VOJ L HISTORY COL 0921 1

Berkeley, a Look Back: WWII 'Victory Garden' harvests bountiful – East Bay Times

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Seventy-five years ago, fresh food was being produced in abundance on the Oxford Tract along Oxford Street north of Hearst Avenue. The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported on Sept. 24, 1943, that “produce raised on the university victory garden plots has comprised 85 percent of the vegetables on some family tables since the plots began producing in June.”

As part of the citywide effort to grow food in “Victory Gardens,” the university had made 89 growing plots available on the agricultural research land.

Berkeley had a “awww” moment on Sept. 24, 1943, when the Berkeley Daily Gazette carried this picture of three sets of 5-year-old twins (two girls, four boys) who had shown up to register for kindergarten in the fall semester at Thousand Oaks Elementary School. (Berkeley Daily Gazette archives) (Berkeley Daily Gazette archives)

“Faculty members from almost every university department, from military and naval officers through radiation laboratory workers, are working plots,” the Gazette reported. “Plot holders sign an agreement to keep the gardens free from weeds and disease and make annual deposits to cover operating costs and water. Individuals furnish their own equipment, though fertilizer is provided by the poultry plant.”

Labor sought: “Women of Berkeley, your Berkeley stores face an emergency” a large advertisement announced in the Sept. 22 1943, Gazette. “To maintain their services and store standards they need your help. They must replace on a part- or full-time basis the many employees who formerly served you and who are now engaged in our great war effort. You can help by stepping into their positions and by performing a service for your community in keeping alive our many stores which are so essential to the life of this city.”

Berkeley was experiencing a civilian labor shortage in regular businesses since so many workers had gone into the military or war industry work. The ad encouraged local women to “spare even a few hours each day from your home and call the United States Employment Service, 2461 Shattuck Avenue, to find a part-time job in a Berkeley business. Your work will be in pleasant surroundings, will not be a burden upon you and can be a part of your own personal contribution to the war effort.”

Eleanor Roosevelt lands: On Sept. 23, a four-engine Liberator plane touched down at San Francisco airport carrying a special passenger. Eleanor Roosevelt was returning from a “monthlong aerial journey in the Pacific war theater.” She had visited Australia, New Zealand, and 17 separate islands with American troops, flying more than 23,000 miles.

War news: The Mediterranean was the scene of considerable combat this week in 1943. American and British troops moving up the Italian peninsula were closing in on Naples, while French and American troops, as well as local partisans, were driving German forces in Corsica to the north of the island.

On Sept. 21, Winston Churchill announced that “the time is coming” for a second front in Europe, but that the war would not have an early conclusion. Churchill characterized the Italian landings as a third front; the second front would come later, presumably somewhere in Northern Europe, as American and British troops massed in the British isles. Churchill also emphasized that the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain were closely collaborating on planned military strategy.

New Berkeley book: Local writer Mara Melandry, who has previously published a history of the UC Botanical Garden, has completed a new book on the history of Berkeley’s three camps, Tuolumne, Echo Lake, and Cazadero Music Camp. You’ve probably read periodic brief items about the camps in my column before, and now there’s a complete history.

It is 200 pages long with many illustrations. It will be available in October, but if you preorder (before Oct. 1) you can get an early discount rate of $25. I’ve already put in my order. Email Mara at [email protected], or call her at 290-7409.

Steven Finacom is a Bay Area native and community historian in Berkeley.

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