Berkeley, a Look Back: Albany pledges to help city start hospital

A century ago, officials with the city of Albany told the Berkeley City Council that their city would join Berkeley in trying to get a public emergency hospital established to serve the two communities. The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported July 13, 1920, that “the city of Albany is provided at the present time with no facilities of any kind for caring for emergency cases (and) Berkeley is petitioning for a branch of the county emergency hospital to be located in that city.” The hospital would also serve Albany residents.

UC diversity: An article in the July 15, 1920, Gazette listed unusual names in the UC student directory and also noted the points of origin of many students. There were students at Cal from 39 states and 14 foreign countries. Besides California, the most U.S. students came to Berkeley from Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Texas.

There were 14 students from China — the most from any foreign country — along with students from Armenia, France, Canada, Australia, Brazil, the Philippines, South Africa, England, Mexico and Alaska. That’s an interesting snapshot of UC enrollment a century ago.

Property taxes: Berkeley’s property tax rate for 1920-21 was expected to be $1.58 per year on a valuation of every $100, the Gazette reported July 10, 1920. That would be an increase of seven cents over the previous year. One dollar of the $1.58 would go to the General Fund, while 35 cents would be allocated to schools, 9 cents to the library and 14 cents to interest on city bonds.

Railroad lawsuit: On May 5, 1919, UC dental college student Harry Riley had been run over by a Southern Pacific train at Shattuck and Vine, losing his legs. He had been running for the last train to San Francisco. The conductor, not seeing him, pulled up the steps just as he jumped to board. On July 12, 1920, word was released that Riley had won $61,200 in a lawsuit against the railroad company.

Veterans memorial: Readers will remember that early in 1920 Berkeley was planning to create a large memorial to U.S. veterans of the recent “Great War.” On July 14, 1920, Berkeley Mayor Louis Bartlett proposed that the plan be scaled back because of the city’s financial difficulties. It had evolved into a proposal to build a veterans building on the eastern half of what is now the Civic Center Park block, facing Milvia Street. But in that month Bartlett suggested instead that the city buy a smaller, 100-foot lot nearby on Milvia and get a free house from the school board — which was expanding Berkeley High School — to move onto the lot as a more modest veterans facility.

Bastille Day: Locals were invited July 13, 1920 to gather at Idora Park in Oakland to celebrate Bastille Day, France’s independence day. The local counsel general of France would attend, along with a number of Bay Area officials and dignitaries, including Mayor Bartlett. There would be a musical program concluding with a mass singing of the “Marseillaise” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Idora Park was a private amusement park — with rides, refreshments and attractions — located on Telegraph Avenue, just north of where the Highway 24 freeway now cuts through North Oakland. It was apparently popular with Berkeley residents and UC students. The site on the west side of Telegraph, running down to Shattuck Avenue, was later developed as a residential subdivision that still stands.

Fire: A $10,000 fire damaged the See-Dro Separator Co. plant at Third Street and Gilman on July 14, 1920. The wooden plant was only saved by high winds blowing the flames away from most of the building.

Steven Finacom holds this column’s copyright and is a Bay Area native and community historian in Berkeley.

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Author: Steven Finacom