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Ballad Of The Hyde Street Grip

July 2024
1min read

Gelette Burgess is best remembered for his ditty about the purple cow, but he also composed a splendid tribute to the cable car. His turn-of-the-century “San Francisco Rhapsody” not only has a fine swing to it, it is accurate too. George W. Hilton, in his definitive book The Cable Car in America , writes of the Hyde Street extension: “The new mileage was a useful addition to the city’s cable network, but it suffered the obvious disadvantages of running at a right angle to the dominant pattern of cables and being the last line built in the city. As a result, it was inferior to every other cable and as … Gelett Burgess correctly points out, had 22 rope drops on every round trip.”

Oh, the rain is slanting sharply, and the Norther’s blowing cold, When the cable strands are loosened, she is nasty hard to hold; There’s little time for sitting down and little time for gab, For the bumper guards the crossing, and you’d best be keeping tab! Two-and-twenty “let-go’s” every double trip— It takes a bit of doing, on the Hyde Street Grip!
Throw her off at Powell Street, let her go at Post, Watch her well at Geary and at Suiter, when you coast, Easy at the Power House, have a care at Clay, Sacramento, Washington, Jackson, all the way! Drop the rope at Union, never make a slip— The lever keeps you busy, on the Hyde Street Grip!
Foot-brake, wheel-brake, slot-brake and gong, You’ve got to keep ‘em working, or you’ll soon be going wrong! Rush her on the crossing, catch her on the rise, Easy round the corners, when the dust is in your eyes! And the bell will always stop you, if you hit her up a clip— You are apt to earn your wages, on the Hyde Street Grip!
North Beach to Tenderloin, over Russian Hill, The grades are something giddy, and the curves are fit to kill! All the way to Market Street, climbing up the slope, Down upon the other side, hanging to the rope; But the sight of San Francisco, as you take the lurching dip! There is plenty of excitement, on the Hyde Street Grip!
Oh, the lights are in the Mission, and the ships are in the Bay; And Tamalpais is looming from the Gate, across the way; The Presidio trees are waving, and the hills are growing brown, And the driving fog is harried from the Ocean to the town! How the pulleys slap and rattle! How the cables hum and whip! Oh, they sing a gallant chorus, on the Hyde Street Grip!
When the Orpheum is closing, and the crowd is on the way, The conductor’s punch is ringing, and the dummy’s light and gay; But the wait upon the table by the Beach is dark and still— Just the swashing of the surges on the shore below the mill; And the flash of Angel Island breaks across the channel rip, As the hush of midnight falls upon the Hyde Street Grip!

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