San Francisco

San Francisco Memories

I was three years old when my mother, Eulalie, and stepfather, Lloyd, married on New Years Day, 1935. The United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. My mother, her family, friends, and my new stepfather were all poor people, yet they were fortunate to be counted among the working poor.

At the time of her marriage to Lloyd, Mother and I lived with my grandparents in Berkeley, and my soon to be stepfather lived in a rented room in North Oakland.  Their honeymoon, which included me, consisted of two days and nights in San Francisco. We stayed in the temporarily vacated apartment of one of my new daddy’s friends, a man who worked on passenger trains as a porter for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

My only true memory from that first experience in the City was riding in my little red wagon with Daddy walking or trotting at my side.  Up and down the somewhat hilly sidewalk, I traveled. It was a fast ride down hill, with Daddy trotting along side, primed to correct my erratic steering. I remember laughing joyously, impervious to the chill of the January day. This I vividly remember, my first heartfelt memory of the City.

We sometimes traveled across the Bay to the City by ferry. Once there we visited Aunt Bessie, or Golden Gate Park, the Zoo, or Ocean Beach. It was all so special.

Still later as a preadolescent and teenager, I rode the F train to San Francisco with friends. In the City we took public transportation to Ocean Beach and the adjacent Fun House. Oh, how I loved the giant slide at the Fun House, and the views of the vast Pacific Ocean from the beach. In my mind there was no other place like the City.

As a young, newly married adult, I had the privilege of living in the City, while earning my undergraduate degree from San Francisco State University, where I thrived.

My then wife and I first lived in a comfortable one-bedroom apartment on Scott Street. Later we occupied the downstairs of a two-story house on Potrero Avenue in the Mission District, several blocks from where my beloved San Francisco Giants baseball team played their first games in the City.

The first and the last of my four children were born in San Francisco.  Those were two of the four most special days of my life.

Several weeks ago I visited my very ill former mother-in-law in a Pacifica nursing home. I was terribly shattered by the condition of this once vital human being. To regain a sense of peace and perspective I drove to the Marina Green in San Francisco. I parked my car, then walked through Fort Mason and Ghiardelli Square.

During that walk I was constantly reminded of the vibrancy of life and the natural beauty of my surroundings—lovers sauntering with hands clasped, groups large and small laughing, conversing, recreating, and in the backgrounds, San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the houses and hills of the City. I was in San Francisco, and once again my heart was responding to the touch of the City.

About John A. Martin, Jr.

John A. Martin, Jr. was raised in Berkeley, California, where he later spent the bulk of his professional career, as the general director of a social service agency. His life journey has included four years of service in the U.S. Air Force, B.A. and M.A. degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of Omaha respectively, post Master's degree study at Tufts University and the University of California at Berkeley, and a wonderfully satisfying professional life working in anti-poverty programs, social service, education, and civil rights organizations. Martin is currently retired and resides in Novato, CA.
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5 Responses to San Francisco

  1. Alexis Martin says:

    I love this piece, Dad!

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