Pacific Coast League baseball reunion event returns Aug. 20

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Opening day ceremony at Oakland Oaks Ball Park in Emeryville during World War II.

The late Dick Dobbins, a Berkeley native and later a high school principal in Contra Costa who died in 1999, was among the foremost collectors and compilers of artifacts from the golden age of baseball’s Pacific Coast League 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 departed and its 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 22nd annual Northern California Dick Dobbins PCL Player and Family Reunion will be held 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 20 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” at its height.
Admission is $25 with lunch (RSVP by Aug. 15) or $8 without.
To reserve a seat send a check made out to PCLHS to PCLHS, 420 Robinson Circle, Placentia, CA 92870. Or call Mark Macrae at 510-538-6245 for more details.

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Pitcher Charlie Gassaway of the Oakland Oaks.

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El Cerrito High grad Ernie Broglio, who pitched for the Oakland Oaks before advancing to the major leagues, is one of the organizers of the annual PCL reunion.


AC Transit holding board meeting in El Cerrito tonight

AC Transit buses drive along 20th St. in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

AC Transit buses drive along 20th St. in downtown Oakland, Calif., on June 1, 2016. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

AC Transit is holding this week’s board meeting in the council chamber at El Cerrito City Hall at 5 p.m. tonight, July 13.

Here is the announcement from the transit agency, including highlights of what is on the agenda.

The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) Board of Directors wishes to remind Alameda and Contra Costa County residents that the third in a series of traveling summer Board meetings will take place in El Cerrito tonight.

When: Wednesday, July 13

Time: 5:00 p.m.

Where: El Cerrito City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA

Wednesday’s Board meeting will include a presentation by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on the Core Capacity Transit Study, a multi-agency effort focused on increasing transit capacity to the San Francisco core. Other agenda items under consideration by the Board include:

· An agreement with the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) to administer the Affordable Student Transit Pass Pilot Program

· A report on transit supportive elements for city-sponsored ACTC Comprehensive Investments Plan Projects

· An update on Richmond’s Division 3 Rehabilitation Project

The board agenda is online at http://www.actransit.org/about-us/board-of-directors/board-memos/


Richmond and greater community rally around 94-year-old park ranger with donations to Betty’s Fund


The community far and near has backed up its expressions of affection and appreciation for Betty Reid Soskin with an outpouring of financial support after the 94-year-old Richmond resident was attacked and robbed at her home on June 27.
Two different fundraising efforts were set up after news of the attack on the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service was made public.
A gofundme drive that was established by Nicholas Arzio of El Cerrito exceeded its goal of $15,000 in just two days and is now closed. Control of this fund was turned over to Soskin for her use.
The fundraising effort of the Rosie the Riveter Trust is continuing.
The trust issued the following announcement on July 2:

Dear Friend,

On Monday, June 27, NPS Ranger Betty Reid Soskin was robbed an assaulted in her home. The intruder even stole the special coin handed personally to Betty by President Obama at the 2015 National Tree Lighting Ceremony. We are all upset by this horrific news, but relieved to report that she is recovering well, with no major injuries.

The outpouring of love and support for Betty during this time has been truly moving. Obviously, she has inspired thousands across the nation with her powerful story, brilliant insight and incredible will.

If you have not already done so, we would like to invite you to make a contribution of any size to Betty’s Fund.

All funds raised beyond immediate needs will be used, as Betty has asked, to complete a film in progress that contains vital documentary information about Betty’s life and impact. This is the legacy that she wants to continue passing on to younger generations, and a remarkable testimonial to her strength of spirit. Go to www.rosietheriveter.org to donate, and to view the first clips from this important project. You can also mail checks to Rosie the Riveter Trust, PO Box 71126, Richmond, CA 94807, ear-marked “Betty’s Fund.”

You are welcome to send cards to Betty via the Park’s Visitor Center. Betty is not, understandably, taking calls or visitors, and has expressed that she does not wish to receive flowers at this time. Address cards and letters to:

Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Center
Attn: Betty Reid Soskin
1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000 (Oil House)
Richmond, CA 94804

Thank you for your support during this difficult time.

Marsha Mather-Thrift, Executive Director
Rosie the Riveter Trust

The gofundme effort resulted in this response from Soskin, who turns 95 in September:

Here is a special thank you statement from Betty: “Your gifts will help me re-establish my home on the planet and that I am grateful for, because I do not want to move. I am going to reclaim my space from the violation. I could not have done it without your help! There will be fresh paint, new carpeting, a restoration.”


Ortman family history in Berkeley goes beyond ice cream

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Ortman’s Ice Cream Parlor at Solano and Colusa avenues.


Since it’s a holiday weekend in July, it seems like a good time to remember a favorite ice cream name of the past — Ortman’s.
Bill Ortman was a Berkeley native and a veteran of World War II who opened an ice cream parlor on Solano Avenue after the war, moving it to Solano and Colusa avenues in 1950, where it continued until 1993. The location is now a Starbucks.
There was a second Ortman’s location at the top of Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito that was popular, but did not last as long as the Berkeley parlor.
The Ortman family has a long association in Berkeley, in particular with the dairy business in the city’s early days, as columnist Hal Johnson explains below in a 1943 column in the Berkeley Gazette.
In addition, as noted in Ortman’s 2012 obituary, “Bill’s father (Charles) was a Lieutenant with the Berkeley Fire Department, and was killed in 1939 while saving three children from a burning house.”

Steve Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society wrote about the fire and rescue in 2014 in his “Berkeley: A Look Back” column in the Berkeley Voice:

“First Lieutenant Charles J. Ortman, 45, is dead today following his heroic rescue of three young children from the smoke-filled home of Mr. and Mrs. George G. Rogers, 1837 Rose Street, shortly after 8:30 last night, ” the Berkeley Gazette reported Feb. 2, 1939.
Ortman lived across the street from the Rogers home. He was off duty and at home, when “the fire tapper in the house sounded” — we’ll assume that was a device to alert off-duty staff that there was an alarm — and he heard on his shortwave radio that the call came from his block.

Rushing outside, Ortman found his neighbors on the street and smoke pouring out of their front door. Entering the house he rescued their 4-year-old granddaughter and her siblings, twin babies, just as on duty firemen arrived. Ortman then grabbed a hose and led the effort to put out the fire in a bedroom. Inspecting the attic, he died of an apparent heart attack.

City flags flew at half-staff for the Berkeley native, a member of the department since 1912.

The funeral took place on Feb. 3, starting at Berg’s Funeral Home, 1936 University Ave.

Traffic was stopped as the cortege moved up Shattuck to University, then north to St. Mary Magdalene Church, where a requiem mass was held.

Ortman was survived by his wife and two children. He was, the paper said, one of 112 fire department staff in 1939.

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A 1903 ad for the Peralta Jersey Dairy owned by Henry Ortman.

Below is the 1943 column by Hal Johnson about Henry John Ortman’s North Berkeley Jersey Farm. It recounts a 1903 fire at the dairy that was extinguished with buckets of milk and may have inspired Bill Ortman’s father to join the Berkeley Fire Department.
The Henry J. Ortman House is not only still standing at 1824 Rose St., it was selected for one of this year’s Preservation Awards from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association commending its renovation.

ortman dairy 1943a

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A cow grazes in North Berkeley with the Peralta Park Hotel in the background.

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An ad for the El Cerrito location of Ortman’s 1954.

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A 1959 ad for Ortman’s in El Cerrito.

Solano at Colusa shortly after Ortman’s became a Starbucks location.


Berkeley High holding vigil Saturday for student who drowned

Berkeley High School has announced that a vigil will be held Saturday for Efejon Ustenci, 17, who died Wednesday while swimming in Long Lake in Placer County:

Dear Berkeley High Community,

There will be a vigil on the Berkeley High courtyard tomorrow evening, June 25th, from 5:00 – 6:30 pm. Please join us as we mourn the loss of Efejon Ustenci, and also celebrate his life.

When: Saturday, June 25, 2016, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Where: Berkeley High School Courtyard

In an effort to help pay for Efejon’s burial, the following crowdfunding site has been set up:

Thank you,

Sam Pasarow
Berkeley High School


Berkeley: Vintage views of Adeline Street as a major streetcar corridor

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A shop on Adeline in 1949.

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The 3200 block of Adeline Street in Berkeley looking toward Oakland in 1952.

The annual Juneteenth Festival in Berkeley returns from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 19 on a five-block stretch of the Alcatraz-Adeline corridor south of Ashby Avenue that will be closed to motor traffic.
Adeline has seen a lot of changes since Key System streetcar tracks ran down the middle of the street, the reason it remains so wide today.

More changes are in the works. Berkeley is holding workshops and discussions about its Adeline Corridor plan, so we thought it would be interesting to offer some views of Adeline as it looked in the years after World War II for comparison of what it was, what it is now and what the city and community envision for the thoroughfare.

Berkeley lists these as the goals for its Adeline Corridor Plan:

Objectives of the planning process include:

Identifying community goals, including but not limited to, affordable housing, local jobs, historic preservation, and an arts district
Identifying priorities for physical improvements, such as a cohesive streetscape design, public art, pedestrian safety, improved connectivity and increased accessibility, and “complete” streets
Identifying opportunity sites to help achieve these community goals
Better positioning the City to receive funding for physical improvements along the Corridor

Our friend and railroad expert John Stashik notes that in two of the photos, the portion of “double track with switch into single track were used by Key System trains of the F line from 1941 to 1958. The rail geographically west of Key’s tracks was used as a freight lead for Southern Pacific to access customers at Ward Street. Originally a double track line for the Red Trains until 1941.”

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Adeline Street at Woolsey in 1949.

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Adeline Street at Woolsey looking toward downtown Berkeley in 1949.

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Another view of Adeline Street at Woolsey in 1949.

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Thursday will mark one year since deadly Berkeley balcony collapse

balcony memorial

A small memorial has been placed on the sidewalk outside Library Gardens on Kittredge Street in Berkeley.
Thursday will mark one year since six students died in #Berkeley balcony collapse. Five were Irish; one Irish-American and tributes to them have been held in Dublin, Ireland on the anniversary, reports Irish news website www.breakingnews.ie.

The Irish Immigration Patoral Center in San Francisco announced that a mass will be held at 7 p.m. June 15 in Oakland:

On behalf of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, the Consulate General of Ireland and St. Columba’s Church, we invite you to join us to celebrate a First Anniversary Mass for Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohoe, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eimear Walsh who lost their lives in Berkeley on June 16, 2015.

The First Anniversary Mass will be celebrated on this Wednesday, June 15, at 7.00 p.m. in St. Columba’s Church (6401 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland).
We invite all of our community to remember those who died and also to pray for the continued recovery of those injured – Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters.
Mass will be followed by a Community Reception in the Parish Hall.
To assist us with planning for the reception, please RSVP to admin@sfiipc.org if you plan to join us.




1946 views of Golden Gate district for Love Our Neighborhood Day in Oakland and Berkeley

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San Pablo Avenue looking toward downtown Oakland in 1946, with the Gateway Theatre on the left. The Oakland Tribune tower is visible in the distance

In honor of the second Love Our Neighborhood Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 4 along a stretch of San Pablo Avenue in Oakland and Berkeley, here are some vintage views of the Golden Gate neighborhood in Oakland.
One of the events during Love Our Neighborhood Day will be a walking tour of the Golden Gate and Paradise Park neighborhoods led by author and historian Gene Anderson.
The walk will set out at 11 a.m. from the southeast corner of 59th Street and San Pablo, and last about two hours.
San Pablo Avenue will be closed to motor traffic from Stanford Avenue in Oakland to Ashby Avenue in Berkeley for the street party.

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Detail showing the Gateway Theatre on San Pablo near Stanford. The building is now a church.

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San Pablo Avenue at 65th Street in 1946, showing Trader Vic’s in its original location, left, and Walt’s Trading Post on the right.


Eastshore Highway, ancestor of Interstate 80, officially dedicated in El Cerrito 79 years ago this week

eastshore dedication 05 26 1937

The granddaddy of the Bay Area freeway system was dedicated 79 years ago this week at a ceremony at San Pablo Avenue and Hill Street in El Cerrito on May 27, 1936. The Eastshore was the first newly built highway in the Bay Area, constructed to handle traffic heading to the new Bay Bridge and Oakland and relieve the increasing volume on San Pablo Avenue. At the time it was dedicated it was described as “one of the most modern and finest stretches of roadway in California.”
Modern or not, the highway saw continual upgrades almost from the time it was completed. The highway was expanded from two lanes to three in each direction and in 1940 stoplights were added at the entrances on Ashby and University avenues in Berkeley.
Then as now, officials in Berkeley were hard-pressed to figure out how to handle the complex interchange at Gilman Street.
In 1942 a second roadway branching off at Albany and originally dubbed the Shipyard Highway, was created using more Bay fill to handle the volume of traffic from defense workers going to the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond. That roadway is now a portion of Interstate 580 and connects to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
The Eastshore Highway became the Eastshore Freeway in the 1950s, expanded and extended through West Contra Costa to the Carquinez Bridge. Today the successor to the cornerstone of the Bay Area freeway system is 10 lanes wide, with dedicated carpool lanes, yet it consistently ranks at or near the top of the most congested freeways in the Bay Area.

Eastshore Highway under construction in 1934.
Original caption: “S. F.. BRIDGES.. S. F. OAKLAND; E. B. FILL LEADING TOWARD BERKELEY” from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

Eastshore Highway April 1936.
Original caption: “This aerial view looking north toward Berkeley from the Distribution Structure of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge shows the Berkeley Fill which will be completed in time for the opening of the great bridge to automobile traffic early in November. Highway engineers under the direction of C. H. Purcell, Chief Engineer of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and State Highway Engineer, are designing this approach to be one of the finest and safest arterials in California.” From the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

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With the Bay fill in place the contracts to build the actual highway were awarded in June of 1936.

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Contractors ran into trouble in August of 1936 when a portion of the fill collapsed.

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Berkeley took advantage of the newly enclosed area to the east of the highway by creating Aquatic Park in 1936.

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Workers construct Aquatic Park in Berkeley in 1935.

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Berkeley also extended Gilman Street to the highway, awarding a paving contract in October 1936 to provide another entrance.

Eastshore Highway 1938.
Original caption: “Division of the Eastshore Highway approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge with a medial strip was the Bay Region’s most important recent contribution toward the cause of accident prevention, in the opinion of traffic experts. The result has been a minimum of collisions on one of the most heavily traveled thoroughfares in Northern California.”
From the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

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The portion of the Eastshore Highway north of University Avenue took longer to construct because it ran inland from the Bay and had to cross railroad tracks, which required construction of a bridge by Albany Hill and digging through hills in the Richmond Annex. Above is the elevated roadway at Albany Hill, along with Albany’s original entrance to the highway at Pierce Street.

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Albany quickly found out that there were problems with the entrance at Pierce Street, including visibility, the volume of traffic and cars driving the wrong direction on the one-way route to the on-ramp.

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The first crash on the new portion of the highway was recorded in July of 1937.

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This September 1937 aerial view from the Oakland Tribune shows the original route of the highway.


Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders makes a meal stop on Solano Avenue in Albany

A patron took these photos of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at China Village Restaurant on Solano Avenue in Albany.

After a long day of campaigning in the Bay Area on Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his entourage — including Secret Service agents — stopped for a late night meal at China Village on Solano Avenue. The unannounced appearance quickly drew a crowd of onlookers taking in the scene from outside the restaurant.
“It was worth the wait,” said a woman who was there when Sanders came out of the restaurant after he was done feeling the burn of the Szechuan cuisine. “He was great. He shook hands with everyone.”
Small groups were still outside the restaurant, closed by then, after Sanders departed.




Adoring crowd on Solano Avenue chants for @BernieSanders Wednesday