This afternoon I was sweeping up leaves from the sidewalk when an old guy stopped to remark on how he thought it was a pretty house. He lives around the block on Santa Marina and has lived there since 1952 and in 1960 he nearly bought this house but his wife didn’t like it. We continued chatting.
I mentioned the history of the house as an earthquake shack. He told me how he moved here in 1947, worked 6 days a week very long hours and earned 14 dollars a week, but that was very quickly enough to buy a house. His house was $9500 and soon he had enough money to buy a second house. And he’ll tell me something about it! We settled onto the sidewalk bench which I built specially for people to rest there when going up the hill, and I was prepared for pretty much anything at this point, because he was charming and rather intense. The story went something like this:
The house is at 18th and Church, in a little, in a little street near there,
“In the alley by the Mission? Mission Dolores!”
Yes, yes! You know! The Mission. The cemetery there.
“Yes I’ve been to the cemetery, it’s very strange, and sad, they enslaved people, a lot of people died”
Yes that’s right. The indigenous people died there. They’re in the cemetery. Anyway, in the 50s, 60s, I’m under the house, it’s, I’m on my knees, it’s very small,
“In the crawlspace?”
Yes! I’m crawling under there, I’m digging, it’s very dark, with the electrician, who is of Caucasian descent, European descent. And it’s very dark. He screams! He gives out a big scream! Then silence. Nothing.
“Did he find bones?”
No, no bones, I crawl around, I’m yelling Davy! Davy! That was his name. Davy (Scheule?) He was of European descent. And he fell down a big fucking hole!
“Oh my god!”
It is the well from the mission, Under my house! My house is built in 1750, and they don’t cover up the well!
Anyway, he was down the well, very far! I got out and got someone else, he brought a light. And we got him out of the well. It was very hard, and it took a long time. We got him out.
“Did he die?”
No, he was ok. And I tell a guy from the city! He’s of caucasian descent, this man. He comes, himself, with a crew, and he goes, himself, under the house! And he makes a stairway with the rope, a —
“A rope ladder?”
Yes, a ladder with the rope, then he goes down into the well, himself. And he comes up and has something, maybe, gold, but he says it’s his because he found it. I told him he can’t come back any more because I’m mad he took the things from the well! And, he reports me to the city because the house has no foundation.
“OMG. Coins? Money? What was it?”
I don’t know. Maybe money from 1900s, but older, it would be something else! So then I am building the foundation. I find the bricks, bricks put out for like to walk to the well, from the Mission. It’s a path to the well. Then I’m digging, I’m putting cement. And I dig these big wooden, like this, but big (indicating a 2 foot by two foot square beam) this big, from here, to that door (like 10 feet or so)
Yes, big beams, of wood, very solid, very good, under the ground for 100 years. And then I find more of them, I dig them out. What they’re for I don’t know.
Then I sell them, someone buys this wood for one thousand dollars! I don’t know why. I know things, not the things like this, but I know to fish, to grow, to build things. I’m not of European descent, I’m indigenous. So, I don’t know why they buy the wood, back then. What they do with it. I don’t let them go under the house any more.
“So, did you sell the house?”
No, I still have it.
“OK!!!!! So!!!!! Can I go down the well? Wow you are a really good storyteller! ”
Then he gave me his card, in case I need advice in building or getting city permits which he’s great at because he’s been doing it for 50 years. We shook hands several times and I thanked him for the fantastic story!!! How did he know I love local history.
I have such good luck with random encounters and I want to be friends with this cool dude now. He is 86! And still contracting (with his son).
I guess all the houses right there around the Mission Dolores must be on top of some amazing stuff and archeologists have likely poked at it over the years!