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Carol O'Gilvie
Her Aunt & Uncle were former Fillmore residents

Carol O'Gilvie
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Carol's Aunt Lillian
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Photo Credit: Carol O'Gilvie

On Her Aunt's House in The Fillmore

My aunt came to San Francisco in 1943. She moved about three times from 1943 to 1950 before they purchased the property on Ellis Street. The Western Addition was the African American center of all the people coming there. There was the church, the Third Baptist Church. It was a time of community building. The house itself was a gorgeous Victorian on Ellis Street. When I first came to visit, I had not seen anything like it. The ceilings were very high and there were ornaments around them and on the doors and the post as you entered the building. The hardwood floors were absolutely gorgeous.

On Living in the Fillmore Neighborhood

If someone needed to patch a roof, they'd get their ladder and they'd go patch a roof. If someone needed to put a pane in a window, they could do that. They could also paint inside or outside. One tenant was a mechanic. They would come down to a central place and they would fix whatever was wrong with each other's cars. For a long time, my aunt and uncle didn't need a car because everything that they needed was within walking distance. They had the grocery store and the furniture place on Ellis and Fillmore. It was amazing the resources they had. It was a social place, a gathering place. After church, people came to visit, to see what was going on there.




Fillmore neighborhood
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Photo Credit: Ron Willis



Saffari Room Soul Food
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Photo Credit: Ron Willis

On Food in The Fillmore

The important thing about food in the Fillmore was that we brought that food culture with us from Northeast Texas. We had to educate the merchants in the Fillmore District because we spoke another language. We had to translate: dry salt bacon meant salt pork in San Francisco. Black eyed peas were beans at that time. The two most important types of fish were catfish and perch; shrimp was not one of our regular feasts. And then we had pork, chitlins, pig's feet, and the jowl, which was the head of the hog. We taught the merchants about things that we were commonly cooking.


On the Effects of Redevelopment

The agreement with the Redevelopment Agency was this: you either became involved in the design of the project, or you sold your property outright. After much deliberation, my aunt decided to sell her home outright. It was a very hard decision for her, of course, and she also realized how it would be for her husband. After they moved out, there was a long period of time before the property was actually demolished. Every morning until the property was actually leveled, my uncle would drive and park in front of the house and read the newspaper.

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