It was sometime in the 60’s, there were Hippies in the park and the Haight Asbury looked like a Jane Fonda propaganda film. Oh wait, it was a Jane Fonda propaganda film. Bra burning was in and conformity was out. Free Love and Flower Power where the words of the day. But these were the days of my childhood.
Simpler times and safer days… Growing up in San Francisco seemed like a giant play ground for me when I was young. For a token or a nickel, you could get anywhere in “the city” as San Francisco is referred to by the locals. I can still recall the clink of my token as it hit the metal trap doors of the fare box and the shoosh-clank the fare box made when the driver flipped its lever. Even the rip of the transfer ticket is something remembered. “Transfer please,” Shurrreerip.. “Thank you.” Running down the isle of the bus as the driver took off from a dead stop was always fun and made for an exciting second.
Sitting in the back because it was always cool to sit in the back, smashing your face against the window. You would watch as the bus drove down each street, passing people, things and places, some now gone. You would hear the sounds of passengers talking in a verity of tongues. I swear back then, you would know where you were in the city just by the different languages you would hear as you rode the bus. Districts were more areas defined by nationality than by locations as they are today.
Yes, growing up in San Francisco so long ago was time I remember; my Tom Sawyer days;
HOUSE OF BAGELS
If you have never had a House of Bagels, bagel, then you have never had a bagel. Even today, years since I have had a House of Bagels, bagel, I can still imagine the smell of bagels baking in the big bagel ovens at the House of Bagels. Although, I would love to tell you the story of how I would show up at an open door, open to help keep the bagel cooks cool, in the wee hours of the morning and stand at the door as pans of hot bagels were drawn from the oven and how one of the men would grab one fresh out of the oven and hand it to me. Ohhh, how good it smelled when I ripped it in half, steam rolling out of the hot dough or how it tasted as I bit into it warm and fresh. You will have to wait, because I was 16 then and this story is when I was much younger.
Don’t get me wrong! I ate bagels from the House of Bagels in the 60’s and although I could tell you how good they were, how they seemed to melt in your mouth, how a ham and cheese bagel for lunch was much better than a ham and cheese on Wonderbread or how running home with a bag full hot, fresh of bagels from the House of Bagels was like winning a big prize. That’s not what this story is about, so I won’t!
No sir, I can’t tell you that story but still this is still a story about the House of Bagels, just not one that involves eating delicious, hot, fresh and Ohhhh so good bagels from the House of Bagels.
Not six block from my house on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond District or what was known by the locals the “avenues,”[the locals have names for everything if you haven’t noticed yet] was and still is the House of Bagels. For a kid, after closing the House of Bagels offered a playground of things to do. If you could figure out how to get behind the House of Bagels like my cousin Mark and I did, then you would have adventure after adventure playing in or with whatever was left or stored there. Many a war battle or treasure hunt was played out in the back but most of the fun took place on the side of the building.
If you have never been to San Francisco you wouldn’t know so I’ll tell you now most buildings, in most places are wall to wall each with no more than 1” of space between them that is except for the right hand side of the House of Bagels. At the House of Bagels there is, or perhaps was, at one time a space between it and the building to its right about 2 feet wide. I could be wrong though, could have been narrower or wider, age has a funny way of distorting things. Anyhow, this is not a space where you could walk because they had built a conveyor that stretched almost the entire length of the building from the back to the front. It was not one of those electric conveyors with a rubber belt but on that was made with metal rollers, the kind of rollers you would find on skateboard of the same era.
Armed with cardboard boxes or a flat piece of metal, Mark and I would take turns sliding down the conveyor, each time screaming our heads off, not because we were scared but because the echo of our screams bouncing off the walls and the vibrations on our butts heard in our screams seemed to make things more exciting. We went surfing shouting “Surfin USA!”, we slid down on our stomach yelling “SUPERMAN!!!” or “BATMAN!!!” we would stuff each other in to boxes and close them up then each take a turn pushing the other down the conveyor as fast as we could, the person within cloaked darkness who would at the end of the conveyor crash-out onto the sidewalk – laughing, sometimes crying.
Sadly, one day we went to the House of Bagels and someone had blocked off access to the conveyor with wood and a lock. Mark and I looked at each other, someone must have told them what we were doing. Probably that lady that always chased us off and with that our adventures at the House of Bagels ended.