Check Out the Phonographic Memories Podcast, Recorded in Bernal Heights

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We’ve said it before, and we know we’ll say it many more times to come:  Phonographic Memories is pretty special. Produced by Neighbor Corey Bloom and held monthly at the Bernal Heights Library on Cortland, Phonographic Memories is a live event for first-person storytelling about the relationships people have with the vinyl records they love.

You should check it out at the library, but now you can also enjoy Phonographic Memories from the safety and comfort of your favorite podcast streaming device. Cory  Bloom tells Bernalwood about the new Phonographic Memory podcast :

We here at Phonographic Memory used 2014 and 2015 to lay the foundation for our program, and really establish our live events at the Bernal Library and beyond. In 2016 we’re building up and expanding!

The podcast is our first step in that direction. We will be curating the episodes, selecting our favorite story and song combinations, and packaging them in easy to digest 10-15 minute episodes. We will release episodes every other week, so be sure to subscribe via iTunes. People can always stay up on our current happenings at PhonographicMemory.org, or on Facebook.

If you’re interested in presenting, please shoot us an email at Register@PhonographicMemory.org. Our next event is February 24th at the Bernal Library, starting at 7:00 PM.

As always, thanks for the support.

Your Bernalwood editor listened to Episode 1, and it’s really really good. Want a preview of what to expect? Here’s the teaser for the series:

Then and Now: Cortland at Nevada, 1931

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Here’s fun comparison showing the view from Cortland Ave. looking east from Nevada St. That’s July 31, 1931 up above, and January 18, 2016 below.

The most surprising thing about the two photos is that (apart from the sepia-tone coloring and more modern cars) the streetscape from this location hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last 85 years. The buildings on all four corners of the Nevada intersection are still in place and mostly unchanged.

Look a little more closely, and there’s one charming detail from way-back-when: There’s a young girl near the northwest corner riding a scooter down the hill toward Bayshore. Without a helmet! <Insert horrified parental gasp>

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But in a more substantive way, the view from this angle is somewhat misleading. Yes, the view looks similar today when you look down the hill, but when you’re at the bottom of the hill looking up, the changes are far more dramatic.

Here’s what that looked like. This is the view from Cortland at Bayshore, looking up the hill toward Nevada. There’s no date on this photo, but the cars on Cortland tell us it’s from roughly the same era as the older photo above; circa mid-1920s or early 1930s:

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Different! That first left turn is Hilton Street, and the embankment behind it now supports the highway 101 overpass. But most noteworthy is the big row of greenhouses visible just up the hill on the north side of Cortland. And, of course, no houses!

IMAGES: 1931 view, via UC Berkeley Bancroft Library. 2016 view by Telstar Logistics. View from Bayshore courtesy of the Bernal Heights History Project. 

A View of an Undeveloped Valley as Seen from St. Mary’s Park in 1941

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Courtesy of our friends OpenSF and the Western Neighborhoods Project, check out this terrific November 1941 view of the Islais Creek Valley on the south side of Bernal Heights, looking east from St. Mary’s Park, with Portola rising on the right side of the image.

That’s Alemany Boulevard running through the valley, and check out the cow (!!) grazing calmly on the hillside, roughly on the site where Alemany Farm sits today.

Even without knowing the date, there are a few visual hints that that this photo was taken just before the outbreak of World War II. What are the clues?

  • St. Mary’s Park was excavated in the 1920s, so the fact that the park exists in this shot tells us that the photo was taken sometime afterward.
  • The Allemany Farmer’s Market doesn’t exist yet. The farmer’s market moved to it’s present location in 1947, after relocating from the area around Duboce an Market Street.
  • The valley itself is still undeveloped, which tells us that the photo must have been taken sometime before the development of the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard during World War II. During the war, this valley became the site of a large barracks-style development created to give shipyard workers a place to live. Here’s a view of how those houses looked around 1950, as seen from the area just above the Farmer’s Market:

Today, of course, I-280 runs through this valley, and little remains of this rustic scene other than the terrain itself. But at least you can now visualize how it once looked. Mooooo!

Then and Now: Remembering Wild Days at the Motorcycle House on Moultrie

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The Big Old Goofy World blog recently shared some vivid memories about the residents who used to live in this storied house on Moultrie, south of Cortland:

What a difference two or three decades makes. We called this “the Hell’s Angels house” or “the Cheech and Chong house.” On the top we see it c. 1980s, and on the bottom today.

This house had so much drama that my brother and I, who didn’t have a TV, would often turn out the lights in our living room and watch the fighting and drunkenness. Guns, knives, family disputes, and high speed chases ended up here. These guys were straight from the cast of Sons of Anarchy. But they were also good neighbors, when they were sober. Dave, the main occupant in the 80s, was handy with motors and installed our garage door, still in use today. And we were told to knock on his door if we were in trouble. After the 89 quake, when portions of the city were burning, he rustled up a flat bed truck, big TV, and generator, and the whole block watched the news there on Moultrie Street.

Sadly, Dave was murdered in a drug deal a few blocks away in the early 90s. The house remained a haunt of motorcycle enthusiasts until the early 2000s, I think. It then went through a series of improvements that gradually made it look a lot more respectable (such as removing that big chained dog visible in the lower left of the top photo).

Hat tip: MissionMission

PHOTO: Big Old Goofy World

Vicky Walker Stars in New Podcast About Bernal Heights History

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The fabulous Vicky Walker is no stranger to Bernalwood readers; she’s a co-founder of the Bernal Heights History Project and an intrepid seeker of artifacts about the people and places that made our neighborhood what it is today.

As befits her status as Bernal’s Minister of History, Neighbor Vicky was recently invited to be a celebrity guest on the Outside Lands Podcast, an audio show created by Woody LaBounty and (former Bernal neighbor) David Gallagher of the Western Neighborhoods Project, to talk about the history of Bernal Heights.

Listen and learn, right here!

PHOTO: Bernal Hill, circa 1925

Bernal Writer Ponders the Fate of the California Dream

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In case you missed it over the weekend, Bernal neighbor Dan Duane had a very prominent, very thoughtful piece about the fate of the California Dream on the front page of the Sunday Review section in Sunday’s New York Times.

Neigbor Dan writes:

All over Northern California, there is a profound mood of loss: Oakland, long a bastion of African-American cultural life, has seen housing rental rates jump 20 percent this past year; San Francisco’s lesbian bars are closing, and the Castro gets less gay by the year.

Then there’s the shock of raising kids with public schools ranked among the worst in the nation, and public universities that have more than doubled in cost since 2007. Most of my outdoor pleasures are still available, but it’s getting scary with the desertification of subalpine ecosystems, Sierra snowpack at a historic low, as much as 20 percent of California’s once-majestic forests at risk of dying, and freeway traffic so ubiquitous that it can be soul-destroying just getting out of town to see all this stuff.

The real estate market, in the meantime, has become so bizarre that my funky little neighborhood is already beyond the reach of young doctors and lawyers — techies only need apply.

This may sound like the stuff of yet another nostalgic lament about the unsettling pace of change in California, but Neighbor Dan is too self-aware to fall into that dead-end trap; He knows people have been writing “California is over” essays for as long as there’s been a California.

Instead, he comes to a more nuanced realization: that the same dyanamism that makes California so unique is also what makes it so heartbreaking. As Dan puts it, “California has been changing so fast for so long that every new generation gets to experience both a fresh version of the California dream and, typically by late middle-age, its painful death.”

Whoa. Here’s Neighbor Dan’s essay. Don’t miss it.

Oh, also, Star Sighting!!! As destiny would have it, Bernalwood ran into Neighbor Dan on Sunday afternoon on the other side of town. We’d read his essay in the morning, so it was a locavore privilege to be able give him a big Bernal high five-later that same day:

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If you see Neighbor Dan out and about, we encourage you do the same.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Saturday: Celebrate at the Bernal Heights Library’s Gala 75th Anniversary Party

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Bernal Heights Library Dedication, October 20, 1940

Bernal Heights Library Dedication, October 20, 1940

Its not hyperbole to say that the Bernal Heights Branch Library is a pillar of our community, and we are incredibly lucky to have it. The building is lovely, the role it plays is invaluable, and the library staff work hard to make it all happen.

Our library turns 75 this weekend, and Bernal branch manager Valerie Reichert wants you to come to the birthday party:

We are having our 75th Anniversary on Saturday!

Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Bernal Heights Branch!
Saturday, October 10th 1:30- 4:00 pm

The Bernal Heights Branch is 75 years old. Come share stories and help celebrate our beautiful WPA branch built in 1940. Activities include : San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra, crafts making in the Children’s Room, refreshments and history slide shows. Volunteers and staff will invite you to record your “Hot Bernal Minute” which will be captured on iPads.

Fun! But let’s back up. Where did our glamorous library come from?

Here’s the basic history:

The Bernal Branch as a “library deposit station” was established in 1920 at 303 Cortland Avenue. As the neighborhood and library grew, it was moved, in 1936, to 324 Cortland. When that proved inadequate the neighbors lobbied for a new building.

The one floor branch library at 500 Cortland, was the 21st in the system and built on the site of the original Bernal School at a cost of $94,600. It was designed by Frederick H. Meyer, one of the most prolific and versatile architects in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century, funded by the Work Projects Administration and dedicated on October 21, 1940.

After 68 years of use, the branch closed for renovation, as part of the Branch Library Improvement Project, in February 2008. The renovation, with a budget of $5.7 million, was designed by staff of the City’s Bureau of Architecture under the supervision of Andrew Maloney. His design is an intelligent and elegant response to Meyer’s building which originally devoted only the upper level to library purposes, and incorporates such modernizations as ADA accessibility, and seismic and technological upgrades.

Thank you, FDR! See you on Saturday.

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PHOTOS: Top, Bernal library, circa 1940, via SFPL Online Historical Photo Archive. Below, parade on Cortland for the Bernal Heights Library, October 20, 1940. Via Living New Deal