Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Sugar's at the Bottom of the Cup

By Elda Del Bino Willitts and Patricia Henley Reviewed by Robert Williams

Ever wonder what the Marina District along the Northern edge of San Francisco was like in 1916? Or what Ocean Beach was like before all those houses arrived in the Richmond and Sunset Districts? Then “The Sugar’s at the Bottom of The Cup” by Elda Del Bino Willitts is a book for you.

With a sparse and direct approach to the subject, Mrs. Willits takes you back in time to an era when steamships still arrived daily in San Francisco and filled the streets with newly arrived Americans from all over the world. Adding to this mix was the influx of European immigrants arriving by train from the East.

Elda Del Bino was seven years old when she stepped off the train and into the fast moving cosmopolitan world of San Francisco. With straightforward prose she vividly describes her journey by ship to New York and Ellis Island and then the train trip across rural America prior to the First World War, arriving in San Francisco in 1916.

Taking up residence in the Cow Hollow area South of Lombard Street and the present day Highway 101, finding jobs, enrolling in school, learning English, Mrs Willitts draws a clear and accurate picture of San Francisco’s bygone era. Through the changes of the 1920’s and the dark years of the Depression, the book captures the flavor of a changing city. The World War Two years in San Francisco and the changes in morals and values that flowed from that war are all here to examine in the life of one elderly woman.

Full of wit and inescapable charm, Mrs. Willitts has written a wonderful and informative book about San Francisco, the City by the Sea.

This review has also been featured on Garden Lust Journal: