New Year's 1939 in Berkeley was calm.

Seventy-five years ago on Monday, Jan. 2, 1939, the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported that there had been no automobile "accident, injury, or fatality" in town over the holiday weekend.

This paralleled the 1938 Christmas shopping season record of "not a single traffic mishap in the downtown business area."

Berkeley's Police Department had all 79 officers on duty New Year's Eve and Day.

"Only two persons were arrested for driving while drunk and Chief Greening attributed the lack of accidents in part, to rigid control of the main arterials and surveillance of establishments where liquor is dispensed."

On New Year's Day only one baby was born in Berkeley but a record six were delivered at Albany Hospital.

And some 300 friends visited Dr. John Wright Buckham and his wife at their home on Tamalpais Road. The couple was celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, having been married New Year's Day, 1889, in Burlington, Vt.

Buckham was the well-known, retired, head of the Pacific School of Religion. The couple came to Berkeley in 1903. The house was filled with "golden roses, chrysanthemums, gladioli and potted plants" brought by friends.

The first 1939 edition of the Gazette also carried stories lauding municipal accomplishments during 1938.


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During the year just past, Berkeley saw permits issued for nearly $3.5 million in new buildings. The new Hall of Justice and new Federal Land Bank (now used as Berkeley's main city office building) were under construction and accounted for some $900,000 of the expenditure, but permits for building 244 private homes had also been purchased and "27 permits were issued for store, office, and factory buildings."

Some 3,000 real estate transactions took place in Berkeley in 1938 and the population increased by an estimated 2,300 while "the supply of home sites is far from exhausted."

More than 150 new businesses had opened locally.

More than 850,000 books circulated from Berkeley's public library branches during the year. Park and playground use had increased. The Rose Garden had been largely finished, with some 3,000 roses planted and more planned. Extensive improvements were underway at Aquatic Park including a road along the eastern shore and the new model yacht basin.

The Berkeley Fire Department answered 881 alarms in 1938, including responses to 85 roof fires and 73 " rubbish fires."

The Berkeley Police Department had nearly 19,000 cases or complaints, including traffic violations. There had been an "upward trend in major crimes, including 419 burglaries and 15 robberies. Auto thefts had declined to 54, compared to 80 in 1937.

Berkeley had no reported murders in 1938.

"1939 I believe will be a year of outstanding prosperity for East Bay cities," Berkeley Mayor Edward Ament predicted in his New Year's message. "1939 will long be remembered as the year when dreams come true."

Expo approaching

The big local news in early 1939 was the imminent opening -- in mid-February -- of the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.

Berkeleyans had been following the planning and construction of the GGIE through numerous articles in the Gazette and, starting Jan. 1, the paper began running an enticing promotion. Anyone who brought in a three-month new subscription would get two tickets to the expo.

Berkeley was also sprucing up the streets for the GGIE.

"Planting of iris along the main streets ... was completed in November. This work was done by WPA men who planted 110,000 iris donated by property owners. Twenty thousand flower plants were also put out between the rows of iris on University Avenue, Ashby, Telegraph and Claremont Avenues, Dwight Way, Hopkins, Adeline, Gilman, Grove and Sacramento Streets."