1978 article shows El Cerrito’s Sundar Shadi in his floral element

shadi gazette 1978

Above, the Berkeley Gazette/Richmond Independent looks at Sundar Shadi’s floral displays on his hillside property on Arlington Avenue in early June of 1978.

A free showing of the documentary on the life of Sundar Shadi will be held Saturday at the Rialto Cinemas Cerrito in El Cerrito.
The organizers of the annual Sundar Shadi holiday display need volunteers to help staff and watch over the display on Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive from Dec. 12 to 26.


West County can give transportation priority input at call-in event tonight

West County are being asked to help shape transportation priorities in the county by taking part in a Telephone Town Hall call-in event from 6-7 p.m. today, Nov. 12.
To join the discussion and learn planning efforts now taking place, call toll-free to 877-229-8493 and enter access code 112664 when prompted.

The event is hosted by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee.

High-capacity transit provides substantially higher passenger capacity than local transit. It is the type of transit that people often use for their daily commute to work. This 15-month study will evaluate public transportation options and identify funding opportunities to improve the quality and effectiveness of transit in West County and expand alternatives to driving on congested streets and highways.

During the Telephone Town Hall Call-In Event, you’ll learn more about the Study and concurrent planning efforts. Experts will be on hand to answer questions. You’ll also be asked to respond to a few quick polling questions through the touch of a button on your phone.

The Telephone Town Hall Call-In Event will be the first of several opportunities to provide your input. The first round of public meetings will be held in February, with a second round anticipated in Spring 2016.
To stay involved with the project, sign up to get future emails about upcoming ways to participate, visit www.WestCountyTransitStudy.com.


El Cerrito High School also had a rocky time completing its original football field

Grading work being done in 1945 for the original athletic fields at El Cerrito High School — plus a glimpse of the second incarnation of Fairmont Elementary. From home movies taken by Arthur Hopkins and digitized by his son Tom, courtesy of the El Cerrito Historical Society.

El Cerrito residents have had nearly two years to watch the extensive work being done on the new football stadium at El Cerrito High School. The project is The original field, built in 1945 and opened in 1946, did not require environmental reports, seismic and geotechnical studies, or even the design costs of the modern version. And there were hardly any neighbors in the immediate area to object to the project.
Even so, the football field had its own long and literally rocky road to completion.
When El Cerrito High opened in 1941, it had a gymnasium, but no fields for baseball, football or track. That was partly by design, because ECHS opened as a junior and senior high school, with sophomores being the highest class level in 1941, so there were no varsity teams.

echs uniforms 1941
The decision to purchase football uniforms in 1941, two years before El Cerrito High had its first varsity football team, proved financially sound. Restrictions were already in place, as noted in the Berkeley Gazette item above that mentions a new 10 percent excise tax. Wartime rationing would be even more severe by 1943.

For its first two years, the school had junior varsity football only.

ECHS still had no field of its own when the first varsity football team played in 1943, and home games were at the former El Cerrito Kennel Club dog racing track on the historic Castro rancho property where El Cerrito Plaza stands today. The field was leased from racetrack owner John “Black Jack” Jerome, who had turned down a similar request from Albany High School before World War II to lease the site for school sports after the racetrack was closed by the state in January of 1939.
The racetrack grounds had no turf, meaning the first El Cerrito Gaucho teams had to play home football on a field of dirt and rocks. It did, however, provide a nice big grandstand for the fans.

Plans for building athletic fields at El Cerrito High were announced in January of 1945 and they were completed in 1946. It was originally known as Memorial Field, a name largely forgotten today.

An early aerial view of El Cerrito High shows the new campus and the area where the athletic fields would go.

echs field bg 01 1942
The Berkeley Gazette reports in January 1942 that El Cerrito High plans to proceed with its plans for a varsity football team the following year despite wartime constraints.

This 1944 ECHS yearbook photo shows football action at the former El Cerrito Kennel Club.

Another view of football at the former El Cerrito Kennel Club, which was surrounded by a trailer court for war workers.

echs field 09 26 1944
Plans for the new field are announced in January of 1945 (Berkeley Gazette).

echs field bg 01 10 1945


When it opened after the war, the new football facility at El Cerrito High was known as Memorial Field, which also hosted the school’s track events.


El Cerrito: Memories, artifacts and more at Portola Junior High celebration Sept. 26

portola 1953

The buildings of Portola Junior High School in El Cerrito are gone, but the memories of the generations of West County students who attended there live on and will be celebrated at a gala event from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 26 at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane.
Tickets are still available for the Portola Junior High School History Celebration, which will feature dancing to live music by The Sundowners, a band of Portola alumni, no-host food and drink and a silent auction of artifacts from the school similar to those pictured here.
Tickets are $20 general, or $10 for past and present WCCUSD teachers, available by clicking here.
For more details contact Marnie Fricke Mufti at 510-410-5028 or marniemufti@gmail.com; or Donna Houser at 510-508-6830 houserini@sbcglobal.net.

portola fogerty 8th grade
Can you spot future music great John Fogerty in his Portola class picture from eighth grade in 1958-59? (Answer below).

portola growing up

portola polly posture


portola flier

(Answer: John Fogerty is in the front row behind the “6”.)


El Cerrito: Free performances continue Sept. 12 and 19 at Down Home Music

pete madsen
Blues Guitarist Pete Madsen

More free in-store concerts are coming up at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.

Blues guitarist Pete Madsen performs
at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

If you’re a pre-war acoustic old-time blues kinda gal, come out to Down Home Music THIS SATURDAY to hear local guitar maestro Pete Madsen take us on a journey through early blues traditions as we celebrate the lives of Gus Cannon (b. 9/12/1883), Texas Alexander (b. 9/12/1900), and Frank Stokes (d. 9/12/1955). A professional guitarist and educator for over twenty years, Pete has authored three books of guitar instruction for Hal Leonard, and written numerous lessons and reviews for Acoustic Guitar, Play Guitar and Frets magazines. Pete’s solo act (which is what you’ll hear Saturday) is rooted mainly in acoustic blues, ragtime, and slide guitar, but he can also be heard at times playing with the whacky Bungee Jumping Cows — a group of musicians and educators who play science-themed Rock and Roll.

Bay Area country music group Crying Time will put on a show at Down Home at 2 p.m. Sept. 19.


Point Richmond presenting string band and slide guitar at free show Friday

Slide guitar artist Dennis Johnson.

Here is the lineup for the next show in the Point Richmond Music concert series from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. Sept. 11 on the outdoor stage at Park Place and Washington Avenue:

Friday, September 11th
The Rusty String Express (Bluegrass) www.facebook.com/therustystringexpress
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
The Rusty String Express (RSE) celebrates string band traditions of the past while stretching into the unknown, creating original music with unique and familiar flavors. The RSE is an exciting mash up of acoustic excitement, bubbling creativity, and excellent musicianship, with Aaron Balano on dobro, Alison Bailey Streich on violin, Greg Dunn on bass and Morgan Cochneuer on guitar. These four magnetic musicians are masterful wielders of their instruments, and their music ranges from sensitive and soulful interpretations to wild and unexpected music you’ve never heard before.

Dennis Johnson & the Mississippi Ramblers (Slide Guitar) www.dennisjohnsonslide.com
6:45 pm – 7:45 pm
Slide guitarist Dennis Johnson is one of the elite slide guitar players performing today. Drawing comparisons to Robert Johnson and Roy Rogers, Dennis Johnson masterfully elevates the art of slide guitar across many genres of music including Blues, New Orleans, Rock, and Swing. Dennis Johnson and his band, The Mississippi Ramblers, deliver stirring live performances that move audiences and get people dancing!

This year’s series concludes with this concert on Sept. 25:

Soji & The Afrobeats (Nigerian) www.sojisoundz.com
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Nigeria’s legendary guitar master and singer Soji Odukogbe was the lead guitarist for the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s groundbreaking Afrobeat band. Odukogbe draws on an extensive background in Nigerian Afrobeat, highlife, and spiritual music, bringing a unique sensibility to his highlife guitar interpretations. His Afrobeat Band features guitars, drums, and horns. He and the band set the dance floor afire with a churning, polyrhythmic style that he simply calls “authentic original Afrobeat like Fela’s type of music, the traditional Afrobeat that nobody does” in a world of endless Afro-fusions.

Sol (Latin) www.solrocks.com
6:45 pm – 7:45 pm
SOL’s infectious Latin beat warms the souls of all audiences and gets people dancing to the rhythms of Salsa and Funk and Soul. Led by the versatile vocalist Myrna Farias, SOL covers popular songs from Santana to Celia Cruz and Tito Puente to Tower of Power. The high energy band is driven by a hard rocking rhythm section, Latin percussionists, and four horn players. Based in San Francisco, The SOL musicians bring a diverse blend of influences from Latin, Rock and Jazz to create their own unique mix of Latin music for the 21st century.


When Mickey Mantle and other baseball stars came to Billy Martin’s night club in El Cerrito

A piece of memorabilia capturing a moment in baseball and El Cerrito history has been listed for bidding at online auction site eBay.
The item is an autographed 1961 menu from the opening of Billy Martin’s Cerro Square, a gala event attended by numerous major league baseball players of the day along with former teammates of Martin’s from the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League.

cerro square 1961a
Autographed menu from the opening of Billy Martin’s Cerro Square, offered for auction on eBay.

“Signatures on this menu include Billy Martin, Jim Gentile, Jackie Jensen, Don Drysdale, Mickey Mantle, Bud Foster, Cotton Pippen, Tom Louderback, Ray Larnernno, Woody Hall, Augie Galan,” states the auction listing, reflecting just some of the sporting world figures who attended the event.

At the time of the club opening, the always-combative Martin was nearing the end of his playing career. The Berkeley native, a regular presence in El Cerrito both as a youth and in later years, opened the night club venture at the former New Six Bells owned by the Figone family on San Pablo Avenue at Central Avenue (now a Burger King).

Despite its star-studded opening, the venture was short-lived. The era of clubs and bars that once dominated El Cerrito nightlife for decades was winding down, in part due to the growing presence of television in homes. In addition, according to a former relation of Martin’s by marriage, it wasn’t enough for the ballplayer to have his name on the club — people expected him to be there nightly to greet and talk to them.

cerro square 1961
Longtime Yankees teammates (and carousing pals) Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin, joined by other ballplayers at the opening of Cerro Square in El Cerrito. Photo from the collection of Jack Newell.

Cerro Square matchbook.


Richmond Rosies saluted by their counterparts in Michigan

congrats richmond rosies

Richmond is home to the national tribute to the World War II home front and on Aug. 15 the city set a new world record for a Guinness Book world record for the most women dressed as Rosie the Riveter gathered in one place at one time since the war.
That has earned a salute from the women who previously held the record, accomplished last year at the famed Willow Run Michigan plant that built bombers during the war.
They also issued what amounts to a challenge and could become an annual event.

Sincerest congratulations to the ladies of Richmond, CA on beating our Guinness World Record for the Most Rosie the Riveters. The contribution of Wendy the Welder and other women shipyard workers was essential to victory in WWII, as was the contribution of homefront workers across the nation in every imaginable job. Thank you, Richmond, for joining us in honoring “Rosie” and her sisters. Of course, we hope to bring the record back to Michigan soon, but for now it is in good hands in California!