Tommy the Greek
Tommy "The Greek" Hrones of Oakland, California was a legendary pinstriper. He was the eldest son of eight children born of Greek immigrants who settled in the Oakland, California area just after the great fire and earthquake of 1906.
Tommy went to work at his uncle's auto paint shop on Oakland's Broadway Auto Row in 1925. Tommy's job was to pull wooden wheels, rub out the spokes with pumince stone and then varnish each wheel prior to painting. At the shop they would rub out car bodies with gunny sacks and then wax and polish them up. Tommy could fix mechanical stuff too, but he preferred the painting, and mainly striping. Tommy recalls that his uncle wasn't too good at that part. He'd shake, so they let Tommy lay the lines. About that time, Tommy met a traveling striper and painter in Oakland, a Danish immigrant named Neils Hoegsberg. "He was the best," Tommy recalls. "Always smoked a pipe. Came around the shops with a little box holding his cans and brushes. He did it all freehand. He wanted me to be his partner, but I decided to stay with painting."
Striping and Painting
It was the cars, striping, painting, and a penchant for the social ramble that kept Tommy the Greek ahead of the pack. By 1929, he'd scalloped a Model A roadster in blue metallic with pink striping accents. He'd already developed a signature, the Hrones hashmarks, teardrops and arrows, that served as final dashboard, fender or trunk lid flourishes. The Greek's skill was enough to keep him busy during the Depression years. "I'd make anywhere from a buck and a half to three dollars per car. I was fast and could do a bunch in one day, but sometimes I'd only get six bits for each job."
Custom Body Work
Tommy's penchant for expressive styling eventually led to experimentation with early customs. In 1937, he restyled a 1936 Ford Phaeton by removing the running boards, adding a DuVall Windshield, shaving the door handles, adding fender skirts and bobbing the trailing edge of the front fenders, a la contemporary Cadillac - LaSalle styling. Tommy owned and sold dozens of cars in the '30s. He claims to have owned over 75 cars in his life, mostly Caddy sedans. That doesn't even take into account the endless stream of Indian, Triumph and Harley-Davidson motorcycles he's owned.
In 1944 and 1945 Tommy completed and all-black 1940 Mercury convertible with molded-in seamless fenders, sunken taillights and a recessed license plate, gleaming moondisc hubcaps, Appleton spotlights and a padded top by Carson Top Shop.
Spence Kerrigan Remembers Tommy
In the 1940s Tommy had a shop in the back of a home on the north side of MacArthur West of Telegraph. Spence Kerrigan remembers visiting the shop once. Tommy came out of the area between the house and garage and said he was hung over. He was about to paint a car wheel there in the yard. Most painters would leave the wheel on the car or on a device where they could rotate the wheel and hold a paint brush against the wheel to make the stripe. Tommy laid the wheel on top of a 30 gallon oil drum and then walked slowly around the wheel holding the brush against the wheel. Even with a hangover Spence remembers the stripe was perfect.
Mike Shelley Remembers Tommy
Mike Shelley worked with Tommy for a short time in 1957, sanding and preparing things for painting when he was at the Foothill Blvd. shop. In 2017 Mike told Kustomrama that Tommy was a joker; "He liked to trick visitors that would stand over him to learn his trade. He would tell them if they wanted to see him pinstripe to get closer and look over his shoulder, when they did he would reach over his shoulder with the pinstripe brush and paint them. His right hand was missing the end of one finger that he used to hold the pinstripe brush." After Mike worked with Tommy, he moved his shop to 39th Ave. at 14th Street. "He was a great guy and will be missed by everyone that knew him, his signature on most pinstripe jobs was his teardrops."
Tommy the Greek's Cars
Cars Pinstriped by Tommy the Greek
Frank Rose's 1927 Ford Model-T Roadster
Billy Longo's Ford Model A Sedan
Jerry Woodward's 1929 Ford Model-A Roadster
Andy Brizio's 1934 Ford Coupe
Jim McLennan's 1934 Ford Pick Up
Gene Winfield's 1935 Ford Shop Truck
Joseph Botti's 1954 Ford F-100 Truck
Gene Lcardi's 1955 Chevrolet Pickup
Sharon Warner's 1955 Chevrolet
Bill Shelley's 1957 Chevrolet Corvette
Lauralee Dobbel's 1957 Chevrolet
Tim Mahony's 1956 Oldsmobile
Pete Paulsen's 1957 Ford
Richard Lee Tiago's 1957 Ford Ranchero
Cars Painted by Tommy the Greek
Ron Lopes' 1956 Ford Club Coupe
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