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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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A Lot of Cars: 1950s

A Lot of Cars: 1950s

This photo is from my father's trip to Northern California in approximately 1950. I am hoping that someone who knows cars can come up a more precise date for the picture by noting the date of manufacture of the newest car shown here. I am almost sure that this parking lot was in downtown Sacramento, but it could have been in San Francisco. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Parking Lot ID'd

I grew up in Sacramento in this period. Having worked for Weinstock's department store (fresh out of high school in 1973) I can attest this is the Weinstock's patron parking lot directly across from the store on 12th Street. That same lot was one of my work assignments as a gate-keeper/payment-taker for a full year.

That's L Street at far right and Capitol Park further in, behind the long row of palms.

A good year.

After "scanning" this scene, I would guess late '54 or early '55. I see a '55 Buick at the service station and a lot of '53 and '54 models. Wasn't it just great when you could spot the make and model of a car from this distance? Whoops, I'm showing my age.

Just peek inside. Corvette!

Dad bought our brand new Chevy Bel Aire four door in March of 1955 in that building. V8 with a Power Pack, 182 horsepower! PowerGlide too. Traded in a 1953 Dodge station wagon.

When we first saw our new one, we walked inside past those two side doors and they had a Corvette parked inside between the big doors. Instant love for a 14 year old. I remember the salesman told my dad, "Capt., we can hardly get rid of them" as I stood there and drooled.

Thank you for the photo and allowing to post my memory. I will always remember that new car inside that first big door on the left. We were stationed at Mather Air Force Base and lived at 7216 Eagle in Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento. House is still there but I bet they sold the Vette.... I agree, early 1955.

Odd Lot

So if you choose a row that's full, you have to leave the lot, drive around the block and try a different row?

The dead giveaway to 1955

The blue '55 Olds sedan in the top of the photo accompanying Dave's "13th & L" comment. I don't see anything newer.

[That could also be a 1954 Oldsmobile, so it's the Ford that's definitive. - Dave]

Dave, I don't see the '55 ford...I think I DO see a couple of pale blue '55 Dodge sedans (kinda like this one) in your blowup with the blue Olds at the top...

One Way Streets

Also, Sacramento went to one way streets downtown sometime around 1950 and you can see that L is one way in this photo. The Community Center Theater occupies the gas station site today and the Chevrolet dealership gave way to the new convention center complex.

Edit: L looks one way here but then the parked cars on the far/south side seem to be facing east. Maybe L wasn't one way yet.

My mom and dad were married in Sacramento in 1955 while attending the University of Nevada Reno and dad drove a 1952 MG TD. They came down to Sac, where mom's parents lived, a couple times a month on Highway 40 in the MG and said that at times that trip could be pretty treacherous. Dad graduated and worked for the Sacramento Union newspaper in the late '50s, lived on Watt Ave out near McClellan AFB, then the family moved to the bay area when he was hired by the Oakland Tribune in 1960.

License Plates

Wide black license plates with yellow (or gold, as some say) characters indicate 1955 or earlier. In 1956 CA went to the narrower six-character plates in yellow (gold) with black characters.


The large light-colored building in the left background, Capitol Chevrolet, can be seen in the companion photo posted by motobean a page or so prior to this. In that picture, "Checkmate: 1950" the Capitol Chevrolet building can be seen in the extreme right background. A comparison may assist motobean in pinpointing where his father took the earlier photo in Capitol Park, just out of view to the right of the above photo.

'55 Buick?

Parked just to the right of O'Ne(il?) Bros. service station at top center. Tough to tell if it's a '55 or a '56.

Capitol Chevrolet

Capitol Chevrolet was at K and 13th.


As mentioned earlier, the address of the O'Neil Bros. Auto Supply and Super Service Station was on L at 13th. Built in 1921, it was the first of at least six O'Neil Bros. stations.


Sacramento history

The site of that pretty Spanish-style 1930s gas station is now the boxy, 1970s-era Community Center Theater. It's nice-looking inside, although the acoustics are bad. I love old photos of my town. Got any more, motobean?

"The coldest winter I ever spent"

was not in a city with palm trees.

[Well, even though Mark Twain never said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," here's a photo I took last winter in San Francisco. -tterrace]

I stand (actually sit) corrected.

Another vote for 1955

There is a coral-over white 1955 Pontiac in the third row from the left, under what looks to be a guard shack on top of a pole!

[Yes, although I believe that's Corsair Tan over Mist White. -tterrace]

13th & L

The O'Neil Bros. service station was at 13th and L streets in Sacramento. Also I see a green 1955 Ford.

Note: No Beetles

The absence of VW Beetles in a California parking lot suggests 1955/6 at the latest. I bought a 1954 in 1957 and they were all over the place by then.

Yellow Cadillac convertible

In the leftmost row, a 1954 I believe.

Frisco or Sacto

I'm going with Sacramento; streets lined with tall trees are more like the state capital.

Possibly 1955

Possibly 1955, based on a couple of light blue Ford station wagons in the last row on the right. Lots of early '50s cars. There's a 76 station (O'Neill Bros.), and a Chevy dealer. I think it won't be long before this picture shows up on the Hemmings Daily blog.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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