It is generally accepted as a fact that in Barbary Coast Vice flaunted itself in reckless abandon before the eyes of the world, showing those things usually concealed behind walls and under cover of the darkness. According to the purists here youth of both sexes was debauched, losing both money and souls. To speak of seeing Barbary Coast brought furtive looks and lowered voices, as if contamination even from the thought were possible. No slumming party was completed without a visit to the "Coast," after Chinatown's manufactured horrors had been shuddered at.
One cannot well speak of the Barbary Coast without bringing into consideration the Social Evil, for here was concentrated dozens of the poor unfortunates of the underworld, compelled to eke out miserable existence through playing on the foibles and vanities of men, or seek oblivion in a suicide's grave. We do not propose to discuss this phase of Barbary Coast as that is not a part of Bohemianism.
We have visited the Coast many times, at all hours of the night, and beyond the unconcealed license of open caresses we have seen nothing shocking to our moral sense that equaled what we have seen in Broadway, New York, or in some of the most fashionable hotels and restaurants of San Francisco on New Year's Eve. Dancing, singing and music--all that is embodied in the "wine, women and song" of the poets, was to be found there, but it was open, and had none of the veiled suggestion to be found in places considered among the best.
In Barbary Coast we have seen more beautiful dancing than on any stage, or in the famous Moulin Rouge, or Jardin Mabile of Paris. In fact, many of the modern dances that have become the vogue all over the country, even being carried to Europe, had their origin in Pacific street dance halls. Texas Tommy, the Grizzly Bear, and many others were first danced here, and some of the finest Texas Tommy dancers on eastern stages went from the dance halls of San Francisco's Barbary Coast.
Vice was there--yes. It was open--yes. But there was the attraction of light and life and laughter that drew crowds nightly.
Barbary Coast was a part of San Francisco's Bohemianism because of its unconventionality, for, you know, there is conventionality even in Vice. Here was the rendezvous of sailor men from all parts of the world, for here they found companionship and joviality.
Up to the time of the closing of Barbary Coast molestation of women on the streets of San Francisco was almost unheard of. Since its closing it is becoming more and more hazardous for women to walk alone at night in the only large city in the world that always had the reputation of guarding its womankind.
The City That Was Passes
Times change and we change with them is well evidenced by the restaurant life of the present day San Francisco. Now, as before the fire, we have the greatest restaurant city of the world--a city where home life is subordinated to the convenience of apartment dwelling and restaurant meals-but the old-time Bohemian finds neither the same atmosphere nor the same restaurants.
True, many of the old names have been retained or revived, but there is not felt the old spirit of camaraderie. Old personalities have passed away and old customs have degenerated. Those who await The Call feel that with the passing of the old city there passed much that made life worth living, and as they prepare to cross to the Great Beyond, they live in their memories of the Past.
With reverence we think of the men and women of the early San Francisco - those who made the city the Home of Bohemia--and it is with this feeling that we now come to discuss the Bohemian restaurants of the New San Francisco.
Sang the Swan Song
In the latter part of April, 1906, when the fire-swept streets presented their most forbidding aspect, and when the only moving figures to be seen after nightfall were armed soldiers guarding the little remaining of value from depredations of skulking vagabonds, a number of the old Bohemian spirits gathered at the corner of Montgomery and Commercial streets, and gazed through the shattered windows into the old dining room where they had held many a royal feast.