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Flying A: 1953

Flying A: 1953

Circa 1953, it's another day and another accident, at 10453 Avenue X in Oakland, California. 4x5 acetate negative from the News Archive. View full size.


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From a good friend of mine who is a fire marshal.

Little did you know, we STILL dress like railroad conductors. The “cover” is the same style, known as the “FDNY hat,” and the coat is actually a Naval “CPO (Chief Petty Officer) Coat,” which is double-breasted. The other style coat, again known as the “FDNY-Style,” is an option still used today. White covers are for chief officers, or, those who wear gold badges -- like me!

Subway Railing

Between the Cadillac and the DeSoto can be seen the original concrete railing for the 1936 San Leandro Street subway that routed traffic underground at 105th, bypassing the busy intersection of streetcars, auto and truck traffic and railroad traffic. The southern portal of the subway remains intact with its original railings and the construction date of 1936.

Vintage by 1953

We are so accustomed to modern cars lasting 10 or 20 years that we forget that cars of 1941 were VERY old and worn out 12 years later, by the standards of the day. That the Cadillac was still in service 12 years later is a tribute to its build quality.

Re: Bug Deflector

The circular center of these bug deflectors was also an "airspeed" gauge that worked off the ram air pressure.

A Fire Marshal

Checking my dad's photo albums, the gent in uniform is probably not a WP conductor but, as MaltedFalcon said, a fire marshal. Still possible that the Ford got punted into the building as a result of not quite winning a race with a train at that grade crossing.

Extra bit of Flying A trivia: They sponsored announcers and radio broadcasts at sporting events all over the Bay Area. Every once in a while I hear the end of the National Anthem and "Play Ball -- With Associated!" pops into my head.

This building burned last winter

I looked the address up and found this news article - it was gutted (twice!) back in February.

1941 Cadillac 62

It appears to have fallen on hard and undignified times, with the odd dent and blemish, a Western Auto roof rack, and one of its marker lamp lenses askew.

On My Dad's Beat

Given the location and the conductor, it's possible the car was whacked at the Western Pacific grade crossing at 105th and San Leandro, maybe by the California Zephyr. If so, the case probably crossed my father's desk at WP headquarters in San Francisco.

Wrecked Ford

It's a brand new 1953 Customline Tudor sedan. The tailpipe on the left side indicates it has the Mileage Maker Six engine, and with the overdrive transmission it would have been a real economy car.

The Fire Marshal

Pretty sure that's not a conductor but an Oakland fire marshal. Source: grew up in Oakland.

Bug Deflector

The DeSoto in the background has a bug deflector on the hood. It was a common aftermarket accessory at the time.

Even bigger problems

That '53 Ford (with Overdrive) is gonna need more than a wheel alignment. A lot more. And yeah, the guy driving the Cadillac (a '41) creeps me out, too. At first I thought he had cat eyes (and just in time for Halloween).

Behind Creepy Man is a '53 DeSoto.

10453 San Leandro

Not much left but you can see where the doors used to be on the front and the side. Looks like the remains of that pipe sticking out on the upper right are there too.


The guy driving the Cadillac could be from one of those 1950s crime comic books.

What's with the Conductor?

Did they get hit by a Train?

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