Seventy-five years ago, the prolonged dispute over the proposal to build a Vedanta Society branch in Berkeley continued. After being rebuffed by the Planning Commission -- which supported the new proposed location at Bowditch and Haste streets -- opponents hired an attorney, Ralph Eltse, Berkeley's former Republican Congressman.

They also circulated this statement:

"Residents living in the vicinity of Haste and Bowditch Streets and those living in the vicinity of Piedmont Avenue and Dwight Way, and all others, as well as those living in surrounding communities, who are opposed to having the Vedanta Society of San Francisco come into their community, are urgently requested to appear before the City Council next week when they meet on this petition, to protest the granting of a permit to erect a building on the southeast corner of Haste and Bowditch Streets, in which to teach their Hindu philosophy; having a Hindu swami for a leader."

Proponents answered with a Nov. 19, 1938, statement saying "the opposition ... has betrayed characteristics which are most un-American and potentially menacing to our community ... to rouse religious and racial animosities, as is being done openly by the opponents of this project, is most decidedly un-American at any time. To stoop to such practices at this time, when the same activity in other parts of the world constitutes a real menace to humanity, is dangerous." Signers included four prominent UC professors and the president of the Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry.

On Nov. 22, before a council chamber "filled to capacity," the City Council with one member absent, split 4-4 on the Vedanta site approval and deferred the question to the next week.


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At the meeting, Eltse referred to the building as a "Hindu temple," alleged that 40 percent of the structure appeared to be designed as a residence, and said property values diminish when churches are built nearby.

The head of the Anna Head School, across the street from the site, presented a petition of 60 parents saying "a church of this character does not belong near a school for girls."

Jewish state

On Nov. 17, 1938, the Berkeley Daily Gazette carried a United Press story reporting on a plan of "a group of influential Jewish citizens" to purchase Baja California from Mexico and "provide a permanent refuge for persecuted Jews of the world." and a recognized Jewish state.

California Gov. Frank Merriam called for a day of prayer by Catholics, Protestants, and Jews on Nov. 18, "in view of the unprecedented religious and racial persecution of certain groups in some of the countries of the world," meaning Nazi Germany and Austria.

Cal spirit

It was announced on Nov. 16 that the university's "patent souvenir bear, designed by an anonymous alumnus to be worn as a corsage," was available from the Bureau of Occupations on the UC campus and Roos Brothers stores.

"Three thousand of the bears are put on sale every year, the money from the sale being used for student welfare work," the Gazette reported. The bears were made of cotton, patent No. 111799.

On Nov. 19, the 44th Big Game was played at Memorial Stadium. A "frenzied mob" of some 82,000 poured through Berkeley's streets and "normal traffic movements were impossible." Cal won, 6-0.

Tree sitters

In Washington, D.C. in November 1938, President Roosevelt was grappling with protests against the construction of the Jefferson Memorial. Opponents wanted to preserve more than 100 cherry trees on the building site. "A group of irate clubwomen stormed workers on the project and wrested away their picks and shovels in a mass protest," replanting a tree that was being dug up, and starting a sit-down strike.