Berkeley, a Look Back: WWI French commander receives hero’s welcome

A century ago, on Dec. 3, 1921, a crowd of thousands welcomed France’s Marshal Ferdinand Foch, a World War I Allied commander, to Berkeley.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported that he was greeted at the West Berkeley train station by a large gathering of dignitaries and veterans, including Berkeley’s Mayor Louis Bartlett, who welcomed him in French. Then “a long cavalcade of decorated cars” transported Foch’s party up University Avenue and onto the UC campus via Center Street, where he was driven around to be shown the campus grounds and buildings.

University cadets guarded the route, and the cadet band played “The Marseillaise” near the Campanile. Without stopping, the motorcade proceeded to Oakland and a welcome by the governor of California, then to San Francisco via tug boat.

Stadium funding: A few days earlier, on Nov. 29, the Gazette announced that the campaign to raise a million dollars to build California Memorial Stadium had exceeded its goal by $100,000. Some 11,200 people had committed to subscriptions to fund construction, and $82,000 had already been received in payments. A groundbreaking was anticipated “before the end of the semester.”

At that point, the planned site was still private land — two city blocks, built up with homes and institutional structures — southwest of the campus, where Edwards Track Stadium now stands. Hopefully we’ll see later this month in our recap of Gazette articles why the site was changed to the controversial mouth of Strawberry Canyon.

Student housing: The same issue of the Gazette carried a short article noting that “the University of California students’ committee on dormitories has issued a report based on its findings following a survey of the present situation in which it assures the student body that dormitories will not be a fact within a year.” The chair of the committee contradicted that, saying, “dormitories in the university are about to become a reality. We encountered nothing but encouragement from both students and faculty … we will erect the buildings so that groups of from forty to fifty students may live in one section.”

In fact, the first dormitory at UC Berkeley — Bowles Hall — would not be built for another eight years, and the University would not really start to plan an extensive dormitory system for the campus until after World War II.

World ending: On Nov. 26, 1921, the Gazette printed a report that the end of the world was rapidly approaching, at least according to evangelist the Rev. U.E. Harding, “who is conducting a revival campaign at the Nazarene Church, Bancroft and McKinley streets.”

Harding told those who came to his final “revival campaign” sermon that “the condition of society today is similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah in their last days. The manner of dressing is becoming more demoralizing all the time. When Adam and Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden their eyes were opened and they saw they were naked. I say it is about time to pass the apples again.”

He added that children of the present day were “disobedient” and parents were “without natural affection” and that those signs, along with others such as “world war, famines, pestilences, increasing sorry and the church turning from the true faith of her fathers to new thought …” all presaged an imminent Second Coming of Christ.

S.F. auto thefts: Also on Nov. 26, the San Francisco police were reported to have “nine armored automobiles, equipped with machine guns and manned by detectives armed with automatic rifles and shotguns” that would soon patrol against automobile thefts. “San Francisco will soon be clear of automobile thieves,” the police chief predicted.

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

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Author: Steven Finacom