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On August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine, a Spanish admiral named Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sighted land in Florida. His men founded a settlement there which is still called St. Augustine, making it the oldest European-founded city in the United States. This August, we've asked Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to cast his keen, cosmopolitan eye on American cities coast to coast, the better to debunk some misinformation about them that's as old as the hills, almost as old as St. Augustine itself.

The Debunker: Are San Francisco's Cable Cars the Only Mobile National Monument?

The Debunker

Years of Rice-a-Roni commercials might make you think you're an expert, but in fact out-of-towners get plenty wrong about transit in the city by the bay. BART, for example, is a regional train system that only has eight stops in San Francisco city limits; the lesser-known Muni Metro is the light rail that locals use to get around San Francisco (or "Frisco," as they like to call it). The Golden Gate Bridge isn't golden, it's painted a color called International Orange. (In fact, the name "Golden Gate" pre-dates the bridge and even the 1849 gold rush.) And the city's iconic heritage streetcars and cable cars are often confused, but are in fact are two completely distinct transit systems. The streetcars are electric trolleys that ride on rails, while the three cable car lines are pulled up the city's steeper hills by an underground cable that moves continuously.

San Francisco's manually operated cable car service is now the only one of its kind left in the world. The city's pride in its distinctive transit leads to the frequent claim, seen everywhere from The Atlantic to Snapple caps, that the cable cars are the only mobile national monument in the United States, or even the world. That was always wrong on one level, and is currently wrong on two.

The are 129 federally designated National Monuments in the United States, and the cable cars aren't one of them. They are, however, one of the official National Historic Landmarks, which is a longer list of 2,500 significant sites. But the cable cars aren't the only mobile objects on the list. Over one hundred National Historic Landmarks are ships, for example—most of which are no longer in service, but are mobile in that they sometimes travel from museum to museum. There's a Saturn V rocket in Alabama that's a National Historic Landmark. The Leap-the-Dips roller coaster in Altoona, Pennsylvania is a National Historic Landmark.

For the past three years, the San Francisco cable car hasn't even been able to say it's the only operating urban transit with landmark status. On September 30, 2014, the Interior Department named the St. Charles streetcar line of New Orleans, the nation's oldest operating line, to its official list as well. Sorry, San Francisco! (Or "San Fran," as locals like to call it.)

Quick Quiz:What singer debuted "The Trolley Song," one of her most famous numbers, in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis?

Ken Jennings is the author of eleven books, most recently his Junior Genius Guides, Because I Said So!, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

shrdlu


quality posts: 6 Private Messages shrdlu

The answer is Judy Garland. Love that movie; watched it a zillion times.

Everything changes. Everything.

riconsd


quality posts: 0 Private Messages riconsd
shrdlu wrote:The answer is Judy Garland. Love that movie; watched it a zillion times.


What Christmas song made its debut in the same film? And what actor was the target of the sentiment?

What is the third and near forgot third debut?

olcubmaster


quality posts: 33 Private Messages olcubmaster
riconsd wrote:What Christmas song made its debut in the same film? And what actor was the target of the sentiment?

What is the third and near forgot third debut?



The answer to the first question is "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".

Numbers 2 and 3 have me stumped.

Sugar 'em up and send 'em home

noellemcd


quality posts: 0 Private Messages noellemcd

Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to Margaret O'Brien.

... but please don't call San Francisco "Frisco" unless you want to be pegged as a tourist. I have never heard any locals call it that.

markmier


quality posts: 0 Private Messages markmier
noellemcd wrote:

... but please don't call San Francisco "Frisco" unless you want to be pegged as a tourist. I have never heard any locals call it that.



Same for "San Fran."

lisay


quality posts: 0 Private Messages lisay

The third song would be the Trolley Song!

pilegirl


quality posts: 1 Private Messages pilegirl

International Orange is a reddish orange that is close to red.

And nobody calls San Francisco "Frisco". They do refer to it as "The City" a lot.

noellemcd


quality posts: 0 Private Messages noellemcd

Exactly. It's "The City." Never "Frisco" or "San Fran."

davidbowser


quality posts: 2 Private Messages davidbowser
markmier wrote:Same for "San Fran."



I am fairly certain he was being facetious with both nicknames.

And as someone else mentioned, calling it "the city" is comical to me because that happens in both NYC and Philadelphia (that I know of). In NY, "the city" is almost exclusively referring to Manhattan, as locals will normally refer to the other boroughs by name (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island). Almost nobody that lives in Philadelphia calls it Philly, but many of the suburban areas around it do, and they also call it "the city".

Side note - I have ridden the trolleys in SF but not the cablecars yet, and I have also ridden the St Charles streetcar in New Orleans.