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.

Sunday: Join a Fabulous, Fascinating Bernal-La Lengua Walking Tour

Valencia Street at Cesar Chavez (Army) Street looking south, June 9, 1920. (Source: SFMTA)

The fertile flatlands of Bernal Heights along Mission Street are home to many tasty restaurants, rollicking nightlife, and proud inhabitants who are famous for their hyperlocal pride and rebellious attitudes. Yet even if no one can quite agree what to call it — La Lengua? Mssion-Bernal? Bernal-Mission? South of Army? — Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street is one of the most vibrant micro-hoods in all of San Francisco, and tastemakers around town are just starting to realize that.

Underpinning all this, La Lengua also has a rich history that extends all the way back to our primordial ancestor, Jose Cornelio Bernal, whose ranch gave our neighborhood its name and whose homestead was located on the site of today’s St. Luke’s Hospital.

This weekend, on Sunday Nov. 12 starting at 10 am, Bernal Neighbor Michael Nolan will join forces with neighborhood enthusiasts to lead a walking tour of Mission-Bernal La Lengua Bernal-Mission South of Army:

District Nine Neighbors for Housing presents a Mission-Bernal Walking Tour ~ Past, Present & Future, Part One, Led by Gillian Gillett

$5 covers tour guide materials for participants. We convene at Tierra Mia Coffee, Valencia & Mission at 10am and conclude at El Buen Comer, Mission & Kingston, at Noon for Brunch.

Our guide and neighbor, Gillian Gillett, will describe the street widenings (and sidewalk narrowings) of Cesar Chavez (once Army), Guerrero and San Jose Avenue, the aborted Mission Freeway and Southern Crossing, and troubles at St. Luke’s Hospital: 1940-2017.  We look at housing development opportunities along the route.

Gillian Gillett is a neighborhood activist (San Jose/Guerrero Coalition to Save Our Streets), public space advocate (Greening Guerrero and Guerrero Park), and mom of two. During her day job, she is Director of Transportation Policy in Mayor Lee’s office, focusing on Caltrain, bike share, California High Speed Rail, BART and the coming of the Autonomous Vehicle.

Part Two will take place in January, originate at Tierra Mia Coffee and head south past the Royal Cuckoo, 3300 Club/Graywood Hotel-Cole Hardware-Safeway sites and finish at Randall Street.  More details will follow as the date approaches.

To join, use this link to get an invitation from Neighbor Michael.

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.

1977: Remember When Wild Side West Arrived in Bernal Heights?

Wild Side West

Heads up: There’s a terrific article in the San Francisco Bay Times that provides a fabulously detailed and personal history of Wild Side West, Bernal’s truly fabulous neighborhood-lesbian bar on Cortland Street.

Arguably,  Wild Side West may be the last lesbian bar in San Francisco.

But did you know that Wild Side first opened in Oakland in 1962? Did you know that, at the time, it was illegal in California for women to work as bartenders? Did you know that Wild Side West then moved to North Beach in San Francisco, before coming to Bernal Heights in 1977?

Here’s what that was like:

In 1977, Pat and Nancy moved WSW (including the actual physical bar and mirror) one last time … to San Francisco’s still untamed blue-collar neighborhood, Bernal Heights. Further than the miles on the map from the ever-growing crowds of downtown, they bought an 1890s Italianate two-story and settled down. More than just a place of business, WSW at 424 Cortland was their home.

Less than two days after the bar opened, the neighbors welcomed them by throwing a big rock right through the front window as people were in the bar. Pat and bartender “Uncle” Bill Owens just sighed and covered the window with a sheet of wood, which remains covered. But that didn’t stop the welcoming committee. A couple of nice broken toilets were also tossed in the other window. Pat and Nancy, and their renegade group of backyard gardeners, turned the porcelain fixtures into lovely flower pots in WSW’s incredible “secret” garden. If ever there was a way to take someone’s ugly intention and turn into a living retort, they nailed it.

Head over to The Bay Times to read the whole thing.

PHOTO: Wild Side West by Telstar Logistics.

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.

Historical Reminder: The Lines at the Bernal Safeway Have Sucked for (at Least) 45 Years

Last night on the Twitters, @albuhhh asked:

This is a reasonable question. Have the lines at our Bernal Safeway always been so terrible? The short answer is: Yes, pretty much.

The Bernal Safeway was built in the early 1960s, but back in February 2015, Bernalwood uncovered an important historical document that revealed the endemic nature of the miserable lines at our local supermarket. Since the passage of time has done little to improve the situation, we’ll now reprise that 2015 post for the benefit of our newer neighbors, if only to remind them that complaining about our local Safeway is a hallowed Bernal Heights bonding ritual:

The Citizens of Bernalwood recently took up cyber-pitchforks and -torches to complain about the ridiculously long lines at the Bernal Heights Safeway on Mission Street at 29th?  Remember how we hoped — naively, perhaps — that perhaps maybe someone at Safeway corporate might hear our gnashing of teeth, and take pity upon our sad souls, and remedy the situation?

Well, don’t count on it.

Recently, while browsing through a back issue of the Bernal Journal from 1972, your Bernalwood editor was darkly entertained to find an impassioned article complaining about… the ridiculously long lines at the Bernal Heights Safeway!

I wish I was kidding about this, but I am not. Behold, a time capsule from [45] years ago, written by Bernal Journal reporter “Vera Disgruntla” (click to embiggen):

1972_Souvenier Edition

The similarities between this Bernal Journal article from 1972 and the comments section of Bernalwood’s post about the Bernal Safeway are comical in their utter sameness.  Here’s a depressing excerpt pulled from the 1972 article shown above:

One man has vowed never to shop there — he gets his meat at the Pioneer Market dry good at 30th and Mission Market, and fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Market at the foot of Bernal Hill. Another man goes once a week to the Marina Safeway. A woman told me she and her husband always drive the five minutes further to get to the Diamond Heights Safeway, where, because they never have to wait to check out there, they actually save time! These may be the only real alternatives.

But I am still mad – for me, and everyone around here who continually has this frustrating time waste wait at our store. The faces in the lines seem to say, “it’s always been like this; we’ve ALWAYS had to wait.”

So there you have it. Long lines have been a fixture at our local Safeway since even before 1972, and after 40+ years, it would seem that Safeway management still does not give a flying Fig Newton about the problem. But hey, at least they’re consistent.

In light of these facts, Bernalwood would now like to officially propose the following:

1) Let’s bulldoze this Safeway, since it so obviously suffers from intergenerational corporate indifference.

2) Let’s save that cool Taoist Safeway mosaic, for posterity, or for use in a replacement structure (see below).

3) Let’s build a few hundred units of much-needed housing on this long-neglected site, with the new ground-floor space dedicated to a more modern supermarket (something kind of like that new mixed-use building that was recently erected on Ocean).

4) While we’re at it, let’s get serious about asking BART to build that 30th Street infill station they’re thinking about again. Hurry up, please.

… because really, after banging our Bernalese heads against the walls at this Safeway for five decades, it may just be time to give up and try something else.