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Richmond shipyards take over Tilden Regional Park on Labor Day in 1942

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Berkeley Daily Gazette warns of upcoming “invasion” of Tilden Regional Park by shipyard workers.

It would have been easy for officials of the World War II Kaiser shipyards in Richmond to take a pass on observing Labor Day in 1942. The massive operation was already operating around the clock producing cargo ships for the war effort and the deadlines that had to be met couldn’t stop to give the tens thousands of employees a day off.
But Kaiser did find a way to honor labor while continuing production on Sept. 7, 1942, and like everything else about the shipyards, it was immense in scale, possibly the largest company picnic ever held in the Bay Area. Confined by travel and gasoline restrictions in choosing a location for the celebration, shipyard officials rented the largest nearby public area available — Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley hills. The park at that point was 1,700 acres, and less than a decade old and parts of it were being used by the military, including aircraft spotting stations.

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A map directing shipyard workers to the Labor Day picnic at Tilden Park.

Initial estimates were that as many as 25,000 people — shipyard workers and their families — might attend the epic gathering, held from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. with certain portions repeated for the benefit of workers who arrived at different times during the day before or after their shipyard shift had ended.
Admission to the gathering, described by the Berkeley Daily Gazette as “One of the largest and gayest events Northern California has ever seen,” was free — provided employees had paid the $1 annual family dues to enroll in the Richmond Shipyards Athletic Association. The association — an early incarnation of what is known today as the Kaiser Permanente “thrive” philosophy — was a recreation program that hosted baseball and basketball leagues, golf tournaments, bowling leagues, dances (by far the most popular of the association’s offerings) and other events for shipyard families. As with the groundbreaking Kaiser medical plan, the philosophy was that recreational activities resulted in healthier, happier and more productive workers. The day was also justified as a morale-builder and a chance for families — a good many new to the Bay Area — to meet, socialize and feel less like strangers.
The director of the Richmond Shipyards Athletic Association, and chairman of the picnic, was no less a personality than Claude “Tiny” Thornhill, already well-known locally and nationally as the former head coach of the Stanford University football teams that went to the Rose Bowl from 1933-35.
The event was promoted to workers in issues of “Fore ‘n’ Aft,” the shipyard employee magazine, which headline one article “Everybody will be there” and opened another by claiming that

It will be colossal…
It will be stupendous …
It will be terrific …
It will be everything a dozen publicity men from a Hollywood motion picture studio could dream of in a moment of wild imagination.
What are we talking about? Why, the Richmond shipyards Labor Day picnic, of course.

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A preview of the picnic from the Berkeley Daily Gazette.

Maps showing how to get to the park were also published and Kaiser put up signs along the various routes.
Activities included swimming and diving in Lake Anza; golf on the Tilden course; various relay races categorized for men, women and children; band concerts and a vaudeville show featuring shipyard workers that repeated during the day; pickup baseball and softball games; boxing and wrestling; tug-of-war contests; horseshoes “and many other sports.” Not to mention picnicking and barbecues fired up at various sites around the park. Employees also had access to the Brazilian Room, where a dance was scheduled (now-familiar attractions such as the merry-go-round and steam trains were not yet part of the park).
“Lake Anza to be invaded” was the headline in the Berkeley Gazette, while the Oakland Tribune assured readers that “Holiday won’t interrupt work” at Bay Area defense industries. (Interestingly, the machinists union held its own all-day picnic for members at Eastshore Park — now Booker T. Anderson Park — in Richmond that day.)
Actual attendance at the picnic was estimated at 10,000, less than the original projections, but still a large company picnic by any standard.
The event was recounted the next week in “Fore ‘n’ Aft”:

“Gone but not forgotten is the story of the Labor Day picnic held by the Richmond Shipyards Athletic Association at Tilden Park.
Early in the morning excited and anxious crowds began to arrive in cars loaded down with shipyard workmen and their families — and huge baskets piled high with good things to eat.
By mid=afternoon it was estimated that at least ten thousand were present. Some were playing golf, softball and swimming; others were dancing at the Brazilian Pavilion; still others were engaged in various friendly games and contests or listening to a band concer. The rest were milling around having the time of their lives meeting old friends and making new ones.
Everyone who was there can truthfully say, “We sure had a swell time.”

(Our gratitude to the Richmond Museum of History and the East Bay Regional Park District for their assistance with this entry.)

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Preview of the event in the Oakland Tribune.

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Richmond Independent preview of the shipyard picnic.

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Coverage and photos of the event by the Oakland Post Enquirer, courtesy of the East Bay Regional Park District archives.

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More coverage and photos of the event by the Oakland Post Enquirer, courtesy of the East Bay Regional Park District archives.

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A Richmond union also hosted a picnic that day.

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High society and the Marlboro man turn out at Candlestick Park for the 1962 World Series

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With the (supposedly) final event at Candlestick Park now out of the way, we thought it would be fun to look back at the much-maligned stadium when it was a new open-air ballpark that was considered modern and an attraction in itself.
The photos here, taken for the society page of a great metropolitan East Bay newspaper on Oct. 15, 1962, which was game six of the 1962 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees, give glimpses of the original Candlestick.
In the background of society figures, you can see the wooden-bench bleachers in right field, back when it was conceivable that a home run could bounce out of the park and into the parking lot. Looming over the bleachers is the original standalone scoreboard.
The World Series that year was truly a social event, with “country club casual” the dominant attire. Nobody besides players wears a baseball cap or team-themed attire other than an usherette wearing the official uniform designed by Joseph Magnin.
Also notice the stadium’s original wooden seats, which were notorious for snagging women’s nylons (the Giants routinely reimbursed women for the cost of their ruined hose), and the traffic control tower affixed to the back of the stands down the right field line (the tower, which looked designed for a small airport, was relocated to the parking lot and put on a higher pedestal when Candlestick was enclosed in 1971-72).
For the record, game six of the World Series had been postponed three times because of heavy rain in the Bay Area. The Giants, in front of 43,948 fans, won that day behind a complete game by starting pitcher Billy Pierce, to even the series at three wins apiece. Accounts noted that “Two-hundred of the 250 inmates at Alcatraz stayed in their cells to hear the game.”
The day of the series finale on Oct. 16, 1962 was dubbed “Showdown at Candlestick Park” by Marlboro cigarettes, which took out a full-page newspaper ad showing its legendary advertising cowboy standing on the turf of the ballpark behind home plate and claiming the ballpark as “Marlboro Country.” (And indeed, the pictures show some of the fans nonchalantly smoking at their seats, which was the style at the time.)
As we all know, the Giants lost game seven in a 1-0 heartbreaker.

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1948: PG&E proposes a giant natural gas storage tank for Albany Hill

Albany Hill before construction of the condominiums.

The opening of the Gateview Condominiums in Albany in 1977 have changed the look of the city’s namesake hill from Interstate 80.
A proposal almost 30 years earlier might have changed its appearance even more.
In May 1948, PG&E announced plans to build a $1.5 million natural gas storage tank in a residential zone at the northwest side of the hill, presumably about where the condos are now, that won approval from the Albany Planning Commission after a two-hour hearing attended by more than 200.
The Oakland Tribune at the time reported that the steel tank would hold 17 million cubic feet of gas and “would tower over Albany Hill.”
Supporters, including a former mayor, said the city could benefit from the tax revenue the installation bring. Alarmed residents of the area around the hill raised safety and aesthetic concerns and began a petition drive to bring the issue to voters.

“Walter Howell, Berkeley area manager for P.G. and E., told the hearing, that steel for the tank had already been ordered and the company “”will have to start from scratch” if they find an election will delay rezoning …”
“Backing its drive for the tank the company pointed out it would supply 15 to 20 per cent of the gas used in the East Bay and that the company has never had a tank burn.”

We wonder if the condominiums would have been proposed if the project had been realized.

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1944 Port Chicago explosion: ‘We didn’t know what to think’

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The 70th anniversary of the Port Chicago explosion on July 17, 1944 that killed 320 men and critically injured hundreds more will be commemorated by events looking back on the World War II home front disaster from a modern day perspective, most notably the 50 African American men charged with mutiny for refusing to return to work in the unsafe conditions at at the segregated Naval facility.
The explosion was heard and felt in every county of the Bay Area and given the wartime conditions, “We didn’t know what to think,” said one of the women employed at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond at the time. The first thought for many was that the enemy had attacked or there was some sort of sabotage, she added.
Port Chicago today is a national memorial site commemorating those who died and those who stood up for their rights.
Presented here is some of the coverage of the explosion as it appeared in the first two days after, 70 years ago in the Berkeley Daily Gazette.

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Richmond: Home Front Film Festival presents “Casablanca” on Thursday

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This week’s screening at the Home Front Film Festival is the Warner Bros. all-time classic “Casablanca” (1942), showing in all its black-and-white glory at 7 p.m. July 10 on board the the SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd. in the Port of Richmond. Boarding begins at 6:30 p.m.
The all-star cast includes Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet, and, of course, Dooley Wilson as Sam, performing “As Time Goes By.”
The film will be introduced and put into the context of the World War II Home Front by Ranger Craig Riordan.
This showing is free to the public.
For more details call 510-237-2933.

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Video: El Cerrito High School jazz ensemble in final hometown performance before their European tour

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Music instructor Keith Johnson leads the El Cerrito High School jazz ensemble in a performance for celebrants at the city’s annual July 4 Festival on the closed block of Pomona Avenue next to Cerrito Vista Park, (scroll down for video of their opening number). It was the ensemble’s final stateside presentation before leaving this week for an eight-concert tour in Europe that will take them to Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The tour schedule is shown on the back of the group’s tour T-shirt, pictured below.

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Caltrans continues overnight work on MacArthur Maze

Caltrans issued the following announcement about its work on the MacArthur Maze:

Full nighttime closures continue at Maze Structure In Oakland

ALAMEDA COUNTY–The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will be continuing night time full closures in Oakland on westbound Interstate 580 to eastbound Interstate 80 connector along with Interstate 580 westbound MacArthur On-ramp from July 8th through July 11th.

Caltrans has scheduled additional construction activities on westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound 580 connector starting on July 8th. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
July 8th through July 11th, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night and Saturday night 11:59 A.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Full Closures of Westbound Interstate 80 to Eastbound Interstate 580 connector and 580 East MacArthur Off-ramp:
July 8th through August 15th, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night until Saturday morning 11:59 P.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Motorists are advised to use the following detour during the work. Detour Signs will also be posted. All work is weather permitting.

Detour for Interstate 580 West to Interstate 80 East traffic:
Motorists will continue on Interstate 80 west towards San Francisco, take “PARKING LOT EXIT ONLY” exit on the left to the Toll Plaza parking lot, and merge to Interstate 80 east.

Detour for Interstate 580 West MacArthur on-ramp traffic:
Motorists will turn right on San Pablo Ave (alternatively turn right on Hollis St), turn left on Powell St and merge to the 80E.

Detour for Interstate 80 West to Interstate 580 East traffic:
Motorists will continue to Interstate 880 South, exit at the West Grand Ave off-ramp, turn right on West Grand Ave and merge to the 580 east Maritime/West Grand on-ramp.

Detour for Interstate 580 East MacArthur off-ramp traffic:
Motorists will take the next exit to Webster St.

Motorists should expect delays and allow for extra travel time.

For real-time traffic, click-on Caltrans Quick Maps at: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/
Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaltransD4
For additional information please visit our website: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/projects/80580bridgerehab/
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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Berkeley’s celebration on July 4 was subdued 70 years ago

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There were no fireworks over the Bay when Berkeley celebrated Independence Day in 1944, which was probably just as well for a public wary of enemy attack during World War II.
“Safe and sane, but fun, too, was Berkeley’s Fourth of July” was how the headline described festivities in the Berkeley Daily Gazette.
Gatherings included a “Shoekicking Contest” for young women at Lake Anza, races and games for smaller children at Live Oak Park and free ice cream distributed to kids by the Berkeley American Legion post.
Many of the adults and older teenagers — the ones who weren’t away on active duty — were busy at defense industry and other home front jobs that didn’t take a break for holidays, even patriotic ones.

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