Seventy five years ago, Sept. 27, 1938, Berkeley voted to pay for a brand new Hall of Justice to house the city's famed police department, including "court, crime prevention, and other bureaus of law enforcement." Voters approved the proposal by 12,821 to 3,397.
In an appeal to voters the day before the election, Mayor Edward Ament said, "Berkeley's municipal workers have focused international attention upon this city. They give you a clean city, an economical and efficient administration of municipal affairs. This they have achieved under most difficult conditions in many instances, particularly our police. Civic pride demands these bonds be voted."
Homeowners would pay an average of $1.35 a year to cover the city's share of the $197,442 project, proponents said. Another $160,000 of the funding was expected to come in a grant from the Federal Public Works Administration. The urgency of the special election came from a PWA requirement that "wrecking" of temporary buildings on the site, behind City Hall, start by Oct. 7.
The police department was then located in the basement of City Hall. The new building, fronting on McKinley Avenue, would last as Berkeley's police headquarters for some six decades, until it was demolished and replaced by the current Tsukamoto public safety building.
A solid gray concrete structure in "WPA Moderne" architectural style, the building approved in 1938 would soon have a fraternal federally funded twin in the UC Printing Plant three blocks to the east up Center Street, at Oxford. Portions of that latter building are being retained in the current construction of a new Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive.
Some 60,000 "rejuvenated football fans" went to Memorial Stadium Sept. 24, 1938, to see the home opener with St. Mary's, "hot on the team of national honors" playing "a California team that has a Rose Bowl championship to defend." As had become common in recent years, the city and University combined to ban parking on many streets and on campus to speed traffic and crowds of pedestrians approaching Memorial Stadium. Cal would win, 12-7, and tie for the conference championship at the end of the season. St. Mary's would go on to play in the Cotton Bowl after the season. For the tiny East Bay college it would be the last of the glory years of national rankings under Coach "Slip" Madigan.
There was tragedy outside the stadium when 17-year-old Franklin Wheatfill of Oakland fell from a tree he had climbed on "Tightwad Hill" to watch the game. He dropped 40 feet onto a metal fence, suffering three broken vertebrae.
"With Gov. Frank F. Merriam acting as motorman, a Key System interurban train crossed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for the first time today in a ceremonial test run", the Gazette reported Sept. 23, 1938. "Regular transbay commuter train service between Oakland and Berkeley and San Francisco will be inaugurated this winter." The test train ran at up to 35 miles an hour on the lower deck tracks.
Coastal New England and the mid-Atlantic states were lashed by a hurricane on Sept. 21, 1938. The Gazette carried photos of 10 blocks of New London, Conn. flooded and on fire, and the city's harbor wrecked, as well as first hand accounts of "the incoming tide with an 80 mile an hour hurricane in back of it" flooding Providence, R.I.
Later known as the "Great New England Hurricane," the storm would kill as many as 800 people and cause property losses approaching $5 billion in today's dollars. It was a more powerful storm than 2012's Hurricane Sandy.