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Pre-War City Traffic: Deep in the Heart of Austin Texas

Today’s feature image takes us to Austin, Texas for a 1946 view of automobiles on Congress Street stopped at a traffic light. Apparently, the photo was taken early in the year when all of the Nation’s automakers were struggling to get the production lines going again, as all of the cars in the view appear to be pre-war and the oldest vehicle dates back to either 1933 or ’34.

On the far right of the image is a Western Auto Store that no doubt sold parts and supplies that kept many vehicles in service during the war years. To the left of the auto parts store is an Austin National Bank building and a JC Penny Company Store.

Tell us what you find of interest in the enlargeable photograph below by Neal Douglas, courtesy of the Austin Texas Public Library via The Portal to Texas History.

16 responses to “Pre-War City Traffic: Deep in the Heart of Austin Texas

  1. The 1941 Buick Touring Sedan and Sedanet in the front row are two of my favorite body styles of the era.

  2. Parked in front of the Western Auto Stores is a 1939 BUICK Special.

    Parked in the center are two 1941 BUICK cars next to a 1939 PACKARD convertible.

  3. ” The stars at night, are big and bright,,,( stomping feet, firing pistols in the air) deep in the heart of Texas”
    Western Auto was huge. It was a beacon of hope while traveling in beaters. ( we stopped at more than one on our Florida camper trips) Apparently, they were bought by Sears, and eventually Advance( Advance is pretty big too, just acquiring our local CarQuest) Funny, how the Packard, with crumpled fender was just “a car”, and by the late 40’s, was probably a beater itself.

  4. “First by far with a Post War car,” Studebaker. Not until 1947. Love the 1941 Buicks, the upper middle class luxury cars. The Packards looked so dated.

    • That is the building at 605 Congress that the “American National Bank” built in 1909. The top two floors were apparently original to the building based on some of the early photos I saw.

      Before the construction of the Bank building (which still stands) 605 Congress was the location of the “I5ron Front Saloon” established circa 1849.

      Search for “John Neff — Genial Proprietor of Austin’s Iron Front Saloon “

      • Using the address you provided and Google street view, it’s amazing how much things have changed; if you search 500 Congress Ave, Austin you can get the same view as in the picture. It looks like they removed the ledge separating the top two floors of the Littlefield Building, but the flag pole is still in the same spot. It also appears that the entire block containing J.C. Penney and the Western Auto was torn down for the construction of more modern buildings. I realize that things can’t stay the same forever, but sometimes it’s just sad to see that buildings with such character are torn down so often in the U.S. Neither the modern buildings nor the modern cars have anywhere near the same cool factor as the ones in the photo.
        One of the things I enjoy so much about this site is these old city pics and then someone posting the address so I can see how things have changed. Thanks!

  5. David, these fotos are such fun…First off… I see NO post war cars= the latest , I see is the rear of a ’42 Chrysler at the left of the foto… nothing newer, anyway, the ’39 -’41 Buicks were certainly pace setters for those stepping up in the wqrld, and the ’40 Packard did , seem dated by that time. The thirties Ford parked beside the Buick in front of Western Auto and the torpedo styled ’40 Buick four door followed by a ’41 Chevy and same year Ford convertible pretty well round out the recognisable autos. The comments om Western Auto as otherwise noted are “spot on”right up to the ’60s or early ’70s … I spent many a Saturday morning at our local outlet.. they were everywhere … malls, strip centers, and stand-alones, and full of interesting and absolutely necessary addons like”blue dots” and “half moons” for head lamps as wellserious needs… they were the source for “shade tree” mechanics everywhere.

  6. The humps on the road are the famous “TEXAS TURTLES.” They were the dividers be opposite lanes of traffic and isolated turn lanes. If you hit one of these things it could make your head hit the headliner. I lived in Berkeley CA in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The Western Auto was on University Ave. near the Ford and Chevy dealers. I would buy bicycle tires and tube from Western Auto. They stocked tail light lenses on large flat tables in the middle of the store for all the popular cars. There was a certain smell to the store, just like other stores have their own aroma today. I would go to the new car dealers and collect the broaches for each model every year. I threw all that stuff out when I moved to New York. My father worked for Van’s Auto body in Berkeley. I would stop by the shop and drool over the cars in for repair. There were lots of Kaisers and one time there was a Kaiser Darrin in for body repairs. I thought the sliding doors were not very attractive and as I remember they were hard to open and close. My father had a 1950 and 1951 Kaiser automobiles. The popular sports cars were TR3’s, Austin Healys , a few MG’s and a few Porches.

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