Posted in Black History, Buildings, Business, West Oakland

Wrecker Uses Sherman Tank To…

Project Gateway – West Oakland

The world’s largest and fully mechanized mail handling facility designed to serve central California and the Pacific ocean area

Postmaster General – Aug 1959

It was announced the facility would be built on a 12-block site in West Oakland bounded by Peralta, 7th and Wood Streets, and the Southern Pacific railroad yards.

Oakland Tribune Aug 26, 1959

The postmaster general officially named the Oakland project “Project Gateway”

Oakland Tribune Aug 26, 1960

Major Problems

City officials were excited that construction will begin in about one year. They expected an Oakland payroll of some 750 workers and the clearing of some 20 acres of sub-standard homes for a significant redevelopment project.

Oakland Mayor Clifford E Rishell noted that the post office project presents some significant problems – chiefly the relocation of some 300 families (about 1000 people) in the project area.

The Oakland Redevelopment Agency was in charge of the relocation. A survey at the time determined that half of the 300 families had moderate incomes that will permit them to rent or purchase a home in other sections of the city. The other half will probably require public housing.

The job we face isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible

Arthur Hoff – Oakland Redevelopment Agency

One of West Oakland’s most revered landmarks was lost with the razing of the New Century Recreation Center and the adjoining school property at Atlantic, Pacific, and Peralta Avenues.

Also lost in the project would be a junkyard, few businesses, and McFeely School, which opened in 1949.

Evictions

In a March 1960 special meeting of city officials and postal officials were told 34 families had already received eviction notices. The families lived in homes already sold the government by Southern Pacific. 21 families had already found new homes.

August 1, 1960, was when they were to begin clearing the site,

Oakland Tribune Jul 19, 1960

A squadron of bulldozers was set to plow into the 12-block place of buildings. All put 12 parcels of the 187 total had been acquired in negotiation. Commendation orders were entered for the holdouts.

Sherman Tank

The postal officials were perplexed when building wrecker Aldo S. Allen submitted a low bid of $64,000 to clear the 20-acre site for Project Gateway. He was $10,000 lower than the next lowest bid and $50,000 lower than the highest bid.

I got an idea” Allen a one time midget car racer explained.

Aldo S. Allen – 81st Ave Oakland CA

His idea consisted of $2,000 purchasing a surplus Sherman Tank of World War II vintage, a 73,000- pound dreadnaught powered by a 500 horsepower engine. The tank would be much more powerful, faster, and safer.

He was Right!

Aldo climbed into the tank, which was in front of a row of six houses. He first practiced on a tree.

SNAP! Down went the tree.

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960

Without pausing, he went towards the first house and bore a tunnel through the house. The second story remained intact. Again he aimed for the home, there was a roar, and the second story came down burying the tank for a moment.

10 Minutes Flat! The time to clear the first house

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960

It took 90 minutes to flatten and remove all 6 houses

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 17, 1960

Before and After

Oakland Tribune
The Daily Texan Aug 16, 1960

Post office Site Now A Dump

Oakland Tribune Jul 1963

In 1963 after five year of post office promises the city demanded action. The site had become a 12-block dumping ground. The city was losing money $22,000 in tax dollars and $50, 000 lost in additional school taxes. They were told that construction was set to begin in 1964. By July of 1967 the building was nearly one-third complete. Belated effects of a long wet winter have moved the opening date to March 1969.

More Info:

The End

Author:

I grew up in the Montclair District of Oakland, CA. I attended Thornhill Elementary School, Montera Junior High, Skyline High School, and spent some time at Merritt College.

One thought on “Wrecker Uses Sherman Tank To…

  1. Tne “Downtown Specific Plan”, being considred by the Oakland Planning Commision, would take urban renewal to the next level. The public has until October 22, 2019, to omplain to the Planning Commision about the new plan, to build highrise glass and steel towers all along the Lake Merritt shore, on the sites of the main library and the Fire Alarm Building. Stop the greedy developers from wrecking Oakland again!

    Like

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