"University of California students do the bulk of their buying in Berkeley, and a majority of them are 'getting by' on an average of $60 or less a month," was the conclusion of a report conducted 75 years ago.
The survey on the buying habits and economic circumstances of UC Berkeley students, undertaken by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, was reported in the May 24, 1939, issue of the Berkeley Daily Gazette.
A mail survey was sent to 500 students and 431 responded. Results were tabulated for the Chamber by a UC economics professor. In 1939, $60 was equivalent to a little over $1,000 a month today.
Students reported a wide range of income levels. "140 stated that they had $50 or less per month to spend ... twenty-seven students reported monthly incomes of $80 or more." On average, the respondents spent $1.90 a month on movies, "with Friday the most popular theater-going day."
Men spent nearly $3 a month on dances ("class and organizational"), $1.14 on corsages, and $3.57 at hotels. (These are averages of expenses, not exact prices for those particular services. And housing costs were not summarized.)
"Those who eat in restaurants get by on forty-five cents a day. Students preparing their own meals average $17.56 per month on food expenditures."
Of 265 students answering the question "Do you own a car," 93 replied they did. A suit of clothes, most students reported, cost $30 to $35, a substantial sum if you consider that average total living expense of $60 or less per month.
"Only 30 percent spend money for liquor and the weekly average of students reporting is $2.03, with mixed drinks costing 81 cents, about three a week; whiskey 74 cents, not over four drinks, and 48 cents for beer. No one reported buying wine. Most of the beer is purchased in Berkeley and the 'hard' liquors in Oakland and San Francisco."
In comparison, they averaged $1.37 per month in candy purchases.
Men averaged 90 cents a month on haircuts and barbers; women students averaged $3.09 on hair stylists and manicures.
Finally, "more than 50 percent of the undergraduates said they intend to live in Berkeley or vicinity after graduation."
On May 23, 1939, the Berkeley Junior Chamber of Commerce announced plans for "a citywide fuchsia garden contest."
"The contest will be for 'front gardens,' those gardens visible from the street." Winners would receive gift certificates to Berkeley Horticultural Nursery.
"The fuchsia is Berkeley's official flower and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce wishes to make this contest the outstanding civic event on its spring calendar," said Floyd Talbott, president of the junior Chamber. "Size of the garden and others flowers in the garden will be considered as incidental in the judging."
(Fuchsias -- once one of the gardening glories of our city, where the American Fuchsia Society was founded in 1929 -- received a severe setback in the early 1980s with the arrival of fuchsia gall mites from South America.)
Meanwhile, the Berkeley Garden Club announced on May 24, 1939 that its first Rose Show would be held in the City Council chambers on June 17. A display of roses from the Berkeley Rose Garden was planned, and local gardeners were invited to bring in their own roses for display.
"Berkeley gardens contain many fine roses," the club noted, expressing the wish that the show would become an annual event.
On May 30, 1939, the governor announced that Bay Bridge tolls would probably be cut from 50 cents to 40 cents in the near future. Those 40 cents in 1939 would be equivalent to more than $6.80 today, higher than current Bay Bridge tolls.