Helen Eells: A Trip to the City

A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg
Helen’s Oral History
Chapter 4
A Trip to the City

Published October, 2010

“Do you know that the Emporium, even in those days, used to deliver? Right to your door in Mill Valley? And we were out of the way too! My mother would go to the city, once a week, and she would buy countless things there. I think they were even groceries. I don’t remember. But then the delivery hack would come in. And, oh, that was a great day, too. When all the things she’d bought were taken out and looked at.

“My mother was good about taking us to the city, occasionally. She would say, ‘We’ll go over to see my mother, your grandmother, and aunts.’ And she would get us all dressed up. And of course, the man would take us down in the surrey to the train. And then we stood on the platform, so excitedly. And then we got into the train, and got off at the ferryboat landing, and got on the ferryboat. And you can’t imagine what fun that was! All the seagulls, flying around outside! And we had peanuts to feed them. And we rushed up the stairs, ahead of my mother, to run around inside the ferryboat. There weren’t too many people there, and there was a place to get ice cream. And you could even have your luncheon there if you wanted to! But my mother was very, very strict about such things.

“Then we got off in San Francisco, she would walk two blocks, up to California Street. And guess what was there? A darling little streetcar looking just like the cable cars. But it was drawn by horses! And I think it only went up to Chinatown, if I remember correctly. And my mother wouldn’t let us get out, because of course right there were the heathen Chinese. And they would kidnap us, and take us off into boats, and do countless other terrible things that she thought were their habit..

“Well then we would take the little horse-drawn streetcar back down to the ferry. And then look for the No. 6 car, which wound its way all through, and up, and up, and up, until it got to Willard Street, right near the U.C. hospital, which was called then ‘The Affiliated Colleges.’ And one was the dental, and one was the medical college, and in the center was a museum, and Phoebe Hearst owned it. And let Ishi, the last wild American Indian, that had lived in the wilds for years, live there. And she would give lectures, until he got TB, poor thing. And [much later] we would go down and listen to those lectures.

“Well! Anyway, what I started to say was, we’d get off the No. 6 little car, and we would have that great, big Willard St. hill to walk up. Or else you could choose to walk up 135 steps, to get to that darling, darling two-block street, called Edgewood Avenue, where my grandmother and aunts lived, in a beautiful, beautiful home.”


If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.