National Geographic : 1956 Aug
190 Barney Peterson, san r'ranclsco tliro1ncle Bewigged Citizens Fire a Barrage of Humor in Their Battle to Save the Cable Cars In 1947 city officials announced that San Francisco's clanging antiques must go. Aroused residents and cable-car admirers the world over protested; such stunts as this helped retain parts of the line (page 196). who started her climb to fame singing and dancing on the bare table tops of San Fran cisco's waterfront saloons and retired with a national reputation and several million dollars. But her heart remained with the red-shirted miners who had tossed pokes of gold dust at her feet and started her on the way to for tune. So in 1875 she presented the city with a fountain. The dedication was a memorable affair. Lotta was on tour in the East, but almost everyone else attended. San Francisco ac cepted the gift and, drinking water not being in great demand in the town in those days, promptly forgot about it. But on Christmas Eve in 1910 came an event which permanently enshrined Lotta's Fountain in the heart of her favorite city. Luisa Tetrazzini, the great coloratura, found herself involved in a contract dispute in New York. An impresario insisted that she was obligated to sing for him in that city. The singer pleaded a prior engagement in San Fran- cisco, where she had made her American debut. "I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing there in the streets," she cried defiantly. "I know the streets of San Francisco are free." She won her case and returned to California to keep her promise. "I like San Francisco better than any other city in the world," she beamed, and the citi zens returned her adoration. That Christmas Eve they filled the streets around Lotta's Fountain as far as the eye could see. A massed choir sang carols and a symphony orchestra played. Then, her gloved hand rest ing on the mayor's arm, Tetrazzini appeared, a misty figure in a trailing white gown. The crowd hushed, and she sang. Standing on a flimsy wooden platform, she filled the streets with song, concluding with "The Last Rose of Summer." Today Lotta's Fountain, wreathed in the memories of two women who were loved by San Francisco and loved it in return, means more to the city than many a more impressive sight.