Illustrated Talks & Lectures
"Your talks were fantastic, right on target, highly informative and the venues were packed. You thrilled the audience and we appreciate your service to our country."
-- Dr. Mark C. Preul, American Association of Neurosurgeons Convention
John is a sought-after speaker who makes San Francisco history come alive for visitors and locals alike. He is especially popular as an after-dinner speaker for groups headed for Alcatraz Island, sharing his "insider knowledge" of the island's history, its famous felons, its secret areas, and hints on what to see while visiting the island.
He also has a portfolio of illustrated talks about San Francisco, its history and famous landmarks.
John's illustrated PowerPoint lecture series includes:
"Alcatraz Island: 200 Years on the Rock" An illustrated history of Alcatraz from Spanish 'discovery' through today's status as a National Park site. The talk focuses on the 1934-1963 era when The Rock was a federal penitentiary, including stories of the island's infamous residents, escape attempts, and the Hollywood mythology of Alcatraz. This talk is a companion to John's book Fortress Alcatraz: Guardian of the Golden Gate.
"Underground Alcatraz" Before it became an infamous penitentiary, Alcatraz served as a U.S. Army fort and military prison. This illustrated talk focuses on the legendary "secret Alcatraz" of tunnels, dungeons, brick bunkers and long-forgotten Civil War fortifications that lie beneath the former penitentiary -- and just below modern visitors' feet.
"The Panama Pacific Pacific International Exposition" A celebration of the too-short 1915 world's fair that marked both the opening of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of San Francisco following the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire.
"The Forts of San Francisco Bay" From the earliest Spanish adobe huts of the Presidio of San Francisco to the preserved Nike nuclear missile site in the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate National Recreation area contains an outdoor museum of fortifications that waited for wars that never happened and enemies that never came.
"Fort Baker Through the Years." Fort Baker lies hard-by the Golden Gate, literally in the shadow of the famous bridge. For nearly 140 years it was a stronghold of the the U.S. Army, where glowering coastal fortifications overlooked snug Victorian military houses. This show is a companion to John's latest book Fort Baker Through The Years: The Post, The Park, The Lodge, published by Hole In The Head Press.
"American Icon: The Golden Gate Bridge" The origins, design, construction history, and legacy as San Francisco most famous landmark. Learn about the challenges encountered while building what was the world's longest single-span suspension bridge and its evolution into a world-wide symbol of San Francisco and California.
"Sutro's Glass Palace: The Story of Sutro Baths" Built in the 1890s, Sutro Baths was the largest indoor bathhouse in the world, featuring seven swimming pools, art works, promenades and musuem exhibits, all covered by nearly three acres of glass. Today, only broken concrete ruins remain at Land's End. Even in ruins, the Sutro Baths still draws thousands of people daily who explore its mysterious foundations and rocky tunnels. This talk includes many never-before seen photographs of Adolph Sutro's legendary Glass Palace.
"Playland At The Beach: San Francisco's Forgotten Seaside Pleasure Ground" A nostalgic -- and melancholy -- look at the city's vanished amusement park at Ocean Beach. This popular talk traces Playland's evolution from a rough-and-tumble neighborhood of bars and shooting galleries in the 1890s up through its 'golden era' during the 1940s under the Whitney Brothers, and then its eventual demise and demolition in 1972.
"Steam Trains, Streetcars, Cemeteries & Shipwrecks" The story of San Francisco's wilderness at Lands End, with period photographs of the steamtrains and streetcars that rounded its rocky bluffs. Hear about the nearly-forgotten cemetery that lies beneath today's Lincoln Park golf course, the rusting remains of shipwrecks along its shore, the 1890s battlements at Fort Miley, and the wondrous Victorian gardens of Sutro Heights.
John's PowerPoint talks last approximately 30-45 minutes and can be tailored to a group's special interests. John can provide his own laptop and digital projector.