Photo from Early 1970s Reveals Evidence of Barber Shortage in Bernal Heights


Our friends at the Bernal Heights History project just shared this ridiculously groovy photo of Bernal residents posing for a photo on Cortland Avenue (looking west from Andover) in the early 1970s.

Let’s zoom and enhance to partake of some details:


A few things to notice:

  • Today’s Lucky Horseshoe used to be called The Cherokee.
  • There was a phone booth at the corner! Perhaps that’s where everyone went to change into superhero costumes?
  • Today’s Lama’s Kenpo Karate used to be the Middle East Delicatessen corner store.
  • It looks like there was a pharmacy in the location of today’s Discount Club liquor store.
  • Judging from the hirsute appearance of the gentlemen, it we can surmise that either a) there were no barbers in San Francisco at the time, or b) business was probably very slow for them. (EDITORIAL NOTE: That was a joke.)

Meanwhile, there’s a fun conversation happening at the Bernal History Project Facebook page as some Bernal old-timers try to identify the people in the photo.

UPDATE, January 26: Bernal alum and black-belt history geek David Gallagher points us toward a terrific, reverse-angle 1951 shot of the Arrow Pharmacy that occupied 439 Cortland (today’s Discount Club liquors store):


The caption says:

When Arrow Pharmacy on Cortland was sold by owner Michael Anthony Callagy, Jr. in 1996, San Francisco columnist Steve Rubenstein penned “Ode to a Pharmacy’s Passing – For seniors, S.F. druggist’s closing is a bitter pill” in memoriam.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Bernal Heights History Project on Facebook. Arrow Pharmacy, via Western Neighborhoods Project

21 thoughts on “Photo from Early 1970s Reveals Evidence of Barber Shortage in Bernal Heights

  1. That phone booth was here into the ’90s — and played some role in the drug dealing that was one of the primary businesses on Cortland at the time. Not sure exactly when it was banished, but at some point in the ’90s most of the remaining phone booths in the city were removed (including one in front of Safeway on Mission) because they were primarily used in drug deals.

  2. If I remember correctly, Jake’s Barber Shop was in business right on the same block. Can’t help but wonder how many victims Male Pattern Baldness has claimed since that picture was taken. As for the pharmacy, high school chum and long term employee (80’s/90’s) Hector Basurto was there til the end. Moved on to become SFPD and only recently passed away too soon and too young. He sold me my very first pack of condoms there. They were Magnums, I believe (yeah, wishful thinking). Anyway, a very cool dude.

    • Jake was my Dad and brother’s barber. He was such a nice man! I tagged along when my brother went in for a cut, and he always had something to keep me entertained, given that his shop was chiefly a place for the guys.

  3. Mike used to own the drug store, a good man. Hung on to the business as chain drugstores took over the pill business. Sons of Hawaii used to hang out at the Cherokee (their club house was on Cortland}, lots of good fights there, get your ass kicked pronto. Pro boozers drank at Duvals, dump of a place that served cheap watered liquor. Photo looks to be around the time the Wild Side moved in and took over the pre-school. At least one abandoned house on every other block, 70% of street parking had no cars, had the feel of a ghost town sometimes. One could buy a house for $15,000.

    • My parents bought my childhood home in the latter part of the 50’s, and raised by brother and I in it. I moved out as a young girl about a year into college. Even when I moved, I remained connected to the neighborhood, as my parents remained in Bernal Heights. I would also come every week to attend mass @ St. Kevin’s, with my boyfriend (and eventual husband) in tow. I ended up moving back to the same home in 2005, several years after my father had passed away. Most all of the original neighbors still lived on the block, which was a wonderful homecoming for me and for my family. I also found that many of my childhood friends had migrated back to their childhood homes as well! It’s been great catching up with those I grew up with, reminiscing about the good times we shared, and seeing each others children grow up. Never had thought I’d be back in the old ‘hood, but am just as happy as I was back then. It has been especially wonderful raising them in the same house myself and their uncle was raised in. There are several generations of immense love within these walls!

  4. I used to shop at the drugstore. I remember vividly when the pharmacist (I assume he was the owner) had to quit operating as an independent — took his client list to Safeway on 16th street. He went over there, too — but I could see he hated working there. He “retired” shortly thereafter. A crying shame. After that, the space was a video store for a while. (Where the meat counter is now at Goodlife used to be a video store — they’re the ones who moved to the former drugstore location. Goodlife expanded into that space.) I believe the Sons of Hawaii’s house was on Anderson — about two doors up. At least the row of motorcycles used to be parked there. I bought my house in ’78 for $70K, and NEVER ventured beyond my block on Ellsworth after dark. (Fit Bernal Fit location was an abandoned gas station. There was a phone booth there. I remember having to use that phone when I first moved in to arrange for the refrigerator delivery — it took several days for PT&T to get the phone installed in your house. THEY had to do it – modular “plug ins” were still mostly unavailable.)

  5. Wow, I see a friend of mine in that photo! She hasn’t aged a bit, either! There were so many more young people and kids back then…groups of teens can look pretty intimidating, I suppose. My family did so much of our business on Cortland – dry cleaning, barber, drug store, butcher, etc. We knew all of the owners, and went to school with some of their children. I don’t recall Bernal being any more dangerous than the surrounding neighborhoods in the very late ’70’s/early 80’s, which is when I was in high school, but since I knew so many of the business owners and residents, I felt quite safe. I had to be on my best behavior, however. Our family had a reputation, and if I did anything remotely unbecoming of a young lady, like talk to the cute neighborhood boy with the fancy car, my mother somehow find out, and I had some ‘splainin to do! It was a village then as well.

  6. I’ve lived in Bernal almost a year now and I don’t see myself going anywhere else. First thing I did was to try and learn the history of the area. I’ve met a lot of my neighbors and love this village on the hill feel. I enjoy playing my guitar in my backyard and the neighbor that shares my back fence always peaks over and says hello or the kids will sit on their steps and listen to me play. Thanks for sharing this photo and giving us a great look at the history of Bernal! I love reading the comments of the people who have been here a long time 🙂

  7. Not to start a debate; I love my neighbors both new and old, but I miss these folks. I did not live in Bernal in the 70s; I came in the 80s but many of them were still around.

    I see today we are celebrating our wonderful library (which I too love), but I have to say that while we celebrate our new and improved and somewhat sanitized library, it pains me that we chose to obliterate that crazy, weird hippy mural that these folks, or people much like them, lovingly painted. (What were they thinking? I’m guessing; peace, love and understanding.) That mural had distinctive character — making our library unlike any other library in the city — kind of like the people shown in these great photos.

    Thank you for the reminder History Project,

  8. Todd,
    Your primary joke about long hair and lack of barbers is so….retrograde! I heard the very same lame joke countless times back in the ’70s from “straights” who were coming from a place of discomfort and fear, instead of congratulating the “long-hairs” for getting their groove on. Not that you’re coming from that place, but it’s a little jarring, and disappointing, to hear such an ill-tuned echo from long ago.

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