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C.A. Hall, Hall Auto Top Shop, Hall's Top Shop
C.A. Hall, 1920s-1930s; C.A. Hall Auto Tops, 1930s-1940s; Hall Auto Top Shop (aka Hall’s Top Shop), 1940s-1958; Oakland, Calif.
Associated Firms
Barris Bros., Harry Westergard

In Southern California two firms gained a reputation for constructing chopped, padded hardtops for custom cars in the decade immediately following the end of the Second World War. Glen Houser's Carson Top Shop, was the originator of the style, which was soon replicated by numerous firms of which Gaylord's was the second most well-known. 

In northern California, the go-to guy was Oakland’s Calvin A. Hall (b.1901-d. 1979). Hall was a seasoned veteran of the auto top business, having established his business during the early 1920s. His worked changed with the times, and when local hot rodders wanted padded Carson-style tops, he supplied them.

Calvin A. Hall was born on December 11, 1901 in Mink Creek, Idaho to Andrew G. and Martha Lavine (Olsen) Hall, his father was born in Denmark, his mother in Mantua, Box Elder County, Utah Territory. The 1910 US Census lists the family in Preston, Oneida County, Idaho and soon after they relocated to Oakland, Alameda County, California where Calvin was enrolled in the public schools, graduating from high school in 1918. His first job was as a stage rigger at the Oakland shipyards and sometime during the early 1920s he took a position as an apprentice trimmer at the Victory Auto Painting and Top Co., at 901 E. 14th st., Oakland, Calif., whose principals included Jack Francis and Harry Barson.

Victory often placed classified ads in the Oakland Tribune:

“VICTORY Auto Painting, specializing in Enamel Rite and Bake Enamel. 901 E. 14 st. Mer 4947.”

Victory’s owners had a falling out in 1923, the news being reported in the January 24, 1923 Oakland Tribune:

“NOTICE OF NON-RESPONSIBILITY - I, the undersigned, have bought the interest of Jack Francis in partnership of Victory Auto Painting and Top Co., located at 901 E. 14th st., Oakland, California, and am in no way responsible for any debts or obligations contracted thereon by him. All outstanding bills must be presented on or before Feb. 1st. (Signed) E. G. GARRITY”

Shortly thereafter Hall began to advertise on his own, his first listing appeared in the 1925 Oakland Directory under ‘Automobile Tops’:

“C.A. Hall - 72nd and E. 14th, Oakland. CA.”

The 1927 and 1928 Oakland Directories list him under ‘Automobile Top Manufacturers’ as follows:

“C.A. Hall - 901 E. 14th St. Oakland. CA.”

The 1930 US Census lists Calvin Sr. (29yo – occupation: top trimmer) his wife; Myrtle Grace (27 yo b. in California) and three children; Calvin Warren (6yo-b. April 26, 1923); Elaine Grace (3 yo); and Donald (0 yo).

The 1930 Oakland Directory continued to list him under ‘Automobile Trimmers and Trimmings’:

“C.A. Hall - 901 E. 14th St. Oakland, CA.”

(FYI E. 14th St. was subsequently renamed International Boulevard and the former Hall shop is currently the home of an Earl Scheib Paint & Body shop).

Hall relocated his shop to smaller quarters during the Depression, the 1934 Oakland Directory lists him under ‘Automobile Top Manufacturers’ as follows:

“C.A. Hall – 830 E. 12th, Oakland, CA.”

The 1935 through 1937 Oakland Directories list him under ‘Automobile Trimmers and Trimmings’ at the same address:

“C.A. Hall - 830 E. 12th, Oakland, CA.”

The 1940 US Census lists Calvin Sr. (39yo – occupation auto top trimmer) his wife; Myrtle Grace M. (37yo b. in California) and three children; Calvin Warren (16yo); Elaine Grace (13 yo); and Donald (11 yo).

His listing in the 1941 Oakland Directory under ‘Automobile Top Manufacturers’ lists a slightly different address, but the shop was still located in the same building, which remains standing today:

“C.A. Hall – 816 E. 12th, Oakland, CA”

Hall was Northern California’s best-known top and upholstery shop, and numerous early regional hot rod builders like Sacramento’s Harry Westergard and Sam & George Barris entrusted him with fitting his hand-made tops and interiors to their early customs.

Sometime during the war Hall relocated his business to 3208 San Pablo Ave., the 1951 Oakland directory listing it under Automobile Tops as follows:

“Hall’s Top Shop, 3208 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA.”

Pictures of Hall’s post-War padded tops reveal a similarity to the chopped tops being produced by Houser’s Carson Top Shop in Los Angeles although the two firms were unrelated.

The Hall Auto Top Shop remained listed at 3208 San Pablo Ave in the Oakland City directories into 1957 after which the listing disappears.

His son, Calvin W. Hall did not follow in his father’s footsteps, and after serving in the US Army Air Corps. during World War II enjoyed a long career with the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

Hall’s San Pablo Ave shop exists today although it was extensively remodeled by St. Mary’s Center in 2006 for use as a pre-school.

Calvin A. Hall passed away on January 28, 1979 at the age of 77.

© 2013 Mark Theobald for







Robert Lee Behme - The Case For Custom Upholstery - Motor Trend, April, 1953 issue

Greg Sharp – The Carson Top Story; Hot Rod Yearbook No. 14, pub. 1974

Greg Sharp – The Carson Top Story; Rod & Custom, August, 1991 issue

Upholstery by Gaylord, Rod and Custom, October 1953 issue

Thom Taylor – Top Gun; Custom-Car Legend Bill Gaylord, Rod & Custom November 1997 issue

Ed Roth & Tony Thacker - Hot Rods by Ed Big Daddy Roth, pub. 2007

Pat Ganahl - Ed "Big Daddy" Roth: His Life, Times, Cars, and Art, pub. 2011

Pat Ganahl - The American Custom Car, pub. 2001

George Barris, David Fetherston - The Big Book of Barris, pub. 2002

Tony Thacker - 1951 Mercury Convertible; Blue Heaven, November, 2003 issue of Rod & Custom

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