Monday, March 28, 2016

Castro: Tales of the Village

We started at the Harvey Milk Plaza, where various Metro lines converge. There is a plaque with a row of photos commemorating Harvey Milk's life and a small, locked park. 

The rainbow flag symbolizes the lesbian gay bisexual transgender pride movement. There is a giant one right at Harvey Milk Plaza.  Across the way, is the Twin Peaks Tavern, which was opened in 1972 by a lesbian couple, Mary Ellen Cunha and Peggy Forster. It was the first gay bar that had uncovered, full plate glass windows.

The Castro Theatre is one of the last grand movie palaces in San Francisco. It features classic films and sing-alongs and before the movie begins, we get to listen to a concert on the mighty Wurlitzer organ. There are two camps among the regulars of Castro Theatre as to what the quintessential San Francisco song is - the Jeannettes and the Tonys. The Jeannette Macdonald song is "San Francisco (open your Golden Gates)" and Tony Bennett's song is "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." The intersection of Castro Street and Market is where the F line begins. Today, a bright yellow lemon drop of a tram went by our walking tour.

The Castro is famous for its freedom of expression and tolerance for a rainbow of lifestyles. I walked by a blindingly pink victorian house, notice boards plastered with all kinds of entertainment, and a house with a large collection of Ken dolls in the windows.

A tour of Castro would not be complete without a history lesson on Harvey Milk. He was a member of the Board of Supervisors in the 1970's but his career was cut short by an assassin. Nonetheless, his influence on building coalitions with unions, championing gay and civil rights, has earned him the title, "Mayor of Castro Street." His plaque on the ground in front of his former camera shop. And just up the street, the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy includes ceramic and glass murals of marchers and messages.