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Dr. Daniel Collins
Retired Dentist
Co-Founder of The Bay Area Urban League
Former Fillmore Resident

Dr. Daniel Collins
watch the movie (500k)

Video Credit: KQED 1999

On the Train Ride to California

I came to California on the same train that brought the war workers. I arrived here October the 16th, 1942. The train was loaded with people with paper bags and cardboard boxes and gunny sacks. They were the people who were coming out to man the war industry. The train was crowded with all kinds of people but there was a large contingent of blacks. In those days a ticket to California for a lot of people from the south was bounty from heaven. We arrived in Oakland and took the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco. And the Bay was filled with warships. As you came across it, you could see them anchored all around the Bay.

 

 

Empty Lot in the Fillmore
click for larger image

Photo Credit: KRON

On Leaving the Fillmore

In 1952, I left the Western Addition after ten years. Drugs were beginning to percolate in the area. One day my son came home using some very foul language. He didn't know what he was saying. I said this is the time for us to leave, because I'm the type of father who thinks there is no place on Earth too good for my family. There was no special reason why the black community started using drugs. Everybody used drugs, but black people's business is in the street. All of our medical problems are in the street. They had no more drugs than Pacific Heights or Broadway but our use of drugs was on the street more, in the public record, at the county hospital. You also had a group of people who found it more difficult to manage their behavior, who were less protective of who saw them using drugs.

On the Blight in the Fillmore

We recently went to dinner on Hayes Street. Those beautiful houses on Hayes Street were just like those houses in the Fillmore district. If you go around the corner where we used to live on Pine Street, that house is renovated. Somebody came in about ten years ago and began to gentrify the whole area, to put some money into the house. Now you can't buy that house for less than a million dollars. So those houses that were considered blighted were the same houses that are on Hayes Street. They just needed to be cleaned and updated. San Francisco was never blighted.

 

 

Fillmore victorians
click for larger image

Photo Credit: KQED

On the Purpose of Urban Renewal

Blacks ended up in the middle of cities all over the country. For the most part, they are tenants. The properties have been overused because blacks could not live anywhere else. The neighborhoods were poorly serviced by the police and garbage departments. So black cities all over the country showed less upkeep than anywhere else in the city. Urban Renewal developed to get rid of blacks in the central part of the city. Urban Renewal got rid of anybody in the way of using that property to make bigger buildings.

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