The year 1939 and the second great San Francisco exposition of the 20th century were drawing very close.

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce announced plans to hold an "Exposition Week" in September, "designed to bring thousands of Exposition visitors to Berkeley," the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported 75 years ago, Aug. 10, 1938.

The week was planned to include a "Shoppers' Treasure Hunt" in which participants could win prizes, such as exposition passes, by searching for clues in the display windows of participating businesses.

"Make Berkeley Your Exposition Headquarters" was the official slogan. "Among other major features of the Chamber of Commerce program are lighted billboards, newspaper, magazine and radio advertising, letters of welcome to newcomers, and the distribution of a descriptive booklet, illustrated with new photographs showing Berkeley's unusual facilities for work and play."

The Golden Gate International Exposition would, of course, be right on Berkeley's doorstep, visible some miles out in the Bay on the artificially constructed Treasure Island and easily reachable via both ferries and the Bay Bridge.

"We must learn more about the great work that is being done to make the Golden Gate International Exposition a living memorial to those brave men and women who crossed the plains and who founded our own city," proclaimed Berkeley Mayor Edward Ament who, in his excess of enthusiasm, must have forgotten that many Berkeley "pioneers" came via ship or railroad, not covered wagon.

Fire chief dies

The sudden death of Berkeley Fire Chief George Haggerty on Aug. 12, 1938, shocked his colleagues and the community. He had been chief of the department for 11 years.

The day before his passing, a Friday, he had complained of a headache, gone home to 3030 Adeline St., and "soon lapsed into a coma."

He died at Alta Bates Hospital and the department sounded the "all out" call in his honor at 4:45 p.m.

Municipal flags flew at half-mast and Haggerty's coffin lay in state in the "main rotunda" -- presumably the entrance hallway -- of City Hall on Aug. 15, where hundreds filed by in tribute.

"Banked with myriads of flowers and ferns, the coffin was constantly attended by a guard of two members of the late Chief's department," the Gazette reported. "A total of 16 firemen in all stood guard."

The next day his funeral procession departed from 1936 University Ave., Berg's mortuary. Hundreds of people took off their hats outside the building as the two-block long funeral procession began. A 25-piece Sacramento Fire Department band played "Nearer My God to Thee" and visiting fire department contingents from as far away as Modesto joined in the procession behind a fire engine carrying the coffin.

Haggerty was Berkeley's third official fire chief, after James Kenney and Sidney Rose. In 1931 he had been severely injured in the gas-fueled explosion of a north Berkeley house.

Haggerty joined the then-volunteer fire department in 1896, and transferred to the paid ranks of Berkeley firefighters when the city department was founded in 1904. "With the death of George Haggerty, the city of Berkeley has lost a loyal servant and outstanding official whose 42 years of service to his community was marked by his consuming devotion to the protection of life and property and to the building of a fire department that has become famous throughout the country," the Gazette editorialized Aug. 11, 1938.

Haggerty was lauded not only for his firefighting, but also his leadership in fire prevention efforts. He would be assured, the paper said, "a place in history as one of America's greatest fire fighters."

Haggerty's house in the 3000 block of Adeline would have been where the Ashby BART station parking lot is now located.