Jon W. Smith on his 65 years in the neighborhood at Potrero Hill History Night 2017

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Inset photo: Emily M. Smith outside her Wisconsin Street apartment, 1955. Larger photo: Jon W. Smith at the same spot today. Photos: Courtesy of Peter Linenthal

Jon W. Smith has most likely lived in the Potrero Annex-Terrace housing complex longer than anyone else. In 1952, he and his family landed at the Channel Projects, on Iowa Street near 25th, now a site under the Interstate-280 Freeway. He remembers a young boy there, O. J. Simpson, who wore braces to straighten the bow-legs rickets caused. In 1955, Smith’s family moved to an apartment on Wisconsin Street, in Potrero Terrace, where he lives today.  Mid-century last the Terrace’s manicured hedgerows, gardens and trees seemed ‘like a Shangri La’ compared to industrial Iowa Street. When Potrero Annex was built, residents called them ‘the new projects’.Smith’s mother, Emily M. Smith, was an avid bingo player, ‘her only vice’, and helped distribute food boxes to seniors. Jon Smith picked up newspapers at Atchison’s Pharmacy, on 20th Street, delivering them to the the thirteen buildings of the Carolina Projects, now now home to San Francisco International High School and The New School. He went to Starr King School at its first 25th and Utah streets location, and was one of the first students at Starr King’s Carolina Street site.  He wonders what happened to the monarch butterflies that lived on the Hill’s fennel plants in those years. Smith joined the Army, traveling extensively in Europe. Denmark was his favorite city because of The Little Mermaid. He’s been a postal worker, and today is council president of the Potrero Terrace Tenant’s Association. Smith’s entire Wisconsin Street block is scheduled for demolition and rebuilding; he takes a ‘wait and see’ attitude towards relocation of residents like himself during construction. Come hear Jon W. Smith talk about his 65 years in the neighborhood at this year’s Potrero Hill History Night, Saturday, November 4.