Do you still go to Turkey Day? Or remember going to Playland at the Beach and the Winterland?
Turkey Day! Playland! Winterland! Two things that are probably forever etched into the memories of anyone who grew up in San Francisco prior to the mid-1970s, and one thing that continues today.
For those not familiar with local high school sports, Turkey Day is the yearly citywide high school championship football game, held on Thanksgiving Day, usually played at Kezar Stadium.
I was not a big football fan during high school, so never went to a Turkey Day game, but I did listen to one on the radio. It was 1985, when my high school team, the McAteer Jaguars, played the Washington Eagles. I recall it being a very exciting game, but also controversial, because it was pouring rain, the field was muddy, and because of that mud, there was some kind of mix-up with a call; alas, I can't remember specifics, but I do know McAteer won 6-7. (This Football Championships program from 2016 has a surprisingly detailed history of McAteer High School, and includes a short write-up about that Turkey Day game.)
I continue to hold no interest in football, so haven't paid much attention to the yearly game since my own high school days. But, if by some weird twist of fate, some of my friends' kids end up being total jocks, maybe I will take in an actual game at some point in the future.
I imagine even those who didn't grow up here probably at least know what Playland at the Beach was, but in short it was San Francisco's version of Coney Island, the Santa Monica Pier, or the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk a beachside amusement park at Ocean Beach. You can still get a taste of it with the Camera Obscura at the Cliff House, the Musee Mechanique (which houses one of the scary Laffing Sal), and Playland Not at the Beach in El Cerrito.
Playland closed in 1972, when I was just over two years old, so I really don't have a lot of memories of it, even though my parents did indeed take me there when I was a child. The one memory I do have involves me hitting my head while on the bumper cars. This was of course back when you could have a small child on your lap with no restraints on such things. You know, the good old days!
This likely happened sometime close to the park's ultimate demise, and I bet those bumper cars were in a pretty sorry state by that point; it's a miracle I didn't get tetanus. What we DID get as compensation for my screaming misery was a free ride...on the bumper cars! Pretty sure my parents passed up that offer.
Come to think of it, maybe massive head trauma is exactly why I don't remember any other visits to Playland! And I'll admit, it's weird to miss something you can't even remember, but I get that distinct feeling every time I go out to Ocean Beach and the Cliff House. How great would it be to have a crumbling and dangerous amusement park out there instead of that scary Safeway?
As for Winterland, well, that's a definite yes. I do remember that. While I never went when it was an actual ice skating rink, and home to the Ice Follies, I did go a few times after it was permanently converted into a music venue by Bill Graham.
My father worked at Bill Graham's merchandising company, which was also called Winterland, (and I have hundreds of t-shirts to prove it), and in the 1970s he also worked a video camera at some of the shows at the Winterland Ballroom, including the 1978 Grateful Dead New Year's Eve concert that was the venue's last hurrah.
I remember seeing Blondie, who, even at the age of eight, I was a huge fan of. They opened for REO Speedwagon, who I couldn't care less about, so I spent that half of the show asleep somewhere backstage. I also slept through most of Bruce Springsteen's December, 1978 concert, finally waking up to see Clarence Clemons come out dressed as Santa Claus for the "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" finale.
Alas, after Winterland closed on New Year's Day, 1979, the space at Post and Steiner sat empty for a number of years, and in 1985 was replaced with an apartment building. (The more things change...) If you want a really good look at what Winterland was like in its heyday, be sure to watch The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese's documentary about The Band's final concert, held at Winterland on Thanksgiving Day, 1976.
And for the record, Balboa High School won the Turkey Day football game that same day.
Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!