"When you walked out to the garage this morning and filled your lungs full of sharp Christmas air the overcoat or sweater felt pretty good, didn't it?" asked an article in the Berkeley Daily Gazette 75 years ago on Dec. 23, 1937. "There is something in the crispness of the air which is synonymous with Christmas happiness, but what if you didn't have that coat or sweater?" (The weather report that day for the Bay Area was "unsettled and cold".)

"There are quite a few Berkeleyans who, though not altogether their own fault, are not appreciating the California Christmas weather; they have neither coat nor sweater. Many of them are children and they are in homes where meager heating apparatus and meager supplies of fuel do not add to the Christmas warmth of most Berkeley homes."

The article then reported that the Berkeley Christmas Committee needed an additional $300 -- "that's 150 crisp two-dollar bills" -- to meet its anticipated charitable gift needs for the season. The fund had already collected nearly $2,100. Needs included not only warm clothing, but books and toys -- new or used -- for older children. "There is one 13-year-old West Berkeley youngster who for the last four years has been writing letters to Santa Claus for a bike ... this year he has pared down his bike request to 'any old bicycle what will pedal'."

The Christmas Committee was headquartered in the Hotel Crail, which still stands (although now it's an apartment building) on Shattuck Avenue, just north of the downtown Bank of America.

An article on Dec. 21 had noted that the fund was attempting to "make Christmas a reality for 1,050 families." Let's assume each family had four or five members; that would mean around 5 percent of Berkeley's 1937 population was identified as in need of aid at Christmas that year, as the Great Depression continued.

Holiday performances

On Dec. 23, 1937, the Berkeley Municipal Legion Band began a series of outdoor concerts "dispensing Christmas melodies to shoppers in five sections of the city."

"Mounted on a gaily decorated truck," the 25-member group, all American Legionnaires, began with a concert at Shattuck and University avenues at 7:30 p.m. They then performed at Sather Gate, at College and Ashby, on San Pablo Avenue and finally on Solano Avenue at The Alameda.

The latter two concerts were in Shell service station parking lots.

"The concert is the third of a series arranged this year by the City of Berkeley and the recreation department as part of the civic recreation program."

On Sunday, Dec. 21, the "Claremont Choral of 80 voices" directed by Lawrence Reeder, gave a performance of Handel's Messiah to "a capacity audience" at the Claremont Hotel. It was the sixth annual Messiah performance by the group.

At First Congregational Church on Dec. 19, a new Christmas play, "In the Fullness of Time," written by Congregational member Lenore H. Morgan, was performed for the first time to a standing room only audience in the 1,200-capacity sanctuary.

"At the close of the performance adjourning to the church lawn, the great congregation joined in 'The Afterglow,' the unveiling and illumination of a crèche ... The ringing of the tower chimes and community singing of old carols brought the Christmas Sunday service to an impressive close."

Factory planned

A new $200,000 factory, "the first major improvement of its kind undertaken in Berkeley for some years," was announced for Fifth and Grayson, the Gazette reported Dec. 22. The building would house the West Coast Kalsomine Company, which would demolish its older, smaller, factory. (Kalsomine--and yes, I had to look it up--is a "white or pale blue wash" for wall surfaces.)