Berkeley was locally lauded 75 years ago in 1939.

On Jan. 4 of that year the Berkeley Daily Gazette had carried a reader's letter that criticized unhelpful transit drivers. On Jan. 7 a rebuttal letter appeared from "an elderly woman not very sure of my step and with failing eyesight" who visited downtown Berkeley often.

She said, on the contrary, the bus and streetcar drivers were very courteous in her experience.

What's more, "I always find people willing to help", she wrote. "If I pause at a crossing someone always comes up and says, 'Lady, may I help you across?'"

She added that, "After all is said and done, isn't Berkeley the most beautiful city in the world? Surely this is a wonderful city."

Similar sentiments appeared at the annual Berkeley Chamber of Commerce dinner held at the Hotel Claremont on Jan. 10, 1939.

"Berkeley was pictured last night as a city dwelling in the midst of destiny accomplished," the Gazette reported the next day.

The main speaker, economist Paul Cadman, said Berkeley was a great city and "within it is all that time has promised. A great community of learning; a university that sets the standards for all the West in research and teaching; a community of living -- good homes which flank our tree lined streets and avenues; a community of enterprise with trade and commerce quickening all our lives and providing that intangible essential that we call a high standard of living ... there is no far off land where life is better."


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Exposition approaches

The Jan. 7 1939, Gazette carried an editorial listing the preparations Berkeley was making for the Golden Gate International Exposition, which would open at man-made Treasure Island on San Francisco Bay in February.

Residents had been encouraged "to beautify their yards, clean up sidewalk areas and vacant lots."

Alas, the paper said, while much had been done, "there remain scores of unsightly vacant lots and weed-filled sidewalk areas, to say nothing of disorderly front yards. There is still time in which to correct these conditions if every thoughtful citizen will do his part and urge careless or indifferent neighbors to do theirs."

A visitor housing shortage was feared throughout the Bay Area, and the Chamber of Commerce was "listing all residents who are prepared to provide quarters for visitors during the period of the Exposition."

A Berkeley "delegation of major proportions" was being organized for the grand opening of the GGIE.

West Berkeley Y opens

On Jan. 12, 1939, the West Berkeley YMCA was formally opened and dedicated on 10th Street.

The building was planned as a "recreation and social center" particularly for West Berkeley schools such as Franklin (now the Berkeley Adult School campus), Columbus (now Rosa Parks) and Burbank (later, West Campus).

Fire truck

On Jan. 11, city officials and passers-by gathered to watch the new ladder truck for the Berkeley Fire Department unloaded at "the Southern Pacific freight depot, Shattuck Avenue and Stuart Street."

An impromptu demonstration was held showing how the 85-foot ladder could be extended into the air.

The truck, costing $18,500, would be based at the Durant Avenue fire station (then just east of Shattuck Avenue, on the north side of Durant).

Building accident

"Suffering a broken collar bone, skull fracture, and internal injuries when he fell through a skylight of the Lederer, Street & Zeus Building under construction at 2122 Allston Way yesterday, Lester W. Good, 47-year-old roofer residing at 928 Grove Street, Oakland, is reported by attendants at Berkeley General Hospital today to still be in a critical condition", the Gazette reported Jan. 7. That downtown building now houses the Magnes Museum.