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Vintage views of El Cerrito Plaza, which opened this month in 1958

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The original El Cerrito Plaza shopping center was dedicated this month 58 years ago.

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The opening came two years after an arson fire destroyed the historic Castro adobe on the site that allowed construction of the shopping center to begin.

Here, through the courtesy of the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce, are views of the center’s dedication on July 9, 1958, along with photos and promotional material from the center’s early years. Our thanks to the chamber for sharing its archives.

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el cerrito chamber plaza courtyard 1971

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el cerrito plaza fiesta 1961

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ec plaza aerial

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AC Transit holding board meeting in El Cerrito tonight

AC Transit buses drive along 20th St. in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

AC Transit buses drive along 20th St. in downtown Oakland, Calif., on June 1, 2016. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

AC Transit is holding this week’s board meeting in the council chamber at El Cerrito City Hall at 5 p.m. tonight, July 13.

Here is the announcement from the transit agency, including highlights of what is on the agenda.

The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) Board of Directors wishes to remind Alameda and Contra Costa County residents that the third in a series of traveling summer Board meetings will take place in El Cerrito tonight.

When: Wednesday, July 13

Time: 5:00 p.m.

Where: El Cerrito City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA

Wednesday’s Board meeting will include a presentation by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on the Core Capacity Transit Study, a multi-agency effort focused on increasing transit capacity to the San Francisco core. Other agenda items under consideration by the Board include:

· An agreement with the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) to administer the Affordable Student Transit Pass Pilot Program

· A report on transit supportive elements for city-sponsored ACTC Comprehensive Investments Plan Projects

· An update on Richmond’s Division 3 Rehabilitation Project

The board agenda is online at http://www.actransit.org/about-us/board-of-directors/board-memos/

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El Cerrito assault victim flown to Muir Medical Center on Monday

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Air ambulance at Cerrito Vista Park on Monday. Photo courtesy of El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford.

A man was flown to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek on Monday afternoon after he was assaulted and suffered a head injury on the BART Path near Fairmount Avenue around 5:25 p.m.
The man, who is about 60, “was initially treated by El Cerrito Fire Department paramedics and then transported to Cerrito Vista Park by AMR where the REACH air ambulance transported him to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek,” according to El Cerrito Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Pigoni.
No further details of the incident were immediately available.

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‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ is next Cerrito Classic

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The Cast of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” includes (from left) Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and Michael Palin.

The next showing in the Cerrito Classics presented by Friends of the Cerrito Theatre will be the 1975 comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at 9:30 p.m. July 14 at the Rialto Cinemas Cerrito, 10070 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.

A comedic send-up of the grim circumstances of the Middle Ages as told through the story of King Arthur and framed by a modern-day murder investigation. When the mythical king of the Britons leads his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail, they face a wide array of horrors, including a persistent Black Knight, a three-headed giant, a cadre of shrubbery-challenged knights, the perilous Castle Anthrax, a killer rabbit, a house of virgins, and a handful of rude Frenchmen.

Details and advance tickets are available online.

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Richmond and greater community rally around 94-year-old park ranger with donations to Betty’s Fund

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The community far and near has backed up its expressions of affection and appreciation for Betty Reid Soskin with an outpouring of financial support after the 94-year-old Richmond resident was attacked and robbed at her home on June 27.
Two different fundraising efforts were set up after news of the attack on the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service was made public.
A gofundme drive that was established by Nicholas Arzio of El Cerrito exceeded its goal of $15,000 in just two days and is now closed. Control of this fund was turned over to Soskin for her use.
The fundraising effort of the Rosie the Riveter Trust is continuing.
The trust issued the following announcement on July 2:

Dear Friend,

On Monday, June 27, NPS Ranger Betty Reid Soskin was robbed an assaulted in her home. The intruder even stole the special coin handed personally to Betty by President Obama at the 2015 National Tree Lighting Ceremony. We are all upset by this horrific news, but relieved to report that she is recovering well, with no major injuries.

The outpouring of love and support for Betty during this time has been truly moving. Obviously, she has inspired thousands across the nation with her powerful story, brilliant insight and incredible will.

If you have not already done so, we would like to invite you to make a contribution of any size to Betty’s Fund.

All funds raised beyond immediate needs will be used, as Betty has asked, to complete a film in progress that contains vital documentary information about Betty’s life and impact. This is the legacy that she wants to continue passing on to younger generations, and a remarkable testimonial to her strength of spirit. Go to www.rosietheriveter.org to donate, and to view the first clips from this important project. You can also mail checks to Rosie the Riveter Trust, PO Box 71126, Richmond, CA 94807, ear-marked “Betty’s Fund.”

You are welcome to send cards to Betty via the Park’s Visitor Center. Betty is not, understandably, taking calls or visitors, and has expressed that she does not wish to receive flowers at this time. Address cards and letters to:

Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park Visitor Center
Attn: Betty Reid Soskin
1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000 (Oil House)
Richmond, CA 94804

Thank you for your support during this difficult time.
Sincerely,

Marsha Mather-Thrift, Executive Director
Rosie the Riveter Trust
www.rosietheriveter.org

The gofundme effort resulted in this response from Soskin, who turns 95 in September:

Here is a special thank you statement from Betty: “Your gifts will help me re-establish my home on the planet and that I am grateful for, because I do not want to move. I am going to reclaim my space from the violation. I could not have done it without your help! There will be fresh paint, new carpeting, a restoration.”

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Ortman family history in Berkeley goes beyond ice cream

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Ortman’s Ice Cream Parlor at Solano and Colusa avenues.

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Since it’s a holiday weekend in July, it seems like a good time to remember a favorite ice cream name of the past — Ortman’s.
Bill Ortman was a Berkeley native and a veteran of World War II who opened an ice cream parlor on Solano Avenue after the war, moving it to Solano and Colusa avenues in 1950, where it continued until 1993. The location is now a Starbucks.
There was a second Ortman’s location at the top of Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito that was popular, but did not last as long as the Berkeley parlor.
The Ortman family has a long association in Berkeley, in particular with the dairy business in the city’s early days, as columnist Hal Johnson explains below in a 1943 column in the Berkeley Gazette.
In addition, as noted in Ortman’s 2012 obituary, “Bill’s father (Charles) was a Lieutenant with the Berkeley Fire Department, and was killed in 1939 while saving three children from a burning house.”

Steve Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society wrote about the fire and rescue in 2014 in his “Berkeley: A Look Back” column in the Berkeley Voice:

“First Lieutenant Charles J. Ortman, 45, is dead today following his heroic rescue of three young children from the smoke-filled home of Mr. and Mrs. George G. Rogers, 1837 Rose Street, shortly after 8:30 last night, ” the Berkeley Gazette reported Feb. 2, 1939.
Ortman lived across the street from the Rogers home. He was off duty and at home, when “the fire tapper in the house sounded” — we’ll assume that was a device to alert off-duty staff that there was an alarm — and he heard on his shortwave radio that the call came from his block.

Rushing outside, Ortman found his neighbors on the street and smoke pouring out of their front door. Entering the house he rescued their 4-year-old granddaughter and her siblings, twin babies, just as on duty firemen arrived. Ortman then grabbed a hose and led the effort to put out the fire in a bedroom. Inspecting the attic, he died of an apparent heart attack.

City flags flew at half-staff for the Berkeley native, a member of the department since 1912.

The funeral took place on Feb. 3, starting at Berg’s Funeral Home, 1936 University Ave.

Traffic was stopped as the cortege moved up Shattuck to University, then north to St. Mary Magdalene Church, where a requiem mass was held.

Ortman was survived by his wife and two children. He was, the paper said, one of 112 fire department staff in 1939.

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A 1903 ad for the Peralta Jersey Dairy owned by Henry Ortman.

Below is the 1943 column by Hal Johnson about Henry John Ortman’s North Berkeley Jersey Farm. It recounts a 1903 fire at the dairy that was extinguished with buckets of milk and may have inspired Bill Ortman’s father to join the Berkeley Fire Department.
The Henry J. Ortman House is not only still standing at 1824 Rose St., it was selected for one of this year’s Preservation Awards from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association commending its renovation.

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A cow grazes in North Berkeley with the Peralta Park Hotel in the background.

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An ad for the El Cerrito location of Ortman’s 1954.

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A 1959 ad for Ortman’s in El Cerrito.

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Solano at Colusa shortly after Ortman’s became a Starbucks location.

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Berkeley High holding vigil Saturday for student who drowned

Berkeley High School has announced that a vigil will be held Saturday for Efejon Ustenci, 17, who died Wednesday while swimming in Long Lake in Placer County:

Dear Berkeley High Community,

There will be a vigil on the Berkeley High courtyard tomorrow evening, June 25th, from 5:00 – 6:30 pm. Please join us as we mourn the loss of Efejon Ustenci, and also celebrate his life.

When: Saturday, June 25, 2016, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Where: Berkeley High School Courtyard

In an effort to help pay for Efejon’s burial, the following crowdfunding site has been set up:
https://www.youcaring.com/parents-of-efe-ustenci-591578#.V233-0sgHyc.email

Thank you,

Sam Pasarow
Principal
Berkeley High School

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Berkeley: Vintage views of Adeline Street as a major streetcar corridor

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A shop on Adeline in 1949.

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The 3200 block of Adeline Street in Berkeley looking toward Oakland in 1952.

The annual Juneteenth Festival in Berkeley returns from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 19 on a five-block stretch of the Alcatraz-Adeline corridor south of Ashby Avenue that will be closed to motor traffic.
Adeline has seen a lot of changes since Key System streetcar tracks ran down the middle of the street, the reason it remains so wide today.

More changes are in the works. Berkeley is holding workshops and discussions about its Adeline Corridor plan, so we thought it would be interesting to offer some views of Adeline as it looked in the years after World War II for comparison of what it was, what it is now and what the city and community envision for the thoroughfare.

Berkeley lists these as the goals for its Adeline Corridor Plan:

Objectives of the planning process include:

Identifying community goals, including but not limited to, affordable housing, local jobs, historic preservation, and an arts district
Identifying priorities for physical improvements, such as a cohesive streetscape design, public art, pedestrian safety, improved connectivity and increased accessibility, and “complete” streets
Identifying opportunity sites to help achieve these community goals
Better positioning the City to receive funding for physical improvements along the Corridor

Our friend and railroad expert John Stashik notes that in two of the photos, the portion of “double track with switch into single track were used by Key System trains of the F line from 1941 to 1958. The rail geographically west of Key’s tracks was used as a freight lead for Southern Pacific to access customers at Ward Street. Originally a double track line for the Red Trains until 1941.”

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Adeline Street at Woolsey in 1949.

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Adeline Street at Woolsey looking toward downtown Berkeley in 1949.

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Another view of Adeline Street at Woolsey in 1949.

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Thursday will mark one year since deadly Berkeley balcony collapse

balcony memorial

A small memorial has been placed on the sidewalk outside Library Gardens on Kittredge Street in Berkeley.
Thursday will mark one year since six students died in #Berkeley balcony collapse. Five were Irish; one Irish-American and tributes to them have been held in Dublin, Ireland on the anniversary, reports Irish news website www.breakingnews.ie.

The Irish Immigration Patoral Center in San Francisco announced that a mass will be held at 7 p.m. June 15 in Oakland:

On behalf of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, the Consulate General of Ireland and St. Columba’s Church, we invite you to join us to celebrate a First Anniversary Mass for Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohoe, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eimear Walsh who lost their lives in Berkeley on June 16, 2015.

The First Anniversary Mass will be celebrated on this Wednesday, June 15, at 7.00 p.m. in St. Columba’s Church (6401 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland).
We invite all of our community to remember those who died and also to pray for the continued recovery of those injured – Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray and Hannah Waters.
Mass will be followed by a Community Reception in the Parish Hall.
To assist us with planning for the reception, please RSVP to admin@sfiipc.org if you plan to join us.

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Overnight closure of I-80 in Richmond and San Pablo set for June 18

Interstate 80 will be closed in both directions between Barrett Avenue in Richmond and San Pablo Dam Road in San Pablo from 11 p.m. June 18 to 7 a.m. June 19, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority is warning.
The closure allows work on the major project to upgrade the congested San Pablo Dam Road/I-80 interchange.
“These closures will enable crews to grade (properly adjust and align) falsework recently constructed for a new pedestrian overcrossing at Riverside Avenue, which will replace the current overcrossing.When complete, the new overcrossing will extend across Amador Street, enhancing safety for Riverside Elementary School students and the community.”
A map of local detour routes around the closed portion is below.

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For more details call the project hotline at 510-277-0444 or visit http://ccta.net/SanPabloDamRoad. Construction updates will also be posted to Twitter at @i80spdr.