Doane Yawger: YouTube video is a blast from the past

December 7, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter


Traveling back in time is a familiar theme for sci-fi television programs and movies. Sometimes I wish I could beam myself back to a simpler, more innocent time, but that's all just fanciful thinking.

So imagine my surprise and elation last week when a friend sent me an e-mail with a link to a YouTube video called "Cruising Hollywood in 1957."

The five-minute, crystal-clear footage shot in color shows the hustle and bustle of downtown Hollywood, shot with steady hands through the front window of a car threading its way through fairly heavy traffic.

The scenes that unfold show the frenzied pace of a workday in the always-congested Los Angeles commercial area. Needless to say, there are a bumper crop of vintage cars and trucks for the viewer to enjoy.

Of course, at the time they were just run-of-the-mill vehicles, but 55 years later they are all gems.

Each time I look at the video, I notice something different.

A turquoise-colored 1956 Thunderbird roadster made a sharp left turn from Hollywood Boulevard, right in front of the car we're riding in and it was a near wreck.

A dark green early-1950s Chevrolet truck bearing the bell-shaped telephone company insignia also made a questionable left turn directly in front of us.

Of course, our chaperone made a quick right turn directly in front of a nurse and her friend in the crosswalk.

Close to a half-dozen pedestrians hurried across the street well after the traffic light had turned red against them.

So this proves bad habits from both pedestrians and drivers have been established for years.

There were plenty of 1956 and 1957 Cadillacs passing by, along with a light-purple 1956 Lincoln Premiere, a jade-green 1952 Mercury four-door sedan, 1949 Buick convertible, 1950 and 1951 Fords, a 1953 Chevrolet convertible and thousands of others.

A couple of Packards, a Metropolitan and some glitzy 1957 Mercury hardtops were common then but remarkable now.

Seeing these clips brought back 1957 memories of my own when I accompanied my parents on trips to downtown San Jose.

Parking spaces in front of the stores were hard to find, and it wasn't unusual to have to go around the block several times before a parking space appeared.

Then, the shopping malls were developed supposedly to make things easier. Now, shoppers go around and around at the malls there trying to find a place to park. I think it was more fun downtown.

Seeing a number of GM Twin Coach buses, like the ones I rode in San Jose, sure triggered the memories.

A companion black-and-white film from about 1953 had us cruising a residential area in Southern California; cars from the 1930s were spotted along the curb.

This Hollywood footage now conveyed through the Internet will provide me with plenty of memories from the 1950s. Time-travel thanks to some well-preserved footage from six decades ago is the next best thing to being there.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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