Ye Olden Oakland Days


By J. S. Gilmore

(Contributed by Oakland Pioneers - No. 34)

J. J. O'Brien, a popular firm in San Francisco in the early '70's, opened up a branch house in Oakland at the southwest corner of Broadway and Thirteenth streets, but which was discontinued after being in business for several years. Abrahamson Bros. began business in his store and remained there until they moved to their own building at the southeast corner of Washington and Thirteenth streets.

Among the other early day firms who are now out of business were: Salinger Bros. on Broadway between Eleventh and Twelfth streets; Beele Bros., P. Flynn, J. A. Joyce, Kennedy & McShane, Schwab & Heidet, Gilmore & Co., John Hanley, Dick & Co., Reinach & Co., and S. Adler.

H. C. Capwell's Lace House began business at the southwest corner of Washington and Twelfth streets where they remained until they moved into their own building on Clay street, between Fourteenth and Fifteenth.

Long before the Overland trains came, and while Oakland was still a country town. many San Francisco business men became convinced that because of its balmy climate, fine soil, flowers and trees, it was an ideal place to live and bring up their families, and they came in great numbers and erected elegant homes. 

As there were no street cars every family had some sort of a horse-drawn vehicle and some member of the family, often one of the daughters, drove to Broadway and Seventh street to meet "dad." Many of these old-timers had sporting blood in their veins and on their way home they were not averse to a little brush of a mile or two with some neighbor. The younger element was not slow in catching on, with the result that old Dobbin got a brush, both coming and going, as Mary Smith made up bir mind that Sally Jones, with her old wind-broken plug. should not beat her to the 5 o'clock train. Sometimes a runaway and smash-up would occur, but it only added zest to the game. Along about 4 o'clock rigs of all sorts were lined up on both sides or Broadway, end this was the busy hour of the storekeepers.

Sometimes the old one-lunged locomotive would jump the track on the way up from the Point and the commuters would have to wait until Conductor Dusinbury and the train crew got her back on the rails as the railroad company had no wrecking crew. Some who were in a hurry would start and hike through the thick sand, declaring that they would move back to San Francisco, but they never did, as there were more than enough advantages here to offset an occasional mishap like this.

While the stores began to take on big city ideas very early, they hung on the country town idea of keeping open late at night. This was due to some extent to the fact that Oakland possessed no regular places of amusement, and after dinner, it was the custom for the women to take their husbands down Broadway, window-shopping,. dropping into their favorite store to inspect the latest styles from Paris and elsewhere and get the latest town gossip from the clerks who were supposed to know, and generally did know, all the latest scandals and family secrets.

This the clerk was able to secure by keeping his ears open when two women met in the store. These long hours, however, were a little irksome on the clerk whose only chance to see his best girl was on Sunday evening, unless she came to see him, which was not unusual. As a blind, she generally took home a few samples, "to show mother." Of course the boss was not supposed to be wise to this little ruse.

(To be continued.)

By J. S Gilmore
No. 34
Ye Olden Oakland Days

EARLY DAY DRYGOODS STORES By J. S Gilmore No. 34 Ye Olden Oakland Days TO BLOG Sun, Mar 20, 1921 – Page 29 · Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) ·