Improvements to Berkeley's new Aquatic Park continued 75 years ago, with the Jan. 18, 1939 official opening of "the last three-fourth mile of roadway surrounding the mile-long park lake," the Jan. 19 Berkeley Daily Gazette reported. The paper called the park "the most beautiful recreation center in the East Bay."
Another year and a half of improvements to the park, paid for with Federal WPA funds, was also projected. "In addition to the road the project calls for the erection of a clubhouse at the Model Yacht Basin, rip-rapping of the lakeshore line and the planting of 10,000 trees and shrubs in the park."
In other local park news, Jan. 19, 1939 the East Bay Regional Park District purchased from EBMUD "1,700 acres of dense redwoods back of Mills College" as the new Redwood Regional Park.
The Gazette reported on Jan. 23, 1939 that 1938 was the "busiest (year) in the history of the local chapter of the Red Cross," with the exception of 1923 when Berkeley's great wildfire occurred. A local chapter report said that some 9,500 Berkeley and Albany residents were contributing members.
"Assistance and advice were given in illness, unemployment and in the preparation of Government claims and insurance" to 519 local families in 1938. The Red Cross Shop assisted 300 people "by giving them without cost 633 articles of clothing and home furnishings." The shop also sold other items, producing income for the organization. Other activities included Braille translation, 23 first aid classes, classes in home hygiene, life saving, and "care of the sick," holiday cards sent to children's homes and veterans hospitals, Christmas boxes to soldiers and sailors in hospitals, volunteer transportation to hospitals, and clothes for the "sick and needy."
Some 650 "winter sports devotees" showed up Jan. 19, 1939 at Willard Junior High School for the second meeting of the "Berkeley Ski School."
Dr. Joel Hildebrand, of UC and the Sierra Club, welcomed attendees and introduced talks on ski technique and etiquette by local experts. Films of skiing in Yosemite and the Canadian Rockies were shown.
Taking cash out of the local retail economy by remotely ordering purchases from out-of-town national suppliers instead of buying from local brick and mortar shops?
On Jan. 17, Berkeley's postmaster told a local group that during the past year 16,412 parcels had passed through the Berkeley Post Office on a "cash on delivery" basis from "eastern manufacturers." Those purchases sent more than $100,000 out of town, he said, enough to "support two large business establishments in Berkeley."
The Jan. 17, 1939 Gazette reported that Michael Heynes, age 53, of 2726 Wallace St. was killed the day before when he fell some 20 feet into Strawberry Creek and broke his neck. Heynes was reportedly seen sitting "with a bottle of wine" on the steep bank of the creek in the rear yard of 2134 Bonar St. His family reported that he had been experiencing fainting spells and heart trouble.
The same article noted that on Dec. 16, 1938, Bernard Sharpley, 26, fell into Strawberry Creek on the UC Berkeley campus. He died two days later. Sharpley and his wife had been parked "on the campus extension of Center Street" and were taking a campus path "as a shortcut to a downtown theatre."
South America quake
"All Southern Chile lay stricken" by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 25, 1939 the Gazette reported the same day. Some cities lost almost all their buildings and an estimated 28,000 people were killed, the largest death toll in a documented Chilean earthquake to this day.