13 Things SFers of a Certain Age Remember

Aug 08 at 9am

San Francisco seems to be changing at warp speed. And while many newbies in our fair city may be mourning the loss of Hubert Keller’s Fleur de Lys, the Mission’s Esta Noche, or affordable rents, there are other long-gone memories that only old-school SFers of a certain age (namely, those over the age of 30) will remember – the good, the bad, and the totally San Franciscan. 

Finding a Housemate at Roommate Referral

Before Facebook and Craigslist, there was Roommate Referral. Back in the ’80s, this was THE way to find people to share your space with. You’d go into their offices on Cole and Haight Streets and peruse giant binders filled with potential housemates. Sadly, there was no way to Google these potential roommates to see if they were totally wacko or not. 

Getting a Gutter Ball at Rock and Bowl

Where there are now rows of CDs and records, there were once 22 alleys for bowling. From 1983 until 1996, when Amoeba opened, Park Bowl was the place to be, especially its weekend Rock and Bowl, where the beer was flowing and the music was loud, and there was many a misfit.

Spending Your Allowance at the Esprit Outlet

In the 1980s tween and teen girls would flock to the massive Esprit Outlet in China Basin to buy their iconic logo T-shirts and cotton leggings. It was, like, totally the place to like go.

Avoiding the WPODs

If you were hanging out in the Sunset in the ’80s, you probably went out of your way to avoid a run-in with this neighborhood gang, whose members all sported classic San Francisco Derby jackets.

Going Dancing at the Kabuki

Back in the ’80s, we didn’t flock to the Kabuki to see the latest foreign movie because the Kabuki was host to hundreds of touring bands, from Echo and the Bunnymen to X, and the place had massive dance parties. There was no sitting in seats there and definitely no Chardonnay.

Wondering What “17 Reasons Why” Was

The massive and mysterious “17 Reasons Why” sign hung aboveThrift Town at Mission and 17th Streets from 1935 until 2002, when it was taken down. Many would see the sign and automatically start rattling off 17 reasons why they thought the huge sign was erected. The sign was put up by the Redlicks Furniture store that was once housed in the building, and the number refers to being on 17th Street, but no one really knows what “Reasons Why” refers to. 

Paul from the Diamond Center

If you watched TV in San Francisco in the ’80s or ’90s, then you totally know Paul – from the Diamond Center, of course. He would sing; he would dance; and he would even don a diaper in order to lure costumers into his discount jewelry store. He was an unforgettable pitch man, with his ’80s style and wavy brown locks, plus his promise of “No credit – no problem!”

Trading a 21 Transfer for a Kiss

In the 1970s there was a way to ensure that the boy or girl of your affections would kiss you. You would give them a 21 transfer. The Muni receipts had a row of numbers on the side, and if those digits ended in 21, you could give the transfer to someone, and they had to kiss you.

Eating at Zim’s at 3 AM

For 24-hour dining there was one place in town you had to go to from 1949 to its closure in 1995, a greasy spoon that was popular with cops, night owls, and people coming home from the clubs – the iconic Zim’s!

Watching Sonic Youth in the Parking Lot of Tower Records

There’s something so special about seeing your favorite band for free – and in a parking lot, no less. And yes, Tower Records made this happen back in 1990. 

Falling on Your Butt While Ice Skating in the Sunset

Besides the zoo and Polly Anne’s, there weren’t many “destinations” in the Sunset, but from the 1920s to the early 1990s, the San Francisco Ice Arena on 48th Avenue was a good reason to head out there, throw on some skates, and get gliding.

Tripping with Pink Floyd at the Academy of Science’s Laserium

In the ’80s oodles of teens would flock to the old Academy of Sciences in various altered states to trip out while watching the colorful lasers pulsate along with Pink Floyd hits. 

Knowing a Squatter

During that same era, the Vats (the old Hamm’s Brewery on Bryant Street) and the San Francisco Polytechnic High School (on Fredrick Street) were home to many a punk, especially since both of those deserted spaces had running water and electricity. Imagine living someplace in SF for free now!?

Image from Mission Local video on 17 Reasons

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