Seventy-five years ago, on April 9, 1939, Christian churches in Berkeley held their annual Easter Sunrise Service at Cragmont Rock.
"Even in the sharp air of the early morning Nature was arrayed in bright Easter colors as thousands of worshipers trekked up Euclid Avenue hill", the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported. "Many wore new Easter clothing, others were encased in winter coats, and some even were in hiking outfits with bandannas about their heads, but all were climbing for the same purpose -- to pay tribute to the Living Christ high above the still sleeping city and beneath God's blue canopy which roofed this great outdoor cathedral.
"There, before the trumpet note which sounded the call to worship, they looked out across San Francisco Bay -- to Treasure Island, glistening in the reality of sunlight rather than the artificial glow of electricity -- to the great bridges, the Golden Gate and the Marin hills."
On their way to the rock, the crowds were serenaded with music from the Campanile, where John Milton Noyes, chimesmaster, played "Christ, The Lord, Is Risen Today" and "Welcome Happy Morning." Berkeley Mayor Edward Ament spoke, noting, "It was on the mountain where Jesus delivered the most inspiring and perfect sermon ever given to the children of men."
Dr. Gurdon C. Oxtoby, dean of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, delivered the day's sermon. "Whatever other days may mean, this one proclaims our confidence that there is something deep behind this world, beyond this life, the most important thing of all", he said.
There was a rare mention of non-Caucasian Berkeleyans in the Gazette article, which noted that "Rev. Dan Yee, pastor of the Berkeley Chinese Church, recited the Twenty-third Psalm." A number of other ministers and choirs participated.
The Berkeley "Council-Manager League" announced endorsements on April 8 for the upcoming municipal elections. President Walter Noble, "Berkeley manufacturer," conveyed primarily an endorsement of the status quo, praising Councilman Frank Gaines as candidate for mayor, and endorsing three council incumbents -- Carrie Hoyt, Frank Berg and Richard French -- for re-election.
Instead of incumbent Councilman Edward Martin, however, the group endorsed businessman Emery Stone for a seat. "Berkeley's reputation as one of the two best governed cities in America will be at stake," Noble intoned.
The day before, and coincidently, of course, the Gazette had run a picture and flattering profile of Stone, "automobile dealer and former secretary of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce." The civic resume of the 1932 Cal graduate listed involvement in a dozen or more mainstream local clubs and causes.
In early April 1939, fascist Italy took its cue from fascist Germany and invaded a smaller neighboring country, Albania, to establish a "protectorate." The day after, the Gazette headlined "Peaceful settlement seen in Italian-Albanian dispute."
Albanian cities were bombed. Albanian troops fought back. King Zog vowed to continue guerrilla war from "mountain fastnesses" and there were conflicting reports about the location of his wife and two-day-old son.
The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association annual house tour is on May 4. It will feature several remarkable homes in the vicinity of famed Rose Walk, which has turned 100. See berkeleyheritage.com for ticket and volunteering information.
(Disclosure: the author is on the boards of both BAHA and Berkeley Historical Society.)