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The San Francisco Sunday Call
“THE STREET OF FOREIGN PARTS” Fred R. Bechdol! Dis covers on the Water Front "The Bells off Shandon," "Three Fingered Jack's" and " Mother Thompson's Place," Which Seem Liv ing Treasures Escaped From a Book of Steven &on J& —yr — >,— —- 2 • Fred R. Bechdolt J //rr^HE Street of Foreign Parts" . ••' I Ms what I like to call it. | Really, it is not a street, but neighborhood—a sort of back water into which the swirling tides of , humanity that pour up and down ad «, jacent thoroughfares are always over ■ flowing. It reeks with the smells of ! other lands. It is one of the few old I sections of Ban Francisco which the great fire left intact. Now the railroad companies are about to destroy it for new terminals. So it Is worth while takings, look at the place while it re mains. 'The Street of Foreign Parts" is not hard to reach. When you are in it you can learn more real geography than you could in six months of Cook's tours. If you want to get real values it Is best to walk, for then you come I slowly, to the place and get a chance to see the various stages of transition .•...which lie between it and the rest of ■ rthe city. Start down the south side of ilarket street and, when you come to . Bteuart, turn to your right. The' loud roaring of wheels and cars and the ."/-.constant hammering of horses' hoofs • die away behind you now. You are amor.,- warehouses and wholesale stores ftnd machine shops—a region of dry goods boxes and sacks and bales and hand trucks and slow moving drays. The. . odor of green coffee mingles with that • of spices, and now and then a gust of '..icwjTva.-brings harbor smells, So for two blocks. Then come various ships' chan dlery stores, with chronometers and brass lamps and compasses in the win dows, from whose doors emanate sug gestive whiffs of oakum and tarred rope. A submarine diver's office, the headquarters of a salmon fishers' union, a ship's plumber's bop and a steve dore's sign tell you that you are pass ing from the beaten track of the lands man. In a vacant lot an old lifeboat, left here for heaven knows what rea son, lies on its keel as if it were wait ing for the tide to come In and float it oft again. And now the cobblestones are silent; there Is no one on the side walk save yourself for the block's en tire length. You cross Folsom street, and there you are. Two blocks of it—wooden buildings of matched lumber, two storied, weath erbeaten, with many paned windows. The wind and sun have worked on the fronts of these old structures for many years. The p^lnt has peeled away or # lies all blistered. Red and green and gray are the colors, and the signs on some of these places are so dim that you have to look a second time if you would read them. Some have the false front that hides the peak of the roof In the second story, and others have mansard roofs. Some lean back from the sidewalk wearily, as If they had done with standing and wanted rest. And now you see some life. Here a dog is sleeping in a doorway; down the street a parrot screams from the caere which is suspended from the awning iron; a pair of flannel shirted fellows, whose wide footed gait be trays the years that they have spent on lurching decks, are turning into a door in the middle of the block. Farther on two gigantic coal heavers, their faces all grimed with dust, hold their huge hands on the shoulders of a comrade, whom they are dragging to steam beer. you can see the whites of their eyes and the white flash of their teeth behind their blackened fea tures. Beside • you in the sun a grizzled old skipper sits, tilted back in his arm chair, smoking a dark clay pipe. Only a block to East street, where the pavements resound to the beat of ten thousand heels, and Market street is not far behind your back. To the west lie the thoroughfares of the clang ing shops and huge warehouses. But here industry and commerce have not yet Intruded at all. Look about you at the dimmed old signs and study the geography of the shores of the seven seas. ■ Round the corner Is "The Bells of Shandon." And if names, can appeal to your imagination, you might per haps hear them ringing "so grand on" the wide waters of the river Lee. Far away, far away—and yet some one must have known the place and loved it to have painted that sign. Round an other corneryou can reach it through a back yard, however—ls "The City of Antwerp." Many a packet from that busy port disgorged a thirsty crew, whose eyes caught that same sign and who went no farther. Here is "The Finland"— storm beaten waters lashing a snow clad coast. There is "The Seal Rocks," and "within easy reach lies •"The Golden Gate.'" "The City of Chicago" . is- across the street from where you stand. You can look through a vacant lot to "the back door of "Mother" Thompson's place, where deep sea sailors drink with their com. panions from all parts of the world. You are passing a saloon whose queer Sign rivets your eyes. A hand with one fir.. missing and then the name "Jack." Peter Kyne brought this place to notice In his "Log of the Courtney Ford." and who has read that story has tasted some of the dreariness and the biting cold of winter on Bering sea. Now that you've got a glimpse of the street, turn into "Three Fingered Jack's" place. If you ever read Kip ling's "Captains Courageous," you want to spend a few minutes here. For the cod fishermen spend their time in port before tins bar. Not the Newfound land fishermen. These Mows are a different breed, and is their work is wilder, they are wilder, too. s A- brawny crowd, with tattooed mermaidens on their chests and tattooed stars on their hairy hands. With them mingle the salmon fishers, and here and there a coastwise -sailorman. "Three Fingered Jack" Is what they call a character. A giant with silver hair. He's a grandfather, is "Three Finger," and very proud of the fact. In his day he sailed the seas; was shanghaied twice from this same port of San Francisco; became In time a fisherman; dropped his nets on north ern rivers and hauled in his dripping line from the ley waters ; of Bering sea He saw his share of adventure among the pearl schooners in the gulf of California, and he dug gold on Nome's beach before the sands were ever known to the world. But that was when he Was young. He'll tell you now that he Is getting old and worn out." lie will announce it in a loud voice, as all men do when they know that their youth Is staying with them beyond the allotted time. While the fishermen have their money they spend It fast. The crowd riots before his dented bar; he serves them all; bellows repartee to the profane abuse of one admiring group; exchanges con fidences With a trio of ancient and griz zled friends, and drinks with all hands impartially. And there is yet the manso they-, tell . me—who can say that he saw "Three Finger" the worse for liquor behind his counter. "His set of books is on the safe beneath a rack of letters. It consists of one well thumbed daybook. The accounts date seven years back, some of them, and reach all around the world.. You can't linger here too long. Tear your self away from the new found friends you've made and come around the corner. * -. The "Bells of Shandon," strange to say, is kept by a German, It is also known proclaims itself in a sort of subsidiary sign as "Brewer's ho tel." Dick Brewer owns it. You take a step down from the sidewalk and: find yourself in a dusky interior, through whose half light Brewer looms. "As big a Dutchman as you'll find in a day's walk." one of his customers said in describing him. And that is true. Also as good natured as he is big. .In the old days of the Honolulu packets," when it took some weeks to sail from: the Golden gate to Hawaii, Dick Brewer was a steward on r one of these craft. Prior to that time he had served long years before the mast; and he , had seen many ports. • After the Honolulu i days, - during which he saw a royal house come '; and go,; and witnessed the advent of our American industry in the islands, he cooked on a tugboat here in the harbor.. Behind his bar is a queer old Ger man print; there is also an unusually long array of square bottles, with odd, crooked necks. Upstairs ho keeps ; a lodging-house, .where seafaring men sleep between voyages. These lodgers and many customers who have drifted up from East street yarn In front of the counter. It is a great place for old timers, gray haired sailormen who have seen their; day and who can tell you wild stories about that day if they want to. Any afternoon you may find a half dozen of them talking quietly on a bench that is placed on one side of the room. The younger generation —a far noisier lot—stick closer to the steam beer taps: Among them are many men o' warsmen. Adorning.the wall are several bits of craftsmanship; a ship In a bottle, a whittled wooden chain and a fan cut from a shingle. A couple of joyous customers are trying to sing 8 sailor's chanty.. Brewer starts the phonograph. Come on; it's time to go. • We head for "Mother" Thompson's. That fronts on East street; but we take the back way through a vacant lot. as many do. "Mrs. Thompson's Saloon" is the way the sign announces.it, with the statement under it that Mrs. Thompson is the proprietor. She is be hind/ the, bar now, wiping it carefully with a cloth. Now bear in mind what Sirs. Thomp son says: "The sailor byes baa a hard life, with nothin" .but a plank' between thim and death.; And so they likes to have what fun they can ashore." That Is the truth of the matter; and when you realize this fact you are in better shape to understand " how keeping a saloon on The Street of Foreign Parts may have the respectability that goes with serving one's fellowman. Mother Thompson's saloon - resounds with rough talk and rough voices raised in song as you come In. The song you recognize as "Blow a Man Down.", A swarthy, black haired Highland Scotch man and a gray haired old Welsh bosun are doing the singing. The laughter and talk come from half a dozen deep water seamen. You remember "Fultah Fisher's boarding house," where "crack ling oaths went to and fro around the fist banged board"? So, here; but this is straight away swearing, honest and above board. There Is no vulgarity. The atmosphere of this saloon is differ ent than that of one up in Market street. When you have been here a few minutes you can understand Mrs. Thompson when she tells you, "Yes, I. raised my, family right in my saloon, ye might say. And niver have I been Insulted by sailormen. One or twice a man has started to say something, but always it was a landsman, and the byes put him out." .- She is getting on in years, is Mother Thompson; and her hair has much gray. Her waist is very ample. She has a deal of kindness in her eyes, and she smiles when she talks of the seafaring men. Her customers say that she has helped many a fellow out when he was broke. Her books carry accounts that vary from two bits to $20. And when the fire —she was several blocks north then— burned her place, tak ing the accounts with it, she says that never; made any difference with pay ments, "The byes came back and hand ed me what they owed me when they come in port," she explains. Her bonnet of black straw and black trimmings lies on the shelf behind the bar along with her knitting. When the place Is empty she is always busy with the needles. There Is an ancient square piano In one corner, and on It are two or three rolls of sailors' blankets. Over it a huge gray cockatoo sits on a perch. Occasionally he joins in the noise with a bit of song or a "Belay, there!" "Wan of the sea farm' mm give him to me; he comes from Australyc," says she. She has many other gifts; they are coming always. A bottle of Ka nanga water, a bit of carving in wood, a lot of artificial flowers, some silk cloth from China. While she tells you about these things she stops occasion ally to draw a glass of steam beer or to pass the whisky bottle to a cus tomer, or perhaps, at invitation, to Join some sailor in a drink, taking seltzer water discreetly. After you have gone out of the back door again and found yourself on Steu art street you have still before you a number of equally picturesque and odd places you may visit. Now that you've been shown these few you can find these others for yourself. In going in and | out of —saloon and lodging house and hotelyou will hear a deal of loud talking and much profanity, and it will he indeed remarkable if you do not see a fight or two. But for all the noise and rough language, you will see and hear as little to give real of fense as you will where men are more circumspect. And, if you choose to take the time, you are sura to get good tales of real adventure and action from the lips of those who went through the things themselves. The Street of Foreign Parte will not remain long. The railroads have bought up all this property. it has taken them (some years to do it. According to The Call's announcement, made some time ago. the neighborhood Is to be used for tracks and warehouses. When that comes the seafaring men will have to go elsewhere and find new haunts while they are in port. Three Fingered Jack and Mother Thompson and Dick Brewer will have to move to buildings wnich will be less in keeping with the personalities of their customers.