Noe Valley Voice
Florence's Family Album
February 1997


Inaugurating a Newsletter

By Florence Holub

I was wondering how I was going to get my article together this month, when I suddenly remembered the chock-full-of-information letters we always get for Christmas. Why not do something like that for my column?

So here's my end-of-the-year newsletter (just two months late). I promise I will relate only the last and best of the year.

Starting early in December, I was returning from 24th Street with a bundle of Noe Valley Voices when at the top of the hill I came upon contractor Seamus McGee, who was admiring his nearly completed trio of buildings at the corner of Sanchez and 21st (the subject of many controversial stories in the Voice).

I offered him one of my papers, but he declined, having already read the December issue from cover to cover. He did, however, offer his reaction to it, saying, tongue in cheek, that he was disappointed because his name had not been mentioned once. It is already clear that your houses are shaping up beautifully and will be a credit to our hill, I assured Mr. McGee (that's twice).

While we stood there, I glanced over at the newly poured sidewalk in front of the Rolph mansion, which sits across the street from the McGee development (that's three times!).

"Sunny Jim" Rolph was the mayor of San Francisco during the Roaring '20s, and his former "suburban" home is the graceful Tudor house with the beautiful trees and fountain on the northeast corner of 21st and Sanchez.

When I walked over to the sidewalk, I noted a fresh inscription that had been made a week or so earlier, after the underground wiring crews finished digging up and re-cementing the pavement. There, engraved in the cement, was a small heart shape holding two names, Jay and Jan, and a date, 1996. This undoubtedly referred to Frank (Jay) Salaman and his new bride, Jan.

When we first moved to 21st Street 35 years ago, Jay still lived in the mansion with his parents, but a few years later he moved to the Peninsula. Upon the death of his father, and then his mother, the house passed on to him. He put it up for sale twice, but took it off the market after a few months each time.

When I saw Jay in December (for the first time in many years) at a birthday party for one of our neighbors, he told me that when he brought his bride-to-be to see the house he had been attempting to dispose of, she immediately fell in love with it, and the rest is history!

They were married last year and now live in the mansion. But the heart that they had lovingly etched in the cement back then had to be removed when the sidewalk was torn up in order to install a corner ramp for the disabled. They did manage to squeeze their names and the date back into the new cement, but alas, there was no longer room for a big heart in the space that remained next to the wrought-iron entry gate to their home.

On that same corner, our steep hill was featured in a December episode of the Nash Bridges TV show titled "The 25 Hours of Christmas." But the six hours of frantic filming that took place in October flew across the TV screen in only seven seconds!

We sent the Voice article about the series, which included one of Leo's photographs of the high-speed car chase, to Eric Neldner, the friendly assistant locations manager, who reciprocated by offering us a tour of Don Johnson's production facility on Treasure Island.

We accepted, of course, and found it housed in one of the few buildings still standing on the island -- a remnant of the 1939 San Francisco International Exposition.

Inside the huge hangar were offices and workshops, along with plenty of space for sets and scenery. We were allowed to inspect two sets, and recognized one of them as the place where Nash supposedly lives -- a loft with a slightly damaged entrance, large windows, and a night view of highrises studded with lights.

The other set contained a well-appointed living quarters with a sweeping view of the Marina, and the lovely old Palace of Fine Arts looming in front of the San Francisco Bay.

The view had been photographically superimposed upon a translucent backdrop that looked like an enormous bathroom shower curtain. We were told that the cost of creating the background alone was $75,000. But when lit from behind, it is a convincing depiction of the real thing.

We were not allowed to take photographs inside the facility, but as we left the island, the magnificent view of our beautiful city could not go unrecorded, so Leo got out his camera.

Our block of 21st Street from Church to Sanchez must have been the most popular Christmas scene in town this year! For weeks preceding and even after the holiday, the street was clogged with cars and visitors.

From our front window we had a privileged view of the parade of people who flocked to see the lavishly decorated Christmas tree across the street in Dr. Goldstein's garden. It was magical, and the spirit of the tree was truly heartwarming.

Watching the enthusiasm of adults and the enchantment of the children as they received their candy canes and whistles from the Santa on duty was a pleasure. But occasionally the late-night clamor got the best of the neighbors. After a couple of sleepless nights, a few went down to ask Santa to please not give the kiddies whistles. They also said it would be helpful if he could turn the lights off a half-hour earlier, at 11:30 p.m. Eager to please, Santa complied with their wishes.

On that night the lights went off at 11:30 instead of the usual midnight hour. Unfortunately, the Christmas revelers in front of the tree began chanting loudly, "Turn the lights back on, turn the lights back on!" Oh well, Christmas comes but once a year.

But Christmas was not the only important event on our hill. Our good friends and neighbors, Angus and Mariann Pera, invited us to a dinner at their home, to celebrate the graduation of their son [removed by request] from the San Francisco Police Academy. There in his uniform, he looked tall, handsome, and ready for the challenge.

Now that [removed by request] is on the force, may the force be with him!

The birthday party that I mentioned earlier was given for Ann Hoecker by her daughter, Vicki. Ann, who looks 30 years younger than she is, was celebrating her 90th birthday in good health, with many friends and a happy, positive outlook on life.

Speaking of birthdays, my man Leo had another one on Nov. 25, so I treated him to a savory supper at Savor on 24th Street. Two days later, we were 150 miles away in Grass Valley, partaking of the family turkey dinner. There we met our son Jan's girlfriend, who lives in Marysville, which was inundated by floodwaters at the beginning of the New Year.

Fortunately, she was able to flee with her teenage daughter to the Holub home in high and dry Grass Valley, where her boyfriend lives. She stayed there for several days, until it was safe to return.

Still pinned to our bulletin board are the invitations to the parties we attended during the yuletide season, when we indulged our appetites without caution or regret.

Also pinned up is a more recent invitation -- a commemorative invitation to the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore Jr. It is an elegant document with a gold-embossed seal at the top, and below, a graceful black script.

Although the invitation is only a thoughtful gesture, I will treasure it, and it shall be my pleasure on Jan. 20 to witness the event from the comfortable couch in our living room, thanks to the magic of television.

Five days later, on my 78th birthday, my man Leo will take me to dinner at one of Noe Valley's fine restaurants.

Like most newsletters that include a photograph of the senders taken in front of some exotic tourist spot around the world, we also include our picture taken halfway across the Bay Bridge at Treasure Island.

Greetings and best wishes for a happy and prosperous 1997!