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Remembering the Berkeley Heliport

An SFO helicopter takes off from the Berkeley Heliport in this Berkeley Chamber of Commerce photo from the early 1960s.

It seems quaint and even hard to imagine in these days of national security and air travel safety restrictions, but Berkeley once had its own heliport where airline passengers could board an SFO 10-passenger Sikorsky helicopter bound for San Francisco or Oakland international airports. Some airlines included the service at low or no cost as part of the airfare.
The heliport was located on the waterfront west of the Eastshore Freeway (Interstate 80) just north of University Avenue and operated from 1961 to 1974, when San Fracncisco Oakland Helicopter Airlines relocated its operation to the roof of the new Holiday Inn in Emeryville.
The Berkeley facility was part of a network of heliports that included downtown Oakland, downtown San Francisco, central Contra Costa and Marin County, and at one time was touted as the most patronized system of its kind in the United States.
The Berkeley Heliport, which the Chamber of Commerce took the lead in attracting and promoting, broke ground in September 1961 and opened later that year. It was touted as a certain economic boon for the city, particularly in attracting conventions.

Dignitaries at the groundbreaking for the Berkeley Heliport in September 1961.

Along with the attraction of avoiding Bay Area freeway traffic and free parking, it offered the novelty of getting to fly over the area in a copter.
A low point for the Berkeley facility came in 1972, when an armed man entered the heliport and demanded to be taken via helicopter to the airport, where he intended to hijack a plane to Cuba. He was eventually talked out of those plans by a Berkeley police sergeant.

Coverage of the attempted 1972 helicopter hijacking in Berkeley.

Dignitaries arrive at the Berkeley Heliport in 1962.

SFO Helicopter Airlines was touted as the world’s busiest in 1962.

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce map of sightseeing destinations includes the heliport (No. 2).

Along with passengers, priority mail was ferried by helicopter to Bay Area airports.

A 1973 ad for SFO Helicopters.

Delta Airlines promoting helicopter service in 1967.

The era of the Berkeley Heliport ended in 1974, when SFO relocated it to Emeryville. SFO ceased operations in 1976.

Posted on Friday, March 14th, 2014
Under: Berkeley, History, transportation | No Comments »

El Cerrito tree removal will close Cerrito Vista parking lot for two days

El Cerrito will close the parking lot at the Cerrito Vista Park tennis courts on Avis Drive from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 6 and 7 for work removing seven large dead Monterey pine trees on the park hillside. The public is advised to stay clear of the work area. For questions or concerns call the Public Works Maintenance desk at 510-215-4369.

Posted on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
Under: Cities, community, El Cerrito | No Comments »

El Cerrito shop’s Little Free Library is recovered

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The Little Free Library that was stolen from in front of The Glenn Custom Framing shop on Stockton Avenue on Monday night or Tuesday morning has been recovered.
Shop owner Kathleen Glenn, who received the take-a-book, leave-a-book library last year as a birthday gift from her daughter, plans to have it back on the sidewalk as soon as weather permits and possibly with some modifications to make it harder to take.
The library had been secured to its post with long screws, but the perpetrator was able to pry it off.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: business, community, Crime, El Cerrito | No Comments »

Views and mementoes from the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island 75 years ago


The Oakland Tribune ran this depiction of the Bay in 1936 with Treasure Island added by an artist to the aerial photograph.


In 1938, with the fairgrounds still under construction, a live remote radio broadcast was held featuring a band performing on a plane circling the Bay while their vocalist sang simultaneously from Treasure Island. Art Linkletter emceed for the broadcast originating on KSFO and sent out on the CBS radio network.


The Court of Flowers at night.


Here are the official lyrics to “The Bells of Treasure Isle,” the anthem of the Golden Gate International Exposition that was played a lot in 1939 and probably never heard again for decades.

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Chesterfield, semi-official sponsor of the World’s Fair on San Francisco Bay. Just ask your guide.


A nighttime view of Treasure Island from its Siamese twin, Yerba Buena Island.


San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi went on stage when “King of Swing” Benny Goodman and Goodman and his orchestra wowed a packed house in July 1939.


California Gov. Culbert Olson wanted to shake hands with Mr. Goodman.


Nighttime view of the statue of Pacifica.


A promotional card from the PG&E exhibit.


Postcard of Court of the Hemispheres.


Souvenir stamps.

Bet you’ve never heard the official theme of the GGIE.

The Tower of the Sun.

Posted on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Under:
Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, History, Richmond | No Comments »

Saga of Patty Hearst kidnapping began 40 years ago on this date


Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst was kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army 40 years ago today from her apartment on Benvenue Avenue in Berkeley.
The kidnapping followed the assassination of Oakland schools Superintendent Marcus Foster by the SLA three months earlier and set off a long saga that lasted almost two years.
The site of the kidnapping is commemorated here.

Posted on Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Under: Berkeley, Contra Costa County, History | No Comments »

Richmond and its industrial neighbors in 1939

Above, is an early 1939 promotional aerial view/map of Richmond and its surrounding area. Much of the Richmond shoreline in the foreground has yet to be reshaped for the Kaiser shipyards, including leveling a large hill.
In the background (below) are the West County towns past Richmond on two-lane Highway 40 and San Pablo Avenue, including the forgotten heavy industry company settlements, such as Giant (dynamite manufacturing), Oleum (oil refinery) and Selby (metal smelting).
Click on each photo for a larger view.

Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Under: community, Crockett, El Sobrante, Hercules, History, Pinole, Port Costa, Richmond, Rodeo, San Pablo | No Comments »

Free Berkeley community event will celebrate Pete Seeger on Feb. 3

Holly Near will host and Ronnie Gilbert will be a guest at a free “special community gathering this coming Monday paying tribute to Pete Seeger’s music, activism, and life” announced at The Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St. in Berkeley.
Remembrances of Seeger, have been made around the country since the announcement on Jan. 27 that the folksinger, songwriter and activist had died on Jan. 27 at age 94. El Cerrito native and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member John Fogerty wrote in an online post that along with being an early influence, “On top of everything else, Pete Seeger was also the greatest entertainer I ever saw. This world needs more people like Pete Seeger.”
The Freight & Salvage tribute will start with a song circle in the lobby at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3, followed by the show at 8 p.m.
Along with Near and Gilbert, the program will include Vickie Randle, with more guests to be announced.

Posted on Thursday, January 30th, 2014
Under: Contra Costa County | No Comments »

Morrie Turner and “Wee Pals” blazed a new trail in the comic strip world of 1965

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From the Oakland Tribune comics page in April 1965.

Martha Ross has written a nice piece on cartoonist Morrie Turner, who died Saturday at age 90.
The piece notes that Turner “broke racial barriers in the 1960s when he became the first African-American to have a syndicated comic strip — the gently humored, ethnically diverse ‘Wee Pals,’ which still runs daily in the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times.”

It might help to have some perspective on the world of comic strips when “Wee Pals” debuted in the Oakland Tribune in April 1965.
At the time, the only other sign of something on the comics page even remotely resembling diversity outside of Turner’s new creation was the strip “Li’l Abner” by Al Capp, which definitely reflected sensibilities of an earlier era with its world of hillbillies and “Injuns.”
Turner introduced a new sensibility to the comics page, delivering an ongoing message of equality and inclusiveness, and dropping in countless tidbits of otherwise unsung history along the way that educated young and old alike.

Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Under: Art and entertainment, Berkeley, History | No Comments »

El Cerrito: Don’t underestimate the selling power of a scantily clad woman

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Looking for an investment idea for that extra income burning a hole in you pocket? Consider old matchbooks — particularly matchbooks with scantily clad women.
Two 1960s matchbooks from the It Club in El Cerrito were listed for bidding on eBay this month and attracted spirited bidding.
The most recent brought a final price of $20.50 (plus $1.50 shipping and handling) on Jan. 19.
Not a bad return for a free item someone picked up off the bar at a strip joint half a century ago. Two weeks earlier in January, a similar matchbook from the It Club, the longest running of the El Cerrito nightspots from the city’s era as “Little Reno,” did even better, selling for $38.50, plus shipping and handling.

Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2014
Under: El Cerrito, History | No Comments »

Historic Pinole school bell will be celebrated Saturday

bell

The bell that summoned generations of students to class at Pinole-Hercules School #1 has been refurbished and will be dedicated at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at Collins Elementary School, 1224 Pinole Valley Road in Pinole. Light refreshments will be served.
The bell is a remnant of the school that served children in Pinole and Hercules from 1906 to 1966. The school was demolished in 1968.
“The West Contra Costa Unified School District rescued the bell from its outdoor location at Pinole Middle School, where it had been subject to the elements
for several decades,” notes the Pinole Historical Society. “The bell, rusted and pock-marked, was placed in storage in several locations until mid 2013, when the WCCUSD authorized its restoration. The bell was sandblasted, power-coated with a satin black finish, and sealed.”

Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2014
Under: community, Hercules, History, Pinole, Schools | No Comments »