Every so often, you’ll hear White Americans over the age of 60 (or even under… I guess by their imagination) long for the “good old days” of the 1950s. To me, they’re just the racist old days… or the sexist old days… or the repressed old days… or the red scare old days… or anti-comic book old days. I don’t really see the 1950s as a positive period in American history. I do dig the doo wop songs of that period, I guess.
But there is something to be said for a small town feel. The mom and pop shops. The diners. The safe neighborhoods. Well, as far as I can tell, the Richmond District in San Francisco is the best of the 1950s but without all the McCarthyism and oppression/repression. I’ve got to say I love the Richmond.
Joe’s Ice Cream has the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s homemade every day by this old Japanese guy, and his family serves it up with smiles (and really strong forearms). Bill’s Place has an old-time diner feel with amazing milkshakes. Even today, my wife and I went to a paint store and got wonderful customer service from an old dude who told us exactly what we needed to get and didn’t need to get to repaint our kitchen cabinets. He wrote down the exact procedure for us and forbade us from buying bigger paint cans than we needed, even when we kept insisting we needed bigger paint cans (he was right, by the way—the small paint cans were sufficient). And don’t forget the locally owned Balboa movie theater with its 1920s flare, cheap prices, mix of artsy and mainstream films, real butter for popcorn, and staff who care about movies.
I love local joints and a small town feel. The people I run into in businesses in the Richmond District generally care about their businesses. They’re not just hired hands who work on commission. They want to develop a relationship with you and work hard to gain your trust. So I’ve got to say… now I understand why White people are nostalgic for the 1950s. If only we could get a good 24-hour diner around here (no, Video Cafe does not count—I said good 24-hour diner).