Cottage Row Zen garden sparks a fight

Issei

By THOMAS R. REYNOLDS

In celebration of its 110th anniversary this year, Japantown leaders proposed a gift to the neighborhood: a simple Zen rock garden at the foot of Cottage Row to honor the first generation of Japanese-Americans, the Issei, who established the community here after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

To create the garden, they enlisted the renowned landscape designers Shigeru Namba, who oversees Oracle boss Larry Ellison’s extensive Japanese garden, and Isao Ogura. Together the two have already created memorial gardens at San Francisco State and at Tanforan mall, the first stop for residents of Japantown evacuated and interned during World War II.

The gardeners would donate their services and all costs would be paid by private donations. Organizers hoped to complete the garden before the end of the anniversary year.

Then they ran into Bush Street resident Marvin Lambert.

(more…)

Letter to the editors

letter

Big Nate: a good neighbor

Nate Thurmond and his Silver Shadow were familiar sights in the neighborhood when he owned a restaurant on Fillmore Street.

Nate Thurmond and his Silver Shadow were familiar sights in the neighborhood when he owned a restaurant at 2020 Fillmore Street.

LOCALS | MARK J. MITCHELL

Sports fans mourned the death of Nate Thurmond, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, who died on July 16 at the age of 74. He was the first player ever to score a quadruple-double in the history of the game and the only player to have his number retired by both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.

He will be remembered as an immortal of the game, and many San Franciscans will also think of him as the man behind Big Nate’s Barbecue for 20 years.

Those of us with deep roots in the Fillmore have other memories.

Back in the 1970s — when Pacific Heights started strictly on the north side of California Street and everything south was still the Western Addition — Nate the Great roamed our little corner of San Francisco.

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The smell of death

Jack Dairiki with his painting of Hiroshima 30 seconds after the atomic bomb exploded.

Jack Dairiki with his painting of Hiroshima 30 seconds after the atomic bomb exploded.

FIRST PERSON | JACK M. DAIRIKI

In Hiroshima City’s Atomic Peace Park, there is a poem carved into a rock that states: “Please rest in peace, for this error shall never be repeated.” It is a pledge to all living people of the world to protect all of humanity.

I witnessed the holocaust three and a half miles from the atomic bomb detonation point.

I traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1941 with my father on a summer vacation to visit my ailing grandfather. Unfortunately, we were stranded there in September of that year. Finding no passage to return to Sacramento, my father and I were separated from my mother and four siblings, who were interned in the camps at Tule Lake, California; Jerome and Rowher, Arkansas; and, finally, Amache, Colorado.

My classmates and I were conscripted to work for the Japanese war effort at Toyo Factory. I was a 14-year-old student. We worked there from January 1945 until the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6. On that fateful day, because of air bombing raids, my commuter train to the Toyo Factory was delayed by 15 minutes. That delay saved me and my classmates from being in Hiroshima City. We were taking roll call at 08:15 when the bomb was detonated.

We noticed three B-29 bombers traveling toward Hiroshima. It was shortly after that sighting that we experienced the horrific explosion of the first atomic bomb. First, there was a blinding flash and a horrific blast of wind that took out 99 percent of the Toyo Factory windows. I felt my body being lifted by this wind. When I opened my eyes, I was in the midst of dust and smoke and could not see my hands. Then I heard a fellow student run toward the bomb shelter a few hundred yards away; the entrance was at a higher elevation. Perhaps 30 seconds had elapsed. I looked back at Hiroshima and saw the monstrous fire column rising thousands of feet into the air. The whole city was on fire, covered in smoke and fire with no buildings to be seen.

An hour later we peeked out from the cave shelter and witnessed the first victim: a young woman walking with her arms extended, her ragged clothes hanging from her arms and her hair burned off. She was looking straight ahead and walked like a ghost. We noticed as she came closer that it was not burned clothes, but her skin, hanging from her arms.

We were instructed to return home if we were able to walk. I boarded a ghost train with the paint burned off and windows shattered. Inside the train were many injured people asking for medical aid. I could not help them, so I dismounted the train to walk home, a distance of 10 miles. My grandmother welcomed me — she was scanning the horizon for my return. The house was not damaged, except that all the sliding doors were down but unbroken.

There were 55 hospitals, 200 doctors and 2,000 nurses in Hiroshima City before the bombing. What remained were three hospitals, 20 doctors and 170 nurses to help the wounded. There were 80,000 people who died near me in the city.

I can never forget the image nor the smell of death.

The loneliness of being black in San Francisco

Signs on the long-shuttered Muni substation on Fillmore Street.

Signs on the long-shuttered Muni substation on Fillmore Street. New York Times photo.

By THOMAS FULLER
The New York Times

Gerald Harris was walking along Ocean Beach, the blustery coastline at the western edge of the city, when he passed Danny Glover, a star of Hollywood action movies and a San Francisco native. The men exchanged glances.

“We were the only two black people in the area,” Mr. Harris said.

San Francisco was once a national beacon of African-American culture, home to a thriving jazz scene that had so many clubs it was known as the Harlem of the West. But these days, blacks say they take notice when they see another African-American in affluent and middle-class neighborhoods.

The jazz clubs of the Fillmore neighborhood have been replaced with upscale shops. Marcus Books, a cultural anchor of the black community and one of the first bookshops in the nation to focus on African-American topics, closed in 2014. Other black landmarks that have long since disappeared are commemorated with remembrances embedded in the sidewalk like tombstones to a forgotten culture.

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Conjuring a musical moment

ROCK & ROLL impresario Bill Graham helped launch a new era in both music and performance when he began presenting shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in the ’60s. He also helped launch a new art form by commissioning artists to create posters to promote and commemorate the shows, a practice that continues today.

MORE: The art of the Fillmore

It’s our 30th

2016_06

IN MAY 1986, founding editor and publisher David Ish published Volume 1, Number 1, of the New Fillmore — the premiere issue.

The name was a bit of a joke. The Fillmore had forever been reinventing itself, from its roots as a Jewish neighborhood, then a Japanese neighborhood, then the Harlem of the West, which sported the New Fillmore Hotel and the New Fillmore Theater. The early ’80s brought another new era as upper Fillmore began to emerge as a bustling shopping and dining district and the surrounding area became an ever more desirable place to live.

We took over the newspaper in June 2006, so this issue also marks our 10th anniversary. It has been an eventful decade. As Fillmore Street has been transformed into a coveted location for international fashion and cosmetics brands, many of the one-of-a-kind shops and essential services that made it so attractive have been squeezed out. The street, in some ways, has become a victim of its own success.

Yet this neighborhood remains a wonderful place to live, with a rich history, a vibrant economy and many tales to tell. Thank you for inviting us into your homes every month.

Barbara Kate Repa
Thomas R. Reynolds

At Soko Hardware, it’s the mix that works

Eunice Ashizawa and her nephew Aaron Katekaru help run Soko Hardware in Japantown.

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

After Masayasu Ashizawa came from Japan to San Francisco nearly a century ago, he opened a hardware store in 1925 in the heart of bustling Japantown and named it Soko — Japanese for “that place.” Soko Hardware’s founder could not have imagined the family business would be thriving in that place today under the management of his grandson Philip, born years after his grandfather died.

Soko Hardware, at 1698 Post Street, thrives not just as a local hardware store, but also as a destination for Bay Area residents and visitors who come for the paper lanterns or the authentic teapots or the delicate china — sometimes even for the hardware.

“I think of going to Soko as a special treat, like going to a museum and finding things I didn’t know existed,” says Mill Valley resident Sue Steele. (more…)

Bagels with a side of history

WISE SONS Bagel & Bakery opened its doors at 1520 Fillmore on February 26 and enthusiastic crowds were waiting. Again there is an authentic Jewish bakery in a neighborhood where many were located a century ago, when the Fillmore was home to a large Jewish community.

San Francisco muralist Amos Goldbaum captured the era in a mural on the north wall after Wise Sons co-owner Evan Bloom told him about the neighborhood’s Jewish heritage.

Says Goldbaum: “I researched historic photos and found some that included street cars and the iconic metal arches over each intersection, which were erected by the Fillmore merchants, many of them Jewish, to promote business. They were eventually removed to use as scrap metal for World War II. I wanted to add more to the street scene, so I also looked at historic photos of the Lower East Side, Jewish mecca and birthplace of my late grandfather. I was happy to find pictures of pushcart vendors selling challa, pickles and, of course, bagels. The resulting scene is Lower East Side on Fillmore, an amalgam of New York street life and San Francisco streetscape.”

WALKING TOUR: “Jews of the Fillmore

The Fillmore getting a jazzier sign

Fillmore-sign-FINAL

A NEW MARQUEE is in the works for the legendary Fillmore Auditorium at Geary and Fillmore.

The Planning Commission has unanimously approved changes to the city’s sign ordinance that would permit a 60-foot-tall vertical blade proclaiming both the storied rock ’n’ roll venue and the surrounding neighborhood. Currently signs can be no higher than 24 feet. The proposal now goes before the Board of Supervisors.

The new marquee would replace both the existing Fillmore sign, which rarely functions, and the illuminated check cashing signs below it. Drawings of the new sign considered by the Planning Commission report were said to be placeholders while the law is changed. The final design of the new sign is expected to be more artistically exciting.

Planning staff noted that because the building opened as the Majestic — a dance hall — it never had a historic marquee. It became the Fillmore Auditorium in 1954.