Dolores Kalom San Francisco Street Artist

On any given morning, if you wanted to know what time it was and you couldn’t see the clock tower from your space, you could tell it was getting close to 9 am because you saw Dolores slowly making her way across the Plaza from her breakfast routine in the Ferry Building. Before she got the “walker” it appeared she might lose her balance at any moment, and fall over onto the hard granite……ouch! Although many people offered to “hook her up” with a wheelchair, she stubbornly refused.

When she finally got the walker many of us were relieved that it was a safer means of “transportation” than her earlier “freestyle” mode. Although at first I felt bad for the painfully slow progress she made to her space (like a sea tortoise climbing up the beach to lay her eggs) in time I changed my mind and thought of her HEROIC effort to overcome the daily challenge of just getting from point A to point B. When most of us want to take a break from our displays, we just walk away without a second thought. For Dolores, it was a major event just to travel from 11a to the the toilet by space 19.

BUT SHE DID IT! And instead of staying home watching TV or reading books all day, she chose to engage in the world and be part of our Market……putting out the great effort of just getting there and going home. When she was tired and needed a mini-nap she didn’t hide behind a pair of sunglasses and pretend to be awake, she put her head down on the table and took a real nap like we all used to do in first grade. She was a TOTAL character and rather enjoyed being a misfit, an eccentric among the unusual characters that any group of Artists are.

When I knew her on Beach Street in the 1970s the other Artists didn’t like to set up next to her because she often got into arguments with “customers” who made nasty remarks about her outrageous jewelry: necklaces with real piranha fish pendants, etc. However, she was always very gracious about sending customers to her competition if she didn’t have what they were looking for. Very generous in our often competitive world. There are so many “Dolores” stories that we all have because she was such a memorable character…..she always added a lot of distinctive flavor to our artistic gumbo.

In the later years of her long career(probably 50years) it was other Artists like FERNANDO and ROBERT who transported her and displays so she could work. And of course, lately, it was JOHN T. who carried her displays back and forth from the storage pier making it possible for her to be part of the community that she loved. These Artists, and others who helped Dolores continue to work made a huge difference in her last years. A real regret we have now is that when she became ill in early December, her family didn’t tell us what was really going on with her, so that her friends and well wishers could have communicated to her the love and concern we had for her.

This could have made her final days that much sweeter, and a “going away present” we all hope to have when our final days come. Unfortunately, John T.’s intuition was right that something serious was wrong, and we could do nothing positive for her with her family’s non-cooperation. But she will not easily be forgotten…….and her legend will continue in the “Dolores Stories” that we fondly tell and retell. 

Take care ALL……and have a safe and Happy New Year……..Tad