Who Actually Grew Up in San Francisco?

Nov 01, 2013 at 6am

San Francisco has often been called a transient city, a destination for young creative types and techies before they bounce off to places unknown. But to stereotype this city as a way station is to ignore the families who set down roots here generations ago.

We did a callout for multigenerational San Franciscans and were flooded with responses from people wanting to tell the stories of their clans.

This photo essay spotlights six “native” San Francisco households who have some special stories to share. The word native is in quotes, though, because even within these groups, the original homesteaders initially arrived here from another city or country. But they all are proud to call San Francisco home. 

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Who are you, and who is represented in this photo?

I’m Jennifer. In the photo are my mother, Donna, my father, Weng, and my brother, Stephen; my uncles, Richard, Henry, Toby, and Alvin; Alvin’s wife, Bette; my uncle Ebert and his daughter, Kimi; my grandmothers Corinne (maternal) and Kim (paternal); my grandmother’s sister, Sharon Tam (程慧红), and her husband, King Bor Tam (譚敬波), and their son, my mother’s cousin, Tony Tam (譚立志), with his wife, Katherine Toy, and his daughter, Cate Tam ( 譚天慧); and their grandchildren, Martin Tsang (曾文天) and Carmen Tsang (曾嘉敏). This photo doesn’t even cover half of the family I have in the Bay Area.

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Who was the first person in your family to come to San Francisco, and what year did he/she arrive?

My great grandfather (mother’s mother’s father) in 1918. He brought my grandmother and her older brother to San Francisco on June 2, 1949.

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Can you give us a very brief history of your family?

My maternal grandmother immigrated to San Francisco from China with her father and older brother in 1949, while my maternal grandfather immigrated under a false last name to San Francisco in November 1949. While he was in SF, he met my grandmother. They married in 1955 and had four children, including my mother. My grandmother tells stories of living on Union Street, hearing the sea lions all day long.

My father, his parents, and eight siblings moved to SF in 1970 from Singapore. My grandfather had suits tailored for my father and Uncle Richard just for the move. The family had just a few dollars to their name. My paternal grandparents worked to keep the family afloat and they moved into a house in the Richmond District. That house is still in the family and several of my uncles, aunts, and my grandma still live there.

My mother and my father met at Downtown Bowl on Eddy Street in 1973 – they were just teenagers!

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What do you love about San Francisco?

My favorite things about San Francisco are its beauty, its proximity to nature, and especially that it houses a huge portion of my family!

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Muller

Who are you, and who is represented in this photo?

Celisse Renee Muller – I am a third generation San Francisco native. In the photo are Steve Muller (Dad), Lynne Herman (Dad's girlfriend), Ivy Moon Muller (little sister, daughter of Steve and Lynne), Paris Jonell Warr-Muller (older sister, daughter of Steve), Eugene Hood (Paris' boyfriend), Rose Indigo Hood (niece, daughter of Paris and Eugene), Akilah Sade Ancheta (niece, daughter of Paris and step-daughterish to Eugene).

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Who was the first person in your family to come to San Francisco, and what year did he/she arrive?

My paternal great grandparents, George Beyer and Agnes Meek Beyer. They came all the way from Saratoga Springs, New York.

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What's a good San Francisco memory from the oldest member of your clan?

Dad was working as a painter, sandblasting steel plates underneath the new roadway of the Golden Gate Bridge and saw Humphrey the whale cruise into the bay.

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Can you give us a very brief history of your family?

My dad's grandparents came to San Francisco in the early 1920s and had my Grandmother Lois. Lois met Joe while working in a department store in the city. They made their home in the Marina and started their family. Dad and his younger sister were born in San Francisco. Dad attended Mission High School and could tell you stories of a girl with a broken heart jumping from the bell tower to her death, or the days of segregation. As a teenager and young adult in the 1960s he spent his days in the Haight, trading Spider Monkeys for Samurai Swords and doing all the things that we all know went down then. He had my sister, Paris, in the '80s and married my mom, who was a college student at SF State at the time, in Stern Grove. Then came me. My mom's sister, mother, and aunt all lived nearby and the family continued to grow and expand. My sister and Eugene now have two girls, Akilah and Rose, and Dad and Lynne just had our newest little sister, Ivy. And here most of us are in all of our glory! 

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What do you love about San Francisco?

Each street, building, and corner has at least one distinct memory for me, whether it be from childhood or adulthood. I know the streets like the wrinkles in my palm and learned all of the coolest back roads and side streets from Dad.

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Miguel2

Who are you, and who is represented in this photo?

Miguel Ibarra, Analis Ibarra (sister), Elizabeth Ibarra (mother).

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Who was the first person in your family to come to San Francisco, and what year did he/she arrive?

Our grandmother Ana Flores came to San Francisco in 1929 when she was two years old from El Salvador.

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What's a good San Francisco memory from the oldest member of your clan?

My mother remembers being a child at Playland. Since our grandfather was a member of a city soccer league, he had games every Saturday at Golden Gate Park. She remembers walking with her sister and spending hours there until our my grandfather picked her up. "It was hilarious,” my mother says, “whether they won or lost, they'd get drunk and so you'd have all these drunk fathers looking for their kids."

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Can you give us a very brief history of your family?

My grandmother Ana moved to SF in 1929 with her mother. She married Arturo, a Mexico City engineer, and had two daughters, Elizabeth and Debby. Debby had numerous marriages and wild nights with sailors during Fleet Week. Elizabeth married Enrique, my father, from Mexico. They had four children. My older brother and sister went to Balboa, I went to Wallenberg, and Analis to Mercy High. My older siblings did time at CCSF, I just graduated from SF State, and Analis escaped and is currently at a liberal arts college in Ohio.

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What do you love about San Francisco?

That I can walk out my front door and be instantly hit with culture. It's overload for the senses, this town. The buildings, people, dogs, weather, has helped so much in terms of tapping into a creative subconscious within me. My life has become defined by this place, so much so, that when I travel to other places, I recognize the beauty that can only be found in SF before even leaving the airport.

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Dana1

Who are you, and who is represented in this photo?

Dana Marsh Cappiello, Connie Marsh (my mother).

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Who was the first person in your family to come to San Francisco, and what year did he/she arrive?

Clarence Marsh, my grandfather, in 1906.

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Can you give us a very brief history of your family?

My father grew up in North Beach with a single mother, very poor. She worked as a telephone operator for years while my dad held jobs as a curtain puller at the Opera House, delivering milk to homes, and eventually joining the Navy during World War II. Afterwards, he came back to SF, with “San Francisco” tattooed on his shin, and joined the SF police department. He eventually became captain of the department.

My mom had moved from Idaho at six years old to Nob Hill.

My parents met at Crissy Field, close to where my father was a longtime Dolphin swimmer.

I learned to ride horses in the park on the SFPD horses. My father would make both my brother and me swim in Fleishhacker Pool every morning before school. It was filled with water from the ocean. The best part was that it was located next to the zoo, which my dad had a private key to since he was a cop. There were many perks then but it was also a terrifying time – police stations were being bombed and there were lots of random police shootings. It was a scary time, being a cop's daughter.

Years later I cofounded the Until There's a Cure foundation, which sold the AIDS bracelet. My best friend in the city died and I had to do something. The Giants, always my favorite team, agreed to be the first team to recognize AIDS during a dedicated game and together we changed the audience that was concerned about the epidemic. And we also managed to raise over $10 million.

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Kelly

Who are you, and who is represented in this photo?

My name is Nancy Gene Wahlstrom and with me is my daughter Kelly Gene Wahlstrom-Jackson. I was born in San Francisco in the early 1940s. I am a fourth generation San Franciscan and the middle child of three girls.

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Who was the first person in your family to come to San Francisco, and what year did he/she arrive?

The first generation of family to arrive in San Francisco were my great-grand parents on my mother's side, Peter and Mary Topini, some time during the late 1800s. They were originally from Northern Italy, but we have it on record that they were married in San Francisco on September 18, 1888. Soon after, my grandparents from my father's side, Alexander and Ella McIsaac, arrived from Ireland in the early 1890s.

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What's one specific SF memory from the oldest member of your clan?

Our most beloved family legend is how my grandparents on my mother's side met. It was after the 1906 earthquake, when the whole city was in chaos. My great-grandpa Peter owned two hotels on Kearny, near the Hall of Justice, and he and his family lived at one of these hotels. Both hotels were destroyed by the great fires after the earthquake, so the family took refuge in Portsmouth Square Park. While living at the park, my grandmother Madelyn, who was 17 at the time, met and eventually fell in love with my grandfather Alvin. The couple was soon married after that. We like to think of it as our very own San Francisco love story.

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Can you give us a very brief history of your family?

Immigrating from Ireland and Italy, my grand- and great-grand parents embraced their chosen home from the time they arrived. From fighting for their new country in the Spanish-American War to being small business owners, they established a family tradition of community involvement and a true love and appreciation for the great city of San Francisco. My parents met while growing up in the Mission. They both attended Mission High and were very involved with school and community activities.

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Cynthia

Who are you, and who is represented in this photo?

We are the Barbanell and Silverstein families. In the photograph are: Clifford Barbanell, a spry 94, the current patriarch of our blended fourth generation families; Harriet Barbanell (the only nonnative in the group, but she has been a San Franciscan since 1952); Harriet’s daughter, Cynthia Barbanell Silverstein, and Cynthia’s husband, Lloyd Silverstein (a third generation San Franciscan carrying on the family optical business for the third generation); and one of their children, Eleanor Silverstein (born in the same hospital as her grandfather Clifford).

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Who was the first person in your family to come to San Francisco, and what year did he/she arrive?

Clifford’s mother, Leah, moved to San Francisco with her family from Toronto in 1899.  Her family slept in tents in Golden Gate Park after the 1906 earthquake. Lloyd’s grandfather, Irving Silverstein, moved to San Francisco from Kansas City in 1904.

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What's a good San Francisco memory from the oldest member of your clan?

Clifford vividly recalls walking across the Golden Gate Bridge the day it opened, and again with his entire family and the Silverstein family on the 50th anniversary. He remembers swimming out to Alcatraz with his best friend Mark Hoffman when Alcatraz was still a prison and being told by the guards that they could not rest on the rocks or they would be shot (so they turned around and swam back to San Francisco).

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Can you give us a very brief history of your family?

Philanthropy and community involvement are part of our history. Irving and Sheldon provided eye exams and glasses to the homeless. Sheldon’s wife, Phyllis, was a founding trustee of the San Francisco Ballet. Clifford played water polo for the JCC and won the citywide trophy for the JCC in 1939. Harriet was on the sisterhood board of their temple for many years, and between all of the families, we were on the boards of the SF Ballet, JCC (two generations), Jewish Vocational Services, SF Girls’ Chorus, Junior League of SF, SF Parks Trust, Raphael House, Words on Dance, Camp Tawonga, and the Concordia Club (Clifford was a past president).

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What do you love about San Francisco?

We love that San Francisco is a small town with a big influence.

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Calling all Oakland natives! We're working on a new photo essay about people born and raised in Oakland. If that's you, or if you know someone who fits the bill, email us at info@thebolditalic.com.

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