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Memories of Early City Guide Days

by Elaine Molinari

Joining City Guides in the first training class in 1978, I wanted to share my love of San Francisco history. I had absolutely no idea how the City Guides would affect my life and the lives of so many others! I’ve made life-long friends; had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences; and always have been thankful for, and proud of what the City Guides do!

My favorite stories are about some of the wonderful people who made up the volunteer corps throughout the early years. After the first few years of establishing our reputation and relationships with other city groups, during the early 80s it felt like some free spirit was unleashed. Judith Lynch gave a Noe Valley by Full Moon walk that was loved, even though there was so much fog we could barely see the Victorian details she pointed out.

Because that was so much fun, friends helped me give a full moon walk at the Palace of Fine Arts. There was a discussion about the PPIE while we were standing in the rotunda; as we walked out talking about the architecture, I pointed out the “weeping women” at the top os the plinths. And just then 2 of the berobed “statues” turned around, eliciting gasps from the crowd (my friends in high places).

We organized a couple of continuing education trips for Guides, one following the route of Robert Louis Stevenson from San Francisco to Napa, reading from his works along the way; another to Monterey to learn about Steinbeck.

Two sisters joined the Guides. Eleanor Bernstein and Rosalind Yussim brought along their passion and history in musical comedy and wrote “The Rush From Gold to Silver” a City Guides historical presentation. Using standard songs but adding their original lyrics, they told the story of the settling of San Francisco, with other Guides as actors. From this we have the City Guides Theme Song!

Throughout the early years we had many angels in the community helping us with content, training, and partying. Masha Zakheim, Max Kirkeberg, Robert Chandler, Eric Saul, Emmett Condon, Gladys Hansen, Richard Reutlinger, our very own Judith Lynch, and so many more contributed to our knowledge base and encouraged our growth.

We have been widely recognized and supported by politicians, businesses, foundations, and of course the tour-takers, locals and visitors. This support generated one of my favorite stories. For several years the Jewett Foundation was a major financial supporter. After submitting our yearly funding request, their director called to tell me our application was approved. Then she said “Elaine, I was flying to New York for a meeting. Gentleman next to me on plane found out I was from San Francisco and just gushed about these history tours he had discovered. ‘The best part of my trip, and we’re coming back to do more!’ How could we say No to you after that!”

Keep up the good work, and keep on having fun!!

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