Christmas Day weather in San Francisco was just about perfect in 1890, and thousands of residents took advantage of it by going to Golden Gate Park.

"For once weather and the wishes of the little people of San Francisco fell into accord, and Christmas of 1890 will stand prominent in the recollection of many as the most perfect mid-winter day California has ever seen," reported the Daily Alta California the next day.

"The morning sun drove away the early fogs and all day poured down its brilliance upon the city. ... It is usual upon this day for all to make calculation upon entire indoor pleasures, but the rare exception afforded yesterday to the ordinary rainy Christmas brought many more people upon the streets. ... Golden Gate Park was therefore the spot."

Crowded park-bound horse-drawn streetcars carried "boys with their newly-acquired bats and balls hastening to test their skill, while little girls with motherly fondness took out for an airing the doll babies which old Santa Claus had brought them."

Little boys rode their new bicycles in the park, while little girls favored tricycles, according to the paper. Then there was the most popular attraction in the park, the merry-go-round.

"The merry-go-round scarcely stopped in its revolutions to discharge one cargo of bright-eyed youngsters till its capacity was again filled to the utmost."

Not everyone had come to the park on streetcars. Many had traveled in buggies, carts and other horse-drawn vehicles.


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"All afternoon there was a constant succession of turnouts coming and going and if there was an outfit that went a-pleasuring yesterday that did not go through the Park, it must have been because it broke down before getting there."

Adults headed toward the beach, walking under the many trees that shaded the paths. The park emptied out at 4 p.m.; the newspaper reporter surmised that people wanted to get home for Christmas dinner.

At the county jail, 206 prisoners managed to eat 300 pounds of turkey accompanied by sides of soup, vegetables, fruits and mince pies. The 15 incarcerated at the city jail got pretty much the same food, except it was police Sgt. Lindheimer who personally footed the bill.

Will & Finck, the big department store on the Phelan block on Market and O'Farrell streets, continued its Christmas ad in the Daily Alta California the day after Christmas.

Its after-Christmas bargains included children's books for 5 cents, building blocks for 10 cents, and either dressed jointed dolls or "indestructible dolls" for a quarter.

For the men the store advertised fancy leather cigar cases for 75 cents, while women could get a real ostrich fan in black or gray, satin painted, feather top for 75 cents.

One valued benefit of buying at Will & Fink was its policy of delivering for free to places as far away as Sausalito, Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro.

Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at nildarego@comcast.net.