Here is a simple journey you can take, back in time, to San Francisco in 1905, before the big earthquake. It’s not simply a quaint image of days of yore. You see men and women casually crossing in front of the cable car’s path without so much as a glance at what’s coming at them. Automobiles — a surprising amount of them — drive along the street, exhibiting America’s traffic pattern of driving on the right — mostly, that is. Other trolley cars cross the tracks in front of the cable car we’re riding, and so do riders on horses, horse drawn carts, carriages, and bicycles. A woman dressed in a long skirt with leg-o-mutton sleeve and a giant, veiled hat crosses the tracks. Young boys try to hitch rides on the rear bumpers of automobiles. (Yeah! I know!! They really did that!)
The streets are dusty, and seem to be paved mostly with bricks, and with few exceptions, the buildings go no higher than a few stories. What’s odd to see is the complete lack of traffic lights, and how everyone, whether in a vehicle, on horseback, or on foot, just casually crosses the street wherever they feel like. A few daredevil drivers even slither in between two on-coming cable cars.
This is real. This wasn’t staged. This is not a Hollywood recreation of a long-ago street scene. This is how people dressed, looked, stood, walked, and acted one hundred years ago in America.
And…if you like this, take a charming street car ride in 1908 Barcelona. It’s lovely.