Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Little Lillie's Tower --- Days 11/261 & 262

Walk: 1. T. Joe's, Hood, 2. City Hall to pick up ballot that got lost in mail

Distance: 4 miles, 5 miles

View from a Coit Tower window as the San Francisco fog began obscuring the Bay during Fleet Week, 2022

So there once was a little girl named Lillie who was fascinated by the red shirts and war-like helmets of the San Francisco firefighters.  And one day on her way home from school she saw a small group of those red shirts struggling to get Knickerbocker Engine 5 up the hill to a fire.  So she tossed her books onto the ground, raced over to help them pull, all the while yelling to whoever could hear "Come on you men, Everybody pull!"  They all did, and the engine raced up the hill.

From that day on, little Lillie was considered the mascot of the the San Francisco firefighters and rode to fires with them, sat on top of Knickerbocker No. 5 in every parade and attended their annual banquets.  When she was older she was made an official honorary member of the engine company.  And whenever volunteer firefighters were ill she visited their sickbeds and sent flowers and attended funerals of those who died.

When Lillie died she was quite wealthy, and she left one third of her estate to the City of San Francisco "to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved."  And absolutely appropriately the City used the bequest of wealthy and eccentric and firefighter patron, Lillie Hitchcok Coit, to build Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. *

Coit Tower, San Francisco

This year when Ciwt's sister was visiting, they decided to be fulll tourists and go to Coit Tower to see it and the Blue Angels annual Fleet Week aerial exhibition of precision flying.  This was after their walk along the Embarcadero so, beginning at sea level, they climbed the 400 steep, red brick Filbert Street stairs, and then the 100 extra stairs it takes to get to the front doors of Coit Tower.  Little did they suspect the Coit Tower elevator would be non-functioning that day, so when they got to the tower, they continued step by even narrower and winding step 120 feet to the top.  From there they each found an opening to view the Blue Angels.  Needless to say there wasn't that much competition for those ultra high, elevatorless windows so grabbing a view wasn't a problem.  

What was a problem was the (in)famous San Francisco fog which was so thick that day that the Blue Angels were forced to cancel their exhibition - an extreme rarity in all the years since 1946 that they have been invited to be a main attraction of Fleet Week. 

The disappointed visitors who had come to see them likely numbered close to a million which, of course, included Ciwt and her sister.  So, down they walked the cold, hard, stone steps through North Beach, up and over Russian Hill, and then over and up to the top of Ciwt's Pacific Heights hill. There they uncorked some Napa Valley wine and flopped down exhausted on Ciwt's couch.  Too bad Lillie couldn't have been there to give us a ride home in a firetruck.

Elizabeth (Lillie) Hitchcock Coit (1843-1929)

*Given Coit Tower's decidedly phallic appearance, Ciwt's readers can probably imagine the abundant local jokes about it.


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