WebCastro receives a lot of mail from folks all over the world and one of the
common questions is, "What are some of the interesting activities going
on in San Francisco that are appropriate for everyone?"
My standard answer is Trevor's walking tour and lecture of the Castro. Whether you are a first time tourist to the Castro or seasoned resident of our beautiful city, the historical perspective that Trevor illustrates during this 3-hour informative field trip is inspiring, educational and fun.
The tour members congregate at Harvey Milk Plaza at Castro and Market Streets. The tour participants cover the spectrum of folks from all over the world. Once everyone has arrived, Trevor pulls the group into a circle. Her charismatic personality and captivating voice took us back to early San Francisco history. She described the early social settings that would later set the stage for San Francisco becoming the gay mecca of the 1970's and 80's. She further described the changing attitudes towards women, brought on by the military during WWII, that planted the seeds of change. These seeds would come to fruition as women gained their own awareness and were able to break out of the traditional roles perceived by society.
Trevor's tour is more than a walking historical perspective of the Castro. She conducts the tour more like a lecture, melding together an unbiased view of human behavior, historical events and opportunity created by those forceful events. She also emphasizes the documenting of our gay and lesbian heritage as an important component in the struggle to dispel the stereotypical images of gays and lesbians in the lesser informed segments of society.
Trevor revealed the periods of pre-Stonewall gay history in San Francisco, illustrating how the Castro has sociological roots all the way back to the gold rush days of the 1850s. She then progressed to the significance of the 1906 earthquake, drag queens of the 20s, gay bars of the 40s, the impact of WWII on the port city, on through the 50s and early 60s along Polk Street, the Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury and finally, the migration of so many gay men into the Castro in the early 70s.
Trevor's cruise through the Castro is detailed, including dates, times, and places of the notable events of that era. I won't give away all the details here, you will have to participate in Trevor's tour for yourself. She presents the Castro in a brilliant, energetic and comprehensive way that one must experience for him- or herself to appreciate. You will find out such things as who the gay Besty Ross of the Rainbow Flag was, and why the Castro Theater became the icon of the neighborhood, beyond its obvious distinction.
Midway through the tour, the group joined Trevor for brunch at the Caffe Luna Piena. She continued with her informative lecture as we ate and she sipped on her cup of lemon tea. During brunch, she invited everyone to ask questions they might have. Trevor is exceptionally hospitable and she makes sure that everyone knows each other and that you really feel like you are part of the tour group.
The tour progressed up Castro, towards 19th Street and across the street where we stopped at the site of Harvey Milk's famous camera store. Trevor pointed out the plaque embedded in the sidewalk commemorating this historic site.
Harvey Milk was known as the Mayor of Castro Street. Noting the dedication that Trevor has to our community, I would say she definately qualifies as the Embassador of Castro Street.
Walking back towards 18th Street and Castro, Trevor explained how many in the neighborhood rejected the influx of gay men in the early 70s, sold their homes and businesses and left the area. Those businesses with vision, that embraced the inevitable changes of that time, are still here and very successful today.
Progressing further up Castro, we stopped at the Castro Theater and Trevor escorted us inside, briefly related its history and how the theater was saved and given historical status through the efforts within the gay and lesbian community. Today, the theater has gained a reputation as a significant cultural institution. Several popular film festivals are held there annually. The Christmas Eve program by the Gay Men's Chorus is also an annual event. As a popular revival movie theater, it's not unusual to see a line of people wrapped around the block.
The tour concluded with a visit to the Names Project, a pictorial and verbal history of the many trips the quilt has made to Washington, D.C., how it was started in 1985 by Cleve Jones, and how the quilt project has evolved to the present day.
Trevor Hailey moved to San Francisco in 1972, while she was finishing a tour in the military as a nurse. Walking along Castro Street with Trevor gives one a feeling of importance as many a passerby greet her along the tour route. Her eloquent voice and beautiful command of the language, combined with her historical knowledge and energetic style, make for a totally educational and entertaining experience for everyone.