Seventy-five years ago, Berkeley held two patriotic meetings and rallies to celebrate Constitution Day on the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the Constitution of the United States.

On Sept. 18, 1937, the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported on one of the rallies held the previous night at Berkeley High School that featured City Manager Hollis Thompson was one of the speakers.

The Constitution, Thompson said, "presupposes that an individual will be intelligent about his government; that he will know and understand its meaning and that he will be willing to sacrifice something himself in order that he can enjoy freedom, justice, and democracy."

He emphasized that, "There devolves upon us, therefore, the responsibility of taking part intelligently in government affairs, a full knowledge of what government in this country is intended to do, and of the responsibility of each individual citizen which is infinitely greater in democracy, of course, than under any other form of government."

The Berkeley High School band played "appropriate patriotic selections" at the event and the Rev. Francis Shunk Downs, well-known pastor of First Congregational Church, "gave the invocation which was followed by the singing of 'America.'"


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(Just to connect these events to the present, the University of California has a series of Constitution events this month -- check the UC Berkeley website, http://bit.ly/TCQG3p -- and the old Durant Avenue Presbyterian Church building, founded later by Downs after he left First Presbyterian and built on Durant Avenue west of Shattuck Avenue, is now scheduled for demolition.)

Magazine burglar

"Becoming bolder in his actions, Berkeley's 'magazine salesman' burglar looted several apartments in the vicinity of the University of California campus and was seen by a number of persons over the week-end," the Gazette reported Sept. 20.

"Believed responsible for more than a score of daring burglaries during the past three weeks, the burglar explains he is 'selling magazine subscriptions' when stopped by suspicious persons who have noticed him prowling around apartment and student boarding houses."

He'd stolen purses, cash, watches, and other items in a spree ranging from Piedmont Avenue to Russell Street, over to Ridge Road, and back to the Baptist Divinity School on Dwight Way.

Service station

"Thousands attend Stout's Open House" headlined the Gazette Sept. 20, 1937. "Several thousand motorists, from all sections of the East Bay area, attended the 'Open House' of the C. Tracy Stout Super-Service Station Saturday night at Grove and Addison Streets. A special program of entertainment was presented from early evening to midnight.

"The new $25,000 two-unit building, which includes a modern retreading plant and a super-service station, is said to be one of the finest of its kind on the Pacific Coast. "Clean rest rooms -- comfortable chairs -- everything consistent is provided ... lots of room -- no traffic hazards -- close in" were some of the assets of the facility publicized in the ad.

What location was this? An advertisement in the Sept. 17 Gazette shows what appears to be the surviving building on the northeast corner of Addison and MLK, Jr. Way, which now operates as a Goodyear shop. The "super-service station" with gas pumps and a bay with a car lift stood nearer to the intersection, in what is now the parking lot.

Garden talk

On Sept. 20, 1937, Berkeley parks foreman Harold Givens spoke to the Berkeley Garden Club at the John Hinkel Park clubhouse on the topic of "Planning the Home Garden."

Givens, who also taught landscape design, had "succeeded the late Allison M. Woodman, in the work at the High School.

"It was through Mr. Woodman's classes that the Berkeley Garden Club was first started and the club recommends the course for all amateur gardeners."