San Francisco History

Back to the Future

Prophecy Fulfilled, Jesting Vision of 1929 in 1889

50 YEARS HENCE—a Prophecy, 1937 Marvels Are 1987's Jokes


Jesting Vision of 1929


Drawing: A View of San Francisco in the Year 1929
(click on picture for a larger version)

INSPIRED—The Examiner artist who had this vision of San Francisco in 1929—the picture was drawn in 1889—surely was gifted with second sight. For there is the bridge, springing from Rincon Hill to Yerba Buena Island and to Oakland. And there is a flying machine. Really, that was too much for San Francisco who opened their papers that morning on December 29, 1889. The nonchalant group on the roof-top at the right apparently is waiting to board the flying contraption, wholly imaginary, and, to 1889, fantastic ancestor of the China Clipper. The town chuckled over this artistic prophecy. Today San Franciscans casually cross the bridge.

Source: San Francisco Examiner. 04 March 1937, page D-6.

50 YEARS HENCE—a Prophecy

Drawing: An Examiner Artists Visualizes a School Class of 1987.1937 Marvels Are 1987's Jokes


It was a pleasant day, so the teacher took the children of the old Television School over to Alcatraz Island, to view the ruins of the Federal Prison.

The youngsters skipped and danced through the air on their way across the bay. All of them wore their anti-gravity shoes. And it was great fun gliding along, hundreds of feet above the water.

"This old prison," said Miss Timmins, "once housed a number of notorious criminals."

The children look puzzled.


"Oh yes," explained Miss Timmins, "in those days people killed one another, and stole money, and ——"

The Brain Serum.

She touched a finger unpressively to her head.

"All this was before Professor Von Selig, the great German psychiatrist, perfected his famous brain serum. In those days character—human impluses—were totally uncontrolled."

The children thought this very strange, and exchanged incredulous glances behind the teacher's back.

On the following Monday the history class was taken to the Twin Peaks Museum, to see the automobiles.

"Did people really ride in them?" asked Lucy, the pretty girl in the green aura-ray.

"Yes, indeed," answered Miss Timmins. "They ran along the streets like little bugs, propelled by exploding gasoline."

"What is that hanging up there," asked Terrence, the inquisitive one. "I mean that funny flat thing, that looks like a man without any head or feet."

Dressed in Rays.

"Oh that," said Miss Timmins. "Why, that's a suit of clothes. It belongs to the same era as the automobile. Women wore what they called skirts, and men wore those long trousers down to their ankles."

The childred gasped in astonishment.

"I like our way much better," remarked Lucy soberly as she adjusted the tiny aura-ray instrument attached to her silver belt.

By the mere turn of the dial, she had changed her aura-radiance from green to a cosey roscate hue that enveloped her from head to foot. It was most becoming.

The class spent some time discussing the quaint automobiles. Willie Hughson, the big boy with the technical mind, wanted to know if they were equipped with magnetic refractors.

"No, no," protested Miss Timmins. "As I have told you, this was long before science had learned to conquer gravity. All movement was forced. Fat people weighed more than thin people. There was no automatic adjustment of weight, such as we have now. Even airplanes had to be drawn up into the sky by powerful propellers—they did not float through the air as our planes do now."

Moon Excursion.

Lucy yawned. She thought the people of that day very stupid.

"Tomorrow," said Miss Timmins, "I want you all to bring along plenty of concentrated food tables, and your oxygen chest plasters. I am going to take you on another week-end excursion to the Moon."

"Oh, goodie, goodie," exclaimed Gwendolyn, who was a mere juvenile—two years old and less than five feet high—"I love to play with the balloon children on the Moon. They're so cute, bouncing along without any legs—"

Miss Timmins frowned sternly.

"You mustn't be personal—and remember not to play too roughly with them. You know what happened last time, when that little Luna boy exploded."

The children nodded sadly, and promised to be careful.

After leaving the museum the class trooped aboard the open-air school-plane again, and sailed out over the bay for the afternoon lesson in advanced observation.

"You will note," said Miss Timmins, "that rusty old structure over there, collapsed at one end. It was once hailed as the mighty Golden Gate Bridge. Folks made a great fuss over it at the time, before all transportation took to the air."

"Yes, my father has told me about it," remarked Terrene, leaning over the edge of the plane. "It was used for automobiles, wasn't it?"

"U'm h'm," answered Miss Timmins absently. "Now, I want you to look at that little object away down there in the water, just inside the strait. That's a ship—what they called an ocean liner. It is now inhabited by crab fishermen."

The class regarded it curiously.

"It doesn't compare very favorably with our modern floating palaces, does it," said Miss Timmins, indicating one of the mighty air-liners just then coming in over the gate.

Thousands of passengers were moving about the glittering decks. Various smaller air-floaters were flitting about at various air-levels, and traffic officers, wearing their phosphorous anti-gravity boots, were stationed at imaginary intersections.

Quite Primitive.

"No, it was very primitive," said Terrence.

"You must understand," concluded Miss Timmins, "that everything was very primitive back in those early days of 1937. People still ate in restaurants. They had no concentrated food tablets. And they crowded into places called movie houses to see animated photo-dramas. Television was in its infancy, and talk-o-vision, as we commonly call it, was unknown. No one thought of sitting comfortably at home and tuning in on all the latest plays, as we do now."

By the time the school plane was circling back toward San Francisco.

"Tell us about those tall stone pinnacles that are standing up on the hills by the waterfront," asked Lucy.

"Well, that is what we call 'Old Town,' " responded the teacher. "All that lower section was once the important business district of the city. It is now monstly abandoned, and will be torn down. New York has the same thing—skyscrapers.

Plane Landings.

"You see, no one thought of having the roofs of the buildings all flat at the same height, to provide landing places for planes. Each man erected his building or home to suit himself, and there was a conglomeration of useless roofs."

"My, my," said Lucy. "How could people be so backward!"

"But they were," said Miss Timmins. "They had what they called 'traffic problems.' They tried to operate all their automobiles in the streets, along with the pedestrians, instead of using the roofs of the buildings for automobile traffic, as any sane person would.

"Of course, a change came in time. First they built broad causeways over the buildings, where they could, and provided a flat roof.

"But the people wearied of such makeshifts, and finally the new, model city was erected from Butchertown south to a place called Burlingame."

"Butchertown?" ejaculated Lucy, fidgeting with her aura-dial so rapidly she looked like a chameleon. "Butchertown?"

"Oh yes," said the teacher, as she brought the plane to a halt in the school yard. "In that enlightened day they still had slaughter houses right in the heart of the city."

Queer Customs.

"As a matter of fact," added Miss Timmins, "they had all sorts of queer customs—courts of law, judges, attorneys, jails, insane asylums—banks for money——"

She floated lightly through a school window to her desk, and put her books away.

"Just two little inventions of science," she said, "cured all that. Professor Van Selig's remarkable brain serum, which removed all dishonesty, crime and conflict from the human brain, and Nancy Windburg's priceless contributions to aeronautics—the little magnetic refractor disk you children wear in your shoes."

"Good night, teacher," chorused the children, "and don't forget our trip to the Moon tomorrow. Good night, Miss Timmins. Thank you for the ride."

Source: San Francisco Examiner. 04 March 1937, page G-15.


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