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1950s Traffic Gridlock In California

Judging by what appears to be yellow on black California license plates and the appearance of the hills in the background, this image seems to have been taken somewhere in the Golden State.

Unfortunately for the residents and visitors in the State, waiting in line in traffic jams has become commonplace. The situation began when a large influx of people began leaving other states during the Great Depression in search of jobs and continued for over seven decades. That situation reversed starting in 2006, and California is now experiencing a net loss of approximately two-hundred thousand residents a year recently.

Please share with us what you find of interest in this photograph found by John Goode at This Was Americar.

25 responses to “1950s Traffic Gridlock In California

      • MP,

        Good eye !

        The car certainly looks like a two-door 1941 BUICK Special Sedanet. Also, there’re extensions on the ends of the bumper. The car also could be a ’41 Century Sedanet. Don’t know enough to distinguish which.


  1. I’ll take that 1951 Chevy convertible. Where do I sign?
    My cousin, who has lived in California since the 1950s, recently moved out of that state.

  2. The truck blocking the intersection is an early 50’s Autocar DC. White Motor bought Autocar in 1953 just to get the “Drivers Cab”, it was called. White used that cab on almost all it’s trucks well into the 80’s. It’s pulling a belly dump trailer and looks pretty new, despite the bird droppings. I think the flatbed truck looks like a pre-war Mack.

  3. I’m not a truck expert, but I believe the truck in the foreground is a ‘50s Autocar. Wonder what’s under the hood?

    • Hi Joe, I read, Autocars could be had with any motor, but generally, if it was a diesel, it usually was a Cummins, probably 220 hp.

      • Thanks, Howard. My Dad’s Autocar had a Cummins diesel. It was very reliable and produced a tremendous growl of a sound. I have good memories of that truck.

        • Hi Joe, I wonder if dad had the split exhaust manifold. Before my time, but I heard that was the hot setup for the old 220’s, allowed dual exhaust, and they made a distinct howl.

  4. It would be interesting to see a current photo of that location. I bet those hills are wall to wall houses now.

    • Not to indicate the way to the North Pole, but a red-and-white striped caution post which likely once had a stop sign on it and was still standing after an electric signal light was strung over the intersection. Seen in CA then; seen in WA now.

  5. David, that statement about California population is frequently made but incorrect. For the last two decades, California has had a net loss of population to other states, but not a net loss of population.
    Yellow plates were 1947-50; black plates were 1951-55
    Anyway, we seem to have overlooked the ’50 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan on the left.

    • Whatever the source of that info, it’s incorrect or misinterpreted somewhere along the line. For the last two decades California has had a net loss of population to other states, but since 1900 has never had a net loss of total population. Unfortunately, some don’t see the distinction between those two facts.

      What is true of the last two years is that California’s total population has had its lowest growth rates since 1905.
      This info is from the California Department of Finance.

  6. This is the intersection of North Main Street and Mt. Diablo Boulevard in Walnut Creek, California. Nothing in the photo survives, with the likes of Tiffany’s and Neiman Marcus now holding down the corners. And yes, the hills are covered in houses.

    • Thanks. I knew it was close and even thought it might be where you identified, but since nothing remains I decided it was someplace else.

  7. This photo is looking West from North Main toward the town of Lafayette on the other side of those hills. One block away is the intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Locust St. There on the Northwest corner is a large dark building oriented diagonally to the street. At that time it belonged to Pacific Gas and Electric and may have been some sort of relay station. That building still stands as does one or two of those big oak trees. Just beyond it out of view is a 3 story victorian home. It also survives. Every other building has been replaced. The hills in the distance have some house on them but are mostly covered by oak trees. Walnut Creek and Lafayette long ago enacted some zoning laws to curtail development on hill tops and ridgelines.

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