Seventy-five years ago, before Christmas 1938, the Berkeley police had lauded the town as the safest holiday shopping city in the country, due to the fact that there were no major accidents in the shopping districts.

However, on the 1938 Christmas weekend the safety spell broke and 11 people ended up at the hospital and two in jail due to traffic accidents.

Aside from the traffic mishaps Berkeley had a quiet Christmas in 1938.

On Christmas Eve the Berkeley Daily Gazette editors reprinted the famed "yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" editorial that originally appeared in the New York Sun in 1897 and added their own postscript.

"Does Santa Claus still live? Of course he does, and we too know how dreary would be this sorry old world if it were not for the spirit of Christmas which at least once a year melts hard human hearts and brings love and devotion to its fullest.

"We in America have added reasons for being thankful for a belief in Santa Claus, for he is one of those intangibles, so necessary to happiness, which are today denied to many of the people of the earth."

On Christmas Eve, the paper also reported that the local charitable Christmas Tree fund had received $47 more than its fundraising goal of $2,500 to provide gifts and support for some 600 needy Berkeley families.

Of that total, $500 went out in "merchandise orders, clothing, and food orders." Another $500 was provided to families in cash gifts, and 88 "large wool blankets" and "1,000 dresses, nightgowns, and warm underwear" were distributed.

The clothing distribution was supervised by the head of the Berkeley public schools home economics program, who had presumably identified poor children and families.

A "special fund" was set aside to help some college and trade school students continue their studies, pay for dental care for poor children, and give "tools, equipment, household furnishing or proper clothing to a number of adults."

Additionally, Berkeley postal workers used funds they had raised to obtain and deliver 20 gift baskets and clothing to local families.

Domestically, "Ol' King Turkey still reigns supreme as the overlord of the festive Christmas board" locally, the Gazette predicted.

Special turkey meals were planned for the 60 patients at local hospitals.

And that "hitchhiking turkey" that Mrs. G.M. Thomas found in her car, reported in this column last week? She tracked down the owners of the roasted bird herself.

It turned out they ran a business where she had stopped on her errands.

Her car and their car were identical, and a friend of theirs had accidentally put the cooked turkey into the wrong car.

Christmas movie

Some 1,800 Berkeley children thronged the United Artists cinema downtown on the morning of Dec. 24, 1938, a Saturday, for a free movie party courtesy of Hink's Department Store.

They were treated to Jane Withers in "The Holy Terror," three cartoons, and a short subject, as well as group singing.

Stormy weather

"Severe cold and stormy weather with attendant threats to life and property, tightened its grip on a Nation already counting a holiday week-end death toll mounting towards 300," the Gazette reported Dec. 26, 1938. Nearly 200 of those deaths were from traffic accidents.

Thank you

As I conclude another year of writing this weekly column and begin writing the 2014 editions, I wish, as always, to remember my two "75 Years Ago" predecessors, Carl Wilson -- who originated the column -- and Ken Cardwell, both of them stalwart scholars and Berkeley Historical Society Archivists.

Thank you also to the Berkeley Voice for running the column, able editor Chris Treadway who labors with unfailing accuracy, skill, humor and historical interest, and, of course, thank you to the readers.