When I did my first post about San Pablo Avenue five years ago , I wrote: “San Pablo Avenue is our funkiest boulevard. South to North – it is the street, the avenue, the underbelly. For those of us inclined to romanticize urban life, San Pablo is as good as it gets. It is hard to imagine it being gentrified, but – possible.”
I was overly optimistic. I underestimated the power of money. Gentrification is happening much faster than I thought possible. The funky diversity that has been San Pablo Avenue is melting.
For most of us, historical Emeryville was train yards.
Once there was an amusement park near a huge shell mound leveled almost a hundred years ago.
The Oakland Oaks were a minor league baseball team in Oakland, California that played in the Pacific Coast League from 1903 through 1955,
Phil Allen, who worked at the Pepsi plant that replaced the Oaks’ park from 1979-1996, wrote this: “The longest measured home run was hit by Oak Ray Carlisle on that most classic of American dates: July 4, 1929. The great sluggers of recent generations hit their towering 550’+ homers (in contests or not) in huge stadiums; Ray’s shot was likely much shallower, as can be seen by the park’s grandstand. It stuck in a drainpipe, or it would have traveled farther than 618 feet.” Good knowledge!
On another Emeryville subject he wrote: “As I drove a hellish ten minute commute at night, I passed a thousand times on San Pablo the greatest liquor store (back-lit blade) sign ever: ‘Bottoms Up’. It featured the silhouette of a guy in a top hat killing a fifth, glurp glurp right out of the bottle. Why didn’t I photograph it?”
In 1920, Blue Star Amusement Park opened on Park Avenue between Horton and Holden Streets; it was purportedly the 1st dog-racing track to employ a mechanical rabbit
In the 1930s, the Emeryville Speedway, located at San Pablo Avenue and 47th Street, featured motorcycle and midget car racing
A Walk-A-Thon arena was opened in an abandoned factory on Park Avenue.
Quirky Berkeley deity Jim Milstead writes in a comment to my post about the neon sign on the Sherwin Williams Paint factory in Emeryville.
He wrote: “It seem to me that this contemporary signage represents the signs of times more than they represent the times of the signs… Apropos of which brings to mind the most famous sign in Emeryville history, the giant Sherwin Williams paint factory neon sign. It consisted of a huge multi-colored neon globe that must have stood at least 50’ tall with a neon paint can poised above it and had animated lettering that read ‘Sherwin Williams Covers The Earth’ that would appear in conjunction with a depiction of paint simultaneously dripping down the globe.It was an awesome bit of neon lighting with sophisticated switching for the animated effect.It never failed to fascinate me throughout my childhood and I grieved its demise.” When Jim wrote “apropos” I smiled, remembering his late wife who was prone to say “apropos de rein” as she changed subjects.
One small story that reminds us of good – Marshawn Lynch buying Scends Soul Food in Emeryville to keep it alive. I don’t know nothing about football, but I know perfect crazy when I see it,, and Marshawn Lynch is that. Gavin Newsome introduced me to Marshawn’s mother three years ago. NAMEDROPPING!
Emeryville more than any of it neighbors has given itself over to developers. The Santa Fe Freight Yard and Depot were too much to resist. Bay Street epitomizes the Absolute Worst New Design Ethic of the East Bay – really bad. Can it swallow Emeryville?
Neighborhood reaction to the development has been mixed.
Meanwhile – back at Quirky Berkeley – I hope to photograph and preserve the funky of San Pablo Avenue, from Oakland north to Crockett before greed and banal design supplant the authentic and funky. Emeryville cuts into San Pablo Avenue with Oakland on both the north and south.
Let’s start at the southern end of San Pablo Avenue’s run through Emeryville. If we look south, we see Oakland and this –
Moving north, here are the signs of non-chain stores on San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville:
For the history of this business, see this.
Perhaps you remember the post that I wrote about Lanesplitter in Berkeley and its action figure doll displays?
This sign is attached to the Liquor Barn, shown in full splendor at the beginning of this post.
I showed the draft post to my friend. He handed me this photo.
He said, “Paronomasia is another word for ‘pun.’ Puns can be based on the intentional use of homophonic, homographic, metonymic, or figurative language. In the early 18th century, Samuel Johnson agreed with John Dryden who said that a pun can ‘torture one poor word ten thousand ways.’ Johnson agreed, calling puns the lowest form of humor. Oscar Levant made an important clarification when he said ‘A pun is the lowest form of humor – when you don’t think of it first.'”
I praised the no outlet photograph, the person who designed the electrical outlet on the traffic barrier, and my friend’s knowledge of pun lore. I asked, with all due respect, what he thought of the signs of San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville?”