Drop by downtown Berkeley for some historical cheer this Saturday, Dec. 21. The Berkeley Historical Society is having a holiday open house from 1-4 p.m. at the History Center, 1931 Center St. Enjoy cookies and warm cider, see the current exhibit, and visit with BHS board officers, volunteers, and members.
Right outside the History Center the Ecology Center is having its holiday craft fair. And downtown is bright with holiday decorations, restaurants, movies, and shopping.
Now, back to our regular seventy-five years ago coverage of the 1930s ...
On Dec. 23, 1938 Mrs. G.M. Thomas of 2828 Prince St. drove to downtown Berkeley to do her Christmas shopping. When she returned home and unloaded her packages, she found a still-hot roasted turkey in the back seat. Police believed that someone had placed it there by accident, thinking it was their own car. They advised Mrs. Thomas to eat it if no one reported it missing. "I'd park my car on Shattuck Avenue if I thought I'd have the same kind of luck" a police sergeant observed.
Berkeley Mayor Edward Ament published a Christmas message in the Gazette on Dec. 20, telling Berkeleyans "isn't it a wonderful gift to have a home in the United States of America under a flag that symbolizes the ideals of life, peace and liberty?" In Oakland, the Chapel of the Chimes was presenting two last evenings of "dramatized scenes from the Bible in costume" December 20-21, 1938 along with its "annual candle illumination."
And Berkeley's downtown post office "had one of its busiest nights of the year" on Dec. 21, processing some 500,000 letters and Christmas cards and "16,000 Christmas packages." All were delivered by noon via 60 trucks, 235 regular postal workers, and a seasonal staff of 400, "mostly high school and University of California students." The postmaster reminded locals on Dec. 21 that "only special delivery and perishable packages will be delivered Christmas Day".
"A crowd of men and women angry and shouting because they were denied entrance" disrupted Oakland police court on Dec. 20, 1938. They were barred from a hearing in the case of Berkeleyan Ronald Greig who was accused of stabbing Leona Vlught to death. Spectators pushed against an iron gate while Greig "ran to safety" behind a court bailiff. At the conclusion of the closed hearing a judge ordered Greig stand trial for murder in Superior Court.
The dispute over building the Vedanta Society Berkeley headquarters doesn't seem to have gone away. On Dec. 20, 1938 the Berkeley Property Owners Protective League petitioned the City Council to rescind its approval for the Vedanta Society project at Haste and Bowditch. The head of the group told the council "certainly you are giving a wonderful impression of the helplessness of property owners in a case like this."
The city attorney advised the council that it could not legally retract their approval, and court action could be taken if it did. He also said granting a permit for the project was an executive, not a legislative action, so it could not be subject to a referendum.
Demolition started Dec. 22, 1938, on "several old buildings" along Center Street west of Oxford to make way for the new UC Press building. The building that resulted is now being altered into the new home of the University of California Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive.
Southern California was swept in mid-December, 1938, by the heaviest rains in 50 years, following "the hottest December weather in history" in Los Angeles. On Dec. 21, snow fell in Altadena and Pasadena.