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As Seen on the Streets and Byways of San Francisco

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began in January of 1933, and it was completed late in April of 1937, the opening ceremony was held on May 27, 1937. At some point before that, well-known California automobile dealer Don Lee’s San Francisco Olds dealership was able to arrange to have this photo taken of a 1937 Oldsmobile sedan on the bridge; note the dealer plate and the tasteful license plate frame. The image is colorized by Imbued with Hues.


Fast forward almost twenty years for an interesting view of fifties cars and trucks and street construction at the intersection of Stockton and Post Streets taken in 1955. On the left just past the intersection are the Western Pacific Railroad, and American Airline’s offices, and further on down is the street the City of Paris, a department store (1850-1972) that sold goods made in France and fine French wines. The retailer’s building was one of the few in the area that survived the 1906 earthquake.

And finally below is an American Austin coupe being used as an advertisement and for a service car at “Jim” Pendergast’s and “Jerry” Donavan’s a Flying A Service Station located in the City at Portola Drive and Teresita Boulevard. The Austin is decked out with a custom made sign on the roof, a Flying A decal on the door, a radiator cap mascot, and an oversized accessory horn. The images are from Vintage San Francisco and were found via contributor Jennifer Strong.





23 responses to “As Seen on the Streets and Byways of San Francisco

  1. I enjoy seeing pictures of the American Austins used in promotion/advertising. A friend now owns the body of one used by a local radio station back in the ’30’s. It is the only 3 window coupe style body of American Austin I have ever seen. I do have then and now pictures.

  2. In the 1st photograph, the 1937 OLDSMOBILE has a six-cylinder radiator grille.

    In the 2nd photograph, 1955 view, appears to have three 1955 PLYMOUTH taxicabs.

  3. Don Lee was also a Cadillac dealer & distributor in the Los Angeles area. One of his auxiliary dealership buildings still exists in Monrovia, CA on the West side of Myrtle Ave. Just North of Foothill Blvd. Don Lee Cadillac later became Thomas Cadillac for many years.

    • Don Lee also founded radio stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and created a regional radio network to not only feed programs between his two stations, but other stations elsewhere up and down the West Coast.

      Initially, Lee’s network (1929-36) was affiliated with the CBS Radio Network; in late 1936, Lee’s regional network switched to the Mutual Broadcasting System (after CBS acquired stations in Los Angeles and eventually San Francisco). When the Don Lee Network switched to Mutual, some of his network’s stations decided to drop Don Lee to stay with CBS, but the Don Lee network was able to find replacement affiliates. In fact, for most of the 1940’s and 1950’s, Don Lee-Mutual (as the network was known as) had more affiliates in the Pacific time zone than either ABC, CBS, or NBC.

      In its time, the Don Lee network was a major force in West Coast broadcasting. Virtually all of Mutual Radio’s West Coast originations were broadcast from Don Lee studios, and the great majority of them were Don Lee Network productions.

  4. Just wondering here guys, having never seen a 36 or 37 Olds, does that entire side “hood” section raise complete with the headlights ? Looks great, but a bit awkward. It had to be heavy …..

  5. I wonder what the purpose of the photo of the 37 Olds . If it was to be used as promotional advertising it seems one would use a pretty lady or at least someone famous, not an lawman. Could it have served some other purpose rather than an ad for a dealership? Am I missing something.

  6. Is it just an optical illusion, or is the De Soto really that much bigger than the other cars in the pic? I expect the De Soto to be larger than the 55 Plymouth in front of it, but that much bigger than the Olds and the Mercury in front of the Plymouth?

    • I think it’s an optical illusion. If this was shot with a long-focus lens, that might increase the effect of perspective, but long lenses usually have shorter depth of field, and this photo looks fairly sharp throughout.

      De Soto used the larger body shell shared with Chrysler and senior Dodge, while Plymouth had a unique ,smaller body shell. That said, the ’54 De Soto would not be that much (if any) bigger than the Olds and Mercury.

  7. 2nd pic: The 3 plymouth taxicabs are 1955 model year, and they’re probably the newest cars in this picture. The Mercury and De Soto are 1953-54 and 1953 respectively. I don’t know about the truck, but it seems there’s no car older than 2 or 3 years.
    The oldest one is an unidentifiable (possibly a GM product) delivery sedan (behind the truck) with split windscreen.

    • The interesting aspect to me was that both men were “hatted” in the thirties – one a uniform the other casual – golf not baseball, and the 2nd foto in the fifties the majority of the men, working downtown were still wearing hats -felts for fall/winter… aaand not a baseball cap to be seen. Today you never see a hat -if a man wears anything… it’s baseball cap casual. the only work hats you see are cattle or agriculture men.

  8. David, to me I love the fotos you show by Imbued Hues and others of that genre, but we the readers should never regard them as true representations of their subjects. they are indeed works of art created with”in most cases” affection and nostalgia… and they serve that purpose well. But, I can bet you w/ assurance Don Lee would never let a “loaner” on the road with a paint job that looked more than 50 years old…no, that loaner Oldsmobile Six would have had a paint job on it that was deeper and more vivid mirrorlike than your newly washed 2017 baby blue Merecedes 600 S.

  9. Northridge Auto Wrecking has an Austin American up on a pole in front of their yard at 18983 arthenia Street in Northridge CA. Its been there for a long time and never painted as far as I can tell.

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