Seventy-five years ago, on Aug. 21, 1939, "an upward swing in apartment house construction and work on several major structure projects within the city helped to swell Berkeley building operations during the last fiscal year to an astonishing total of $3,939,236," the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported. This was "approximately double the total expenditure in the local business field during the previous 12-month period."

In fiscal 1937-38 year, 415 building permits had been issued in Berkeley. In 1938-39, 526 building permits were issued for new structures, most of them single-family homes. Eight "frame office buildings" and eight masonry office buildings were also issued permits, along with five new apartment buildings.

"Most Berkeleyans have doubtless realized in a general way that Berkeley has been growing recently, that new homes have sprung up with amazing rapidity, especially in the outlying residential districts, and that new business structures are appearing throughout the city" the Gazette editorialized Aug. 22. "This character of growth, including as it does the residential, civic and business phases of a city, bespeaks a well rounded community. Such is the type of city which Berkeley has been, and such it will continue to be. The future looks equally as bright as the immediate past, particularly with the big expansion program of the University of California, now well under way."

Student needs


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Thousands of students were arriving in Berkeley in late Aug. 1939, for the opening of the fall term at the University of California.

On Aug. 28, "rebel" freshmen males said they wouldn't wear traditional freshman "dink" hats. Sophomores struck back by stopping freshmen without hats and fining them 25 cents each.

On Aug. 24, the Red Cross Shop at 2120 Allston Way "was reported to be literally swamped with requests from needy students for furnishings for their lodgings. The most urgent calls ... are for mattresses."

On Aug. 25, the Gazette ran a full-page announcement noting that "One million dollars buying power per month returns to Berkeley." The amount "represents cash spent monthly by UC students and faculty." It was noted that "Berkeley's share of this money will circulate in Berkeley, permeating the city. It will be spent for clothing, food merchandise, furniture, rent automobiles, transportation, cosmetics, radios, gasoline -- the list is almost endless. Berkeley is one of the highest individual income cities in the state," the ad claimed.

On Aug. 25, the Campus Text Book Exchange announced that it was planning to build a three story "new, modern fire-resisting structure costing $75,000." John B. Anthony was the architect of what would become a streamline modern structure that still stands on Bancroft Way, west of Telegraph Avenue. The building, currently painted yellow, temporarily houses the Cal Student Store.

European crisis

Aug. 21, 1939, brought news of the nonaggression pact between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia that tipped the balance of power in continental Europe. The British cabinet was in emergency session while, the paper reported, "German war preparations continued apace." An estimated two million German soldiers were under arms, large numbers of them on the Polish frontier toward which "the roads and railways are crammed with military movements," it was reported.

"Grave Diplomatic Defeat Threatens London, Paris" the Gazette headlined on Aug. 22.

On Aug. 23, the lead headline read, "Defiant Nazis Point Sword at All Europe."

"Adolf Hitler today informed Great Britain that its warnings against forcible solution of the Polish quarrel would not cause Germany to renounce her vital national interests.'

On Aug. 24, the Gazette ran in the center of the front page a "composite photo" showing "a surprise air attack on London, a possibility that every Englishman fears." The British government had just ordered complete London blackouts every night, indefinitely.