A Berkeley municipal election was just one week off as of April 25, 1939, and the battle lines were drawn between the status quo members of the City Council and their picked candidates, and critics who wanted some variety of civic reform.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette, which was firmly behind the incumbent slate, editorialized ominously on April 25 that "In spite of the wide publicity given these candidates, there are those who fear it has failed to disclose the existence of outside political influences that may be seeking to obtain a foothold in Berkeley's municipal affairs, and for that reason they are carefully scrutinizing the support behind individuals or groups of candidates.

"This is a justifiable precaution because Berkeley government has long been free of political domination either from within or outside the city." By this, one assumes, the Gazette was arguing that a traditional political machine did not run Berkeley, with bosses and a spoils system.

In the view of this writer, the city government definitely did have a machine in that era in the sense that the business community and the council were closely aligned.

On April 20, the Gazette reported about a letter from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover supporting opposition by Berkeley's chief of police to establishing a local civil service ordinance that would "restrict the selection of personnel" in the police department.

Fire stations

The City Council took action April 25 to purchase an option on a possible fire station site at Spruce Street and Michigan Avenue in the north hills. No fire station is there today, although there's a city park.

Another site would also be sought "near the base of the hills in the Thousand Oaks district."

In the view of the City Manager, "The rapid growth of the city will make the establishment of both houses within the next five years absolutely necessary."

Anti-aircraft

As far as I know, Berkeley has never been attacked by hostile aircraft, with the possible exception of tear-gas spraying helicopters in 1969.

But in April 26, 1939, there was "a public demonstration of the newest anti-aircraft equipment of the 65th Coast Artillery," for two hours at Edwards Track Stadium.

The public was invited to attend and watch searchlights that had been placed at the stadium, Ashby and Claremont avenues, and in Emeryville, track a B-18 bomber as it flew "a triangular course over Berkeley."

The guns -- which presumably didn't actually fire at the bomber -- would be on the campus for a few additional days for ROTC training.

The aircraft guns were also in place during the annual UC President's Review of "twenty-five hundred members of the University of California ROTC, representing infantry, coast artillery, signal corps, ordnance, engineer and naval units" at Edwards Field on April 27.

That story appeared side by side in the April 26 Gazette with an article that President Roosevelt had signed a War Department appropriations bill "which carries funds to launch the program to build up the Army Air Corps toward an eventual goal of 6,000 first line fighting planes."

Cow afloat

On April 23, 1939 Dr. Paul Walters, "local physician and surgeon who fishes without stimulants" was out for a day of angling with his daughter and two of her friends in Raccoon Straits near Angel Island when he hooked what the Gazette wryly termed a "cowfish," a Holstein cow that was swimming, for some reason, a mile offshore and had snagged his fishing line.

With the help of other nearby fishermen the cow was pulled into another boat and sailed away, presumably back to land. Walters told the Gazette he was considering going fishing next time with "a rope and milk pail."