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Expect Delays: 1957

Oakland or thereabouts circa 1957, and two cars that have just taken out a stoplight. 4x5 acetate negative from the News Photo Archive. View full size.

Oakland or thereabouts circa 1957, and two cars that have just taken out a stoplight. 4x5 acetate negative from the News Photo Archive. View full size.


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Advice to Time Travelers

If you are transported back to mid-fifties Oakland and someone in a light-colored 1950 thru 1954 Ford offers you a ride, RUN!

Straddling The Street

I drove that route fairly frequently to the meetings of the Oakland Cloud Dusters model airplane club at Fruitvale School, and it is my recollection that that they routed the traffic through various detours depending the needs of the construction crews, sometimes to the outsides of the viaduct and sometimes underneath. So I wouldn't assume that the accident happened on the final road configuration.

1950 Ford

The 3 years, 1949,'50 & '51 are almost identical but this Ford 2 door sedan is a 1950 model. 1949 Ford had different bumpers, door handles and rear trunk lock & trim. While the '51 Fords had added tail lamp chrome trim. As a youngster back then, my friends and I waited every year to see what changes were made to our favorite cars. All American of course.


Lacking other pics of the freeways, I doubt we're going to figure out where this is. Thought we could be looking west on 14th St and the concrete pier farther from the camera was supporting the southbound offramp there, but if so another pier would have to be behind the camera supporting the east side of the viaduct, and the viaduct would be straddling the parallel street in the foreground, which it didn't do.

Problem is, the same objection applies to the rest of the Nimitz too. Where did it straddle a street?

Another puzzle: to ignorant folks like us those look like forms for pouring the concrete for the legs of the viaduct. But wouldn't they finish those legs and remove the forms before building the rest of the viaduct on top of them? (Incidentally, the Cypress opened on 11 June 1957.)

1950 Ford

The crest on the trunk and lack of chrome strips on the tail light body streak is the clue. The '49 had "FORD" in chrome letters across the trunk, and the '51 had the chrome strip covering the tail light body streak.

Under the Cypress Street Viaduct

Under construction, so probably late 1956 or early 1957. Remember it well, including its collapse in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1986.

The construction of the viaduct essentially destroyed a vibrant, lower-middle-class black neighborhood in West Oakland, much as the Embarcadero Freeway partly and (if completed as planned) would have done for the San Francisco waterfront. West Oakland was deemed a slum -- it wasn't, I spent a lot of time there searching out R&B records -- and essentially died without a whimper. San Francisco fought back with the "freeway revolt" and stopped the completion of the Embarcadero horror. The earthquake did in both of the concrete monstrosities. The Embarcadero recovered, West Oakland didn't.

Oh, boy just wait 'til 1989

The concrete pillars being poured sure look like the Oakland viaduct that collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta "World Series" earthquake.

I used it in the 1970s, and the repeating "swan dives" your car took as it went from section to section made this wannabe engineer leery of its construction and stability. Each section was higher at one end than the other and it was as if you were launched from one to the other as you drove. If you went a specific speed, you could get your car really rocking, and it was different going in the opposite direction.

Perhaps this 1949-51 Ford nudged one post just a little too much, and started the process. The closest column in the picture just looks a little tilted to the right.

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