“Social Clubs”: Watering Holes and Restaurants

San Francisco was a self-contained graphic community. Messenger bike services were the connections in the city. FedEx did not exist; so local talent had the advantage especially when changes to artwork were necessary or new photographs were needed.

Everything was accomplished with phone calls and personal visits. Art studios had representative salesmen who would call on ad agencies and corporate offices. The individual free-lance artist or photographer made personal calls. Type and paper “Reps” called on designers and advertising agencies. Even the owner of FLAX (art store) would call on BH&H where I would make a list of what was needed.

Since earlier years, the cool climate of San Francisco had made it the cornerstone of the printing trade. Printers created the first trade union on the Pacific Coast in 1850. Big and small printing shops had their own graphic teams but when they needed back-up, they were another source of employment for the city’s art studios and independent “creatives”. If a job was discussed with any of the suppliers near noon, they were likely to lunch together.

Suppliers and the ad community were all friends and small groups would socialize, usually at lunch hour—that could often linger to the dinner hour.

There were a lot of great places to meet. Some restaurants were even another source of income, as they would need menus, ads, and even matchbooks—designed.

My new studio was just doors away from the new Playboy Club at Montgomery and Jackson streets. I only got a glimpse inside when getting the copy for this lunch menu. They didn’t care to spend much money on this small ad—not even a typesetting expense—it is just my hand lettering and a line from my typewriter.

Enrico Banducci who owned “Enrico’s” restaurant on Broadway, had bought the “Hungry i” (the lower-case ”i” meant: intellectual) from Eric “Big Daddy” Nord of Beatnik fame. I was creating newspaper ads 2”x4” and 4”x4” for the “Hungry i” (example: Mort Saul, Carmen McRae and Nina Samone engagements). The checks that I received from Mr. Banducci were sometimes difficult to cash. Once, after several attempts at his bank’s teller window, the bank paid me—collecting from him later, I guessed.

Another job for a restaurant, in this case, a wine menu for the Imperial Palace on Grant Avenue, offered me the chance to try another style of illustration and also informed me of the history of the Chinese immigrants in winemaking in our local counties.

The Imperial Palace also wanted me to assemble a 4’ X 7’ collection of photographs of actors and other notable celebrities who had dined at their restaurant. This was to be displayed on the south wall of their dining room. The additional required task was to cut away the persons in the photos and handwritten signatures that were not to show. It became a “Crazy Quilt” of photos! Bill Hyde would smile at my attempts to work around a raised drawing board— on my “butcher paper” layout—that draped over the drawing board and down to the floor. Finally, I happily sent it and the photos with “crop marks” —off to Pisani Press. That shop had the critical job assembling, mounting and framing it all. The Imperial Palace was pleased.

The above, assignments for: the Hungry i (1967-1968), the Imperial Palace (December 1967), and the Playboy Club (November 1968)— were offered to me by Alessandro Baccari. He, at that time, had his office in the Maybeck Building, 1736 Stockton Street.
He is now known as “the beating heart of North Beach”. He is the historian of that part of San Francisco.

I have collected restaurant names and personal notes of “repasts from the past”— (see our next posting).

Ann Thompson