Blast from Brisbane’s Past

By: MADISON DAVIS, CEO/President, Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, madison@brisbanechamber.org, 415-467-7283

The following is an article from the Bee-Democrat, written on February 20th 1975.
“1935 Vintage Year
By: Dorothy Radoff
During 1935 Brisbane sprung up with mushroom-like rapidity and boasted a population of nearly twenty-five hundred, the most remarkable increase ever seen in this area. The realty company announced the opening of the “Old Dairy” tract and the Voters League dedicated its new hall (now the 23 club).
Looking back but six years to 1929 our community, then known as City of Visitacion, appeared as empty as a 1930 lunch pail. Mozzetti’s Dairy, a near-vacant hotel, duck farm and handful of pioneer families—the Allemands, Lindes, Naughtons and Sweets— made up the little village under the towering brow of San Bruno Mountain. In that year an aggressive realtor, Arthur Annis, reopened the 1908 Tract Office and re-named the town after Arthur Brisbane, Hearst editorial writer. Although the company sold in excess of four-hundred thousand dollars, our growth remained stifled because of the inability to secure financing from banks and loan agencies. But in 1935 F.H.A. gave us the full lift of ample credit and during a seven day period fifteen persons applied for home loans. For ten percent down you borrowed an average of four-thousand dollars at four and one-half percent interest and paid twenty-three dollars monthly for 25 years and 5 months.
For transportation the car-less valley people and the “hillbillies” hopped the local bus or boarded the S.P. trains at our Visitacion City Depot.
Throughout the rainy season life became just one big puddle after another and walking to the outhouse proved hazardous. Sewers served but one-third of the tract, there were no street lights and only one paved road. San Bruno Ave., near Glen Park Way, disappeared under a sea of slush so deep that even our brand new fire truck found it impossible to muddle through. A four-year old sunk to his hips in mud before a rescue team arrived.
In those days girls and boys never heard of baby sitters, recreation buildings or teenage centers.Where their parents went they went, too. In the good old summer time the played football in the empty lots, piled through the hills and canyons and swam in the unpolluted bay. Springtime found them whizzing down the slick, grassy slopes on cardboard cartons. Up on Sierra Point Rd., Mrs.Nora Lothrop allowed the older youngsters to hold dances, club meetings and parties in her home and one of these teenagers, “Willie” Strassburger, put Brisbane on the map by hurling the Jefferson Union High School baseball team to an undefeated season.
Where the action was? Realtor William Jonas’ Drug and Liquor Store (now the Mini Park) where you could catch up on the latest gossip, buy hairpins or property, check out a county library book, have a prescription filled, chat with a neighbor over an ice cream soda and pick up a bottle of booze. According to the Brisbane Sun “a trusting little wife” sent her hubby down for cough syrup and the latest novel. Several hours later tubby hubby staggered home minus the medicine and book, “his pockets filled with Dodgers Cigarettes and a house and lot under each arm.”
Water bills matched the nominal home payments. The Visitacion Water Co., serving the valley, charged a minimum of one dollar and fifty cents monthly. The Brisbane Water Co. added twenty-five cents for pumping to the hill area.
Other main street attractions included dancing at the 101 Club, delicious bakery goods at Mothers Cupboard and fifteen-cents “French Gray enameled sauce pans” at Henywood’s Hardware. For the best bargains in town you scrambled into your old flivvers and rattled down to Charles and Joseph Mozzetti’s Service Station.
Most folks spent their evenings spending ten cents to the five persons at the top of the Send-A-Dime Chain Letter. Then off to bed they went to dream of what they would do when their name hit the top of the list and they received— would you believe?—one thousand five hundred and six two dollars and fifty two cents.”