Catering at the War Memorial Building in San Francisco, April 14, 2020
My wife and I did a lot of catering at the War Memorial Building in San Francisco on Van Ness back in the day. The War Memorial Building is directly west across Van Ness from City Hall.
The War Memorial Building has a museum on the south side of the first floor foyer. It is full of old rifles and military stuff. Flags and medals and all that.
The elevators took us and our catering gear up to the third floor where the Green Room was located. That is the catering space. Photo is below. It was kind of a dump back in 2002 and ’03 and ’04. But they’ve since fixed the place up.
I remember the catering/kitchen space just south of the Green Room. We had no hot water. We had to heat it up ourselves on the gas stoves. And our plating area was surrounded by old olive green lockers for soldiers who had served in the Philippines during that war/insurrection that no American remembers in the Moro Rebellion etc..
And at the end of the third floor at the south window of the stairwell there was a stained glass window. Oh, I wish I’d taken a picture of it, but this was before smart phones and all that.
A naked Philippine woman was kneeling in front of an armed and bayoneted US Marine with her face in supplication at the Marine’s crotch level.
No doubt that window was removed when the building was renovated. I wonder who has it?
So many catering we had in that antique building. We watched way back when Governor Newsom was Mayor of San Francisco and he’d legalized gay marriages. We watched from the deck of the War Memorial Building as gay couples lined up at City Hall across the street to be married.
The War Memorial Building still had cracks in it from the Lomo Prieta Earthquake. Oh, it was a dump.
And the weirdest thing about that third floor were the Masonic or perhaps Druid chambers on that floor.
These large rooms were also green and had benches around the perimeter with a tall dais along one wall. A high backed chair was at the top of dais for no doubt the Grand Poo-Bah to preside over the affairs at hand.
This one job we drove all the way down from Santa Rosa (70 minutes) as usual in our catering van. The cook same separately in the assistant’s car.
The assistant caterer was a beautiful black woman. She’d been a model. We’ll call her “Cassie”.
As soon as we arrived at the War Memorial Building (And we could park our catering van right in front of it.) Cassie told my wife and I that the cook was drunk and had been pawing at her as she drove the whole way down from Santa Rosa.
We later found out that our cook, let’s call him Joe, was on anti-depressants and had bought a pint of vodka at the store near the catering shop in Santa Rosa right before we left.
We unloaded the van and took our gear up in the elevators. We laid out the food on the tables next to the olive drab lockers in the prep room.
Joe, the cook, went into a room near the windows to cook the egg rolls.
My wife came up to me and yelled, “Joe is setting the place on fire!”
And sure enough, Joe had lit his gas BBQ and set the curtains on fire.
I put out the fire and told Joe that he needed a rest. I herded him into one of the Masonic chambers across the hallway and gave him a seat. He was really out of it.
My wife, who was running the job, told me to stay with Joe. She and Cassie would put out the food and make the job work. This was a huge hardship on them.
So I sat with Joe in the Masonic chamber and he told me all about his life and his crummy wife and why he wanted to die and all the rest of it.
Finally Joe fell asleep in his chair and I could go back to the catering job to help my wife and Cassie.
In a few hours the job was over. The van was packed. And all that was left was to collect Cook Joe sleeping in the Masonic Chamber.
I asked Cassie if she wanted to drive him back to Santa Rosa. If not we’d just throw him in the back of the catering van.
Cassie took him back to base in her car and Joe slept the whole way.
Joe was fired the following Monday.