Fireman Brought Me Home

An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940.


Sunday April 16, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the Fair. Very Windy. Saw redwood boxes at the Redwood Empire section. Listened to marimbas. Saw Juan Mertins for a short time. Home about ten.

400px-Louis-Roper as Smart Object-1 LewisRoper copy

Monday April 17, 1939 “Reported an accident. Two cops came-made it a lot of bother. Picked up Jeanne after school. Nite: Joe Lewis knocked out Jack Roper after 2 min + 20 seconds in first round. ”

Thursday April 20, 1939 “Received $50 from Santa Monica. Went downtown. Paid phone bill. Bought hat, gloves, hose + a girdle. To the library and Clement Street. Heavy fog. ”

Friday April 21, 1939 “Quiet day. Wrote letters and sent money orders. Apartment agent here-will try to locate us a place. Phoned Tony. Sam gone to the store for wine. Foggy day.”

BrazilianCoffeeMatchCover BrazilianCoffeeMatchCover2

Saturday April 22, 1939 “Jeanne and I to the Fair. Free coffee at Brazil pavilion. Jeanne to the dance at nite with the Salvidor Commissioner. Met Pete Brescido from Santa Monica. Sam and I sat up wining.”

Sunday April 23, 1939 “Sam and I to the Park. Saw the W.P. A. art exhibit. Marvelous! Nite: Jeanne, Sam, and I up late drinking Collins.”

Monday April 24, 1939 “Nice day. Walked to the beach. Back to school for Jeanne. Letters from Gen + Francisco. Pete Breceda over at nite.”

Tuesday April 25, 1939 “Letter and money from Ruth. Went to town and bought a sweater, etc… Nite to Tony’s. Home + wine.”

ChineseVillageTorutuneTelling Birds3

Wednesday April 26, 1939 “Jeanne and I to the fair. To the Chinese Village and Fortune Telling Bird. On the ferry home sat with Juan Mertins and Carlos. Met the Guatemala Commish. Home About 9:30.”

ChineseVillageTorutuneTelling Birds

Thursday April 27, 1939 “Met Sam at Marcs. then met Ruth + to Vanessis. After several drinks met Jerry + Marie there. Later Sam and I to Sinaloa + Izzy’s. Total blank after, until coffee in the fire station.”

Friday April 28, 1939 “Fireman brought me home. In bed most of the day. Felt horrible.”

We Met Juan Mertins

An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940.Full Map

Monday April 10, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the Fair. Saw an exhibit at the Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts. Marvelous!”

Palace Of Fine And Decorative Arts

Palace of Decorative and Fine Arts (N)

“To El Salvador to see ‘the Goats.’ Then to the Guatemala Bldg.”

House of El Salvidor

Latin America Court (8): Mexico, El Salvidor, Panama, Guatemala, Peru, Columbia, Chile, Ecuador.

hans-mertins-paintings as Smart Object-1 Ferry Commuters

“We met artist Juan Mertins, most charming. Met him on the ferry and then had scotch with him. It was a grand day, but cold.”
The piece shown has all the characteristics of Juan Mertins early paintings and was exhibited at the Golden Gate International Exposition. His real name was Hans Mertins but he used to sign his paintings under his artistic name: Juan Mertins. He was a known artist in the San Francisco area during the 1920’s. He also painted backgrounds for Hollywood films. Since Helen had also worked in Hollywood studios, they may have had a lot to talk about. He is mentioned repeatedly in the diary, so clearly they struck up a friendship.

Tuesday April 11, 1939. “Quiet lazy day. At nite met Sam at Marc’s. Went with Palmer, Marion, and Ruth to celebrate Palmer’s birthday. Drinks at the office + then to Izzy’s for dinner. Got a dent in the fender on the way home.”

Thursday April 13, 1939. “Went to the Fair alone. To the Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts and the Guatemala building. Saw the Horticulture Palace and then to the Guatemala Building.  Juan Mertins gave me a drink: Creme de Menthe. Listened to both Marimbas -Fun! The Berkeley gal and Juan Mertins waited for me, then home. Nice day.”


Florence Cafe was at 1968 Lombard.  It’s Thai Cuisine in the Google street photo.

Friday April 14, 1939. “Met Sam and went to dinner at Florence Cafe. Then to Izzy’s-also Villa Turin. Fun!”


Located at 800 Montgomery Street the building survives and is a Historic Landmark.


The Sherman Bank is part of Jackson Square Historic District.

Saturday April 15, 1939. “I met Sam at noon after taking Jeanne to the ferry. Lunch at Villa Turin. Then to Izzy’s, Chinese cocktail bar, then back to Izzy’s.  Then…”
Hang Far Low Site Today

Google view of  Hang Far Low site, 723 Grant Avenue.

“…Dinner at Hang Far Lows. Back to Izzy’s again. Met Englishmen…”

Sinaloas as Smart Object-1

“…To Sinaloa. Home about 10:30”

1416 PowellStreet

1416 Powell Street Today


Went to the RKO Golden Gate

  An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940.

Poster - Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, The_02 as Smart Object-1
Wednesday April 5, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the RKO Golden Gate to see Rogers + Astaire in the Castle picture.” The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), would be their final RKO film together, although they would reunite in 1949 for MGM‘s The Barkleys of Broadway. The film was unique for Astaire and Rogers.  The characters in it are more realistic than usual in an Astaire-Rogers film, it is the only Astaire-Rogers musical biography, the only one of their musicals with a tragic ending, and the only one in which Astaire’s character dies.


The RKO Golden Gate Theater.

Built in 1920, the Golden Gate Theatre was a movie theater for over 50 years until it closed in the 1970’s. By the time it was shuttered, the Golden Gate Theatre had already been converted into a two screen theater in the 1960’s, with the balcony theatre known as the Penthouse Theatre. With the twinning it suffered little permanent damage as it was restored to a single auditorium by the Shorenstein Hayes Nederlander group.

When it was finally renovated and reopened in 1979 into a performing arts center, the original detail and look of the theater was restored as well. Although the neighborhood has remained a little seedy, the theater is still very grand, with a marvelous Art Deco vertical sign that is nearly 4 stories high. Today, the Golden Gate Theatre is still a premier venue for travelling broadway shows and a visual journey into San Francisco’s gilded past. Contributed by Juan-Miguel Gallegos. Cinema Treasures. org

Japanese Tea Garden

“Afternoon walk in the park. Jose over and took Jeanne for Tea at Japanese Tea Garden. Nite: Took Sam to the library. Wrote to Irene. It was a beautiful day.”
Mom took me for my first trip to San Francisco in 1967. I remember she made a point of visiting the Japanese Tea Garden. One other note.  Sam Hussey never drove; Helen did all the driving.

39belltelephone2 as Smart Object-1

Friday April 9, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the fair. We won telephone calls. Jeanne phoned Mercedes, but not home. I called Irene + talked to her. We went to listen to the marimba. Home about Ten P.M.”


Friday April 8, 1939. “Met Sam and we all went to the Fair. Saw many exhibits. Drank at Happy Valley. Saw Carlos and met most of the marimba players. Back to Izzy’s-fiesta, etc. Got a ride home with the Italians. Hazy ending to the day.”

Adelphian_Club_House_Central_Avenue_and_Walnut_Streets_Alameda_California_2975 as Smart Object-1

Sunday April 9, 1939. “Easter Sunday. Went to Oakland for dinner with Gen and Jess. Drove to Berkeley and Alameda. Saw an interesting big house, also an old home on Central Avenue. Home about 6:30” Certainly similar interests through the generations in this family!

Helen Returns To Santa Rosa

An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940. 

Helen Martin at 913 Cherry St


Helen in Santa Rosa where she grew up. This photo was taken in 1923. Helen was then married to Val Martin (Jeanne’s father); they lived at 913 Cherry Street, Santa Rosa.  Later that year they moved to Southern California to work in the film industry. Mom was born Jeanne Delano Martin on September 22, 1923 in Long Beach, CA.
Today Cherry Street is a Historic District in Santa Rosa.



Sunday April 2, 1939. “Took a grand drive today to Santa Rosa…It has certainly grown.”
guerneville992x625  ArmstrongTreerussian_river_resorts_sign_1936_41sm as Smart Object-1

“Also saw Healdsburg, Guernville, and Armstrong woods. It was a beautiful day, and the country was green and luscious. Arrived home in San Francisco about 5:30.”

Monday April 3, 1939. “First day of Jeanne’s vacation–slept until 8. At 1 P.M. we walked to the beach. Took the tram home. Went shopping on Clement Street. It was a foggy day.”

bell_switchboard as Smart Object-1

Tuesday April 4, 1939. “A lovely day and night. Jeanne and I went to the Fair. Went to the phone exhibit and saw kids there from Los Angeles.”

El Salvidor

“Then went to El Salvidor. We met boys from Guatemala.”


“To Brazil for coffee. We were introduced to various people. Carlos and Jose drove us home.”

Talked On The Radio Twice

An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940.

London House 25 Trinity Place

The 1939 San Francisco Directory has London House address as 25 Trinity Place at Sutter Street, about a block from Market Street. The Google view today.

Monday March 27, 1939 “Sam and I to the bank, post office, and stores. Lovely Day. Nite: Met Tony and went to dinner with the ladies to London House.”

GearyTheatre EthelBarrymoreWhiteoaksofJalma
Ethel Barrymore
“Went to the Geary Theater to see Ethel Barrymore in Whiteoaks of Jalma. It was Grand!”

Short Wave Radio Broadcast Station

Photo source: Bay Area Radio Museum

Tuesday March 28, 1939. “Went to The Fair. Talked on the radio twice.”

Cesar Romero+Sally Eilers

Photo Source: Bay Area Radio Museum

It’s Cesar Romero and Sally Eilers’ turn to talk on the radio, Treasure Island station W6XBE. It was an International Broadcast Station established by General Electric Company for the fair as an advanced technology exhibit. In August of 1939, the station’s call sign was changed to KGEI (standing for “GE International”).


“Went to the Scottish Village + met a young chap.”


“Then on to the Gayway to see general things.”

Foiles Bergere Poster Folies Bergere

The March 11, 1939 San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed “The Folies Bergere Opens–And Boy, It’s a Show!

“Well, folks it’s happened! The Golden Gate International Exposition has really got something at last. It’s the Folies Bergere, which opened–and how it opened–last night.

“If that isn’t a drawing card of San Francisco’s 1939 World’s Fair then Sally Rand never had a bubble and Stella never had a bit of folk lore.

“It’s risque, of course. ‘The Lace Wedding” and “Wedding Night” will bring you up in your seat. That red-haired witch who shows on the program only as Grace will bring back the memories of the girl you were looking for when you read “Lancelot and Elaine.”

“The music will stir you out of the workaday world of comtomiters and typewriters and such, and it may set you to dreaming of oceans to be flown across and enemies to be shot down for the glory of a lady and the shedding of a vow.

“And if you are old enough to know the old Orpheum on O’Farrell street, where you sat and watched Farrar and Bernhardt, Savoy and Brennan, the Foy Family, the Cyclists, the trained seals, and those others you have missed for such a long time–they’re all there, back at the Folies, and you can meet them again and again until your sides ache with laughter.”

“Saw Folies Bergere, then back to San Francisco and ate. Home after 12.”


Friday March 31, 1939. “It was a lovely hot day in San Francisco. I did cleaning and washing. Then went to the De Young Museum and saw Rembrandt etchings. Sam home fairly early. Tony came over.”

The Best Place In The Fair

Thursday March 16, 1939 “Walked to the beach and back. Took a nap. Then met Jeanne after school and rode to the beach and got cones. Came back and shopped and had a good dinner. Sam called on E. Hurt, the Russian artist. It was very hot today.”

Sunday March 19, 1939 “A quiet day. Walked to the beach. Took streetcar home. Went to look at apartments of various kinds.”

Monday March 20, 1939 “It was a grand day of interest. I went to The Fair alone. Saw Eleanor Roosevelt arrive. In the afternoon I heard her speak–most charming. Went to several exhibits. El Salvidor-coffee and marimbas. To Greenwich Village. Home about 9.

ElseArgal+IreneRich_Broom For The BrideCurran-Theatre_San-Francisco_1922-1 as Smart Object-1
Elsa Argal, left with Irene Rich, right in Broom For The Bride.

Thursday March 23, 1939 “Sam came home in the afternoon. Feeling sick. He went to bed early. Nite: I went to Tony’s, and with eight women went to dinner at Vagabond House. Then to the Curran Theater to see Irene Rich in ‘Broom for the Bride.’ Enjoyed it.”

Jeanne's Fair Page2

A page from Mom’s crumbling scrapbook. I’m in the process of moving photos from it to archival pages. She indicates the Brazil Pavilion is “the best place in the fair” (lower right). Brazilian flag upper left. A partially used ticket book from 1940, And the El Salvador Pavilion napkin. And Duke. I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe got tossed after she got married.

Saturday March 25, 1939 “Sam feeling much better. The Doctor was here. Says he can get up Monday. Then go to work on Tuesday. Today was Rainy. Jeanne went to the fair.”

Brazil Pavilion

“Best Place in The Fair.” The photo caption reads “Pavilion of the United States of Brazil. It occupies 10,000 of its 25,000 square feet of the ground. The products displayed are representative of the country’s ever increasing potentiality and includes coffee, rubber, matte, vegetables fibers and oils, timbó, guaraná, etc. and manufactured products. Visit the CAFE BRAZIL with its tropical patio and try a cup of PURE Brazilian coffee.”


A name that begins to appear in Helen’s diary is Carlos. He became a constant friend in both San Francisco and Los Angeles for years to come. Apparently they met at the Brazil Pavilion where he sang.  The Photo shows him in the rotunda of  that pavilion–silhouette of  The Exposition Tower “Spire to the Sun” in the background.

The Car Went Blewey

Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts

The already mentioned Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts

Sunday March 12, 1939 “Jeanne, Sam, and I with Paul, Ruth Marc + Nancy to the Fair. Marc, Ruth, + Nancy left early but we stayed”


The Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts is one of the few surviving buildings from The Fair. This is a Historic American Buildings Survey photo done in 2003.

The building predated the fair itself, and was constructed in 1938 as an aircraft hangar for Pan American World Airways and their trans-Pacific Clipper services. It was later modified for the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition.

The building retains its George W. Kelham and William Peyton Day designed Art Deco Streamline Moderne features.

The interior was adapted for the exposition by adding curving temporary plaster walls to house a $20 million collection of artwork, designed by Dorothy Wright Liebes and Shepard Vogelsang. The space was extensively subdivided into small galleries.

07 Dorothy Liebes who illustrates the optimistic modernism of the American designer post WWII as Smart Object-1

Dorothy Wright Liebes worked closely with Frank Lloyd Wright. She talks about her relationship with the Wrights in her papers.

“After The Fair we had dinner in Chinatown. Then the car went blewey. Stuck for a long time. Paul stayed over again.”

Monday March 13, 1939 “Didn’t get up until after 11 a.m. The car started OK. Later Jeanne and I rode through the Presidio. Shopped. Then home to clean up the mess. To bed early.”

We Met Jose Miguel Covarrubias

corvarrubias-art-pacific as Smart Object-1

The six murals by Miguel Covarrubias depicting the Pacific Rim in all of its cultural and natural glory were the center piece of the Golden Gate International Exposition.  Today, however, only five of murals remain. See The Lost Mural of José Miguel Covarrubias

Also check out this YouTube homage to Covarrubias.

Saturday March 4, 1939 “Sam had to work most of the day. Nite: with Marc, Ruth + Jerry to the Fair + what a time. Met Eureka people, rode on rolling chairs, and saw Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts.


“On return we met Covarrubias.”

Fior D Italia

Image source Center For Creative Photography Fior d’Italia lays claim as the oldest Italian restaurant in the USA.

Friday March 10, 1939. “Walked to the beach + back in the A.M. Nite: Jeanne and I met Sam. Dinner at Fior d’Italia.

“Then to Izzy’s, and a grand time as usual. Met Russian artist Hurt, and to his studio. Home at 3 a.m.


Saturday March 11, 1939. “Took Sam to work. Took Jeanne and friends to the ferry. Met Marc at 1:30, an afternoon of drinking. Went to Ruth’s at eight. Then to Izzy’s for dinner. Sam and Marion fell asleep but I danced. Paul Dohrman drove us home and stayed over.”



The Library of Congress photo caption reads “Italian Restaurant, North Beach, San Francisco.”

Saturday February 25, 1939. “To town with Jeanne. Bought Jeanne a hat and Expo tickets. Me-lipstick and powder. Lunch with Sam at Amerigos. Walked around North Beach.”


“Nite: Sam, Marc, Ruth Taylor, et al, to Izzy Gomez, and William Tell Place. Lots of fun.”
San Francisco in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City by the Bay lists William Tell Place in Historic San Francisco at 630 Clay Street. It was a German Swiss Restaurant with nightly dancing. All indication of this time and place has been erased by modern tall buildings.

Sunday February 26, 1939 “With Jeanne, Phil + Tony to the Fair. Saw the Ski Jump.
Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 7.50.02 AM

The Google View of The Shack today, 400 Bay Street at Mason.

Back to the city about 6:30 Dinner at The Shack. Sam came home drunk again. Awful!”

This was the last mention about Sam coming home intoxicated. The issue it appears was really about Helen not being included in Sam’s festivities. She mentions being upset about the issue on Monday, but that was the last of it.

Monday February 27, 1939 “Very depressed today. Washed + picked up the apartment. Sent money orders + paid garage. Met Jeanne and went to the library.”

Tuesday February 28, 1939 “Phil + I to the Fair.  Saw more exhibits.”


Sally Rand was fairest of the fair when she became number one  on the Gayway.

WaltRoesnerCapitoliansCapitolTheatreApedaNewYork1928 as Smart Object-1

“We listened to the Expo Band and Walt Roesner’s Band.”


Fifth biggest attraction of the Gayway was Stella, who first appeared at the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Stella grossed $100,000 in 1915. A string was attached to the back of the painting, then pulled back and forth, causing Stella to “breath.”  After the Panama Exhibition a dozen imitation Stellas appeared. This one was said to be original.

“We saw “Stella,” then came home about Six. It was a grand day.”

Saw The Incubator Babies

Sally Rand's Troubles Begin

The Sally Rand Nude Ranch was the talk of the town in San Francisco at this time

El Portal Menu

Image source: John Freeman

Monday February 20, 1939 “To town in the A.M. Had the car greased, etc. Nite: to El Portal, nice dinner. Saw Tony at her apartment. Home + Sherry. Letter from Irene. Lovely day.”


Tuesday February 21, 1939. “To Tony’s at her shop with Phil + got 3 piece suit. Then to the mechanic to pick up car. Drinks with Phil. Nite: picked Sam up. Dinner in Chinatown + wandered around. Grand evening-balmy-”

Incubator Babies

“The incubator babies exhibit was a premium attraction, meaning an additional quarter collected at the door on top of the fair admission. The spin was that the purpose of the display and admission fee was for scientific public education purposes and fundraising for the nurses, but in reality it was a common side show attraction at fairs back in the day.” –Shawn Clover

Wednesday February 22, 1939 “With Jeanne + Phil to the Fair. Met Tony at  nite. Saw incubator babies + lots of exhibits. Home at 9:30. No Sam! Called K.C., Sam out with Marc.”

Thursday February 23, 1939 “Jeanne and I to town. Bought hose  + hat. Back home, picked up at the house. Phil over. Sam home late + drunk! So discouraging-”


My first search for a San Francisco Trocadero turned up the Trocadero Inn. However apparently it may have been closed by 1939. A more likely site, located downtown (fitting with what the diary says), is listed in the city directory. A Trocadero French restaurant at 609 Montgomery Street, which today the site of a tall building across the street from the TransAmerica building.

Friday February 24, 1939 “Lovely day. Walked. Met Jeanne and we went downtown + met Sam. Saw big fire at Sutter + Kearny. Dined at Trocadero. Good. Home + Sherry.”
609 Montgomery Street

The Google View of 609 Montgomery Street today