I introduced you to my great, great Uncle Will, and his wife Grace, in my post Cars of our Ancestors back in Oct 2014. There we saw many images of Will’s circa-1918 Dodge Brothers Touring Car and his later circa-1926 Studebaker in various locations in the teens through mid-1930s period in California. I am taking this occasion to present some more of Will’s outstanding photography.
This time of year many of us are beginning to plan for our summer vacations. If there is any chance you will be in the Sacramento, CA area, I heartily recommend taking an hour to visit the California State Archive in downtown Sacramento. There, on the fourth floor, you will find a free exhibit of many of Will’s photographs in a lovely high-quality museum presentation. Details are here: Will McCarthy Collection . Maybe you will consider taking a picture of your car near the Archive building…(right HERE) to start your own photo collection! (Note: The google map links display best on a desktop computer–opening on a phone or tablet may require you to swipe for correct view)
William McCarthy was an engineer who was a contractor for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Of his many projects, our family is most proud of his work on the “Disappearing Guns” installed in a number of artillery batteries designed to protect the entrance to San Francisco Bay (story HERE)–which is also worth a visit. He designed the complex linkages that allowed the guns to raise for firing. Since he was a bit of a military enthusiast, some of the photographs were taken at locations with some sort of military or engineering significance…though many photographs were simply of places he and Grace toured.
Here, in the southern California coastal region, we find the Dodge Brothers touring car in the windy Gaviota Pass north of Santa Barbara, on what is now US101. It looks like THIS today.
About 130 miles south of Gaviota, in Los Angeles, we find this scene. A later time, circa 1934 –judging by that lovely and distinctive Ford on the right. This corner is just a dreadful squarish retail/office tower NOW. I love how the light pole on the corner today VERY closely resembles the vintage pole. I wonder if that is the very same base?
Back to the earlier trip, they are in Long Beach, CA. The annual Long Beach Grand Prix route is a few blocks south of this location. Street view today is HERE.
Apparently, this grubby adobe building in what is now “Old Town” San Diego was a place that served the same purpose as Las Vegas does today for infatuated and/or pregnant, couples–a quicky wedding! While Will and Grace were already married…perhaps they wanted to encourage Grace’s “old maid” sister, Anne, to get with the program! Anne remained unmarried for life. Approximate location today is HERE.
If you were in the US Navy, and lucky enough to get orders for Coronado/San Diego, you probably know this place–the fabulous Hotel Del Coronado. It still looks fine TODAY.
In Northern California now, Uncle Will’s caption tells the whole story. Here is a view TODAY. My father was 6 years old and remembers attending the festivities on this day. The road itself is mostly unchanged…but my goodness, how the city has changed!
Tioga Pass is on Rt. 120 east of Yosemite, and is certainly worth considering for a visit during your summer vacation. The same location TODAY. Yosemite is VERY popular…make reservations IMMEDIATELY!!
I hope you have enjoyed these pictures, and that they might inspire you to take some pictures of you and your car (maybe even your family too!) while on vacation this summer!
I don’t have easy access to anything quite this far back, but here’s my father’s father in front of his ’56 Plymouth in the driveway I can see from the window next to the desk where I am currently typing.
Thanks for sharing these photos—taken within the lifetimes of many Americans still living.
I’d never heard of Bob’s Fokker/gas station—-more 1930s photos here:
The airplane at Bob’s is a Fokker F.32 airliner. Only seven were built in 1929 and they were not a commercial success as aviation was entering the aluminum age. Fokkers, with their wooden wings and steel tube fuselages, were too heavy, slow and maintenance intensive. Western Air Express (that merged to become TWA) had two. Universal Airlines and the U.S. Army also operated the type.
The F.32s operated on the west coast where the pleasant weather delayed wood rot, the probable reason for the TWA Flight 599 Knute Rockne crash of a Fokker Trimotor in March 1931. I visited the crash site near Bazaar, Kansas. A monument was created for those who died in the crash when one of the wooden wings separated in flight. That incident spelled the death of wooden airliners. TWA had to scrap their fleet.
Even with four engines in its unique back-to-back configuration, the F.32 was underpowered. The prototype F.32 crashed in November 1929 during a demonstration of a three-engine takeoff.
The Fokker F.32 was the first four-engine aircraft designed and built in the US. It had a seating capacity of 32 sitting passengers and 16 sleeping passengers. Its length was 69 ft. 10 in., wingspan 99 ft. and height 16 ft. 6 in. Its high cost, right at the beginning of the Great Depression, and engine problems made it a non-starter. The cost of the F.32 in 1929 was $110,000.
I did a bit of research and the Bob’s airplane was one of the two Western Air Express airplanes, tail number 333N.
The airlines offered its examples to the Army who turned the deal down. Western Air’s F-32s, already the costliest aircraft in the world to maintain, had to have bigger, still costlier engines. As 1932 arrived, and business everywhere slowed to a crawl, the ships were quietly retired.
Somehow or other, word of the Fokkers got out to a Mobilgas service station franchisee. In 1934, Bob Spencer was about to open for business on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile with a full-service scheme, including mail-in maintenance reminders for his customers.
He got the idea to build his new station around one of the grounded Fokkers, under whose 99′ wingspan cars could pull in to be refueled, oiled and checked. It was the first “flying canopy” in the gas business.
Spencer’s brainwave was a runaway success. In 1934, Bob’s Air Mail Service Station sold more Mobiloil and Mobilgas products than any other dealer on the West Coast.
Painted white and rechristened The Happy Landing with the company’s Flying Red Horse on the wings, the F-32 was illuminated at night. The two forward Pratt & Whitney Hornet engines often roared to life to the astonishment of passing drivers. Neon signs along the wings’ leading edges proclaimed: “BOB’S AIR MAIL SERVICE … IT’S FASTER – IT’S BETTER.”
Best guess is that the airplane existed as a prop (sorry for the pun) until the scrap drives of World War II.
Speaking of puns, I read one line as “Spencer’s brainwave was a runway success…” (c:
Great pictures. I especially like the juxtaposition of the past view and the current view. Gaviota Pass on US101, I have been there so many times. I almost always take US101 on my way to LA. This is a historical road alignment and still has a lot of charm to me. Here’s a picture of a ’22 Dodge Brothers touring car that I owned a few years ago. It had been cut down to make a “lakes roadster” hot rod. I sold it before I finished it but the next buyer sent me this photo.
My father, who was a young man about town in Solvang, California, worked on one of the bridges in Gaviota pass in the early 1930’s. I remember driving over it in the late 1940’s when I was 8 or 9 years old.
Here’s the photo. Funny, it looked almost the same finished and unfinished.
Here’s a side view. The front half of the touring car was used. Generally there was just a keg type fuel tank fitted. This was a low buck hot rod that predated the T bucket type. This one was on a home made rectangular tubing frame. The axle set out there ahead of the front cross member was known as a “suicide axle. If the spring broke, the front of the frame would be skidding along the highway.
Most of this is foreign territory to me, but I am very familiar with the Hotel Del in San Diego. I was visiting a brother there several years ago and the last day of our trip was spent sunning ourselves on the beach on Coronado Island. My wife and daughter walked through the hotel while the boys and I stayed on the beach. A beautiful old hotel still. That was *much* too expensive for my family of five.
Alrighty then. My mom and her mom, 1917 Chevrolet.
My grandfather, in the white shirt, with a home brew tow truck of indeterminate provenance. In Rapid River, Michigan. approx. 1922.
Granddad’s 28 Essex, with slightly more than usual snow. In winter, in Michigan, the snow looks pretty much like the sky. On the print itself I can see the top of the snow is slightly below the roof of the car.
An Essex? Gramps did pretty well! Thanks for the posts!
An Essex? Gramps did pretty well! Thanks for the posts!
In the early 30s, Gramps was wrenching in the shop of the Essex-Terraplane dealer, so there were certain advantages to driving what was by then a second hand, rather elderly and ratty Essex.
Somewhere, I have a pic of his new house, circa 1948, with the back end of the Terraplane that followed the Essex peeking out of the garage.
The first car Gramps ever bought new was a 52 Studebaker Champion.
Really enjoyable post.
Between Gaviota Pass and Santa Barbara a beautiful old ‘Barnsdall – Rio Grande Oil’ gas station has somehow survived on the side of Hollister Avenue, probably the old main road. It’s in a pretty faded state (it may have been ‘restored’ for a film some years back) but it’s miraculous that it’s still there at all.
Apparently it’s from 1929 – your great great uncle may have killed up there! They definitely don’t build them like this anymore.
That was supposed to be ‘filled up’, of course 🙂
Great info….I live only an hour from Goleta…and have driven by that building a few times…now I know tbe story!
Strangely enough this reminds me of my grandpa’s Delmont 88. My parents tired of driving him places, so I became his chauffeur at the grand old age of 13. Wish I had pictures of that car.