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On Oakland and the Bay Area

Oakland Tribune, 1 November 1938

Longtime readers may recall that Groceteria.com was born in San Francisco, where I lived from 1992 to 2005. In fact, the San Francisco location list was the first one on the site, followed by Sacramento and Stockton, so I guess Northern California will always seem like a homebase for the site. San Jose, Santa Rosa, and parts of San Mateo, Alameda, and Solano Counties are more recent additions.

One part of the Bay Area has always been conspicuously absent is Oakland and Berkeley. It’s not for lack of effort or interest on my part. In fact, I started an East Bay list more than twenty years ago. But there was a problem. As you know if you’ve read my methodology, my primary source is city directories — not the telephone directories but the Polk (and affiliates) directories. In Oakland, however, there were no city directories published between 1943 and 1967 nor after 1969. This seemed an almost insurmountable problem. I consulted telephone directories, but they tend to be incomplete and almost useless in large urban areas. For example. Safeway did not list any of its store locations in the telephone book; they simply listed one central phone number. I was able to get some names and locations from the phone books, but my estimate was that this would produce a list that was maybe 30-40% complete.

A while back, I finally sprung for the “top level” subscription to Newspapers.com (cheaper than Netflix and far more entertaining) and that’s how I was actually able to finish Oakland after twenty years. It was incredibly labor-intensive and I probably would not be as successful using this approach for an area where I’m not as familiar with the chains and the cities. I scoured ads for the chains, articles about openings and shopping centers, and other sources, and I have finally come up with what I think is a pretty good list of locations in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and Piedmont. Is it perfect? Probably not. Are there omissions? Probably so. Is it the absolute best I think I can do right now? Absolutely. I’m hoping it’s about 90-95% accurate according to my standards. I’m quite proud of it. And it was fun doing Bay Area research again.

I also used this as an excuse to update some of the other Bay Area lists as well.

So please dive in and enjoy!

Boston and more

Just a quick update to mention that I have greatly expanded the Boston listings, taking them back to 1925, and adding Cambridge. I also was recently in Boston taking pictures and generally roaming about the city. I’ll get more of these photos added later, but you may have already seen a good chunk of them if you follow me on Twitter, which you should.

I’m also actively tagging photos with the goal of getting a huge proportion of my collection online within the next year. More on that later.

Site Issues

Just FYI, there was apparently a problem with an older WordPress plugin that I have now disabled. It was causing some strange page artifacts in Chrome and Firefox.

I have disabled several photo galleries in the process and I honestly don’t have time to fix them right now. It may be next week on that.

Let me know if you have problems!

About travel (pandemic and otherwise)

As those of you who follow me on Twitter are already well aware, I’m currently in Chicago. Since Canada was off the table this year, I reworked my October vacation in a very socially distant sort of way. As it happens, this is not really all that different from the way I usually travel. But some specifics, in case you were wondering:

  • Obviously I would never visit anyplace where travel is restricted for me. The city of Chicago has a current travel ban, requiring 14-day quarantines for visitors from 21 states. Mine is not among them. (Note: As of today that is changing on the day after I depart.)
  • On my regular trips, I minimize contact with other people. Now I do even more of that. I spend almost all my time either in my hotel or in my car exploring. I avoid crowds and I don’t go inside nearly as many stores as I normally might. I’m also skipping transit and not on foot as much as I would normally be.
  • I get rooms where I can make some of my own meals and do takeout or drive-thru for most of the rest, or eat outside where that’s an option. I think I have eaten inside at a restaurant all of six or seven times since March, and in almost all cases the place was nearly or completely empty at the time.
  • I am (of course) masked any time I’m around other people, as is any decent human being who cares about other human beings.
  • I’m opting out of daily room cleaning in any hotel that still has it as an option.

Again, I’m not a terribly social person when I travel in general, so most of this is not a stretch for me, aside from the obvious transit and restaurant issues. That said, this seems like a good time to talk about how I travel in general:

  • My primary activity when I travel is exploration. Cities fascinate me and I like to explore neighborhoods and streets. Supermarkets are a big part of it, and this site has definitely pushed me to explore in much more intensive ways than I used to, but finding supermarket sites is only art of the mix. As often as not, I don’t have a set agenda or list of stores I hope to see; that makes travel seem too much like work. Sometimes there are some specific stores I want to shoot. Usually I just shoot what I find in the areas I visit. The discovery is a big part of the fun.
  • I do usually hit the library when I visit a new city where I haven’t done research (assuming there’s no global pandmeic at the time).
  • I may stay in the city or the suburbs, depending on any number of factors. I usually do chain hotels because I don’t like surprises where I sleep.
  • I do like surprises where I eat and I tend to avoid chain restaurants, unless it’s a quirky regional chain or a largely defunct one (or something like the last remaining White Tower in Toledo).
  • I hate flying. I’m big, it’s uncomfortable, and I avoid it whenever possible.
  • I try to do backroads when it’s feasible and when there’s actually something to see on them other than trees.
  • I find the countryside to be a tremendous inconvenience that one is forced to cope with when traveling between two cities. Nature is not my thing.

(BTW, the photo above was taken in Macy’s Marshall Field. Crowd were most decidedly not an issue there, which says a lot.)

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