letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Memories of the Upper Great Highway and Suggestions for its Future

Editor,

Many years gone and many memories gained from San Francisco’s Upper Great Highway throughout my 85 years living in The City. My first experience as a little boy was riding with my grandparents in their 1940s black Buick sedan, with the floor-mounted stick shift, as we traveled down Sloat Boulevard and turned right onto the Upper Great Highway to drive and park in front of the now-gone Playland at the Beach Amusement Park. Then to the now-gone Sutros Bathhouse indoor heated swimming pools and arcades .

On the way back from the Cliff House, riding on the Upper Great Highway, we would stop by the scenic parking lots overlooking the beach opposite the now-past Fleishhacker world’s-largest outdoor ocean-water swimming pool. The Zoo is still there. It was an often event when we would be having a beautiful sunset to watch the sun appear to fall into  the ocean with a bright red- and yellow-colored sky..

By the age and time I could cast a long surf rod, my grandfather would park his Buick on the Lower Great Highway opposite one of the tunnels under the highway to the beach. We would walk through the tunnel to see fishermen standing all along the beach hoping to catch one of the giant striped bass during one of the many runs, also now gone.

When I married, my wife told me her stories of when living on 48th Avenue being taken by her father at a young age through the tunnel under the Upper Great Highway to walk south on the beach  to the location opposite the Zoo to watch the men gold panning on the black-sand beach. They gave her a small jar of fools gold. This was the location where the concrete head stones from a cemetery west of Market Street which were removed for constructing buildings. The headstones were dumped on the side of the beach cliff to protect it from erosion from the ocean waves

Today, with a rising ocean level and 25-foot-tall giant rogue waves due to the occasional lineup of the sun, moon and Earth, the question is the best use of the Upper Great Highway. In prior years, the question was to remove the Upper Great Highway to let the rising ocean to flow to the Lower Great Highway. That was not done, and the interest now is to make it a park. After years of fishing along the ocean beach, I know how cold it can be with the wind coming off the ocean. Plus the number of days each year when it is covered with fog, or it is raining or stormy with sand blowing onto the road.

My suggestion would be to maintain the UpperGreat Highway and add parking lot areas on the ocean side for persons wishing to go down to the beach or watch the super-occasional beautiful sunsets. The sand could be kept off the hightway by adding a low concrete wall on the side to the ocean. This also could avoid many cars from driving and parking along the Lower Great Highway and in front of the homes facing the ocean sunset.

Frank T Norton

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