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Mean While Deep in the Heart of Texas

Today’s images are a random assortment of interesting photos from the “Lone Star” State. The lead photograph was taken in Kilgore, Texas, in 1958, and it appears, the two women behind the car are adding some gasoline after the mid-1950s Cadillac had run out of it. The situation is kind of ironic with all of the oil wells in the background and the fact that money to buy the car probably came from oil. 

This photo courtesy of the Kirbyville Texas Public Library shows a family having some winter fun with two girls, one on a sled, and the other on an old tire being pulled by a 1930 to ’31 Model “A” Ford coupe. If it is, in fact, a family, it appears dad is behind the wheel and mom is standing on the left-hand running board. 

Note that the Ford has been converted into a truck with a large covered box inserted in the rear of the body where the trunk or rumble seat normally be. Try doing this today, and you will probably end up in jail and court charged with child endangerment.

And finally, the photograph below dated as having being taken in 1927 shows a street scene taken from above a thoroughfare in the center of downtown Hoston, Texas.

60 responses to “Mean While Deep in the Heart of Texas

    • Yes. We can’t be sure what they were doing, but they were definitely not refueling. My grandfather had a Cadillac of the same year (1956) when I was a small boy and I remember being quite amazed watching the pump jockey at the gas station put gas into the taillight.

  1. There’s a lot to see here. Bebe Daniels’s “A Kiss in a Taxi” (playing at the Queen theater in the bottom photograph) premiered in February, 1927.

    In the middle photo, I like the towel draped across the light bar — an instant thermostat. Also, it looks like the A has had a sealed-beam conversion kit installed.

    Also, in the lead photo, is that little bump on the top back fender of the Caddy the Autronic Eye headlight dimmer? Most of the ones I’ve found have been dash mounted.

  2. In the lead photograph, parked on the right, just past the 1957 BUICK with split rear window, is either a 1950 or ’51 STUDEBAKER; parked on the far right is a 1957 OLDSMOBILE Golden 88 with split rear window.

  3. I don’t think the 2 ladies are trying to add fuel. I think they are trying to open the trunk and are looking for the right key. To add fuel you press a button and lift up the driver side tail lamp. But maybe they have not done that yet.

  4. This was the “Sixty Special”, the top of the line Cadillac in 1956. The little scoops behind the back door reveals that this car was equipped with air conditioning as well – which was very unusual in 1956.

  5. The bumps behind the top back fender is the A/C air inlet. The A/C unit is in the trunk I think the gas fill on this car in under the pop open feft tail light. I don’t think they are putting gas in.

  6. David King mentioned: “Also, in the lead photo, is that little bump on the top back fender of the Caddy the Autronic Eye headlight dimmer? Most of the ones I’ve found have been dash mounted.”
    David, I’m quite certain that the bump you’re referring to has nothing to do with the Autronic Eye, but IIRC was some sort of air passage for the rear seat air conditioner. I recall seeing these in SoCal when I was a youngster. Maybe someone else can be more concise on the operational use of the system.

  7. I think Tony is correct, the fuel filler was under the left tail light. They are merely opening the trunk. I bet it smelled nice in THAT town. I saw a vintage movie a while back called “Lucy Gallant”. It took place in a small Texas town around 1940, and the town had oil wells all over like this, even one in the middle of Main St. 2nd pic, dangerous as heck, but they made their own cheap fun. I think that may just be something in between the cars, it looks like a regular Model A to me.

    • Howard, it looks to me like a mattress is being transported on the side of that 41 ford and the snow from the roof has blown onto the top edge.
      Also, do I see at least two small faces in the passenger seat of the A looking at the camera?

  8. First picture, Tony is right about the fuel filler location on the caddy. The round reflector on the taillight had to be pressed and the taillight raised to expose the fuel cap. My guess is the ladies are trying to open the trunk. And I think David is referring to the air inlet next to the rear door. It is for the trunk-mounted air conditioning unit. It was quite an elaborate system that occupied most of the trunk space. The clear plastic vents are visible coming from behind the rear seat and ducted thru the ceiling with outlets at the rear and front seats. The adjustable air nozzles were like the ones on passenger planes. And the air was frigid.

  9. Meanwhile, back in Texas at least one of those oil wells appears to be leaking since the gutter beneath the Cadillac appears to be full of oil. Lets hope the girls aren’t about to light up a cigarette.

  10. In the last photo, those license plates are white on green based on the date. 1928 is when one of my favorite bits of early automotive bureaucracy occurred in Texas – they decided to mark each plate FRONT or REAR! That little bit of unnecessary silliness only lasted through 1930.

    On the automotive side of things, what’s the first car parked on the right in that picture? It looks a lot like a Detroit Electric to me, but I’m not 100% certain.

    • Marking a plate front or rear was supposed to prevent owners from using one set of plates on two cars, rear only. I am sure it was done many times to save that small sum of money.

  11. Just to be petty, the coupe is definitely a 1930 Model A, which did not have an inset panel at the top of the radiator; only at the bottom. The 1931 As have insets top and bottom.

    • That’s what I thought at first, but looking more carefully I think I see the outline of a slightly-darker upper panel on the grille shell, and the Ford oval looks lighter, as it would be on a ’31, being stainless, not blue cloisonne. In any case, it’s been converted to sealed beam headlamps. The wheels look like standard 19-inch to me.

  12. Does ANYONE who posts replies on this site ever read the previous posts before they post their own reply? If they did, there would be a lot fewer posts to wade through to find new information about the pictures. But, it IS fun seeing all of the different ways to say the same thing over and over again.

  13. I actually do read the posts first so I don’t embarras myself. So I’ll add what no one else did about IDing the ’41 Ford on the other side of the Model A, and a ’34 Chevy sedan behind the gas station. I do this on my phone so can’t quite make out the gas brand.

  14. Jack, if you will look at the times of the the postings you will see that most of them addressing the same thing were posted at nearly the same time. Including mine. I certainly read all previous posts before sending my own. You can blame the time lag between the writing and the posting on the repetitions.

    • If you have to blame something or someone for this, it is the internet trolls, spammers, and people that leave unbelievably rude and crude comments for the time lag. Also some regular readers who should know better might not see their comments posted if they post off color, remarks. Because of this issue the comment section had to be changed to a by approval setup.

      The Old Motor is a one person operation and I shut down at 7 pm and post new comments at about 9 am after posting a new feature in the morning. I can’t possibly be in contact with the site all the time which also on occasion happens in the daytime, which then causes a time lag. However new comments are approved and posted by myself seven days a week.

      • I apologize, David, for stirring up a hornet’s nest with my comment. I love your site and enjoy seeing each day. I posted my comment with a tongue-in-cheek attitude but upon further reflection I realize that it could be interpreted as an angry comment. I thought my statement that I was entertained by the many ways the same information could be expressed in so many different ways would convey my intent but I was wrong. I DID learn more about the A/C system on 1950’s Caddies as each new poster added additional information about the two bumps on that beautiful Cadillac. Sorry!

  15. I’ve noticed the repetition as well, Jack, but it doesn’t bother me much. I figure it is a matter of overlapping posting times. David’s got a business to run, after all, and can’t always mediate posts immediately.

    And thanks for all of you who explained the AC scoops on the Caddy. Growing up in the frigid north (well, Pennsylvania), I’d never seen that before.

  16. Anyone notice the Chrysler Plymouth Authorized Service sign in the second photo?
    Although I don’t see a Ration sticker, I wonder if this is during WWII–the Model A has been converted to a “commercial” vehicle in order to receive more gas rations?

  17. The Model “A” ‘s Radiator is: “half-bagged-off for severe cold running to keep the motor warm enough — (even if — it had an after-market thermo-stat in the upper hose!), to run efficiently, A lot of folks didn’t understand thermostats as their former car was: a “T” with no water-pump or thermostat . Note: The Hand- made sides of corrugated roof panels on the rear sides, with a roof (with snow) & flap panel on the back. (Ford offered a small bed with tailgate, –instead of the curved deck lid). (This might explain the different WW-2 gas-rationing sticker). Note: Mom on the rear sled carrying a bag of groceries(?) The kid, – left – running behind, might have fallen off of the back of the first sled ? A full house!!! Might be Grandma, passenging?

  18. The Cadillac is over a: Really dirty water puddle (The storm drain “Gully”) from “yesterday’s shower”. Note the cement street , is has no evidence of “oil tracks” onto the center pavement. The vents are air inlets for the A/C’s Evaporator coils & Air fan in the trunk. Note: the molded clear plastic tubes to bring “cool” to the faces of the rear seat “Carriage Trade” passengers, as there is a possibility that being a Four door, — that this Cadillac is Chauffeured. The ladies would not enter into the dirty water puddle , so the car would be moved out and doors opened.

  19. The TIRES on the ’30 or ’31 “A”: are standard 4.50 X 19’s . (’28 & ’29 were 21′” tires that do look “skinnier”. Snow packed on the(’30’s )wheels might make them look bigger. There could also be “chains ” but hard to see, — (moving). Looks like real fun , but today’s “fussiness” about stuff like this would have both Mom & Dad in jail with a “laundry list” of violations! (It was probably on the front page of the Town’s newspaper! Time: ’41 or later: Sealed beams on the “A” & gas ration sticker.

  20. I realley enjoy all the answers , my father pulled our double runner back up the hill on a steep back road behind his 41 Chev. Pickup. Then we made another run, a lot of fun . Today the road is paved salted and a lot of traffic. Keep the memories comeing.

  21. Pulling kids on sleds etc., is not now nor has it ever been a good idea, buuuut we used to pull our kids on sleds on winter closed logging roads and had a ball. In the 30s there was a hill where we lived that was used as a sledding hill, on occasion the owner of a property next to the top would flood the hill and it would ice up making a seriously nice launch for our sleds.

  22. Hi guys,

    I looked very carefully at the fender and hood trim on the 4 door sedan (or wagon?) just behind the Model A coupe pulling the snow sleds. I believe it is actually a ’41 Mercury. All ’41 Mercs had a single horizontal stainless belt on the front fenders clear out to the headlight trim ring just like the one in the photo.

    The (super deluxe only) ’41 Fords had a quite noticeable downward dipping curve on the front end of the front fender trim strip to match up at a wrap down around front below the headlight rings to meet the horizontal stainless trim strips just above the Ford’s two side oval grilles. ’41 Ford Deluxe and Specials had no fender trim.

    If that is a hood ornament on the front of the hood, it is big enough to be the fancy factory accessory die cast “bird” offered only for the ’41 Merc (possible further confirmation it is a Merc). Fords had only a tight dropping stainless strip over the nose of the hood with a discrete badge on the center of the nose. Very few if any ’41 Fords are ever seen with a hood ornament (none offered as a factory accessory, but possibly something from J.C. Whitney type catalogs).

    Both ’41 Fords and Mercs had fender-top mounted parking lights (similar but different of course!) which appear to be present here.

    I don’t see the usually rather large federal gasoline ration sticker on the right side of the Model A windshield, did I miss it? I am guessing this photo is from the 1942-45 period though.

    Model A’s with rear trunk box conversions were extremely common and even found on the streets of Los Angeles out here clear into the 1950s (talk about durability!). Of course, ’41 Mercurys are highly collectible.

  23. Hi Mark, Thank you. I just learned to use the links given to the source libraries for the photos and further examine the photo data. Great tip. 1949 it is!

    David, I think you need a correction for the super busy street scene noted by you as “Huston” (sic) and when it is opened for enlargement, it has a caption reading “Dallas” (which makes a bit more sense for the years posted since I have to believe Dallas was the more automotive populous city back then. Thanks for all you do at The Old Motor!

    • I just re-checked the source checked earlier and once again found the photo is on the cover of the book Historic Photos of Houston by Betty Chapman and did not find it anywhere else. Where did you find it?

  24. Good morning David,

    I just clicked on the photo (to engage enlarge mode). The caption about “Downtown Dallas 1927-1920” pops up at bottom of the photo.

    Maybe someone can verify the street location by buildings, marquees, or other landmarks as to whether it is Houston or Dallas. Obvisousy a major boulevard with 4 lanes of traffic and (yikes) diagonal parking on both sides. Lots of theatres too. The traffic cop standing out in the center is pretty goofy (needed to help people back out their cars from the curb). Maybe he knew his picture was being taken and wanted to be sure to look in the direction of the camera :-).


  25. I think they are putting something in the trunk. No self respecting lady from Texas in the 1950’s would pour gas into her car. She would find a man or young boy to do it. I am in my seventies and I had a flat not long ago and I was besieged by about a half dozen young men as soon as I opened my trunk. I live in a small town in Texas.

  26. I’m late to posting here, but the 3rd photo is definitely Houston (not Huston). If you look down Main Street looking towards Buffalo Bayou, you’ll see the Foley Bros Dry Goods Store (the Precursor to Foley’s Department Store. The Flagship was built in 1949 at Main and Lamar. The chain was purchased by Macys and eventually closed (thanks Internet) and demolished and replaced by a High Rise Office tower

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