Berkeley held its fifth annual "Old Timers' reunion and dinner" 75 years ago, Oct. 11, 1938.
The event at the Claremont Hotel brought together those who had lived in Berkeley more than 30 years "and had seen the city grow from a small town to an outstanding residential and educational center," said the Berkeley Daily Gazette. There were 1,000 people at the event, organized by the Veteran Volunteer Fireman's Association.
"Crowned queen of the party was Mrs. Chris Johnson who resided in Berkeley 84 years ago. Born in Amador County, she was brought to Berkeley by her parents when two months old." (We should note that Mrs. Johnson's arrival would have been in 1854, 12 years before the name "Berkeley" was applied to this area.)
The main speaker, university Vice President Monroe Deutsch, gave his own recollections of coming to Berkeley as a student in 1898. "The entire campus west of North and South Hall was dry and dusty, completely lacking trees and shrubs until you reached the clump where the football statue and the remnant of the Le Conte oak now stand; as we drilled over this tract, our dark blue trousers emerged covered with dust, and at every step grasshoppers danced up around our feet. What large open fields we saw lying between Berkeley and Oakland ..."
"Do you remember when Bancroft Way was beautifully lined with trees?" he asked.
Hear about Berkeley "old times" yourself this weekend. Come this Sunday, Oct. 13, to the free opening celebration of the Berkeley Historical Society's exhibit about the McGee-Spaulding-Hardy neighborhood west of downtown.
The event has a 2 p.m. start at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center St. If driving, keep in mind that Shattuck Avenue through downtown will be closed for the City's "Sunday Streets" event.
There was another big civic gathering in October 1938.
Some 300 people kicked off the annual Community Chest fundraising campaign with breakfast at the Hotel Whitecotton, followed by a ceremonial flag raising at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. The municipal flagpole and tree were located there, about where Berkeley's giant tuning fork sculpture rises today.
The fundraising appeal would benefit 23 local community groups and social service agencies that planned to send 500 volunteers into Berkeley's businesses, neighborhoods, and organizations asking for pledges and donations toward the $140,000 being sought for the coming year.
The campaign would run through Oct. 28. On Oct. 13, 1938, the Gazette reported that the first two days of canvassing yielded nearly $32,000 in pledges, with more than $7,000 of that coming from people working at UC and in other public and private schools.
"Warning issued bicycle riders" was the headline in the Gazette on Oct. 11. Hundreds of recent deaths nationwide among school children riding bicycles at night prompted the California Highway Patrol to caution parents to make sure their children rode safely after dark.
"Section 622 of the California Vehicle Code requires a head lamp visible 300 feet to the front and a red reflector attached to the rear of the bicycle visible 200 feet, it was pointed out."
"Three fashionably dressed bandits, their eyes (sic) covered in brand new silk handkerchiefs, held up the manager and an office force of nine" at the Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Corporation on Adeline Street in Oakland on the afternoon of Oct. 12, 1938. They stole cash and checks that were being readied for a bank pickup, then escaped.
In early October 1938, German troops moved into the Czech Sudetenland.
British Prime Minister Chamberlain had returned from Munich, Germany on Sept. 30, proclaiming "peace for our time" after meeting with Hitler.