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Three Vintage Automobile Scenes in Milwaukee Wisconsin

Today’s feature images are all press photos taken in the 1950s by “Milwaukee Journal” staff photographers. The lead image was taken on June 29, 1958, of the first of six McDonalds drive-in hamburger stands assembled on various sites in the City; this one was located on West Appleton Avenue south of Capitol Drive.

Share with us what you find of interest in these photographs courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Library.

  • This picture taken in 195o contains rush hour traffic traveling on the Sixth Street Viaduct. The earliest vehicles in this view appear to date back to circa 1936.

  • And finally, this circa 1950 view shows a policeman directing traffic at the intersection of Foud du Lac Ave. and 35th St. with Burleigh St. (left-to-right) in the foreground. The only building that has survived is the corner bar on the left with the Blatz beer sign.


33 responses to “Three Vintage Automobile Scenes in Milwaukee Wisconsin

  1. In the 2nd picture, driving away under the “SLOW” sign, is a 1950 PACKARD, non-Custom model.

    In the same photograph, 3rd car driving toward the camera, is a two-tone 1946 CHEVROLET.

  2. Between the bookend Chevys at the McDonald’s… I think a ‘56 Two-Ten sedan on the left and a ’58 Bel Air on the right, are a ’55 Olds 88 sedan and a ’46-’48 Dodge

  3. In the second pic, I’m sure the “SLOW” sign seemed a little redundant, especially at certain times of the workday, lots of brake lights…

  4. Photo #1 I think I spot a Willys wagon in the far right lane and in line with the chimney. Following it, a likely ’49 or ’50 Packard sedan. About even with that, coming our way is a ’49 or ’50 Nash, apparently followed by its ’46-48 predecessor

    Photo #2 Peeking around the ancient US Mail truck (followed by some version of a Power Wagon) appears to be a ’50 Ford followed by a ’46-’48 Plymouth, likely a ’50 DeSoto and a ’49 Buick. Parked to the right is probably a ’50 Nash (substantially wider rear window vs ’49)

  5. I’m surprised at the age of the US Mail truck in the third shot — it looks to be early thirties. After all, the post office tends to use their vehicles a lot, running up outrageous miles. It’s remarkable it survived as long as it did.

    And just yesterday, my wife Ruth just explained to her astonished grand-niece that there was a time when there were no McDonald’s in America. I’m going to have to share this with her.

    • The Post Office in Omaha used those old split-hood early- ‘50s Dodge panels into the early’60s. So did UPS and FedEx predecessor Railway Express.
      The Postal Service today still uses 20+ year-Old vans built on the Chevy S-10 chassis.

      • Oh, I know. I worked as a rural mail carrier briefly, and I remember hearing that those Grumman vans were all ordered with a complete replacement drive train. They’re still running because, at some point, the motors and transmissions got swapped out.

        I’m just surprised that a truck of that vintage would have lasted in the same way.

    • You are assuming it’s still being used for mail. It is missing the rear fender, I don’t think the post office would let them deteriorate that much. I think it’s an old one someone bought and is using as a van.

  6. Ahead of the Willys wagon in Photo #1 I believe is a ’50 Plymouth P-19 or ’51 Concord 3 passenger business coupe.
    In Photo #2, next to the safety island appears to be a ’47-49 Studebaker Land Cruiser

  7. The 1st picture, is my McDonalds!!! ( not literally, of course) My parents house was right over the top of the white Chevy. It was our HS hangout, and went through many changes. I was too young to remember it like this, and changed to inside seating in the 60’s. All the hot-rods cruised through Mac’s. Some with such wild motors, they would load up, and as soon as they got out of the parking lot , WHAM! Cleared ‘er out. Fact is, after that accessory was installed, it was off to McDonalds to show it off. It was a fun time, for sure.
    The 6th street viaduct ( along with the 16th, 27th and 35th street viaducts), crossed over the Menominee River Valley connecting the “Nort’ side with the Sout’ side. There were no suburbs, and most of Milwaukee’s manufacturing was done in this area. I-94 took care of that, and parallels 6th street. Looks a lot different today, and this location is the site of the Harley-Davidson Museum. A worthwhile trip if in the area.
    Last pic, I must correct, it’s Fond du lac Ave. This was supposed to be one of the freeway links that never got done. It was supposed to connect the Northside with downtown. Classic Milwaukee freeway blunder ( there are several). It proved to be too much moving all these people and businesses. Most of Milwaukee’s traffic problems today, are because this portion was never finished. My late ex-mil worked at Sears just a few blocks from here. Thanks for the memories, especially McDonalds.

    • I remember that Mc Donalds very well. This was the place I bought my first McDonalds hamburger for 19 cents if I remember correctly. The menu was pretty basic then with hamburgers, fries, shakes and Coke.
      We used to “cruise” this one regularily and then buzz over to Big Boy right down the street on Capitol Dr. And yes Howard, the cars we drove were such a problem to keep running oftentimes we were forced to stomp on it once in awhile. It used to make the girls pay attention to us anyway.
      Great memories.

      • My first McDonalds adventure was located in Ashtabula, Ohio, about 10 miles east of my hometown (Geneva). We teenagers would congregate in the Mickey D parking lot with our rides, I in my 1956 Olds Super 88 two-door hardtop with its sketchy Hydramatic . It was an adventure for me as the help there refused to make me a burger without onions, which make me ill. So I consumed a lot of French fries.

    • Hi Richard, If I remember, it was .15 cent hamburgers, .20 cent cheeseburgers, .15 cents for a small fries and .15 cent Coke’s, you could eat for less than a buck. As a kid, it seemed so unusual that you could walk up, the food was ready, and order and leave with your food. It revolutionized the food industry. They were a member of “the Speedee-Service System”.

  8. Anyone know what make the bus is in the second photo? Initially, I thought it might be a trolley given its running on the lane with the rails. Milwaukee gave up their trolleys in what year?

      • Looks like a Twin Coach transit model. Yet truck coming into the pic behind the mail truck looks like it might be an early CCKW with closed cab with the original canvas on the back

    • Milwaukee had the “Trackless Trolley” system from 1936 to 1965. They had specified routes, I don’t see any overhead wires, so they probably didn’t run across the viaducts by this time. I remember my grandmother taking me on one of the last electric trolleys, and when you’d come to an intersection, there was always a big zap and sparks flew. The bus shown is a non-electrified Twin Coach, I believe. I’d say that picture is from the early 50’s.

      • Hi Howard, The wires are hard or impossible to see in the 6th Street viaduct picture but all the poles not holding up a street light would have been there for the trolley wires. The Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee (a.k.a the “North Shore Line”) had their Milwaukee terminal just off the north end of this bridge to the east and it was the only way in/out for them. The North Shore Line continued down 6th Street for a mile or so until it left the street for it’s own right-of-way along 6th. I’d have to check a couple of books on the city’s transit system but I believe the bridge was also used by The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L) at the time of this picture for their local streetcar and/or trackless trolley route. As recently as the late 1990’s, the streetcar tracks you see in this photo were the last ones in the city of hundreds of miles that hadn’t been pulled out or paved over. The bridge was replaced in 2000. A new streetcar system is being built in parts of downtown today. Not on this bridge though.

  9. The second and third photos are interesting to see because the cars in them are so boring or average.
    When we think of old cars, we think of the brass era, classics, colorful and deluxe 50s units or 60s muscle cars.
    We tend to forget most cars of any period were four door sedans…and these photos show how drab and boring the majority the cars were in the immediate post-war period.

    The second photo must have been very early 50s, it doesn’t look like our stereotypical 50s collective memory ….no two tone tri-five Chevys, no continental kits, no Baby T-Birds or T- buckets. In other words, “welcome to the real world”….and not today’s car shows or Hollywood.

  10. I think the policeman needs a lot of help at this very over crowed intersection.
    where are all these cars and trucks coming from in the first place?

  11. I too am from Milwaukee and lived very near the Micky-D in the first image. I remember when it was built. This area was developing very quickly empty lots along both Appleton Ave. and Capitol Drive were being developed. Many things have changed now. This Micky-D is gone and has moved to the other side of Appleton and just north of Capitol Drive. I had my first Micky-D hamburger there. The third picture shows this intersection with the traffic lights out of order. Two of them are hanging from cables above the streets. At this time, this major intersection had traffic lights. That explains why so much traffic is backed up. In the same picture, the building between 35th street and Fond du Lac and several blocks behind it is the Milwaukee bus/street car repair, cleaning and storage barns.

  12. The mail truck is most likely a ‘30-‘31 Ford AA mail truck, probably fitted with a York Hoover mail body.

    The USPS did keep these relics in service into the 1950’s, scrounging spare mechanicals often from junk yards to keep them going.

    When they were retired, they were usually pretty rotten and beat-up.

    Their USPS color was olive green.

    A few examples have been restored, and some continue to turn-up. They are sought-after by Model A truck enthusiasts.

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