Seventy-five years ago the April 4, 1938, Berkeley Daily Gazette was full of news about a double murder that occurred halfway across the country but directly touched Berkeley.

Mrs. Hazel Frome, "prominent Berkeley matron and her attractive daughter," Miss Nancy Frome, had been found dead March 30 near Van Horn, Texas while driving cross-country.

"Mother and daughter were slain by two sadistic highwaymen, according to word from Texas. There was evidence found that possibly the two women were cruelly tortured and finally killed by a man while his woman companion looked on. Both Berkeleyans had been shot by pistols of different calibers and their belongings, money and car were stolen."

The local district attorney initially theorized that the Fromes suffered a flat tire, another car stopped and its occupants helped change the tire, then pulled a gun on the two women and drove both cars into the brush. There they were killed -- possibly after Miss Frome tried to fight back -- and their attackers drove off with both cars, abandoning the stolen vehicle 50 miles away. "Police officers and scores of cowboys and other citizens who have left everything to join in the search were stirred by the extreme brutality of the crime."

The car itself, a new Packard, had been won by Mr. Frome of 2560 Cedar St. in a raffle and given to his daughter when she graduated from the University of California.


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Nancy Frome and her mother were making a sightseeing trip across the country to visit another daughter on the East Coast. They were experienced travelers, having previously driven to Mexico City.

The Frome family had moved to Berkeley in 1932, and both daughters had attended the Anna Head School as well as UC. The bodies were identified, in part, with fingerprints brought from Berkeley. The Frome family had participated in Berkeley's universal fingerprinting campaign a few years before.

Arrests reported in subsequent days apparently proved to be false leads, since this seems to remain an unsolved crime, at least according to recent Internet accounts. Some accounts speculate that the Frome car may have been mistaken for a similar vehicle used to smuggle drugs and the damaged tire and apparent torture indicate that someone had assumed the two women were transporting hidden drugs.

Prevarication

On April 1, 1938, the Congress debating society at the UC Berkeley campus held an annual Liars' Contest. First prize -- the title of Consummate Prevaricationist -- was won by San Franciscan George Mew, who told a complicated and utterly false tale of trying to take laundry to China to be washed.

After various travails, he arrived in China, where he was blown into the air by Japanese munitions. "He was saved by his 'laundry bag parachute' which brought him safely through the stratosphere to a perfect landing on the Campanile."

Realtors dine

April 4, 1938, 100 Realtors and colleagues participated in the first anniversary "of the organization's Saturday morning business breakfast."

Gifts were given to officials. including agent A. Ormsby Donogh Jr., who was the head of the breakfast gathering and had attended all 50 events in the past year.

The same day, the Gazette reported that permits had been issued for $36,190 worth of local building during the previous week.

Spanish war

The world had a foretaste of vast coming tragedies when Spanish nationalist rebels bombed Barcelona for 41 hours.

The March 31, 1938, Gazette had a photo essay that called the bombing "the most destructive from the air that a large city ever suffered."

According to the report, "Tall buildings were shattered completely to their foundations. Tram cars and automobiles were destroyed as they moved."

Nearly 1,000 people were killed in the bombardment.