Additional new school buildings in Berkeley were on the horizon 75 years ago, Aug. 26, 1938, the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported.

At a meeting the day before, the Board of Education "mapped preliminary steps for construction totaling approximately $850,000."

A second building unit at Whitter School was funded -- the first was already under construction, and plans were approved to finish the high school shop building.

The biggest item, however, was a new auditorium for Berkeley High School estimated to cost $400,000, the project to be combined with moving the existing High School auditorium and relocating the science building. Berkeley was seeking some $263,000 from the Federal Public Works Administration for the project.

(The auditorium project would not come to fruition for several years. Begun before the Second World War, it would be left unfinished while construction materials were diverted to war needs. The incomplete structure of steel girders would be nicknamed the "birdcage" by a generation of BHS students, until the building -- today's Community Theater -- was completed after the war.)

Elections

Aug. 30, 1938, was the date of primary elections in California. Voters would select party candidates for Governor -- the Gazette favored incumbent Republican Frank Merriam, who was running with the Republican lieutenant governor.


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Seven Democratic candidates were in the race. For a brief look ahead, one of them, Culbert Olson, would win the Democratic nomination and defeat Merriam in the general election, becoming the first Democrat elected governor since Cal alumnus James Budd in the 1890s.

Oakland-based Cal alumnus Earl Warren, a Republican running for Attorney General, was a local favorite.

The Gazette warned in an Aug. 29 editorial, "all that remains to ensure complete New Deal domination of the business, economic, and political life of California is a sweeping Democratic victory at the November election." As the Depression wore on, voter registration in California had shifted to a nearly 60 percent Democratic Party majority.

World conflict

War seemed to be approaching inexorably in August 1938, although many people throughout the world still hoped for peace. On Aug. 25, "Adolf Hitler paraded 61,000 troops past Admiral Nicholas de Horthy, regent of Hungary, today in a breathtaking display of military might. It was the biggest parade in Germany since the World War," reported the United Press in a story carried by the Gazette.

In China on Aug. 24, a Japanese warplane shot down a civilian airliner with an American pilot and 17 Chinese passengers aboard, most of them said to be from banking families. It sank in 40 feet of water near Hong Kong and the attackers "machine gunned the men, women, and children aboard it" according to a UP correspondent. Japanese armies were also approaching Hankow.

Economic conflict

Back in the Bay Area, the headlines were of labor unrest and economic disputes. "The San Francisco Bay Area wholesale grocery business was shut down completely today and 25 additional wholesale liquor firms prepared to halt operations in the paralyzing 'hot freight' dispute which threatened to strangle all warehouse operations in San Francisco and Oakland," the Gazette reported Aug. 26.

The catalyst of that dispute involved the refusal by union warehousemen to unload freight allegedly loaded by strikebreakers elsewhere.

The Retail Clerks Union was also threatening to strike 27 Bay Area department stores in a separate dispute. Longshoremen and employers were at odds on the San Francisco waterfront, and there was an ongoing trial before the National Labor Relations Board involving 16 Northern California canning corporations.

In Santa Cruz, shark and salmon fishermen with small craft were arming themselves to deter large sardine purse seining operations (harvesting fish with a long rectangular net closed at the bottom) that, they alleged, were destroying nets with their heavier boats.