That Was Then

Richard Schwartz's newly updated Berkeley 1900 includes hundreds more images.

If Richard Schwartz could transport himself to 1900 without
leaving the town where he lives, he would want to meet horse-and-wagon
man John E. Boyd, the self-proclaimed Boss Baggage Buster of Beautiful
Berkeley. He’d seek out Mary Townsend, “a cleaning-lady hero” who, in
rejecting a railroad company’s orders to move her house, “was very
courageous and represented what would become the Berkeley spirit,” says
Schwartz, who will discuss his expanded tenth-anniversary edition of
Berkeley 1900 at Books Inc. (1760 Fourth St., Berkeley)
on Monday, November 9.

An annotated compilation of press clippings and other archival
materials, Berkeley 1900 is a treasure trove of what Schwartz
likes to call “what everyday life looked like a hundred years ago for
everyday people in Berkeley and its vicinity.”

“A Midnight Duel: Two Unsuccessful Attempts to Enter Upper Dwight
Way Residence,” reads one headline. “Negro Women Discuss Negro
Culture,” reads another. Among hundreds more, we find “Old Man Killed
by Cannon” and “North Berkeley Club Unanimously Resolves to Eliminate
Saloons.”

“In dress as in everything else,” reads an item from the Berkeley
Reporter
, “the Berkeley women display the best of taste, always
wearing the proper gown.” Yet another story details a local
“agriculturalist” marketing the contents of an Indian burial ground as
fertilizer.

This new edition features hundreds of additional images, many
supplied by descendants of local pioneers. Gazing at these never
previously published pictures, Schwartz says, “you get to see what they
saw in their day.”

They saw paddlewheel boats in the bay, bears in the hills, and
hitching posts lining the sidewalks. They saw S. Taylor’s Saddlery,
selling harnesses and “Indian relics,” at 2113 Shattuck Ave. They saw
long-queued Chinese men wearing calf-length cotton shirts, such as the
one depicted in an advertisement offering “All kinds of CHINESE HELP
… at shortest possible notice.”

Schwartz is intrigued by “the unconscious social contracts and
values that the people of 1900 had. They didn’t realize what they were
revealing about their attitudes when they chose their words.” He is
also deeply moved to see “what nature provided here and what we started
with. It is often a heart-rending experience to see the old landscapes.
What a gorgeous, rural place it was. … I walk around town and ‘see’
the old places — and the current place disappears.”

During his time-travel jaunt, “I would look for whales still
breeding in the bay. … I would race down to West Berkeley and
experience the immigrant culture of Oceanview and hang out at a bar and
listen. I would walk to Berkeley’s beautiful Bath Beach” — a
golden crescent between Delaware and Gilman streets whose sand was
spectacularly fine, he says — “and stare out the Golden
Gate.” He’s not sure he’d want to come back. 7 p.m., free. BooksInc.com

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