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El Cerrito groups holding centennial walking tour March 18

The historic Rodini house on Elm Street in El Cerrito.

 

The El Cerrito Historical Society and the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers will host “Architecture in the Flatlands,” a free walking tour of historical homes in El Cerrito, from 1 to 3 p.m. March 18.

“Let’s walk past and perhaps visit some of the more interesting historical homes in the city’s flatlands ranging from the early 20th through the mid 20th century.”

Meet by the historic Rodini house at 1715 Elm St. for the tour led by Dave Weinstein.

 

 

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El Cerrito’s beloved It Club celebrated with online treasure trove of family photos

The It Club at San Pablo and Central avenues in the heart of El Cerrito lives on in the memories of longtime residents. The club opened in 1938 and was the longest lasting of the city’s many celebrated nightspots, not closing until 1977. It was regionally famed as a stripper joint, but that ended in 1970, and the club carried on featuring musical acts.

If you’ve heard about it but never been there, or if you went there and want to remember what it was like, we recommend a visit to this website , created about a year ago by Tim Gatto, grandson of It Club founders Walt and Eda Gatto.  The collection of photos taken inside and outside the club are priceless.

Tim posted this on his Facebook page: A little over a year ago I put together a brief website to honor the “It Club”, an El Cerrito night club owned by my late grandfather, Walt Gatto. The “It Club” operated from 1939 – 1977, and was an East Bay staple for live music and various nightlife activity. I am hoping to build it out with a more complete history including articles, but so far it’s mainly a photo archive. I consider the site a work in progress, but hoping to make it a home to a unique bit of bay area and family history. Open to any recommendations to better the site, as well as any stories from the “It Club” era. Thanks for looking! http://www.elcerritoitclub.com

We will post more about the It Club here and hope you will share memories of the nightspot here and on the family’s tribute site. And we want to thank Diane Schoenstein Gatto, Tim’s mother, for contacting and letting us know about it.

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Federal order in 1942 hits the Japanese American community in Richmond and El Cerrito

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The 75th anniversary of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast during World War II is today, Feb. 19.

The initial coverage of the upcoming removal plans from the Richmond Independent on Feb. 2, 1942, noted that the federal order would impact the substantial and long-established Japanese American flower-growing industry in Richmond and El Cerrito.

 

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The story of the Japanese American nursery families is Richmond and El Cerrito and their experiences during and after the war is told in the documentary “Blossoms and Thorns,” which is shown at 2 p.m. Thursdays at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center, 1414 Harbour Way South in Richmond.

 

 

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TBT: BART Richmond line begins service Jan. 29, 1973

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A color view of the El Cerrito Plaza station before the opening of the Richmond line in
January 1973. (Photo courtesy El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce).

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BART rolls into the El Cerrito Plaza station on the first (and rainy) day of service on the
Richmond line on Jan. 29, 1973.

The Richmond line of the BART system began operation 44 years ago this week, on Jan. 29, 1973.  The first portion of the system, Oakland to Fremont, opened on Sept. 11, 1972, and other legs were rolled out in succession, with the Richmond-Fremont line being the second. (Concord followed in May 1973.)

BART ran along the Santa Fe Railroad right of way through Albany and El Cerrito and Santa Fe service continued until 1979, meaning a double dose of train watching or disruptive noise, depending on your point of view.

Abandonment by Santa Fe of the right of way led to the creation of the Ohlone Greenway, cited by BART as an early example of cooperative development of the communities it would be serving: “BART’s widely-known ‘linear park,’ for example, was constructed under the aerial right-of-way through Albany and El Cerrito to demonstrate how function could combine with aesthetics to enhance community environments.”

The story of the transit district’s rather unlikely road to reality is told in the new book “BART: The Dramatic History of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System,” authored by retired transit district spokesman Michael C. Healy and published by Heyday Books of Berkeley.

Here are some views of the opening of the Richmond line and the development along the way.

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Groundbreaking for the downtown Berkeley station in 1966.

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Elevated track under construction in Albany in 1968.

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Excavation on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley in 1969.

Officials conduct a tree planting at the future Del Norte station in El Cerrito along what would become the Ohlone Greenway in 1969.

Officials conduct a tree planting at the future Del Norte station in El Cerrito along what would become the Ohlone Greenway in 1969.

 

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Passengers at the Richmond station await the arrival of the first train in January 1973.

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The inaugural train on the line arrives at the Richmond BART station.

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Richmond-bound train arrives at the El Cerrito Plaza in the rain on the first day of service.

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A postcard view of the downtown Berkeley station from 1974. The station is now undergoing
extensive remodeling.

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BART under construction in Albany in 1968.