San Francisco has another trait, just as noticeable to me as the Golden Gate and the Gold on City Hall: it doesn't know how to give a direct answer to any question. I have called various offices on several occasions to ask straightforward questions. I never get the straight answer I am looking for. Of course, there is that language barrier. I regret that. There was a time when people who were paid from the public coffers to help you via the phone lines had to speak your language. Not anymore. And (to take this a bit further), I find some of the more recently constructed buildings just as frustratingly indirect and unusable. Of course, post-modern architecture in general could learn a thing or two from the builder of a kwonsit hut: the building is for people, not for the architect to use as a mirror of his own genius. People must be able to find their way in, and out, too! Let's not forget the importance of people when you build a building! In San Francisco of all places, there should be directness in the plan of a building. If you don't live there, and if you're in a newer structure, make sure to figure out how to exit the building, in case of an earthquake or other emergency. For they don't generally build to the masses. The Guggenheim offers me an interesting general comparison by which to tell you about the innards of the San Francisco Public Library on Larkin Street. There is a central atrium in the S.F. library, so that on the top floor you may look down on all the floors and onto the means to getting to all the floors (i.e., staircases, et al.) The progress of movement is intended to be circular. Except it is very counterintuitive: how do you get from one floor to the next? Where is the elevator? Why are there two separate sets of stairs for each floor, one to go up to the next floor, one to go down again to the one just below it? I don't understand. I'm not a San Franciscan -- that must be it. I'm sure it's right for them, and that they could successfully back out of the library during an earthquake with their eyes closed. I wouldn't want my family in there in a crisis. In a crisis you look for the door. But modern architects -- they don't know that . . . . . .And S.F. has ceased to see the importance of the direct route to anything except your money . . . . . just my opinion.
Tom Carey works at the San Francisco Public Library. He wears a natty beret, gray tweed, I think, if I remember correctly. I told him the nature of my visit: that I would like to look for the family of Margaret (Morgan) Richards in the old San Francisco directories. Margaret was born in Wales. She was the wife of Thomas, the elder brother of my grandmother Ellen's father, Evan. Margaret's children were, then, my grandmother's first cousins. The Federal Census of 1900 shows Evan and family to be in Butte County, California. They had finally left the mines where years earlier, before the railroads, Evan and Thomas and their Welsh dad Evan Richards, Sr. had come to mine gold (before that they had mined coal in Kansas and had their own land on which they raised fourteen acres of corn). My great grandfather Evan and wife Marguerite (descended from Scotsmen and Scotswomen) and their six daughters, among them our Ellen, the youngest, would live the rest of their days in a small agricultural community, a place that remains small and is in fact fairly inconsequential. But in those days they were a family, and my grandmother was growing up and attending school. They lived in a box car for awhile (this I was told by a senior member of another branch of the family). By contrast, Evan's brother Thomas' family seems to have removed themselves to San Francisco after their mining days were fully spent. Until our visit to the Library on Larkin (and with the help of the librarian and my research assistant who accompanied me on my trip) I had no idea how strongly connected the family was to The City. There were even sad moments of realization that came out of this trip. I thought I'd left the matter of the young lawyer who died young in The City, alone for good. It must have been such sadness for his mother Annie Richards Page (our Ellen''s older sister). Annie lost both her Scottish mom and her young bright boy within a couple of years of each other, in the mid-1920s. I had researched Annie Richards, and her husband with the great name Daniel George Lawrence Page, on a reel of microfilm at the State library. I grew used to their names appearing together in so many of the old Oroville directories. I imagined them young lovers, a true good family, who raised a barber as well as the lawyer, the young light of the town (I would assume to myself upon reflection). Here, during this research trip, the boy's name and his whole life came forward again, to be viewed from another angle, though only vaguely at this great distance, by me, a mere researcher . . . . Signed G. Claire, 12 August 2011. All rights reserved by the author. Copyright 2011 by G. Claire. <> <> <>
[Part III of "Big City Research" to follow. Have a pleasant research day!]