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Berkeley in the 19th century, part 1: When creeks, ponds and springs were abundant and ran free

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Strawberry Creek, as pictured in the 1916 Blue and Gold.

In 1941 the Berkeley Daily Gazette ran a series of articles for the city’s 75-year jubilee by Charles Colin Emslie reminiscing about life in the young town and the greater area in the late 19th century. This installment is about the creeks, springs, ponds and “swimming holes” once found all around the still largely undeveloped area.

City’s History
Pioneer Tells of Boyhood Fun
When Berkeley Had Ponds

Editor’s Note: In this, his third article of a series on early Berkeley, Charles C. Emslie, local pioneer, tells of the ponds, springs and the “ole swimming holes” of his boyhood days.
By C.C. EMSLIE
Soon after my arrival in Berkeley playmates made their appearance in the neighborhood. In time began a series of exploring trips which eventually extended throughout the confines of the future city, and beyond. Our first trips were to the nearby ponds and water ways, for water, except when in a bathtub, has always fascinated the small boy.
The earliest Spanish explorers commented on the streams which flowed through the plains. I am sure they had not changed In the century between the first visit of civilized man and the early days of my remembrance.
Three large creeks and numerous brooks carried the water from the hills to the bay. Springs were plentiful. As the water flowed usually the year around it was a simple matter for a group of boys to build a dam and there was your swimming hole.
One of the creeks, Derby, was filled in almost 40 years ago. Its sources were the canyon at the head of Dwight Way and a spring
at the south entrance to the Deaf and Blind school grounds.
The waters united at College Avenue and Derby Street and flowed down the general course of Derby Street to the bay. The spring has disappeared and what flow remains is carried away in a culvert. Large sections of Strawberry and Codornices creeks also flow underground today.
ONLY ONE SPRING
All the brooks have been filled in. Of the lowland springs but one remains, so far as I am aware.
You may see it in the field at the southeast corner of Grove Street and Dwight Way, at the bottom of a little swale and almost hidden in a dense growth of bullrushes.
Surface drainage has largely depleted the supply of water which in my early days, and doubtless for centuries before, rippled down a brook which has gone the way of all brooks.
At Ashby station was a large swamp covered by water most of the year. Concealed in its tule covered banks hunters spotted the wild duck which rested there during its migrations. Otto Putzker, a boyhood companion, built a small boat which was used in retrieving the game.
On Webster Street some 300 yards west of Telegraph Avenue was the famous Woolsey swimming hole. A couple of blocks northerly were two other ponds, one of which is the site of LeConte School.
These ponds were filled by nearby springs. The water in these holes was so deep and clear, the grasses on the banks so lush and soft and the surrounding willows so shady in the hot weather, that youths came from miles around to enjoy their favorite sport.
The smaller lads who had not learned to swim found willing and competent teachers among their elders. The technique was simple.
The novice, if he showed unwillingness to go in on his own, was tossed into the water.
If he had trouble in keeping afloat he was pulled out, given a rest and tossed in again until he wearied of the monotony of being
tossed in and pulled out and decided he had better learn to swim.

Charles Colin Emslie, who died in February 1948, was an insurance broker and licensed real estate agent at Emslie & Lorenz, 2100 Shattuck Ave. after attending Cal from 1888-92. In 1941 he was interviewed for the WPA book “Berkeley: The First 75 Years.” The book is available for free download in digital form by clicking here.)

Berkeley Gazette columnist Hal Johnson wrote an item about Emslie in 1947:
EMSLIE HONORED

As is the custom of the Veteran Volunteer Firemen’s Association, the annual booklet, a memento of Berkeley worth keeping, was dedicated to another member of the Association this year: Charles C. Emslie, who was given a special seat on the stage with Mrs. Emslie.
Emslie’s father established a real estate and insurance business in Berkeley in 1876 which was taken over by Charlie in 1903. And Charles Emslie was one of the main organizers of the Berkeley Real Estate Association, its first secretary and later its president.
He was a member of the Peralta Company.

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Black Friday protest held at shellmound site in Emeryville

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While the day after Thanksgiving has again attracted bargain-seeking shoppers to Black Friday sales, it has also brought out protesters.
A group of at least 200 people representing different organizations and religious groups, as well as members of the Ohlone tribe, were at Bay Street Emeryville today.
The gathering was held to call attention to the fact that the shopping center stands on the site of one of the largest of the shellmounds that were once found on the East Bay shoreline from Oakland to Richmond. The mounds and contained the remains of native Americans who inhabited the area. The protest was held at the corner of Shellmound Street and Ohlone Way.
Most of the shellmound sites were leveled and developed long ago. The Emeryville mound was developed as a dance pavilion and amusement center more than 140 years ago and later was an industrial site, before the area was redeveloped with the shopping center.
Other Black Friday protests in the area included one at the Walmart at Hilltop Mall in Richmond.

“Pavement and buildings now mostly cover what used to be hundreds of shellmounds — gently rounded hills formed from accumulated layers of organic material deposited over generations by native coastal dwellers,” writes the Sacred Land Film Project. “Often the sites of burials and spiritual ceremonies, these shellmounds are still places for veneration. But preserving the remaining shellmounds has proven to be a contentious issue among developers, indigenous rights groups, preservationists, and local governments.”

The protest included remarks, chants and drumming, as well as signs calling for shoppers to boycott Black Friday sales.
The shopping center does include a small memorial site dedicated to the shellmound.

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A 1907 illustration by researchers showing known shellmound sites on the East Bay shoreline.

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Berkeley will have traffic and parking restrictions in place during Cal football game Saturday

The Berkeley Police Department has issued the following reminder about traffic and parking restrictions in effect during the football game Sept. 27 at UC Berkeley:

The Berkeley Police Department would like to remind the community of parking restrictions and road closures, associated with the football game at UC Berkeley’s California Memorial Stadium, on Saturday, September 27, 2014.

Restricted parking will be in effect in the following areas:

Bancroft Way from Bowditch to Warring Avenue
Durant Avenue west of College Avenue along the south side
College Avenue from Bancroft Way to Dwight Way
Piedmont Avenue from Gayley Road to Channing Way
Warring Avenue from Bancroft Way to Channing Way
Prospect Avenue from 2250 Prospect to Channing Way
Canyon Road from Panoramic Way to Stadium Rim Way
Hearst Avenue from Oxford to Gayley Road
Milvia Avenue from Kittredge to Durant Avenue
Oxford Avenue from Hearst to Center Street
Ashby Avenue from Claremont Blvd to Domingo Avenue
Motorists should pay particular attention to the posted tow away signs in the restricted areas. Enforcement will begin at approximately 9:00 a.m. and remain in effect until approximately 6:00 p.m. Vehicles will be towed to a temporary lot, located at Bancroft Way and Milvia Street. If you discover your vehicle has been towed you may proceed to the lot to pick it up. If you are unsure if your vehicle was towed you may call the non-emergency number, 510-981-5900 to confirm.

The following roads will be closed:

North bound traffic on Piedmont Avenue at Bancroft Way (at approximately 7:00 am)
East bound traffic on Durant Avenue at College Avenue (at approximately 11:00 am)
North and East bound traffic on Piedmont Avenue at Channing Way (at approximately 11:00 am)
Access to the Panoramic Way and Dwight/Hillside neighborhoods will be limited to residents.

We expect a large number of people to attend the game this Saturday. Please consider taking public transportation to the game.

For more information on getting to the game please visit Cal’s Game Day Visitors Guide.http://www.calbears.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=30100&ATCLID=209129660

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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.

indep 091942 tilden2 alternative
A Richmond union also hosted a picnic that day.

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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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Caltrans: Full nighttime closures continue at Maze Structure In Oakland

Caltrans issued the following announcement today on overnight construction closures at the MacArthur Maza:

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 June 25th through July 2nd.

There will be no construction scheduled from July 3rd to July 6th due to the holiday weekend.

Caltrans has scheduled additional construction activities on westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound 580 connector starting on July 7th. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
June 25rd through July 2nd, 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 7th 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
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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Caltrans work at MacArthur Maze will mean overnight traffic detours

Caltrans issued the following announcement today about its planned overnight work at the MacArthur Maze that starts June 5 and is expected to last through June 30:

Caltrans Plans Concrete Removal and Bridge Deck Overlay at Maze Structure

ALAMEDA COUNTY–The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is performing night time full closures of either or both westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound Interstate 580 and westbound Interstate 580 to eastbound Interstate 80 connectors to remove concrete and overlay bridge deck. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

To ensure worker and public safety, the MacArthur on and off ramps will be also rehabilitated and closed during construction.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
June 5 through June 30, 2014
Monday night until Friday morning 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Saturday night and Sunday morning 12:01 A.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Full Closures of 80 West – 580 East Connector and 580 East MacArthur off-ramp
June 5 through June 30, 2014
No full closures will take place until June 23rd

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 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
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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Smartphone thefts prompt warning from Berkeley police about distracted walking

Berkeley police have issued the following advisory this week in the wake of ongoing street robberies of smartphones:

Berkeley Police Reminder: Avoid Distracted Walking

If you’re reading this message on your smartphone while walking alone, put your phone away and look around.

Smartphone robberies from lone pedestrians at night account for the largest number of robberies in Berkeley. Some simple steps can reduce your chances of being a victim.

Don’t use your smartphone while outside. Walk with others when possible. Be aware of your surroundings.

Of the 309 pedestrian robberies last year, 63 percent occurred with people who were walking alone and 58 percent had their smartphone in their hand.

Some victims had phones forcibly taken from them. Others were convinced by seemingly friendly strangers to take their phone out of their pockets or let a stranger borrow it.

Be aware of locations and situations that could make you more vulnerable to crime – such as alleys, doorways, parking lots and stairwells.

Berkeley is not unique. Smartphone robberies have become a problem throughout the country due to their high value and easy sale on black markets. They are sold for hundreds of dollars and often shipped abroad.

Using your phone’s security features can also be a deterrent. For example, people using Apple products with the latest operating system, iOS7, can permanently disable a stolen phone using the Activation Lock feature.

Please report suspicious activities by calling the Berkeley Police Department at 510-981-5900. If it is a life threatening emergency or a crime in progress dial 911.