Berkeley once again missed its chance to have a park in the heart of downtown on Shattuck Avenue 75 years ago. On Aug. 2, 1938, five members of the City Council held a special meeting to consider action on development of the old Southern Pacific Station site on Shattuck Square, north of Center Street.
Citizens had organized a petition and lobbying effort to have the city buy the land for a park, but it was too little, too late. Commercial interests won out, supported by the Southern Pacific, which was selling the land.
A Southern Pacific attorney told the council that it would be "inconsistent" to shift to park use. "In a week or more the depot will be a pile of bricks and to stand as such, maybe for a year, while the voters decide, will be an eyesore to the City of Berkeley."
Councilman Walter Mork agreed, saying, "I don't think the city's taxpayers will ever vote $100,000 to put a park there. In the meantime, the land is owned by private parties and they have their rights. We as a City Council must protect those rights."
The City Council had, the previous March, voted no objection to sale of the station land for commercial development.
Dr. Harry W. Shepherd, of the landscape architecture faculty at UC Berkeley, made the case for more time to study a park proposal.
At the Aug. 2 meeting the council didn't vote. The next week, Aug. 9, it did and allowed the commercial projects to go forward. "New commercial buildings will rise Phoenix-like from the debris" of the old train station, the Gazette poetically reported.
"I would be delighted if the city could retain this bit of an island in the city center for a breathing place," said Mayor Edward Ament. But he added he didn't think the voters would approve a bond issue.
On Aug. 2, 1938, you could drive an automobile in Berkeley but you couldn't get one fixed, or buy a new one. A strike by car salesmen had spread to local mechanics and the "auto repair business in Berkeley was paralyzed this afternoon" reported the Berkeley Daily Gazette. Some 300 mechanics joined 100 local salesmen on strike over issues involving an expired contract.
Berkeley's eight major car dealers were picketed and essentially shut down. They were the John M. Olney Company, Fidelity Sales, Howard Automobile Company, Burns Chevrolet Company, Brooks Motor Company, University Motors, and J.E. French and Company.
"Mrs. Minerva Donald, wife of Dr. William G. Donald, University of California physician, is reported to have been seriously burned about the face and body shortly after noon today when an explosion and fire destroyed the Echo Lake cottage of Dr. Robert Gordon Sproul, president of the University," the Gazette reported July 30, 1938. The fire was started when a "jug of gasoline overturned" in the kitchen.
Mrs. Donald was taken to Reno, then flown back to the Bay Area. Her husband had been vacationing separately, at the Bohemian Grove. Sproul was vacationing in Europe with his family.