Lions roared 75 years ago at Edwards Stadium on the UC Berkeley campus July 21, 1938, reported the Berkeley Daily Gazette. Well, not real lions, the fraternal sort.
An estimated 10,000 "Lions from eight countries and their wives" were attending a convention in Oakland, and came to Berkeley for their "outdoor musical festival, band contest and drum and bugle corps exhibition." Bands came from as far away as Utah and Arkansas.
The Gazette remarked editorially that this was the third major international convention of the summer in the Bay Area. There had been a Rotary convention in San Francisco, then a Kiwanis gathering.
The paper approvingly reported a speech by the president of Lions International. "While believing that fully a third of the citizens of the country 'do not believe it is a good country' and have gone sour on America as the greatest place in the world to live,' President Birch expressed the belief that the day was not far removed when they would awaken to the error of their belief."
The Lions also held "the most spectacular and colorful water pageant ever seen in Oakland" on Lake Merritt on the night of July 19. It was planned to include 50 boats, a gymnast, a scene from Chinese history 500 years ago "manned entirely by Chinese in their ancient trappings," music, "aquaplanes," "great banks of colored searchlights" including some atop the Scottish Rite temple, "Oakland's outstanding Negro choir," "a balalaika orchestra and a special Hawaiian ensemble," and the choir of Berkeley's First Presbyterian Church.
"One of the greatest expeditions of its kind in all scientific history is about to set forth to gather rare, exotic flowers and many other types of blossoms for the gardens of California and (the) country at large and for the Golden Gate International Exposition," the Gazette reported July 18, 1938. Headed by UC Botanical Garden Director T. Harper Goodspeed, the expedition launched July 20 and would remain in the southern Andes well into 1939, periodically sending back seeds and bulbs for planting and display in the Bay Area.
"Two Oakland firemen narrowly escaped death when they were trapped on a scaling ladder by encircling flames that turned the roof of the two-story Roselawn Apartments, 6609 Dover Street, into a raging inferno" on July 20.
The firemen had to crawl across the burning roof to another ladder. "Fireman were hampered in fighting the blaze by the crowd that was attracted." The building near the Oakland border suffered $2,500 damage.
The day before the fire the City Council approved asking for bids on a new fire truck with an 85-foot aerial ladder "to be prepared to effectively battle flames that might break out in hotels and other high buildings."
"Eleven blazes were reported sweeping out of control over 10,000 acres of timberland" in the Trinity and Klamath national forests on July 20 1938. Lightning strikes a week earlier set some 350 fires in Northern California.
The periodic Lake Tulare was covering 150,000 acres of the San Joaquin Valley in the summer of 1938, after farmland was flooded by considerable snowmelt from the Sierras. This was a natural phenomenon common to the valley, the Gazette reported July 19.
A UC professor explained the climatic variations that made flooding of the vast valley a regular occurrence over hundreds of years, adding, "the next disappearance of the lake, however, will probably be its last and final one," the reporter concluded, since farmers were planning to ask for government assistance to dam the Kings River.