Heart of the City Archives

Mister SF at Crosby's in Hillsborough.
.com But Not Forgotten
by Hank Donat

Now and Then Part I. In her 1967 book, "Bing and Other Things," a gentle memoir written before the Hollywood tell-all era and while most of the people mentioned in it were still alive, Kathryn Crosby details her early life as Mrs. White Christmas. Bing married former nurse Kathryn many years after his rise to fame from San Francisco's Capital Theater, where he appeared as one of the boys billed as "Two Boys and a Piano." By the time he married Kathryn, Bing was one of the most famous men in the world, and a widower. Kathryn says she got rather demoralized opening her eyes every morning to the sight of the portrait of the late Dixie Crosby that hung in the master bedroom at the Crosby's Hillsborough mansion. The plucky newlywed composed herself and went to - of all people - her mother-in-law for advice.

Kathryn writes, "Mrs. Crosby looked at me with great understanding and smiled and said, 'Well, dear, I don't think I'd do anything. Why don't you just get dressed and go to work this morning and I'm sure everything will be fine.' She dismissed me and my problem. So there was nothing to do. I'd just have to live with it."

A recent visit to Hillsborough finds Kathryn well and enjoying the award winning, fragrant Crosby Roses that grow on the property. "Bob Hope doesn't have a rose named after him," she informs. Kathryn is truly of Hollywood royalty's first generation. "Elvis Presley wanted to make a movie with me," she says, "but I didn't think so. And Bing really didn't think so." Inside the house, high atop a few flights of stairs, in a small, unused office that's empty except for a desk and telephone, hangs the portrait of Dixie. Cheers to Kathryn Crosby, a survivor long before "Survivor." 

Now and Then Part II. In January 1945, Seaman First Class Frank Hall wrote from Tacoma, Washington to his wife Margaret, who was living at the Grant Hotel on Bush Street in San Francisco, "Darling about the rent. You take that from the fifty, also payment of $10 to Granat Brothers... and send me $10 as I am down to $17. I had $45 when I left San Francisco and I can hardly believe that I have spent $28 but I can account for all of it and none went foolishly." The cost for a room at the Grant Hotel for one month in 2001: $1,950 - around the monthly rent for a studio on in North Beach. 

Before the reader thinks that Seaman Hall was all business, here's a romantic passage, "Darling I wish I were with you. There is nothing that makes me quite so happy as being with you dear. Sweetheart, if everyone got the joy and pleasure out of love that we do I am sure there would be more happiness. I tell you truly dear I never knew what love was until you and I met and married." Remind me, when is Fleet Week?

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Copyright 2001 Hank Donat
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