Seventy-five years ago the Berkeley Daily Gazette was reporting on the run-up to the mid-February 1939, opening of the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island.
Visitors to the Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay could drive direct, or take a Key System train to the ferry.
Work on two ferry terminals was being "rushed to completion," the Feb. 6 Gazette reported. They were on the east and west sides of the island; the east terminal would serve ferries from Oakland, conveying East Bay passengers.
"Passengers from Oakland ferries will walk through a 220-foot-long exit passage leading past 14 admission booths where Exposition entry tickets will be sold," then on into the Exposition grounds. Albany's police chief urged residents not to drive to the GGIE. If they did, he noted that a display at University Avenue and the Eastshore Highway would announce the number of parking spaces remaining on the island.
Police were searching the Bay Area Feb. 6, 1939, for 24 year-old Joseph Moyle, "Colorado desperado" who was being transported through Berkeley by Southern Pacific train when he escaped.
Moyle was being brought by four federal marshals from Kansas City to Oakland to face charges in a January robbery of a post office branch. As the train slowed to 20 miles an hour through Berkeley, Moyle asked to use the bathroom. He was uncuffed and apparently escaped through a window when the train was passing the block between Dwight Way and Parker Street.
"The deputy marshals were surprised to see him climbing the bank beside the tracks as their seats drew opposite him.
"Berkeley's famous Doberman pinscher police dogs were called into play," and traced him to a bus stop on San Pablo Avenue where they lost the scent. Police thought Moyle might have taken the bus into Oakland "where he is known to have many friends."
"First Lieutenant Charles J. Ortman, 45, is dead today following his heroic rescue of three young children from the smoke-filled home of Mr. and Mrs. George G. Rogers, 1837 Rose Street, shortly after 8:30 last night," the Gazette reported Feb. 2, 1939. Ortman lived across the street from the Rogers home. He was off duty and at home, when "the fire tapper in the house sounded" -- we'll assume that was a device to alert off-duty staff that there was an alarm -- and he heard on his shortwave radio that the call came from his block.
Rushing outside, Ortman found his neighbors on the street and smoke pouring out of their front door. Entering the house he rescued their 4-year-old granddaughter and her siblings, twin babies, just as on duty firemen arrived. Ortman then grabbed a hose and led the effort to put out the fire in a bedroom. Inspecting the attic, he died of an apparent heart attack.
City flags flew at half-staff for the Berkeley native, a member of the department since 1912.
The funeral took place on Feb. 3, starting at Berg's Funeral Home, 1936 University Ave.
Traffic was stopped as the cortège moved up Shattuck to University, then north to St. Mary Magdalene Church, where a requiem mass was held.
Ortman was survived by his wife and two children. He was, the paper said, one of 112 fire department staff in 1939.
It rained in Northern California at the beginning of February 1939, easing fears of drought after "subnormal" rainfall for the winter to date. Enough snow fell in the Sierra to excite winter sports enthusiasts. Snow also fell on Mount Diablo, Feb. 3, but quickly melted.