Photo by Brad Schram
We spied some great photos on Flickr of the fire at Sutro Baths on June 26, 1966, and asked the photographer Brad Schram if we could repost them on the WNP site. He shared some memories of that day, which provide a glimpse back to what it was like in the non-digital age:
“I had very little disposable income. My cheap telephoto lens cost $105, paid to the camera store in three monthly installments–$105 was 20% of my month’s salary. I ate lots of peanut butter and crackers in those days, my income going to payments on my used MGB and rent. The relevance of this will become clear below.
“You can see from the photos that it was a lovely clear day, wind coming off the ocean. Because I felt boxed in and generally unhappy in SF, being a country boy, my favorite thing was to get in the MGB, take the top down, and drive to Marin where I could cruise the back roads and stop in at Muir Woods or the Bolinas Bay Audubon Sanctuary to hike, look at birds, and maybe take a photo or two. Gas was $.36 a gallon and the MGB got about 25mpg. In SF my favorite thing was to go birding in Golden Gate Park and wander the museums, which had free entry at the time. (another favorite thing was riding the cable car with friends from Market St to Fisherman’s Wharf and back–$.25 each way and no waiting for space on a car, just run and jump on one as it went by)
“So that Sunday likely found me on my way to Marin (why else would I have my camera and 400mm lens with me), top down in the sunshine, feeling free, motoring up the Great Highway. I remember I was alone. I also remember seeing the first puff of smoke go up ahead from far south on the Great Highway. As I got closer I found a parking space and took the single shot showing the Cliff House and stalled traffic. Film and processing was expensive (processing alone was equivalent to about 10 gallons of gas) and so you have copies of all but two of my total output on the fire. The other two are redundant and not as clear.
“I then must have cut up Balboa St. and worked my way into Sutro Heights Park after cutting over on 48th Ave. I remember a lot of people in the park who, like me, were drawn by the smoke and observing the goings on. (it’s interesting to think how that scene would have looked today, with people taking photos and videos with their cell phones!) I took a couple shots from the park above and worked down to street level where I took the shot including the fire engines. You can see policemen holding people back in the photo. I wish I’d taken more photos at street level, the fire trucks and the whole scene is amazing.”
Thanks, Brad, for sharing the photos. More on Sutro Baths and the fire can be read on our site: