5 Sept 65 : Caught looking silly : San Francisco, California

This continues the letter dated 3rd September 1965 which began:

San Francisco

Dear family,

Sunday 5th September

Yesterday we finished off our sightseeing in San Francisco by going through Chinatown, which must be more Chinese than China. It’s very big and all the prices in the shops are in Chinese. They even print their own papers in Chinese, and everyone speaks it.

It is the largest Chinese colony outside China. For some reason yesterday there was a parade through the streets with firecrackers and dancing and dragons and all the paraphernalia of a Chinese holiday.


Tony’s postcard, captioned: SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN Showing California Street Cable Car as it crosses Grant Avenue in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown.


We also went up the ‘Top o’ the Mark’ – a bar at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel (owned by Gene Autry) and admired the terrific view of the bay and the town.

Note: Gene Autry was a very famous cowboy film star then.  

We have found a good place to eat. All you can eat for a dollar and you can even have refills at no extra charge. The food and the variety is excellent and we certainly made good use of this. We could hardly walk out of the place, but it was worth it. All the starving people of the town seem to go there and I have never seen people eat so much in all my life.

We ended of the day by taking another ride on the cable cars, hanging dangerously on the side, and squeezing in to pass the other cable cars!!

Last night a telegram arrived to say that a fellow was arriving today – he is a friend of Anne and Valerie, who are in Las Vegas, for the holiday weekend. He arrived this morning, and believe it or not he is from Bibury Crescent, and I know his sister. He lives in the first house (near the butchers).

Note: Bibury Crescent was very close to Tony’s parents’ road in Bristol, UK.  

He is a student at Swansea University and is over here for 5 weeks on a $99/99 days ticket. He worked for sometime at a youth camp in Pennsylvania. He is a very nice fellow and has been with us most of the day. We were to have left the apartment today and been on our way, but we didn’t get up till late and messed about all day just chatting and ended up by staying another day.

Tony’s postcard, captioned: HARBOR FREEWAY, LOOKING NORTH FROM SIXTH STREET, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA. Showing a series of over-passes, and approaches for the diversion of traffic, near the downtown business district of Los Angeles.


In a previous letter you asked me about the fares to New Zealand. We had paid £150 each ($430) but have had this refunded. We have since paid $640 (about £200) for the van, so we have made a bit on the deal, as well as having our own transport with us when we arrive (and accommodation too). We are very pleased as to how everything has worked out.

I have been thinking about the mail arrangements and think the best plan is for you to write to the main post office Sydney, Australia, after the 26th September when we leave here. Apparently it takes about 3 weeks to reach there. So after the 26th send all mail to that address – care of General Deliveries, as this seems to work very well. After that it can then go to Auckland in the same way.

I have finally fully recovered after my tomato picking pains, and have got all my clothes and shoes and hands clean after a great deal of effort. I would never have believed that one day’s work could have caused so much pain and trouble.


Tony’s postcard, captioned: NETWORK OF FREEWAYS NEAR CIVIC CENTER LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA. Showing the four level interchange of motor traffic to Hollywood, Santa Ana and Ramona, Harbor, and Pasadena – Arroyo-Seco Freeways.


We had a very funny experience the other night. We had to have the valves adjusted after we had done 300 miles (after the repair job). At this mileage we were in a place called Selinas early in the evening, and as there was a Volkswagen dealer there, we decided to pull in and sleep in their parking area.  This was the night after the tomato picking day and we were feeling so ill we decided to go to bed at 9 (it gets dark at 8) here.

So we painfully got changed into our pyjamas. The effort of changing was so great that we sat in the back for a while, and then on the radio we heard the Beatles performance live from the Hollywood Bowl, and we decided to listen to it. As we were sitting there enjoying it, we saw a flashlight coming around the parking lot, and saw that it was a cop, who was looking into all the vehicles.


Tony with VW campervan
Tony with their beloved VW campervan


We suddenly realised that we were going to look pretty silly when he came to us, two grown men sitting in their pyjamas at 8:45 pm listening to the Beatles – so we decided to beat him to it and with much groaning and grunting got the bed out and just managed to get into our sleeping bags – just as he got to us.

He shone his torch through the window, and we went through a great show of ‘waking up’ – which must have been worthy of an Oscar. He went away apologising for waking us up!!!

To be continued… 

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You can follow us at http://www.facebook.com/Tones1960stravels, feel free to say hello or ask Tony a question 🙂

Note from Tiffany: I couldn’t find out what the festival in Chinatown was celebrating, but  according to Wikipedia, it’s the oldest Chinatown in North America and is the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia. It’s also a major tourist attraction, drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge. If you go to the Wikipedia page, there’s loads of fascinating facts about its history.

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