JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Fountain of Oops: 1958

Fountain of Oops: 1958

Another Oakland water hazard, circa 1958. "Accident, San Pablo Avenue." 4x5 acetate negative from the News Archive. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Wet hydrants vs dry

California wants to be different, and uses wet-barrel hydrants, which always have water in them up to the connections. This is only an option in places where it doesn't freeze in the winter. If you break off a wet-barrel hydrant, you'll get a geyser of water - see for an example.

Out here on the East Coast, and most of the rest of the country, we use dry-barrel hydrants. The operating valve is 4-6 feet underground. There's a breakaway designed at the base of the hydrant and at the same level on the operating shaft, but depending on how it's hit, it's still possible for it to leak a lot or a little water underground until the street washes away.

Leo Stapleton, the long-time Boston fire chief, has stories in his books about a drunk driver hitting and knocking over a fire hydrant, then standing it up again and leaving. No one notices until they go to hook up to the hydrant for a fire and it falls over.

Wet Barrel

This hydrant is (was) a wet barrel hydrant, where the valve is above ground and water is always present. These hydrants are used where freezing is not a concern (like Oakland). Dry barrel hydrants, with the valves below ground, are used where freezing is a concern.

Fire Hydrants Don't Do That (Anymore)

I was once standing in a crowd of gawkers looking at the scene of an accident where a fire hydrant had been knocked over.

I overheard someone ask one of the firemen present why we didn't get the huge fountain we always see in the movies and on TV (and here I guess). The fireman explained that the fire hydrant itself actually has no pressurized water inside of it when the valve is closed. The actual valve is not inside the hydrant but several feet underground. They call this (for obvious reasons) a "crash valve". I guess they were either invented sometime after 1958 or the city of Oakland didn't see the value in the technology.

Popular misconception?

Not an auto accident?
The '49 Chevy and the geyser imply that the car sheared off a hydrant; often seen in Hollywood movies. BUT my understanding of how a water hydrant works according to a fire station tour (and cutaway model) is that the hydrant screws DOWN into, to tap into, a pressure line. The fireman told me about the stereotypical Hollywood fountain and said that shearing off a hydrant leaves the underground valve sealed by pressure; no geyser.
Maybe the comment "No Fair!" from Shrike tends to confirm this.

Grove Street at San Pablo Ave.

Location is looking southerly at the old intersection of Grove Street, today's MLK Jr. Way, and San Pablo Avenue. Again, freeway construction and urban renewal altered this scene somewhat. The Grove-Shafter freeway, named for the surface steets Grove and Shafter upon which the freeway was aligned, slices through just to our backs in this photo. The triangle-shaped building behind the water spout remains but several along San Pablo have long since been razed. Old city hall in the background.

[The building is (or was) the Hotel San Pablo. - Dave]

No Fair!

My very first auto accident, lo these many years ago, I took out 50 feet of picket fence and a fire hydrant. I didn't get the stereotypical fountain, just a bill for fourteen feet of standpipe.

Hey, I Resemble That Remark

I got my driver's license in Albany, one town over from Oakland. Drivers there were considered tame compared to those in San Francisco.

In those days, in driver ed you not only got all the gore movies but you took a quick spin on the then-new freeways with a CHP cop. Mine turned to me when we were up to speed and said "when there's a crash, where's the car that's going to kill you?" I looked around puzzled and he pointed at the rearview mirror: "Behind you." Never forgot that.

Note to Self

When setting your time machine back to 1958 do not visit Oakland.
The streets are dangerous there.

Why Los Angeles?

All these photos of traffic accidents explains why the old Dragnet radio and TV shows weren't based in Oakland.

THIS IS THE CITY: Oakland, California. It's a big town with some lousy drivers . . .

Monday, 7:52 a.m. It was cool in Oakland. The boss is Captain Ed Backstrand. My partner's Ben Romero. My name's Friday.

We were working the traffic detail out of Central Division.

"Hey, Joe. Anything in the Book this morning?"

"Nothing unusual. Fourteen fender-benders and three T-bones last shift. Guy ran his Henry J into City Hall and took out two file clerks and a stenographer. Same old same old."

"It's always the nut behind the wheel. Uh-oh. Hot-shot call. I'll get it . . ."

Accidental Tourism

Amazing that any child growing up in Oakland during the '50s survived to adulthood. You'd think they would all have been either run over in the streets or propelled through the windshields of careening lead sleds slamming into each other, into light poles and hydrants, etc. This succession of great crash photos makes the place look like the most accident-prone city in America.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.