The last day of service for regular commuter ferries between Oakland and San Francisco was 75 years ago, Jan. 14, 1939.

The next day, interurban trains took over, carrying passengers "high above the old ferry lanes" across the Bay Bridge. The new commuter rail lines opened on the lower deck of the bridge, which was reserved for transit and trucks.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported on the festivities and regrets.

On that first day the ferries "bravely blew black smoke below the huge mountain of steel and concrete" as they crossed the Bay on their last regular commute trips.

"The last groups of Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda residents whose week-day mornings and evenings have been enhanced by the two-way boat rides gathered in sad groups early this afternoon on eastbound boats. They shared for the last time peanuts and popcorn with the seagulls."

It was estimated that Berkeley commuters would save about 10 minutes in travel time to San Francisco. The first Berkeley train over the bridge was the Shattuck Avenue train that left Thousand Oaks at 5:29 a.m.

Berkeley dignitaries boarded a special preview train on Saturday to attend the dedication of the new transit facilities in San Francisco. Berkeley Mayor Edward Ament told San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi that from Berkeley "we look out from our windows facing the West and see the towers and pinnacles of a dream city, a mythical place like Atlantis rising out of the sea in all the glory and color of past ages -- the Pageant of the Pacific, the City of '39. Today we write on the fair pages of California's enthralling history another great achievement, rapid and safe transit on the world-famed bridge of steel.

"This means goodbye to the picturesque ferries that have served us so long."

In a Jan. 16 editorial the Gazette noted that the regular weekday commute train service that began that day "found the 'regulars' setting forth, sadly no doubt in many instances, on a trip which, while it may be lacking in those things once pleasant for the commuter, is certainly not without its thrills if one but gives his imagination free rein."

"Leisurely moving ferry boats were the signs of one era. Fast moving trains are the signs of another era -- one in which time is an element more pressing and more demanding than in the past."

The editorialist also observed that commuting workers would no longer be able to blame their late arrival on fog on the Bay, and those who had regularly eaten breakfast on the ferry would have to get up earlier to eat at home, or stop later to eat in San Francisco on the way to their jobs.

Meanwhile, the Gazette noted on Jan. 12 that locals would get 10-cent rides direct from Oakland and San Francisco on Key System ferries to the Golden Gate International Exposition.

Vedanta dispute

Berkeley's Vedanta Society building dispute popped up back in the news on Jan. 17, 1939.

"A meeting of the City Council was thrown into an uproar" that day when the Berkeley Property Owners Protective League charged that Councilman William Porter "was not without bias or prejudice" when he voted to allow the society to construct its Berkeley headquarters at Haste and Bowditch.

The accusation was that Porter's business partner, real estate agent George Knowles, had testified before the Planning Commission in favor of granting a permit to build at Piedmont and Dwight, a location first approved, then rejected, by the city.

Porter said that he could sue the group, presumably for slander, adding, "I think I have a good civil action against you people."