In early May 1938, 75 years ago, the Berkeley community was looking forward to the Golden Gate International Exposition, which would open in 1939 on Treasure Island on San Francisco Bay.

The May 3, 1938, Berkeley Daily Gazette noted that "the University of California's 200-ton atom-smashing machine -- the cyclotron, with its electrical circuits, dynamos and other equipment, will be duplicated in its actual size as one of the University's principal exhibits at the Golden Gate International Exposition."

Instead of using atomic particles, however, the full-scale replica would show steel balls rolling through the device, simulating the operation. Radioactive products of the cyclotron and their practical applications would also be shown in the university's elaborate "Science in the Service of Man" expo exhibit.

"Devise a complete program to secure for Berkeley maximum benefits from the holding of the Exposition," was one of the 24 points in a program of business and community advancement adopted by the Chamber of Commerce on May 10, 1938.

The program also called for "construction of public structures such as a civic auditorium, an adequate armory and a new police administration building."

The same issue carried a long story reporting that the Treasure Island exposition construction was "70 percent complete" and that 18 nations had formally announced they would have exhibits.


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Exhibits from another 21 countries were informally expected. One exhibit would include a "$500,000 feudal castle of Japan, which country has reserved 43,000 square feet of ground space. Surrounded by picturesque Japanese gardens, the castle will be built on the bank of a lagoon. The building, fabricated in Japan, will be shipped here in sections and 100 Japanese craftsmen, gardeners, and carpenters will be brought to Treasure Island to set up the building and do the landscaping."

(After the exposition, hardscape features of the garden from that exhibit, including stone lanterns and picturesque rocks, would be given to the University of California, where they were installed in the Botanical Garden in Strawberry Canyon. The Japanese pool and garden there today still contain many of those items.)

Economic woes

"Representatives of business today attacked Administration plans to lead the way out of depression with a new spending program and predicted disaster if large scale pump priming is continued indefinitely," the Gazette reported in a United Press story on May 5, 1938.

A story the following day reported the views of Herbert Hoover that the New Deal was responsible for the "Little Depression" economic relapse the country had experienced in 1937.

Today, most economists believe that it was widespread spending cuts in 1937, not the New Deal programs, that slowed recovery from the Depression. Nonetheless, Hoover was recommending in 1938 that the government should "stop spending, inflation, and pump priming" and "cut relief" to "balance the budget." Sound familiar?

Home and garden

"Plant to beautify," was the recommendation of an advertisement by Berkeley Horticultural Nursery in the May 6 Gazette.

"Making Berkeley the most beautiful city" could be accomplished by planting fuchsias -- "they thrive to perfection in the Bay Area" -- roses, tuberous begonias, snowball shrubs, and a variety of bedding plants.

That same issue carried pages of home improvement advertisements for paint and painting services, mattress repair, linoleum, rug cleaning, and re-roofing. This was all part of "Clean-up, Paint-up Week" which ran from May 6 to May 14, 1938.

Murder inquiry

Sheriff Chris Fox of El Paso, Texas was in town May 12, 1938, to meet with Berkeley Police Chief Greening about the Texas murders of Berkeleyans Mrs. Hazel Frome and her daughter, Nancy, which we discussed in a previous column. Fox told local reporters he believed "the case will be cleared up."