I worked in Downtown Oakland a long time ago. I was a long stringy haired party at night, sleep in late guy back then who knew as much about banking as I did about quantum physics, but the father of a girl friend of mine who worked for Bank of America got me a job at the Oakland Main Branch and this turned out to be some of the best years of my life. I took BART there yesterday between rain storms to walk around and think back on those days.
I worked at Bank of America on 12th and Broadway, in a building seen on the right from an early 1900s postcard. A tower was added to the building in the 1920s, and when I worked there it was owned by the San Francisco Giants owner at the time, Bob Lurie. The area, which was in decline when I worked there, had become even more uncomfortable by the 1990’s, but they’ve done a nice job of rejuvenating things around this part of town since then.
A half a block or so from the building we worked in was and is DeLauer’s. This was a great store for buying snacks, cigarettes, or any of the culturally significant photography magazines like Playboy that we guys bought for their interesting articles. The vintage picture is dated 1935. I didn’t think Kay Jewelers went back that far, but I looked it up and it goes back to 1916! (The Trip Beautiful website)
14th Street and Jefferson, down from the City Hall Building in 1915: Back when I worked in the area, if you wandered too far off Broadway you could end up being listed as “overdue and presumed lost”, but this part of town’s a lot quieter today. (Worthpoint.com)
San Pablo Avenue and 17th, looking toward the Oakland Tribune Building. The vintage picture would have to be in 1943, that’s when ‘Sahara’ was released. It’s one of my favorite Humphrey Bogart movies, a tough war movie that holds up well today, and has a refreshing role for a black actor, Rex Ingram, whose character is portrayed as both brave and intelligent. That wasn’t the norm for the usual stereotyping of blacks in 1943. The Esquire Theater, opened in 1916, was demolished in 1953. It was where the New Parish and the Curry Up Now restaurant are today. You can still see the Oakland Tribune Building peeking out in the center of my picture. (University of California Archives)
Telegraph at 19th Avenue in 1941: This is another area where they’re taking steps in the right direction. If you wandered around this area after dark when I worked here, you were probably a masochist! That part of the building on the left is the now reopened Fox Theater which was closed and abandoned when I worked in Oakland. (The Oakland Tribune)
The old fountain where Telegraph Avenue comes into Broadway:
Smith’s Men’s Department Store on the corner of 14th Street and Broadway in the late 1960s: When I was twenty two I bought an overcoat at Smith’s; it cost me 75 bucks! That was a lot of money when I was twenty two. (It’s a lot of money now) I still have that coat and I wore it to Downtown Oakland yesterday when I took these pictures. Smith’s is long gone now, and the part of the building the store was in is empty.
Charlie Chaplin was just starting to make his name in the movies when he came to Downtown Oakland to make a short comedy with Ben Turpin called ‘A Night Out in 1915. Some of the scenes were filmed here in what was once ritzy apartment neighborhood near Lake Merritt.
When Chaplin made his movie in Oakland he stayed at the old Oakland Hotel on 13th. The mammoth building had become a hospital by World War Two, but was closed and abandoned by the time I worked in Oakland. We liked to go down there and make-out on the old benches in front of the building. Yeah, I used to do that too! It’s back open again and is thriving as a retirement center, and I didn’t see anybody making out there yesterday!