One of the days that my sister was here we found ourselves walking back from petsitting in Lower Haight along Divisadero towards the ocean. We walked past a sign that said “Greetings from San Souci Valley”. At the bottom of the sign it said that you could insert yourself into the postcard image by standing in front of it and taking a picture. It caught my attention and we stopped.
I photographed my sister at the photo spot:
Then I read the flier about this thing, which turned out to be an advertisement for a walking tour here I’d never heard of called Th!nkwalks.
I learned from the flier and then subsequent perusing of the Th!nkwalks website that this walking tour program began as a typical tour by Joel Pomerantz for tourists but in 2009 was reinvented as “nerdy tours for San Franciscans”. Locals (and visitors welcome, of course) can take tours to learn about San Francisco’s real history, people, culture, politics, art and more. For example, you can learn about the water history of Divisadero and the lakes that used to be there. In addition to the scheduled walking tours, they also do custom walking tours, bike tours, and more. Plus they’re starting to put out additional things, like the postcard picture wall I spotted and some educational apps. Th!nkwalks tours are by donation with a suggested sliding scale fee starting at $10.
San Francisco: History of a Gay Mecca
I actually learned something new about San Francisco history just from the flier that I picked up at that postcard stop. Although I’ve always known that San Francisco has a large gay population and has played an important role in gay history, I never actually knew why it became a gay center. The flier explained:
“The ‘Pacific theater’ of WWII was in full swing when US military services decided to excluse homosexuals. San Francisco was the fleet’s home port. Soldiers were dishonorably discharged – thus outing them publicly – then abandoned at the SF docks. Most soliders were from farms and small villages. Many felt that attitudes towards gay men in 1944 rural America were too much to face. They couldn’t return to their hometowns, so they stayed a built a new community for themselves.”
Hm. You learn something new every day!