Herb Caen published his first column in the San Francisco Chronicle July 5, 1938; he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996. His last weekday column appeared January 10, 1997 when he moved to the San Francisco Examiner in 1950, 30,000 subscribers went with him. He returned in 1958, and 35,000 subscribers came back.Herb Caen on San Francisco
Herb Caen, drawn by Dugald Stermer
Past Midnight, as the Last Streetcar Stops at the Ferry Building, October, 1941
Herb Caen: Famed are the nights of San Francisco for the stuff of which storybooks are made... San Francisco, the city born with the soul of harridan, is more herself at night when street lights flicker up on her hills and in her valleys. The night becomes her. Suddenly there are implications of melodrama in the blackness of the Bay, splotched, here and there with amber reflections from the bridges... You can hear the water sighing over the rotten timbers of the piers... Cable car slots sing more loudly along the quiet streets, and the fog drifts in and out of alleys, turning them into stage sets for a play that needs no actors. October 12, 1949
Hyde Street Cable Car Heads Over the Lip of the Hill, Alcatraz Off-Shore, May 17, 1988
Herb Caen: The Truth is that like many a country bay before me, I respond to the city. I'm at home where the tall buildings grow, where the hustlers hustle and the buses bustle, and the best way to climb a mountain is on cable car, clinging to the outside step and watching all those natural beauties teeter past on high heels. Give me a place where you can pick up the phone, and call room service and have anything in the world delivered on a silver tray in 15 minutes. July 1, 1960
Filbert Street Steps on Telegraph HillHerb Caen: It was a long, slow June dusk, daylight - saved beyond its normal span for an enchanting hour or two. I was standing on a deck on Telegraph Hill, looking out at a view as though I'd never seen it before... 60,000 people says the census, had elected to live elsewhere... Soft glow through glass doors, murmur of voices through open windows, flicker of cigarettes, tinkle of ice cubes - and a thousand and one eyes trapped by the endless magnetism of the view; the amber bridge, the disembodied lights of moving ships... $500 a month apartments next to $50 shacks, and all of them looking at the wonder of it... the 60,000 who gave up the title San Franciscan, had turned their backs on the sea, sky, hill and velvet night... I just stood there and looked around and felt sorry for them. June 19, 1960
Supervisor Harvey Milk in Gay Freedom Parade, June 26, 1978
Five Months Later
Herb Caen: Horror upon horror, shock upon shock. The Mayor, a good man is dead. The Supervisor, a good man is dead... George Moscone and Harvey Milk had much in common. They were joyous men, celebrants of life, believers in people. They were eminently sane and reasonable. It they has any faults, they were those of generosity and a willingness to think the best. They loved their friends and they loved San Francisco... In the best sense of the word. George Moscone was a sweet man. Harvey Milk was a sweet man. November 28, 1978
Standees Enjoy Supper and Keep their Place in Line in the Opera House Lobby, Opening Night, September 5, 1986.
Herb Caen: The opera opening is not only the city's leading tradition, topping cirrhosis of the liver... Grand opera is a splendid anachronism, going back to Enrico Caruso being thrown out of bed during the '06 earthquake and saying, "I'll never set foot in that city again!"...I enjoy the intermission when the standees sit and the sittees stand and head for the mezzanine bar. Why is the bar so tiny in relation to the grand theater? Because the opera house was built during prohibition, the culturatti stayed in their box seats drinking out of silver flasks. September 9, 1986
Right side of the pylon
Herb Caen wrote on June 15, 1958:
Funny old town. The bridges replace the ferries and the city promptly got too big for its bridges, wherefore the ferries are still running, but the bridge trains aren't... The sign on the Stockton Tunnel - "Quiet Through the Tunnel" is a signal for every motorist to blow his horn and horn, and the Broadway Tunnel, built to eliminate bottlenecks, has become one. The rich people in Pacific Heights affect small-cars as a public denial of their wealth, and the people in the Fillmore by expensive big cars to compensate for the fact that they aren't allowed to live anywhere but in tenements.
Herb Caen wrote on February 17, 1970:
"I'd like to have lunch at some place that is typically old San Francisco," said Baron Phillipe de Rothchild last week to his good friend Art Dealer Bill Person - so Bill took him to Tadich's which being typically San Franciscan, doesn't take reservations. After they had waited 30 minutes in the crowded little bar room, the Baron sighed: "I dislike doing things like this, but perhaps it would help if you told him who I am"... "I dislike telling you this, grinned Bill, "but I did, 15 minutes ago."
Herb Caen wrote on August 19, 1970:
Sculptor Beniamino Bufano was dead... To many times we made him out to be the clown, too many times he went along with the gag because he was a genuinely sweet guy... We'd indulge his fantasies: that he had chopped off an index finger and mailed it to Woodrow Wilson to protest U.S. involvement in the first World War, that he posed for the profile on the old Indian head five cent piece. None of his stories checked out. All he cared about was his art...
Herb Caen wrote on May 21, 1972:
I looked around at the city, first broiling under the sun, then shivering in the cold, a creature of San Francisco, never dressed quite right, always fascinated by the changing patterns, marveling at the infinite variety produced by the westering breezes - the lovely maddening breezes that fill the streets with debris as they sweep the sky clear. San Francisco ghost town forever, visible only on foggy days - clipper ships and robber barons, blowzy B-girls and big busted dowagers. Jack London in a rowboat and Bill Saroyan on a bicycle, Lucius Beebe fastidiously dusting off a seat with a silk handkerchief before sitting down at Izzy Gomez's place.
Left side of the pylon
Herb Caen on Herb Caen
Herb Caen wrote on July 23, 1978:
In July of 1936, Paul C. Smith, the then "wonder boy" editor of the Chronicle imported me from the Sacramento Union for a copy boy, to be moved up later. He was at least 27 then, and I was 20. "I'm hiring you, kid," he said, "so there'll be somebody on the paper younger than I am." I became the paper's radio editor, writing a column 7 days a week, turning out an entire page on Sunday... The Depression was still on and $50 a week went a long way. Furthermore, I was dizzy with excitement at being a San Franciscan, still am 42 years later.
Herb Caen wrote on June 15, 1958:
Bagdad by the Bay. You have to have loved the city for a long time before you earn the right to knock it. I've loved this city for a long time, although my credentials are suspect. I was born in Sacramento. However, I was conceived at the 1915 Exposition on the Marina; my parents spent all summer here and I was born next April. Not as good as being born in Golden Gate Park in April 1906, but not too bad either.
Herb Caen wrote on June 14, 1996:
When told that the central waterfront walkway was going to be named Herb Caen Promenade in his honor, Caen objected - "Promenade - it's a French word. Who needs it. I don't even know what it means. I think you spread it on toast or something."
Herb Caen Way became the official name of the walkway by the waterfront where this pylon appears.
Embedded around the base