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Thirties, Forties, and Fifties Los Angeles Boulevard and Freeway Scenes

Today’s lead image is a view of the Venice Freeway taken in October of 1959 shortly after it was completed and opened. Directly in front of the camera is an MG TF sports car and a 1955 Mercury hardtop, the rest of the busy scene is filled with a mix of fifties cars, a dump truck and a motorcycle police officer on his machine.

The view below shows afternoon rush hour traffic heading west on the “Miracle Mile,” better known as Wilshire Boulevard. This section of the thoroughfare between Sycamore Street and Fairfax Avenue was envisioned as a future retail district that was separate from downtown Los Angeles in early 1920s by A.W. Ross. View earlier articles with many other interesting traffic scenes filled with cars and trucks on Wilshire Boulevard and Pico Boulevard here.

Let us know what you find of interest in the images. The photos are courtesy of the USC Libraries.


  • Late thirties afternoon rush hour traffic on Wilshire Boulevard – the original Wilshire Tower building is behind the “Silverwoods” sign.


  • A view of Pico Boulevard in the early forties – note the night club on the far-left and a used car lot in front of the Union Pacific Railroad billboard.

48 responses to “Thirties, Forties, and Fifties Los Angeles Boulevard and Freeway Scenes

  1. In the last photo, it looks like a nicely optioned ’40 Plymouth Convertible and a ’38 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe going in the opposed direction. Very cool photos.

  2. 2nd photo: 41 Chevy at the curb and a 40 Plymouth (coming at you) and a 36/37 Lincoln Zephyr, 36/37 Pontiac coupe and a 35 Ford in the distance driving away.

  3. I would find it very interesting to see the present day view along with these old in town photos from the same vantage point..

    • The last picture was taken near the intersection of Pico Blvd and Stearns Drive in Los Angeles.

      The building which housed theTwo Harry’s Club is still there and is currently doing business as The Mint (live music at 6008 Pico). The cleaners building in the photo still stands, and is currently occupied by a cleaner.

    • For image #2, this appears to be at the intersection of the 5500 block of Wilshire Blvd., at Burnside. The Silverwood’s/Desmond’s tower is still there., across the street from the Del Rey Theater.

  4. In the Wilshire Blvd. shot there appears to be three motorists traveling towards us who had a total disregard for the double yellow line! Gives a new meaning to rush hour but maybe not a surprise to L.A. drivers.

    • Could that be a reversible lane for rush hour? There appears to be a couple of signs on either side of that lane and there are two cars apparently going the wrong way.

  5. Judging by the side trim, the T-Bird is a ’59. The GM (Olds?) coupe in photo #3 was a long way from home–it appears to have an Ohio license tag.

  6. Autocar ten wheeler in the far lane of the top photo had to be AT LEAST twenty nine years old when that picture was taken! Probably an HS model which wasn’t built after 1930.

  7. Looks like a ’59 Thunderbird. ’58 had five vertical chrome pieces on the door spear; ’59 had chrome arrowhead on front of spear; ’60 had Thunderbird script on spear.

  8. The dump truck in the 1st photo, and I can’t believe someone would still be running this truck in the 50’s, appears to be an open cab Autocar from say, late 20’s, early 30’s.

    • Wait, I think I answered my own question. A while back, possibly in Wheel of Time, I saw an article called, “Meet Ray Gookin ( or something) and his 1927 Autocar”. Seems, before the war, he went to California, bought an Autocar open cab, stretched the frame, installed a dump box, put tandems and a diesel engine, and worked the L.A. area, I believe, well into the ’70’s. Maybe this was him. Does anybody else remember that guy?

      • I couldn’t recall his name when I identified the truck as a possibly Model HS up above but I believe you nailed it, Howard. A quick online search yielded some pics of Gookin’s A-car that show lettering on the sideboard VERY similar to that in the photo above. What are the odds of catching his truck in some random shot on the streets of L.A. 57 years ago?!?

        • I saw Mr. R. E. Gookin With his open-side wood-cab A-car working a street paving job on Pioneer Blvd in Norwalk Calif in the summer of 1968 only two blocks from where I lived. He was hauling asphalt to a paving machine. After dumping, he took off in a hurry. It sounded like a big V-8 (gas) with an automatic. I thought I saw a story somewhere telling how he bought the truck in Pennsylvania and later drove it to California where he worked until retirement. Is there any way or place I could learn (or re-learn) more about him?

      • I sure do. The min. I saw this truck I knew who and what it was. Wheels of Time did a good story about him and he drove this truck to CA. I have the books and I try to see if I can find it. This pic. and date, the Autocar has a 390 Ford engine it. The truck is in a collector’s hands now.

  9. Not to mislead your readers, but it is the overpass that is part of the so-called Venice Freeway though it never reached Venice and was, as far as I know, called the Santa Monica Freeway from day one, at least by people in the area. Not sure what this major blvd. is though, could be several.

  10. I’m surprised nobody mentioned the 1938 Studebaker and the 1938 Willys on the 2nd pic yet. They have rather distinctive front-end styling compared to the conservative 1937 Buick.

  11. Maybe it is just me, but in the 1st pic it looks like the MG or whatever it is and the Plymouth wagon are driverless?

    • I noticed that about the MG also. If you look closely you can see the Plymouth’s sdiver, but I still don’t see one in the MG!

    • The 55 Merc looks like a mild custom. Nosed and more than likely decked. Also looks lowered, solid black, with spinner caps. Nice looking car.

  12. The TF drivers hands are on top of steering wheel and his chin just above inside rear view mirror and looks like he has a homburg on. he is just a dark smudge. I say he because he just fits in car and hat.

  13. Kind of fuzzes out when you try to enlarge it, but the round signs on the used car lot look like the Studebaker “Lazy S” logo.

  14. The MG (TF model) was very possibly one of our Customers and that I very possibly serviced this car, at: ” Norman’s Automotive “, an independent garage in the Silver- lake District of Los Angeles . The DUMPTRUCK? I am guessing that: It was one of the Boulder Dam Open Cabbed Trucks used in constructing the BYPASS WATER-TUNNELS, at the Dam Site. As far as old trucks “go” in L.A. Ca. , Zone 39 (90039) was a Hotbed of older Truck activities , as AA ford Trucks were common to the neighborhood’s services , as were a fleet of earlier CHAIN DRIVE Mack Trucks , used by the Lounsbury and Davis Lumber Company. Our street, Atwater Avenue, was utilized as the RETURN PATH (UN-loaded) — as each truck would have delivered wooden lumber supplies to the SPRR North Taylor Freight Yard , during the War effort(WW-2). On Pico Blvd. , I don’t see OPA Gas Rationing Stickers, so very early ’40’s looks right. Note the sky: A typical high fog, — common to Morning Los Angeles in the Springtime .

  15. First photo, looks like a city ‘motor’ officer stopped to have a chat with the pedestrian walking in the median. (construction zone?) That Merc would be welcome in my garage, as would the early VW beetle behind the pedestrian.

  16. I can’t believe I am looking at the dump truck that has a story as long as your arm. The man and his wife drove this Autocar truck from the north east in about 1930 to Ca. He haul rock with this truck 40 years or more. He used it until he died. The truck was saved and is in a collector’s hands to this day. As you see it here it had a Ford 390 engine in it. He added the rear axle too. American trucker did a story on this truck years ago.

  17. It was called OL Betsy and was well known People all of the country know about the history behind this Truck. ray drove this truck across the USA when there was no roads. It’s just unbelievable that in one of your pic. there is OL Betsy working in the mid 50’s.

  18. The full story about OL Betsy is in The Wheels Of Time. March 2003. Some of you people will not understand about an old truck. But if you read the life story of Ray Gookin and this 1924 Autocar, You’ll see what it means. Thank you so much to see this dump truck working. A man’s hole life was with this truck.

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