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by Susan Saperstein

I love my iPod, but it is kind of a piece of junk with lots of programming bugs. At my last visit to the Genius Bar to get the thing fixed, the Genius complimented me on my podcast collection. And then he told me Sparkletack was one of his favorites. is the website, blog, and podcast of Richard Miller, who has created close to 70 history tidbits. You can download the files, get them from iTunes, or go to the website and read the text and see historical photos. He is a detailed researcher and uses the San Francisco Public Library History Center for his work.

I emailed him and asked how he became interested in history, and Richard started reciting parts of my tour—the part about wondering why houses on one side of the street in the Mission were old Victorians, while on the other side of the street were newer buildings. Deciding it was no coincidence, he researched and discovered the Golden Fire Hydrant at 20th Street. As we tell walkers on the Mission Dolores Neighborhood tour, the fires that started on April 18, 1906, converged in the Mission. This one working fire hydrant was used to save houses, and it is feted every year after the celebration downtown on April 18th.

I inquired about whether he was from San Francisco, and about his Mark Twain connection:

Though not a native San Franciscan, I am a native Californian, and very much steeped in Gold Rush mythology. I was born up in Oroville, a small town in the Motherlode country, and lived in San Francisco for almost 20 years. The Mark Twain connection is just one of those things ... a family story that I dearly hope is true! I'm almost afraid to investigate it and find out otherwise.

See and hear his bite-sized history at I especially like the more recent history of the San Francisco Twins, Marian and Vivian Brown–you can listen to his podcast and find out about their eating and shopping habits. Richard Miller even mentions City Guides on his site.

And why is it called sparkletack? All you domain owners can sympathize with this:

Before I'd recorded a single word, or even knew what I wanted the show to be about, I decided to register a domain name for the website. When I discovered that every single word in the English language had already been taken, I knew I would have to make one up!

Historic photo courtesy of SF History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

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On you can listen to a history of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, pictured here in 1903.

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