San Francisco 1906 Earthquake Marriage Project
by sfgenealogy.com

"Potrero Hills"
Written in 1966 

by 
 

Clara Elvira PHOEDOVIUS 
Born 27 Dec 1884, San Francisco

Married 29 April 1906 in San Francisco
to Darwin Otto REINHOLD

Died 24 Apr 1972 in San Francisco

Clara Elvira Phoedovius


I have seen San Francisco grow eighty two years ago.  I was born in San Francisco.  We lived on Kentucky Street between 17th and 18th Street (1046 Kentucky.)

We could see the Union Iron Works from our home.  We saw many ships launched including the battleship "Oregon".  Other first at that time were Resedon Iron Works, Pacific Rolling Mills (this was a steel foundry where the red hot steel would be rolled through rollers), Tubb Cortage Co., Kneese Boat Building Co., Gas Co., and Spreakles [Spreckels] Sugar Refinery.

We had horse cars which ran along on Kentucky Street (which is now Third St.) and over the old draw bridge.  I do not remember, but I think up to Market St.  But I do remember the stink of the old mud flat under the bridge, also the smell of the old dump.  This is where all the new factories are now.  Then finally the word went around that we were to have electric street cars.  As a child I could not understand how the cars could run without a horse.  So I waited for hours to see the horseless car pass by.  For me it was a magic site still not forgotten.

A hill at Potrero as far as I can remember was on Tennessee between 22nd and 20th Sts, this hill was called soap hill because we would get small rocks of soap stone and write on our slates with it.

Another hill was called Scotch Hill because many Scotch people lived there including a Senator.  This is off Conneticut St. above stone hill at 19th and 22nd St.

Irish Hill was near the Union Iron Works and Gas Co.  This hill has since been removed.

A firm on Kentucky St. sold feed for horses.  This firm was owned by Mr. Knoblock.  His wife had a little dog over twenty years old.  This little dog had his back teeth capped with gold caps.

At Gretchels Bakery on 18th St. we could buy large cookies for ten cents a dozen and bread with real milk in it for ficve cents a loaf.  At the butcher shop we got large sirloin steaks for thirty-five cents and all kids got a slice of boloney free.

Our home was a two story house.  My father rented it for twenty-five dollars a month and then rented the upper flat for thirteen dollars a month.  Our house was at one time an old bakery.  The bake oven was in the basement and our chickens would lay their eggs in the old oven.

We had no telephones.  When one of our neightbors had a phone put in, she allowed us girls to talk to the central (operator).  I was so startled I dropped the phone.

My father owened the Oberon Cafe on O'Farrell St.  Then he sold the care and went into the coal oil business.  It was while he was selling coal oil he met a man that told him about the Potrero.  When my father went to see the Potrero district he discovered that it had the best climate in the city, so we moved to the Potrero.

We had coal oil lamps.  My father was a coal oil merchant and I helped him paint his coal oil cans.  He sold coal oil in five gallon cans.  He had a big China town trade because he was honest.  Some of the coal oil merchants in those days put water in the cans alo.  The Chinese people of China town called my father "Coal Oil Tommy".  He could speak Chinese fluently.

We would go with father for rides on the coal oil wagon at lunch time.  Clams, doughnuts, soup and a sandwich all for fifteen cents.  Also a bit for us children (free) who waited on the coal oil wagon for our father because no children or ladies would dar go in a saloon in those days.

On the 4th of July my father would take us children and some of the neighbors children for a grand celebration to Baden (which is now called South San Francisco).  So early on the Fourth we would start out in our old buggy for Baden, shoot off our fire crackers and cook our lunch with an old coal oil can for our stove.  Then start for home again, this would take us all day with a slow horse.  We would arrive home at abour dusk to our beloved Potrero.  On our great buggy ride to Baden if we were short a seat for a child, then my sister, my father and myself all took turns to follow the buggy on our bicycle to the long far away Baden.  One time my father ran into our buggy in coming down a hill on our way home and tore his pants from top to bottom, so we hurried to get our father in the buggy.  Modesty was the word.

Some of the homes did not have bath tubs, so some of the neighbors would come to our house to take their bath in our Royal tin bath tub.

After my father gave up the coal oil business to go to work at the Custom House as an inspector of customs.


Transcription of Clara's memoirs provided and used by permission of Dolores (Reinhold) Valadez, her granddaughter.

27 March 2006 | copyright © 2006 Ron Filion and Pamela Storm. All rights reserved.

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