Oral History: Virginia and Elios Anderlini
Virginia and Elios Anderlini
The interviews with Virginia and Elios Anderlini draw on the couple’s experience as long time residents of Telegraph Hill and North Beach. For more than 50 years the couple occupied a charming home on the Filbert Street steps, where Elios (Andy), until his death in 2004 at the age of 96, tended a landmark rose garden that has long delighted residents and tourists alike.
Born in 1913 at 319 Union Street at the top of Telegraph Hill (in the building located next to what is now Speedy’s Grocery), Virginia takes readers on a tour of a world where streets were lit by gas lamps, the iceman came once a week and the milkman each day. Virginia grew up with the sound of fog horns, ship whistles, and the clomp of horses’ hooves on cobblestones as vendors and draymen traveled the neighborhood delivering vegetables, sharpening knives, selling coal, and providing grapes to be crushed into wine.
Andy moved to San Francisco from a coal mining town in Kansas at the age of 16. He became a top student at Galileo High School, the University of California, and Hastings Law School while working at jobs as diverse as bussing tables at Jack’s Restaurant and making strawberry baskets. Andy eventually embarked on a law career that propelled him to the top ranks of San Francisco attorneys.
The Anderlinis’ memories are a treasure trove of neighborhood stories. Following is an excerpt from the interview:
INTERVIEWER: Tell me about the sounds you remember growing up on Telegraph Hill.
VIRGINIA: Let’s see, well the noises from the horses coming up Union Street, pulling these heavy carts up the hill. Some of those wagons were full of coal, weighty things, and so it was hard for the horses. They would slip back, and then keep going very slowly up the hill. They were rounded cobblestones, so you can understand how a horse could easily slip off them. The coal wagon stopped in front of our house, because we had a coal and wood stove for the kitchen. We had one stove in the kitchen that heated the whole house.
And the fog horns! Much more than nowadays. When we were very young we used to walk down Union to Kearny and then we would go up that steep Kearny Street hill to Garfield School. My mother would be up at the window and watch us all the way down to Kearny Street. And of course they were very foggy mornings. In those days we’d have fog so thick, much thicker than it is today. My mother could hardly see us. We’d walk down Union maybe as far as to Castle Street, and a little beyond, and then she wouldn’t be able to see us anymore, it was so foggy.
Edna (right) and Virginia
Backyard of 323 Union Street