My Letters to New Zealand from San Francisco – 1968,69

In 1968 I arrived in San Francisco to nanny for an influential and affluent American family; they had ten children. I was to be in charge of the six youngest. They had a Japanese cook, a cleaner and a driver so I was pretty much the caregiver for the children ; driving them to and from school when required , shopping for their clothes at   ” I Magnin’s Department Store”, dressing them for dinner party appearances etc. The older children were away at boarding school. The home was three-storied with two sets of stairs in the beautiful Nob Hill area. In fact the street was made famous in the Steve McQueen movie BullittIt was filmed in and around San Francisco in late April 1968. It featured a tremendous amount of on-location filming. Best remembered for the car-chase. One of the film’s scenic location shots (there are many) is of a house at 2700 Vallejo Street, at the corner of Vallejo and Divisadero in the Pacific Heights section of the city.

Anyway I digress.. I discovered my letters back to New Zealand recently and have selected a few snippets. There will be more as I read though them but a few at a time is best! Please remember I was a young girl from rural New Zealand so it was quite an adventure.

So in no relative order…snippets from 1968-69

I had the use of a red 1962 Studebaker Lark convertible car. I wrote that it broke down and how there were no phone booths to call AAA so we went to an apartment, knocked on the door and they called AAA for us. I was told to drive the car in low gear and it would break down less but it still stopped three times before we got home. !!

I mentioned driving into Union Square and waiting an hour to get into a parking building!! I also received a parking ticket $5.00 –

A few months later I received another parking ticket in Carmel. I wrote home

” the police in Carmel are very diplomatic, the parking ticket was accompanied by a map of the city with nearby parking lots marked, an envelope to return the fine and all in a little plastic bag. The ticket was pink!” Softening the punishment😀

At Christmastime I wrote home two weeks before hand to tell my parents what time I had booked a phone call to speak with them..that was a really big deal. Funny one had to book the line.. how different life is with cell phones.

Dec 1968 The San Francisco Chronicle reported ” Sorry kids, Santa can’t come this year. Jackie Onassis has hired him for a private party on her yacht!!” Seriously!

I saw the movie “John and Mary” with Mia Farrow and Dustin Hoffman I wrote” the movie shows why things are different in the USA and amusing even if immoral, typical of American life in a number of circles – more than you might believe!” I think I made a big generalisation; but I was 22!! Here is a review from Rotten Tomatoes.

“John and Mary” attracted a great deal of press coverage in 1969 for being one of the first American films in which the male and female leads (Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow) start out the film by spending the night together, rather than holding off until the end. The morning after, the boy and girl wander about New York, wondering if they’ll truly commit themselves to one another. Both characters are haunted by unsuccessful earlier affairs, and both have enough hang-ups to fill volumes of psychological textbooks. Come nightfall, John and Mary end up back in bed…and learn each other’s names for the first time. John and Mary was considered “beautiful,” “progressive” and “significant” in the permissive 1960s; nowadays it’s about as controversial as The CBS Morning News.  I may have to watch this movie again…

Sea Ranch. I visited Sea Ranch – 60 miles or so north of San Francisco, it is a lodge and condominiums. They plan a town all very expensive and it has already won design awards. Condominiums were unheard of in New Zealand back then.

I wrote ” The drive went alongside the muddy thick Russian River to Santa Rosa and home via the freeway. Some windy coastal roads dropped 200 feet into the ocean.” Now days I see the Russian River holds a ‘mud’ run event annually😀.

For some strange reason I posted cigarettes back to Dunedin to friends of my parents!! cost me $14.00 evidently. I guess cigarettes were hard to come by or very expensive; sad that it ever changed really.

My employers were socially very well-connected and often held beautiful dinner parties. I commented to my parents that Gregory Peck was in the house for dinner. I was the nanny so I was upstairs with the children. I did meet Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller, both charming and interested about New Zealand.

Boxing Day has never been heard of here. I ask my parents why it is called that?

Good old Wikipedia says ” There are competing theories for the origins of the term, none of which is definitive.The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations from Britain in the 1830s, defining it as “the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”

“Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas Day. It originated in the United Kingdom, and is celebrated in a number of countries that previously formed part of the British Empire. Boxing Day is on 26 December, although the attached bank holiday or public holiday may take place either on that day or two days later.”

Seems to me like we don’t celebrate it as intended anymore, it has just become a public holiday to relax and go shopping!

Dec 1968

I had to go to the doctor because Hong Kong Flu was around, different from Asia flu..I had two injections one in each arm! $5.00 total; paid for by my employer.

April 1969

“I saw a great idea in an architecture magazine; in the walls of a house you have a system of suction hoses and a wall socket in each room where you plug-in a vacuum cleaning hose and switch it on and all the dust gets sucked into a central deposit. Probably very expensive but wouldn’t it be wonderful. No heavy cleaner to haul around”

And now days it is very common place…


I discovered or met an artist and guess what he is still around and painting abstracts 50 years later. I said to my parents how I had spent 3/4 of an hour chatting to an artist, he was painting abstracts that I liked, however I didn’t like his still life work. He told me then that he had been awarded a grant to study in New York at some art school. Check out his current work at

31st March 1969 I mention President Dwight D Eisenhower’s funeral is on so no postal delivery. I said he was sick and old and had a wonderful life! He died 28 March 1969 in Washington DC.

I read a controversial book- ‘The late great state of California’ by Curt Gentry and about Ronald Reagan and his career. I recorded…

“California has more cats and dogs than any other state, 2 1/2 per person. More bathrooms than bedrooms, more divorces, more crime , more recreational facilities and 21 million people. More homo sexuals than any other US City and I commented ‘no wonder my social life is so bad!”

In those days I had to be finger printed several times because the NZ immigration prints were inadequate! They were keeping an eye on immigrants back then too.

I attended a baseball game between the St Louis team and the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. I went with some guy called Larry who also had a private plane and flew me to Stockton for lunch one day. He gave me a free flying lesson too and we went to the top of The Mark at the Fairmont Hotel quite often for cocktails. Funny I don’t remember his face..🤔🤔

So I hope you enjoy these little anecdotal memories. I certainly enjoyed reminding them.

I’d love you to comment— perhaps with your memories from the Sixties..


11 thoughts on “My Letters to New Zealand from San Francisco – 1968,69

  1. I had never heard of a studebaker lark. Would suit me as my married name is Shona Lark. Enjoyed reading the adventures of your case.

  2. Interesting life lynn..I enjoyed the read…you must have had a lot of confidence at a young age…..born in a good year🤣🤣

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