Cypress Freeway

The Cypress Freeway was just one of the urban developments that struck a fatal blow to an already embattled West Oakland.

Built in the 1950’s, the construction of the freeway effectively severed West Oakland from the downtown and from Oakland’s more affluent communities. By the time the freeway arrived, West Oakland was already facing economic hardship. During WWII, people came to Oakland from all over the United States to find jobs in Oakland’s shipyards and transit stations. Once the war ended, the boom began to bust. Continue reading “Cypress Freeway”

Slim Jenkins’ Place

Founded in 1933 by Slim Jenkins, Slim Jenkins’ Place began as little more than a corner juke joint. Under Jenkins’ disciplined hand, it soon became the premiere club in 7th Street’s blues and jazz orbit, widely recognized as West Oakland’s favorite nightspot.  Jenkins wanted to create a place where clientele of all races could listen to music, dance, and enjoy themselves. And enjoy they did. Continue reading “Slim Jenkins’ Place”

Tom Bowden

From his house on Wood Street, young Tom Bowden watched weary porters and sailors trudge home toward 7th Street’s boarding houses. As a boy he shined shoes for a nickel and later racked pins at the local bowling alley. As he got older, Bowden didn’t just play music on 7th Street. He knew the place; watched the people; understood how his little corner of 7th Street worked. He is often referred to as “The Mayor of Wood Street.”

Continue reading “Tom Bowden”