Oral History: Ray Rovero
Ray’s father was the founder of the Columbus Cafe. This neighborhood bar was originally located on Columbus Avenue in what is now the Wells Fargo Bank. Ray remembers spending a lot of time at his grandparents’ flat at the corner of Kearny and Filbert when he was a youngster.
RAY: My grandmother’s family . . . they used to make wine up there on Filbert and Kearny. I do remember one time, as a kid, walking up to my grandmother’s, going up Union Street, and wine was flowing down the gutters!
INTERVIEWER: Oh no! What happened?
RAY: A big raid. The law was they couldn’t make more than a certain amount of wine. The pro-hi’s got there.
INTERVIEWER: So it’s the 1930′s and you are just a little kid, and you’re walking up Union Street and red wine is flowing down the gutters from somebody’s house…
Ray: Several houses…
INTERVIEWER: Oh several houses . . . because they had made too much? They were only allowed to make so much?
RAY: Even to this day. [Making a limited amount of wine for home consumption is still legal.] It was the Feds — the Federal agents. Maybe someone was selling it up there.
1939 – Ray’s Father
Original Columbus Cafe
468 Columbus Avenue
(now Wells Fargo Bank Building)
Would you like to read this interview in its entirety, or any others from our collection? The full transcripts are available at the North Beach Branch of the San Francisco Public Library and at the San Francisco History Center, Main Branch. They are also available at the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley. Or, if you are a member of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, you are welcome to borrow any of the transcripts from our own Oral History Lending Library. Call Audrey Tomaselli at 391-1792.