It was 75 years ago, on April 29, 1938, that the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce presented Mayor Edward Ament with a "three foot blue and gold key symbolizing the hospitality for which the City of Berkeley is famous."

The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported that chamber President Raymond M. Young told Ament, "This is the key to the City of Berkeley and you have been selected by the Chamber of Commerce to be its official custodian. The key is to be presented to presiding officers of all conventions which honor Berkeley with their future meetings.

"J. Delbert Sarber, newly elected general manager of the Berkeley chamber, in discussing the newly designed key, called attention to the fact that Berkeley will be the headquarters for many conventions and distinguished visitors during 1939 and the soon-to-be-opened Golden Gate International Exposition."

The article was accompanied by a staged photograph on the City Hall steps showing chamber officials, Mayor Ament, City Manager Hollis Thompson, and the impressively sized key.

In the picture Sarber and Young are each clutching one end of the key, appearing almost reluctant to give it up, while Ament stands somewhat bemused in the background.

Was anybody at the time wondering why it was the Chamber of Commerce that was dispensing the key to the city, not the city government itself? If so, the Gazette wasn't saying.

And what became of the large key with its University of California colors? I haven't a clue.

War news

The Gazette in 1938 was filled with war news from overseas.

In China, an offensive to capture Hankow had been launched by Japan, which sent a bombing raid of some 40 planes over the city on April 29. About 100 Chinese planes met them and "the squadrons spread out for miles in dog fights over the suburbs."

Chinese forces claimed to have shot down 20 Japanese planes and lost eight of their own.

Many bombs were dropped, killing and burying civilians on the ground.

In Spain, meanwhile, the last days of April 1938, saw considerable fighting between rebel and loyalist forces.

Baptist graduation

May 3, 1938, the American Baptist Seminary of the West graduated 18 students.

Various ceremonies were held at the First Baptist Church (Dana and Haste), at the College Women's Club on Bancroft (now the Bancroft Hotel), and at the seminary itself, which remains at Dwight and Hillegass.

Medieval founding

Jumping ahead a few decades, we note that May 1, 1966, was the date that the first event of what would become the Society for Creative Anachronism was held in Berkeley.

A group of medieval aficionados, many of them Cal students, held a social gathering and tournament in the backyard of a house on Oregon Street, followed by a costumed march up Telegraph Avenue.

This was the beginning of an organization that now spans the world, with thousands of members and dozens of events annually that have the mission of celebrating the Middle Ages "as they should have been" (without the nasty elements like plague, slavery, and religious persecution).

The SCA still thrives in the Bay Area -- officially part of the "Principality of the Mists" in the "Kingdom of the West" -- and here's hoping they'll have a rousing local celebration for their 50th anniversary just three years hence, in 2016.

Mountain Play

We also note that the "Mountain Play" in Marin County, which is celebrating its 100th year in 2013, had direct Berkeley connections when it was founded in 1913.

Garnet Holme, from UC, directed the first edition of the annual open-air play and one of the lead performers was Gladstone Wilson, son of J. Stitt Wilson, Berkeley's former mayor.