, and old Victorian and Edwardian buildings are expensive to keep up. A lot of local owners are live-in landlords in their retirement years who are building-rich but cash-poor.
Thanks to the Board of Supervisors, they now have very little control over their buildings and homes. If we want to protect our Victorian and Edwardian rental stock, we need to protect the neighborhood landlords who live with their tenants so they won't feel the need to sell their buildings. Live-in landlords who are seniors, disabled, or HIV-positive should be able to live in their homes without undue regulations. They should be able to get sufficient rent to take care of themselves and their buildings. Our Board of Supervisors treats them like the enemy rather than people who are part of our neighborhood housing solution.
There should be special options for disabled and senior owners who live in small rental buildings. These owners should be able to raise rents to market rate if they are disabled or when they reach age 62, and be able to rent to other seniors without punitive restrictions. Perhaps then, most of them wouldn't feel forced to sell their buildings as TICs, and renters would still be able to enjoy the chance to live here.
Fair Oaks Street
Online Memorial for Jesse Zele
Please be so kind as to let your readers know that Jesse Zele's memorial web site may be viewed at http://www.ourweb .com/jesse, and that there is a guestbook on the site in which friends of Jesse can share with the world their memories of this remarkable man. Thank you.
You Can't Fool Her
I am one of those ne'er-do-wells who have come running back to the city, and am grateful that the real estate bubble burst, enabling me to do so. However, I was devastated when I realized that the library wasn't open and there wasn't going to be a Faux Paws seminar, Burning Woman Festival, or "Really Big Shoe" event in Noe Valley [Baloney Valley Voice, April 2006]. I was also sad to note that there's no Silentology...it's a concept whose time has come.
If that weren't enough, my e-mail to fHarmony was rejected and I missed out on adopting the bull mastiffcockatiel mix you advertised. Perhaps I need a visit to Therapists Without Boundaries?
P.S. Thanks for using your collective creative energies on the April edition. I love that there's a sense of humor alive and well in my neighborhood!
Safeway Predates Little Bell on Castro
Regarding the Noe Valley History Quiz in the Rumors section of the April and May issues:
The column is great, and the quiz was fun. You were right that Little Bell Market preceded the Walgreen's store in the former cablecar barn on Castro Street near Jersey. But here's an interesting footnote: Before Little Bell landed on Castro, the building was occupied by Safeway.
Hard to believe now.
Take care, and keep up the good work.