Press Releases

Celebrating 93 Years of Life, 58 Years of Selling Antiques By PATRICK KEILCH Special to the Planet

Friday June 24, 2005

At a crossroads of the East Bay, legendary antique dealer Bill Cross has operated the renowned Antique Center on Telegraph Avenue near the Berkeley-Oakland border for nearly 50 years. His business has drawn customers from throughout the region because of the high quality and uniqueness of its antique stock. Bill is also a well-known collector of classic British cars such as Roll Royce, Jaguar, Bentley, and Daimler, and of related memorabilia (vintage signage, toys, pictures, and novelties).  

He has the reputation of being quite the English gentleman and talks like one. However, he was actually born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1912 of English parents. His father and mother came to America so that Bill’s father could be the prop manager at the Hippodrome in the New York City theater scene. When Bill was 4 years old, World War I broke out. His English-born parents decided to return to England to “protect the homeland.” On the ship sailing to England, free-spirited Bill was befriended by the sailors and roamed freely on the ship. Bill’s family arrived safely in England where they remained and raised Bill and other new siblings.  

The senior Cross served as the “property master” at the Palladium and Oxford theaters in London, which Bill says helped develop his own interest in antiques and collectibles. During the 1930s, Bill was trained and educated to design the individual “carriage bodies” for high-end automobiles. With the worldwide depression, the market fell out of this type of business, but this generated his life-long interest in classic cars. Bill later served in World War II as a police officer in London and helped protect people at underground shelters during the Nazi Blitzkrieg bombings.  

After the war, Bill started up the Antique Center business in 1947 in London. In 1956, he and his wife Pamela returned to America and settled with their children Anita and James in Berkeley on University Avenue, where they also relocated the Antique Center. In the next year Bill moved the business to 6519 Telegraph Ave. near the Berkeley-Oakland border where it has remained to this day. Meanwhile, with his experience with classic cars in England, Bill began to collect antique British cars, some of which he has generously used to chauffeur friends and acquaintances to weddings, antique shows, and special events in Northern California.  

While operating the antique business Bill and his wife Pamela raised two children, Anita, who is the mother of Bill’s two grandchildren Heather and Kellie, and James. James has worked at the Antique Center for many years and now manages the business, attracting customers with reasonable bargains.  

One of every year’s most colorful events is Bill’s large June birthday gala at the Antique Center and in his oversized and very British garage, which is a museum of sorts. Family, friends, colleagues, and business associates from throughout Northern California, plus family from England and Australia, join in the birthday celebration accompanied by live music, singing vintage ballads and standards around the piano, telling lots of tales, and much revelry. Amid Bill’s displays of colorful signs, vintage photographs, and memorabilia, the celebrants enjoy a massive birthday cake and champagne toasts in celebration of another grand year. This June, the party celebrated Bill’s 93rd birthday and the Antique Center’s 58th anniversary. 


For persons interested in antiques and collectibles, the Antique Center is open almost daily at 6519 Telegraph Ave. at the border of Berkeley and Oakland and can be reached at 654-3717.