Nolte, Carl: San Francisco's diverse communities in the 1940s


Carl Nolte: Being a kid in San Francisco in the 1940s was, I thought, a kind of great adventure. You had this city which was pretty interesting. It had been almost undiscovered by the rest of the nation. I guess World War II made more people come here, but it was our little world that we had. There were still hills with grass on them, and you could run around on. You thought you knew everybody. We had a theory that if you stood at the corner of Fifth and Market long enough, you’d see everybody you knew. It’s like that. You could go to the movies downtown. There were big movies like most cities. If you had $10 you could have a terrific date with some beautiful lady you had managed to trick into going to the movies with you; only $10. It was a small city. It was a big city and small city, both. It was kind of tribal too. Jon Rubin: When you say “tribal”, what do you mean? Carl Nolte: Well, it wasn’t really ethnic exactly, but we all had our little tribes. There were the Irish kids, Italian kids; I myself am Irish and German, but there weren’t any German kids with World War II being recent. There were Jewish kids, there were Black kids which we called Colored kids, and Chinese. And they all sort of stuck together in their own little world as it were. They interfaced with each other too. But we didn’t have a lot of contact with the other tribes. I remember once when I got out of college, myself and a friend would put on a suit and we’d drive around on Saturday afternoons and we’d go to wedding receptions. They were really nice; particularly Irish and Italian receptions were really good because they didn’t know who you are, but they’ve seen you someplace, and you could go there and do that. I ended up dancing with the bride. A guy taps me on the shoulder and says, “Who are you, exactly? ” He said, “We don’t know you, but we’re hospitable. You could come, but don’t come back.” That was the end of that, but we could do that. It was a small kind of friendly city up to a limit.


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The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.

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