San Francisco in the 1960s was a little like the old joke about the blind men and the elephant -- what you thought it was depended on where you grabbed it. To the beats, it was coffee houses, Birkenstock sandles and nodding to Ferlinghetti in North Beach. To the hippies, it was the Haight, the park and panhandling. To straight bachelors, it was Vertigo, Sam Spade apartments with pocket-door foyers on Geary Street, and very dry martinis; to office girls it was looking for rich guys at the Buena Vista and seeing how many times you could wear the paper dress before it got ratty. To a nice, normal, Rob-and-Laura family like mine, it was my dad's office building at 49 4th Street, drives down to Pescadero in the VW camper for breakfast, seagrass rugs from Cost Plus, Sunday morning hot chocolates at the Sea Witch in Ghirardelli Square, and toe-dipping into some of the other realities in town. It seemed that there was at least one San Francisco for every resident.
In 1967, the year of the miserably misnamed Summer of Love, my dad bought a
copy of a little, badly-printed guide book called My Secret San Francisco,
subtitled "How to Eat, Drink and Swing in San Francisco on Almost No Money."
(Why my dad, a 35-year-old happily married father of two, was interested in how to
"swing" is a question I refuse to research any further.) The book was written by
Arthur Fleming, and in 68 pages of his unique prose and perspective, he gives a
fascinating look into that particular snapshot in time, when the beats, the hippies, the
Playboy bachelors and perky girls coexisted for a moment in the bright sunshine before the
I'll shut up and let you read Mr. Fleming's opus. I originally planned to scan
just the text into HTML, but so much of the charm of the book is the Olivetti typography,
the wandering little corrections, and the cut-and-paste layout. So I've scanned the whole
thing as a series of 38 JPGs.