Spirit of The Century: From the Annals of the Century Club
It’s historical. 1938 San Francisco. The Bay Bridge is new, there aren’t any skyscrapers, Alcatraz is open for business, and there aren’t any cell phones. It’ll be also hard to play a non-white or female PC in social situations. But, it’s also a time of free-wheeling adventure-the city is economically diverse, has a great underworld, is full of wacky characters, and the pioneer spirit is still alive. This is the San Francisco Bay Area of The Maltese Falcon. White folks don’t go into Chinatown at night unless it’s for gambling & prostitution. Oakland is a bustling, quickly growing industrial and shipping town full of potential. San Jose is just a quiet sleepy quaint mission town to the south. The USA is still struggling its way out of the Great Depression. The world across the oceans is getting worse and many Americans hope they can stay out of the spreading conflicts in Europe and China. People take trains across the Bay Bridge and trolley cars from Oakland to Richmond. There might still be a few grizzly bears in the East Bay Hills. Trans-continental flight is an expensive and time-consuming novelty. The Seals are SanFrancisco’s baseball team and the only well known Edmund G Brown in California is a San Francisco lawyer who lost his first state senate bid in the 20s…
You’re members of the ultra-secret Century Club that meets regularly in a hidden lounge in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. Your mentor and guide is Charles Dean Holden, scion of the wealthy Holden family who were rich in California before the Gold Rush. Charles Dean Holden frequently appears in the San Francisco Examiner for both his business victories and frivolous reign over the city’s social elite, but this is all a cover. He is 38 years old, tall, handsome, gregarious, idealistic, and surprisingly egalitarian beyond the norms of his times. All of you were approached by him before you’d even heard of the Century Club. How he knew you were unique in your abilities is unclear. He often mentions “those ofhigher position than me in the club” yet you don’t know who they are. They have been rumored to be everything from the wealthiest families in the city to Masons to even some modern incarnation of the Greek Gods.
What matters is that Holden has brought you all together as a team despite your differences. Through his leadership you’ve done things you’ve never imagined: put to rest the vengeful ghost of Joaquim Murieta, broke up the Silver Dragon Gang, and foiled the machinations of Dr. Red (who now enjoys the fine cuisine and luxurious beds of Hotel Alcatraz.) Your hero personae are well known but your everyday alter egos carry on life as any other denizen of the Bay Area. You knew your life would be different, but never this amazing…
As the 6th Seneschal of the Century Club, Holden bears the great honor and duty of carrying on traditions that date back to before the Jamestown Colony in Virginia. Every century, the headquarters of the club are located in the city that embodies the greatest ideals of that century. In the 1800s, it was located in Chicago. In the 1700s it was in Philadelphia. and now in the 20th, it is located in San Francisco, the perfect expression of wild-eyed creative genius and hope for a better future. The 20th Century has changed faster, become more complicated, demanded more ideas, and challenged the past more than any other American Century.
The is nothing in the world of 1938 like San Francisco. Sure, other cities might have a new ballet (SF Ballet 1933), an amazing feat of engineering (Bay Bridge, 1936), an incredibly secure prison (Alcatraz, 1934), one of the greatest pitchers in baseball (Lefty O’Doul, SF Seals), a burgeoning middle class with attitude (Maritime Riots, Musicians Strike), their own mint (SF Mint, 1936), or a new airport (SFO 1937), but they’ll never have that San Francisco Spirit!
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