When a Californian calls something “old,” it’s usually not as old as something a Bostonian would call “old.” As a native Californian, I have often been reminded of this. “Well,” says my Easterner friend, “we wouldn’t call this ‘old’ back home.”
It turns out that this scenario is at least a century old, for it occurs on the very first page of The Lure of San Francisco:
“I believe you Californians have but two dates on your calendar,” he exclaimed, “for everything I mentioned seems to have happened either ‘before the fire’ or ‘in the good old days of forty-nine!’ ‘Good old days of forty-nine,’ ” he repeated, amused. “In Boston we date back to the Revolution, and ‘in Colonial times’ is a common expression. We have buildings a hundred years old, but if you have a structure that has lasted a decade, it is a paragon and pointed out as built ‘before the fire.’ “
The Lure of San Francisco is written as a long conversation between the narrator, a native San Franciscan woman, and her Bostonian guest. They visit the four principal sights of pre-1906 San Francisco: Mission Dolores, the Presidio, Portsmouth Plaza, and Telegraph Hill.
The book has a beautiful cover with a nautical motif, and is elegantly illustrated inside with eight tonalist drawings by Audley B. Wells. It was one of more than a dozen books Elder published during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.