Daily Archives: April 21, 2019

T-Shirts From the Collection: Tees from the City of Souls

Colma Fire Department TeeFire departments do not tend to put skulls on any t-shirts that they issue.  Skulls send the wrong message.

Except in Colma, California, where 1500 people live amid 1.5 million corpses.  Colma is the cemetery city for San Francisco, which lies just to the north.  San Francisco cleared out its cemeteries in the early 20th century and sent the corpses to Colma for reburial,. Death has been the town’s mission ever since.

Colma Fire Department Tee 2If you live in Colma, death is part of your life and maybe even part of your livelihood.   The residents take death in stride, even with a little pride, and call Colma the City of the Silent, or the City of Souls.  The Colma Fire District is happy to get with the program with the t-shirt shown above, a chil cook-off tee covered with axes and skulls.

Why not? Everybody in the San Francisco Bay Area likes to joke about Colma.  in 1970, the BBC made a documentary about San Francisco and earthquake safety called “San Francisco, the City That Waits to Die.”  People started calling Colma was “The City That Waits for ‘The City That Waits to Die,’ to Die.”

You can pretty much bet that any t-shirts out of Colma are going to mention death or cemeteries. There’s really nothing else of note there, unless you count a shopping center and a few car dealers.

Pets Rest Colma Pet Cemetery Tee 1

Pets Rest Colma Pet Cemetery Tee 2While the toney cemeteries and memorial parks might not stoop to handing out t-shirts, the Pet’s Rest pet cemetery and crematorium certainly would.  This tee honors the cemetery’s sixtieth anniversary and its resident (living) dogs, especially Lord Von Kalemon, the Big Dog himself.

A pet cemetery with a big black dog for a mascot: symbolism is everywhere in Colma.  In the endless green lawns, the tidy white memorial parks and mausoleums, and a Catholic school called Holy Angels Elementary.

Yet the town motto proclaims: “it’s great to be alive in Colma!” And I’m sure it is.  But a sense of humor helps.