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Folk art Christmas display pieces by El Cerrito’s Sundar Shadi were made from recycled materials

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A small exhibit at this year’s display shows how Mr. Shadi constructed the figures from recycled and repurposed materials.

The volunteers who set up and restore the beloved Sundar Shadi Christmas display on Moeser Lane in El Cerrito are offering a look at how the figures were made in a small exihibit.
It turns out Mr. Shadi, who fashioned and cared for the collection of homemade folk art figures and pieces for almost years, was what could now be considered a “green” or “eco artist,” making his pieces from recycled materials and items around his house.
Materials included scraps of wood, wire hangers, boxes, milk cartons and the like, said Dee Amaden, one of the volunteers with the Sundar Shadi Holiday Display group that now oversees the collection. “He made them out of found things,” she said, “and would repurpose them.”
Costumes for the human figures were made from oilcloth (water resistant) by Mr. Shadi’s wife, Dorothy, Amaden said.
A new addition to the display is a plywood figure of Mr. Shadi himself, as so many saw him when he was tending his garden or setting up the display.
The display, which has upgraded light and sound systems this year, is down the hill from Mr. Shadi’s home on the Arlington at Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive. It is illuminated nightly through Dec. 26.

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Angel figure originally made by Sundar Shadi and restored by El Cerrito artist Mark Canepa.

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Shepherd and sheep figures. Mr. Shadi experimented with different materials for the exterior shell of the sheep, including concrete. But he preferred plaster.

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Camels and the “Peace be with you” sign.

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Instructions for making a figure.

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Volunteers placing the figure of Mr. Shadi, the newest addition to the display.

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A 1985 article from Scouting magazine Boy’s Life shows one of the elaborate floral displays Mr. Shadi used to design and grow on his Arlington property.

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A 1980s shot of the buildings made by Mr. Shadi at their original location next to the family home on Arlington.

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Mr. Shadi as a young man. A native of India, he came to the United States and enrolled at UC Berkeley in 1921. Mr. Shadi died in 2002.

Time-lapse video by volunteer and El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford of this year’s display setup:

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Berkeley in the 19th century, part 2: A pioneer looks at the city’s early days

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A circa 1861 photo of San Pablo Avenue, then usually referred to as San Pablo Road, looking north of what would now be University Avenue toward Albany Hill, in the background at the left. Ocean View School is the building on the right.

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 city’s beginnings. You can read the previous installment here.

As a special feature, tying the 75th birthday of the city in with the Diamond Jubilee events extending through May and into June, the Gazette tonight published on page two the first of a series of articles on the early history of Berkeley. They have been compiled and written by C. C. Emslie, whose family have lived here since the middle “seventies.” Emslie, now a veteran among local realtors, was a local newspaperman in his early days.

City’s History —
Pioneer Presents First of
Series on Early Berkeley

By C. C. EMSLIE
Editor’s Note: The Gazette today begins publication of an intimate History of Berkeley written by C. C. Emslle whose family settled here only nine years after the city was named. “Charlie” Emslle, dean of local realtors, grew up with Berkeley. He was a newspaperman in his youth and this early training is seen as he relates the Berkeley of old. In preparing the series, Mr. Emslie spent many months in research and refreshing the memory of other local old-timers.

“Births and Beginnings — the world will never weary of tracing them, that it may say, ‘Behold here is the seed, the plantation, from which this vital growth sprang.”
Especially so if myth and legend have gathered about the genesis of a man or a community, so that origins are obscured in the tinted mists of a far horizon. Ages hence some historian will curiously unwrap the dreamfolds in which Berkeley’s records will then be involved and from the local traditions will have antiquarian records assigned to them in the libraries of Town and University.”
Thus mused Edward B. Payne, Unitarian minister 40 years ago. A decade later Eva V. Carlin, an old teacher of mine, edited a small volume of essays by some of our early nature lovers entitled “A Berkeley year,” now long out of print. The contributors told of our hills, flowers, trees and birds.
Mr. Payne’s essay alone dwelt, although too briefly, on our beginnings. On what will Mr. Payne’s future historian base the tale of our city if those of us who knew Berkeley and before it was Berkeley leave no record of our memories? Therefore I will relate something of mine in the hope that others will tell of bygone days as they remember.
The Berkeley of 1876 when my family came here was mainly a farming region. Most of the people lived west of San Pablo Ave., from which a lively business district extended down University Ave. Between San Pablo and Shattuck Aves. was a scattering of homes.
East of Shattuck Ave. to the hills were a few houses, but most of the land was under cultivation.
Clarence S. Merrill, whose father was to open our first post office a year later, estimates the families east of Shattuck Ave. numbered about 30 when the office was opened.
TELEGRAPH AVE. DISTRICT
At the Telegraph Ave. entrance to the University were, as I remember, three stores, a pool room, a French restaurant, a German beer garden and three hotels. The hotels had been erected for the accommodation of the students.
The Shattuck Ave. train had not yet arrived. The homes of William Poinsett and F.K. Shattuck faced each other on what was to become our main street. A year passed before Louis Gottshall and William Stoddard became Berkeley Station’s first business firm by opening a grocery store at the southeast corner of Shattuck Ave. and Addison St. in a building erected by Mr. Shattuck.
This structure was moved years ago and is now 2062 Center St. The roof has been razed and the old-time wooden awning is gone. Otherwise its appearance is unchanged. Even the ancient wooden shutters still hang, though feebly, to the west wall. In the Veteran Volunteer Firemen’s museum at the City Hall is a photograph of this pioneer business building taken almost 60 years ago.
Another year passed before Berkeley became a town.
My home was at the southwest corner of Telegraph Ave. and Derby St. It was the first house built on the avenue between Dwight Way and the old Vicente Galindo home, just north of Temescal Creek.
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The Wells Fargo office on Shattuck Avenue, circa 1880.

EARLY NEIGHBORS
Our nearest neighbor to the north was the James Leonard family, on Blake St. just west of Dana St. Mr. Leonard was one of the four settlers who acquired large
holdings in east Berkeley in 1852. He sold a large portion of his property to the University, but retained a farm bounded by Russell and Ellsworth Sts., Dwight Way and a line running a short distance east of Telegraph Ave. His public spirit is shown by the donation of the land through his property required for the extension of Telegraph Ave. from Temescal to the University. He also served on the first board of the Peralta School District.
His daughters, Mrs. Margaret Dunn and Miss Letitia Leonard, who still reside on the Leonard tract, tell me the old home was built in 1854. It stood on the south side of Blake St. just west of Dana St.
All the buildings, with the exception of the farm-hands’ dining room, a separate structure, were torn down many years ago. This relic is probably the oldest building in east Berkeley.
Eastward, on College Ave., stood and still stands, a house built by a Mr. Hedge, some 70 years ago.
It is now the residence of Miss Elizabeth A. Downey, whose father acquired the property about 1890. The first owner was loyal to his name as he planted a cypress hedge along the entire frontage of his property from Garber St. to Forest Ave. and extending up the latter street about 350 feet. Despite its great age it is, in the main, almost as healthy as I remember it so many years ago. Passers-by are intrigued by its unusual shape, the result of the efforts of a Scotch gardener to make it conform to the old country fashion of trimming shrubbery in any but straight lines.
To the south was the J.B. Woolsey home at Deakin and Woolsey Sts. There it is today indifferent to the passing years.
NORTH TEMESCAL
Westerly to the Bay was a vast expanse of farming and pasture land. Most of the owners lived on San Pablo Avenue. Berkeley was then known as North Temescal. In the little village named after that romantic creek was the only postoffice in this region. There we went for our mail.
To find the address of a resident it was necessary to consult an Oakland directory. Berkeley’s first directory was not published until 1878. The lack of streets baffled
the directory people.
For instance, one directory gave the address of M. J. Dunn, owner of a large ranch on the Tunnel Road, east of Claremont Ave., as Oakland -— that and nothing more.
I have a directory of 1879 which locates the home of my uncle, Jeremiah Aherne, who came here in 1856, as on the east side of San Pablo Ave., near Strawberry Creek. As a matter of fact he lived half a mile east of the avenue. However, a stranger’s difficulties in finding the early day resident were not so great as it may appear.
First settlers were so few that everybody knew everybody else and the first man you met could direct you.
MARKETING SIMPLE
The problem of marketing was very simple. Of course grocery stores were quite a distance from most homes and there were deliveries, but twice a week a Chinese, bearing on his shoulders two large vegetable baskets, one on each end of a pole, traveled over the territory and the housewife did her shopping at her door. The distance covered by our vendor was about seven miles. As he commenced his rounds early in the morning and a portion of the day was consumed in haggling with the housewives, his customers near the end of the route had a more or less picked over stock to select from. However, the Chinese was resourceful and managed to freshen the appearance of his stock-in-trade by washing it in the brooks. The butcher made his rounds in a covered wagon, not the kind, however, that brought the immigrants to California. It was a traveling butcher shop. Under the circumstances it was impossible to insure complete sanitation. However, germs had not been discovered so the customers had nothing
to worry about.

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Expanded Wells Fargo & Co. Express building on Shattuck, circa 1886, with dirt roads and wooden sidewalk.

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Berkeley protesters are not alone in trying to prevent sale of post office

Our latest coverage on the planned sale of the Berkeley Post Office, first sent out on social media on Nov. 20, received the following response on Twitter: “can someone please explain to me the importance of this post office? It’s a building. I don’t get it.”

We wondered how to explain the issue within the 140 character confines of Twitter and quickly gave up.

Boston Globe columnist Renee Loth took on the task of explaining the sale-opposition side (albeit in more than Twitter-length) in a piece about the proposed sale of the post office in Somerville, Mass., titled “When public buildings were revered.”

The group Save the Berkeley Post Office cited the piece in a post Tuesday:

Boston Globe op-ed on the sale of the Somerville MA post office: “We have traveled a long way from a time when public buildings were revered precisely because they belonged to everyone. Now public facilities from schools to swimming pools are being privatized. Corporations “adopt” highways that the taxpayers won’t pay to maintain. We rely on private developers to pay for roads and streetlights.”
READ MORE: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/11/28/when-public-buildings-were-revered/3Fxrs6Rwd7a8YzSUEDlv6I/story.html

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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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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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Watch your step: Rattlesnake safely removed from Hercules yard

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Fire Capt. Chuck Coleman examines the rattlesnake found in a yard this week.
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Firefighters from the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District handled an unusual early evening call June 11 when a resident reported discovering a rattlesnake in a yard on Dorada Court, in easternmost Hercules.
The 3-foot poisonous snake was rounded up and safely removed by a district crew.

From our files:

HOW TO AVOID A RATTLESNAKE BITE

There are several ways people can avoid or reduce the likelihood of startling and being bitten by a rattlesnake.

Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots.
When hiking, stick to well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.
Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
Do not handle a freshly killed snake, it can still inject venom.
Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Children are naturally curious and will pick up snakes.
Source: Belmont Police Department

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Work on I-580 in Richmond means resumption of lane closures tonight, says Caltrans

Caltrans issued the following announcement this afternoon:

Interstate 580 Scofield Avenue and Western Drive
Bridge Decks Replacement Project
Lane Closures Continue

Contra Costa County – Lane closures resume tonight for the Interstate 580 construction project just east of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The project is expected to be finished by mid-June. The contractor is currently completing final items and will have periodic night time closures. Lane closures will be as needed.

· In general, until mid-June, Caltrans will close one westbound lane Monday night through Friday night, from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

· In general, until mid-June, Caltrans will close one eastbound lane Monday night through Friday night, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

· Note: one eastbound lane at the Richmond-San Rafael bridge will be closed, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., to move scaffolding. This work will continue until mid-June.

· During these closures, motorists should expect travel delay and allow additional time to reach their destination.

This is an active construction site and the 45 MPH speed zone will be enforced by the California Highway Patrol. Drive cautiously through the construction zone and leave a safe traveling distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you and “Slow for the Cone Zone.”

For more information about the project, visit the Caltrans webpage at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/580scofieldave/