In the five years that I’ve lived here I’ve heard many an oral history of ghost town. I can tell you straight up that ghost town lives. Ghosties are real, they know they live in ghost town, and they have a strong sense of identity with this community.
What are the boundaries of Ghost Town? There are no super fixed boundaries, but generally speaking MLK at MacArthur Blvd down to Grand Ave and that entire north-south cut over to San Pablo Ave which is where the real “West Oakland” begins.
If you’re a ghostie and you’re on 29th street, west side of San Pablo, who’s to say you’re not in ghost town?
The name comes from numerous sources. One is that after the freeway (980) and the BART line came in, and eminent domain forced hundreds of families out of hundreds of beautiful old homes, that the neighborhood looked and felt like a ghost town. Big old two- and three-story homes boarded up for months on end empty like a Hollywood movie set. Neighborhood kids played for hours on end in the abandonded buildings. Who could possibly resist jumping the fence after school into a no-man’s land and exploring empty houses?
It was like a Ghost Town.
And even today at times the big open nature of the streets and the emptiness that some of the old buildings put out feels like a ghost town. Locals say that, I’ve felt it I sometimes wonder if Clint Eastwood isn’t going to someday ride down MLK western style as a metaphysical cowboy out of the dust down these old streets once upon a time when horse-drawn carriages brought all the lumber up the buildings
Then there’s the cop story: There were so many killings in that neighborhood in the ’80s that people started calling it a ghost town.
I like what the locals tell me. And either way, it doesn’t matter, really, what the truth is fact is, most everyone who lives here knows they live in ghost town. Call it a cultural thing, a geographic thing, an historical thing, a whatever thing, by whatever thing most of us here know we live in ghost town.