Head down Telegraph Avenue today and beyond Derby Street you'll pass the Willard Swim Center, then the gymnasium and campus of Willard Middle School.

That land began transitioning to recreation space 75 years ago, in 1938.

"City and school officials have joined today in a determined move to provide adequate playground facilities for the Willard Junior High School as rapidly as possible," the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported Sept. 17, 1938.

"Both the school department and the city government recognized the urgent need for the development of additional play space in the block adjacent of the Willard Junior High School," the account noted.

The article reported that the school district owned 16,900 square feet of land on the block bordered by Telegraph Avenue and Ward, Derby and Regent streets that was being resurfaced as a playground.

The rest of the block was privately owned, but "as rapidly as possible, both the school department and the city government intend to purchase additional properties within the block from current revenues, which it is believed, within a reasonable time will develop an adequate and proper playground for the school."

Over the years the entire block was purchased and joined to the Willard campus by street closures.


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In the 1960s the next block east was also purchased, houses were moved or demolished, and Regent Street was closed to create Willard Park. The property ultimately provided park space, school grounds, and the public Willard Swim Center.

However, a few years ago, as readers may know, the city closed the swim center and filled the pools with dirt.

Constitution Day

On Sept. 17, 1938, Berkeley celebrated "Constitution Day" with a luncheon and speakers at the Berkeley Women's City Club. Paul Cadman, a former UC economist, spoke on "The Constitution or Dictatorship."

Student government

The Sept. 17 Gazette carried an interesting breakdown of the finances of the Associated Students of the University of California. The ASUC, in 1938, was a multifaceted organization that ran the student union, student store, publications (including the Daily Californian) and intercollegiate athletics on the UC Berkeley campus. For the 1937-38 fiscal year it reported profits of $230,283.11.

During the year the ASUC realized a net profit of nearly $207,000 on athletics alone, including $60,000 from the Jan. 1, 1938 Rose Bowl game. Profits also came from the student store, ASUC membership dues, and concessions at athletic events. "Losing activities included dramatics, women's athletic association, welfare work, the maintenance of two association owned buildings ... and miscellaneous activities."

Czech crisis

Neville Chamberlain was in Germany 75 years ago to meet with Hitler in what the British Prime minister described as "friendly" discussions about the Czechoslovakian crisis, precipitated by Nazi pressure for the Czechs to surrender much of their territory to the Reich.

A United Press writer said, "from the moment of its inception this meeting ... was touched by history's finger. The relentless march of great events were (sic) closing in at last with the 'victors' of the World War facing a desperate struggle to avoid the disaster of another conflict ... the world watches the meeting of a man who speaks for an Empire on which the sun never sets and a man who demands a place in the sun."

Early Kennedy

The Sept. 14, 1938 Gazette carried in its "World News Feature Pictures" section a headshot of a smiling young man captioned, "To School. Back for his junior year at Harvard is John F. Kennedy son of the United States Ambassador to Great Britain.

He recently arrived in New York, as above, from a summer visit with his parents in London."

That was just over 22 years before he was elected president of the United States.