Seeds of the Community
The seeds of community were sown in the early 1900’s.
A manong stood on Kearny Street and reminisces…
“I remember in 1910, the street cars on Kearny Street were pulled by four horses. The streets were all wood. The milkman delivered the milk in his horse and wagon. He delivered it to the St. Paul Hotel. There were no streets in Chinatown either, it was all wood. Montgomery Street was all water during that time. There was one park in Chinatown . They call it Portsmouth Square. It was so wild…
Benny’s Cigar Store on Clay and Kearny was built in 1915. This was an old Cigar Store. Goes back to the time of the Exposition. This was owned by the Blaser Brothers Co. They used to have a Bail Bond office here. I am 85 years old, and had this cigar store for 25 years. I also remember the Santa Maria Restaurant. It was on Jackson near Kearny Street. It was owned by the Santa Maria Brothers. This was a Visayan restaurant.
There were three Filipino barbershops on Kearny Street. One next door to the International Hotel. This was Tino’s Shop. And next door to that was the Bataan Drug Store, the Bataan Pool Hall, the Bataan Restaurant.
And across the street where Mike’s Pool Hall is now, I mean Lucky-M that used to be a clothing store in 1930 or 1928 or 1929, he sold this building to a Filipino old timer, then they made this into a pool hall. The first owner’s name was Julian, and the second, a Filipino boxer name Tino. He owned it for a long time.
Another Filipino name Samposa, from Mindanao, wants to buy it for $3,500 but was turned down. And Muyco and his wife took it over. They still manage the pool hall. The pool hall has a history all he way up to now. The Filipino boys all know each other. We are drawn together. We all come from the same place. We feel at home here.”
From 1920-35 there was a filipino male population of 39,328. Legislation forbid Filipinos from owning land or setting up businesses. They were to be kept moving, remain transient. They stayed in labor camps, rooming houses and hotels.
The International Hotel was one of these. “Manilatown,” the Kearny/Jackson Street area of San Francisco, became a permanent settlement, a convenient culture contact. It was the home field-workers returned to, where merchant marines lived while in port, where distant relatives and friends could be contacted, where they could enjoy the security of a common culture.
Immigration laws re-enforced the role the International Hotel played as a family with the social protection it provided. The Filipino community in San Francisco existed in groups dictated by economic necessity and blood brotherhood. The International Hotel became a symbol for an entire minority community.
About 1954, the International Hotel became significant for yet another reason. Enrico Banduccci, opened his original “hungry i” (hungry intelectual) nightclub next door to Club Mandalay in the basement of the International Hotel where performing artists got their start, such as: Nina Simone, the Smothers Brothers, Lenny Bruce, the Kingston Trio, “Professor” Irwin Corey and Bill Cosby, to name a few.
In 1977, the tenants of the International Hotel, mostly elderly Filipinos, were evicted. Subsequently because of strong community opposition the site was designated by the Board of Supervisors as a site for low income senior housing.