Episode 52: San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 52: San Francisco, California

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San Francisco, CA, is one of the most important ports in the USA. It is on the West Coast, on the Pacific Ocean, and has a large, safe bay and harbor for ships. The city and bay are famous for the quickly changing weather, especially fog and rain. In fact, the fog hid the harbor from European explorers for over 300 years. Before that, the Yaluma people lived there.

Beginning with the European settlers, San Francisco was a Spanish mission, and later a Mexican mission. Then, in 1848, gold was discovered in the nearby mountains. Many people poured into the area in 1849 hoping to get rich. This movement of people was called the Gold Rush, and the people were called the 49ers. This nickname is so popular that San Francisco’s football team‘s name is the 49ers.

San Francisco sits on very steep hills, and part of it is on filled-in marshland. The city lies on the San Andreas Fault, which means there is a high danger of earthquakes. In fact, the great earthquake of 1906 destroyed much of the city. Fires burned for three days afterward, destroying even more. More recently a large earthquake occurred in 1989. Highways, buildings and bridges fell, and many people died.

However, San Franciscans rebuilt each time, and it continued to grow. It is a very rich, crowded city, with many high-tech companies and a progressive culture. Writers and poets came to the city, including the beat poets of the 1950s. In the 1960s, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood was famous as a center for the hippie counterculture. San Francisco has always been a place where many activists, including those for environmental, labor and feminist issues, live and work. In the 1980s, the Castro District area was a center for gay rights and a movement to help homeless people and those with AIDS.

Other interesting facts about San Francisco:

Thousands of Chinese immigrants came to San Francisco to work because of the discovery of gold and silver, and also because of the railroad. As a result, the Chinatown area of San Francisco became the largest Chinese settlement outside of Asia.

Visitors to San Francisco should ride the famous cable cars. They were installed in the late 1800s and helped the city grow on the steep hills.

Another popular sight is Fisherman’s Wharf, a historical part of the waterfront. While there, tourists like to see the hundreds of sea lions that visit Pier 39 every year. From this area you can take a boat tour and visit the famous ex-prison, Alcatraz, which is located on an island in San Francisco Bay.

But I have saved the most famous sight of San Francisco for last: the Golden Gate Bridge. That, and the Bay Bridge, were both built in the 1930s. They connect the city to nearby communities like Oakland and Marin County.

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This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.