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Los Angeles: Vintage Street Scene and Union 76 Gasoline Station

Today, we travel to Los Angeles, California, and view a promotional photo taken in 1932 for the Union Oil Company. This filling station was located at the intersection of West 3rd Street and South Detroit Street in the La Brea neighborhood of the City.

The lead photograph is a close up of some of the cars staged for the image and two Wayne Gasoline pumps one of which dispensed Union “76” fuel. The second pump located to the right of the first has signage for the “Unoco” brand that apparently was the companies regular fuel in use at the time.

The automobiles in the view with the exception of the Packard are ordinary everyday cars, and the newest ones date to either 1930 or ’31; the oldest vehicles may only be about three to four years old.

You can view over 200 old Gasoline Stations here in our earlier coverage. Tell us what you find of interest in this photo courtesy of the USC Libraries.

20 responses to “Los Angeles: Vintage Street Scene and Union 76 Gasoline Station

  1. The PACKARD looks like it could be a 1927 Five-Passenger Sedan.

    The photograph looks staged as the two cars behind the PACKARD are stopped in odd positions waiting for gasoline [how did they get there from the street].

  2. I love the hood/cowl line on the coupe at the pumps. What make is that?

    Also, given California’s legendary sun, I’m surprised to see that nearly every car in sight is a closed body. I know that between cowl vents and roll-out windshields, they kept the air moving when the car was in motion. But I would think they would bake at slow speeds.

      • I agree it looks more like a 1929 Pontiac, the Oldsmobile has hexagonal hubcaps, five hub bolts, double bead along the door, no cowl trim or side lights, whereas the Pontiac has mushroom like hubcaps, ten hub bolts, single bead along the door, cowl trim and side lights.

    • I always find these comments about a dearth of open cars interesting. The reasons are many, but IMHO first and foremost is price and prestige, followed by comfort. From the beginning through the mid-teens the vast majority of automobiles were open cars, closed cars limited to high priced prestigious makes.

      In the late teens closed cars became more readily available downmarket, with closed cars priced higher than open ones. Example : 1917 Model T prices. Runabout $345; Touring Car $360; Coupelet $505; Town car $595; Sedan $645. Runabout & Touring being open, soft top cars.

      Thus the closed car, in addition to being more useful and comfortable during inclement weather, was more prestigious. I think the mindset at the time was that open cars are either old or cheap.

      Obviously those factor changed by the late thirties and certainly post war. But even in the heyday of the convertible (arguably the ’50s and ’60s) the vast majority opts for the closed car.

      Personally, since buying my first car in 1961, I have never not owned an open car!

  3. I had a cast iron Wayne pump top just like the one in the picture. I repurposed it along with a leftover piece of well casing , a piece of boiler plate, and boom! A grinder stand! Works really well.

  4. That’s how Los Anglenos roll! We never had AC and we drove around in Chevy sedans all year round. You are probably hotter in a convertible when not moving. Direct heating! Convertibles were great for the beach and evening drives, but not so for heavy traffic. Hell, we drove through all the SW deserts in the middle of summer without AC, only the hot wind blowing in on us. Guess we were tougher back then.

  5. At least one pre-1929 Packard, second car in the first photo. Perhaps a 443 Sedan?
    Second photo, First car 1931 Chevrolet coupé, third car 1928-1929 Ford Model A Sport Coupé [50-A], a body style popular in its’s day but now quite rare.

  6. The Carbon Tetrachloride Fire extinguishers are Excellent for putting out fires! (The good news!) (The Bad news is): the Vaporization of the “Carbon Tet” displaces air/ oxygen, rapidly — and is NOT recommended for today’s fire use as it is not good for for breathing, etc.. Check with your State Fire Marshall for the best way of putting out a gasoline fire ! The apartments shown are on the other side of the block from a Main Boulevard with 66 Kilovolt 3 phase A. C. Commercial Power, Domestic 1 Phase A.C. Power and 600 Volt D.C. Buss Cables , indicating an Electric Streetcar line. The cars not coming in from the street might have just gotten out of the Station’s CAR Wash , and jumped into line. Union has always been careful about keeping their property clean. as to NO open cars: The “air conditioning” was: All windows, Front windshield, rear window & Cowl vents — were ALL open! Note: certain areas of Los Angeles near the beaches were and are naturally “cooled by ocean breezes and daily Fog” . The San Fernando Valley area — a furnace in the summer — was not heavily populated until way after WW-2 when both: vehicle & residence “refrigerated” A/C systems became available.

  7. I’m a bit late to this party. I don’t know much about the lack of open cars but, I did grow up in So-Cal and can tell you that despite the sunny weather it isn’t always hot. witness the long sleeves of the pump attendant and the windows up on all the parked cars. Do I see a sprinkler system doing its thing at the apartment building? I am surprised at that in the 30’s.

  8. Makes me think of that book and movie”Day of the Locust” about 1930s Hollywood.
    Book was written by Nathaniel West back in the day.
    Apartment houses in background are right out of the book.Pump jockeys are trying to break into the movies somehow.

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