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 announce 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, 19

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 major redevelopment project.

Oakland Mayor Clifford E Rishell noted that the post office project presents some major 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 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 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 that 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 the were to begin clearing the site,

Oakland Tribune Jul 19 1960

A squadron of bulldozers was set to plow into the 12-block site 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 for $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.

Without pausing he went towards the first house and bore a tunnel through the house. The second story remained intact. Again he aimed for house, 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

It took 90 minutes to flatten and clear all 6 houses

Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
Oakland Tribune Aug 16, 1960
The Daily Texan Aug 16, 1960
More on Project Gateway in west Oakland

The End

Posted in Black History, Business, People

Stephens’ Family

The William M Stephens family was a very successful African American family from Oakland. They owned the Stephens Restaurant and Virginia their daughter, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post. Virginia went on to be the first African American woman to receive a law degree University of California Berkeley‘s Boalt School of Law in 1929.

Stephens Restaurant at 200 East 14th Oakland
Circa 1925 – photo by M.L. Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

The Stephens Family

William Stephens Circa 1901
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

William Stephens was born in 1870 in Accomack County, Virginia. He moved out to California while still a child and attended school in Oakland and San Francisco. After graduation, he completed coursework at Heald College before taking a job with the Southern Pacific Railway in 1886. Beginning as a Sleeping Car Porter, he worked his way up to a clerkship under H.E. Huntington, assistant to the company’s President.

In 1894 he lived at 1132 Linden Street in West Oakland.

In 1898, Stephens resigned from Southern Pacific and took a position with the Crocker family, traveling with them throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through these travels, Stephens learned about the hotel and restaurant business.

Pauline Stephens circa 1898
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

In 1901, he married Pauline Logan (1874-1929) of Tehama California.

Pauline gave birth to one daughter, Annie Virginia (who went by Virginia), on April 7, 1903. Due to his daughter’s health problems as a young girl, Stephens resigned from his post with the Crockers and began working at an Oakland social club. He moved on from this position in 1915 to manage the Clubhouse at the Hotel Del Monte Golf and Country Club in Monterey County.

Pauline died in May of 1929

Oakland Tribune May 24, 1929

William died November 21, 1932

Oakland Tribune Nov 22, 1931

Stephens Restaurant

Group of men standing in front of Stephens’ Restaurant & Lunch Room at 110 East 14th circa 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Eventually Stephens opened his own restaurant in Oakland. Known as Stephens’ Restaurant, it grew from small quarters into a large establishment seating over 200 people, occupying three locations near Lake Merritt.

William Stephens (right) and employee inside Stephens’ Restaurant circa 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the restaurant enjoyed great success and was usually filled to capacity. Stephens took great delight in employing African American high school and college students so they could earn money for their education.

The final location of the restaurant was 200 East 14th (now International Blvd) at 2nd Ave. I am not sure when it closed as it was still in business after Stephens died in 1932

Stephens Restaurant – 1925
Photo By ML Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Oakland Tribune 1930

Virginia Stephens

Stephen’s daughter, Virginia, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post.

Virginia Stephens on the left -The Jewel City, San Francisco, 1915:
PIPE – 100 Years
Oakland Tribune May 01 1952

Virginia attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924.

Graduation Portrait of Virginia Stephens – 1929
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Encouraged by her father to attend law school, she enrolled in Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and earned a degree in 1929. At that time she was only the second woman to receive a law degree from the school and the first African American woman to complete the program.  Virginia passed the California Bar in the same year, the first African American female attorney in California.

1929 Bar Card
MS005_B01_F01_004
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

While at Berkeley, Virginia and Ida L. Jackson were charter members Rho Chapter in 1921 and Alpha Nu Omega, a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. These were among the first Greek sororities for African American women west of the Mississippi.

Members of Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, University of California, Berkeley (left-right): Virginia Stephens, Oreatheal Richardson, Myrtle Price (in back), Ida Jackson (sorority president), Talma Brooks, and Ruby Jefferson (1921), 
 African American Museum and Library at Oakland. 

Virginia married attorney George Coker (1906-1970). The Cokers helped tutor African American students for the State bar exams. They moved to Virginia and maintained a private law practice there for almost a decade.

In 1939 after working in private practice for ten years they moved back to California settling in Sacramento. Virginia received an appointment as Attorney in the State Office of the Legislature Council in Sacramento in May, 1939. In this capacity, she helped with drafting and amending legislative bills, and worked under four different legislative councils:

Virginia Stephens Cokerundated
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Upon her retirement in 1966, Virginia had attained the position of Deputy of the Indexing Section. Virginia died in Sacramento at the age of 83 on February 11, 1986.

More of the Stephens Family

The End

Posted in Business, Early Montclair, Montclair, Montclair Tracts, Real Estate

Montclair Realty – Pioneers of the Hills

In 1924 brothers Paul and Herman Pause formed Montclair Realty Co. Before that Paul worked for the Realty Syndicate.

Paul amd Herman Pause

The business district of Montclair looked like this when Montclair Realty was formed. Cos. Williams a builder was the only other business at that time.

Sales offices of real estate broker and home builder Cos Williams
in the undeveloped Montclair circa 1925
Photo by Cheney Photo Advertising
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.
Oakland Tribune 1929

In 1932 they moved into their new offices at 6466 Moraga Avenue. The building was occupied by B. Brooks another real estate agent. The building is still standing in 2019.

Oakland Tribune 1932
Montclair Realty Office in 1940

6466 Moraga Avenue – 2019

Montclair Highlands

Montclair Highlands “All the World No View Like his”

In 1928 Montclair Realty was the developer and selling agents for a new tract behind the business district of Montclair. One of the first homes was the “Model View Home” built in 1928. Please see my page on this – The Highest Home in Oakland

In Montclair Highlands 1928

10th Anniversary

In the 1934 Montclair Realty celebrated their 10th anniversary. During this time they specialized in the development of the Montclair area. Oakland Tribune 1934

They worked on the following tracts:

They opened Piedmont Uplands a new tract along Moraga Avenue at Maxwelton Road. The land was owned by the Henry Maxwell family who ran a dairy called Maxwelton Farm. Before that is was the picnic grounds of Blair Park.

Montclair in 1937

Below is an aerial of Montclair’s business district in 1937. – Oakland Tribune Jul 18, 1937

Oakland Tribune 1937

In 1936 Paul Pause was the President of the Montclair Improvement Club for 1937. – Oakland Tribune Dec 12,1936

13th Anniversary

Oakland Tribune July 1937

In 1937 Paul Pause announced that Montclair Realty Company had a new home. The new two-story building was designed by Harvey Slocombe in true Spanish style, complete with patio and tile roof. Howard Gilkey designed the garden.

Dramatically different the Pent House Model home brings to you “Ideas of 1938” in colorful interior finishes and modern furnishings. – Oakland Tribune 1937

Montclair Realty Staff and Pent House Living Room 1936 vd
New Montclair Realty Office – Oakland Tribune 1937

The building was demolished in 1961 to make room for the expansion the Standard Station next door.

Montclarion April 16,1961

Silver Anniversary – 1949

Paul Pause was a founding member of the Montclair Improvement Club. He was a member of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce residential committee and its highway and transportation committee. He was also a member of the Commonwealth Club.

Oakland Tribune 1949

Death and New Owners

Paul Pause died in 1950. He was an important figure in the development of Montclair since the beginning.

Oakland Tribune 1950

Lucille Chasnoff purchased the company some time after Pause died in 1950. John Mallett purchased the company from her.

Oakland Tribune 1960

New Office in 1954-56

In 1954 a new office building was built at 2084 Mountain Blvd. Montclair Realty offices were on the ground floor. It was the only office building that had its own off-street parking. The offices featured gold walls with charcoal woodwork with built in desks and partitions. In 2019 a brand new building replaces the old and outdated Montclair Realty Office Building.

Oakland Tribune April 1956
Montclarion 1956
Montclarion 1956
2084 Mountain Blvd – Google Maps 2011

Different Logos –

Free Map

The End

Posted in Business, Model/Display Homes, Montclair, Real Estate

Home Tour of Montclair – 1937

Oakland Tribune Oct 22, 1937
  1. 5335 Estates Drive
  2. 5664 Thornhill Drive
  3. 1731 Mountain Blvd
  4. 6025 Bruns Drive
  5. Liggett Drive
  6. 2645 Camino Lenada
  7. Montclair Realty Offices- 6540 Moraga Ave
  8. Emge and Stockman Offices – Mountain and LaSalle
  9. Winder & Gahan Office – 6500 Moraga Ave

C.W. Leekins – 6054 La Salle Ave

Home Tour of the Hills District

Prominent real estate companies and builders in Montclair held a an “open-house” week during of the Oakland National Home Show held October 22- 30, 1937. Oakland Tribune Oct 22, 1937

The following is a list of the sponsors:

  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • Montclair Realty Company
  • Herbert A. Richardson – builder
  • Emge and Stockman Realtor
  • Winder & Gahan – developers

C.W. Leekins Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
  • 2645 Camino Lenada
  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • 1937
  • $7250
Oakland Tribune 1964 – $32,750
2645 Camino Lenada St – Google Maps
  • 5335 Estates Drive
  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • 1937
  • 1731 Mountain Blvd
  • C.W. Leekins – builder
  • 1937
  • $6750
1731 Mountain Blvd – Google maps

H. A Richardson Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
  • 6025 Bruns Drive
  • H.A. Richardson – builder
  • 1937
  • $13,000
Oakland Tribune Oct 17 1937
SF Examiner 1985 $279,500
6025 Bruns Court Google Maps

Montclair Realty Company Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
  • 5664 Thornhill Drive
  • F.H. Slocombe – Architect
  • L.A. Larson – builder
  • 1937
  • $6850
Oakland Tribune Aug 1937
Oakland Tribune 1938

Emge & Stockman Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937

Winder & Gahan Sponsored

Oakland Tribune Oct 1937
Posted in Business, History, Montclair, People, Uncategorized

Freeway Variety

Freeway Variety
Photo by Bill Boyd

C 1978

If you grew up the Montclair District of Oakland from 1956 to about 1990 you shopped at Freeway Variety.

The Montclarion March 1956

Freeway Variety opened in March of 1956. It was owned and operated by partners Cy Fritz and David Iventosch. They both had experience running the same type of stores in Berkeley.

The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956

In 1957 Iventosch bought out his partner Fritz.

The Montclarion Apr 17 1957
The Montclarion Apr 17 1957
The Montclarion May 1957
Basket from Freeway Variety

I felt the best way to describe this most beloved and dearly missed variety store is by sharing memories of it which were detailed in a Facebook group.   The group is lovingly called  Forgotten Montclair.  It is dedicated to preserving and sharing the memories of growing up in the Montclair District of Oakland, California.

Laura C: I bought my Beautiful Crissy doll there, in elementary school, along with my camping cookware for Brownie camp. When I graduated to high school, I bought my powder blue gym clothes there.

Joanne G: Freeway Variety was “candy land” heaven to me!  My mom never let me have candy growing up – not ever once being able to trick or treat. So if I was ever able to ride my bike up to Freeway Variety from lower Broadway Terrace (all uphill)! The Now or Later were my first choice after a spin around the store to take in the isles of crazy stuff

Joan G

Todd E: Lived in Montclair 1970 – 1992. Freeway Variety was like the ultimate dive bar of five and dimes. It was kind of dark with low ceilings, but it was comfy. It felt a little bit like a place where you could buy a Gremlin from some ancient guy in the back where all the wicker baskets hung from the ceiling.  There were nuances to Freeway Variety that can never be replicated anywhere else. There was nothing funnier than riding your BMX down that strange concrete slope and dropping your bike down and entering the store in one fluid motion. It’s the place where I thought Army Men and those little parachute dudes where born. It had all the romantic stuff of childhood, candy, cards, Slurpee, video games, toys, Choose Your Own Adventure Books, a whole section on Movie Novelizations (with pictures in the middle!), strange arcane stuff like rabbit’s feet and real Mexican Jumping Beans.To me, the basic concept of what 1 mile is will always be the walk from my house over by Joaquin Miller School to Freeway Variety.

Christopher W

Christopher W:  Ah there it is, my favorite store growing up in Montclair. While my mom shopped at Lucky’s I would be down at Freeway Variety looking for everything from match cars, Pez dispensers, loved the chocolate ones, and when I was really small, I would get a quarter and ride the horse in the front. Good times

Cherie L: We would walk down there from Westwood Way. Buster brown socks. Schools supplies. Candy you name it. Lived in Montclair from 1959 to 1982. 

Stephanie W: Florence was my auntie

Nanette: I loved Freeway Variety! The old creaky wood floor that sloped down. You could get art (my favorite), craft, and school supplies. And of course where we got our Wacky Packs!!!!·    

Susan S: Look what I found cleaning out my closet

Dennis J: Does anyone remember the ladies of Freeway Variety store? Florence, Winnie, Mildred, and May.  I worked there after school and weekends. Coolest boss ever: Big David Iventosch. My first real job!!!

Helene C: Loved everything about Freeway Variety. The smell of popcorn, candy, turtle pond scum. The only place where you could get candy, washcloths, home goods, toys, candy, an iron, a picture frame, valentines, Christmas cards, canning jars, toy guns, turtles, popcorn, and candy. And those old ladies behind the counter. A golden childhood staple and memory. I pity everyone else.

Erik H:  Florence always gave me extra on my Icee. But you introduced me to the “Suicide “flavored slush.

Dena M: I remember we would all go there to pick out our Halloween costumes and buy wax harmonicas.

Susan S: Look what I found cleaning out my closet

Jan D: The ladies used to follow us around the store, thinking we were going to steal something!

Donna:   I still have my Ink bottles and pens.

Lara: I loved getting presents from here. Thanks to my mom, this is dated. I guess that means I am too! 33 years ago . . .

Donna:   I still have my Ink bottles and pens.

The End

Posted in Business, Early Montclair, History, People

The First Store in Montclair

Recently someone asked about when 7-Eleven came to Montclair. Which was about 1958.

I thought I would go back a little farther and tell you about the first store in Montclair.

A little history…

In 1925 the land that 7-Eleven is now on was bought by a man named Otto Schuneman. Mr. Schuneman then built a store. His store was a combination fountain and grocery store and a service station in front.

From 1935

The original building is still standing behind the 7-11 store.

Showing the location of the first store

I haven’t been able to find any photos of the store or the station.

Funk’s Grocery – 1930-1940

In March of 1930, Davis L. Funk leased the store from Schuneman and bought out his remaining stock. Mr. Funk had owned a couple other stores in Oakland.

He called his store Funk’s Grocery.

The Funk family lived at 5677 Thornhill in the mid to late 30s to early 40s.

In the early 1960s the Montclair Presbyterian Church next door bought the house from the owners.

My ex-husband and I worked for the church from 1983- 1987 and we got to live in the house.

This house, grocery store and the Thorn Road Bible School (now Montclair Presbyterian) were all built in 1925-27.

Note – Montclair Presbyterian Church (MPC) was formed in March of 1930 as was the Montclair Library http://oaklandlibrary.org/events/montclair-branch/come-celebrate-montclair-librarys-85th-anniversary-us .

1941 Directory for Montclair

Montclair Food Center 1940-1957

In 1940 Funk took on a partner his son-law Malcom “Scotty” Hodge the husband of his daughter Lenore and the store was re-named the Montclair Food Center.

Funk and Hodge ran the store together until Funk died in 1949 his home on Grisborne Avenue, behind the store.

Oakland Tribune 1949

Hodge and his wife continued on after that until 1957 when they couldn’t work out a new lease with the owner Otto Schuneman. My thought is…it was because he could make more money leasing it to Speedee Mart

Montclarion 1957
Montclarion 1957

When the store closed down in 1957 it was the last one Montclair that had maintained a credit and delivery service. Montclair Food Center was more than just a store to many of the customers of 20 years or more.

By 1957 Montclair was also changing. Payless Grocery Store (soon to be Luckys) and LaSalle Avenue Market were located in the business district and soon a new Safeway would be built.

Speedee Mart 1958-1966?

In about 1958 the store was leased by Speedee Mart Corporation.

In 1964 the parent company of the 7-Eleven Stores bought all the Speedee Mart franchises in California.

They began slowly changing the name to 7-Eleven (7-11)

The End