Berkeley, both town and gown, cheered 75 years ago, March 9, 1939, when after several days of rumors and uncertainty UC President Robert Gordon Sproul announced he would not take a job as a president of the Anglo-California National Bank. An estimated 5,000 students and townspeople had gathered outside Sproul's on-campus home, to urge him to stay. When he announced he would, the rally turned into a celebration.

"Oh boy, what a swell night!" Sproul told his family.

"My decision is psychological and instinctive," he said in a written statement. "I do not want to leave the university and the satisfaction which it offers in the way of high endeavor and important public service."

His UC job paid $13,500 (equivalent to about $225,000 today). The bank post had offered $50,000 a year.

Sproul had become president in 1930. He would serve until 1958, the longest tenure, by far, of any UC president. He was the first UC alumnus to hold the post.

Fire record

The fire that destroyed the wooden roof the Berryman reservoir had earned a footnote in history, the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported March 15. It was "the largest single roof fire in the history of the United States." A fire department captain said many of Berkeley's fires were preventable roof fires.

Conventions


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Raising the hopes of local business people who expected the Golden Gate International Exposition to bring travelers to Berkeley, the Chamber of Commerce announced March 15 that eight conventions were confirmed for the town in the next six months.

They included the National Council of Campfire Girls and the American Psychological Association (splitting its time between Berkeley and Stanford), a college publications convention, the Athletic Federation of College Women, the Western Federation of Women's Clubs, the Pacific Student Body Presidents' Association, Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity, and "ornithologists," no specific group given.

Professor passes

Charles H. Raymond, age 51, who had become the "first teacher of journalistic studies at the university" in 1937, died after a month's illness on March 14, 1939.

He was widely mourned by the local press and student journalists on the Cal campus who had in him both a supporter and adviser. University officials praised him for his publicity leadership on two state bond issues in 1919 and 1926 that had resulted in $6 million in new funding for permanent buildings on UC campuses.

European turmoil

"Czechoslovakia Doomed as German Troops March" was the headline across the front page of the Gazette 75 years ago today. The other shoe -- or next domino -- had dropped in Europe. A new puppet state of Slovakia sponsored by the Nazis was declared in the center of the dismembered country.

Hungary demanded land concessions and invaded the eastern end of the old Czechoslovakia -- Ruthenia -- as Poland massed troops on the northern border, and Romania mobilized to the east.

Nazi troops moved toward Prague, claiming to respond to "Czech terrorism against Germans." The central Czech government resigned.

Hitler entered Prague on March 15. The international press reported that "German troops marched into the Czech capital without resistance but were booed and hissed by residents."

On March 17, the Nazis seized some $81 million in gold reserves from the Czech national bank. Thousands were arrested and there were "riots ... at numerous frontier posts" as additional thousands tried to escape the country that was now a "protectorate" of Germany.

Meanwhile, the British government of Neville Chamberlain, who had announced "peace for our time" and "peace with honor" after returning from his Munich meeting with Hitler to resolve the "Czechoslovakian question" less than six months before, postponed a trade mission to Berlin as "a rebuke."