Girlhood Glimpses Of the Glorious Golden Gate

Mother checked to see that our wide-brimmed beaver hats were on straight - a brown one for me, a dark blue one for my sister. Then she tucked the nickels for the streetcar fare under the palm of her glove and shut the front door behind us.

In 1920, school started in August in Berkeley, Calif., and a shopping trip to the "City" was the exciting July prelude. The No. 3 streetcar took us downtown, where we had the choice of the Keyroute train or the S.P. to the ferry terminal.

The early fog had lifted, and we raced for seats on the front deck of the ferry. The whistle blew, and, not trusting the elastics under our chins, we held onto our hats against the breezes blowing through the Golden Gate.

Two more blasts from the whistle, and we knew we would soon pass another ferry to the starboard, Goat Island, and finally the ferry building with its clock tower.

In San Francisco, it was only a short wait for a streetcar to the Emporium. An elevator took us quickly to the dry-goods floor where shelves and tables held bolt after bolt of fabrics. It was hard to choose which ones we wanted our dressmaker to make for us.

Then the most beautiful blue-and-white plaid I had ever seen caught my eye, and I pleaded with Mother to include it with the rest of the materials that would be sent to our house.

Crossing to the shopping area on the other side of the street, we stopped at a shop for warm, wool sweaters and then at a shoe store for a pair of brown high-laced school shoes.

At a place called the White House, we bought a dark red raincoat with attached hood, rubbers, and the hated leggings that buttoned to the knee. Underwear and long stockings we would get at Hink's in Berkeley, where I could watch the clerks put the sales slip and the money in a cylinder, hook it onto a wire, pull the cord, and send it speeding high above us to the bookkeeper's office in the rear of the store.

Mother still had some shopping to do for herself at my favorite store, the City of Paris. The view looking upward past balcony after balcony to the high dome at the top of the store was worth being patient while the clerk fitted Mother with white kid gloves. She stretched the fingers first with a wooden stretcher that looked like a smaller version of a curling iron, and then while Mother rested her elbow on a black velvet cushion, she slid the glove over her fingers.

Now it was time to meet Dad for lunch in the dining room of the Stewart Hotel. And Dad had news for us: There would be a parade next week! That meant another trip to the city and a seat in the office he shared with his two real-estate partners. From there we viewed everything from holiday parades to dignitaries being honored.

After lunch, Dad decided to go home with us, which made the day even better. Whenever he was with us on the ferry, we could learn more about how it worked.

We dropped our hats on Mother's lap while we left to look down into the engine room where massive shafts moved back and forth, propelling the boat.

A friendly officer explained more about the operations and told us about the whistles - one for port, two for starboard. And before we knew it, the 20-minute ride was over.

Home again, we looked out the front windows to the City where we had been and to the Golden Gate where a fog bank was beginning to appear.

Until 1935, there would be no bridges, and the ferries would be the only way to San Francisco.

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