In “It Came From Berkeley”, author Dave Weinstein documents the often colorful stories of how this college town contributed to American society city through its involvement in the development of the atom bomb, wet suits, hot tubs, listener-sponsored radio, bicycle boulevards…
Berkeley’s bordered by Oakland and Emeryville to the south, and Kensington and Albany to the north. The west and east borders are the natural landscapes of the San Francisco Bay and the Berkeley Hills.
Incorporated on April Fool’s Day in 1878, Berkeley is a blend of this and that—the hills and the flats, east and west—which come from the city’s split personality. Originally conservative—the city voted itself an ‘alcohol-free zone’ in 1899—and although its always had new ideas, today it’s known as one of the most liberal cities in America.
The mid to late 1800s were a boom-time for all of California as gold rushers arrived and technological advances came with them. The Transcontinental Railroad ended in Oakland, electric lights were in use by 1888, telephones had already been installed and electric streetcars replaced horsecars on Telegraph Avenue. Two hundred years later, Berkeley pioneered traffic calming through bicycle boulevards and is one of the safest cities in the country to bike around.
The private College of California created a street grid in 1866 that became Berkeley’s modern street plan, but a collaboration with the State of California was necessary to complete it—so the public University of California came to be and it’s where many progressive ideas are fostered. Robert Gordon Sproul, University President from 1930-1958, transformed it during his tenure with his energetic spirit and dedication—both the plaza and administration building bear his name in gratitude.
At the onset of World War II, the Bay Area became home to industries and residents who were influential in it—such as the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond and U of C Professor J. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of the Manhattan Project.
As social issues emerged in the 1950s and 60s—a strong ‘freedom of thought’ movement rose in response to the McCarthy hearings, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement sparked protests—all gained support here as ‘hippies’ spilled over from San Francisco. Activism is still in the campus blood as crowds gathered recently to protest budget cuts and tree-sitters rejected an athletic training center in lieu of hundred year old trees.
Don’t miss the Berkeley Kite Festival in late July and we bet many will sad to know the ‘How Berkeley Can You Be!? Parade’ is no longer. Some natives who may remember one of those 13 parades: Francis Ford Coppola, Allen Ginsburg, Whoopi Goldberg, Patty Hearst, Phil Lesh, Timothy Leary, Richard Prior, Cindy Sheehan, Rita Moreno, Joe Satriani, Richard Gere, Adam Duritz, Robert Crumb…
Cody’s Books, 1956-2008, was a pioneer—one of the first to sell paperbacks which students could better afford, in fighting censorship, and as a safe haven for student activists. Today, CB2 is honored to be in the space which was such an important part of Berkeley’s history.
Thanks to ciaran, berkeley sales associate, for contributing.