From The Archives: Salvage Yards

Tulare California Salvage Yard

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The automotive graveyard really isn’t a new thing and people have been hoarding cars and parts from the very birth of the automobile, but it isn’t something we tend to give much thought to. Finding photos or information about the early junkyards is rather difficult, but reader Wally G recently shared some links to old photos in the Yale University photograph archive of scrap yards and collections of parts dating back into the ’30s and ’40s. They don’t have much information on them, but they do provide the basic locations and years the photos were taken! The one above was taken in Tulare, California in May 1939 and can be found here at Yale’s Photogrammar.

Tulare California Wrecks in 1939

Here is another close up shot of some of the cars at the Tulare yard. As you can see, these cars appear to have been in fender benders and had already been parked for a while when this photo was taken. I wonder if this salvage yard is still around today? Find the original photo here.

Detroit Auto Graveyard

Wally also shared a few links to photos taken at a graveyard in Detroit sometime in 1941. With the war in full swing, a lot of cars were melted down to build weapons and war machines. I assume that most, if not all, of these cars ended up being melted down. Looking at this photo, I see several cars that would be prized today by collectors! This Detroit scrapyard snapshot can be found here.

East Eslip Wrecking Yard

There are a lot of photos I could feature from Photogrammar, but this one taken of a mountain of parts at a wrecking yard in East Islip, Suffolk, New York will be the last one for today. Based on this disorganized pile of parts, I think it went from being a scrapyard to a hoarder nest! I want to thank Wally for sharing these photos with us and letting us know about this amazing archive of American photos. I could easily spend a day just browsing through these photos! If you have any old pre war car photos, please share.

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  1. Jim

    I LOVE wrecking yards but rarely get to peruse them these days. We have “pick-ur-parts” yards here in SoCal and for 2 bucks you can walk the lot and pull parts for yourself with no one looking over your shoulder. No need to deal with old grumpy a** wipes that act like its a gift from God if they let you look at their junk cars.

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  2. socaljoe

    The best yard I know of is French Lake MN. Still lots of old cars and you can walk all over the place.

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    • Rev Rory

      French Lake ?! I grew up on French Lake. Talk to me! Learned how to water ski behind a 14′ Crestliner with a 22 horse Merc. And have many fond memories of the place…

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  3. jim s

    went to junk yards from time i could walk until late 1990s. not sure why i stopped going. over the years kept a lot of vehicles running on used parts.

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  4. guggie

    in 1964 had a 55 merc that needed a carborator , Dad took me to the local junk yard , guy let us walk the yard came out with nothing , stood their talking to the owner of the junk yard about our luck , my father looks down sees a choke cable picks it up and pulls a carborator out of the sand just like we need , we all start laughing , the owner of the yard says give me a quarter and its yours . We take it home dad puts it in his parts cleaner , blows out all the sand and gunk , it cleaned up pretty good , we put it on the Merc and with a little adjusting it worked , true story . Kinda wish I had that 55 Merc now !!

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    • James Walker

      I have a similar story
      When I was a kid I went to a auto wrecker with my dad we couldn’t find what we wanted then as we were leaving my dad saw the piece we needed buried in the dirt
      He dug it out and asked the owner how much
      the guy said $10 and my dad said it was buried and if he hadn’t found it the guy would never have sold it
      The Wrecker said it wasn’t worth anything till we needed it.

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  5. Woodie Man

    The second picture of the two vehicles, maybe a Pontiac on the left, was taken by the most famous photojournalist of the Depression Era, Dorothea Lange. Heres a web site with her work. Also her most famous picture is above

    Click here: The History Place – Dorothea Lange Photo Gallery: Migrant Farm Families

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    • bob

      I think the car on the left in the second picture is a ’38 chev.

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      • Woodie Man

        I was close lol

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  6. Woodie Man

    Heres the web site for Dorothea Lange’s work

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    • bob

      I visit about once a week.Dorothea Lange’s work often shows up there.
      Interesting site.

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      • Woodie Man

        Bob: Thanks for the site! Great stuff!

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  7. JW

    Because my first couple cars as a teenager were $200 beaters I spent a lot of time in junkyards. Some owners were cool others were complete jerks, I laugh when the term comes up Junkyard Dog as I remember them well usually a Doberman or Rottweiler. Now all the ones around are the Pick & Pull which actually are pretty nice compared to the old dirt pits of yesterday.

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  8. pontiactivist

    I wish I knew what happened to my gramma’s box of photos. My grandfather used to have a hundred or so old cars on their field. He had a garage for years and parts out of the field. This was in the 50’s all the way to the late 70’s. Was always some cool cars for us kids to play in. There was a picture of me at like three or four play driving a model a roadater. Along with many many other old cars.

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  9. Tara

    There are very few yards over here in the UK that will let you walk around and remove parts yourself, the best one in St Helens. Merseyside is G+E Breakers, when he gets the old ones in he puts them in a separate area and only crushes them when everything has gone off them.

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  10. cliffyc

    You look at these amazing old images. Those old wrecked cars,seeing them,you wonder if the occupants survived,or not…. . Great pictures,so many stories and maybe a few ghosts… . Thanks for sharing.

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