"If the Federal government acts favorably upon the petition of the Berkeley Board of Education for a $262,000 WPA grant for the local high school district, the board will be able to go ahead with plans for some $862,000 additions to the high school plant. An auditorium building with a seating capacity of 3,500 and costing $600,000, and a $325,000 two-unit commercial building are the two immediate projects," the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported 75 years ago, June 1, 1939.

"Last night the board approved preliminary sketches for the new commercial building and directed Architects Henry H. Gutterson and Will Corlett to proceed with working plans ... It will face on Grove Street and run from Kittredge Street to Allston Way, connecting with the new shop building which is rapidly approaching completion.

In planning the new auditorium, the Board of Education has in mind the need for a large auditorium which can be available, when not in school use, for civic functions. The commercial building and the auditorium will be built on the 'pay-as-you-go' policy of the board out of current revenue."

Tunnel traffic

Another transformation of the local landscape was hinted at in the June 5, 1939 Gazette with mention of "the possibility of abandoning the North Berkeley Tunnel for Southern Pacific interurban trains and to use it instead as a direct connecting traffic lane between Solano Avenue and Arlington Avenue districts, and downtown Berkeley, via Sutter Street."


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City and Chamber of Commerce officials were planning to meet with the railroad.

The tunnel has now been in roadway use for so long that many in Berkeley have probably never heard of its origins as an interurban railway tunnel.

UC budget

On June 7, the Gazette reported that the University of California would receive a state budget allocation of some $16.6 million for the next two fiscal years, 1939-41. This added up to more than $1.9 million over the state appropriation for UC for the previous biennium, but some $70,000 less than UC had requested.

The appropriation compared with the university's then-record allocation of $17 million in state funding for 1931-33. The university had 41,666 students (not all at Berkeley, of course) in 1931-33. In 1937-39, the annual enrollment was 53,927, and anticipated to increase.

Doctor passes

Dr. Valentine T. McGillycuddy died at Alta Bates Hospital on June 6, 1939. I believe I have mentioned him before in this column. He was a 90-year-old retired U.S. Army surgeon.

His press notoriety came not only from his first name -- given because he was born on Valentine's Day -- but his status as one of the surviving members of General Custer's Seventh Cavalry.

McGillycuddy was not at the Battle of the Little Big Horn where Custer and most of his command died.

The doctor passed away only about 20 hours before his only daughter, a resident of Alvarado Road, gave birth to a girl who was his first grandchild.

Locally, he was also known for having birthday parties attended by hundreds at the Claremont Hotel.

Royal visit

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England received an ovation from some 600,000 spectators in Washington, D.C. on June 8, 1939, at what was described as "the first visit of its kind in history."

They arrived by train and were met at the station by President and Mrs. Roosevelt, and then taken to the White House through the huge crowd.

A few days earlier, Sean Russell, chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army, had been jailed in an immigration center in Detroit when the King and Queen visited Windsor, Ontario, across the river. Russell was "accused of entering the United States on a false passport."