Love on the Tracks, Early Morning on Russian Hill
One of the coolest jobs in San Francisco is gripman, or -woman, on the city's cable cars. Forget the conductor, it's the 'grips' that run the show. They work what is essentially a 300 lb. pair of pliers that grab on to, and release from, the below-ground cable. Not surprisingly these cable car operators have been been  the subject of quite a bit of amorous attention over the years. Veteran operators tell stories of commonly being flashed by riders in passing cable cars and frequent requests for romantic trysts in the back of empty cars.

One conductor who took this attention to an extreme was Francis Van Wie. Van Wie became known as the 'Ding Dong Daddy of the D Car Line' because he had 14 wives – at the same time! The polygamous playboy was discovered, fled San Francisco, and arrested in Los Angeles. When he was brought back to San Francsico on January 28th, 1945 his train was greeted by screaming women sympathizers, a media horde, and the SFPD. After it was revealed that his 5th wife was the daughter of his first wife (but not his biological daughter) he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years at San Quentin State Prison.

Two years after he was paroled, on the condition that he could not marry without the consent of his parole officer, Van Wie did file for, and receive permission to marry again, and again, and again. Van Wie eventually died in Lake Elsinore, Riverside County after having been married 18 times.
[ MAP F-14 ]


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