1928 San Francisco Research The Cars

1928 San Francisco The Cars

One piece of advice pitched to writers entails tailoring a character part for a particular actor or star. It indeed can be helpful, especially if you intend to approach that actor later.  But what if you have a comedian in mind for a serious part? It’s hard enough as it is to keep your character reined in to your purposes without losing it all to ensuing wackiness.

But that is not the subject of this post, thankfully, rather I had a different question.

What kind of cars should I include?

This was a question I tackled in my background research for my script set in 1928 San Francisco. I definitely wanted a Duesenberg as one of the “players.” But was it available in San Francisco at this time?

The Internet Archive to the rescue again. A search there turned up scans of a weekly publication that proved helpful – the San Francisco News Letter. In its January 28th edition for 1928 there was an article about the Twelfth Annual Pacific Automobile Show set to run from that date through February 4. It lists what the attendees will see – Haughty limousines – sporty racing models – family cars – roadsters – sedans and sedanettes – coupes and couplets – broughams and landaulets. Or as it more prosaically describes them – “Shining things of steel that are the magic carpets of modern transportation.”

I gleaned some interesting facts from the article. Rather than extolling the virtues of the mechanics of their operation, as had been the past habit, they were now touting the comfort for the people within – seats that conformed to the body’s curvature – lighters, mirrors, match safes, vanity cases – and some items switched from the accessory category to standard – bumpers, shocks and headlights. And San Francisco itself was being praised for its climate as being perfect for year round motoring. It went on to add that a coastline highway from British Columbia to Mexico was then underway, and of particular note – San Francisco was not yet directly connected to Santa Cruz in that manner. A good fact to know.

Flipping through the pages I came upon a Duesenberg. So that was in. The main antagonist gets that one. But what about the rest of the cast?

I’ve always wanted to include a vehicle that had this capability:

1928 San Francisco Research The Cars2

The arsenal behind the front seat back. An online search alerted me to Al Capone’s car of choice, the 1928 Cadillac. Seems like an apropos choice.

(Aside – I was checking on the magazine’s next edition to see if there was any follow up and found this headline – Street Murder – from which I take the following excerpts – “our first taste of the thing which is disgracing Chicago…a man shot in the public streets of San Francisco by an assassin from a closed car…in connection with the liquor trade…the similarity to the Chicago affairs is very marked”).

So I was on the hunt for a Cadillac in San Francisco.

Here is a list, regrouped into their “families” and their points of origin. First, those outside of Detroit and Michigan:

Franklins (of Syracuse NY.  Luxury car. It had a radiator grill that was for looks. It actually was a dummy and functioned as the air intake for its air-cooled engine).

Chandlers (from Cleveland OH, medium priced cars).

Stutz (of Indianapolis, IN).

The Kissel (made in Wisconsin. Amelia Earhart drove one of these).

The Kleiber (of San Francisco, CA. A truck firm that built some passenger cars, a five passenger Brougham went for only $1950. Sold only on the West Coast).

Locomobiles (of Bridgeport CT, originally a steam car, but converted to internal combustion shortly after the turn of the century, at this time part of Durant Motors).

And switching to Michigan, we pick up with the Durant Company again:
The Star
The Durant
(both built by the Durant Company (1922-28). William C. Durant was the founder of the General Motors Holding Company, but at this time was out of GM and looking to duplicate the philosophy he had created there with a range of offerings for various tastes and pocket books).

(both by Hudson)

(With some interesting omissions – Plymouths, DeSotos and Dodges. The Plymouths and Desotos were new for 1928, and perhaps not yet available. And the troubled Dodge company was bought by Chrysler this year, so maybe their deal was not yet consummated).

(at this time part of the Ford company, though operating separately. There are no other Fords listed, which I thought odd).

GM products (in order from cheapest to most expensive).
Oakland All-Americans (not from the community across the bay, but of Pontiac MI; bought by GM in 1909; absorbed into Pontiac in 1931)
LaSalles (recently introduced to fill the gap between the Buick and the Cadillac).
But NO Cadillacs.

For that matter there are no Packards and Pierce Arrows mentioned either. But my mind is made up, I want a Cadillac, and a Cadillac it will be. So there!

If anyone complains, I can always build a backstory.


You Deserve an Escape from New York Today

You Deserve an Escape from New York Today

It’s funny (read strange), the things you remember out of all the things that happened in a certain time. What you are left with is a crazy mosaic when trying to recontruct it.
So it is when recalling the one summer we went on a long journey. Instead of our usual short jaunts around the surrounding New England countryside, we left Brockton in the family car, a 1950 something Dodge, and set our course south for Dover, Delaware, where my mom’s sister and her family lived. Our Dodge was second hand, with its best years behind it, though it was a few steps above its immediate predecessor – a Chevy which had as one of its unique features, rusted out holes in the footwells of the back seat through which we could watch the ground below as the vehicle passed over it. This old Dodge had a peculiarity all its own which I will go into later.
We took the Massachusetts turnpike over to New York, before hooking left and pointing the vehicle towards Delaware. Somewhere between that left hook and the city of New York we found ourselves tooling down a four lane highway that descended a long incline with tons of businesses on both sides. And one of those businesses was a McDonalds burger restaurant. And though my mom tells me that there were two McDonalds restaurants near us when we lived in Salem, MA – one of which we must have frequented – this is the first time I remember ever stopping at one for a meal. These weren’t anything like the burgers my mom made at home. Hers were always thick – fat really. These were thin and to be truthful – tasty, (and this was the era before the Big Mac). I was left to wonder why my Mom couldn’t make hers the same.
We then passed on through the Big Apple with only one side trip. According to my dad’s dictates we couldn’t miss the chance to swing by the Radio City Music Hall, that mecca in his estimation from his usher days. We just passed by though, having no time to stop and gawk. Though we didn’t go unnoticed, for you see the peculiarity with this Dodge was that whenever you moved the wheel to make a turn left or right, the horn blared. It went off all by itself. An embarrassment to be sure in our home town, but now even more annoying to the jaded New Yorkers warned back on the sidewalk by our noisy passage.
We soon made it out of town and somehow over to Staten Island where we got caught in such a downpour that I thought we were going to wash down the hills and into the bay. No matter how furiously the windshield wipers swished they could not clear off the wall of water flowing over us.
Somehow we made it over to the mainland safely. And another turnpike later, we arrived safely at our relatives and enjoyed a nice visit (they were Southern Baptist, so it meant another brush with religion). There wouldn’t be another get together on the East Coast. My uncle was in the Air Force and they were soon transferred out to McChord Air Force base. We also returned to Washington state some time soon after that, when my father’s company, General Cinema, moved him and us out to open their first twin cinema in the Seattle area.