We perused the recent SFist post about the pitiable state of San Francisco's streets with a certain sense of nostalgia for the good ol' days. You know, the days before this newfangled "asphalt paving" even entered the scene.
In the Year of the Gold Rush (1849-50ish), the city's population exploded from a cozy 500 citizens to almost 100 thousand -- and not a single one of those gold-crazed invaders wasted a second thinking the state of the village's streets.
See, the streets in the good ol' days were good ol' dirt. And when the rainy season arrived, the torrent of horse, foot and cart traffic tearing through town trampled that sandy earth into a boggy quagmire.
How bad was it? Bad. Not to mention deep. Horses, mules, and countless drunken souls staggering out of saloons were sucked down into the street muck and drowned. This situation entered into legend, as historian Herbert Asbury writes, when "the mud at Clay and Kearny streets, in the heart of town, at length became so deep and thick that a wag posted this sign:
"THIS STREET IS IMPASSABLE; NOT EVEN JACKASSABLE"