Dwight Eisenhower was President. Gas was 29 cents per gallon. And you could drive your car through the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market.
In 1955, amateur filmmaker Tullio Peligrini strapped a CinemaScope camera to a car on a marvelously clear day and took a driving tour of The City. Peligrini unstrapped the camera too, for sweeping shots of Seal Rock, the Bay Bridge, and just about every other attraction that mid-50s San Francisco had to offer.
You can see the light standards of Seals Stadium peering out over a very naked Highway 101 in the film’s opening seconds. Fun-looking Playland and the scary-looking Skytram are also among the long-gone remnants relegated to memories. All the regular San Francisco players make an appearance: Muni, Yellow cabs (Luxor and DeSoto too), cable cars, and the 49-mile scenic drive.
Some things have aged but barely changed: Much Golden Gate Park and the Conservatory of Flowers look as they do today. The Odd Fellows sign at 7th and Market is freshly-painted in royal blue. The Palace of Fine Arts, described as the film’s narrator as “crumbling,” has moved in the opposite direction, being refurbished and maintained over the years into a signature destination.
The delight is in the details: The train tracks along the Marina Green, the pier at Ocean Beach, KSFO in the ground floor of the Fairmont building and many more.
We have the Prelinger collection to thank once again for preserving and presenting this slice of San Francisco history.