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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

General Electric: 1949

General Electric: 1949

August 4, 1949. "General Electric turbine plant, Schenectady, New York." Calling all car-spotters! Large-format negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

 

AACA Museum

In Hersey, PA will be doing a Tucker exhibit in August, I believe. There will be three on display along with other related materials. Fascinating car.

Building 273

I used to work at GE Schenectady as an mechanical engineering college co-op in the late 1980s. The building shown here is Building 273 where large steam turbines were (and still are) assembled. The angle of the picture minimizes the building's enormous size, roughly 20 acres! It was incredible being inside it... While the very front has some office space and multiple floors, most of the interior is wide open (excepting the huge machines) with high ceilings and big gantry cranes to move massive turbine components. Construction started in 1947, so must have been pretty new when this photo was taken.

If you plug "Schenectady, NY" into Google Earth, you can easily find Building 273, which still stands--look for a big black roof. It's surrounded by a lot of green parklike areas. Those are where (almost) all the other GE buildings used to stand but have been demolished over the past 20 years. I'm guessing Building 273 remains and turbine operations continue there probably because the cost to build a new one somewhere else would be prohibitive.

When I worked at GE 25 years ago, it looked just like this--only the cars in the parking lot were newer. In Google Earth today, it looks like they may have reworked the front facade since I was there.

I wonder

who the rebel with the motorcycle was? Also interesting that these parking lots have nary a white line to guide the employees in their parking. I guess GM was full of rebels back in the day.

Born in Schenectady

My father worked in Building 37 at GE (Schenectady) from '62 until '66. In August '66, when I was two years old, the family drove across the country in a Ford Taunus to Stanford where my father began grad school.

I shared this picture with my father and he replied:

"Your mother and I drove past Building 37 on first entering Schenectady in 1962 after my Navy days. I saw this old red brick building and announced that 'I would never work in a place like that.' 4 weeks later, or so, I was hired there. As I recall, my starting salary was $8000 per year."

This is my favorite vehicle

I think this is the ONE bike on the whole lot!! lol

About the Crosley

A guy in Sibley, MO has 10 Crosley cars, and 2 Crosley trucks. They got 40 or 50 MPG back when nobody cared about MPG.

OTY-At the time Coppola made the Tucker movie, 47 of them were still road worthy.

tterrace-Nice shot of the Tucker. I didn't know Coppola still owned one. Back in 1991, I saw an ad in Hemmings Motor News where Coppola had a Tucker listed for sale. His asking price? $350,000.

Well, time to stare at this picture some more!

Red-baiting

Assuming these are workers' cars, I'm guessing many of the owners were members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). The Schenectady local represented about 20,000 GE workers. The same year this photo was taken, the UE withdrew from the CIO as part of the CIO's purge of its left-leaning unions.

Senator McCarthy was sent in four years after this photo was taken to "investigate" alleged Communist infiltration of the Schenectady GE facilities.

Those two Crosleys must belong to the Soviet saboteurs.

You can tell we're in the snow belt

Not many ragtops.

Steam tunnels

Underground steam pipes require continuous access for maintenance. The tunnels have ventilation hatches at varying intervals, some of which resemble little huts, as seen here. You can see the same thing above ground at the Johnson Space Center. I have a friend who used to work in the tunnels there.

Parking Habits

In crowded lots with lots of foot traffic, pulling out is much safer then backing out into the travel lanes. Amazing the number of folks that just 'pop up' after you've made quite sure no one was there.

Honey, when are we going to get a new car?

Couple of thoughts,

Imagine what it was like to come out of work to your old 30's style car that all the paint had faded off, probably leaked oil all over the driveway, then drive home to the nagging wife, what a life!

I was 3 at the time of this photo. When I was about 8, My family (3 boys 1 girl) drove from Illinois to Philmont Boy Scout ranch in New Mexico in a Chevy like the 49 in Gazzles comment, I can clearly remember laying on the back window shelf for much of the trip. Who needed seat belts.

Didn't the Crosley get about 50 mpg? (Haven't come far have we)

Overhead View

An aerial movie of the Schenectady GE plant (along with WGY TV's broadcast towers) apparently shot in 1940 can be seen on YouTube. Not sure what the connection between the two was, who shot the movie or why it was made, but it provides a great view of the scale of the facility. In color and without sound.

What are these?

Can anyone tell me what these cute little things are?

[The Crosleys mentioned in previous comments. -tterrace]

Kaiser-Frazer Dealership

My grand-father, James Page, second from right, with a friend and some kids at his Kaiser-Frazer (with a "Z") dealership in Callahan, Florida in the late 1940s or early 1950s. He also owned the Pure Oil distributorship in Nassau County and was involved to some degree with the Tucker automobiles. I recall my dad telling me all the technical innovations of the Tucker, and I sensed that the enthusiasm some had for the cars lasted a long time!

[Your attachment wasn't attached. -tterrace]

I coulda been a contender.

I noticed the Venetian Blinds too!
And this photo was a good five years before On The Waterfront was released!

Underground structure?

If you look past the parking lot, but before the large building, you see a grass strip with vents and a skylight. Is this lot on top of a building? If I'm not mistaken, GE's corporate HQ is underground in Fairfield Conn. Does GE have a thing for being underground?

Tuckers Located

OTY, Tucker 1 and 13 are in the Swigart Museum in Huntingdon, Pa. It's worth the trip to see them. BTW, Herbie the Love Bug is there also.

[And on the West Coast, #37 (or 1037 in the numbering scheme used by Tucker aficionados) can be seen at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, California, where I snapped this a couple weeks ago. It's one Coppola used in his 1988 film "Tucker: The Man and His Dream". -tterrace]

OK, I thought about it

and I don't see any cars here that HAD to have backed into their parking spaces. Looks like a whole lot of pullthroughs to me, which is what I do whenever possible, quickest (and possibly safest) way in and out.

Working Man's Lot

Ditto the comment about two Crosleys, very unusual. Very few high buck cars, though I do spot a Lincoln Cosmopolitan and a Packard in the farthest row and a nice Buick convertible in the street at the end of the row.

Not many prewar cars though, maybe a third. Looks like most of the folks have stepped up and bought new cars in the last three years.

Connection

I had a relative that worked at this plant for years. This is the first time I have seen a pic of it. Sadly he has passed on a few years ago. But his heirs have done well with their inheritance of his GE stock.

Special Deluxe

Pretty sure the black car that is two cars to the left of the solid white car on the front row is the 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe. That was the first family car for us and ours was equipped with rain guards above all four windows. We could run down the highway in the hot summer with windows cracked for more circulation even in a rainstorm.

Car Spotting

There's just too many years, makes and models for me to even try. I did notice a new '49 Chevrolet and one that looks like it was rode hard and put away wet.

Fourth row

second car in from the right has blinds in the rear window, like how cool is that.

Player Piano

Somewhere in that building, or another nearby, is a young aspiring novelist by the name of Kurt Vonnegut, toiling away at public relations work. Occasionally he ventures over to see the room-sized computer used to calculate optimum turbine blade shapes, which inspire one of his early sci-fi novels.

Someday, Billy Pilgrim will be coming unstuck in Ilium, a fictionalized Schenectady.

I wonder which car is his?

Kaiser-Fraser

Well, I see a 1949 Fraser in the middle. Bet a lot of viewers never heard of the brand. Tried to crop and upload, but the "Upload an image" factor is not working today.

[It's "not working" because you're not clicking "attach" after you locate your file. - Dave]

Oooops!

One year before

The unique Tucker '48 was made just one year before this picture was taken, but I don't see any in this lot, perhaps because only 51 of them were ever made. I'm wondering if they are currently all accounted for.

Something to think about

All my life I've wondered why some people always back into a parking space (much more skill needed) so they can get out easily (usually going the wrong way) when it is so much easier to drive in forward and back out when the time comes. Does anyone have an explanation for that human behavior?

Classy looking car

Parked in the 2nd row from the top and about center the photo looks like a '39 Buick with side mounts, probably a Century. Next to it is a '49 Studebaker Starlight coupe.

End of an era

We're just about at the end of the era of split windshields -- but most of these cars are still using tube radios with vibrators, which were responsible for running down a large number of their 6 volt electrical batteries.

Not-so-big Three

Besides the two oddball Crosleys already mentioned, there is representation from other non-Big Three companies, including Hudson, Kaiser, and Studebaker.

Close to half the cars are pre-war (and many of them are real beaters). With nearly four years of non-production during WWII, plus a booming economy with millions of veterans returning to the workforce, Detroit couldn't build enough cars to keep up with the postwar demand.

The shapes of things to come

I find it interesting that the '49 Studebaker, '49 Ford, and '48 or '49 Hudson Commodore are all parked close together in the same row. They really stand out, styling-wise, in comparison.

All-American parking lot

We're still a couple of years away from the engineers buying those weird little foreign jobs to commute with.

Small wonder

The cars that look like they need wind-up keys are Crosleys. Amazing to see two of them in this parking lot, given how few were manufactured.

 
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