"Tunnel Road ceased to exist today and the broad, winding roadway that leads from Berkeley to the Broadway Low Level Tunnel officially became Woodmere Way", the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported 75 years ago, Feb. 28, 1939. "With only slight opposition voiced, the City Council today voted to change the name of 'Tunnel Road' at the behest of a number of residents and taxpayers on the street."

The motive behind the proposal was to indirectly discourage people from driving along the road to the tunnel. Residents of the Claremont had been up in arms since the tunnel opened, disturbed by the large amount of traffic that used the streets through their neighborhood. They had previously appealed to the council for other solutions, and city staff had even suggested building a bypass road so tunnel traffic would go down Chabot Road and Alcatraz Avenue into Oakland.

One opponent of the change, Edward Salbach of Hillegass Avenue, said, "the stated objective is to avoid the tunnel connection implied by the present name. This objective could be carried out by making the change the logical one -- from Tunnel Road to Ashby Avenue. Such a change would simplify the street-name situation and would be a good thing for all of Berkeley.

"If the residents do not care for the change to Ashby Avenue, it becomes apparent they are trying to cut down the traffic simply by confusing the street names -- something decidedly against the interests of the city as a whole."

The influential and wealthy residents of the Claremont neighborhood got their way, however, even convincing the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce to do a volte face and endorse the name change. The chamber, as you may recall from columns in previous years, had been an enthusiastic booster of bringing potential business customers into Berkeley via the tunnel route.

But what happened to "Woodmere Way?" It's still Tunnel Road today. We'll have to wait to see if the answer appears in future reviews of the Gazette.

New Safeway

"Construction work on a modern reinforced concrete building, which will be the home of a Safeway Store, will start within the next two weeks at the Northwest corner of University Avenue and Walnut Street," the Gazette reported Feb. 25, 1939. Built by William Acheson, whose family owned most of the block to the west, the new store would follow a "modern" design by local architect James Plachek, and include an adjacent parking lot for customers. Today, that property is owned by the University of California.

Kite contest

On Feb. 25, 1939, several Berkeley boys competed against fliers from schools throughout Northern California in "Kite Day" contests at the Golden Gate International Exposition. The contests were judged on "beauty, novelty of design, and flying." The Berkeley entries included "the clown kite, which is 14 feet high from hat to shoes and has a broad expanse of grin, big ears and a wide, red mouth. The centipede kite is 32 feet long and will take the breeze in its innards, giving the appearance of a huge air serpent."

"Pitiful" service

On Feb. 28, City Manager Hollis Thompson "launched a diatribe against the trials and tribulations of Berkeleyans trying to reach the Golden Gate International Exposition within anywhere near a reasonable time."

He had been receiving "25 or more protests in the mail every day," and locals were saying it took up to two hours to reach the fair and that it was easier to take the train to San Francisco and a ferry to the island, then try to go direct from Berkeley. Key System officials said they would "straighten out" the problem.