Seventy-five years ago, Berkeley "joined the Nation in official observance of Fire Prevention Week."

A front-page story in the Oct. 4, 1937 Berkeley Daily Gazette noted that "posters, special displays and demonstrations at the municipal playgrounds are included in the program" to be run by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

"A special skit and sound motion pictures" would be staged at Berkeley High School.

"President Roosevelt has invited the active cooperation of every citizen," the Gazette reported, adding that property loss from fire in 1936 in the United States had totaled over $260 million.

Today, we might also note the importance of urban wildfire prevention in the East Bay. Each fall we arrive in the midst of a constellation of local fire anniversaries. Sept. 23 for the 1923 Berkeley fire, October 19 for the 1991 Oakland hills firestorm, and Sept. 25-26 for the 1937 Lake Temescal fire that I recently described in this column.

From the 1923 fire to the present day, there have been 15 major wildfires in our hills, according to the Hills Emergency Forum.

But memories fade. We're now 21 years from the most recent fire -- 1991 -- and many people who live in the Berkeley/Oakland hills have no direct experience with this sort of wildfire. The Hills Emergency Forum, a coalition of local agencies with land in, and/or fire fighting responsibility for, the area has good information on line about the history and prevention of this type of recurring local wildfire.

Sanitation

On Oct. 5, 1937, it was reported that Berkeley was going to purchase a new fleet of garbage trucks. Eight of them would cost about $20,000 and replace older trucks "many of which have been in service for the past 15 years."

The new vehicles would be a "cab and trailer" model, with "stream-lined low level trailers, to be not more than five-feet six inches in height, carrying 11 yards of material and having a normal load capacity of one and one-half to two tons. The trailers will be covered with a sliding metal roof so that upon being filled they can proceed to the garbage fill with the contents out of sight."

Police gift

Berkeley police picked up "Robert Kelly, 15-year-old Negro waif" at Shattuck and Center on the morning of Oct. 5, 1937. He explained that he had been orphaned since age 8, came from Arkansas, and had been hitchhiking for 15 days through California to get to Reno where he hoped to dance and shine shoes to make money.

Two officers, the Gazette said, took up a collection to get him a new suit of clothes, fix his shoeshine kit, and buy him a bus ticket to Reno, along with a gift of cash for the journey.

Brico concert

Antonia Brico was coming back to the Bay Area to conduct two concerts, in Oakland and San Francisco, of the Bay Region Federal Symphony in early October 1937.

Brico was a Cal alumnus, as well as "foremost American woman symphony leader," and currently based in New York. She had spent the summer in Europe, the Oct. 4 Gazette reported, visiting friends in Germany, attending the Bayreuth Festival, "and visiting Jan Sibelius at his home in Finland."

Football complaints

Cal beat Washington State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, October 9, 1937 and as a result Berkeley police had to respond to phone call complaints about "more than a dozen noisy parties" between 1 and 3 a.m. the next morning. The Oct. 11 Gazette also noted a homeowner and a store owner had reported that bricks and rocks had been thrown through their windows.