It was 75 years ago, March 29, 1938, that Berkeleyans won expanded rights to smoke indoors. The Berkeley City Council voted "to permit smoking in certain sections of theaters," the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported that day.

"The move was based on the recent discovery by Fire Chief George Haggerty of a Government formula that will permit the fireproofing of drapes, carpeting and other inflammable materials used in theaters at an extremely low cost."

Haggerty had been exploring the issue, City Manager Hollis Thompson told the council, because "for some years now Berkeleyans have insisted on smoking in certain parts of theaters in violation of the city ordinance."

The ordinance would permit smoking in the balcony, or in the loge area in one-level theaters.

The theaters would have to be inspected to show they had been "satisfactorily fireproofed," and would also be required to have a regular in-house clean up and inspection after the last performance each day, presumably to look for discarded lit cigarettes.

Car tracks

The city was in a continuing dispute with the East Bay Transit Company over the maintenance of streetcar lines on College Avenue and Grove Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way).

The city wanted the company to repair the streets and sought to "force complete replacement of the present track areas on both streets with a substantial permanent concrete rail base and new surface pavement."


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Recall that in those days streetcars still ran down both thoroughfares.

The March 29, 1938, Gazette reported that the transit company had made a counteroffer to make repairs that would last for two years, during which time a decision would be made on whether the streetcars would continue or be replaced by "another type of transportation facility."

The company told the city it couldn't afford permanent track upgrades.

As we know, the streetcars were ultimately eliminated and replaced by bus lines. But here and there tracks still lie beneath the paving of Berkeley's streets. I've seen old rails exposed during street work two or three times on Bancroft Way west of Dana Street, as well as buried railroad ties (from the old Santa Fe "Red Train" route) that ran down Ellsworth Street.

Expo club

With the opening of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island approaching, Berkeley women were informed in a March 26 article that they could sign up for a $10 membership in the Yerba Buena Club at the exposition.

"The $200,000 clubhouse is being constructed at present," the Gazette reported, adding that, "the modern clubhouse for women will remain open during the duration of the Golden Gate International Exposition."

Any Berkeley woman who was not already affiliated with a local women's club could go down to the Tupper & Reed music store at 2271 Shattuck Ave. and pick up an application. But then "each card holder must secure two sponsors and then report to Mrs. Marks at Tupper and Reed's on Tuesday afternoon between 4 and 5:40 o'clock."

Mrs. S.M. Marks was both in charge of filling the Berkeley quota of clubwomen and a "prominent civic leader and clubwoman herself."

Easter cross

A lighted Easter cross would return to the top of Albany Hill in 1938, the Gazette reported March 29. "The former cross, which was visible for miles around the Bay Area, was partially destroyed by vandals during the (1937) Christmas season. Electric globes and sockets were smashed repeatedly, causing the cross to be in total darkness for Christmas and New Year's Eve. Subsequently, a heavy windstorm toppled the 20-foot cross."

But Albany Community Methodist Church minister George G. Saywell was drumming up financing to replace the cross, and local Boy Scouts had volunteered to guard a new cross "day and night" against vandals.