‘Liberty Valance’ will ride into El Cerrito on Aug. 8

The trailer above is good, but doesn’t do justice to “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” the 1962 masterpiece directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, James Stewart and the badass Lee Marvin. Not to mention Vera Miles, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine and Woody Strode.
This one is a great western and a great movie period, and it will be on the big screen in glorious black and white at 7 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Rialto Cinemas Cerrito, 10070 San Pablo Ave. in beautiful El Cerrito.
The showing is hosted by and benefits the Friends of the Cerrito Theatre and as with all Cerrito Classics, you should get your tickets early.

Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Election Council President: [at the territorial statehood convention] The chair recognizes its old friend; that distinguished member of the Fourth Estate, founder, owner, publisher and editor of the Shinbone Star, Mr. Dutton Peabody, Esquire!

Dutton Peabody: Thank you, thank you, Mister Chairman, for those kind words; but why don’t you tell them the whole truth: founder, owner, editor, and I also sweep out the place.


Map captures Albany on the brink of change in 1936

Albany and vicinity as depicted on 1936 Shell Oil road map.

Detail from a 1936 road map of Oakland captures Albany on the eve of change that would start with the opening of the Eastshore Highway the following year.
Look at the zoomed-in version and notice the differences, starting with Solano Avenue, which turns into Main Street on the west side of San Pablo Avenue.

An enlarged version shows a large area of undeveloped land and major changes still to come. The Berkeley Emergency Airport would become the south parking lot of Golden Gate Fields.

Albany and Berkeley drivers who think taking Marin and Buchanan avenues to the freeway is a slow route nowadays should take note that in 1936, the two streets aren’t even aligned. Buchanan starts at Cleveland Avenue and simply ends at San Pablo.
Even Albany High School is not yet on the map.
The Gill Tract at this point is still owned by the Gill family, is still used to grow flowers and is all open space. So is everything to the west. And note how prominently the creek is marked.
That would all change when the Eastshore Highway opened in 1937.

Albany was growing from a population of almost 8,100 in 1930 to more than 11,000 in 1940, but the traffic to the highway was greater than city leaders anticipated.
The designated way to the highway at the time of the opening was to take Solano to Main to Pierce Street. The city soon learned that the route was not only somewhat narrow, it was too steep.
Plans were soon made to alter Buchanan and align it with Marin Avenue to handle all the traffic bound, a change that set others in motion as there was a real road to the city’s waterfront for the first time.
Development proposals came fairly quickly and within four years there was a racetrack on the waterfront and a U.S. Department of Agriculture research facility nearby. About two years later wartime housing would be built on much of the Gill property and even a new train line would run near the shoreline for a few years.
A frontage road was also added along the highway giving Albany its first industrial zone.
By 1950 the population would top 17,000 and a new era had begun for the Gateway to Northern Alameda County.

A Shipyard Railway train passes Codornices Village, the war era housing facility where University Village is today. Photo courtesy of John Stashik..


1941: The shortlived glory of the El Cerrito Journal building

The new and proud El Cerrito Journal building as it prepared to open in 1941.

The one-story building at 10512 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito was gutted earlier this year and is now being rebuilt.

The building at 10512 San Pablo Ave. as it looked in April.

We stopped by one weekend and were told the building will house an art and dance studio.

The building is far from a landmark, but it does have a history, the longest being Maxwell’s Stationery Store and later Star Education Supply.

Maxwell Office Products.

But before that, on the eve of World War II, it was the El Cerrito Journal building.
The city’s weekly newspaper was founded in 1917, the same year El Cerrito was. The publication moved from temporary home to temporary home under different owners.
In October of 1941, the Journal announced its new building, which it shared with El Cerrito Electric Co., an appliance and appliance repair store.
The Journal pronounced the building modern in every respect, down to soundproofing the front-end business office from the noise of the press in back.
The paper at that point was under the guidance of Vivian S. Maxwell, who had leased the publication in 1936 from previous owner/editors. The public was invited to see firsthand at an open house announced Oct. 23, 1941, slightly more than six weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The El Cerrito Journal announces its new home in 1941.

Even though it was “built with the needs of a modern newspaper in mind, affording more room and improved lighting,” the building and its use lacked the grandeur and staying power of, say, the Tribune tower in Oakland.
By 1948 the building was being refurbished again and was known as Maxwell’s Stationery (El Cerrito Electric moved out), later Maxwell’s Office Products.

Reconstruction progressing in April.


Relive the golden era of the Pacific Coast League on Aug. 24 in San Leandro

The Oakland Oaks and San Francisco Seals in action at the Emeryville ballpark, circa 1953.

The late Dick Dobbins, a Berkeley native, was among the foremost collectors and compilers of artifacts from the golden age of baseball’s Pacific Coast League during its glory days from 1903 until the arrival of Major League Baseball on the West Coast in 1958.
Dobbins, then attending Berkeley High School, rescued records, trophies and other items of the Oakland Oaks after the team had left town and their Emeryville ballpark was being torn down in 1956. It became a lifelong passion for Dobbins, and that love is carried on at an annual event named in his honor.
The 19th annual Northern California Dick Dobbins PCL Player and Family Reunion will be held 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at Ryan O’Connell Hall, 575 West Estudillo Ave. at San Leandro Boulevard in San Leandro.
The day always includes players and PCL enthusiasts and a program about the history of a league that was good enough that many considered it “the third major league” in its golden era.
Admission is $24 with lunch (RSVP by Aug. 18) or $8 without.
To reserve a seat send a check made out to PCLHS to PCLHS, 420 Robinson Circle, Placentia, CA 92870. For more details call Mark Macrae at 510-538-6245.

Detail of the outfield signboards from the photo above shows ads for Bertola’s (five locations, though we’re only familiar with the one that was on Telegraph) the Louis Stores grocery chain and Mel Senna Brakes.


Kensington meeting Tuesday on cell phone antenna process

County Supervisor John Gioia has sent out the following advisory:

    AT&T Hosts Informational Open House in Kensington
    Learn more about AT&T cell application process; County planner on hand

AT&T is hosting an open house in Kensington to provide information and answer questions on the cell antennae/node application process. The wireless company has applied to Contra Costa County for permits to build six new cell sites in Kensington, located on PG&E power poles.

County planners will be on hand to provide information on the permit application process. As the applications move through the permitting process, each one will be carefully reviewed and and analyzed by planners.


When: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 23
Where: Kensington Community Center, 59 Arlington Ave., Kensington
For more information: Ken Mintz, AT&T External Affairs Ken.Mintz@att.com
To read the applications, go to Supervisor Gioia’s KMAC web page.

The Kensington Municipal Advisory Council (KMAC) will review the application at its regular public meeting at 7 p.m. July 30 at the community center (same location as above).

KMAC will make an advisory recommendation to accept or deny the applications to County planners, who in turn will make a recommendation to the County Planning Commission. The Planning Commission’s decision can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Public comment on the applications is welcome in a variety of ways throughout the process; at public meetings, or by snail mail or email or phone to the principal planner, Francisco Avila, 925-674-7801; Dept. of Conservation and Development, 30 Muir Rd., Martinez Ca. 94553

I am carefully watching the process and listening to public input in the event the applications are appealed to the Board. The process is expected to take a few months.


Berkeley’s last time as home of Radio Day by the Bay?

The KRE building in 1941.

If you want to experience the “Lone Ranger” correctly, the place to go isn’t the movie theater. Few have been attending the big-cost, poor performing movie anyhow.
Instead go on Saturday to the historic art deco radio station building in Berkeley for the annual Radio Day by the Bay from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 20.
The event, hosted by the California Historical Radio Society, is a celebration of old school broadcasting and fundraiser featuring familiar air personalities. One of the highlights will be a reenactment of “The Lone Ranger’s Origin,” a radio show first aired in 1948, by the Broadcast Legends Old Time Radio Players.
There will also be a “Jive 95” reunion of personalities — Scoop Nisker, Bonnie Simmons, Terry McGovern, Ben Fong-Torres, Richard Gossett, Kenny Wardell and Jim Draper — from legendary San Francisco station KSAN. Not to mention an auction of vintage radios and radio equipment, many with vacuum tubes.
There will also be a celebration of the movie “American Graffiti, ” including classic cars from the film (the KRE building was used for scenes in the classic 1973 George Lucas film) and the 2013 inductees for the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame will be announced.
This year’s event may be the last in Berkeley because the KRE building, site of the celebration and home of the CHRS, has been sold. As a result, the society is looking for and raising donations for a new home. The odds say the group has a better chance of finding an affordable building of at least 8,000 square feet outside of Berkeley.
And not many could equal the art deco KRE building, which the group has helped restore. Go check it out while you have the chance.
Admission is a $5 donation at the gate of the building at the foot of Ashby Avenue and the end of Shellmound Street.
“The important thing now for our organization is to have a really good event on July 20,” CHRS President Steve Kushman said. “It’s our biggest event of the year, and we just invite everybody to come and enjoy a whole day of fun devoted to radio.”
For more information, call the CHRS hotline at 415-821-9800, email info@californiahistoricalradio.com or go to www.californiahistoricalradio.com.


Off the Grid food trucks coming to El Cerrito today

The food trucks from Off the Grid (offthegridsf.com) will make their El Cerrito debut with a soft opening from 5 to 9 p.m. today, July 10, on the block of Fairmount between San Pablo Avenue and Carlson Boulevard.
This is billed as the “soft launch” of the mobile prepared food market, which will be in town each Wednesday and are intended to complement rather than compete with exising businesses.

The opening will have live music and the following vendors:

Arki Truck
An the Go
Blue Saigon
KoJa Kitchen
Go Streatery
Twister Truck
Whip Out!
Kara’s Cupcakes

In addition to El Cerrito, San Francisco-based Off the Grid holds food events in 21 Bay Area locations involving about 150 truck operators.


3-day Tibetan event draws hundreds in East Bay

Press Release:

Tibetan Association of Northern California is hosting the 19th West Coast Cultural and Sports Meet from July 4 to July 6. 

The Association organizes this event to preserve and promote the Tibetan cultural tradition.   

This is also an occasion to celebrate the 78th Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has dedicated his life to service of the Tibetan and peace on this earth on July 6 and also to pay tribute to the Tibetans in Tibet who have given up so much for their country. 

During these three days there will be song and dance competition, sports and debate in Tibetan among the Tibetan Communities along the West Coast.  We are also organizing blood drive in collaboration with the Red Cross on July 5 at the Berkeley Adult School from 10am to 5pm. 

The full schedule is here:  TibetanAssociationSchedule


Tales of the Old West Gun Room: El Cerrito shop’s quirky building was originally an antique store

A postcard from the late 1950s or early 1960s for San Pan Antiques with owner Clarence Miller. The moose antlers that now adorn the outside of the building would come when it became the Old West Gun Room. Note the Shell station on the corner.

A mid-1980s newspaper file photo of the building after it became the Old West Gun Room. The antlers are there, but the gas station is gone.

The Old West Gun Room in El Cerrito looks like it’s always been there, partly because of the rustic building it calls home and partly for the way the building is decorated. Factor in the name of the place and it seems even older.
The only dedicated firearms store in West County is a throwback in a city that’s largely green and politically correct, harkening back to the days when that area west of San Pablo Avenue was unincorporated and largely unregulated. How else can you explain a 1948 building made of mortared stones gathered from the base of Albany Hill like something an early settler might have built? It had no electricity or plumbing, it had no sewer hookup. At least the 2-foot-thick outer walls provided ample insulation.
And it wasn’t originally a gun shop, it was an antique store.
Clarence Miller literally built Sam Pan Antiques from the ground up, touted his structure as a landmark visited by curiosity-seekers and even sold postcards, pictured here, of his creation.
The back of the postcard, also pictured, has some of the history of the shop’s origin.

The back of the postcard gives some of the history of the building’s origin.

Below is an El Cerrito Journal story from May 2010 by Dale F. Mead that does a good job filling in more details, other than the spelling of the antique store’s name:

Old West Gun Room draws clientele from ‘every segment of society”
By Dale F. Mead Correspondent

It’s perhaps the most unusual building in El Cerrito.

The Old West Gun Room on Carlson Boulevard is unique not only architecturally but as the only local dedicated gun store. And it lives up to its name inside and out, from the wagon-wheel fence and gates to crude stone walls to revolver door handles to the antique safe and vault door in the backroom.

Former owner David Cumberland, who bought the business in 1963, moved the Old West Gun Room to its current location, which he still owns, in 1968. The building itself was built by Clarence Miller from scratch to house his retail business, Sampan Antiques.

The structure was little more than four 2-foot-thick stone walls with wrought-iron windows and a corrugated tin roof. A stone-and-chain-link fence — real chain supporting wagon wheels — and wrought-iron gates featuring two bigger wagon wheels adorn the front. It had water but no toilet or electricity.

Miller built the walls by picking up rocks around Albany Hill and cementing them together, says Cumberland, 77.

“The story I heard, ” adds current Old West Gun Room owner Robert Weaver, “was that he drove around town in his Packard pickup truck picking up rocks.”

Miller also had a sheet metal workshop at the rear of the property, explaining the tin roof.

Miller chose a colorful neighborhood, Cumberland said.

Before World War II, “there used to be a wood boardwalk, a house of ill repute and two gambling casinos. The El Cerrito hardware store had a big dance hall upstairs. Next to it a bunch of gangsters were living in a big second-floor apartment.”

When Miller died and his building came up for sale, “the minute I saw the place, I said, ‘That’s it, ‘”‰ ” Cumberland says.

Miller’s wife, May, “wanted $30,000 for the building. I gave her $27,500.”

Cumberland added wood interior walls, a second story and electrical and sewer connections. He moved showcases and storage drawers from the old store. He retrieved the circa 1895 safe and vault door from demolition-doomed buildings. He mounted revolvers and rifles as door handles. Vintage guns went up on every wall.

“It appealed to people. From the minute we opened, business increased, ” said Cumberland, who hired Weaver in 1979. Five years later, Cumberland sold him the business and moved to Yreka. He recently moved to Florida.

His tenant loves the business and the building. It still is an antique store: antique guns along with modern ones.

“It’s the old guns that make it interesting. You don’t know what’s going to come through the door next, ” Weaver said.

The range of clientele also fascinates him.

“You meet everybody from top to bottom, ” he said. “Every segment of society owns guns.”

Weaver goes Old West when threatened, as would-be robbers found out in 1994 and 2003, sustaining gunshot wounds for their efforts. In the latter attempt, a customer also fired at the six assailants, at least one of whom was injured. One round struck a 15-year-old boy walking across the street, injuring him and leading to a lawsuit.

These days Weaver appears perfectly at home in his dark, quaint-but-busy habitat, and Cumberland glows with pride of ownership.

The only hitch may be those big, old wagon wheels Miller installed 60 years ago.

“I wish I could find out where he got them, ” Cumberland said. “I could use another set.”