Since Then Some Of The Peculiar Character Of The Old
Plaza Has Gone.
The Barbary Coast was a loud bit of hell.
No one knows who coined the
name. The place was simply three blocks of solid dance halls, there for
the delight of the sailors of the world. On a fine busy night every door
blared loud dance music from orchestras, steam pianos and gramaphones,
and the cumulative effect of the sound which reached the street was
chaos and pandemonium. Almost anything might be happening behind the
swinging doors. For a fine and picturesque bundle of names
characteristic of the place, a police story of three or four years ago
is typical. Hell broke out in the Eye Wink Dance Hall. The trouble was
started by a sailor known as Kanaka Pete, who lived in the What Cheer
House, over a woman known as Iodoform Kate. Kanaka Pete chased the man
he had marked to the Little Silver Dollar, where he halted and punctured
him. The by-product of his gun made some holes in the front of the Eye
Wink, which were proudly kept as souvenirs, and were probably there
until it went out in the fire. This was low life, the lowest of the low.
Until the last decade almost anything except the commonplace and the
expected might happen to a man on the waterfront. The cheerful industry
of shanghaing was reduced to a science. A citizen taking a drink in one
of the saloons which hung out over the water might be dropped through
the floor into a boat, or he might drink with a stranger and wake in the
forecastle of a whaler bound for the Arctic.
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