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Fruit Cocktail, Minor League Baseball and Mai Tais?

Fruit Cocktail, Minor League Baseball and Mai Tais?

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Hope you're ready to join in the fun when Walt's Sierra Adventures when it departs  for Reno on Saturday, March 17th. Yes, that is St Patrick's Day but it isn't a wee joke of the little folks that has this trip starting in Emeryville that morning.

No, that fault lies a bit to the south. The San Andreas Fault to be precise. Before October 17th, 1989. Amtrak trains heading out of the Bay Area stopped at a station in Oakland. In a neighborhood whose prime had passed a long time back. Definitely not in the better part of town anymore.

After the Loma Preita earthquake, Amtrak was forced to relocate as the 16th Street Station was condemned, red tagged as not safe to occupy. Looking for a new station site, local governments used the lure of a new train station for the growing Capitol Corridor as a way to jump start redevelopment.

Oakland wanted to keep it's role as the main station for the Bay Area. Using a site across from Jack London Square seemed a good fit. Using the lure of shops and restaurants in a shiny new complex, a new train station on the tracks across the street would be just the ticket. Or would it?

Jack London Square from above

Enter Emeryville. It, too, was in the early stages of redevelopment. Changing from the "garden" district where the factories grew to more of a combination of residential and light industry seemed a great way to bring new revenues to old properties. And a new Amtrak station would make a great addition to all of that.

Oakland seemed to be the natural winner here. Trains from all points had come to that city for a long time. For many years, that meant a nice ride on the ferry across the Bay to the City. San Francisco. When the Bay Bridge (San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge), to be formal opened on November 12, 1936, buses could and did make the trip from their connections with trains. The last ferry steamed out of town on July 29, 1958.

The Bay Bridge under construction in 1935

Even in the Amtrak days, a bus ride was what awaited train passengers after they arrived in Oakland. And the truth be told, that bus would have an easier time and a shorter trip if it went to Emeryville instead of Oakland's Jack London Square. That and the problems of bringing trains down the middle of the Embarcadero to start and end their trips. Just too much hassle.

Meanwhile, back in Emeryville... A long history of industrial uses. In 1890, there was a bit of everything here. Stockyards, an iron mill, a paint plant, plenty of warehouses, a racetrack and an amusement park. (If you ever get a chance to see Van Stroheim's 1924 film "Greed", that is indeed Emeryville where the family heads off to for a day of diversion.) But not much in the way of housing, churches or civic facilities.

Copyright 1924 Metro Goldwyn Mayer.
All rights reserved

That all changed when railroads came to town. The mainline of the Southern Pacific heading east passed through town. Competition came in 1902 when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe came through on it's way to Oakland and it's port. Streetcars and interuban electric trains offered commuters an easy way to travel from work to home. One of those companies even established it's headquarters in Emeryville with one of the largest railroad shop complexes in the West. Building and repairing railcars added to  the industrial tax base and brought plenty of jobs to this growing community.

And it was far from alone. From the City of Emeryville web site, "A special "Thirty-Third Anniversary Edition" of the Emeryville Herald published in 1929 listed over 100 companies that called Emeryville home including California Packing Corp., Fisher Body, Judson-Pacific, Oliver Tire and Rubber, Pacific Gas and Electric, Paraffin Paint Company, Pennzoil, Santa Fe Railroad, Shell Oil, Sherwin-Williams Paints, Southern Pacific, Standard Electric, Union Oil, Western Electric, and Westinghouse." All in all, plenty of things going on there. Residential neighborhoods came as those folks working in all those businesses decided to stay, too. That meant all of the usual civic improvements. Emeryville had gone from just a sleepy spot by the Bay to being a player in the local economy.

Look! Jobs on Park Street in Emeryville!!!

That California Packing Corporation? It late became part of the Del Monte Company. Canning fruits and vegetables that would find there way to tables across the West. On a nice little place called Park Street. Just down the block from the City Hall, too. Wonder how many cans of fruit cocktail came out of that place over the years?

And just up the block? How about the home of the Oakland Oaks? One of the classic baseball teams of the old Pacific Coast League. They played their games at Oaks Park at the corner of Park Street and San Pablo Avenue. Even had a guy named Casey Stengel managed the Oaks for a while. He might have had some experience at that, having managed for both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves. So go that he went back to the majors and managed the New York Yankees in 1949. Oaks Park lasted until 1957 when it was torn down to make room for a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant.

An aerial view of Park Street in Emeryville. Oaks Ball Park on the right and
the Del Monte Cannery to the left.

Not far away at Sixty Fifth Street and San Pablo Avenue, a young gentleman made a name for himself with a nice little bar and restaurant called Hinky Dinks. So much of a name that he ended up creating one of the classic bar concoctions of all times. You may know him better as Trader Vic and the cocktail? The Mai Tai, of course!

So... a long way to the end of this tale? Well, maybe, but if you decide to come to Emeryville to join us for Walt's Sierra Adventures, you should plan to explore a bit of this city. For example, that Del Monte Cannery and the former Oaks Ball Park? Why indeed, that is today's home to Pixar.

Sorry, not open for tours. You can just look in from Park Street.

And although you can't take a tour of the studio, you should certainly stop by Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe at the corner of Park Street and Hollis Street. It's got that vibe, that high energy spirit found across the street making everyone's favorite family films. And the food is pretty tasty, too!

Or for something a bit more relaxed, why not plan to stop by the Trader Vic's mothership location on Anchor Drive. Fun, good food and beverages await. Either at the bar or in the restaurant.

Oh, those old school Mai Tai's!

But don't stay out too late! You won't want to miss the train when we head east that Saturday morning. Plenty of good stories to be shared aboard about Walt and the adventures that could have been in store for guests to the Sierra resorts at Mineral King and Independence Lake. And Saturday night's Ice Cream Social has some surprises in store that you won't find anywhere else. Hope you can join us for all of the fun in store!

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