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Close Friends: 1920

Close Friends: 1920

San Francisco circa 1920. "Oldsmobile coupe on Gough Street at Lafayette Park." Seats three! 5x7 glass negative by Christopher Helin. View full size.


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Christopher Helin was my grandfather

Chris was my father's father. He was in the first graduating class of 1903 from De LaSalle HS in Minneapolis. He started work with the local Tribune newspaper and worked his way into a position as assistant editor of the auto section. William Randolph Hearst personally moved him and his new family to San Francisco in 1916 and made him Editor of the SF Examiner's Auto Section. In order to help sell cars (and thereby sell advertising) in a city already having a world class transportation system, he would test drive new cars during a substantial tour outside the City thereby creating a desire to travel in a similar manner which only an automobile could provide. To view an annual collection of these Sunday Supplements click here.

He left the SF Examiner in the early 1930's when the markets crashed and auto sales became next to impossible.

The woman on the left is his sister, Katie Helin. The man on the right is Howard Meacham, one of his two assistant editors.

Motion Dampers

External contracting brakes on the rear axle,
and a front axle devoid of brakes.
In San Francisco.
There's some real entertainment potential.

Still Used Today

The Goodyear Winged Foot has been their trademark since shortly after the company began. Here's a recent sign.

Re: tterrace's "too easy"

Not quite easy enough -- if you want the exact view, you have to click forward two times from the spot you chose.

Nice to see that even though the retaining wall seems to have been stripped of some of its ornamentation since 1920, the concrete post with the rounded top is still identical. The car is basically where the black SUVish vehicle is in the Google Maps post.

[That car in the Google view is directly opposite the house with the red bricks that's farther up the street at the extreme right edge of the 1920 shot. -tterrace]

Brief (and dry) bio of Christopher Helin

Someone commented about how the woman could have been the photographer's wife over on Facebook, which prompted me to see what I could find on the man himself, purely out of curiosity.

I first located him in 1910 in the US Census, living in Minneapolis, 23 years old with wife Alida, sister Katherine and parents Andrew and Katherine. His occupation was listed as Salesman, and his father's, "Sawer / Saw Mill."

He appears in the Minneapolis city directories right up to 1919 where he's listed as "Advertising solicitor, Minneapolis Journal."

He next appears in the 1920 Census, living in an apartment at 400 Stanyan Street in San Francisco with his wife Alida and children Francis (age 8), Richard (4 10/12 - never saw them add months to children over 1 before!) and Geraldine (age 1 2/12). His occupation is now "Fore Man, Saw Mill." Everyone is listed as being born in Minnesota. My only guess is he relocated to San Francisco and grabbed the first job he could while submitting articles to get a foot in the door with the Examiner.

By the time he appears in the 1921 San Francisco city directory, he's relocated to 1044 Lake Street (his occupation isn't shown, but he had already had automotive related articles in the Examiner by at least October of 1920). By 1922 he's listed as a "solicitor" for the San Francisco Examiner, and residing in Burlingame.

By 1930, he's become an editor for the newspaper (though in 1931 the city directory still has him as an advertising solicitor), and he had added a fourth child, Patricia (age 9), and was living at a home he owned at 1132 Cortez Avenue in Burlingame.

He does appear in a few articles in the late 1920s into the 1930s as having run (unsuccessfully, I believe) for local public office.

One of the articles did have his photo in it, which I'll get to later, as its kind of interesting.

By 1940 he'd become an insurance salesman (a change of occupation from the mid-1930s going by the city directory listings), and was still living at the same address.

Chris J. Helin died in February of 1964, and his widow Alida is listed in 1965 at the same address. By 1971 she'd moved to an apartment complex at 10 De Sabla Road (her son and presumably grandson were living in town, one worked for GE, the other as a salesman for some place called "Russells"). She died in 1977.

Getting back to his photo from the late 1920s, his features immediately jumped out at me - Mr. Chris J. Helin is the glowering gentleman in the middle of the seat in this photo.

[Bravo! - Dave]

Winged Feet

I've never before heard of the Goodyear Wingfoot tires that appear on this Olds; however, if I had a set of tires so grandly named, I'm sure I'd be far too confident to fuss about the lack of a spare.

Looks Brand New

No spare tire on the rim and overall dapper look of this car suggests it is brand new.

[That's the reason the photo was taken, Christopher Helin being the travel and automotive writer for the San Francisco Examiner. -tterrace]

Street of San Francisco

This was too easy.

View Larger Map

They certainly aren't well prepared.

I hope they don't get a flat.

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