A Transcript of a Conversation
Mrs. Barbara Kahn Gardner

May 29, 2004

Mrs. Barbara Kahn Gardner is the daughter of the late Samuel Kahn. Samuel Kahn and family arrived in San Francisco during the fall of 1925 so Samuel Kahn could assume the position of Executive Vice President of the Market Street Railway (of 1921) that was then controlled by the Byllesby Engineering and Management Corporation. Kahn in 1927 was elevated to the company's presidency and later in the late 1930s, after Byllesby was forced to sell the Market Street Railway Company because of the Public Utilities Holding Act of 1935, Kahn became the principal owner of the railway.

This conversation was held at the Hillsborough, California home of Mrs. Gardner on May 29, 2004 and deals with recollections of Mrs. Kahn with respect to her father and the Market Street Railway. The interviewers are Walter Rice, a director of the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association, and his wife Lauretta.

MSRy Shield The famous Byllesby shield that was the trademark of the Market Street Railway from late 1925 to 1938. Walter Rice Collection.

Walter Rice: We're in the home of Mrs. Kahn Gardner. Mrs. Gardner is the daughter of the late Samuel Kahn who, for a long period of time, actually from 1925-1946, was associated with the Market Street Railway initially as Executive Vice President, then President, and then principal owner in the late '30s to the 1944 when the railway was sold to the City and County of San Francisco.

Mrs. Gardner: What would you like to start off with?

Mrs. Gardner: Well there are only two perhaps recollections that I can think of that would be of interest. One was 1932, FDR came into office and no sooner had he become President than he called a bank holiday. Now probably all of you are too young to remember any of that, but the banks were all closed so nobody had any cash. And stores, or many of them, were not issuing credit. So the Market Street, of course, was collecting nickels from the different passengers. And they set up a bank somewhere, not a real bank, I don't know where they kept the money, because normally I guess they would go to a bank, and so friends of the family could go to a certain Market Street office and cash a check. That's unusual.

Walter Rice: Yes, that is very, very unusual.

Mrs. Gardner: That I remember.

Then the most impressive memory I have was the summer of 1934. That is when there was a big general strike in San Francisco. It was started by Harry Bridges. What I recall is that we were in the mountains, it was June. It was either mid-June or end of June or something. It was the year I graduated from high school. A very glamorous age when you expect to have a wonderful summer. Anyway, my father was called back to the city right away and we all started back, and everything - the whole city was paralyzed. I don't know how many days passed when my father decided that he was going to break the strike. And he made a speech, I am almost positive it was on radio, saying he wouldn't ask his men to do anything he wouldn't do himself. The company was not unionized at that time, and maybe it never was, I'm not sure. So he drove a streetcar down the length of Market Street. Now, I don't think he really knew how to drive a streetcar, but there was somebody there telling him what to do, and there were a lot of news reporters in the car and the mayor and the chief of police…and it was all broadcast on the radio. It was absolutely terrifying because we were so sure that somebody was going to shoot or throw a bomb or whatnot. We, the family, at home listening to it on the radio. But anyway, thank goodness nothing happened. And that broke the general strike.

Walter Rice: Very interesting.

Mrs. Gardner: Which is an unusual story.

Walter Rice: Extremely unusual. I understand from talking to you and your late sister and also to a lot of other people, your dad had really a very, very outgoing personality.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, he did. He was totally extroverted.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, anyway, the strike was over but we had the worst summer imaginable. Somebody must … I'm only guessing … Somebody must have threatened my father's life and ours. It wasn't discussed with us. But out of the clear blue, my father acquired a bodyguard. Now, he was not the type that had a bodyguard or wanted a bodyguard or anything else, but this man lived in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in San Mateo on Third Avenue. And he'd come up in the morning, he'd sit by the front door with a sub-machine gun in his hand. You know, when you're 17 as I was, this is very impressionable.

Walter Rice: Right.

Mrs. Gardner: And then he would drive to San Francisco sitting up in the front seat with the sub-machine gun. I mean, he didn't drive, but he sat next to the man who was driving.

Walter Rice: Right.

Mrs. Gardner: And I don't know… It was never said much about us, but we were not allowed to go anywhere. And guards were put on the property. And the gate, which had never been closed, was closed. And there were a minimum of two guards there all the time, day and night. And we could have friends over, but we couldn't go anywhere.

Mrs. Gardner: Those were my only unusual recollections.

Walter Rice: How long did this last, do you recall … before things went back to normal?

Mrs. Gardner: We had a night watchman ever thereafter. Nobody in the daytime after that, I don't know, in the fall. I went away to school and I can't remember anybody there in the daytime afterwards.

Walter Rice: Do you recall were if there any incidents of property being damaged of the Market Street Railway during the strike? Do you recall anything happening like that?

Mrs. Gardner: No I don't. And I don't think it did.

Walter Rice: OK. Because I believe, that from looking at the records, of course you had the two main companies, Market Street Railway and the Municipal Railway operating at the time of the general strike. Other than once in the 1970s, when Muni had a strike, this was the only time the Muni was shut down by a strike. And they (Muni) went back before the Market Street Railway did in the general strike.

Mrs. Gardner: In the General Strike? In 1934?

Walter Rice: In the 1934.

Mrs. Gardner: But everybody was on strike. It wasn't just streetcars.

Walter Rice: The entire city was paralyzed.

Mrs. Gardner: Completely.

Walter Rice: Yes. I know my parents told me about the strike. They lived in San Francisco at the time.

Mrs. Gardner: It was a very strange feeling. I mean we were never really in the city, but just hearing the tales of those who were.

Samuel Kahn and retiree Samuel Kahn was a master of public relations. This included significantly improved employee relations, compared to his predecessors. In this 1930's photograph an employee, whose name and position have been lost to history, is being honored and congratulated on his retirement by Samuel Kahn in the president’s Sutter Street office. Charles Smallwood Collection, courtesy Emiliano Echeverria.

Walter Rice: Right. Why don't we go back to your days before you came to San Francisco? When the family lived in Stockton, could you describe your house and also how your dad met your mother in Stockton?

Mrs. Gardner: Well, as you know, my father was living in Stockton. I think he had been there about a year and a half with Western States Gas and Electric Company.

And some woman … young woman … who liked my father but he couldn't bear, was giving a New Year's Eve party and she invited him so far ahead of time that he accepted … or had to … and then she decided to have a house party with some friends coming from the city, from San Francisco. And, my mother was among them, and she really didn't want to go, but she did go, and that was how they met, and they were married four months later.

Walter Rice: Love at first sight?

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, exactly.

Walter Rice: That's really an interesting story. You had a big house in Stockton.

Mrs. Gardner: It was a funny house. Of course, I was not quite nine when we left Stockton. But it was a big barn-like house. Three floors … four floors in a way because down in the basement it had something that nobody ever used, it was called a summer dining room. Stockton would get quite hot, the Valley would get hot and nobody had ever heard of air conditioning at that point. So the so-called summer dining room was down in the basement. It was never used. So that made the fourth floor. The fourth floor in the other direction was an attic and it had a couple of rooms up there. Otherwise, it was the usual first floor and bedroom floor.

Walter Rice: And then in 1925 there's dramatic change with your dad's job. His new job was with the Market Street Railway, which had been sold, and the Byllesby Engineering and Management Corporation takes over in October of 1925. And in November of 1925, your father becomes Executive Vice President of Market Street Railway.

Mrs. Gardner: That's right. And we moved to the St. Francis Hotel.

Walter Rice: Right. And you stayed there for nine months because you mother got ill.

Mrs. Gardner: That's right.

Walter Rice: And … with malaria, if I recall correctly.

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, she got malaria from being bitten by a mosquito in the Valley, in the delta.

Walter Rice: Wow. Apparently during that period of time, and before, it was not that unusual.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, I guess not.

Walter Rice: I mean, today it would be totally unusual.

Mrs. Gardner: It certainly would be.

Walter Rice: But at that particular time, it was really not that unusual for that type of thing to occur. So you lived in the St. Francis Hotel …

Mrs. Gardner: For nine months.

If you ever read a book called Eloise at the Plaza, it was worse than that. I think they must have been awfully glad to get rid of us. The Crocker family owned the St. Francis then, so that's why we went there because they were friends of my father's. They said, "Please come stay with us."

Walter Rice: And also, the Crocker family was the major bond holder of the Market Street Railway.

Mrs. Gardner: Right.

Walter Rice: When the Market Street Railway was sold by (Henry) Huntington, that is, the original Market Street Railway, to the Baltimore Syndicate in 1902, the Market Street Railway, as a corporation, continued as a financial entity. And the Crocker family, through their long time connection to the Big Four …

Mrs. Gardner: The railroads (Southern Pacific) …

Walter Rice: … the Market Street Railway continued (as a financial corporation) even though the Baltimore Syndicate (United Railroads of San Francisco) was now the operating company.

Mrs. Gardner: That's interesting.

Walter Rice: … and the Market Street Railway held the United Railroads' financial bonds (debt) … when the Baltimore Syndicate took over, they took over all the financial obligations, the bonds and so forth, which existed from the underlying companies which made up the Market Street Railway. The Crocker family gets involved because of their banking interests. You know, Anglo Crocker National Bank, and so forth …

Mrs. Gardner: The family is all good friends of mine in this generation and the preceding ... You know the day we went to the Club for lunch that was the Crocker House (Burlingame Country Club)

Walter Rice: Yes … And it was beautiful.

Mrs. Gardner: Beautiful house.

Walter Rice: It was absolutely very nice. You've also told me that one of the reasons you stayed in the St. Francis Hotel is your father would not pick out a house for you to live in until your mother was well enough to come and see it.

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, that's true.

Walter Rice: And he had indicated to you that, when you moved to San Francisco that you would probably be living down in the Peninsula in a relatively big house … Mrs. Gardner… and a nice big garden like we had in Stockton. And so there we were a few rooms in the St. Francis.

Walter Rice: And he made good on that particular promise nine months later. So you moved down to Hillsboro …

Mrs. Gardner: and have been here ever since and ever thereafter.

Walter Rice: And then you also told me that your father would commute by the Southern Pacific (to San Francisco) and not take the Market Street Railway's 40-line.

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, but that was exciting in those days. A lot of the men went on the train. And their chauffeurs all took them down to the station (Burlingame). You ought to have seen what it looked like in the morning.

Walter Rice: Right.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, about five or six men paid for a taxi (at the San Francisco train station) by the year or by the month, or however they paid for it. And this taxi driver and the cab were not to pick up anybody else. And of course the SP station was at Third and Townsend. And the taxi drivers were parked over at the side (Townsend Street) and just waited. They all came on different trains and so they'd take one and then come back for another on the next train, so on and so forth. And the same thing in the reverse in the last afternoon. And when we were children we thought it was the most exciting thing to go down and meet the train.

Walter Rice: Right. So the chauffer would take you and your sister down to pick up your dad?

Mrs. Gardner: Yes. Now his theory was, which made great sense, was going up in the morning, if you read the morning papers, and coming down in the afternoon, if you read the evening papers you'd never have to look at a newspaper at home.

Walter Rice: (chuckle), OK.

Mrs. Gardner: It was about a half-hour trip.

Walter Rice: Yes. What did your dad think of the Municipal Railway? How did he react to the competition? Do you recall discussions?

Mrs. Gardner: The only thing I remember was he said they had a very easy time because they simply took their deficit out of the taxpayer's fund.

Walter Rice: Okay.

Mrs. Gardner: Summed it up quickly…

And that's during the time he was trying to get the six cent fare … the six cent fare he never got.

Walter Rice: Right.

Mrs. Gardner: Goodness knows how much it is today to ride on a streetcar.

Walter Rice: It's $1.25

Mrs. Gardner: Is it really …

Walter Rice: It's $1.25.

Mrs. Gardner: That's terrible.

Walter Rice: Which is … it's probably in terms of real income very, very close, because of the general inflation.

Mrs. Gardner: Five cents?

Walter Rice: Right. Because for years it was a nickel. We were talking 50, 60 or 70 years depending upon the company.

Mrs. Gardner: Do you ever go to the Huntington Hotel, The Big Four, which is a restaurant?

Walter Rice: I've seen it from the outside.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, they have a lot of framed stock and things. There's a share of Market Street stock up there on the wall.

Walter Rice: I actually have shares of the Market Street Railway stock on my wall in my office at home.

Mrs. Gardner: I think you should have. With your tremendous interest.

Walter Rice: Yes. Different issues because they had preferred and common stock and so forth, and each of which were different colors.

Mrs. Gardner: Anyway, they're framed; I've seen them up there.

Samuel Kahn Samuel Kahn then president of the Western States Gas and Electric Company is pictured at his desk in Stockton, California c1924 prior to assuming in November 1925 the position of Executive Vice President of the Market Street Railway. In the large frame is a picture of daughter Barbara with whom the interview is conducted. The smaller picture is of Mrs. Kahn and Rosalind, called "Patsy." Western States Gas and Electric Company became part of Pacific Gas & Electric. Assuming the position with the Market Street Railway did not end the Stockton connection for Samuel Kahn, who remained half owner of the Stockton Terminal and Eastern Railroad until 1950. Walter Rice Collection.

Walter Rice: One of the things your father did which I really admire him for, is he turned around a corporation which had an extremely negative reputation in San Francisco. In fact, reading about the United Railroads, when the Market Street Railway took over in 1921 from the United Railroads, by everybody's standards the URR would be regarded as an awful corporation. They bribed everyone in sight.

Mrs. Gardner: Politically incorrect.

Walter Rice: Politically incorrect. In fact it was very interesting. I have a copy of the San Francisco Call newspaper of November of 1901 in which they announced the sale of the Market Street Railway to the United Railroads. In a front page article they stress the pledge of the United Railroads not to get involved in politics.

Mrs. Gardner: Any more.

Walter Rice: Exactly, any more. They were going to run a model transportation company and not get involved in politics. And of course, immediately got more heavily involved than anybody else had (the Southern Pacific's Market Street Railway).

Mrs. Gardner: They never seemed to avoid politics.

Walter Rice: Exactly. And graft and corruption. Of course there were huge scandals which occurred at that particular time. When the Market Street Railway re-emerges in 1921, basically all that was done to change names on the streetcars. United Railroads was painted out and Market Street Railway was painted on.

Mrs. Gardner: And everything else stayed the same.

Walter Rice: And everything else stayed the same. And this really continued until your dad became the Executive Vice President (November 1925). In 1927 he moved up to the presidency of the company. And what your dad did is he brought an extremely well designed marketing plan to the Market Street Railway which changed the whole attitude of San Francisco towards the railway company to positive.

Car 9 In 1927, Samuel Kahn Market Street Railway president, received a US patent in his name for the white front "safety design." Beginning in 1927 the Market Street Railway’s cable cars had white fronts that featured red window trim. From the late 1930s, until the company’s purchase by the Muni, the Market’s corporate symbol -- the White Front -- was continued, however now minus the red window trim. Muni-built Powell cable car No. 9 that entered revenue service in April 2000 sports a paint scheme honoring the Market Street Railway’s original white front design, as it crosses the California Street cable line, August 2004. Walter Rice photo. May, 2005 Picture of the Month.

Walter Rice: One of the things that I told you on the telephone the other day that somebody had found the patent that your father had received in 1927 for the company's famous White Front. In the patent he has a sketch of a White Front car. Do you remember any discussion of the design of the cars or marketing?

Mrs. Gardner: No. There wasn't much discussion at home.

Walter Rice: Okay.

Mrs. Gardner: The only discussion I can ever remember at home was sometimes the cable car, I guess primarily the Powell Street line would jam or get stuck on the hill. I believe they were dray horses that were brought in to pull it up the hill into the repair barn. But for some reason they would telephone my father who would be in the middle of a dinner party. He couldn't go out and pull this cable car up the hill. I can remember that happened, oh, perhaps every three or four months.

Walter Rice: That's very interesting. Something I've never heard of.

Mrs. Gardner: They had interlocking brakes, or something, so it would just lock itself on the hill.

Walter Rice: Right. That is what they call a slot brake.

Mrs. Gardner: I guess so.

Walter Rice: Or they could put their other brakes on. The problem, of course being, is that when they want to start it they have to let go of the brakes. And if you're stuck on a hill, for example, if the cable car is going up the hill and it has to stop it could …

Mrs. Gardner: Roll back awfully fast.

Walter Rice: Exactly right. So today what they do is there are certain places where they just bring a big tow truck that stands behind the cable car so if the grip man fails to attach to the cable when they start up again, the cable car just bangs into the tow truck and no damage occurs.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh,

Walter Rice: But at this time, of course, they didn't have tow trucks.

Mrs. Gardner: No.

Walter Rice: It wasn't until the early 1930s that they replaced the horse at the Washington Mason carbarn. In order to move the cable cars around the barn little Ford built tractor was purchased to push the cars.

Mrs. Gardner: Then I guess you would be right…..

My memories, of course, are scattered because the streetcar company was not usually discussed at home … or particularly discussed that often. At least if it were, it wasn't in front of us.

Walter Rice: And the other big battle in the 1930s involved the one-man cars.

Mrs. Gardner: The one-man cars versus the two-man.

Walter Rice: Do you remember any discussion about one-man or two-man cars and his attitude towards the city?

Mrs. Gardner: Well, it was in the paper every single day. You couldn't miss it then.

Walter Rice: Right. And what of course eventually happened, is that the City of San Francisco takes the case goes all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. And it was in the Supreme Court of the United States that said the City of San Francisco had the police power to go ahead and pass an ordinance outlawing the one-man cars.

And then your father, being an extremely adroit businessman negotiated with General Motors Corporation, with their Yellow Coach division, and began buying buses. And the buses, of course, were one-man. So various streetcar lines became bus lines.

He also brought to San Francisco in 1935 the trackless trolley, or trolley bus. In 1935, San Francisco had, outside of one line in Philadelphia and a very early short-lived operation in Laurel Canyon (Los Angles) the first transit trackless trolley line. The line was very successful running on 18th Street and over Twin Peaks to Golden Gate Park - the No. 33, which was an innovation at that time. And as I said, it really set the trend, because San Francisco today has the largest trackless trolley system in the United States. The success of that particular line went ahead and showed how valuable that type of equipment would be for hilly operations in a place like San Francisco.

Mrs. Gardner: And there are steep hills. Of course, the cobble stones are now all gone. Those were for the horses.

Walter Rice: That's true, right. Changing the subject, as you know, we have a goat with the name of Sammy. The full name is Samuel Kahn Goat. It's actually my wife's Lauretta's favorite. And when we first got Sammy every time Lauretta would go out to the back yard, Sammy would come running and jump in her lap.

Mrs. Gardner: How amazing.

Walter Rice: Yes, and sit there in her lap. And this went on until she got to big too fit in the Lauretta's lap. On rare occasions when Sammy would come into the house, she would immediately would run to Lauretta and jump into her lap.

Mrs. Gardner: I think you'd be afraid to let a goat in the house. They'd start eating a rug or something like that?

Walter Rice: ‹chuckles› No, they're all different. We had one which would run in and knew where every wastebasket was. He would break into the house.

Mrs. Gardner: They like paper, don't they?

Walter Rice: Yes, exactly. He would hit the wastebasket. You told my wife that you had a car…

Mrs. Gardner: Did I tell you about the car named Sammy?

Walter Rice: Yes, which you got during World War II.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, actually, my father got it.

Walter Rice: Okay.

Mrs. Gardner: Simply, for an extra gas coupons. My father had a very important wartime job. He was the United States District Chief of the Army Ordinance, for the nine west coast states. It was a dollar-a-year job. The government paid you a dollar a year. Most of his deputies and under people were colonels and generals, and whatever. It was a huge office in San Francisco and maybe one in other states for all I know. But he had to know every factory in every one of those states. And how quickly it could be converted to making whatever munitions that we needed. Tremendous job.

I was not here during the war years. I was with my husband at different air bases. But, my father could not spend the time to commute just between San Francisco and down here (Hillsborough). My parents had an apartment in the Mark Hopkins Hotel all those war years and only went home on the weekends. You can see what a big job he had.

Walter Rice: Right. He actually had two jobs because he was still President of the Market Street Railway.

Mrs. Gardner: It was sort of running itself.

Walter Rice: It was an important time because in September of '1944 the City and County of San Francisco purchased the Market Street Railway. There was a tremendous amount of public relations which the City put on in order to buy the Market Street Railway (to obtain voter approval). I'm sure your Father was heavily involved in the negotiations to set up the bond issue which the voters voted on.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, I'm sure he was.

Walter Rice: So there must have been hours of war work and hours of time spent in managing the Market Street Railway for your dad.

Mrs. Gardner: That's why there was there was no commuting. That's why he stayed in town.

Walter Rice: Right, with the two jobs ….

Mrs. Gardner: That was really, really something special, though.

Walter Rice: Right.

Mrs. Gardner: He had been district chief before the war for about six months or so before the war …. Before even anyone thought of war.

Walter Rice: Speaking of World War II, do you have any memory of Pearl Harbor Day, what you were doing on that particular day?

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, I certainly do. Everybody knows what they were doing on Pearl Harbor Day. It was a Sunday morning. We were doing whatever we were doing … nothing. No television then of course, we didn't have the radio on since none of us were going out until dinner time. So we were just doing our usual Sunday a great deal of nothing, I guess. Each person was doing his own thing in the family - whatever it happened to be.

And a friend arrived at the house, a friend of my parents, came practically bursting in the door and said, "Isn't it terrible about Pearl Harbor?" This was about four o'clock in the afternoon, and told us. We hadn't known it until then. We then stayed glued to a radio.

Walter Rice: The way I got to meet you was a result of reading in a book that said in 1944 your dad was offered a position with Byllesby after the sale of Market Street Railway, in Chicago with one of their public utilities that Byllesby at that owned. And I remember that when I told you that story, you roared with laughter and said your father hated cold climates.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, yes, that's true. And I doubt it makes any sense, I can tell you about two different jobs he was offered that he did not take. Mr. Giannini (founder of Bank of America) who lived down here, just around about two blocks from here. He was a friend of my father - a business friend. I never met Mr. Giannini or saw him socially. Anyway, he offered my father presidency of - I don't know if it was Bank of America or Trans America, but one or the other. My father said "Thank you, but no thank you."

Walter Rice: And another position was with …

Mrs. Gardner: I was trying to remember…

Walter Rice: Robert Dollar Steamship Company, I believe.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh yes, the Dollar Steamship. They were … I guess needed a new head of the company.

Walter Rice: So your father was extremely well thought of.

Mrs. Gardner: He was, but he again said "no."

Walter Rice: These two offers were impressive. I believe your father actually retired about 1946 from the Market Street Railway.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, he had to stay about two years after the sale. There's a transition period.

Walter Rice: And there was still a lot of work. One of the comments we discussed earlier was that you had a memory of the legal office still going strong after the sale.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, yes. It did for a long time. 'Cause there were a lot of law suits. You know people think it's very easy to sue a public utility. Even if you haven't been hurt or injured, it's a good way to get a lot of money.

Walter Rice: Right.

Mrs. Gardner: So there were some fascinating cases I remember hearing about.

Walter Rice: You one time related to me where your father hired the detective…to move into the lady's house next door. Do you want to tell that particular story?

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, alright. There were two different stories. I think it was a man, it might have been a woman - that part doesn't matter - who said he was severely injured and had brought a big law suit against the company. The company detective rented the house next door and installed somebody there with a movie camera. The man said he could never work again, he couldn't walk or whatever he couldn't do, and, but they photographed him with a movie camera playing leap frog with his grandchildren. So that took care of that.

But the story I really love was the story of the woman with the bottle of ink. Her arm, she said, was paralyzed. She said couldn't lift it up. Or she could lift it up, but she could only lift it up for a very few seconds, or something. So anyway, she came into the court to testify, and she was very, very dressy and all brand new cloths and whatnot for this. The company attorney asked her to put her arm out and he put a bottle of ink in it - an opened bottle of ink. And of course she held it out there. She wasn't going to spill ink all over these brand new clothes.

Walter Rice: Once the sale occurred, and the corporation ended and it had all these liabilities to clean up and it also had some property still. It did not totally sell everything the Market Street Railway owned to the City. And even after your father decided to retire, he was still in the railroad business with the slow, tired and easy - the Stockton, Terminal and Eastern.

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, how he loved that. I love that name so.

Walter Rice: I believe a good friend of his was part owner with him.

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, but I can't remember his name now. Dietrich, does that sound right?

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, easily, because my oldest son, Bob, was born in 1943, and I have a picture of him driving the engine, with the engineer, of course, standing next to him. And he was about eight years old.

Walter Rice: I think so. And he owned that until 1950 or so, when he decided to sell.

Walter Rice: Right. Then your father passed away about 1953?

Mrs. Gardner: '53, September 1953. Very suddenly.

Walter Rice: And your mother did not pass away until mid …

Mrs. Gardner: 1986.

Walter Rice: 1986.

Mrs. Gardner: And they lived around the corner. After my father died, she didn't want to stay in the big house any longer. And, we owned two pieces of land here. And my sister and brother-in-law wanted to take over the big house. Of course we were established here. And mother built that smaller house next to us, the next house, which she called the "little grass shack." She lived there very happily about 20 years.

Walter Rice: Very nice. Your dad had an outgoing personality.

Mrs. Gardner: He certainly did. He was a very popular man.

Walter Rice: And this comes through continuously when you read about him and read what other people say. And as I said I personally really admire for what he did in the 1920s, turning around the Market Street Railway.

Mrs. Gardner: He was very innovative.

Walter Rice: Incredibly innovative

Mrs. Gardner: In many, many ways.

Walter Rice: Right. And to take over a company which had just a terrible reputation and, by 1930 …

Mrs. Gardner: It was becoming respectable.

Walter Rice: It was becoming respectable and then the City voters were asked to extend the franchise, or a permit of operation for an extra 25 years. Because most of the streetcar franchises expired in 1929 and they got a special extension. Because they were granted 50-year permits to operate when the California Constitution of 1879 was adopted.

Mrs. Gardner: That's like a franchise?

Walter Rice: Yes. They were grandfathered in by the new constitution in 1879 for 50 years which carried it up to 1929. And that is the reason why cable car service on Pacific Avenue ended in November of 1929.

Mrs. Gardner: That was horse drawn originally, double dummy, or whatever it was.

Walter Rice: Right. They had the dummy (trailer) and the grip car on each of equipment. But, again, to show your father's marketing skills, he turns that event (the end of the Pacific Avenue cable car) into a positive event with press. They have the Chamber of Commerce out there and they promoted …

Mrs. Gardner: A sort of celebration.

Walter Rice: It was actually a celebration. He was absolutely great at that, it really paid off. In 1930 the voters approved a 25-year extension of service for the Market Street Railway. That gave the company economic value, because the franchises otherwise would have expired. The city probably would have given the Market a temporary operating permit. But, the city could have taken over at any time without any compensation. But the fact that you had the 25-year operating permit created the leverage for your father them to sell the Market Street Railway to the City and County of San Francisco.

Mrs. Gardner: The Pacific Avenue line in the residential area was popular. All of the people that lived out there used it. And apparently the conductor, motorman or whatever would stop in the middle of the block. They knew everybody's name, all the children's names, where they were going or weren't going. But that was just, of course, on Pacific Avenue. Pacific Avenue is also down on the Barbary Coast, too.

Walter Rice: But we're talking about the …

Mrs. Gardner: the residential part …

Walter Rice: ….residential part of Pacific Avenue. Because it had been an extension of the original Polk Street cable line that turned west on Pacific Avenue. Then when they electrified it, the streetcar went all the way to North Point Street. And the cable car continued on Pacific Avenue … because there was in San Francisco an early environmental movement that was against overhead wires.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh.

Walter Rice: This early environmental movement was led by Spreckles of the sugar fame - John D. Spreckles and so forth.

Mrs. Gardner: I know the family well, especially their son.

Walter Rice: What the environmental movement was based on that the wires are ugly, and so they got ordinances passed that you could not put streetcar lines with overhead wires on certain key streets such as Geary, Sutter, Market Street, Van Ness Avenue and so forth.

Mrs. Gardner: So they had to be cable lines.

Walter Rice: And they had to keep cable cars. So even though the cable car by the 1900s was really obsolete, except for going up hills where the electric cars could not do it. Before the Earthquake the Spreckles had stopped streetcars on Jackson Street. And so the United Railroads comes along and says everything is destroyed and there are pictures of the first streetcar going down Market Street with the city still smoking from the fire. After the Earthquake and Fire, Spreckles, who is a major leader of the environmental movement, actually flees San Francisco and moves to San Diego.

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, because there were two branches (of the Spreckles family). The San Francisco branch and the San Diego Branch … I know some of each.

Walter Rice: Lauretta, did you want to say anything?

Lauretta Rice: Yes, I was just thinking as you were talking about different things, how come your father decided to move to Hillsborough even though he worked in San Francisco.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, I can answer that very simply. He hated city living. He liked gardens and trees and flowers and open spaces. He never gave a thought to living in the city.

Walter Rice: Interesting. I guess it was your sister who told me that she rode the 40-line from San Mateo once and you would always go into San Francisco on the SP train.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, I've been on the number 40-line, but certainly not very often.

Walter Rice: Okay.

Mrs. Gardner: And then we had one or two private streetcar parties on the number 40-line with the school car ("San Francisco"), but that wouldn't be for publication.

Mrs. Gardner: We rode from the front of the SP station in Burlingame to the Cliff House in San Francisco. That was a nice ride.

Walter Rice: Oh, that would be a beautiful ride.

Mrs. Gardner: And then we had a tea dance at the Cliff House. And then when we were younger we went the same route to the Fleishhacker Zoo and had sort of a picnic there. That was great fun.

Walter Rice: Yes, My father on occasion got to ride the "San Francisco" because one of the policies of your father.

Mrs. Gardner: The school car?

Walter Rice: … the school car and he got a Byllesby paperweight.

Mrs. Gardner: And they gave everybody rulers, too.

Walter Rice: And rulers, yes, I have two.

Mrs. Gardner: You do?

Walter Rice: I have the rulers. Yes, I bought them.

Mrs. Gardner: There were some at one point around here, years and years ago, I think they went the way of the rest of the rulers. I remember that though.

My school went on one or two school trips, on the school car. I don't know where we went.

I can tell you a story that really did annoy my father. During the war, I told you he had this big war job, but my parents were still living in Hillsborough. It must have been before they moved to town. The very early parts of the war, because I was gone all those years. My sister took the train to town. Of course you had to take the train; you couldn't use the gasoline to go to town.

Walter Rice: Right.

Mrs. Gardner: And she had a pass, I guess, for the train, or one of those passes that you buy, but she neglected to bring any money, so she didn't have any money for the streetcar. So she'd seen a man on the train every single day getting on the train at the same time saying good morning or good evening, or whatever. So she asked him for some money, just a small amount, just to take the streetcar uptown. Well, I don't know who the man was, but he told Herb Caen. And it was in Herb Caen's column the next morning, and my father was just furious. [LOTS OF LAUGHS]

Mrs. Gardner: To read that his daughter borrowed a nickel from a stranger to ride one of his streetcars. She was about 19 then.

Walter Rice: Please tell the story about when she got the job in San Francisco and she wanted to move into the apartment in San Francisco.

Mrs. Gardner: Well that was the same job.

Walter Rice: Do you recall what your father then said to her?

Mrs. Gardner: Only loose women live alone. No daughter of mine will have an apartment in San Francisco.

Lauretta Rice: Walter loved that. He mentioned that. I actually lived and Walter too lived next to a streetcar line, I'm not sure. But I actually during the war lived a half a block off of Fulton, so the 5 car … Wasn't that it, Walter?

Walter Rice: Yes.

Lauretta Rice: … That's how we always got around. And there are stories that my mother almost gave birth to my brother on a streetcar (7-Haight & Ocean) because she was always late. Therefore, she ran after a streetcar. The conductor stopped the car and aided an out-of-breath pregnant woman on board, who then collapsed in a seat. And then there's a lovely story, and I can pretty much remember this. I was very independent. One day when my mother got off a streetcar she helped my little brother off too. I told her I'd do it myself. And the streetcar driver left with me on the streetcar and my mother and brother standing on the corner. And the stops were every two blocks. So mother had to run with my brother two blocks till I could get off the streetcar.

Mrs. Gardner: These tales are unbelievable, aren't they?

Lauretta Rice: Actually, I try to think what kind of a streetcar driver leaves a little child … we moved when I was nine, so I was not too old. I assume if I was announcing I was going to do it myself I was more like six or seven.

Walter Rice: Well the conductor probably signaled two bells to go and the motorman didn't see you.

Mrs. Gardner: And away they go.

Walter Rice: Exactly.

Lauretta Rice: Oh, I forgot they had the different exits. I can still picture myself standing there.

Walter Rice: At least you knew to get off. Because that happened years later with our second son Clifford.

Lauretta Rice: Yes

Walter Rice: And we were taking a streetcar (PCC), and it was a day….we were in San Francisco, I forget what reason, and he did not get off the car, and I thought he was going to get off the car …

Mrs. Gardner: And you left him on the car and he got off?

Walter Rice: Yes and what had happened was actually extremely good…

Mrs. Gardner: How old was he?

Walter Rice: Probably about seven or eight.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh, my.

Walter Rice: … we were to get off at West Portal. Anyway, he stayed on and got off at Forest Hills Station. And I hopped on the next car and he was standing there.

Lauretta Rice: He was very good with directions and …When he was nine we lived in Toronto and we used to ride streetcars and he knew the faster way to go. One time Walter wanted to go one way and I wanted to go another and he said why don't you go this way, which was actually faster than the two of us had thought about.

Mrs. Gardner: Well, that's incredible for a nine-year old.

Lauretta Rice: Well, he's famous for another story.

Mrs. Gardner: Did you lose him?

Lauretta Rice: His father had taken Clifford and his older brother Gordon on a No. 1 car fan trip. Clifford was four and that would have made Gordon eight and a half. Clifford's old brother delights in telling the story that Walter paid no attention to Clifford because he was on the streetcar. Clifford drank Champagne and drank Champagne…

Walter Rice: Instead of apple juice. I thought he was drinking apple juice.

Lauretta Rice: He ended up throwing up and I didn't even know how much attention he got when he threw up on the streetcar.

Walter Rice: Well, fortunately there was a cardboard box at the front of the car and we were going around a turn and I always remember this was at Duboce and Church Streets. We were turning off Duboce on to Church at the time and suddenly he turns green and says, "Dad, I'm getting sick." So I'm holding his head box and he got sick in the box. We had gone earlier to a Giants' baseball game.

Mrs. Gardner: We used to get car sick as children. It's no fun. Particularly going to the mountains.

Walter Rice: Our oldest son would be the one we'd have to give Dramamine.

Lauretta Rice: But Clifford wasn't motion sick, he was drunk.

Walter Rice: Right, because they served Champagne and apple juice and I assumed he was drinking apple juice.

Lauretta Rice: That part I didn't hear.

Walter Rice: But he had actually gotten into the Champagne.

Mrs. Gardner: That reminds me, I was on a plane in Russia. There were still entourist guides then. This was a short flight, Leningrad to Moscow, took about an hour. Like flying from here to Sacramento. The stewardess was a huge woman, one of the biggest women I've ever seen, and very masculine looking. But anyway, she came down the isle. First she came down with these miserable paper cups full of something that looked white and something that looked yellow. So I thought the white might be vodka, hoped it was anyway. The whole plane was not very comfortable. And it turned out to be a terrible pear juice, and the yellow was apple juice … and when you asked for more apple juice she then put all that stuff away. Then she came back before take-off and she had a tray of hard candies and gum. Somebody took two and she slapped their hand.

Lauretta Rice: Tell her story about the conductresses that you saw when we went to see streetcars in Moscow, not Moscow, St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg had the most streetcars of anywhere in the world and Walter couldn't wait to see it. But then they were in such bad condition.

Walter Rice: They were in just terrible condition

Mrs. Gardner: Were they actually running?

Walter Rice: Oh, Yea, they were running, but I would have to say that of all the places I've been in the world, Cairo, and all these places and so forth, I've never seen streetcars operate over worse track.

Mrs. Gardner: Bounce, bounce, bounce.

Walter Rice: Bounce, bounce, bounce. The rail is out of alignment. And cars, when you look at them (streetcars) you'd think they were 40, 50 years old when in fact they were 10 to 12 years old. Our St. Petersburg friend who hosted us had a chauffer who drove us around, and we drove out to the summer palace. Then my friend and I took a streetcar back. On streetcars all through Europe it is very common to buy your ticket and then validate it on board. An inspector will check tickets periodically to see whether or not you've actually paid a valid fare. It's an honor system. Like they have actually now in San Francisco. Anyway, we get on the car and the fare is 10 cents, and my friend pays for my fare, and then he says to me here is the validating machine. He said well we used to validate tickets, but we couldn't keep the machines in repair. So in 1996 they reintroduced conductors. And so a little way along in the journey, a woman wearing a miniskirt gets up and starts collecting fares after she puts on an arm band.

Moscow and St. Petersburg are different than a European city or a North American city in that when you get out in the suburbs the population density goes up because this is where you have these awful Stalinistic apartments. You know those great big apartment blocks.

Mrs. Gardner: Yes, I've seen them certainly. Well they're like tenements.

Walter Rice: Yes, exactly. And you know if you live a top floor you would really be in an awful situation.

Mrs. Gardner: Like walkups, cold water flats.

Walter Rice: Exactly. And they were poorly designed. Because the streetcar line would not be near the building … they're famous for their evil winters … you'd have to walk a long distance instead of building the apartment house right next to the car line. They made people walk.

Mrs. Gardner: My father used to do that, take streetcars, just for fun in any country we happened to be in.

Lauretta Rice: Did he? That sound just like my father. He had children's stores here and everywhere we went we'd have to look at their children's stores. But with Walter, of course, everywhere we go we look at streetcars.

Walter Rice: Exactly.

Lauretta Rice: Which reminded me because you were talking about the big stewardess that looked masculine. Last year we took a cruise. We'd been across the Atlantic a number of times. And last year it was further north route and the weather was pretty bad so we couldn't go where we were supposed to, so instead of going …

Mrs. Gardner: What time of the year?

Lauretta Rice: November.

Mrs. Gardner: Oh that is…

Lauretta Rice: Well, normally the first couple of times we'd taken the southern route and the weather had been absolutely perfect.

Walter Rice: The weather had been absolutely perfect. You couldn't have asked for better weather.

Mrs. Gardner: The southern route, the northern route?

Lauretta Rice: This wasn't all the way north, we're doing that this year. We got rerouted to Alicante, Spain. Walter went to the local tourist office and they knew what nothing of a tram at Alicante. So he had given up the idea. Suddenly he says which way do you want to go, left or right? Well, let's go right there seems to be some vendors and we'll see what they're selling. And we walk a few steps to the right and suddenly Walter sees an orange tram, or an orange tram sign, what did you see?

Walter Rice: I saw the sign; actually I saw the overhead wire.

Mrs. Gardner: Did you take off on a run?

Walter Rice: Left my wife? How'd you' know?

Lauretta Rice: It seems that Walter can spot traction overhead wires everywhere. You know, we're driving along, you see nothing and suddenly Walter does. "Oh my God, There it is!" So we rode their streetcar, which was unexpected because we didn't know we were going to Alicante and even if we'd known, we might not have known they had a streetcar. This is not somewhere you expect to find a streetcar. The streetcar had the most gorgeous stewardesses …

Walter Rice: Conductors.

Lauretta Rice: Conductresses, you'd ever want to see.

Mrs. Gardner: Was it actually painted orange?

Walter Rice: Yes, it was painted orange in the front. It was a new line.

Lauretta Rice: It wasn't electrified. How come you saw the electric wires?

Walter Rice: It was electrified. It was electrified to the end of the line then the people had to get off and would take a diesel train the rest of the way. So that they alternated service. But they had the absolutely the most elegant conductors I have ever seen in the entire world.

Lauretta Rice: They were gorgeous, pleasant and gorgeous. They were inspectors, actually, because they had an honor system.

Walter Rice: What streetcars of the Market Street Railway - your dad's company - did you ride?

Mrs. Gardner: The Powell Street line quite a bit.

Walter Rice: The cable car.

Mrs. Gardner: I rode when we lived at the St. Francis. The No. 40-line San Francisco to San Mateo. And then all … right after the war when gasoline was still tight, I took the Southern Pacific train to San Francisco and the No. 30 line, it wasn't Market Street by then.

Walter Rice: It was Muni.

Mrs. Gardner: It was Muni, but you could take it up to Union Square area. And in those days they called it "The Orient Express," because it went all the way up to Chinatown.

Walter Rice: Right, The 30 is still referred to that these days.

Mrs. Gardner: And you could barely find anybody Caucasian on it.

Lauretta Rice: Is that the 30 Stockton?

Walter Rice: The 30-Stockton, no actually what you may have taken, too, is that after the merger, Muni extended the F-Stockton streetcar from Market and Stockton down Fourth Street.

Mrs. Gardner: That's the one.

Mrs. Gardner: This has always amused me because I've been on the real Orient Express.

Walter Rice: Oh, From London or from Paris going to Istanbul?

Mrs. Gardner: Not the tourist one, the real one … we didn't take it for the six day trip, from Istanbul to Paris. And we boarded in Vienna, just Vienna to Paris. Very exciting trip. But I actually haven't ridden very many streetcars any time except cable cars, a very special sort of thing.

Walter Rice: Well, I want to thank you very much for your time.

Samuel Kahn signature Walter Rice scanned Samuel Kahn's signature from a stock certificate. All rights reserved.

Yes on 35 Card Measure 35 was the 1930 San Francisco measure that the voters approved which gave the Market Street Railway a 25-year operating permit. Samuel Kahn through a combination of clever marketing and service improvements changed the attitude of San Franciscans toward the Market Street Railway from that of overwhelming negativity to be able to achieve over two-thirds voter approval. Walter Rice Collection

Samuel Kahn
The photograph used in the Market Street Railways’ August, 1927 edition of its house publication The Inside Track to announce Samuel Kahn’s election to the presidency of the Market Street Railway. The text read as follows:

Hail the Chief!

SAMUEL Kahn was elected president of the Market Street Railway Company at a meeting of the directors held Monday afternoon, August 1st.

Since the resignation of Mason B. Starring as president more than a year ago, the Company has had no president. Mr. Kahn has served in that capacity as executive vice-president.

By this action of the board, Mr. Kahn receives the title corresponding with the duties which he has performed for the Market Street Railway Com­pany' since the end of 1925, when the Byllesby Engineering and Management Corporation took charge of the opera­tion of the company's property in San Francisco as a result of the Byllesby in­terests acquiring controlling ownership in the local company.

For 15 years Mr. Kahn has been an active public utility executive in California with the Byllesby interests. He has been an H. M. Byllesby & Company executive since 1910, when that company acquired the electric light and power properties at Fargo, North Dakota, where Mr. Kahn was part owner and manager.

From Fargo, Mr. Kahn, for the Byllesby interests, was with the Appa­lachian Power Company, and then for a time in the Chicago office of H. M. Byllesby & Company.

In 1912, Mr. Kahn moved to Stockton to participate in the management and operating direction of the H. M. Byllesby & Company properties on the Pacific Coast, which are located over a territory from San Diego in the south to Everett, Washington, in the north.

While in Stockton, he was active in civic affairs, having served as presi­dent of the Chamber of Commerce, gave his time to the Boy Scouts, Com­munity Chest, and many of Stockton's industrial activities.

Toward the end of 1925 Mr. Kahn came to San Francisco to assume the active operating direction of the Market Street Railway Company. Besides his present position as president of that Company, he is a director in the Standard Gas & Electric Company, which is the parent organization of all the Byllesby utilities. He is a director in the California Oregon Power Com­pany, and, until the recent purchase of the Western States Gas & Electric Company by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, -was a director in that company.

Mr. Kahn graduated as an electrical engineer at Purdue University in 1903.

Charles Smallwood Collection, courtesy Emiliano Echeverria


On May 20, 2005 Barbara Kahn Gardner, her son Robert Gardner and her granddaughter Besse were hosted by the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association (Western Railway Museum) to lunch. As a result of conversations which occurred the following incidents about Samuel Kahn's life are being set forth.

Samuel Kahn - American Spy

One of Samuel Kahn's good friends was Robert Dollar, president of the steamship line that bore his name. Accordingly in 1937, Samuel Kahn, his wife and two daughters Barbara and "Patsy" were on a Dollar steamship tour of China and Japan. While stopping at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China word reached the Kahn party that the Japanese were about to invade the city. They must evacuate.

The notice of the soon-to-be invasion found the Kahn daughters in formal party dress. There was to be a ball that night at the Peace Hotel. They were told to meet in the hotel lobby at 1 a.m. in full party dress and leave their steamer trunks in their rooms (Dollar would have them transferred). Soon the Kahn party and the other Dollar guests were back on the steamer.

On board they were joined by American wives and children fleeing from Manila. The Japanese invaded Shanghai seven hours later. As the Dollar steamer navigated the Inland Sea it followed a zigzag course to avoid Japanese mines.

The Kahn party had occupied two staterooms - one for Mr. and Mrs. Kahn and the other for the Kahn daughters. The steamer now had many unanticipated fleeing women and children. In order to provide "appropriate" space for some of these refugees Mrs. Kahn moved in with her daughters, and Samuel Kahn slept for the remainder of the voyage on a deck chair, along with other shipboard men.

As the ship sailed along the Inland Sea, Samuel Kahn from the deck and later from the Kahn women's cabin porthole photographed Japanese military installations.

Before they could return to San Francisco, the Kahn party spent two interesting weeks touring Japan. Initially, they were questioned in detail by Japanese authorities. Upon arriving back in San Francisco, Samuel Kahn turned his film over to the War Department. Kahn's actions were favorably acknowledged by the War Department.

Samuel Kahn Buys a House

When Samuel Kahn accepted the Byllesby's offer in 1925 to run the Market Street Railway he promised his family that they would live in a big house, like their Stockton house. There would be plenty of land for a large garden. Samuel Kahn loved gardening. They would not live in San Francisco.

True to his word Samuel Kahn purchased in 1926 a large seven bedroom seven bath two story house on Bayswater in suburban upper class Hillsborough. This was the Kahn house until Samuel Kahn passed away in 1953. Mrs. Kahn then decided the place was too big for a single occupant. She built a house around the corner on Bridge Road that she referred to as "her little grass shack." Daughter Patsy and her physician husband took over the Kahn estate. Daughter Barbara and her physician husband over fifty years ago built their home, on subdivided acreage from the main house, on Bridge Road next to Mrs. Kahn's house.

About thirty years ago Patsy and her husband decided the Kahn house was too big. Their solution was ingenious. They had the big house moved forward to as close to Bayswater as the city of Hillsborough would allow, thus creating space behind the big house for their new residence. The Kahn mansion was then sold.

Samuel Kahn's Favorite Train

Since Byllesby was headquartered in Chicago, Samuel Kahn would have to go often to Chicago. He made as many as eight train trips in one year to the windy city. These trips always started on the Southern Pacific. His favorite train was the City of San Francisco. The Overland was considered a poor substitute.

Samuel Kahn Paints a Streetcar White

The "San Francisco" was built in 1901 by the St. Louis Car Company for the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway Company as part of a series of 20 "California-style" cars with seven windows in their center sections. The future "San Francisco" bore the number 61. After that company in 1902 became part of the United Railroads of San Francisco the future "San Francisco" became part of that company's 681-class. Evidence suggests, however, the car bore the No. 61 at time it was rebuilt in 1904 into a luxury private party car and named "San Francisco."

When luxury private party car streetcar service became unproductive in the 1920s because of the changing nature of society, brought about by the automobile and tour bus, Samuel Kahn, the president of the Market Street Railway (of 1921) recognized the "San Francisco" could become a pivotal piece in his marketing strategy to maximum the public's good will toward the company. Kahn had the "San Francisco" painted white and it became the company's school car providing free transportation for school groups over company's entire system. Classes were taken on tours of the company's Elkton shops. Shut-ins were carried. Honor students and teachers were given Market Street Railway rulers and Byllesby shield shaped paper weights. Barbara Kahn Gardner, her sister and their friends had outings on the "San Francisco" from San Mateo to Sutro's and the zoo.
San Francisco at Zoo The school car "San Francisco" lays over at the Sloat Blvd Ocean Beach Zoo terminal, while the students that were fortunate to enjoy the parlor car comforts of the "San Francisco" feast their eyes on San Francisco’s most exotic residents -- monkeys, lions, tigers and other wild creatures -- at Fleishhacker Zoo, 1930s. Walter Rice Collection.

This component of Samuel Kahn's marketing strategy along with his total marketing package paid off. Within five years of heading the MSRy, San Franciscans' attitude toward the company changed radically from that of a generally despised company because of its United Railroads ancestry - 1902 -1921- to that of a positive image.

Widespread antipathy toward the United Railroads of San Francisco and its owners had existed and still existed with the new MSRy, when Samuel Kahn arrived in 1925. It was justly based on the URR's disregard of the public interest, widespread corruption of City officials and callous labor practices. Thanks largely the marketing strategy of Samuel Kahn, in which the white streetcar was an integral part, voters approved, in November of 1930, a city charter amendment allowing the Market Street Railway to surrender its franchises in return for a 25-year operating permit.
SF charter Is it a girls’ high school graduation, or some other momentous event? The ride was free for all schools -- public, private or parochial and from anywhere on the system, including far off San Mateo, late 1920s. Will their parents vote "Yes" on Measure 35 to give the Market Street Railway a 25-year operating permit? Walter Rice Collection.

Because of World War II school trips were ended. After the Muni takeover in 1944 of the Market Street Railway, the "San Francisco" was placed, by 1946, in storage behind a tarp curtain at the rear of the Geneva car house. The final time the "San Francisco" ran was on December 12, 1948, as part of a Bay Area Electric Railroad Association (BAERA) charter that also included the then new double-ended PCC car No. 1015.

Shortly afterwards the City sold the famed white parlor car to Joe Levine, a scrap metal dealer for $137, despite an all-out effort by the BAERA to save the car. The "San Francisco" was then the only parlor streetcar left in the entire county owned by a street railway. BAERA members then offered Levine $200 for the car "as is." His answer was that the car would only be sold for $1,000! Muni was willing to substitute another car, but Levine again said "no."

Addison Laflin the editor of the BAERA's Review wrote in the January 29, 1949 edition that "Friday, January 14, will go down as the blackest day in San Francisco electric railroading, for on that day Joe Levine took the 'San Francisco' off its trucks, placed on a flat bed truck and carted it off to his Third Street junk yard." Soon Levin sold the all the metal under gear for scrap and the body for $750 to be used as a hotdog stand in El Verano in Sonoma county. Fortunately, as a hot dog stand the body was not altered.

As part of San Francisco's Maritime Museum ill-fated Project X to create a transportation museum in the Haslett Warehouse, the body was purchased by the Maritime Museum and moved to the Kortum ranch in Penngrove, Sonoma County. After the failure of Project X, the Maritime Museum gifted the San Francisco's body to BAERA. It arrived at Rio Vista Junction c1980 and was placed in storage in carbarn number two. Today the "San Francisco" rests on the trucks of former Market Street Railway car No. 974.

Mrs. Kahn Gardner during her May 2005 visit to the Western Railway Museum visited the "San Francisco." It was not as she remembered. A century plus has taken its toll on the wooden body. Perhaps, someday the "San Francisco" will be rebuilt to carry passengers on the mainline of the Museum.

Samuel Kahn, Inventor

Editors Notes -- During January 1926, Market Street Railway car No. 809 emerged from the Elkton Shops brand new. The newness of 809 was not its importance. The 809 was the first White Front car. The White Front rapidly (thanks in no small measure to company promotion) became the trademark of the Market Street Railway. All company streetcars, cable cars (except Pacific Avenue) and motor coaches soon sported a White Front.

So successful and unique was the White Front that Samuel Kahn applied for on August 25, 1926 and received on February 17, 1927 a patent for this design as a safety feature. Below is the patent awarded to Samuel Kahn. Note, that the patent is based on Samuel Kahn’s statement. Also, is the accompanying illustration that shows the various features of the White Front design including dash lights.

After the September 1944 sale of the Market Street Railway to the City and County of San Francisco for its Municipal Railway White Fronts as rapidly as possible were painted over with Muni colors. This was to avoid payment of royalties for using the patented White Front. Five of the newly acquired Powell Street cable cars -- Nos. 505, 506, 518, 523 and 525 -- had just their White Fronts and back panels painted over with the then Muni colors of blue and yellow. Three cars -- Nos. 503, 506 and 510 -- were painted entirely in blue and yellow before in February 1946 No. 519 emerged Muni’s new cream and green colors. Soon the entire Powell Street fleet sported the new fleet colors.

A close read of Kahn’s patent implies that Muni did not have to paint over the white fronts. The text states "The car may be painted any conventional durable color well adapted to weather protection, except its front portion indicated by the numeral 1, which I paint white or a very light color." In other words the front color was not subject to the patent, but the patent covered the devices that illuminated the front -- the lamps and their shields. WR

Patent Front The actual patent (Microsoft Word Document) and supporting illustration.

Special thanks to Val Golding for downloading from the US Patent Office Samuel Kahn’s patent and Phil Hoffman for verification of cable car numbers.

Kitty Margolis

Kitty Margolis The cover of Kitty Margolis' debut release, Live at the Jazz Workshop.

Samuel Kahn's granddaughter, jazz singer Kitty Margolis, is the heir to the great Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Anita O'Day in that she is the keeper of the tradition of the art of using sounds and syllables to improvise a melody. The cover shown is from her debut release, Live at the Jazz Workshop. Kitty is the daughter of the late "Patsy" Margolis, Samuel Kahn’s younger of two daughters. More information can be found on Kitty’s web site, www.kittymargolis.com. Walter Rice

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