Seventy-five years ago Berkeleyans awaited the opening of the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) on the man-made Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Berkeley viewed the expo with great anticipation, having watched it rise just across the water.
Locals were buying advance admission to the two-day premier, Feb. 18 and 19, 1937. The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported the price was "one silver dollar that buys two golden days."
On Feb. 15, West Berkeley was the scene of local opening week festivities, featuring a community dance at the YMCA on Tenth Street sponsored by the Merchants Association of West Berkeley. The dance was preceded by a parade of horsemen, and both San Pablo Avenue and University Avenue were decorated for blocks with "American flag emblems."
The Wild West was a theme of exposition openings and Berkeley vigorously participated with men and women donning what they regarded as authentic old west and early Californian garb, portraying "rollicking cowboys and cowgirls and Spanish senors."
The West Berkeley celebration was accompanied by a "traveling hoosegow" which stopped, "tried" and fined people for not dressing appropriately.
Local businesses ran elaborate ads in the Gazette offering exposition-themed sales and promotions. Since growing "western" beards was a new craze, the proprietor of Garibaldi Restaurant ran a photograph of himself with luxuriant whiskers and mustache, and offered free dinner to any young man who came in similarly hirsute.
Some local celebrations got overenthusiastic. Jack Gray, age 19, of 2420 Sacramento St., was shot and seriously wounded by his friend, Roy Kayfes, of 1301 Virginia Street. The two, with another friend, had dressed up as "Spanish dons," gone to a shooting gallery with a gun belonging to Gray's father, then dinner at a Shattuck Avenue restaurant. Kayfes, who thought the gun was unloaded, pulled the trigger and shot Gray through the chest.
Citing the Gray shooting, Berkeley's police chief made a special statement to the public "to point out that guns are still extremely dangerous playthings (and) also expressed a fear that the frequent fake holdups may encourage real bandits to take advantage of conditions and begin operations in earnest."
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce held a store window-decorating contest in which some 90 local businesses participated, each "showing some early Western theme to depict scenes from the early days of California."
Two Berkeley brothers of the Braccini family, 2336 Derby St., went off Grizzly Peak Boulevard in their car on the night of Friday, Feb. 10, 1939. The vehicle rolled 900 feet down into Strawberry Canyon. Twenty-year-old Spartaco was killed and 17-year-old Cirio was seriously injured.
On Feb. 9, the Labor Board of the Associated Students at UC began an investigation into allegations that male students had been fired from sorority jobs for dating women from the houses where they worked.
The chairman of the Labor Board said "If men are fired for any reason other than inefficient work, the situation becomes a labor problem, because it causes unemployment. Racial and social discrimination is not what this University is founded on and when sorority women are forbidden by house rules to go out with University men solely because of their position, it is certainly a matter for investigation."
Pope Pius XI died on Friday, Feb. 10, 1939 of complications from influenza. He had been Pope for 17 years. Berkeley resident and former California Gov. Friend Richardson told the Gazette of a world tour his family took in 1927 when they met the Pope. "He radiated spirituality," Richardson said, "the world has lost one of its greatest leaders." Pius was buried below St. Peter's Basilica on Feb. 14.