A petition was signed by 800 property owners in early 1939 that asked the City of Berkeley and school district act immediately to develop a playground adjacent to Willard Junior High School on Telegraph Avenue.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported 75 years ago, April 18, 1939, that the petition asked the two municipal bodies to "make a public declaration of their interest and willingness to undertake a program which will complete a playground area within the next 12 months."

"For sometime a Willard School Playground Committee, composed of city officials and members of the school department, has been working toward the purchase and development of the block bordered by Telegraph Avenue, Ward, Derby and Regent Street, adjacent to the Willard School, as a playground. At present the city and school district have secured six of 20 lots within the block and it has been contemplated that additional frontage will be purchased as funds become available."

The city was planning to sell lots Ninth, Tenth, Camilla and Page Streets in west Berkeley, and use proceeds to buy the property adjacent to Willard.

Today, that block is the northern part of the Willard School property, including the gymnasium and the baseball field, and Ward Street ends at Telegraph Avenue.

It also contains a vacant building where the Willard Swim Center was once located. The swim center is now closed, the pool filled with dirt by the city.

Candidate statements

Earlier this year we mentioned Frances Albrier, the first African-American woman to run for Berkeley City Council.

Here's her candidate statement from the April 19, 1939 Berkeley Gazette for the May 2, 1939 election. The last sentence is the most poignant, since Berkeley at that time had non-white residents -- primarily African-American and Japanese-American -- but had never had, as far as I know, a non-Caucasian member of the Council.

"A group of citizens of Berkeley asked me to be a candidate for the City Council. I have been a resident of Berkeley for 18 years. I am a taxpayer and the mother of three children in the Berkeley schools, a university graduate and have been very interested in municipal affairs, especially in needs of people who live in Berkeley. I believe in the city manager form of government but believe that democratic ideals are best served by a representative council."

The Gazette was publishing candidate statements as they came in, up to 300 works, as long as they did not contain "any statement of personalities." Albrier's statement totaled 81 words.

Another candidate whose statement was published in the same issue was Edward C. McNeany. He also stated he favored the city manager form of government, "but believe nothing will contribute more quickly to its abandonment than the perpetuation in office of the same council members, thus creating a tendency towards apathy on the part of those council members, forcing the city manager's assumption of both legislative and administrative duties."

Ferries missed

A group of Alameda residents wrote to three government agencies to ask that commuter ferry service be restored across San Francisco Bay. Most of the ferries serving the central East Bay had gone out of service when commute trains began to run on the Bay Bridge.

The petitioners, the Gazette reported April 19, "included charges that the commute trains across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge do not contain conveniences for passengers who become ill and that the seats have no foot rests."

They also objected to "slow and irregular schedules and inconvenient routings" of streetcars "on the East Bay shore."

The article concluded by noting that "Officials have given the opinion there is little chance of restoring commuter ferries."