The Halcyon Days of ‘49

Some of the major questions that Hit Parade has been exploring through research, community storytelling, and live rehearsals have been about the exploration, settlement, expansion, and growth of San Francisco as both a city and an idea. Looking back to the economic agendas and dreams that drove the settlement of San Francisco in the mid 1800s, we have been asking what it is that we can learn from that period to better understand the city’s current expansion, its shape-shifting dreams and of course, its’ changing demographics.


Here are A.J. Waterhouse (lyrics) and Maurice Levi (composer), writing in 1898, looking back at “The Halcyon Days of ’49”:


It’s all very well, the story to tell,

Of the days that are growing old

When the men of might first turned to the light

That shone from the country of gold

It is very well to praise the halcyon days

When our world was so virgin and fair

But I wish to remark ‘twas not all a lark

‘Twas a different thing to be there

Of the days of old and the days and the days of gold

The poet may merrily sing

A lack of pay dirt was the thing that hurt

And it wasn’t so seldom a thing

[Full sheet music courtesy of SFPL Sheet Music Collection]