Wednesday: Bernal History Project Presents “History of the Bernal Cut” (Plus Potluck)

Bernal Cut looking north, circa 1912. Southern Pacific train passing under the Richland Street bridge. (Image courtesy OpenSFHistory, from the Emiliano Echeverria/Randolph Brandt Collection)

At the Bernal Library on Wednesday evening, Nov. 15, starting at 7 pm, The Bernal Heights History Project will host John Blackburn and Bill Cassidy as they present a slideshow about the history of the Bernal Cut.

The origins of the Bernal Cut lie in the early San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, which later became the Southern Pacific Railroad. Dug out of the hills between Mission and Randall streets and San Jose and St. Mary’s avenues, the “cut” established a shorter rail travel route into and out of the City.

Southern Pacific Railroad entering Bernal Cut as seen from Richland-Miguel overpass, April 5, 1922. (Photo: SFDPW, courtesy C.R. collection)

This single-track route remained a passenger route until 1932, continued to operate for freight trains through the 1940s. It was essential to transporting coffins and visitors to the cemeteries in Colma.

These days, The Cut is known as San Jose Avenue, and it carries the J-Church streetcar and I-280 automotive traffic.

John and Virginia Kibre will bring their fully working scale model of the train and the Cut, which they built for the Bernal History Project for San Francisco History Days 2017.

This is the last meeting of the year and will be a pot-luck event. Bring goodies of any kind: chips and dips, sodas and water, noshes, sushi, sweets, or anything to share. BHP will provide home-baked cookies and coffee.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free, kid-friendly, and open to all. Street parking: can be tricky because this is St. Kevin’s bingo night.

Saturday: Alumni Invited to the St. Anthony/Immaculate Conception All-Class Reunion


Calling all former students of St. Anthony, Immaculate Conception, and St. Anthony-Immaculate Conception Elementary. It’s school reunion time.

This Saturday, November 4, St. Anthony’s alumni are invited  to 299 Precita (at Folsom) to celebrate a 12:00 Mass with luncheon to follow. There will be parking in the schoolyard.

Tickets cost $25, and reservations are required. Contact Constance Dalton at (415) 642-6130 or cdalton@saicsf.org.

This is the third annual all-class reunion, and all classmates past and present are welcome, along with their families.

Last year’s guest of honor was Bernice Fugundes Greenblat, who grew up on Shotwell Street and graduated from St. Anthony’s in 1945.

St. Anthony School opened in 1894. It was founded by Mother Pia Backes and the Dominican Sisters along with the Franciscan Friars of St. Anthony of Padua Church to serve the German families of the Mission and Bernal Heights.


In 1957, the Sisters opened Immaculate Conception Elementary School two blocks up the hill on Treat Avenue, for the Italian families of the neighborhood. The schools were merged in the 1990s.

Wednesday: See and Hear The Story of Angelo Morosi’s Life in Bernal Heights

Angelo Morino (right) with his friend Bob Bonino on Bernal hill, circa 1927. Photo courtesy Lyn Morosi-Allison,

Following last month’s successful presentation of Bill Cassidy’s oral history interview with Melvin Anderson, on Wednesday, October 18, the Bernal History Project will screen excerpts from Bill’s interview with Angelo Morosi (1915-2006) alongside a slideshow of Morosi family photos.

We are delighted to welcome members of Angelo’s family, including his children and their cousins, to the show!

Angelo and Elva Morosi with their De Soto, 1938. Photo courtesy Lyn Morosi-Allison

Angelo’s family came from Italy, and moved to Bernal from North Beach as World War I was ending.

He and his siblings grew up on Holladay and Powhattan, sliding down the hill on pieces of cardboard and being teased about bringing salami sandwiches to school when lots of the other kids had peanut butter. Later, he ran a successful painting business, and raised a family of his own with his wife, Elva.

Angelo with his children, Dick, Joyce, and Lyn Morosi, circa 1957. Photo courtesy Lyn Morosi-Allison

Thirty years ago, Bill, a lifelong resident of northeastern Bernal Heights, filmed a series of interviews that evolved into an oral history project. He sought out people who had been born and/or raised on the hill and asked them to share their stories.

Bill’s interviews have rarely been seen publicly since they were recorded; he is kindly sharing these with us for the first time. His work has helped inspire the Bernal History Project’s own research and oral history recordings.

The meeting starts on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs.

As always, it is free, kid-friendly, and open to all. Muni: 24, 67. Street parking: can be tricky because this is St. Kevin’s bingo night.

Wednesday: An Oral History About Swedish-Americans in Bernal Heights

From left: Bill Cassidy; The Swedish Lutheran Emanuel Church at Cortland and Folsom, as seen in the1920s; Melvin Anderson. (Photos: Bernal History Project)

On Wednesday evening, Sept. 20, the Bernal History Project hosts a special presentation, courtesy of Bill Cassidy, a lifelong resident of northeastern Bernal Heights and a remarkable source of information about our neighborhood.

Thirty years ago, Bill filmed a series of interviews that evolved into an oral history project. He sought out people who had been born and raised on the hill and asked them to share their stories. “When they died, this would all be gone,” he says. “And then the history’s gone, too.” Bill wanted to show younger and newer residents of Bernal what life had been like.

His interviews have rarely been seen publicly since they were recorded; he is kindly sharing these with us for the first time. His work has helped inspire the Bernal History Project’s own research and oral history recordings.

This month’s meeting will feature around 40 minutes of Bill’s 1987 interview with Melvin Anderson (1911-2003).

Melvin’s parents, Alfred and Tilda, came to the United States from Sweden in the 1880s and moved to Brewster and Costa Streets before the start of the 20th century. Melvin goes into depth about his remembrances of growing up on the hill. (A cousin was Jack Anderson, the Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter.)

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp on Wednesday, Sept. 20 in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it’s free, kid-friendly, and open to all.

Wednesday: A Visual History of Bernal Heights in the Movies

1968: The chase begins on Army Street just east of Bryant, in Bullitt

On Wednesday, June 21 at 7 pm, come to the Bernal library for a presentation hosted by Bernal History Project’s Precita Park/St. Anthony’s expert, Ben Valdez. Ben has compiled some seldom-seen shots of bygone Bernal from family home movies and more familiar sources.

The collections includes excerpts from The Ordeal of Patty Hearst, a 1979 made-for-TV movie that actually used the Symbionese Liberation Army safe house at 288 Precita to film in (and which startled Ben’s grandparents, who used to live at that address in the 1960s). You’ll see Better Call Saul‘s Jonathan Banks as Bill Harris, jogging along Army Street and buying fish from a street vendor on Precita before being arrested by FBI agent Dennis Weaver for his role in Hearst’s kidnapping.

We’ll also have footage of the 1974 Streets of San Francisco episode “The Most Deadly Species,” in which guest star Brenda Vaccaro plays a hit woman who seduces Michael Douglas and gets up to no good in St. Anthony’s Church.

And let’s not forget the famous chase scene in the Steve McQueen 1968 classic movie Bullitt.

Ben will also show some family home movies of weddings from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Anyone who has Bernal-related home movies or other clips to suggest is invited to bring them on a USB stick or disk to show at the meeting.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it’s free and open to all.

Wednesday: Learn The History of Earthquake Shacks in Bernal Heights

111 Years Ago Today: The 1906 earthquake, as seen from Bernal Hill in April 18, 1906. The St. Anthony’s Church steeple is visible in the foreground. (Image courtesy of the Bernal History Project)

This month’s Bernal History Project meeting is dedicated to the memory of the earthquake and fire on April 18, 1906. The meeting happens on  Wednesday, April 19, at 7 p.m. at the Bernal Heights Library (500 Cortland). All are invited.

Woody LaBounty and (former Bernal neighbor) David Gallagher, co-founders of the Western Neighborhoods Project, will present a slideshow featuring selected OpenSFHistory views of San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. They’ll also tell the story of the Relief Cottage Plan that housed more than 16,000 refugees after the disaster.

These refugee cottages were popularly known as earthquake shacks. “Earthquake shacks are palpable reminders of the greatest disaster the city has experienced,” Woody says. “The surviving cottages are also, like the phoenix on the city’s seal, a symbol of San Francisco’s resilience.”

Camp 23, in Precita Park, had 250 refugee shacks, many of which still exist in Bernal Heights. (Courtesy SFPublic Library History Collection.)

Immediately after the 1906 earthquake and fire, tented camps for residents who’d lost their homes sprang up across the city in parks and other public spaces. In Bernal Heights, this included  a camp in Precita Park.

The shacks were very basic, one-roomed wooden structures without plumbing or heating, and they were intended to be temporary. Residents paid a minimal rent and had to obey military-style rules against peeking, drunkenness, and misbehavior in the camps.

After about a year, the camps began to close —  and some people took their shacks with them. More than 5,600 earthquake shacks, built in city parks as part of organized relief encampments, were moved out of refugee camps to be used as housing throughout the city, including Bernal Heights.

The Western Neighborhoods Project saved three of these cottages from demolition in the Sunset District in 2006, placing a restored one on Market Street for the centennial of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

Surviving refugee cottages in Bernal Heights, Santa Cruz, and elsewhere in San Francisco. (Courtesy the Bernal History Project)

Woody last talked to BHP about refugee cottages in 2004, when we knew of just a handful of surviving shacks in Bernal Heights. Since then, BHP has identified dozens more, and we’re discovering more all the time.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free, kid-friendly, and open to all.