The Early Years of SF Pride: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration (“San Francisco Pride”) turns 50 years old this year. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration scheduled for June 27th-28th has been canceled and moved on-line. The annual event has drawn over a million people for the last 13 years and hundreds of thousands for the 30 years prior to that. This year’s 50th anniversary celebration was expected to be another huge gala.

With this year’s festivities going virtual, it is a good time to look back at the first ten years of San Francisco Pride. The images featured here are from the 1974 parade, then called the Gay Freedom Day Parade. San Francisco photographer Greg Gaar attended the event and took many pictures, capturing the joyous festival in all its glory.
 

Marchers holding Marchers holding “Gay Freedom by ’76” banner at O’Farrell and Polk during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.085; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

The roots of the San Francisco Pride celebrations are in New York. The spontaneous Stonewall Uprising occurred there in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969. On the first anniversary of Stonewall, marches were organized in major cities across the country. In San Francisco, 30 gays and lesbians marched down Polk Street on Saturday, June 27, 1970. The following day, hundreds of people held a “gay-in” at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park. There was no event in June 1971, but the Age of Aquarius Parade on Folsom Street in August 1971 featured some gay marchers and floats.
 

Celebrants on motorized cable car at O'Farrell and Polk during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974.Celebrants on motorized cable car at O’Farrell and Polk during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.074; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

On Sunday, June 25, 1972, San Francisco’s first “official” pride parade, called Christopher Street West, occurred. The parade organizers obtained city permits and 2000 people marched from Montgomery Street to the Civic Center. About 15,000 people turned out to see “elaborate floats, gay horseback riders, marching bands, and drag queens throwing kisses.1” During Civic Center speeches, the crowd denounced Mayor Joseph Alioto for failing to proclaim the day as “Gay Liberation Day.”

1973 found the parade renamed as the Gay Freedom Parade. On Sunday, June 24, 1973, thousands again marched, this time from Sansome and Post to Lafayette Park. Marchers came from as far away as Southern California.2
 

Drag Majorette Team at O'Farrell and Polk during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974.Drag Majorette Team at O’Farrell and Polk during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.089; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

1974’s Gay Freedom Day Parade was the biggest yet, bringing 60,000 people to watch thousands of celebrants. The theme of the June 30, 1974 parade was “Gay Freedom by ’76.” Organizers were seeking an end to job, housing, and other forms of discrimination by 1976.3 For the June 29, 1975 Gay Freedom Day Parade, about 10,000 people proudly marched in front of an estimated crowd of 72,000.4 Amongst the many elaborate floats, one drag queen rode on the back of an elephant. The Chronicle noted that then city supervisor candidate Harvey Milk participated in the parade.
 

Miss Cowgirl 74/75 on hay bale in back of car at O'Farrell and Polk during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974.Miss Cowgirl 74/75 on hay bale in back of car at O’Farrell and Polk during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.103; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

The Gay Freedom Day Parade grew to 90,000 marchers and spectators on June 27, 1976. The parade went down Polk Street to City Hall, then turned onto Market Street and headed for the Castro. There was a separate, smaller Interfaith Bicentennial Parade up Market Street the same day, but there were no issues between the competing marches.5
 

People dancing on stage or float in front of Civic Center during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974.People dancing on stage or float in front of Civic Center during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.100; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

On June 26, 1977, the Gay Freedom Day Parade really became the huge spectacle that it has been ever since. More than 200,000, perhaps as many as 250,000, people took part in the parade down Market Street to the Civic Center for a big rally. Parade officials believed the turnout was a result of the attention that Anita Bryant was getting for her anti-gay crusade in Florida and the murder of a gay city gardener by four youths the prior week.6 Perhaps in recognition of how popular the event had become, the Chronicle story on the parade hit page 1 for the first time and straight local politicians like Willie Brown and Art Agnos took part in the festivities.
 

Revelers at the Civic Center during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974.Revelers at the Civic Center during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.111; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

Another huge crowd, estimated at 240,000, turned out for the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25th. Willie Brown urged everyone to register to vote, so they could oppose a statewide initiative sponsored by Fullerton Republican Assemblyman John Briggs that would permit public school districts to fire homosexuals.7 Supervisor Harvey Milk asked President Jimmy Carter to speak up for gay rights. The parade route went down Market Street to the Civic Center again and would continue to be the route up to the present.
 

Performer on stage in front of City Hall during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974.Performer on stage in front of City Hall during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.071; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

On the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, an estimated 300,000 joined the Gay Freedom Day Parade festivities on Market Street and the Civic Center. The June 24, 1979 event was said to be the largest gathering of gay people in history,8 though, even if true, ensuing years would destroy this record. In the intervening year since the last parade, San Francisco had been shocked by the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by ex-Supervisor Dan White. The parade came just a month after White was only convicted of voluntary manslaughter, instead of more serious charges, sparking the White Night riots. This weighed heavily on the crowd. Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver proclaimed that a “million Dan Whites cannot kill Harvey Milk” because he lived on in all of them. Other speakers criticized the police department’s action during the White Night riots.
 

Happy couple in Civic Center during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974.Happy couple in Civic Center during Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 30, 1974. (wnp72.123; © Greg Gaar Photography / Courtesy of Greg Gaar)
 

The Gay Freedom Day Parade would continue to grow over the subsequent 40 years with millions of people joining the celebration now. The festival name would change several times, finally becoming today’s San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration in 1995. Although there is no marching this year because of the pandemic, you can join San Francisco Pride’s virtual celebration. You can also view our gallery of 72 images from the 1974 Gay Freedom Day Parade.

The goal of Pride has always been equal rights regardless of one’s sexual orientation. A lot of progress has been made toward this goal in the last 50 years, including a Supreme Court ruling just two weeks ago that gay employees were protected from job discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the fight is far from over. So parade or not, we celebrate 50 years of San Francisco Pride, support the fight for equal rights, and look forward to marching down Market Street again in the future.
 

Notes:

1. “S.F.’s Lively Gay Parade,” by Larry Liebert, San Francisco Chronicle, June 26, 1972, p. 3.

2. “A Sunny, Gay Parade In the City,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 25, 1973, p. 3.

3. “Fifes, Drums And Drag Queens,” by Kevin Wallace, San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1974, p. 3.

4. “10,000 In Gay Parade,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1974, p. 3.

5. “Gay Power and God Power in S.F.,” by Kevin Wallace, San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 1976, p. 2.

6. “200,000 In Peaceful Parade,” by Jerry Roberts, San Francisco Chronicle, June 27, 1977, p. 1.

7. “Harsh Words Against Briggs Initiative,” by Ron Javers, San Francisco Chronicle, June 26, 1978, p. 1.

8. “Thousands March Peacefully – Festive Rally at City Hall,” by Katy Butler, San Francisco Chronicle, June 25, 1979, p. 1.

Father’s Day – Five Favorites

by Arnold Woods

Another Father’s Day has arrived on this third Sunday in June. Perhaps more so this year than in years past, parents have been spending a lot more time with their children as we have quarantined in place for the last three months. As we celebrate this Father’s Day, we are reminded of former President Barack Obama’s admonition about fatherhood: “Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.1

In our nearly 50,000-image collection on OpenSFHistory, we have numerous examples of fathers with “the courage to raise” their children around this great city of ours. We have culled through our collection to find five of our favorites.
 

Father and three sons believed to be at Golden Gate Park Pool of Enchantment, circa 1910.Father and three sons believed to be at Golden Gate Park Pool of Enchantment, circa 1910. (wnp14.4577; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

Here we see a father and his three sons sitting by a pool that we believe is the Pool of Enchantment in the Music Concourse area, circa 1910. All of them are decked out in their finest duds. As such, we might presume that this is a Sunday post-church outing, but we must remember that in that era, people were in the habit of dressing up when going sight-seeing, be it in Golden Gate Park or Ocean Beach or elsewhere. The boy at right does not look very happy to be there, while the boy at left has a self-satisfied smile as if to say, “I’m glad we got to go where I wanted today.” Dad and his youngest child have matching “let’s get this picture-taking over with” half-smiles.
 

Family on Sacramento Street while San Francisco burns following earthquake, April 1906.Family on Sacramento Street while San Francisco burns following earthquake, April 1906. (wnp33.00769; Arnold Genthe – photographer / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

Even in the face of catastrophe, it was important to look your best. During the April 1906 earthquake and fire, thousands of people flooded into the streets to take stock of what was going on. Here, it is not only the family at left–an older father and mother and either their two grown children or one grown child and a spouse–on Sacramento Street, but virtually everybody in the background of this image is looking dapper. Everyone must surely be wondering what will happen to them, but Dad’s confident, cool demeanor surely was reassuring. His son or son-in-law adopted a nearly identical pose, which tells you that Dad has been a big influence in his life.
 

Father and Daughter near north end of Ocean Beach Esplanade, circa 1955.Father and Daughter near north end of Ocean Beach Esplanade, circa 1955. (wnp28.3046; Dapper Man Family photo / Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

This is the type of family photo you see frequently…a father bent over so that his face is next to his child’s face in the image. From the coats that people are wearing, we can only assume that it was a typical cold, foggy day at the beach. We have several shots of this family from that day in our collection and you see the wind messing with their hair in the images. You can also make out a bit of Playland and the Dutch Windmill in the distance here. We’re betting that this young girl got to have some fun that day at Playland.
 

Father with daughter and son in front of 834 Elizabeth Street, circa 1920.Father with daughter and son in front of 834 Elizabeth Street, circa 1920. (wnp33.01098; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
 

Once again, we have a father and his children dressed up, this time in front of their car on a street in Noe Valley. When you think about it, it is not that surprising to find well-dressed people in old photos. Getting your picture taken 100 or more years ago was not the everyday occurrence that it is now. So you wanted to look your best in the pictures. We love the son’s sailor uniform and the daughter’s lovely dress in this image. Everybody looks quite happy to be on whatever outing they were enjoying that day.
 

Andrew Brandi and son Richard on control platform for aerial ladder on firetruck 8, 1961.Andrew Brandi and son Richard on control platform for aerial ladder on firetruck 8, 1961. (wnp010.10005; Andrew Brandi / Courtesy of Richard Brandi.)
 

We end with another image from the collection donated by local historian and WNP Board Member Richard Brandi that we featured here a month ago. This image has Richard’s father Andrew showing Richard the control platform for the aerial ladder on firetruck #8 at the station on Bluxome Street where Andrew worked. It has been a rite of passage since the beginning of human kind for fathers to show their sons what they do. Be it hunting and farming thousands of years ago or a job in today’s modern workplace, a father showing his son what it means to work and provide for family has long been tradition. The tradition may have changed over time–today either parent may show their son or daughter where they work–but it has always been a part of growing up.

So today celebrate your fathers, whether they are here for you to visit or just in our hearts and memories. We hope, as President Obama said, that they had the courage to raise you and provide you with a good example to set for your own children.
 

Notes:

1. Father’s Day Speech at Apostolic Church of God, Chicago, Illinois, by Barack Obama, June 15, 2008.

The San Franciscans: Cecil F. Poole

by Arnold Woods

June 5th was the anniversary of one San Francisco’s uglier incidents. On June 5, 1958, a cross was burned at the home of San Francisco assistant district attorney Cecil F. Poole. If, however, your knowledge of Poole is limited to hearing about the cross-burning, then you need to hear about the remarkable career of one of San Francisco’s most distinguished lawyers.

Poole was born on July 25, 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama, but his family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he was young and remained there for his entire childhood. Poole’s mother was very active in the local chapter of the NAACP there. After graduating high school, he went to the University of Michigan, getting his B.A. there in 1935 and a law degree in 1938. The following year, he obtained a Masters of Law degree from Harvard Law School
 

District Attorney Thomas Lynch with Assistant District Attorney Cecil Poole, 1951.District Attorney Thomas Lynch with Assistant District Attorney Cecil Poole, 1951. (wnp28.3596; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

Poole initially moved back home to practice law in Pittsburgh, but in 1942, he was hired by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) in Washington, D.C. Poole also married Charlotte Crump, who was an editor at the Pittsburgh Courier, that year. The NLRB job was short-lived, however, as World War II was raging then and Poole enlisted and eventually served in the Judge Advocate General’s office at the base for the Tuskegee Airmen1. After the war, he worked briefly as the Chief of the Appellate Division of the Office of Price Administration in San Francisco before beginning private practice here in 1947. He and Charlotte also welcomed their first child, a daughter named Gayle, in 1947.

On April 18, 1949, San Francisco District Attorney Edmund G. “Pat” Brown appointed Poole as an Assistant D.A., making Poole the first African-American D.A. in San Francisco2. Poole served in the D.A.’s office until 1958. He also taught courses at the Golden Gate University School of Law and served terms as President of the San Francisco chapters of the National Urban League and the NAACP during that time. The Poole family had a second daughter, Patti, in 1952.
 

90 Cedro Avenue, circa 1913.90 Cedro Avenue, circa 1913. (wnp15.572; Willard E. Worden – photographer / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

In November 1957, the Pooles purchased a house in Ingleside Terraces. Not just any house, but 90 Cedro Avenue, the original showpiece home built in 1912 by Joseph Leonard when he developed Ingleside Terraces. Like most of the exclusive subdivsions that were built in the early 1900s in the Outside Lands, Ingleside Terraces included racial covenants that prohibited owners from selling their homes to people of color. Although racial covenants were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1948 seminal case of Shelley vs. Kraemer, the Pooles were unable to find a realtor to help them find and buy a home in the Ingleside Terraces area. They were forced to search for a home without realtor help and ended up purchasing directly from the prior owner of the Joseph Leonard house3. They were the first African-American family to live in Ingleside Terraces.

Charlotte & Cecil Poole look at burned cross on their lawn, June 5, 1958. (Duke Downey – San Francisco Chronicle photo)
 

About seven months after moving into their new home, the Pooles awoke on Thursday, June 5, 1958 to find a burned cross on their lawn. The cross was found by 6-year-old Patti when she went outside to wait for her father to take her to school4. Poole told police that he was sure none of his neighbors were involved, while his wife told reporters that there had been resentment when they moved in, but no friction. Several teenagers later confessed to the cross-burning, claiming it was just a prank5.

Pat Brown was elected governor of California in 1958. Brown hired Poole to be his Clemency & Extradition Secretary, stating “I am grateful that a man of Poole’s experience and intelligence has consented to serve in this exacting assignment6. In that position, Poole investigated death sentence cases and advised the governor on whether to grant clemency. Poole was the first African-American to serve on the staff of a California governor.
 

Poole family, 1961. (John Gorman photo / Courtesy of the Poole family)

After a nomination by Governor Brown and a recommendation by U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Poole was appointed as a United States Attorney for the Northern District of California by President John F. Kennedy on April 15, 1961. Poole was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 6, 1961 and he was confirmed by the full Senate the following day. In what had become a recurring theme, Poole was the first African-American to serve as a U.S. Attorney in the continental United States. In his position as a federal lawyer, Poole became friendly with both Kennedys. When Bobby Kennedy would come to San Francisco on government business, Poole would typically meet him at the airport.

While Poole was at the A.G.’s office, his wife Charlotte started a committee that worked to establish an African-American archive at the San Francisco Public Library. She also worked as a protocol officer for the City and later served on the Board of Directors for Children’s Hospital and the Board of Overseers for UC San Francisco.
 

Protesters in fountain, Protesters in fountain, “Cecil’s Pools,” in front of Federal Building protesting murder of Rev. James J. Reeb and police oppression in Selma, Alabama, March 15, 1965. (wnp14.12260; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

On March 15, 1965, a large civil rights rally gathered at the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue to protest the murder of Reverend James J. Reeb and police oppression in Selma, Alabama. Poole was criticized for not appearing at the rally and the pools in front of the building were derisively called “Cecil’s Pools7.”

In January 1968, as Vietnam War protests intensified, five protesters were arrested at the Oakland Induction Center for not having their draft cards on their persons. All five were, in fact, registered for the draft, so Poole intervened, had them released, and declined to prosecute them8, stating “the fact they weren’t carrying their draft cards indicated more a slip of the mind than a deliberate action on their part9.” This decision would be used as justification for blocking Poole’s appointment as a federal judge later that year by Republican California Senator George Murphy. Lyndon Johnson again nominated Poole for a federal judgeship near the end of his presidency, but Richard Nixon withdrew the nomination when he took office.

Poole resigned his U.S. Attorney post at the end of January 1970 to become a University of California Regents Professor of Law at Boalt Law School. Later that year he joined the law firm of Jacobs, Sills & Coblentz. Besides his private practice clients, Poole was an international observer at the trial of Amalia Fleming, Alexander Fleming’s widow, in Greece in 1971, a member of the California Democratic Party’s Credentials Committee during the 1972 presidential primary, chairman of the State Bar’s section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and a member of several corporate boards, including Levi Strauss. As the head of a San Francisco section of the American Bar Association, Poole, in August 1972, proposed the legalization of marijuana with the same restrictions as alcohol10. After the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, Poole and his firm did some work for Hearst family during that lengthy saga. When Hearst was arrested, Poole was asked by her family at the last minute to represent her at her arraignment, but he could not reach the courthouse in time.
 

Federal Building entrance on Golden Gate Avenue, September 1966.Federal Building entrance on Golden Gate Avenue, September 1966. (wnp25.3520; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

On June 18, 1976, Poole was again nominated to be a federal judge, this time by President Gerald Ford. With a Democrat-controlled Senate at the time, Republicans brokered a deal to fill three vacancies on the Northern District of California bench with two Republican lawyers and Poole, a Democrat. With the backing of both of California’s senators this time, the Senate confirmed Poole on July 23, 1976. He was sworn in on October 5, 1976 and cited Pat Brown’s advice to judges to be kind, understanding, and compassionate. “I would like to be that kind of judge,” said Poole11. Poole’s appointment was another first for him, the first African-American judge in the Northern District of California.

After only three years as a district judge, President Jimmy Carter nominated Poole to the federal appellate court on October 11, 1979. He was confirmed by the Senate on November 26, 1979. Poole was, yes, the first African-American to be a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. During his time on the Appeals Court, Poole wrote a number of notable decisions, including United States v. Rodriguez, where he found that evidence against a criminal suspect should be suppressed because the police had racially profiled the defendant, and In re Larry P., a case where he held that San Francisco schools could not use standardized tests to place African-American children in special education classes.
 

Patti Poole, January 2004. (Courtesy of Woody LaBounty)
 

Poole’s daughter Patti almost followed in his footsteps. She joked that she could say the word “deposition” before she could say the word “daddy.” She worked as a paralegal for many years while getting a Ph.D. in anthropology, then went to law school, and passed the bar exam. However, she elected to not to practice law and opened an art gallery instead.

Charlotte Poole passed away in February 1991. After beginning to feel the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Poole took senior status on the Court of Appeals on January 15, 1996. Later that year he was named to the Charles Houston Bar Association’s12 Hall of Fame. He would succumb to complications from pneumonia on November 12, 1997.

Poole’s career is marked by being the first African American at virtually every level of state and federal legal office in northern California. However, Poole’s career was not just remarkable because he was the first African-American in these positions, it was remarkable because he was a tremendous attorney, judge, and legal scholar, period. Cecil Poole was a giant of the San Francisco legal community.
 

Notes:

1.Civil Rights, Law, and the Federal Courts: The Life of Cecil Poole, 1914-1997, Oral History Interview with Cecil Poole by the California Digital Library.

2. “Negro Named Assistant To Brown,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 1949, p. 1.

3.I Am OMI Interview with Patti Poole,” by Woody LaBounty, January 17, 2004.

4. “Cross Burned at D.A. Aide’s Home,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 1958, p. 1.

5. “We Burned Cross at Poole’s, Boys Admit,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 11, 1958, p. 1.

6. “Poole Named Brown’s Aide On Clemency,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 16, 1958, p. 1.

7. “They Came to S.F. to Protest,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 15, 1965, pp. 1, 10.

8. Ironically, Poole’s daughter Patti would later marry a protester at the Oakland Induction Center who was prosecuted by her father, see I Am OMI Interview with Patti Poole in fn 3 above.

9. “Murphy Says Draft Case Hurt Poole,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 30, 1968, pp. 1, 26.

10. “Handguns Win ABA Test,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 1972, pp. 1, 6.

11. “Cecil Poole Takes Oath As U.S. Judge,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 6, 1976, p. 6.

12. The Charles Houston Bar Association was founded in 1955 to provide a forum for African-American attorneys to address issues that affected their work. It officially became a part of the California Bar Association in 1975.