Seventy-five years ago, Jan. 4, 1938, Berkeley kicked off the New Year with City Council passage of an ordinance ensuring "the installation of water pipes in homes and other buildings is brought under city supervision for the first time."

Berkeley would set up a City Plumbing Board, require examinations for plumbers working locally, and repeal a $500 bonding requirement.

One key goal of the new ordinance, the Berkeley Daily Gazette said, was to prevent inadvertent connections and contamination between fresh water and sanitary sewer plumbing.

Gill Tract

The City of Albany, the Gazette reported Jan. 4, was seeking to release the University of California-owned Gill Tract at the edge of town for private construction. The City Council resolved Jan. 3 to approach the university and ask it to sell 15 acres of the 100-acre property "which the city has long sought to open up for development."

Traffic accidents

Police were "prepared for a busy night" on New Year's Eve, but only had three minor traffic accidents on Berkeley streets to deal with as 1938 arrived. However, UC student Clarence Steele, a 26-year-old sophomore, did not make it into the New Year. He "apparently fell asleep on the tracks" in Oakland and was killed by an approaching train.

As evening began on New Year's Day, Berkeley had its first traffic fatality of 1938. Victor Sari, age 53 and described as a "nomad" was struck and killed by a car at University Avenue and Ninth Street. Police alleged he had been crossing the street while intoxicated.

Unemployed

As the first week of the New Year began, some 500 "local unemployed men and women" had already filed for jobless benefits at the Berkeley office of the California State Employment Service at 2461 Shattuck, the Gazette reported Jan. 5.

The manager there estimated that "between 2000 and 2500 local unemployed will file claims at the Berkeley office."

Science discoveries

The Jan. 1 Gazette provided a Science Service rundown of discoveries in 1937. They included discovery of two new supernovas, raising the known total to 17, progress in identifying and fighting viruses, the first artificial fertilization of fruit flies for research purposes, and "newly discovered fossil remains of the Java Ape-Man," reinforcing the conclusion that Java man was a hominid.

Chief dies

Fred Heere, the 52-year-old police chief of Piedmont, "one of Northern California's best known police officials," suffered a heart attack while visiting friends in Berkeley Dec. 26, 1937. He died Jan. 5, 1938 at Berkeley General Hospital.

Rate increase

"Increased costs of materials, taxes and labor" required a subscription rate increase for the Gazette to 70 cents a month for home delivery in the new year. Newsstand prices would be five cents a copy. "The boy who delivers your paper will receive a substantial part of this increase" the Gazette assured readers.

Bowl win

The undefeated California Golden Bears of 1937 finished off the season with a New Year's Day 13-0 victory over the Crimson Tide of Alabama in the Rose Bowl.

And, in case you're wondering, Cal would go to the Rose Bowl 4 more times in the 20th century but 1938 would be -- to date -- the last win there for the Bears, 75 years ago.

Acknowledgments

This edition begins a new year of writing this column. As always, I wish to remember my two able "75 Years Ago" predecessors, Carl Wilson and Ken Cardwell, the Berkeley Voice for carrying the column, and the readers. I look forward to continuing with you through 2013, chronicling 1938 in history as Berkeley and the nation moved through Depression and toward the second World War.