Down Memory Lane - SSF Irish Town
by Lola Garcia and George P.Bugnatto
South San Francisco's Irish Town Grand Reunion November 1, 1997 - Elks Lodge, SSF
On a sunny spring day, as I was driving along
After driving down
Juniper was the main street of Irish Town, and it evokes many memories: the horse drawn junk wagon coming down the street early on a Saturday morning with the driver softly calling out, "Rags, Bottles, Sacks;" the fish peddler with his brass horn; George Roccasalva the fruit peddler, with his phonograph blaring. Finally we reach the corner of Juniper and Linden, anchored by the Liberty Market. There goes Carolina Bottini hauling a side of beef into the store! We cross Linden to find Cavassa's Drug Store in the Baratteri Building, with the Baratteri Grocery on the corner of Linden and Aspen. As we move down Linden, we pass Galiano's Shoe Repair; the Prandi Bakery; the original site of All Souls' Church, on the corner of California and Linden; the Lux and
I head downtown and circle around to come up
And then there was All Souls' Baseball Field, Boido's Bakery, Grand Avenue Street Car Line, the Market Street Railway, the Leipsig, the original Enterprise Journal Newspaper, Fraternal Hall, the "Redman," the "Eagles," the "Rams Men's Club" (colors red and white with block sweaters), Fat Boy Bar-B-Q, the 12-Mile House, Molloy's, Lyles, the Big Western Night Street Dance (when they closed down the intersection of Linden and Grand), Chamaritas Portuguese Fiestas, the Greyhound Dog Track (now Mayfair Village), the Baden Kennel Club, the State Theater (with Les Immerman), the Royal Supply Hardware Store (with A. J. Eschelbach), the Royal Theater, Cook's Mortuary, the 40 Line from San Mateo, rubber gun fights, push races, kick-the-can, steal-the-flag, Borba's Explorer Scout Drum Corps, the water cress tank at the end of East Grand Avenue.
...Let's focus on the early days and the colorful personalities of Irish Town and other parts of our city. First of all, we know that the early day Irish Towners loved a good baseball game and there was always a boisterous celebration when they beat the French Town residents. Unlike Irish Town, French Town did not survive. Some of the early French families in our City included: Fourcans, Fouries, and Dayans.
Of course, the first to settle in Irish Town were the Irish butchers and workers who followed Augustus Swift and Company to South San Francisco. The first man to serve as Chief of Police in our city was Clyde Conrad, an Irishman. Another Irishman, M. F. Healy, had a hay, grain, wood and coal business on
Mame McGovern McGraw, Skinny's wife, was an early day teacher at Baden Avenue School. A neighbor of Mame's, who had nine children, was complaining to Mame that she was always tired each morning as she prepared breakfast and sent the children off to school. Mame gave her some practical advice: "Jennie," she said, "you should start off each day with two straight shots of Irish Whiskey."
After the Irish, the Germans settled in Irish Town. Families included Fischer, Bildhauer, and Lautze. Other Germans in town were Welte, Schmidt, Kauffman, Eschelbach, Gerdes, Gatenbein and Snyder. The Germans raised big families. Old time politicians used to say, "never mind the rest of the town, just get all the votes in the Welte, Fischer, Gatenbein and Schmidt families and you'll be elected.
Following the Germans were the Italians with such names as Uccelli, Galli, Vincenzini, Santini, Roccucci, Rodondi, Penna, Bollazzi, Bottini, Curti, Tognetti, Tacchi, and Belloni. There was the Cavassa Pharmacy and, at Liberty Market, Mrs. Bottini did the work of two men. You could find anything from a cheese grater to a washboard at Giffra's or Marioocha's on
Spaniards were the next nationality to settle in Irish Town. Families included Garcia, Herrero, Ruiz, Villanueva, Perez, Bilbao, Ron and Ygleisas. The various Spanish fraternal societies held their annual parades, marching up
Remember...variety, the spice of life, has given life to Irish Town.
In conclusion, what has Irish Town come to mean in today's world? It is true that none of the original Irish are left, and we must acknowledge that Irish Town was more of a melting pot, a state of mind, and a way of life, than a specific ethnic thing. For in this area, the original Irish were joined by the Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Mexicans, Spanish and a handful of Germans, Frenchmen, Scotsmen, and Black Africans. You might say the original rainbow coalition that worked hard and played hard...all in peaceful coexistence...all in their quest for a new life in America.
Reissued for the December 2011 SSF Historical Society Newsletter