Three deaths in two separate industrial mishaps headlined the local news 75 years ago, Aug. 17, 1938, in the Berkeley Daily Gazette.

Downtown, a construction crew was erecting an eight-foot wooden fence around the old Southern Pacific railroad depot on Shattuck Square that was being demolished. The fence started to fall, perhaps because of a gust of wind, and two workmen were trapped against its tilting outer side as a northbound interurban train rolled by.

One managed to escape by leaping across the tracks just ahead of the train but the second worker, William Humphreys of Oakland, "was caught against the front gate of the heavy steel car and dragged approximately 35 feet before it could be brought to a halt."

The 58-year-old Humphreys died of a broken skull.

That same day, "when electric lights dimmed throughout Berkeley in this forenoon they mutely told of the electrocution of a PG&E Company lineman atop a high tension tower near Lake Temescal," the Gazette reported.

"Robert J. 'Red' Vaughn, 37, of Sacramento, long experienced on 'hot' wire work, became a flaming torch when he contacted a 110,000 volt power line."

A fellow worker, Claude Voorhies, age 35, of Petaluma, climbed the tower to rescue him, fell, hit his head, and was left hanging unconscious from the tower.


Advertisement

Their foreman said Vaughn had mistakenly climbed a tower carrying live wires, not a tower where the power had been disconnected. When he reached the top and stepped over to clean an insulator, "there was a blinding flash." It took more than an hour to remove the two men, one of them still burning, from the tower. Vaughn was dead, and Voorhies died at an Oakland hospital.

New store

The day before the tragedies, local businessman Joseph "Call Me Joe" Harris held a groundbreaking ceremony at the train station site for his new men's clothing store. "The structure, modern and streamlined in every respect, will be completed by December 1," the Gazette reported. "Confidence in the future of Berkeley has prompted me to make this enormous investment," Harris said.

His glass block moderne store -- later defaced with an enormous "Call Me Joe" billboard that dominated views up Shattuck Avenue -- would stand at the tip of the Shattuck Square gore for years. It was later replaced with a bank, and is now the site of the Kaplan Building.

School starts

Over on the UC Berkeley campus, a record number of students -- some 15,000 -- were expected to register for the fall semester.

Registration began Aug. 18 in the Men's Gymnasium (today encapsulated within Haas Pavilion).

On Aug. 16, there was the seasonal display of multiple advertisements for local private schools in the pages of the Gazette. Fall, 1938, would mark the beginning of the 51st year of the Anna Head School, which featured "programs of music, dancing, swimming and play for the younger girls" and "thorough instruction in sports" for the high school girls.

The Bentley School promoted "sound and thorough education" from its 2722 Benvenue Ave. campus. Blocks away at 3030 Benvenue Avenue was The Helen Hewitt School for Little Children, specializing in "character building, obedience, and joyous activity" for little girls. At Center and Oxford "overlooking the campus" was the Helen Wakeman Secretarial School.

Several prominent local artists advertised their music classes, including Mrs. Gilbert Moyle at 2234 Piedmont (now a house on the UC Berkeley campus), and Lawrence Reeder, at 2722 Garber. The "Bennett Sisters" announced the "opening of their Fall Dancing Class" at 2161 Shattuck. The Dodd School at 2419 Haste offered "intensive coaching" to get students into military academies and schools.