"You are the soundtrack," Prelinger told the capacity audience at the Herbst Theater, and they responded to his mostly silent archival films by calling out locations, questions, comments, and jokes.
They saw footage of a 1941 Market Street parade of allies---floats representing Malta, Russia, France, Britain---and Kezar Stadium hosting a ferocious mock battle/demonstration of Army cannon, troops, and tanks in 1942 and huge naval ships parked at the waterfront piers in 1945.
Sailors cruised the Barbary Coast in 1914 and amateurs piloted gliders from the vast beach dunes of the Sunset district in 1918 (looking just like the hang-gliders of 90 years later). There was a sky tram at the Cliff House and four sets of streetcar tracks busy on Market Street. Impromptu hula dancers drew a crowd on Market in one decade, and flower stands adorned it in another. Artists filled the Montgomery Building.
All of Treasure Island could be seen burning, and no one present could remember when it was or what caused it or what happened afterward.
"Fictional narratives push out actual narratives," Prelinger said. We remember stories, and what isn't in them, we forget. It takes large archives like his, diligently collected and made public, to free us from selective memory. Constantly reunderstanding the past goes best when grounded in the true strangeness of what used to go on.-- by Stewart Brand