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1948: PG&E proposes a giant natural gas storage tank for Albany Hill

Albany Hill before construction of the condominiums.

The opening of the Gateview Condominiums in Albany in 1977 have changed the look of the city’s namesake hill from Interstate 80.
A proposal almost 30 years earlier might have changed its appearance even more.
In May 1948, PG&E announced plans to build a $1.5 million natural gas storage tank in a residential zone at the northwest side of the hill, presumably about where the condos are now, that won approval from the Albany Planning Commission after a two-hour hearing attended by more than 200.
The Oakland Tribune at the time reported that the steel tank would hold 17 million cubic feet of gas and “would tower over Albany Hill.”
Supporters, including a former mayor, said the city could benefit from the tax revenue the installation bring. Alarmed residents of the area around the hill raised safety and aesthetic concerns and began a petition drive to bring the issue to voters.

“Walter Howell, Berkeley area manager for P.G. and E., told the hearing, that steel for the tank had already been ordered and the company “”will have to start from scratch” if they find an election will delay rezoning …”
“Backing its drive for the tank the company pointed out it would supply 15 to 20 per cent of the gas used in the East Bay and that the company has never had a tank burn.”

We wonder if the condominiums would have been proposed if the project had been realized.

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1944 Port Chicago explosion: ‘We didn’t know what to think’

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The 70th anniversary of the Port Chicago explosion on July 17, 1944 that killed 320 men and critically injured hundreds more will be commemorated by events looking back on the World War II home front disaster from a modern day perspective, most notably the 50 African American men charged with mutiny for refusing to return to work in the unsafe conditions at at the segregated Naval facility.
The explosion was heard and felt in every county of the Bay Area and given the wartime conditions, “We didn’t know what to think,” said one of the women employed at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond at the time. The first thought for many was that the enemy had attacked or there was some sort of sabotage, she added.
Port Chicago today is a national memorial site commemorating those who died and those who stood up for their rights.
Presented here is some of the coverage of the explosion as it appeared in the first two days after, 70 years ago in the Berkeley Daily Gazette.

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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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As Memorial Day approaches, a look back at El Cerrito honoring military personnel 70 years earlier

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In the photo above from the Richmond Independent from June 1944 (click it to enlarge), the Louis Hagen post of the American Legion in El Cerrito dedicates a plaque in front of the veterans building on Stockton Avenue honoring those from the city on active duty in the armed forces during World War II. Members of the post at that point were veterans of World War I, where El Cerritan Hagen had died in combat.

The annual placing of flags for Memorial Day on the graves of military veterans buried at Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito will take place on May 24 and volunteers who want to help are welcome to take part.
There will also be a first-ever Memorial Day observance on May 26 at a veterans assistance office in Richmond.
You can find more details here.

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WWII Wednesday: Olive Oyl works as a wartime welder

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Olive Oyl was already a popular cartoon star by the time the United States entered World War II, but still did her part during the war by puncing the clock as a welder. Amorous advances by co-workers Popeye and Bluto lead to some workplace safety issues, however.

While work on the Popeye cartoon “Mess Production” started months earlier, it actually was released by Famous Studios on Aug. 24, 1945, 10 days after VJ Day.
The cartoon incorporates a number of gags from two 1930s black-and-white Popeye cartoons from the Fleischer Studios (predecessor of Famous Studios): “A Dream Walking” and “Lost and Foundry,” as well as the 1942 Superman cartoon “Destruction, Inc.”, a wartime cartoon with Lois Lane in the Rosie the Riveter role.

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El Cerrito and Richmond high school athletes of the 1940s and ’50s relive glory days at annual reunion

Sights from the annual Newell Sports Luncheon, a gathering April 25 at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club in Richmond that reunites 1940s and 1950s athletes who attended Richmond Union and El Cerrito high Schools.

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Baseball greats Jackie Jensen, Ernie Broglio, Mickey Mantle, Darrell Johnson, and Billy Martin at the opening of Martin’s Cerro Square Club (formerly the Six Bells) in El Cerrito in 1961.

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The 1951 Richmond Union High Oliers team that tied with El Cerrito for the league title. The team had two players named Jim Landis, and one of them went on to a major league baseball career.

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The Richmond Merchants team.

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Charles Reid and Nat Bates at the dedication of the Sheilds Reid Center. Reid played baseball for the Pierce Giants of Richmond. Bates was on the El Cerrito High Gauchos squad in the early 1950s, when his teammate was Pumpsie Green, who later broke the color barrier as the first black player with the Boston Red Sox.

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The Pierce Giants, an early black team, in 1921.

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The Richmond Oilers were well represented at the luncheon.

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Ron Kamb, left, presents a plaque of appreciation to Jack Newell, second from right, for “keeping athletics alive.” Next to Kamb is Pete Schober, and on the right is RUHS grad Mike Farmer, who went on to play at USF and in the NBA.

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Jim Landis holds a picture from his playing days with the Chicago White Sox.

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The 1948 champion El Cortez merchant team.

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Ernie Broglio (back row) was one of the members of the El Cerrito team, playing high school and American Legion ball before starting a professional career.

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Three-time gold medal water skiing champion Art Smrekar, a graduate of Richmond Union High.

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Berkeley’s UC Theatre through the years

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The theater as it looked when it opened in 1917.

Plans to renovate and reopen the historic UC Theatre on University Avenue in Berkeley were announced last week.
Here is a look at the landmark movie house over the years:

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Another view from 1917.

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By 1924 the theater had added a marquee and vertical sign.

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The theater in 1933. It was the height of the Great Depression and a repossessed furniture store was next door.

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The theater soldiered on during World War II.

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The UC Theatre in 1968, when its neighbor was the underground newspaper Berkeley Barb.

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Interior of the UC Theatre in its heyday.

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Watercolor rendering of the theater as it would look renovated as a performance venue.