Berkeley was the "safest city in California," the Berkeley Daily Gazette proclaimed 75 years ago, July 22, 1939. The claim was based on 104 days without a local traffic fatality. The fine print noted that the claim was for cities of over 100,000 population.

"The city's first 1939 traffic fatality occurred January 21 and this was followed by 16 deathless days, statistics reveal." Four others died by April 8. By July 22, there had been 210 traffic accidents during the calendar year, but only those five fatalities. A total of 264 people had been injured.

The 210 accidents involving vehicles included 96 where two vehicles collided, 51 involving a pedestrian, eight involving railroad trains or streetcars, 21 involving a collision between a motor vehicle and cyclist, 25 involving a "fixed object" and nine that included a vehicle crash without a collision.

Pacific Congress

As was the case with the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the 1939-40 World's Fair in San Francisco attracted numerous conventions and national organizational meetings.

"The sixth Pacific Science Congress, a great world-wide meeting called to develop the processes of peace and public welfare in the midst of feverish war preparations everywhere, is to open on the campus of the University of California next Monday, for a session lasting three weeks," the Gazette reported July 19.

"The leading scientists of 42 nations, representing all those countries bordering on the Pacific or holding Pacific possessions or mandates, have been bidden to the Congress by invitations extended through the State Department at Washington."


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Exposition flowers

On July 17, the Gazette reported on the "veritable ocean of flowers" in bloom, or on the verge of blossoming, at Treasure Island. They included 2,500 hybrid dahlias, 7,000 red or white tuberous begonias, 4,500 light blue asters, and 8,500 "giant Treasure Island Marigolds."

On the windy side of the island, facing San Francisco, "the Magic Carpet fronting the western shore of Treasure Island holds the records for blooms. A total of 1,226,340 Mesembryanthemum, or ice plants, are now partially in bloom and more will be showing their red and pink faces within the next two months."

Fires

On July 14, the Lotz family of 927 Indian Rock Ave. was awakened by an automobile horn and alerted to a fire in their garage. It turned out the fire had melted wires in the family car in the garage, short circuiting the horn. The horn and fire engine sirens attracted "a large number of residents" to watch the blaze.

Meanwhile, "Huge billows of smoke poured skyward" from the Durkee Famous Foods plant at 2900 Fifth St. on July 19, when "bubbling grease" in a "fat hardening vat" overflowed and set fire to the vat room. Damage was estimated at $250.

On July 21, there were multiple wildfires reported throughout the state, including one in Temescal Canyon that "for a time threatened scores of homes."

Ocean race

A Berkeley boat, "Magic Carpet," described as a "tiny 36-foot ketch" was a competitor in the "classic San Francisco to Honolulu yacht race" in summer, 1939. The first boats came in July 18 including the winner, "Blitzen" of New York. Eight boats, including the Magic Carpet, hadn't finished by July 22.

Volunteer chief

On July 13, August Lewis Ott, the "last surviving volunteer fire chief of the veteran Volunteer Firemen of Berkeley" died at his home of 51 years at 1501 Bonita Ave. He was "One of the West's oldest living manufacturing jewelers, and a prominent Berkeley pioneer."

Ott had moved in 1887 to Berkeley, where he "organized Volunteer Fire Company No. 4 and was Berkeley's first volunteer fire chief." He had also served on the school board.