Giving Tuesday

December 3rd, 2013 by Woody

(Here’s where you can help WNP!)

December 3, 2013

Dear WNP Supporter (if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you are),

After having my birthday on Black Friday (ugh), it’s with great relief that I welcome a much better idea: Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday logo

Giving Tuesday is December 3 and hurray for that!

It’s a chance to forget the shopping and the advertising and the crowds to give to worthy causes or organizations you’d like to remember before the year is over. I have a few in mind. From the Philippines to my own neighborhood there is important work I want to support, efforts that make the world a better place. After the big picture, the really serious stuff of helping people have warm beds and enough food, I usually have something left over for the artistic and cultural. We need music and art and theater, and yes, history.

We may be the only history organization that pays dues to other history organizations, but we love them all. We’re all in this together, sharing and preserving the past of one of the world’s great cities. My personal checks will be on the way to the California Historical Society, the San Francisco History Association, San Francisco Heritage, and the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society. And, of course, the Western Neighborhoods Project.

Take a look at our official end-of-year appeal letter to our terrific long-time supporters. In it, you will read what a great year we’ve had and what exciting new developments are coming our way in 2014, including a bigger new home.

Policeman giving ticket in 1926

Not the kind of giving I meant.

Anything we are able to accomplish in preserving and sharing the history of western San Francisco is due to our volunteers, partner groups, supportive government agencies and nonprofit councils, individual contributors of articles, photos, and stories, and most of all, our paying members. Our great thanks we offer to all of you for believing in our mission.

Please consider supporting WNP on this Giving Tuesday. We’re a California nonprofit corporation, so your contribution is likely tax-deductible. Your generous gift will go a long way to developing and expanding the work we do.

Here’s a button for PayPal, where you can use a credit card.

Or you can mail us a check to our nifty cool new office. Please note “Annual Donation” in the memo line:

Western Neighborhoods Project
4016 Geary Boulevard, Suite A
San Francisco, CA 94118-3117

Thank you all again for your support through the years, and my best to you and yours this holiday season!


Please note that your donation is in addition to your regular membership fee.

Secret Room Unearths San Francisco School District Memorabilia

May 17th, 2013 by David
SF Board of Education Invoices

SF Board of Education invoice ledgers contain purchasing records from 1909 - 1917

Purchasing records from the San Francisco Board of Education dating from 1909 to 1917 were recently uncovered after being carefully hidden for over thirty years in a San Bruno residence. Five ledgers measuring about 18 by 12 inches were saved from destruction in the late 1970s by a history- conscious employee of the San Francisco Unified School District and reposited in a secret room beneath his home.

The ledgers were originally shown to me in the early 1980s by the father of a high school friend of mine named Theresa Hall. Theresa’s father had saved them from the trash in the course of his work as a mover for the school district.

At the time, my father owned a stationery store and I thought that the ledgers, still something we sold at the time, would make a great window display. But Theresa’s dad was very protective of his collection, going so far as to tell his daughter to “never let David have the ledgers.”

Fast-forward thirty-plus years.

Theresa’s father dies suddenly, and she faces the monumental task of emptying his storage rooms. Our collector had worked for the San Francisco Unified School District starting in the late 1970s, a time when things were changing in the city. His job took him to various locations, and when he came across discarded materials that he liked, he would bring them home and squirrel them away. He didn’t want things he felt had meaning to be lost. The result was a San Bruno basement full of papers, photos, and furniture.

Theresa called me about the ledgers, which no one which no one had seen since her father had shown them to me decades before. “They must be here somewhere,” she said. “He would not have given them away.”

We didn’t actually know what the large ledgers contained, but in curiosity, we searched, room after room, pile after pile, cabinet after cabinet, box after box, and came up empty. Yes, there were old school clocks, oak student chairs, a 1930 class panorama of the San Francisco Janitors Engineers School (which has been donated to the San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library), but we couldn’t find the ledgers.

Then Theresa’s mother said, “Well, you know, there is a secret room.” [Here’s where a movie cues suspense music: “Dum, dum, dum!”]

Invoice of the 1909 vaccinations of 1250 San Francisco school children

Theresa’s father had been an artist, and a collector, and some might say a hoarder of sorts. He had an eye toward historyand maybe just a touch of paranoia. Of course he had a secret room.

After pulling away boxes and furniture, we exposed the basement’s back wall by removing stained glass artwork and hanging clothes. Once we had everything clear, we discovered the “wall,” complete with 2×4 studs, was actually a door that swung outward on hinges. Within, another door opened the opposite direction.

Inside, we saw more of what we had gone through earlier: stacks of boxes, rolls of carpet, scrap wood. Emptying the room took some time, but along the way we came across two remarkable artifacts, one with a distinctly west side focus: a large silk banner for the Laguna Honda School’s Parent Teacher Association, circa 1915, and another banner for Garfield Primary School on Telegraph Hill, which was presented to the school in 1912 by the Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West.

Garfield Primary School Banner 1912

Finally, at the back of the secret room, we found what we were originally looking for, the ledgers, wrapped in plastic for protection and stacked on top of a 1920 Western Electric portable audiometer (a large walnut box that looks as if it might be filled with pirate booty.)

“We found the treasure!”

And a treasure they are. The five large ledgers document from 1909 to 1917 the bills paid by the then Board of Education to individual suppliers of goods.

Actual itemized invoices are pasted in, detailing school supplies, construction material for the building of Polytechnic High School, groceries, books, coal, fuel oil, water consumption, teamster bills, car fare for employees, and a host of other costs, including the 1909 vaccination of 1,250 school children by the College of Physicians and Surgeons at a cost of 10c per child.

What happens next to the treasure trove? The San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library already has a lot of the school district’s historical records, and seems a likely new home.

Window washing for Lowell High School 1913

Also likely is that these books and assorted artifacts, hidden for years, would have been lost forever if it were not for one man and his secret room.

Roadhouse History to Be Revealed on February 16, 2013

January 23rd, 2013 by Woody

On Saturday evening, February 16, 2013, the Western Neighborhoods Project will be hosted by 3 Fish Studios in the Outer Sunset District for a presentation on Ocean Beach roadhouse history.

Images and video of the fascinating roadhouse moldings and decorations recently discovered between floors of a nondescript Ocean Beach apartment building will be part of the presentation by David Gallagher and Woody LaBounty.

In the 1890s and early 1900s, Ocean Beach had a series of large entertainment venues that offered music, liquor, food, and dancing. These roadhouses stretched along the length of the Great Highway from the Cliff House down to Tait’s at the Beach. With the exception of the Cliff House, all succumbed to residential development in the twentieth century.

Since 1999, the Western Neighborhoods Project’s mission has been to share the history of San Francisco’s west side. 3 Fish Studios was formed in 2007 by painters and printmakers, Annie Galvin and Eric Rewitzer, and in July 2012 they relocated and remade an old grocery store at 4541 Irving Street (at 47th Avenue) as a store, studio, and class space. We’re very excited to partner with them on this event.

What: Ocean Beach Roadhouse History (and maybe some snacks and drink)

Where: 3 Fish Studios at 4541 Irving Street (at 47th Avenue)

When: 7:00 p.m.

How much: Free, although we will take donations, of course

See you there!

Kezar Stadium & WNP Podcast

January 3rd, 2013 by Woody

As you may have seen on our Twitter feed, today is the anniversary of the last game the San Francisco 49ers played at Kezar Stadium. Woody and David chat about it in the first WNP podcast:

WNP Podcast#1: Kezar Stadium

Our 2013 Resolution

January 1st, 2013 by Woody

Welcome to 2013, although some people around the office have rebranded the year “20-Funston” to reflect our western San Francisco bias. (Feel free to explain this joke to your friends in North Beach and Noe Valley, who may be unfamiliar with the street-name conventions out here in the Avenues.)

Happy 20-Funston!

Whatever we call it, the year’s first day is when slates are wiped clean (or we like to think they are); the previous 365 days of life are distilled by the media into top ten lists and capsule obituaries of celebrity deaths; and sixty percent of Americans resolve to act better, do more, and/or weigh less.

We’re no different. The Western Neighborhoods Project enters 2013 with real changes and, yes, a big resolution for the organization.


Our members have already heard of our major initiative for 2013: a dedication to share local history with the public every day of the year. We’re calling it “WNP-365,” which we admit isn’t as clever as “20-Funston,” but it is a truly serious effort to broaden and deepen our impact.

Beginning today, for 365 straight days, we’ll share the rich history and cultures of the western neighborhoods. There will be something to digest, enjoy, or wonder over every day—a talk, a walking tour, a historical image, video, or article on our Web site, blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account.

This is an ambitious and exciting plan spurred by a reexamination of our mission to preserve and share the history of western San Francisco. We intend to make our work a vital part of this city’s cultural life, because we believe public understanding of community history can make a big difference today and tomorrow.

Our board estimates we need to raise an additional $35,000 this year to make our “WNP-365″ daily plan a reality, to create more SF West History Minute videos, host a summer speakers’ series, record and transcribe memories, publish more articles and images on architectural, social, and natural history, and keep digging, advocating, and reminding everyone what a special place we call home. I am proud and humbled to report that our membership has already responded to the call over the last month with donations equaling 20% of our goal. I encourage more of you to join us by donating a bit more if you’re a member and joining if you’re not. Help us make this a special year.

Help us make WNP-365 a reality!

Keep in Touch

Going forward, we’ll keep you apprised of our expanded offerings planned for the year (let’s put the fun in 20-Funston!), including some exciting news about “Chow and Chatter” get-togethers for west side old-timers, a project on the history of Kelly’s Cove below the Cliff House, and documenting Irish-American culture in the Avenues.

We might have more channels of communication than Sutro Tower:

This blog: Inside the Outside Lands.

Our Facebook page:

Our Twitter feed (note the “z”—someone took outsidelands):

Outside Lands News Monthly Email: Just enter your email address in the “WNP Newsletter” box on the site’s front page:

WNP Member Newsletter (you can get a hard copy in your postal mailbox, or emailed as a pdf, but you have to be a member!):

Funston Avenue at Lincoln Way, 1940. 7-line streetcar on right, streetcar "boneyard" on left.