[This paper was scanned into a computer readable format and edited as part of a Casa Zimbabwe H.I. project in 2002. Many parts of this paper were edited to improve readability. Careful attention was paid to preserve the author’s original style and tone.]
Introduction and Acknowledgments
This history of the University Students Cooperative Association (U.S.C.A.) was funded through a grant by the Berkeley Consumers Cooperative to the U.S.C.A. aimed at financing a student project for the summer of 1971. Mark Gary, then President of the U.S.C.A. Board of the Directors, suggested to the Board that a history of the organization would be suitable, and the job was assigned to me on the first of June. Composition was completed today, December 19th, 1971.
My idea for this book was to write a biography of the U.S.C.A. rather than a history, concentrating on individual members’ stories and recollections, and avoiding as best as possible a strictly organizational perspective. A series of interviews with co-op pioneers and veterans in the Bay Area was initiated with this aim in mind. To a man, I found those co-opers I talked to--usually with the aid of Marcella Murphy, co-op vice-president--generous with information and impressive in their enthusiasm for the organization and its precepts. I want to thank each of them--Doug Cruikshank, Bill Davis, Dan Eisenstien, Harry Kingman, Dick Palmer, Dave Bortin, Larry Collins and Hal Norton--for their assistance and the glimpse each gave me into the nature of the co-op. I only wish that time and money had permitted me to contact more co-op alumni, several of whom I spoke with but did not formally interview. My apologies to them, and to the book--they could only have added richness. Too often I found the “organizational perspective” the only available viewpoint.
I want to express special gratitude to Harry Kingman, for lending me much valuable material from his files. Without them the background for the co-op’s birth would have been whole cloth. Also to be thanked are the present Board and staff of the U.S.C.A. for the aid they returned for persistent annoyance from me. Thanks of personal sorts to Marcella Murphy, Gwen Lindgren, and Gail Schatzberg for their impetus and assistance. And a most extraordinary thank you to Carolyn Callahan, who has never even been in Berkeley, let alone been a co-op member, for typing so much of the manuscript without promise of compensation.
I hope that this book will help the co-op as it enters its fifth decade. No living group has been around as long, done as much, or had a more interesting effect on the Berkeley campus and the idea of co-operatives in the United States. I hope new members manage to read it, and become involved in the organization they now own and control. The title of this tome to the contrary: the U.S.C.A. is far, far more than a cheap place to live. It is a life-experience.
Nothing more to write, except to say that I have enjoyed this project, and regard it as valuable to my life, and my career, however either may go.
And to thank the people I lived with for most of my college life, and dedicate this work.
To my brothers and sisters of Barrington Hall. Fall 1969 to Spring 1971.
It began where a lot begins, in Berkeley, California. But its beginning came when much was ending, in the 1930’s. It always was a different sort of thing. The collegiate generation of the early 1930’s was faced with unique problems. As with practically every other group of Americans, the Depression of those times had severely cramped the economic viability of its members. The college students of that time could be divided, therefore, into two extremely general groups: first, the well-to-do, whose fathers had economic positions in the society unthreatened by the Depression; second, the far more extensive group, poor students who lived in enforced frugality and survived by superhuman determination.
This latter, larger group imposed a great responsibility on the schools that they attended. Programs of student aid were begun on every major college or university campus but they were handicapped for the same economic reasons that their students were handicapped. The University of California at Berkeley was, in 1930, the major educational institution of the state. The 16,000 students attending Berkeley fit, of course, into the two general categories mentioned above. But, as a large state institution, the University had more resources to draw on than many private institutions. It had its own Y.M.C.A., for example, which itself had a resource no other institution could claim: its director, Harry Kingman. Kingman was an unduplicatable man of many accomplishments, by no means the major of which is discussed here.
Kingman, in 1933, was in his second year as general secretary of Stiles Hall, the University of California Young Men’s Christian Association, as well as coach of the Cal Freshmen Baseball Team. He had come to the Y.M.C.A. in 1916 from a stint with the New York Yankees and New York College. In 1931 the death of the then-general secretary had elevated Kingman to the directorship of campus organization. He brought the position an activism that dealth with many problems of his constituency. In recognition of that activism, Robert Gordon Sproul, the President of the University, appointed Kingman to a committee, with three other faculty members, designed to “assist and befriend” incoming freshmen in 1932. Kingman’s membership brought him into direct contact with the incredible economic straits that the student body had to navigate.
The Y.M.C.A. itself kept a supply of used clothing on hand for destitute students. Other community organizations--Hillel, Newman Hall (the university Catholic chapel)--provided similar services. Mostly the efforts of these organizations were directed towards finding jobs for the students--insufficient funds were not only keeping potential students away from Berkeley, they also caused many to drop out. In September of 1932 Kingman went on the local radio with a speech called “Students Without Money,” which detailed the types of aid available to the destitute. One case he mentioned was of a student who was, relatively, extremely fortunate; he lived with an uncle who paid his tuition and books. Presumably the room with the relative carried board privileges too, and the student had only to worry about extracurricular expenses. According to Kingman, he was asked about his financial status approximately four months into the semester. The student counted his change and said, “I started the semester with three dollars, but I have only about one dollar left.” He was fortunate. A case existed at that time of one student who collapsed on College Avenue from malnutrition. Others spent as little as five dollars a month on food. In his radio broadcast Kingman defended the various efforts to support students: “The fact is that relief needs on the California campus have been fairly well met.” In addition to private aid there were also University loans--about 70 different funds available at that time--which suffered from the inability of most students to repay them and from being solely available to undergraduates. There were also some emergency loans available, as well as 200 University scholarships which averaged at about $225. These scholarships reached less than a third of the qualified students. Kingman listed more scholarships as the most urgent need of student aid.
Among Kingman’s targets as a member of Sproul’s freshman advisory committee were the men of the class of ’34. Kingman met with these students often in late 1932, seeking a long-range solution to the financial problems then faced.
Most Cal students didn’t have uncles living in town who were willing to pay for tuition and supply room and board. Most lived in cubbyholes at rooming houses and, as said before, scrounged for meals. Loans and scholarships and jobs were all very well, but they could only aid individual students, one at a time, and did nothing to alleviate the general conditions. Life, for the U.C. student, was still one of extreme deprivation. With his freshmens, Kingman began to seek out something different. He gathered students together into meetings with Professor Ben Mallory, of the Vocational Education Department, an authority on co-operatives. Kingman had had an idea, which he passed onto the students. Fourteen students gathered one evening in the house owned by Harry and Ruth Kingman in February of 1933.
This gathering was dramaticed in 1938 as an episode in K.F.R.C.’s “Pageant of Life” radio series. As-reconstructed by a scriptwriter, Kingman’s pitch to the students went thusly: “Now: you must represent...what shall I say...the underfinanced portion of the student body... Why can’t conditions be improved, for hundreds of students like yourselves...by throwing your resources together. Living together! Eating together! Working together! Buying on a mass basis.”1.1
A co-operative endeavor, in other words, was suggested, and the fourteen freshmen agreed that it was worth trying. Among them were Bill Spangle, Willis Hershey, and Addison James, each of whom assumed leadership in what rapidly became a major project--not only for them but for the University Y.M.C.A. Kingman appointed one of his staff, Francis A. Smart, to half-time activity aiding Spangle and the others in setting up their co-operative.
No one is sure how the word “co-operative” was first involved, but it is a system with roots in Rochdale, England, where the movement began in 1844. A rather cringeable pamphlet entitled “The Story of Toad Hall” tells in saccharine detail the story of the earliest co-ops; only the philosophy of the co-operative movement has bearing on the Berkeley students’ story. That philosophy was started by Peter Warbasse, a philosopher of “co-operativism,” in a book called “Cooperative Democracy.” Basically the system is based on several postulates commonly known as “The Rochdale Principles.” These declared that a cooperative would be based on democratic control, common purchase of the cheapest available produce, open membership, market prices charged, political neutrality, limited interest on any invested capital, and return of savings to members in return for their investment. Warbasse called it “a radical movement of pale pink,” for its object was the antithesis of capitalism--service instead of profit. A housing co-op--untried in Berkeley and virtually unique anywhere--would adapt these principles to housing needs. Basically, it meant that students living in the house would control house policy and expenditures. They would be both independent and responsible.
The Berkeleyans sought, at first, limited goals; the first co-op unit was a rooming house on the south side of the campus. According to “Early History of the University Students’ Cooperative Association,” a reminiscence written by Fran Smart in 1940, Adaison James merits credit for persuading Mrs. Annie Dickson, contacted through one of the local churches, to take on the responsibility of running a cooperative boarding house. Mrs. Dickson’s husband had-suffered severe economic hardships in the Depression, yet she was interested in the project and willing to assume some risks to join it. Those risks took the form of renting a larger house than the one her family presently lived in. Mrs. Dickson did the buying and cooking for twenty male students in exchange for meals for her family. The rent for these first coop members was ten dollars a month, which Mrs. Dickson allocated as $9 per student per month for food and the other $20 a month going for the utilities. Workshifts of four hours each week were required for the student residents. These workshifts were all typical duties--cleaning house and kitchen and aiding Mrs. Dickson in fixing the meals. When the co-op boarding house opened in March, 1933 ten students joined as charter members. Twelve more men joined before spring semester ended.
At the end of that semester the cooperative effort branched in two. The number of students involved had grown, and the emphasis grown away from day-to-day survival to preparations for the future. Students sought to stock up provisions during that summer of ’33 to keep their co-op alive for the year that followed, by working at manual labor outside of Berkeley, in two groups, one chopping wood in Dixon, California and the other at various jobs at Clarksburg, a city on the Sacramento River. The Clarksburg camp opened in May, at which time the men involved moved into the bunkhouse which had been provided by the various farmers in the area and began cleaning it up. These farmers had been contacted by the Stiles Hall associate general secretary, Ralph Scott, who had explained the aim of the camp. The bunkhouse was centrally located among the various farms in the area, and was furnished with equipment loaned by Pacific Gas & Electric. Bill Spangle, whose home was in Sacramento and was therefore familiar with the area, managed the Clarksburg camp. As each new man arrived at the camp he paid Spangle a $2 deposit for operating expenses. Each man provided all linen and personal items.
Spangle’s duties were several. Not only was he sole cook, he also aided the students in finding jobs. He was successful in this task, as some members earned over $100 during that summer with which to continue their schooling.
The Dixon woodcutters were involved in a task which had an ongoing aim--the benefit of the whole group of co-opers instead of just individual members. Their project was connected with the local office of the Unemployment Exchange Association, or U.X.A., which the students had visited often while planning the organization of the first co-op. The students who cut wood at Dixon for the U.X.A. worked not for money but for points to be applied toward room and board expenses in the following year. They were so adept at swinging their axes that their productivity became a danger to the organization later.
The co-op boarding house had been an avatar. The group’s aim all along had been to establish a student-run house that would service more than 20 members, and the summer of ’33 was devoted to this end as well. A large effort, sponsored by Stiles Hall, to popularize the new idea of a student cooperative house was begun, with correspondence to high schools and junior colleges telling of the idea. Radio time was also secured. It pays to advertise. A “gratifying” response came in to the propaganda, and the fledgling organization suddenly found itself with no room for all its accepted members. A search for an available house was begun and consumed much time and hassle. The students finally found an appropriate establishment at 2714 Ridge Road--a block from the Founder’s Rock at the northeast corner of the campus.
The Sigma Nu fraternity house was part of what was then thriving northside Greek community, but the fraternity was moving and the building was available for lease, and ideally suited for a cooperative house. The students instantly grabbed it--a matter of some relief. Fran Smart recalls one incident demonstrable of how close a call was the rental of the Sigma Nu house. A Los Angeles applicant named Dickson Myers had sent in his five dollar deposit and had been notified of his acceptance. Myers immediately set forth from L.A. and negotiated a night-long journey up the coast. He got to Stiles Hall at eight in the morning, and asked the staff there where he could find the co-op house, as he required slumber. Smart and the others told him that “it wasn’t ready yet”--and sent him into downtown Berkeley and the Y.M.C.A. there for some sleep. In the afternoon when Myers arose, he returned to Stiles Hall. Smart and the co-op people were still out, concluding the lease deal for the fraternity house. They came back with joyous exclamations of “We got it.” Myers asked what they had gotten, and when he was told “the co-op house,” he was naturally aghast. “Do you mean to tell me,” he screamed, “that you let me drive all the way up here before you even had a place for me to live in?”
The co-operative spirit was even then at work.
That spirit was forced to further limits. A house is not a house is not a cooperative. Furniture was needed. For that, money was needed and leasing and renovating 2714 Ridge Road had depleted the precious collection Clarksburg and deposits had built up. It was here that the University, beginning on a high note its somewhat erratic support of the Berkeley cooperative movement, stepped in through the Faculty Advisory Committee. This committee had rendered valuable advice and aid in the advertising campaign. Now it helped the co-op movement to gain a $650 loan from the U.C. Club House Loan Fund with which to furnish the renovated Sigma Nu house. This amount had to do in order to furnich a 48-person residence. As the K.F.R.C. script has Bill Spangle saying to the other co-opers:
Spangle: Well, six-hundred-and-fifty-dollars is practically all the money there is in the world...but as Janes says, it won’t equip this big...building...completely... fifty beds and mattresses...
Janes: And tables and chairs...
Voice: And chesterfields...
Voice: And a kitchen stove...
Voice: And don’t forget silverware and towels...
Voice: And how about a washing machine. We’ve got to keep clean!
Spangle: You promote it Rowley...and you can be in charge of the laundry department. But seriously...let’s appoint committees for two, and each committee’ll be in charge of buying or promoting certain items...like cots and mattresses...floor lamps...dishes and so forth. They can make the rounds of all the second-hand shops...
Smart’s article details some of the purchases made at those secondhand stores, mostly located in Oakland. The kitchen range cost $71.61, a library table $1.50, two blinds went for ninety cents, a single chair $3, a Faultless washer and mangle $83.72, and silverware $14.87. They also found 52 old Army cots for $98.43...but which caused much more than a hundred dollars’ worth of trouble.
These cots were link-spring arrangements better than six feet long, which while in storage had been coated with a protective petroleum jelly. The 52 cots were brought to 2714 Ridge Road--the old co-op name of Barrington had by then been applied to the building--late one afternoon and dumped on the steep sidewalk in front of the building. They lay there in the gutter. Each new member as he arrived at the new co-op was escorted to the Ridge Road gutter and invited to chose--and clean--his own cot. Fran Smart describes the experience of scraping, wiping and generally persuading the oily stuff off of the beds as a “fortunate thing, for it gave each of the members who had to do this work a feeling that he really was a part of the house and belonged there.” The cooperative spirit again raised its elbowaching head.
The only new items bought by the students were mattress pads, which became quite lumpy in time and extremely uncomfortable, at least according to Bill Davis, a young Y.M.C.A. staff member who lived in Barrington Hall from the outset and would become one of the most important figures in the history of Berkeley’s student co-op.
Davis’ quasi-official position with the nearly-founded student co-op was that of advisor, or “House Papa,” but he was actually not very much older than his charges. Bill had been to the University in 1924 from two years in junior college. Graduating in 1931, Davis spent a year at the Boalt Hall Law School before joining Stiles Hall in ’32. Put into freshman orientation and relations work by Kingman, he was involved in other aspects of Y work until the opening of Barrington Hall. “My home was in Long Beach, of course,” he says, “and I was single, so it was a natural thing for me to move into Barrington.” In addition to Davis’ own financial considerations, Stiles Hall felt that it would be a good idea to have an on-the-scene liaison with the new co-op which could still need help. Davis aided the co-op in a potentially uncomfortable situation. Rochdale principle and common liberal thought required that the co-op practice racial desegregation in the house - and of course nobody objected when a black man applied for residence. Some concern was voiced about how well he would “fit in”, so Davis arranged a meeting on a Long Beach corner with the black to talk the organization over. The anxieties proved foundless, of course, and there was no hassle involved. Another black member of the early Barrington was Thomas Berkeley, who later opened the finest interracial law practice in the city. Davis moved in with the first members when the co-op opened in August 1933.
Also moving in with the first batch was a young couple, Willis and Anne Hershey. Fran Smart spoke of the problem which made Anne Hershey’s presence a practical boon. The house obviously needed a cook. There was some debate about whether or not to hire a man or woman for the post--and whether or not a competent pot-and-panner could be found for the salary Barrington Hall could afford to pay. Some discussion revolved around the question of a housemother; the University Mother’s Club had been contacted early in the organizational phase of the co-op to make curtains, but the “mother’s touch” was a questionable virtue beyond that contribution. Hershey, a business major who would eventually become head of the San Francisco Volunteers for America’ solved the problem by telling the co-op of Anne’s situation. She was at that time employed as cook by a family in nearby Burlingame, and Willis secured those culinary services for the co-op by moving up their wedding date. This solution not only brought Barrington a cook, it brought Anne Hershey a rent-free room. She became the house cook, and her husband Willis took the equally vital post as house buyer.
Hershey’s major tool in that position was also the major acquisition (after Barrington Hall, of course) of the student co-op. Twelve and a half dollars was spent on an old Model T truck, which he drove to the markets in Oakland before dawn every day, to return with fresh produce. The truck broke down on numerous occasions, necessitating seven a.m. rescue-Hershey missions by other co-op members, but it lasted two years, at which time a more reliable truck could be afforded.
The Hersheys and Davis weren’t the only “officials” in the co-ops. Bill Spangle had returned from Clarksburg to be named the manager of the house. He was in charge of a houseful of independent men--he also had a serious problem on his hands related to the U.X.A. wood cutting project. As stated before, the students working for the U.X.A. had done so in exchange for points, which could be “cashed in” for produce during the school year. That produce turned out to be too low in quality for even the co-op to use, and the students were stuck with all the firewood chopped during the summer at Dixon. This was a serious problem; the Barrington membership had counted on the U.X.A. produce to help them through this first year.
Again it was the co-op’s friend and mentor organization, Stiles Hall, that came to their aid, along with the Faculty Advisory Committee. Again advertising was brought into play to liquidate the surplus wood. Members of the U.C. faculty and other Berkeleyans were notified that the firewood was on sale at retail prices, and their response was enough to get all the wood, and all the U.X.A. points, converted into needed cash. The U.X.A. did provide lots of carrots, however.
Barrington Hall was not, though, simply a business enterprise. College students lived there and the building was unique for the fact that they controlled its operations as well. Bill Davis, the Stiles Hall “liaison” with the house, also served as house advisor, dealing with the standard curricular and extracurricular problems as they were brought to him. He also did quite a bit of talking to University officials, particularly Dean of Students Ed Voorhis, who was, according to Davis, largely responsible for the organizations success with the University Clubhouse Loan Fund. Faculty members would also come over and talk with the membership after being contacted by Davis or another member. Einerson of the Astronomy Department and a paleobotanist who showed slides of his discoveries in that field while in the. Gobi Desert were only two.
Pressures on the student body at that time were, of course, mostly financial, but the campus was Berkeley and Berkeley has never been far from controversy. Douglas Cruikshank was, in 1933 and ’34, a student engineer transferred up from U.C.L.A. He became very active in the co-ops and in the Berkeley campus, and recalls one incident of a political nature which occurred while he was there. A student group wanted Eugene Debs, the main Socialist of the time, to speak on campus. Predictably, the first reaction from the lower echelons of the U.C. administration was a groan of Negation. Fortunately, the U.C. system was then blessed with Robert Gordon Sproul in its presidency. Sproul understood the political desires of students and recognized the necessity for dealing with them honestly. He allowed Debs to speak with the promise that he himself chair the discussion and that opposing views be given equal time to speak. “As I recall’,” Cruikshank said, “it was no great thing when the event came off.”
Aside from politics, and far more common, as well as far better suited to the climate of the decade, the student body as a whole found recreation and relief from its academic and financial burden in campus activities (one of which, the Big C Circus, would later fall because of the student co-ops) such as dances, football games and so forth. Expense was kept far down, of course--as money still dominated the cares of the students, second in importance only to their studies, which promised future independent solvency.
The first year for the student co-op ended with solvency and independence becoming more of a possibility. The applications for both room and board and board only spaces in Barrington Hall had grown beyond the capacity of the Ridge Road house to handle. It was decided during the summer of ’34 to lease a second house, at 2498 Piedmont Avenue to the east of the campus. This house was Sheridan Hall, again an old fraternity house whose Greeks had sought less expensive corridors. Fifty-seven roomers plus many boarders could be accommodated at this new location, which was considerably more “luxurious” by 1934 student standards than Barrington had been.
Sheridan’s first members had another advantage besides the house. The Hersheys, Willis and Anne, who had been responsible for much of the success of Barrington’s first year, moved to the new house in order to get it ready for its opening. They did such an extraordinarily fine job that it caused divisions of a sort to arise in the still new organization. Anne and Willis had arranged for beds to be put in prior to the entrance of any students--so there was an immediate “luxury” the cot-scouring pioneers on Ridge Road had done without. The beds were even made when the first Sheridan members--a young man by the name of Hal Norton among them--walked through the doors. Veterans of the opening pains of Barrington felt a bit slighted. They hid their no-doubt good natured resentment behind a righteous sheen of “co-operativeness”--the Sheridan men had had “too much” done for them and this was bad for their cooperative spirit. Fran Smart expresses this dandified feeling aptly and revealingly: ”it seemed to take a little longer for these new members to acquire the feeling of ’belonging’ to the cooperative group...the hardships which the early members of Barrington experienced proved beneficial in making the boys feel themselves an integral part of the unit.”
Actually the location of Sheridan Hall had as much to do with the membership’s alleged “snooty” attitude as the condition of the hall when they moved in. Sheridan sat on the corner of Dwight Way and Piedmont Avenue, at the southern end of what was then a thriving fraternity row. These co-op members lived in another atmosphere than did the Barringtonians, whose house was flanked by Newman Hall, the University Catholic Chapel, and the immense Cloyne Court Hotel, which catered to a professorial clientele, And their attitudes were correspondingly different. In the early 40’s Sheridan would become a political power base much as were the frats before that. Its members, according to David Bortin, whose life in Sheridan began a long history of involvement in the Berkeley co-op movement, were very active in student government. A President of the Associated Students of U.C. was elected from Sheridan, and another aspirant moved there in order to consolidate a political base prior to his own election. In Borton’s phrase, “Little Gentlemen” thought of themselves as members of a co-op movement first. The reason for this sense of identity was not altogether ideological; as leaders who preached “cooperativism” to the membership always found, the theory never held much fascination for the great mass of students. Rather, the sense of involvement with a new and different system of living--a sort of socialism, a kind of quasi-communism--brought the two co-op houses and their memberships together far more than circumstantial advantage enjoyed by Sheridan split them apart.
The co-op now consisted of two houses, over 100 live-in members, and as many boarders. Bill Spangle managed Barrington and was, in effect, general manager of loose organization already known as the University of California Student’s Co-operative Association. A Barrington veteran named Ken Eastman was manager of Sheridan. Money was being spent--the organization was growing. Complexity was on the geometric increase with every new member. The leaders of the U.C.S.C.A. turned in the organization’s second year, to the legal questions of membership liabilities In the group’s debts. Obviously a legal set-up was needed besides the loose “general partnership” that existed de facto. Under this system one house could be held responsible for the debts of the other; the group’s liabilities could be charged to every member, an untenable situation. The liability of the individual member had to be limited; even the green young businessmen managing the U.C.S.C.A. saw that. A document was drawn up to be presented to the governing board, which was then composed of Spangle, Eastman, and the two house presidents, listing some alternative types of organization along with advantages of each. The general advantages of organizing were also given; they included not only the limitations of individual liability but also the central “coordination of the houses in setting rates or placing members”, “a common buyer so as to reduce food costs”, and “to keep the houses from drifting apart”, an ambiguous statement.
Four different methods of organization were given, but only one was given more ’than one line of treatment: “the inter-house organization which would be a corporation”. Barrington and Sheridan would continue to operate independently in their “internal set-ups” and member relations, but neither house would be financially responsible for the other’s debts and the membership would be protected from unlimited liability. The Board of Directors would assume titular liability for all or the organization’s debts.
The incorporation idea was approved in November of ’34. Doug Cruikshank, who had been elected as Barrington’s council president, was now elected to the presidency of the U.C.S.C.A. Board. Spangle was general manager. The legal work for the incorporation required the help of a senior law student at Boalt Hall, the U.C. law school; Cruikshank visited him often in getting the papers drawn up. When, they were signed by the Board of Directors the U.C.S.C.A. became a non-profit organization under the laws of California. The seven signers included Cruikshank, Spangle, and a young accountant/economist named Dudley Dillard from Barrington, Eastman and two other Sheridan members, Smith and Thomas Blakeley, and Fran Smart of Stiles Hall, the only non-resident member of the Board. Later a faculty representative was appointed, on request, by the President of the University.
The U.C.S.C.A.’s second year passed, and a change occurred in the management of the student co-ops, one that would have a sensational, almost fatal, but ultimately highly beneficial effect on the co-op. A non-student named R.O. Brown was hired as general buyer/manager of the organization. A one-time Cal football player, Brown was married and had been a building contractor before taking on the U.C.S.C.A. duties. An independent and “hidden” man, he had a gift of foresight and an eye for expansion of the system. It was primarily through his efforts that the organization gained its first real estate, and financial permanence.
The Lafayette apartment house, largest in the city of Berkeley, was located at 2315 Dwight Way, two block on the west side of Telegraph Avenue., Berkeley’s major by-way. A trolley ran on tracks up and down Dwight; it was truly in the center of town. These apartments, located in a huge wood frame building spanning the block-width between Dwight and Haste, were owned by the Cerone family, whose sugar interests were very extensive in the area. Cerone was anxious to get rid of the Lafayette Apartments. Built in 1906 to harbor earthquake refugees from San Francisco, the wood frame itself shipped over from the stricken city (charred beams are still--in 1971--found there occasionally) was in sad condition. The owners were very willing to lease it to the U.C.S.C.A.
The building, despite its worn condition, was nonetheless a windfall. It could handle 200 live-in residents and any number of boarders. Like Sheridan, it had its own cook and kitchen. The large number of residents would double the capacity of the U.C.S.C.A.--or better, since the first hall, Barrington, was felt to be superfluous in the light of the new acquisition. The lease with the Sigma Nu owners was allowed to lapse and one--with very liberal terms--was arranged with the Cerone family. The new Barrington (it was decided that the name was worth the transfer) would require a great deal of alteration and maintenance--it was in violation of several articles in the city codes in its present state. The U.C.S.C.A. would earn its low rent by taking care of the rejuvenation of the building. Spangle and the other Ridge Road co-opers--excepting people like Doug Cruikshank who left--either graduated or in order to work--moved the co-op the two miles across campus and city to the hall’s present site.
It is time for the story of the U.C.S.C.A. to focus inward onto a personal story, for anything that involved the co-op involved Larry Collins during the next few years of co-op history. Collins, like Cruikshank, had come to U.C. Berkeley from U.C.L.A. to finish his education, and like almost every other Cal student in July 1935 was immediately socked in by the ubiquitous financial disaster. There were no jobs, in other words. Collins got around this problem with a busboy’s job at Ingram’s Chow Parlor on Telegraph Avenue; hauling and washing pots and dishes brought him two daily meals. He did not toil alone. Another student, by the name of John Merchant, sloshed and schlepped alongside him. Merchant, who later went on to become a dentist, told Collins about Sheridan Hall, where he then lived, and Collins’ interest was excited. The reputation of “those communist houses up in Berkeley” had reached him in L.A., and meeting a member of this strange organization intrigued him. Collins looked up Bill Spangle, the manager of Barrington Hall, and got a rundown on the group and the idea from him. “Well,” he remembers saying, “sounds like you guys have a good idea.” He asked Spangle about the possibility of acquiring a room-and-board job at the new house. Spangle conferred with Bill Davis, who had also moved, and finally offered Larry the job of running the night clean-up crews for his room and board. That a minor job like this was considered worth a full compensation is an indication of the amount of work the new Barrington was turning out to be.
The conversion job--Lafayette Apartments to Barrington Hall--was just underway when Collins joined the group. In 45 apartments the kitchens were removed and on the ground floor these apartments were knocked away altogether to prepare a lobby area. The building was, as said before, pretty rundown. Its exterior, though, featured all the “classic gingerbread”: frescoes, columns. The interior was much the same way, with turned spokes on the stairway banisters, clear redwood paneling on the walls (which suffered from a cheap varnishing job), handsome and intricate cornish work. Each apartment door was inlaid with translucent glass along which inebriated or simply high-spirited members would from high time to high time rake their keys on a dead run back to their suites. Once back to those suites--which contained for the most part three rooms, two doubles and a single--these members may well have risked death to find sleep. The beds in new Barrington were not designed for the fidgetty.
Basically the beds were or two types. In what had been the living room of the old apartment, in what was now a room for two men, a wallbed, fronted by mirrors, could be folded down at bed time. The upstairs rooms featured a more unique sort of arrangement. There the beds were built into the wall itself, and covered with a rotatable drum. Spun towards the outside the bed was accessible from the room. Turned inwards, presumably by an occupant, the drum hid the mattress from the rest of the suite--but exposed the bedded to the elements, and a respectable drop to the pavement below if a toss or turn became to violent. Barrington never recorded any fatalities from this amazing sleeping arrangement--which is fairly amazing in itself. Apparently those early co-operators were as skilled as they were daring.
The most significant physical aspect of the New Barrington, as it was known for some years, was a rotunda near the center of the building running from the kitchen/dining room/lobby level straight up to the roof where it was capped by a skylight. According to David Bortin, “a waterbag could be dropped from the third floor down to the bottom, and it was very dangerous to walk on that first floor.” Despite this quality the rotunda, which was flanked by closed stairways, was a serious danger to the house--it was a veritable chimney--and one of the primary reasons it was later leased to the Navy.
But the house did not burn down in the 1930’s and the rotunda was indeed invaluable for the recreational purposes Bortin described. Collins mentions that the waterbagging practice soon spread its soggy tentacles outward onto Dwight Way. “One of the things that guys used to enjoy doing,” he says, “was waterbagging the dinky (streetcar) as it would go by. We developed all sorts of devices for doing this, and then we began to take in the general public: any pedestrian on either side of the street would get it if they didn’t watch out. Finally the police would come along. In those days the guys didn’t get uptight about it, they just quit.” Rapport with the Berkeley Police Department has not, of course, remained on so congenial a level. Thirty years after Collins entered the co-op Berkeley initiated a statute against the throwing of waterballoons (bags having given way to progress): a waterballoon thrown from the Barrington roof through a policecar window is said to have been the clincher.
Barrington began in those early years certain weird traditions--unique to the house but common in kind to those developed by any living group anywhere. Unique to the times though, was a house rule that a phone call from the Bureau of Occupations--presumably a job possibility for a house member--took priority at the switchboard over a long distance call from one’s mother across country. Any man with a new haircut had to go around the hall saying “Vincie Rinctums” to anyone he met; otherwise he got ticked on the head with a forefinger. Again the times were responsible--the idea was that any man who could afford a haircut didn’t belong in the U.C.S.C.A. The office of the House Fink, an institution which remained an honor worthy of much campaigning every co-op year for the next twenty, was initiated. The Fink had the job of jester, or clown, among printable duties; he could violate the otherwise sacred serving order, for instance.
House traditions and recreations were not restricted to 2315 Dwight Way and environs, of course. It is claimed that members of the hall in the late ’30’s were responsible for destroying a vaunted Cal tradition, the Big C Circus. Held every four years, the Big C Circus featured a parade down Telegraph Avenue full of floats built by various living groups, classes, and other subcategories of the student community The parade preceded a carnival/sideshow in Edwards Field. For one of these circuses Barrington decided to enter a float. One must understand two facts about Cal student life and current events to appreciate the Barrington contribution. First, Berkeley and Stanford University were then, as always, involved in a sports rivalry. Second, Stanford’s Hoover Tower had just been raised in honor of Stanford’s most famous graduate. The Barringtonians, full of Cal spirit, gathered together all the trash--tin cans and the like--that they could find, stapled it all together into a vaguely phallic shape, balanced their sculpture on a flatbed truck, labeled it Hoover’s Last Erection and rode this creation past the unamused gaze of Robert Gordon Sproul and the Berkeley administration. A member of that administration subsequently cancelled the Big C Circus.
Collins himself took little or no part in the construction of the famous float. But he saw the parade. In fact, he stood on the curb of Telegraph Avenue with his girl friend-whom he would later marry-and her mother. This latter lady was “slow on the uptake” and read the label/title slowly to herself before realizing just what it said.
Bill Spangle’s position in the co-op was, socially, much more than just the house manager. He was the resident authority on “cooperativism” and the major voice raised for “house spirit”--which involved attending football games, en masse, and included such extra activities as stopping and dismantling the Dwight Way streetcar at rally times. Spangle did not necessarily approve of such actions. He was head of the largest single social group in the house--men from the Sacramento area and American River Junior College, the same area whence came Spangle. But this group was no clique; others rose to co-op prominence as they gained experience. One of these who felt his fascination with “cooperativism” grow was Larry Collins. He rapidly became entranced with the co-op philosophy. The fascination, prevalent among many at that time, stemmed from the pragmatic qualities offered by the U.C.S.C.A. and from the uncertain era in which it grew. “You get a lot of guys,” Collins says, “who are looking around, searching for some kind of an ideal to identify with; I happened to be in that situation during the time I was there so I got hung on the co-op idea.” Co-op members were not generally so entranced. Collins has rueful memories of some of his and other enthusiasts’ attempts to educate the masses. Like others attracted to the philosophy Larry spent hours researching texts by Warbasse and other “cooperativists” in the U.C. and Berkeley libraries. Barrington’s management initiated, in 1936, a series of mandatory seminars or “caucuses” which all house members were forced to attend. At each of these Collins or Dudley Dillard or someone else would rise and read an essay about co-operativism--sometimes in a pretty preachy fashion. As a result these lectures did not go over too well. As they never have.
Inculcation of co-op virtues proceeded on all Barrington fronts. In February of 1936 was published the first issue of the house newsletter/egosheet. Edwin Dolder, the editor, made no attempt in his first “Barrington Bull” to pass on the co-op philosophy, but with its second “volume,” edited by Jesse Hess, a Warbasse quotation or some other aspect of the Rochdale principles was printed on the front page of every issue. The Bull, always a part of Barrington life, would lose its ideological tone (as well as its name--in 1938 the title was changed to The Barbarrington, and would undergo many such changes till the first name came back into style to stay) as would the Barrington managers. They found that the members were far more interested in liberal causes such as the trade union movement than in the ideological basis of their own organization. Sheridan members were part of a U.C. board which began a fair employment program, Fair Bear; Barrington supported this program, by hiring chefs from the union, after an intra-house debate that aroused far more interest than the cooperativism caucuses ever did. The co-op organization moved beyond itself for the first time--but simultaneously enlarged itself. A woman’s hall, Stebbins, opened on Ridge Road in the early months of 1936.
The genesis of Stebbins Hall had its source in the activities of a man who would later become one of the U.C.S.C.A.’s most valuable benefactors, as well as one of the greatest educators in the history of the University of California, Clark Kerr. In 1935 Kerr was a graduate student directing a Works Progress Administration survey of the existing cooperatives in California. Another graduate, Jacqueline Watkins, handled the northern division of the project, and gathered information about the U.C.S.C.A. in the course of this duty. At that time, of course, there were two all-male houses. Watkins suggested to the Mortar Board Alumni, graduates of the senior honor society, of which she was a member, that they sponsor a women’s co-op--a worthwhile project to draw the membership of that group together. The M.B.A. were enthusiastic and appointed Watkins as chairman of the committee of eight to househunt, a task they began in the fall of 1935. When the Ridge Road Inn, located near Euclid on Ridge Road, was offered for sale in the midst of an otherwise hapless search, the M.B.A. had its building. A thousand dollar rental deposit was secured from the University Loan Fund with the help of the U.C. Dean of Women, Mrs. Lucy Ward Stebbins. The University Y.W.C.A., sister organization to Stiles Hall, was utilized to collect applications and keep in touch with applicants after the need for a women’s co-op was known; it was as intense as that for a men’s unit had been three years earlier. Better than 130 applications were received for an 82-roomer capacity--which suddenly ceased to be a certainty. With a most uncooperative attitude the owners of the Ridge Road Inn suddenly demanded an immediate two thousand down payment towards the furniture in the building. Watkins heard about this during the Thanksgiving recess, when the other members of her committee were out of town. Dean Stebbins, contacted in cooperation, assured Watkins that the additional two thousand could be gotten out of the Loan Fund Committee, but the owners of the Inn would have to move their deadline back a ways. The owners did so, the Loan Fund Committee approved the additional money, the crisis was passed. Ridge Road Inn, renamed in honor of Dean Stebbins, opened as a co-op in January of 1936. The opening was a special event--a hundred-person tea party was held on the 26th of the month. The U.C.S.C.A. gained its third house--R.O. Brown, the co-op general buyer-manager, had given invaluable aid to Watkins and the Mortar Board Committee. In 1936, after three years of operation, the co-op organization had grown from 14 members to over 400, counting the many boarders eating at the three halls.
The opening of Stebbins provided not just another house or more members or sexual integration. It also provided the groundwork for economies and controls in the organization as a whole which would eventually lead to the central kitchen apparatus. The houses still retained their individual cooks. Jacqueline Watkins, in a 1935 article called “Cooperation Goes to College”, listed the amount of food one house alone, Barrington, consumed in one semester: ten tons of meat, 30 tons of potatoes, 18,000 loaves of bread, 225 gallons of ketchup, 44,000 eggs, 160 pounds of bacon, 30,000 quarts of milk, 1350 quarts of ice cream...and so forth. Co-ordination and purchasing for all this produce was the responsibility of the Corporation Manager, Robb 0. Brown. In the two years that he had been in his position, Brown had done a splendid job. The organization had obtained New Barrington and Stebbins. The embryo of a true central organization had been conceived. Its growth, however, into a truly viable entity is Browns responsibility by less glorious though more critical events.
Barrington was in the midst of a financial crisis even as Stebbins was just entering the organization. In the center of the Barrington troubles was Larry Collins, who had ascended to the managers job in Barrington that January, after a climb up the responsibility ladder from the workshift and assistant house manager’s posts. The spring semester of ’36 was a milk run--but at the end of that semester, in the middle of May, the house officials discovered that they hadn’t enough cash to meet the various financial commitments during the summer. Summertime has always been an economic crisis period for the student co-op, as can be expected for a college living group. Since that summer of ’36 the organization has laid away money during the year to offset the lack of incoming funds during this dry period. But prior to then the rents had not continued for two years running--or at least expenses had not been so high. Also, the house was behind on its accounts payable for things already consumed. Barrington was in trouble.
The U.C.S.C.A. manager, Brown, decided to take a vacation just as this crisis was realized He had withdrawn money beforehand from the co-op account--his right as manager--to take this vacation, and the membership was none too pleased. The managers of the halls concurred with the other student leaders. “There are certain responsibilities a manager’s supposed to exercise,” says Collins, recalling the students’ objections, “and if you don’t have enough money to pay your bills you don’t take money in advance and go off on a vacation. You stick around and try to solve the problem.” The decision was made by the co-op board to fire Brown. Hal Norton, since February, the manager of Sheridan, delivered the message to Brown on behalf of the board.
This crisis was bad enough. The students had to come through with the necessary money to tide the U.C.S.C.A. over the summer, and the organization was not materially richer for being rid of Brown. The ex-manager did not help matters. Bitterly, he organized a meeting of the creditors of the U.C.S.C.A. at an Oakland hotel. To these men he proposed that they foreclose on the co-op by demanding their payment while the organization had no funds. Then they should appoint him as caretaker over the group and he would get their money back for them. It was, by the time the students knew of Brown’s plans, the middle of the summer. School would be in session and students would be arriving in less than a month. It was the most critical moment in the life of the organization.
The students ran for help. The manager of the local Bank of America branch at that time was named Mohlenschardt, who knew of the Brown story and of the co-op problems, and he gave Collins, Norton and the others a sympathetic ear. He went to one of the creditors’ meetings called by Brown--the U.C.S.C.A. has always owed the B. of A. money--listened to the arguments, and finally spoke out in a distinctive German drawl. He pointed out that no money could possibly come from the organization until students returned in the falls at that time the money would be forthcoming no matter if Brown was named caretaker/custodian of the U.C.S.C.A. or if the students were left in charge. Mohlenschardt assured his fellow creditors that the students were not out to “bilk” anyone--they were simply desperate. “I for one,” he said, “want to support the students’ position on this.” He convinced the other businessmen who, once they knew the full story, decided to allow the organization time to pay off its summertime debts.
Collins and the other co-op leaders had learned their lesson from the troubles with Brown. Previously they had known nothing about accounting and they provided no reserve funds for depreciation or against the empty summer period. They set out to learn before another near-disaster could come upon them. Along with Lee Poole, the U.C.S.C.A. office accountant, Collins and Norton sought advice from professionals--an auditor was brought in to organize their books on the advice of Dudley Dillard, a Barrington economics major who had run a preliminary audit for the organization. (Dillard later became chairman of the Economics Department at the University of Maryland.) The professional auditors hired returned once a month for a year or so while the co-op leaders learned about the problems--taxes, deterioration and so forth--which any organization would encounter and must learn to command.
Successor to R.O. Brown as buyer/manager of the co-op was a once and future medical student named Ed Beebe. Beebe was known, liked and recommended by Stiles Hall liaison Bill Davis; he worked full-time as co-op buyer-manager for a year, during which time he also raised a family and attended pre-med at U.C. He graduated and, with enough money saved to attend med school, left. Larry Collins applied for the job and was appointed. He also married, in September of that year, 1937.
1937 was a quiet year for the student co-op. Collins was involved in the co-ops latest acquisition, an “annex” of Barrington Hall on Atherton. The food for this 24-man house, which ran for five years, was shuttled from the nearby larger house. In early 1938 an experimental central kitchen was begun there which lasted till summer. A truly organized central organization revolved about the axis of common purchase and distribution of food--and the young group needed that central planning. Collins as buyer/manager, took steps during that period to cement the U.C.S.C.A. to other cooperative endeavors--with the burgeoning Berkeley co-op. He spoke at a three-day camp held in Hayward during one summer on “Youth Facing Life Under Capitalism”. In 1938 the idea of a central kitchen had occurred to him after visiting a co-op canneries in Washington and meeting a man at one of these, “an old socialist from ’way back”, who was willing to supply the U.C.S.C.A. with cheap produce. This agreement was the first knotting of the student co-ops’ ties with other cooperative movements in the United States, some of which Collins went on to work with and lead. After leaving Cal Larry worked for the government, the Berkeley Co-op and finally the Mutual Service Life Insurance Corporation, of which he is now west coast director.
Expansion had been the key word in the first five years of the co-op’s life, and finding new houses to take the still growing number of applicants remained a high priority. The Atherton experiment convinced the board that a central kitchen was advisable in the organization by making possible a central control. Therefore, when the huge Oxford Arms apartment house at the west face of the campus came up for lease, a C.K. to feed every house but Sheridan, which still employed its own cook, was part of the plan the co-op had for the site. Oxford was leased before summer of 1938, and Hal Norton, then Sheridan’s manager, was asked to get the building in shape to house 112 roomers and feed 600 co-opers. That summer Hal organized a crew to renovate the “pretty well run-down” building and add the central kitchen facilities. (Barrington already had a bake shop). The building had been around since the turn of the century and was in poor shape. Norton and his men did all they could--but never was Oxford Hall in its long and gore-filled history to receive University accreditation as approved housing. Approval by the university required things that Oxford’s physical plant was just not capable of handling. Oxford’s reputation as a house of another-sort-of-ill-fame did not follow its opening by much.
In the Fall in which Oxford began operations, under Norton’s management, the U.C.S.C.A. took steps aimed at solidifying the various co-ops under a single aegis. The depression, while its presence was still felt, was no longer a desperate problem for U.C. students (after all, there was a co-op now); “co-operativism”, the ideology, simply wouldn’t do to keep the members united. Among other ideas to draw the organization together Collins and the others began an all-co-op newspaper modeled after Barrington’s Barbarrington. Volume I Number I of The U.C.S.C.A. News appeared on October 24th, 1938, “a publication,” claimed the lead article, “designed to create greater unity of purpose and action among the five houses of the co-operative association.” Ed Wright, the editor, also handled the Barbarrington. That first issue featured a pretty standard newsish fare. Stebbins had a new housemother, Mrs. Eloise Dyer. Atherton chose its name insisting that no “House, Hall, Lodge, etc” follow its single-word title. The Women’s Home Companion asked for photos from Stebbins to be used in an article on co-ops. Barrington defeated Bowles Hall, the University’s castle-like dorm on Piedmont Avenue, in football, and also bought a set of new curtains. “That the council was contemplating napkins embroidered with little birds and flowers was stoutly denied by the members of that august body.” Most important of the stories in that issue, obviously, were reports on interactivities of the U.C.S.C.A. with other cooperatives: Barrington invited East Bay Co-operatives to hold meetings in the Dwight Way house, and an arrangement had been made with the newly founded U.C.L.A. co-op for Barringtonians to sleep there the weekend of a Cal-U.S.C. football game. Future issues dealt strongly with the relationship of the student organization with other co-ops; Collins was doing his job, a task which would find frustration later.
Norton found that his job was more difficult that he had expected. Financially, Oxford showed a definite deficit throughout the final months of 1938. In January of 1939 he reported that “The first four months of operation a net liability of $503.67 had built up, but that another four thousand dollars was due to the organization from the opening of the hall.” The Oxford Accent, the new hall’s house newspaper, reported on January 24th that new boarders were the answer to Oxford’s problems. By March 20th, the Accent reported, a profit of $5 had been built up. Oxford’s financial doldrums were past.
That same issue of the Accent, however, found it necessary to editorially point out that the economic problems of America as a whole were far from solved. The author of the piece indicated the “forces of reaction” which had taken over Germany and Italy, and spoke of the fears of a second world conflict. That a reminder of the outside conditions had to be made is indicative of the change in student mentality that had come about in the five and a half years of co-op existence. No longer was the economic shambles of the western world an immediate part of student lives.
Oxford’s first year was capped with the U.C.S.C.A.’s annual senior dinner on April 24th, an event which was supposed to be the first annual such affair. Robert Gordon Sproul, the President of the University, made the principal speech; Collins and Harry Kingman, who was soon to retire from Stiles Hall, also spoke. It had been a successful year, not only for Oxford, but for the U.C.S.C.A. as a whole.
From June 13th through the 15th Barrington hosted its first large-scale conference for other cooperatives. At first called a Western College Co-operative conference, the meeting was designed as an idea-exchange with members of other west coast co-ops. J. Stitt Wilson, who had been the first socialist mayor of Berkeley, spoke, along with a cooperativist named Robert Brady. The actual conference exceeded the hopes of the hosts; at the Pacific Coast Conference, as it was finally called, The Pacific Coast Student Cooperative League was founded by the 70 attendees from six universities and colleges. A temporary board of directors was chosen; Louanne Bartlett of Stebbins was named to chair it. Hal Norton assumed the secretary’s post. The group decided to establish its headquarters in Berkeley, ask a dime per year dues of each member, and meet yearly-in Oregon in 1940. The P.C.L. also decided to apply for membership in the Co-op League of America.
The influence of the U.C.S.C.A. had thus spread. It had attained some business maturity. That summer of ’39 the owners of Barrington Hall, the Cerone family, approached the U.C.S.C.A. Board with an offer. The building itself had become a liability to the Cerones and they were anxious to be rid of it. The offer was unique. From a total price of $45,000, the family wanted five thousand dollars down, with the remainder to be paid in exactly the same way as Barrington’s rent had previously been paid. There was no argument that it was an invaluable deal for the co-op, as even then the building and land was assessed at being worth $78,000. But the board was reluctant to take such a vital step without general membership approval. They arranged for a postcard poll to be taken of the members, putting to them the question of whether or not the, group should buy Barrington. The response was affirmative; the deal was made. As the organization did not have the full five thousand dollars on hand to make the down payment, a two thousand dollar option was paid, and the rest sent in by the first of September.
According to Hal Norton the purchase of Barrington Hall was the true beginning of the viability of the University of California Student Co-operative Association:
That was the real beginning, because with that behind us...that meant we had had laid the foundation, economically and financially„ on which to support future expansion. With the appreciation of real estate it was possible for us always to refinance Barrington to secure funds to buy another unit.
The business aspects of the co-op, despite the Barrington real estate, were still dangerous by any conventional standard. The ratio of assets to liabilities in a solid business, according to those standards, is two to one. In the co-op’s case that ratio was exactly the reverse. This situation wouldn’t change for decades.
Certainly it did not change in 1940, a transition year for America as well as for the student co-op, a year marked by no special events save general growth away from the Depression towards something else. Assistant manager of Barrington Hall that year was Ted Johnston, a transfer to Berkeley from Santa Ana Junior College, who had in 1939 been the Barrington workshift manager. The next year, 1941, he was manager, and forced to deal with serious problems in the wood frame building then ending its 35th year of existence and its fifth year as a co-op.
The building had gone over to the U.C.S.C.A. in almost as poor repair as it had been in 1935. even though co-op members had put in much effort: adding a student store, a lobby, and a concrete floor for the building’s smaller dining room. The wood frame was unchanged, of course--and the waterbaggers’ paradise, the central open rotunda, also remained. A haven for practical jokers, the hall was a fireman’s terror, and the possibility of a catastrophic fire was the house manager’s greatest fear. “I used to walk in the alley on the east side of the building,” Johnston recalls, “sometimes at night, really concerned because sometimes there’d be a fire in somebody’s wastebasket--somebody’s mattress would catch on fire. I think that was the thing that concerned me more than anything, was that the old building frame could just go up, burst in flame, and have a lot people lose their lives and all their possessions.” Bill Davis recalled that some house members kept coils of rope under their beds as emergency escape measures.
Another problem that beset Barrington was four-legged. Rats attacked the Barrington and U.C.S.C.A. warehouses--both located on the ground floor of the building.
Such troubles were not new--but a University-and-U.C.S.C.A.-wide problem had appeared which heralded the start of a new era for University life and the student co-op. The war in Europe had already affected the American economy, and began to affect the enrollment at colleges. The ratio of women students to men steadily increased--as was the demand for housing for these women. The co-op met the increase by re-opening its first hall, 2714 Ridge Road, this time as a woman’s house. The 36 woman membership decided to name the old Barrington Kingman Hall, and held a party at the opening. Harry and Ruth Kingman were special guests. The co-op would operate Kingman Hall until June of 1946.
The early years of the 1940’s brought a considerable turnover in the co-ops, both in the membership and the management. Larry Collins left the U.C.S.C.A. in 1940 to be replaced for a relatively short period by Lee Poole, the co-op accountant. Hal Norton and Gordon Miner, the Barrington manager, applied to the Board for the buyer/manager’s position. Norton’s experience as manager of two houses, Sheridan and Oxford, and as a long-time member of the “triumvirate” of co-op leaders (Collins and Poole were the others) gave him in high enough esteem to win him the job. Miner went on to operate his own aluminum foundry in Long Beach.
When Norton became manager it was late ’41. The coming war already had taken its effect on the U.C.S.C.A.: the turnover of the membership referred to above. Fewer men were going to school. Norton wasn’t worried about this decline; “it was apparent,” he says, “that we would be able to keep the organization going with women but not necessarily would be able to fill all of our units.”
The unit the organization would have the most trouble filling was Barrington, of course. The decline in male applications was felt most desperately there. However, the U.C.S.C.A. had opportunity to rid itself of a potential white elephant, while simultaneously gaining improvements, on the house for future co-op use. The United States Navy expressed an interest in leasing the house for the organization for a number of years to house workers from the Richmond shipyards. Bureaucratic red-tapery with local Naval representatives and Washington approvals became involved, as well as membership resistance, and the deal didn’t come to a head until 1943. In the meantime the organization turned its attention to handling the positive aspect of the 1940’s membership fluctuation--the increase in women applicants.
Purchasing houses had been begun with Barrington. It continued with the next addition to the roster of co-op houses, Sherman.
Located on Prospect Street near the California Memorial Stadium, in the midst of the fading Berkeley Greek colony, Sherman Hall was a sorority house whose owners were selling out. The house was an incredible bargain for the co-ops. The full purchase price was $21,000--for a good house in one of the best locations available--plus some six thousand dollars the U.C.S.C.A. paid for an addition to the building and renovations. The real estate acquisition of the business had a valuable property in Sherman Hall. The increase in women’s applications had a solution, too. The new house could room 47 and board 80. The co-op increased its women’s houses substantially during this time, leasing in 1943 a small, 16-woman house the Board named Rochdale, after the foundation place for the world co-op movement. The house lasted but two years the lease was dropped in 1945.
In 1942 the state of California, in the grip of war hysteria--recalling the erroneous report of Japanese bombers buzzing San Diego on December 7th, 1941--began the Japanese Relocation Program, the low mark in America’s relations with its minorities. Under the program west coast citizens of Japanese ancestry, forced to leave their homes, were placed in quasi-concentration camps east of the state. Berkeley had a large Nisei community, U.C. students many of them. The primary Japanese organization on campus was the Japanese Students Club located in a two-story building on Euclid Street around the corner from Stebbins. The students were stuck with a building they could not use--a financial liability compounded over the relocation troubles. The student co-op had ties with the Japanese Students, mutual members and dealings with the administration. George Yasa-koshi, who would become assistant manager of the U.C.S.C.A. in the late ’40’s and later head of the Berkeley Consumer’s Co-ops was among these common members. The co-op heard the J.S.C. problem and agreed to take over the rent. David Bortin remembered the feelings of the Board members:
The student co-op felt pretty noble about it; maybe they were pretty noble, to undertake to relieve them of that house and that obligation at a time when nobody else was willing or able to do it. The whole university population was going down drastically, yet the student co-op agreed to take over that house and operate it. I think they felt pretty good about it. They felt they-were rising above prejudice even in the middle of wartime.
A renewable lease was taken on the Clubhouse, which the U.C.S.C.A. dubbed Lexington Hall and filled with 31 men at first. After 1943, until the building was returned to the Japanese in 1948, Lexington became a women’s hall. Hal Norton’s future wife became its manager.
The crunch on men’s housing made itself fully felt in 1943. The owners of Sheridan Hall, from whom the co-op had rented the house for nine years, decided to close the hall. David Bortin lived there at the time, and described the residents’ reaction as one of resignation:
It was clear that it just wasn’t economically feasible to keep it open, and I think that the only choice available was to put it on central kitchen. Most of the people who were loyal to the house felt that something in violation of Sheridan’s traditions would be worse than having it close.
The U.C.S.C.A. let the Sheridan lease lapse and the Piedmont house passed from the co-op fold.
Bortin, a rare new Cal student, moved down to Barrington in the summer of ’43, the last summer in the 1940’s the house was to host co-op members. Officials from the city, the national government and the U.C.S.C.A.’s own central level were conspiring to get this potential financial white elephant--the building even looked like a white elephant to the lyrically minded--out of the U.C.S.C.A. for the duration of the male student dearth. The central co-op board was of course anxious to accept the offer of the Navy, working through the Home Owner’s Loan Association, to lease Barrington for seven years. According to Bill Davis, then in his fifth year as Stiles Hall representative on the co-op board, several loyal members of Barrington were dead set against leaving the hall. “The fellows...figured that they could figure out some way to keep the place afloat, without going down the tubes financially. They also resented the collusion between the co-op officers and the city officials.” The Board had, at that time, but four applications for the house in the coming year--and, of course, the house was in desperate need of repair. The Navy’s proposed yearly rent was, according to Norton, minimal at $640--but they promised to completely renovate the hall, and save the house from condemnation by the city.
City authorities were in fact the best friends the co-op central level and the Navy had in their campaigns to get the hall rented. The building inspector of the city of Berkeley was a man named Harry Cobden, who had the heat on the co-ops over the condition of Barrington Hall. As said before, the building was a tremendous fire hazard. The inner rotunda would act as a veritable chimney in case of any fire; wind would suck through the building and control would be impossible. There were no fire walls. Cobden’s pressure on the board to do something about the house was welcomed by Norton, Davis and the others, and Davis believes that the leaders exaggerated Cobden’s objections to the Barrington loyalists: “but it was perfectly evident,” he says, “that if we didn’t get those guys out of there, get this thing leased to the government we were going to lose Barrington Hall.”
The argument convinced the faithful. Reluctantly those who wished to remain in the co-op moved to Oxford, the only remaining men’s house except for Lexington, which would soon convert to female residence. A decade of student-owned and controlled housing closed with Barrington Hall. The organization had, to say the least, come a long way. It had begun with fourteen students in a loose group. It had grown to 60, to 120, to almost 400, doubled that, lost almost all of its men, came down to 325. It had learned the basics of administration and accounting. It had purchased property to secure its future.
At the beginning of its second decade the U.C.S.C.A. entered a stasis in expansion, as it waited for World War II to end and for the new situation in student life, still unknown, to come.
The co-op, in the last two years of World War II, waited for the G.I.’s to return home and again fill their houses with students, but they didn’t simply mark time. Although the male population of the University--and, therefore, the U.C.S.C.A.--was at its lowest in history, the co-op still found opportunity and reason to expand its facilities. It is interesting to note that the only non-Berkeley house ever operated by the U.C.S.C.A. was done under wartime conditions, and by a Board of Directors chaired and mostly composed of women. (Not only were several Board Presidents women, one was a freshman.) Whether the Buena Vista unit opened on Baker Street in San Francisco is merely a reaction to the needs of the time or a reflection of the organization’s consistent desire to gain more houses, expand itself is a matter of pure conjecture. The question itself is reasonable: the U.C.S.C.A., then strapped for funds, opened a house thirty miles from its central office, with its own kitchen and chef, of course, servicing an entirely different clientele--medical students from the U.C. Med Center and some Hastings Law School attendees. The house lasted as a co-op unit for thirteen years, resold in 1957 as a financial burden to the organization, inadequately maintained.
The co-op’s central office had been located in Barrington Hall on Dwight Way, but with the arrival of the Navy Hal Norton had to move his office. A small building near Telegraph Avenue on Bancroft Way, the southern boundary of the University campus, was appropriated for central office use. With the organization of the co-op bureaucracy a paid staff had become necessary, but it consisted mostly of part-time workers, secretaries and a warehouse manager, in support of Norton, who kept the co-op books and assembled the whole apparatus.
The board of the U.C.S.C.A. had also undergone change. Prior to the start of the war, the manager and president of each member house had served on the governing body. Just as the war began Joe Bort, the President of Barrington Hall, suggested a plan where each house elected a number of representatives according to the house population. The Board members increased in number as the Board, presumably, sustained its democratic auspices.
The single event which stands out in the U.C.S.C.A. in ’44 was a fire that began one night in the living room at Stebbins Hall. Nobody was hurt seriously, but the entire facade of the building was damaged. Renovation improved the public facilities at Stebbins--a whole new living room had to be constructed.
Preparing for the inevitable influx of ex-G.I.’s in early 1945 turned out to be more difficult than Norton and the others figured; no houses seemed to be for rent in Berkeley at that time. A house did come on the buyer’s market that provided not only a good co-op unit but territory for expansion. Located atop a site above Euclid on Ridge Road, this large handsome house was the property of a millionaire builder’s widow named Ellis who allowed her son, a teacher of biology and botany at the University of Kansas, to use the building when he wanted. She handled the family business and it was from her that the house was bought.
The house itself was a good find at a time when the influx of men was on a steady rise, but the land that went along with it gave the purchase the status of a godsend for the co-op organization. Containing 13000 square feet overlooking the U.C. campus and San Francisco Bay, the property was, except for the relatively small Ellis building and a small carriage house behind it, undeveloped. In such a great location development--in terms of new housing--was inevitable.
The U.C.S.C.A. was obviously in no position financially to construct a building of its own in 1945. Accountants brought in by Hal Norton to ascertain the economic viability of the organization still made the same report to the co-op board as they had for years: “You’re bankrupt. You just don’t know it.” What the accountants meant was that the co-op’s ratio of assets to liabilities was still less than two-to-one--in fact, it was the obverse. By any sane standard of finance, the organization was doomed; bankrupt. But the U.C.S.C.A. was not a capitalist organization. It survived despite itself, and by planning on a future where construction could occur.
One of the qualities in its favor was luck--or so it seemed from the price Mrs. Ellis asked for the Ridge Road property. She wanted $37,500. The co-op leaped to the purchase. They had to expend an additional $16,000 on renovations--part of which went to converting the old carriage house in back into a central office facility. When the renovations were done 51 men could be accommodated in its rooms, and of course many more as boarders.
Among the early roomers at Ridge House, as the new buy was called, was David Bortin, returned from a stint in khaki to try life in the co-ops again. The number of old friends met astounded him. “I was amazed,” he said, “at how many people I knew in Berkeley...and so I did decide to come back to Cal.” Bortin did not remain in Ridge House more than one semester. After that he lived in Oxford again, for a little while, before moving to the 1946 addition to the co-op houses, Cloyne Court.
The Cloyne Court Hotel had stood on Ridge Road between La Loma and Leroy for several decades, servicing an older, professorial clientele. As with many of the co-ops, Cloyne came to the U.C.S.C.A.’s attention because the building’s maintenance had deteriorated beyond the owners’ capacity to take care of it. Sale was the only way out for them, and cheap sale at that. The co-op always had plenty of cheap labor available to renovate the houses and was usually anxious to buy. Cloyne Court was another good purchase, anyway. A large building, it could house 150 men and board many more--its suites were clustered around several small stairwells--which would alleviate noise problems and aid privacy. It had an expansive courtyard, a fairly large kitchen, a lobby with a switchboard, and beautiful landscaping. Best of all it had an incredibly cheap price tag for a four-storied hotel: $115,000 plus $10,000 for the furnishings--which, although minimal, was a challenge to the co-op. Cash reserves were low thanks to the purchase of Ridge House. For the first time a major appeal to the U.C.S.C.A. alumni was made, to help the co-op pay the $435,000 down payment. A month’s effort produced $30,000 in personal loans--an indication of the financial vitality of the U.C.S.C.A. Most perplexing of all, Cloyne Court had already established residents--professors and professors emeritus who had lived there, with their families, for years, and whom the U.C.S.C.A. was not anxious to summarily evict. Not many of these people had an immediate place to move. Secondly, their rent helped the organization over the financial hump represented by the $125,000 cost of the building. None of the old residents were evicted therefore, and when fifteen co-op men moved into Cloyne Court in August of 1946 they moved into the finest accommodations ever enjoyed by co-op members.
David Bortin was one of that privileged vanguard, who moved in among the private tenants. The students that first semester were served the same fare in the same manner as the rest of the denizens--on tables covered with white tablecloths, and so forth. Bortin remembers his fellow Cloynefolk well. “I waited tables on these people and I found many of them fascinating. One of them was Professor Stratton. He was the man who ruined his eyesight in an experiment by putting on glasses which inverted everything in his eyes, and after a couple of weeks got so he perceived things as being right side up that way, then took off the inverting glasses, and everything looked upside down to him. This was a landmark psychological experiment in his day: Stratton was then in his 90’s; according to Hal Norton, he and his wife were the last of the early Cloyne residents to leave. He was not the only noted faculty member at Cloyne Court. A Professor Ballantine, “the father of California corporation law” was there, and gave the new management, led by an ex-sailor named Myron Haas, no end of trouble with his complaints. Said Borton:
You can just imagine a bunch of college kids moving into a place that had been quiet resident apartments for older professors and their families...the kind of noise level changes that occurred, the amount of complaints there were, threats to call the police...and here they were complaining to the landlord about people who were themselves the landlord.
It was a very delicate diplomatic thing for Hal. On the one hand he did not want to lose the tenants. On the other hand these kids who were moving into the house were cleaning it up and building up, because the place needed constant maintenance and Cloyne had not had any in years. There was a lot of hammering going on in addition to the beer busts and the 24-hour bridge game--and so it was a delicate thing at that point, making the transitions that needed to be made.
Haas, the first Cloyne manager, had been chosen by Bortin and other members of the co-op personnel committee. Shortly after co-op people began to move in, replacing the previous residents, a council was elected in the age-old living group manner, and Cloyne Court was underway as a co-op. There was some discussion about renaming the building “Poole Hall” after Lee Poole, was one suggestion. The name “Collins Hall” was put onto a house constitution, but Cloyne Court remained the official title.
“Everything in 1946,” Bortin recalls, “was veterans.” Indeed the U.C. campus had grown a wartime low of about 20% men to a postwar total of almost three-quarters male. Bortin estimates that 80% of these men were attending school on the G.I. Bill. “It was really a veteran’s campus. A very heterogeneous campus in other respects. But that was the great golden age of the Ordinary Great Building American Middle Class. That was the great time when college education became the norm. Before World War II it wasn’t. Before then it was the privilege of either a financial elite or an intellectual elite where the motivation for college was so strong that they overcame all kinds of obstacles in order to get it. This was where the co-ops had their inception in the 30’s, to enable that kind of person, who otherwise couldn’t possibly manage it, to go to college. With the G.I. Bill college became the norm.”
Another thing besides G.I. experience the ’46 students shared was a general earnestness about school--that much remained unchanged since 1933. Politics was, as always, a common Berkeley activity, with the dominant mood divided between a “Back-to-Normalcy” conservatism and radical ideas on the shape of the postwar world. There was no political activism of the overt, physical sort--the only violence of any significant sort occurred at football games, when Cal students reacted to their team’s usually disgusting performances by ripping up seats and hurling them onto the field.
The housing shortage caused by the veteran’s return was not solved by Cloyne Court and Ridge House alone. Board members of the U.C.S.C.A. sought other means to put up all the applicants. Bill Davis, by then eight years married and still Stiles Hall representative to the Board of Directors, was involved in one abortive project dealing with surplus Navy barges then in mothballs at nearby Port Chicago. These barges had stainless steel kitchens and facilities ideal for a floating co-op. The first deck had a huge mass hall, the second quarters for the men, with officers’ or managers’ rooms at one end. “We got awfully excited about this.” Davis said, “We learned that we could get these things for nothing... We went up and inspected them two or three times with the head of the U.C. Naval department, Captain Bruce Canaga, who was very much interested... Our idea was to bring them down and board them at the Berkeley Yacht Harbor somehow. We would hook-up facilities, water and so on, and run these things as long as we needed them in order to get over this critical housing shortage.” Norton and Davis figured out that the co-op could run the barge-co-ops for $35 per month per person, room and board. It was also figured that disposal of the barges after the crisis was over would be no trouble. They could be sailed out to sea and scuttled, if need be.
The deal itself was scuttled because of an uncooperative, indeed competitive, attitude on the part of the University. U.C. had just built a veteran’s center in Richmond and officials feared that the co-op barges would siphon applicants from it, and put pressure on city officials. They in turn pressured the co-op with such city type weapons as fire protection and drummed-up sanitation objections, all of which could have been solved. The barge idea never came off.
The 1946 run-in with U.C. was a low incident in the history of encounters between U.C.S.C.A. and the University whose students they served. The University itself was just beginning to move in to the student housing/field with the Richmond center and the “temporary” Smyth-Fernwald dormitory complex to supplement Bowles Hall. But throughout the thirteen years of co-op existence the organization and the University had kept a wary eye on one another. While administrators such as U.C. President Sproul and Deans like Ed Voorhis and Lucy Ward Stebbins had given great aid to the group in its fledgling period, other, more visible members of the U.C. bureaucracy looked at the co-op askance. As the University system had no chancellors at that time, these men held great influence, and owing to their own pre-Depression background were inclined, at the start of the U.C.S.C.A., to withhold their trust of what must have seemed to be a most radical and socialistic organization. Norton and the others “couldn’t get in any doors”; only because of the large amount of faculty support, Hal says, was the U.C.S.C.A. of the ’30’s--and even the ’40’s--able to pass the bureaucratic gauntlets relatively unscathed.
Members of the agricultural economics department and the law school were, in Norton’s words, “responsible in part for the growth of the U.C.S.C.A.” Many famous members of these and other departments served on the co-op Board by presidential appointment--on the request of the co-op members. Among them were Alexander Kidd, who never missed a Board meeting in his time on it, and William Lloyd Prosser, a law professor recognized as the international authority on tort law. These men are examples of the outstanding talent that sat in the faculty seat on the U.C.S.C.A. Board--and helped the organization through its bureaucratic hassles. Later Monroe Deutsch, Provost of the entire University system would sit on the Board, and later still Clark Kerr would change the bureaucratic view of the co-op through his influence. But in 1946 the University’s attitude towards the U.C.S.C.A., while not hostile, was one of tolerance. As Ted Johnstone, now a University official pointed out from his both-sides perspective, the officials could have applied enough pressure on the city to shut down the organization had they wished.
Dissention of a sort erupted in the co-op two years after the barges incident, when Lexington Hall ceased to be a viable co-op and the Board decided to return it to the liberated Japanese. There was some controversy about whether the Euclid building should reopen as an ethnic clubhouse. Among those in opposition to this was Bill Davis, who felt that segregation from the community as a whole would be detrimental to the Japanese, as well as to the whole student body.
Some of us took the view that since the relocation had opened the local ghettoes up and gotten the Japanese out of their traditional occupational limitations that we shouldn’t rebuild these things back into society--take advantage of the relocation. But there were interests in the Japanese community that took another point of view. They felt that the Japanese kids needed a place to meet other Japanese kids. They also said that they would make an effort to see that the clubhouse was not a segregated place, that people who weren’t Japanese could go there. But as it turned out it became at the end a segregated unit.
The return of the house, however was a gesture of good will which would help the U.C.S.C.A. over one of its most aggravating situations a score of years later. The 1948 hassles were settled with its return and quickly forgotten as troubles with a more direct effect on the co-ops appeared in the closing years of the ’40’s.
In 1948 the hysteria of the McCarthy era was just building up steam, and though rightwing paranoia made itself felt on the U.C.S.C.A. in a small way, it permanently changed the organization. Years later a loyalty oath controversy would split the co-op as it split the campus and country, but in 1948 a conservative California legislature passed a law prohibiting the use of the title “University of California” in the name of any private organization. Reactionary Berkeley administrators pushed the co-op to drop the title, just as Stiles Hall, which called itself the University of California Y.M.C.A., came under pressure, Norton and the co-op Board resisted these demands. They felt that they were idiotic and that submission to these forces would compromise the co-op principle. However, the issue was recognized as little more than a “damned annoyance” and, like Stiles Hall, the U.C.S.C.A. made the change, through amendment of the Articles of Incorporation. Now the organization was simply the University Student’s Cooperative Association...which, since students from local schools such as Laney and Merritt Colleges sometimes lived at the co-op, was probably a more apt title anyway.
May of ’48 produced a financial bargain for the U.S.C.G., in the form of an offer from the Cerone family. They offered the residuum of the co-op’s lease on Barrington Hall, which still had some years to run, for $16,000. The purchase meant no end of good things for the co-op and was quickly made. Though the house was still in the hands of the Navy, complete ownership meant that the hall could be regained and reconverted back to co-op use a full two years sooner than expected. The fully renovated house was again changed from apartments to a co-op and residents moved into the house in September of 1950.
The Barrington renovation was handled by a San Francisco architect named Timothy Krueger. Highly respected in his profession, he had been engaged by the Navy to redesign the building, yet had worked with Norton as much as with his official employers. The result was a hall that seemed built for the co-op when it came back into its hands. The woodpanel exterior had been replaced by fireproof white stucco. The chimneylike rotunda in the center of the building, bane of fire inspectors and joy of waterbaggers, was gone; two curved walls in two warehouse closets and many soggy memories were all that remained. The three residential floors now had firedoors in the middle of their block-width long hallways, The roll-drum and foldout beds were gone--to the relief of Norton, Davis, and others who wondered how fatalities had ever been averted while the roll-drum beds were in use. 148 roomers and thirty boarders came into the physically improved facility--which, to the dismay of its old alumni, never renewed the pre-war traditions. It was a different generation, however: veterans being joined by students who, like them, had been children during the depression and shared their desire for security. It was at this point in the history of American campuses that engineer domination came into being. Seriousness about studies was again the keynote of a student’s life, though finances were generally in better shape.
One further purchase, one further change in the U.S.C.A. houselist was to occur before the beginning of the organization’s third decade. In the spring of 1953 the Campus Inn, a building with space for 63 women, came onto the market. Located only one lot down from Stebbins Hall, the U.S.C.A. paid $50,000 for the land and furniture as well as the building. It was eventually named Alice G. Hoyt Hall in honor of that lady’s massive aid to the co-op. Hoyt Hall would be the last physical addition to the U.S.C.A. for six years, and the last permanent one until 1960. But with Hoyt’s purchase the U.S.C.A.’s financial assets reached close to $600,000 as opposed to $250,000 liabilities--booming health for an organization like the co-op. An experimental coeducational house was set up at Hoyt that summer.
That same year, 1953, the Backstrand-Levering bill was passed into state law after a vote in its favor by the California people. It stated that any non-profit organization claiming local or state tax exemption had to file a statement saying that it did not advocate the violent overthrow of the state or federal government, or advocate support of a foreign government against the United States in event of hostilities.
It was a loyalty oath, in other words, and it split Berkeley like a dry stick.
A state campus such as Berkeley considers whatever scholarly independence it can goose away from the governing administration invaluable; it was a seat for every political opinion known, and a loyalty oath was repugnant to many of its faculty and administrators, and most of its students. McCarthyism’s poisons had not avoided the campus as they seeped down through the levels of American life, and many members of the U.C. bureaucracy and faculty believed that such a measure was a rightful weapon for the state in its fight against sedition: U.C. was then split, and it was not a friendly schism. Accusations were leveled of communist or fascist sympathies, reputations were slandered, and it was feared that damage to the University’s academic reputation would be inevitable.
The U.S.C.A. felt the wrench of division, as well, as its members debated the oath issue for months on end in 1954. As a non-profit organization it was liable to lose a year tax exemption if it failed to sign the loyalty oath. The first two weeks of March howled with the issue in the organization. A “fact finding” committee was appointed by the U.S.C.A. Board to ascertain the sentiments of the membership at large. The findings of this committee were discussed at a hearing held on March 3rd, which recommended that as little publicity be given the issue as possible by the U.S.C.A., and that all statements from the Board on the issue go through the co-op’s public relations committee or a special committee set up by the Board for this purpose. Most importantly, the fact-finders recommended that a plebiscite be held of the entire membership as soon as possible.
Bob Shephard, a co-editor of theU.S.C.A. News, spelled out in the March 10th issue the “dire implications and consequences” waiting for U.S.C.A. members if the oath went unsigned: “We count among the majority of our members science majors--students of chemistry, physics and engineering who hope in the next four years to be working for the government. Quite a few are already working in the government radiation, atomic energy, and microwave labs here on campus. A goodly number are criminology majors who look forward to steady positions with state or federal offices such as the F.B.I....few, if any of us, could afford to be labeled as members of a subversive organization.” Shephard did not advocate signing the oath, but diagrammed the alternatives a membership plebiscite would be offered: “whether or not to sign, and if the decision is not to sign, whether or not to fight the case in the courts.”
A special Board meeting to discuss the issue was called at Ridge House on March 11th. At that time the deadline for signing the pledge was believed to be March 15th, but at the meeting Professors Prosser, Kidd and Kragen of the Boalt Hall Law School advised the Board that a decision could be put off until November 1st, four and a half months after the U.S.C.A.’s fiscal year closed. The directors agreed in enormous relief that the issue could wait until fall for a decision; in the meantime, the legal brains of the organization, including Manager Norton, who was then in his third year of law school, were to continue to look into the law’s procedures and demands. Not until the following October did the oath again command the attention of the U.S.C.A. Board.
Its return to the public eye, however, was marred by even stormier controversy than the previous March. The Board met on October 14th, and although it was still agreed that the membership as a whole should decide the question, the directors felt an obligation to the organization and themselves to make a recommendation. They argued the issue until 2:15 the morning of the 15th, the longest Board meeting to date, and recommended by a seven to five majority that the organization stand up for its principles and not sign the oath. In actuality, the co-op principles per se had little bearing on the question of the pledge. Neutrality in political matters is one of the basic Rochdale doctrines, but nothing of a specific political nature was involved. The co-op had a choice between obeying its members’ sense of outraged ethics or the retention of a tax exemption and status as a non-seditious institution. On November 1st ballots were distributed to the eight co-op houses--Oxford, Ridge House, Cloyne, Barrington, Sherman, Stebbins, Hoyt and Buena Vista, which was still in use. Not surprisingly the membership did not share the defiant spirit of the Board. Each house but Sherman gave a better than 60% yes vote to signing the loyalty oath, and at that Prospect House the majority--52.9% or 27 out of 52 girls--voted to sign. Better than 70 of that 86.4% voting of the U.S.C.A. membership was in favor of the action. Accordingly, the then-President of the U.S.C.A. Board, Manley Horowitz of Barrington, was formally instructed to sign the oath for the organization.
Despite this, the U.S.C.A., and Cal students generally, remained opposed to any sort of loyalty oath. Sentiment to officially act against California’s Assembly Bill 1215, an anti-sedition property tax measure that came up the next March, therefore must have been strong, but as the aforementioned Rochdale Principle stated, and the U.S.C.A.’s twelfth bylaw reinforced, the organization forbade itself from taking part in any political question to which it was not definitely related. As the co-op did not enjoy a property tax exemption, Bill 1215 could not be officially opposed. Part of the reason the U.S.C.A. didn’t forget its statutes--and very rarely did so--was Bill Davis, Y.M.C.A. Board Rep:
I always did take the position on the Board that I think that the U.S.C.A. as an organization has no business getting involved in a partisan way on issues that are not directly related to its life as a cooperative organization. There are always people who want to breach that principle, who felt there was some mitigating reason, always some great pressure, some tremendous need for us to abandon that principle in a given situation...I have on occasion on the Board argued against the U.S.C.A. taking a position on an issue that my own organization, Stiles Hall, would take a position on...I think that when you have a consumer’s organization with a certain job, and it gets involved in partisan issues not related to its job in a pretty direct way, then you run the risk of dividing your constituency--of alienating somebody, losing somebody, and making your job difficult...and under certain circumstances you could wreck the organization.
It was 1954. The co-op had two decades of age; with little fanfare, the organization slipped into its third...a time of maturation for the U.S.C.A. and the student body it served.
The “Silent Generation” was in college in 1954. They were post-war students--teenagers at the time of World War II ineligible for the benefits of the G.I. Bill. McCarthy-ism had come, was there, would pass. Eisenhower was president. The peculiar status quo of the conflict sans bloodshed was on the world and people pulled into themselves out of sheer boredom with the outside world.
Dan Eisenstein came to Cloyne Court in 1954, a “red-hot” escaping from a claustrophobic secondary existence. On his first day in Berkeley, Eisenstein visited every building on campus to acquaint himself on the locations of bathrooms and so forth. “This is my home,” he said. Not every new Cal student had such lyrical feelings, but it was generally true that they were another new generation in the university’s history. Great events like World War II and red scares had grazed but not punctured their consciousness. The Depression, the state of life which had given birth to the USCA and to the college generation of Hal Norton and Bill Davis, was, for some, a childhood memory. For many more it was a fact of pre-birth history.
The co-op was twenty years old and had several houses, each with a life of its own. Eisenstein recalls them:
Oxford was the haven of the communist part of the co-op. Oxford was the anarchists. Oxford was the home of the Tibetan Brigade. When Tibet was invaded by China, and it army wiped out, some guys started raising money to go to Tibet to fight the Chinese. Sherman was the Queen of the co-ops. Pretty girls at Sherman. Stebbins and Hoyt, a brand new place when I got there, were sort of not much anything. They were just around. They weren’t exciting places to live... people went into them not out of choice. Cloyne was exceptional. Cloyne was not like Oxford, Cloyne was not like Barrington, Cloyne was not like Ridge.
Unlike many of the other houses, the brown mammoth near the crest of Ridge Road had an older, more experienced population. It was most of the Korean War veterans in the organization.
By and large these guys...got into things like engineering, instead of history or political science. When I came to Cloyne, the average age was around 23 and about 25% of the house was graduate students. We had the highest grade point average on campus almost every year for the first four years I was there. We won the University intramural sports championship three out of the first five years... There was an awful lot of house spirit. There was a lot of real feeling that this was our place and we were all very involved in it and very proud of it.
The membership had developed a distance from the leaders of the U.S.C.A.
The co-op as a whole had exactly the same problems as the co-op does now: nobody trusted the central organization, nobody knew much about the central organization. The whole operation rotated around Hal Norton. Hal Norton and Bill Davis were simply the central mass around which the flags waved. They’d been there all along and a lot of kids tended to defer to them. It was obvious that Hal was devoting his entire life to the organization, with a hell of a lot less compensation than he could’ve gotten elsewhere.
Hal, who had recently gained his law degree, had guided the U.S.C.A. through some difficult times in his twenty years with it. He had built its property holdings in a continuous attempt to insure future co-op growth. In 1995 Hal began negotiations with the University on possible development of the organization’s most important piece of real estate: the property adjunct to Ridge House on which the carriage-house central office was then located. The University’s involvement was almost a prerequisite for any construction on the site.
First of all, U.C. owned the property next to the U.S.C.A. lot, a block long slice across Hearst Avenue from the campus. Plans were underway to build a five hundred car garage there. The U.S.C.A. had, since it obtained its property in 1946, sought to convince the University of the efficacy of low-cost student housing on the Hearst site which would take in not only the University and U.S.C.A. properties but that of the Wilson family on Scenic Road which adjoined both.
According to a Spring 1956 Prospectus published by the U.S.C.A., the University had discouraged the organization from its idea, saying that the property was “ear-marked” for future University dorms. U.C. later changed its mind and decided to invest in high-rise block units on the south side of the campus. “Because of the immensity of the University development,” said the Prospectus, “the decision was no doubt a wise one, but this does not imply that the north side property is undesirable for housing.” With some bitterness, the study mentioned the lack of encouragement given the co-op by the University. However, “while no change has been made in the University plans, the U.S.C.A. has been invited (a) to assist the University in its attempt to solve the parking problems, if possible, and (b) to make specific counter proposals for the use of the Hearst Scenic property.”
The Prospectus was such a counter-proposal, and after delineating the increased need for student housing, the study gave three proposals for the U.S.C.A. use of the three Hearst-Scenic-Ridge properties of the U.C., the co-op and the Wilson family. “Our thought,” it said, “is that the land...could be developed in three stages, ultimately accommodating 1070 students.” In the first phase out of the University property adjoining the Ridge land would be made available to the co-op for construction of several large buildings: a 500 student dining hall, a 310-student double-roomed dorm, a central office, warehouses and, most importantly, a central kitchen. Nobody had ever been satisfied with the cramped, unsanitary hole-in-the-wall at Oxford.
“In fact,” said the report, “University and City officials have constantly been exhorting, even admonishing us, to implement our frequently affirmed promises to erect a new kitchen.” The second stage of development would involve the demolition of Ridge House to clear the way for another dorm unit for 230 students, and would take place totally on the present U.S.C.A. property. Stage III of the plan was the most uncertain part of the plan. Requiring purchase of the Ridge-Scenic Wilson land, it called for dormitory units for another 530 students and another 500-man dining room.
Funds for this project would come from three sources: mortgages on the constructed buildings, loans from alumni and funds borrowed on the present U.S.C.A. property. The reason Hal Norton had always sought to purchase buildings was now evident.
Needless to say this specific plan fell through, or rather splattered against the iron will of the University bureaucracy. U.C. went ahead and built its multi-storied parking structure. The Wilson property was still untouched and the expansion-minded Norton kept it constantly in mind. He figured it into many of his ideas on what to do about the housing shortage and the critical central kitchen situation.
While Oxford’s kitchen had been fairly adequate for co-op purposes in the early 1940’s, when membership had been lower and some houses still had their own cooks during the student-starved years of World War II, it became obvious in the early and middle ‘50’s, as students began to swell the U.S.C.A., that some new facility was needed. Summer semesters at the University were a special pain. During the middle 1950’s, the U.S.C.A. kept Stebbins and Cloyne Court open and brought the C.K. operation to Cloyne, a bad necessity at best, since the cooks and dietician were moved against their will and several of the larger kitchen machines could not be moved at all. In the late ‘50’s the every-summer-move practice was abandoned and work-shifts were sent down to Oxford to help prepare the meals.
In the meantime, Norton kept exploring possibilities for Ridge Road development. Possibilities would keep on coming. However, they would not assume a tangible, architectural form for some years until the latter part of the 1950’s. During those years, student life at Berkeley changed almost unperceptively. By and large the Silent Generation label was an apt one.
Dan Eisenstein, self described “red-hot,” rose quickly in the Cloyne hierarchy and in his personal involvement in the U.C. campus. In the middle ‘50’s the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at Berkeley was Alex B. Sherriffs, a man who would later become Governor Ronald Reagan’s educational policy director for the entire state. Sherriffs would often pay visits to student living groups and extol the virtues of student involvement in a type of campus life. He deplored apathy.
“Of course,” says Eisenstein, “he didn’t mean to get involved in politics. He didn’t mean challenge the power structure. He meant go to football games.” Twice a month Eisenstein, a Cloyne manager, would visit Sherriffs and try to get across a student view, usually without success. “When the place blew up...Sherriffs was very surprised.” As silent the U.C. students may have generally been, the lack of understanding, and of the capacity to understand, on the part of the administration was demonstrative of the most un-silent schism that was to come.
Student life in the ‘50’s was still dominated by the Greek system, by fraternities and sororities and the beer-and-parties approach to education they represented. Plunked in the middle of the largest Greek colonies in Berkeley were several co-op houses. Sherman, up on Prospect, did not have it too bad--it was a fine house. The “queen of the co-ops” had no specific rivalries or feuds. Cloyne, however...
Cloyne Court had three neighbors in the 1950’s. Higher on Ridge Road, above La Loma, was Newman Hall, the University Catholic Chapel. Considered an “architectural gem”, it was a beautiful brown shingled building filled with exquisite woodwork. The University recognized its excellence so it subsequently purchased and immediately demolished Newman to make way for a vacant lot full of concrete chunks, broken glass and weeds, as it remains even today. Across the street from Cloyne was the fraternity house of Cal’s Phi Kapa Psi chapter. Eisenstein described the Cloyne-Phi Kapa Psi relationship as relatively friendly. Across Cloyne’s backyard, over-looking the co-op’s asphalt volleyball court, was the house of the group that made the relationship with the Phi Kapa Psi’s that way: Beta Theta Phi, or the Betas, as they were simply and affectionately known.
The source of the hatred that enjoyed a fifteen-year bloom between Cloyne Court and Beta Theta Phi is a matter of supposition. The Betas were by and large an athletically oriented frat--much of Cal’s football team lived there. Though Cloyne excelled in certain intramural sports through individual members, the diminutive stature of most of the co-op denizens won the disgust of the more gargantuan Betas. The lack of racial or ethnic considerations in the choice of co-op residents was also a matter of some rancor. In their terms, as quoted by Dan Eisenstein, “the Betas had two things going for them: these were a lot of jocks in the house, and they couldn’t stand kikes, wops, niggers or chinks. They were thoroughly insulted by the fact that right next to them was a house full of kikes, wops, niggers, chinks, and Japs too.”
Eisenstein describes Cloyne’s encounters with their muscle-bound neighbors graphically:
Periodically the Betas would have parties, and would get very drunk and would litter our volleyball court with broken glass. It wasn’t broken till it got into our volleyball court--it’d break when it hit. Beer bottles in those days, the returnable kind, were big strong beer bottles that made nice glass chips. We’d spend the next morning sweeping glass off our volleyball court. Nice fellas, the Betas.
We’d have lots of fights, physical ones, with the Betas. We had a bigger waterhose then they did. One advantage: firehoses. We could stand in the volleyball courts and fill their rooms with water. One point I remember well. A jock of some sort lived in an upstairs room. He left his window open. He went away and we had a water-fight. Nobody went up to shut that window. When he came home there was a foot of water on his floor. He got very upset and he and some of his friends came over to try to do something about this.
Cloyne had a fellow in the house named Sammy Moreno, a little Mexican guy, a Spanish major who had just come back from the Army while I was there, had been in Cloyne before the Army, in ’53. He weighed about 122 pounds...but he was the boxing coach at Cal while he was still a student. He’d been champion of his division, or something, in the Army--but didn’t look it, a little skinny guy.
This Beta jock came over with about twenty of his fellows. He was met by about twenty of our fellows in the middle of the volleyball court, and he was making a huge ruckus about this. Sammy stepped in front of him and said, “really, you should just go home and quiet down since you’re really not getting anything done here.” The guy took a swing at him and Sammy hit him. And they carried him home and he woke up, I guess, at home. He was asleep before he hit the ground. One of the few times that anybody ever hit anybody from the Betas.
Tales of such classic David-Goliath confrontations, of course, are legend. Another more clandestine skirmish between the contrary living groups is somewhat more original. Again, Eisenstein articulates and begins with background:
Cloyne Court had stoves which have grease traps in them, which we took out in back and emptied into grease buckets. These would be picked up by the tallow company periodically and taken off to be rendered into something. One night in summer of ‘56 or ‘57 a few people took this can of grease and spread it on the Betas’ driveway. They then had only one driveway, very steep, which was next to Cloyne. And the grease slowly oozed down onto the sidewalk. The vandals retired to a Cloyne room overlooking this mess to observe what would then occur. It was after midnight.
One of the things that they saw happen was a car trying to pull into the driveway and just spinning its wheels. This guy finally looked out of his car, saw that there was grease on the sidewalk, let out a howl, and turned around and went off to park somewhere. First event.
Second event: walking down the sidewalk from the direction of campus comes a guy who is totally nude. It is now one in the morning. Totally naked. This is pledge week.4.1 This guy, totally naked, walks along the sidewalk, holding his hands over his vital place, and he suddenly sees this huge flood of grease on the sidewalk. And he looks at it, and he looks around, there’s nobody visible and he goes back about ten feet and he runs and leaps and misses. And he falls naked into this pool of grease. And he rolls around and gets up and staggers off down the street. The street is quiet again.
The next morning the Betas spent three hours burning off the grease.
The Cloyne war with the Betas went on for years, continuing after the University bought the house next to Cloyne and the frat moved into a more modern structure across the street. On one famous night in the mid-60’s, some inebriated Betas fired a pistol at Cloyne’s roof where the flares set an empty sleeping bag on fire and threatened a fatal conflagration. Complaints to the Dean of Men got nowhere, just as did reports of gunshots aimed at Cloyne and the horrible murder of several pet chickens by drunken Betas. “Boys will be boys,” the Dean, it is claimed, would intone. “Back when I was in a frat....”
Far from regarding the Betas as a joke, Cloyne-men were anxious to end the Greek menace across Ridge Road and, indeed on more than one occasion, they suggested to the Board that the U.S.C.A. buy the Beta house and evict the tenants. This act of justice never came to be, but nevertheless the Betas were moved in the late ’60’s and the feud ended when Berkeley’s immensely wealthy Graduate Theological Union purchased the building from the national Beta Theta Phi organization. Cloyne’s arch-enemies moved across campus to south-side and were never heard from again.
The middle ‘50’s also contained the definitive event of the decade for the college generation: The Great Panty Raid of 1956. But the story of that sweltering day in May must wait, to cap the 1950’s psychologically even as it seared its halves chronologically. The story of the U.S.C.A., only peripherally involved in the Panty Raid, found its next pinnacle at its silver anniversary mark in 1958. Not only did the most important and long-lasting student-owned organization reach its 25th birthday, it also sought to cap that event with a true solvency: further advancement towards hypothetical financial stability.
It was planned that the 25th anniversary of the U.S.C.A. be given a celebration. Hal Norton shrewdly saw it as an opportunity to better relations with the University. Those relations had never been particularly cozy until the 1950’s when Clark Kerr, whose graduate project in state cooperatives had helped instigate the opening of Stebbins Hall, became Chancellor of the Berkeley campus.
“He was much more friendly than previous administrators,” Norton said. “His door was always open to us...he invited our board to meet with him and some of his administrators.” Kerr’s friendliness was a major boon to the U.S.C.A. in 1958. “Kerr was responsible,” according to Norton, “for our being able to have a commemoration of our 25th anniversary.” Harmon Gymnasium, on the south side of the campus, was then the largest indoor meeting place available at the University. Kerr made it available to the co-op.
The speaker for the occasion was chosen especially for the purpose of enhancing the U.S.C.A.’s image in the Berkeley campus community. Eleonor Roosevelt was an audience and publicity magnet almost without par for liberal students. Norton reached Mrs. Roosevelt “through rather direct contact.” The great lady assented and a full day of activities were planned for her at the co-op and the university.
A reception for co-op members at Ridge House was followed by a reception handled by Clark Kerr at U.C.’s Alumni House. At the Harmon Gym celebration, Kerr joined Mrs. Roosevelt, Norton, U.S.C.A. president T.Z. Chu and the entire U.S.C.A. Board on the speaker’s platform. Seven thousand people sat before them in the Gymnasium, a packed-house crowd. Such a demonstration was bound to cause dubious minds on certain pertinent strata of the U.C. administration to take notice. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.
Changes came in their attitude, but slowly. Those involved in Berkeley’s burgeoning high-rise dormitory complexes looked naturally askance at the U.S.C.A.’s continuous efforts in competition. Usually there was no ill feeling. Relations were open, honest and friendly even if unproductive on the Hearst-Scenic land issue.
The University was not directly involved in the most crucial endeavors of the U.S.C.A. in 1958 which sent representatives of the co-op organization all the way to the United States Congress and signaled a pitch in organizational activity in the external sphere never before reached. Coupled with the continued acquisition of funds for a Ridge-Scenic-Hearst residence complex, the co-op moved in 1958 to amend the National Housing Act of 1950 in order to qualify student co-operatives for low-cost federal loans.
Work on this project was primarily divided between U.S.C.A. Manager Hal Norton and the organization’s “founding father,” Harry Kingman, now a prominent liberal lobbyist in Washington. Discussions had gone on in U.S.C.A. circles for several months in late 1957 and early 1958 on the conceivability of amending the Act, but “the first concrete step,” according to a September Manager’s Report to the U.S.C.A. Board, “was taken in March.”
At that time Norton attended a Co-operative Housing Conference in Washington, and discussed the co-op’s problem with federal officials from the Housing and Home Finance Agency and the Federal Housing Administration. Basically that problem was associated with the newly competitive university dorm program. The 1950 Housing Act required that any non-profit corporation seeking federal funds for a student housing project gain a co-signature on the loan from the University. U.C. wasn’t anxious to help finance its competitors. Amending the Act would eliminate the need for a U.C. co-signature.
Norton also let the Co-operative League of the U.S.A. know of the U.S.C.A. ’s plan while in Washington. “Although it was never determined that the co-operative sections of the Federal Housing Act completely bar a student cooperative from [a loan],” Norton wrote in his report, “it was the consensus of all that the College Housing Program of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, because of the direct loan provisions and the low interest rate, was more desirable, provided [the U.S.C.A.] could qualify.” Drawing on his legal background, Norton then drafted the amendment. Basically his amendment stated that the university was not responsible for the co-op’s debt.
Conferences with the Washington representative of the Co-operative League and a former Federal Trade Commissioner began Norton’s drive. They decided to ask Senator William Fulbright to introduce the amendment. Fulbright was then Chairman of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee under which the Subcommittee on Housing functioned. If Fulbright didn’t go along with the idea, the sub-committee’s chairman, John Sparkman of Alabama, would be approached. Nothing ever came of these two pathways, but the bill amending the act was eventually introduced by Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, who had been both a Federal Trade Commissioner and the Co-operative League’s Washington representative at different times before retiring.
The reaction from Congress at first was favorable, but soon a problem appeared in the form of the director of the Housing and Home Finance Agency. His opposition to the amendment was based on his belief that student co-ops were “questionable financial risks” and the contention that federal funds should go only to the universities in such situations. His objections were echoed by the advisory committee to the College Housing Director.
Norton tried to counter these objections with an argument appealing to basic fairness:
We expected the imposition of a financial standard prior to loaning to the eligible co-operative group, but we questioned the conclusion that student groups be excluded by legislation before they had any opportunity to meet the standard. Also, if the purpose of the College Housing Program was to meet a definite need, restriction of loans to colleges only was too restrictive particularly if it might result in excluding groups which catered to the low income student.
Excluded they remained. Senator Payne from Maine made the soon passed motion in the committee to delete the Norton amendment from the Housing Act. As Senator Payne had previously assured one of Norton’s Washington contacts that he’s support the amendment, senatorial insult was added to congressional injury. Senator Payne could expect no support from the U.S.C.A. in his re-election campaigns, for what that was worth.
Such defeats are the regular byway of most bills in the Senate and Norton and his allies did not give up. A letter writing project through the North American Student Co-operative League was abortive--time was too short once Norton knew that the amendment would be introduced for any effective campaign to get underway. At this point, however, Harry Kingman entered the fight.
Kingman was a lobbying veteran and helped the “Washington team” to move the amendment fight to the House of Representatives. A California Congressman, Harlan Hagen, was approached as a sponsor for the bill. Hagen agreed to do so and a second, more carefully planned letter-writing campaign had begun. The campaigners didn’t wait for the bill to be introduced and therefore had more time. Kingman knew many California Congressmen and used his personal influence in support of the amendment. Several American co-operatives gave “immeasurable” aid. Clark Kerr lent his name to the effort with a crucially timed telegram:
HON. HARLAN HAGAN
HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION AT BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA HAS QUARTER CENTURY OF SUCCESSFUL OPERATION. ANY REASONABLE PROVISION WHICH WOULD MAKE THEM ELIGIBLE FOR A FEDERAL LOAN, EITHER DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY THROUGH THE UNIVERSITY, WOULD BE WELCOMED.
While whooping it up over Kerr’s endorsement Norton learned that two other California Congressmen from the proximity of Berkeley would lend aid to the amendment. George Miller of the 8th district agreed to co-sponsor the Hagen bill and the 6th district’s John Baldwin, a Republican to match the Democrat Miller, would speak in its favor. Norton sent Kingman’s resumes of the organization’s fiscal status and history to be used in support of the Washington efforts, as well as a letter documenting the co-op’s value to a poor man’s education from Dudley Dillard, head of the Economics Department at the University of Maryland.
Miller, Hagan and Baldwin were effusive in their praise of the U.S.C.A. and met questions from the members of the House Sub-Committee on Housing like old co-op honchos. Miller explained:
These loans would finance low-cost dormitory facilities to be owned and managed by cooperative organizations of students on various college campuses throughout the country. The bill technically will make student cooperatives eligible for direct federal loans on the same basis that funds are now available for loans to colleges for dormitories to be operated on a rental basis.
Student cooperatives, however, provide ownership of the facilities by students themselves...student labor for the maintenance and operation of these housing facilities provides training in the assumption of the responsibility of management. These factors strengthen the democratic processes of college education.
The committee members listened sympathetically to their fellow congressmen, and indicated support for the measure. However, just as the H.H.F.A. Director had opposed the bill, believing that the U.S.C.A. possessed inadequate financial security, so the committee held that a “financially secure” co-signer was necessary to safeguard the government’s money. They were also worried that the government would have no legal entity to deal with if the “financially secure” parent institution, the University, in the U.S.C.A. ’s case, did not co-sign the loan.
Obviously they did not understand the legal structure of the Berkeley cooperative. Norton, who had relied on the three congressmen and subsequently had not gone to Washington to testify, regretted his decision to stay in Berkeley. The bill, as eventually passed, required that the University co-sign any federal loan to the student cooperative. It was a defeat--a hopeful defeat in Norton’s lights. Efforts were instituted immediately aimed at the 1959 Congress.
Stymied in Washington, a new avenue towards expansion seemed to open up at Sproul Hall. A conference with Kerr was arranged at which the idea of a re-loan was worked out. U.C. would borrow government money under the College Housing Program which would then be loaned to the U.S.C.A. for its own projects. In July of ‘58, Kerr wrote Norton of a new policy recently approved by the Housing and Home Finance Agency. This plan made “facilities for the use of cooperatives, fraternities, sororities, and other social living groups” eligible for federal funds “as long as they would continue to be the responsibility and property of the college and university during the life of the loan.” The institution would take responsibility for the loan.
Norton and Davis and other Board members worked on a recommendation to be made to the full Board under this plan, which must have been repulsive to many of its members. University responsibility carried inklings of University inspection and control, and since the days when Larry Collins opened doors to Barrington Hall for inspecting Deans, the thought of such a system was naturally repugnant to the students. Even now the University insisted that women’s co-ops maintain house-mothers with whom Dan Eisenstein had more than one run-in.
“The house-mother was paid by the organization for which she worked,” he says, “but she usually thought of herself as a representative of the University and of the parents. I got in a lot of fights with co-op house-mothers, some of whom were very dear ladies, because I insisted on telling them that they were our employees...if they didn’t like that they could go to work somewhere else.” The housemother system at the co-ops, associated with the University’s program of approved housing, was doomed by the middle of the 1960’s, but much co-op business was to transpire before the “Heidi” trauma was to change student history.
In the meantime, the U.S.C.A. continued to look into the possibilities of the hilltop at Scenic and Ridge. By now it was obvious that the Hearst strip owned by the University was destined to hold a multi-storied parking garage. The extensive property next to the Ridge House land owned by the U.S.C.A. remained in the possession of the Wilson family, and was therefore available, possibly, for co-op expansion. The U.S.C.A.’s architects, Ratcliff and Ratcliff, made up a 14-page questionnaire distributed throughout the organization which aimed at determining student opinion on what sort of building would be best suited for future needs. Based partially on this study and partly on Hal Norton’s recommendations, Ratcliff and Ratcliff prepared an architectural study and plan for the Ridge-Scenic properties, which was presented to the University on June 10, 1959.
Illustrated with photographs of architects’ models and film-over maps, the report called for a grand enterprise which would eventually house 1050 students. A three-winged high-rise men’s residence unit spoked around a living-center hull would tower twelve stories above Ridge and Scenic. An eight-floor hall for women would squat in the present location of Ridge House. Between these two massive structures a central kitchen, office, and dining room edifice would sit. The rooms would all be doubles with standardized interiors. In the wheel-less hub-and-spoke arrangement planned for the men’s hall, rooms at the hub would serve as living and recreation compartments, one for each two floors.
High-rises dorm units were much in vogue in the closing years of the 1950’s. Included in the Ratcliff and Ratcliff booklet was a U.C. published map entitled “Long Range Development Plan for the Berkeley Campus” as it was seen in May, 1958. A plastic overlay by the architects indicated positions and residence figures of the seven current co-op houses, and the site of the New Project. The map itself indicates at seven sundry points around the campus high-rise dormitory projects of its own: two at the College Avenue sites which were indeed constructed, another pair half a block west bordering on Bowditch, two facing Dana (one of which U.C. eventually completed) below Telegraph, and a smaller, three-dorm unit on Ridge Road and La Loma, where once Newman Hall had stood and 2714 Ridge, the original Barrington which later became Kingman.
Dan Eisenstein was on the co-op Board in 1959 and denounced the whole high-rise idea:
I thought it was crazy. I was the only Board Rep who thought it was crazy, and I fought it as hard as I could, because I thought that high-rises were stupid...nobody would want to live in a high-rise. This prediction was borne out [in the 1960’s] when the University found itself unable to fill its high rises but at the time everybody was hot for it.
The U.S.C.A. Ratcliff study gave the same two possibilities for financing the project as had the Progress Report of two years before: the U.S.C.A. could mortgage all of its properties and obtain loans or grants from private sources or the University could aid the co-op through the ’58 Housing Act’s loan-and-loan-again policy. Neither alternative came to be, fortunately for the U.S.C.A. If the University had ended up financing the 1050-student “New Project” the Wilson land would not become available. It remained off the market and, in the years that followed, it became evident that the co-op had been saved by this circumstance from being skewered on the tusks of a potentially rogue white elephant.
Except for the three units mentioned above, the University’s high-rise dorm complexes died on paper. The trio of survivors rumbled with empty rooms and fatally high turnover. Students, once out of the parental bag which could take a period of adjustment, had no truck in the years to come for the en loco parentis attitude of the University dorms. Even if the cooperative nature of the “New Project” avoided this pitfall, the architectural sterility of standardized room structure and plasticized recreational areas, common to both U.S.C.A. and U.C. high-rises, rapidly became intolerable to a newly-awakened student population in the early ‘60’s. The Berkeley high-rises were never less than a serious financial loss to the University, and the co-op was lucky that its own high-rise got no further than a table model at Ratcliff and Ratcliff architects.
So there would be no 1050-student unit. However, there was still the incredibly valuable co-op property on Ridge Road; there was still a desperate need for a decent central kitchen and warehouse; there was still a housing need, and to temporarily meet a bit of that need, the co-op once again turned to the University.
A huge engineering building was planned by U.C. just west of Cloyne Court at Ridge and Leroy, and the rooming houses and so forth located on that lot were purchased in order to make way for the eventual edifice. Officially these places were “slated for destruction... sometime in the future.” Three of these houses attracted the attention of the U.S.C.A., and the co-op leased them from the University. Forty-seven men moved into these buildings in the spring of 1959, and dubbed them Eisenfitz, Clod-haven, and Ridge Annex.
The “Eisenfitz” name came to be applied to the middle of these three buildings through a process of praise for the three students who, true to the tradition of Bill Spangle and Larry Collins, ran the organization in the summer of 1959. At that time Norton took a vacation in Europe, the C.K. at Oxford was closed and there was no dietician.
Dan Eisenstein, of course, was one of the triumvirate, by then a five-year veteran of co-op life. “I was a Board Rep for seven semesters, three and a half years” he said, in explaining his rise to co-op-wide power. “I was just the guy who cared the most and was around the most and knew the most and therefore was deferred to ...and I’m garrulous and gregarious. I knew everybody in [Cloyne], I know everybody in the central organization and a lot of people in the other houses.”
Another member of the trio was Ted Eisenstat, who shared the “Eisen” title with Dan. A chess and ping pong whiz, he remained in the co-op for about five years from 1955. John Fitz was senior to both Eisenstein and Eisenstat. He entered the co-op in 1952 and left in ‘56 and then returned later. Eisenstein described him as:
A Renaissance man...a composer, pianist, played the bass, tuba, fiddle, guitar, horn, mandolin, ran a folk-dancing group on campus for a long time...ran the hiking club...has a masters degree in engineering...ran the Unitarian Church’s youth discussion group...makes his own clothes...literally a Renaissance man, competent, extremely bright--and he was also a red-hot. He and I were very close in the co-op because we were interested in the same kinds of things.
Eisenstein, Eisenstat and Fitz came to the idea of sharing all the managerial duties of the co-op for a summer--work-shifts, kitchen, house. The summer of 1959 came to be known as the “Eisenfitz Summer” in the co-ops, and thus the yellow-columned temporary co-op between Clodhaven and Ridge Annex came to be called Eisenfitz.
The name is not without its ironies. Even though the U.S.C.A. “ownership” of these halls lasted only one year, they required University Regental approval of their names. The names did go through and Eisenstein considered it interesting and ironic; probably with a bit of triumph. He saw that he’d had a house named for him “before Davis and Norton got a house named after them.”
Summer sessions in those days were open, on the U.C. level, to anyone over 21 or anyone over 18 with a high school diploma. As a result, an eclectic supply of people would attend Cal at those times. In the late ‘50’s a huge influx of students from New York City came to these sessions.
Everything was different during the summer. In 1959, Eisenstein broke into the longstanding summer session income fund, which had steadily built up over several years, and took 150 people from Cloyne and Stebbins to a San Francisco concert, absolutely gratis. Two buses were chartered, tickets were purchased. “It was fantastic,” Eisenstein explained, “we had a tremendous feeling of fellowship and joy.”
It was the end of a decade, and of an era. 1960 came and with it the last full year of Eisenhower’s presidency and American complacency. No one knew what was on the way, but change was felt imminent. The U.S.C.A. had 1000 members. Norton and the Board kept seeking a way to develop the Ridge property. Harry Lowell a man whose contribution to the U.S.C.A. as its assistant manager was immense during his time in the office, resigned in ‘59. In 1960, a small house one street north of Ridge Road, was purchased by the U.S.C.A. Although it could hold only 18 men, the hall was a good buy. In Ratcliff and Ratcliff’s high-rise study, U.S.C.A. spokesmen had questioned the policy of utilizing older structures:
It is rare that the buildings have ever been used in the same manner as the U.S.C.A. uses them, so remodeling is often extensive, the results are sometimes make-shift... As the organization grows in size and maturity it feels an...obligation to provide quarters more amenable to University life...
University life, it would be seen, had little in common with stainless-steel high-rises. The 1960 purchase was much more to the students’ liking. The new hall was named after Alexander Morrison Kidd, dubbed “Captain” by law students at Boalt and described by Hal Norton as “a legend in my profession.” “He’s probably taught more criminal law attorneys in the state of California than any one man.” Kidd had been a Faculty Board Rep for the U.S.C.A. for seven years, March ’42 to May ’49, and had given extremely valuable service. “The Captain,” Norton recalls, “never missed a meeting.”
No further expansion took place for several years, until the opening of Ridge Project. A campaign office next to Hoyt Hall was bought and opened to aid in the project. In 1963, the 30th Anniversary of the University Students’ Cooperative Association, the organization purchased Oxford which it had been leasing for 15 years. Norton consulted ex-member and Alumni Board Rep David Bortin, who had become an attorney, in drawing up the legal papers for the purchase.
The story of the co-ops skips into its fourth decade and the two great expansion projects of the ’60’s. However, the 1950’s are not so easily left behind. Not only did the Silent Generation build an image in U.C. administrators’ minds which was in some degree responsible for the closed and comfortable attitude which brought the Free Speech Movement, it also gave student life a lunatic charisma, a madcap, jujube joyride junket aura, that required a decade of intense political activism to overcome.
The story slips back a few years, therefore, to the hot spring of May, 1956. Dan Eisenstein was then house manager at Cloyne Court, one of the foci of activity that epic day, and he remembers the reasons why what happened happened:
The University did a very stupid thing in the spring of ’56. We had semesters then. The winter break for Christmas was from December 20th until about January 3rd. We went back to school, went for another three weeks, had finals. We had no spring recess. Three days after finals we came back and we registered. We registered for a week, and then we had classes. There was no Easter recess as I remember, for some reason.
By the time mid-May came around everybody was tired. May ’56 was one of the hottest Mays we’ve ever had. It was really hot. People developed an interest in water-fighting.4.2 People would bring firehoses, waterballoons, buckets and all the frats would have water-fights. We’d have then on north-side. They went on-and-off for a period of about two weeks, with the Betas, the Phi Psi’s... I remember at one point somebody throwing a huge waterballoon off the roof of the apartment house which then existed at the corner of Le Conte and Ridge, hitting a car’s windshield, breaking it...the guy ran into a parked car, had an accident.
The University got very concerned about these water fights and sort of told people to calm it. Berkeley police started to tell people to cool it a little bit. But everyone was beginning to get a little freaky. People were developing hysteria. So every evening you’d have water-fights, wake up the next morning and wait for the water-fights.
We were damn near to the finals period, near the end of May, and there was a real BIG set of water-fights, which had several hundred people involved, all over. Everybody got very uptight. A lot of damage was being done; people used firehoses.
It was all building--a compression of the frustrations and psychic energy laid over from almost five months of next-to-solid schoolwork. The dam was bound to break in one great explosion if the trivial leaks represented by the water-fights didn’t alleviate the pressure. And they did not.
And I remember how this happened.
At the end of this particular day, in Cloyne, we heard about two or three fraternities having this big water-fight north of us. They’d decided that the thing to do was to go over and attack Cloyne. They’d run out of balloons or something--they were resting. So after dinner we were all worried, and a lot of us went out and stood in front of the house...some guys actually stood there with weapons.
There was a cop standing in the intersection of Le Conte and Ridge (which is north of Cloyne and along the route the frats would be sure to take). One lone Berkeley policeman, waiting for whatever was supposed to happen.
Suddenly we got a report from somebody who’s been over further north that this big crowd of frat guys had started down towards Cloyne, but had stopped at one of the sorority houses on north-side and had staged a panty raid.
Now we had heard about panty raids from Eastern schools. They had been going on for the previous year or two and had been sort of a fad. But this was the first one we had really had in Berkeley. Gee. Panty raid. Hmmm. What does that mean? Well, are they still coming towards us? Yes.
Then we heard voices. I went down and stood in the intersection, and I saw a crowd of guys about 250, 300, 400 guys walking down Le Roy.4.3 They came to the intersection, and they turned, and somebody yelled, “let’s go to Stern!” And they went right on past Cloyne. And a whole bunch of guys streamed out of Cloyne to follow them. And they disappeared down the street.
Eisenstein, ever the responsible co-op official, did not follow his hysterical fellows to the University’s major women’s dorm. He and other co-op honchos had their hands full protecting U.S.C.A. property.
We sat around, three or four of us, making sure nobody did anything funny to our house. At some point I got a phone call from Hoyt. People had broken into the house and stealing things and giving the girls a hard time. So Dick Bloomfield, Bill Madison and I went down and physically threw people, mostly from Ridge House, out the door. We went up onto the roof and secured the door that people had broken to get into the house. I think we chased people away from Stebbins too, the basic argument being that you were an asshole to break anything here because it would raise your room and board rent next semester.
In the meantime the crowd of male students, frat, co-op, and rooming house, had roared down the wrath of Adam onto Stern Hall. A group had come up to join the mob there, and soon two thousand people were assaulting the dormitory.
They broke into Stern hall forcibly. They ran around in the hall stealing things from the girls, mostly panties...lots of pushing, shoving, lot of damage done at Stern.
Then the crowd left Stern and simply went down sorority row, like a tidal wave. The girls in some houses enticed them, because they were also bored. There were some houses that didn’t want them in; they tried to keep them out. They broke the doors down, they broke the windows, thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage was done.
The flabbergasted Berkeley Police Department closed Piedmont Avenue, site of the most frenetic action, but took no ardent action. Violence resulted against some of the intruders. One exhilarated young man kicked in a door at one sorority and was greeted with an iron the face. At another house a girl in a strategic spot atop a flight of stairs “whanged” each passing male with an umbrella held like a cricket bat. “One guy after another would come by and she’d just whang with this umbrella. Whang! Whang! Lot of very sore guys came out of that house.”
Piedmont. Warring. Even Prospect. These are the Berkeley streets where Panhellenic women’s groups dominated, and there the mob attacked. “I heard several stories about events in individual sorority houses,” Eisenstein recollects. “One guy, from Cloyne, was in a house, and they were running around in an upstairs floor. He had just grabbed a handful of underwear and was running out when the housemother said, ‘You! I know your mother!’ ”
Up and down in the hot May evening the vandalism raged. “This running around, this hassling, and this bringing home of loot went on till about three in the morning.” People straggled back to their houses all night. At Cloyne, the scene was boisterous. Nobody was drunk. Hysteria and heat alone had moved them that day.
These guys came back to Cloyne, old guys, young guys, respectable guys, disreputable guys, mature guys, immature guys, carrying panties, underwear, slips, brassieres...amazing. And some very funny things happened. Our maintenance manager, a very stable, developed, mature guy, and somebody else put on a set of this underwear and were dancing around before Cloyne’s switchboard, with a crowd of approving fellows around. The house photographer took pictures of them. About three days later they went to see him and, in very quiet voices, insisted he give them the negative and all the prints.
The next morning the house president and some others decided it would be a good idea if we collected all this stuff. We set up a big box and collected over 300 articles of lingerie from Cloyne alone.
The same thing happened all over. The University asked that everyone please bring the stuff back and it was all taken down to the Sproul Hall basement and spread out on big tables. Thousands of items of lingerie. The girls were invited to come back and pick up their own stuff.
A huge investigation was conducted by the aghast U.C. administration. Several men were identified for specific acts of malfeasance and suspended from school. A special four-page supplement to the Daily Californian was published by the administration and mailed out to the parents of every U.C. student. A fine was planned against all males at the University to pay for damages. In the regular Daily Cal story on the Panty Raid Uprising, only a few students were named. Among them, singled out for praise, was Dan Eisenstein. He didn’t take part in the Panty Raid; he tried to save the co-op from damage, but he certainly understood what was going on.
Even in 1956, even with a such an anti-political event as a panty raid, a schism had appeared. Even with a great educator like Clark Kerr at the helm of the University, the U.C. administration had shown itself absolutely ignorant of the emotional state of the student body. Incoming years would demonstrate its monumental ignorance of the student mind and conception of self. It was a non-political era, in 1956, but the portents were there. As the U.S.C.A. built, and planned, for projects that would come to be in the 1960’s, so the crisis of understanding built without plan to the explosion that would come.
“It was a very tense time,” Eisenstein said of May, 1956. He could have been speaking of the entire decade in which the Silent Generation held sway over Berkeley. “Have you ever been in the Midwest before a thunderstorm? Sultry, hot oppressive...you can feel the electricity in the air. This feeling in the air was the same thing we had before the panty raid.” Before the ‘60’s began, too, he might add, “and it scared me a little bit.”
When one thinks of the collegiate 1960s, it refuses to be labelled. The decade began with the final fadeout of the Silent Generation’s football “whoopee” and ended with the takeover of Berkeley facilities by students and faculty, all dedicated to social action of a more untraditional sort. A lot changed in a student’s life, and most every other type of human endeavor, during the 1960’s.
However, it took a long, active, schizoid year to change things. 1964 was a jungle of events--both traditional and radical. At Barrington Hall in the fall of ‘64, activity in the Free Speech Movement shared concern with complex tactical strikes against Cal’s eternal football rival, Stanford. Barrington was a fusebox of action along every line, and riding these fuses was Barrington’s freshman athletic manager Phil Cawthorne. In that fall term of 1964, Cawthorne was not only active in the F.S.M. but also, as his account shall show later, took part in “RFs” against Stanford of an expense and complexity that military professionals might envy.
Highest among these was one expedition to Palo Alto made by eight Barringtonians with the objective of stealing a bell from one of Stanford’s bell towers. The tower in question was located next to a police station, so a watch had to be posted. The bell weighed so much that pulleys and ropes had to be used. Worst of all, once the bell had been safely spirited away, nobody on the Stanford campus noticed its absence so a second attack had to be launched in which the remaining bells were painted blue and gold (visible from the outside) and the tower was barricaded from the inside. The Barringtonian who rolled the original bell over the tower trapdoor was a Sierra Club member and, at the end of the caper, repelled down the side of the tower. Stanford, suffering from the publicity of the incident, had to use a fireladder to get its bells cleaned.
Enormous gags such as this document the wild imagination prevalent in U.C. student life. The Silent Generation’s quiet hold on the campus had just about dissipated, but its talented members, or rather those students who came into school as its influence was on the wane, still had enormous effect on the growth of the campus. Of course, regarding the U.S.C.A. , no student member of the co-op had any greater effect than Dick Palmer, an architecture student from Los Angeles.
Palmer became involved with the co-operative at Berkeley through accidental means. Leaving the Army in the late ‘50s, he applied and was accepted to Berkeley. Having never heard of the co-ops, like the majority of new Cal freshmen, he applied for housing at a University dorm. “Shortly after I applied,” he said, “I got a notice from the accounting office saying that I wasn’t eligible for admission to the dorms because I was too old. In the meantime, an acquaintance at work mentioned that I might be interested in the co-ops.” Palmer wrote a letter of application and, as the U.S.C.A. had no age restrictions (or any other restrictions for that matter), went on to live at Cloyne.
His first two years there were devoted to schoolwork; architecture is hardly the easiest of Berkeley’s programs. In his junior year he moved up from the maintenance crew to maintenance manager and was, for one semester, president of Cloyne’s council. He also sat on the U.S.C.A. Board of Directors as Cloyne’s representative. In those days, Hal Norton, thirty years in the co-ops, didn’t take an especially active part in Board meetings. He was silent, according to Palmer, “except when we asked him questions...he gave a manager’s report, usually quite involved and mimeographed, at every meeting.”
It was through his Board membership that Palmer, in his upper division years, grew closely involved with central level operations.
What really got me hooked was the Planning Commission for Ridge Project. The fact that I was in architecture made it of interest to me. I was in on one of the very first meetings of the planning for the present building ... there had been other plans for this property in previous years, but they had been scrapped and this was a new start at the time I came into it.
Those “other plans” included the multi-hundred student high-rise project for which the U.S.C.A. Board, with the exception of Dan Eisenstein and some others, had been so hot. Fortunately, the Wilson property had held out and federal funds remained withheld, so the U.S.C.A. had not sunk its resources into the monstrosity. Without all that room to work with, the planning committee had to use the present U.S.C.A. property as fully as possible. The architects, who of course worked closely with the committee, therefore drew plans that took maximum advantage of the “building envelope”--the space available.
With the available lot, the needed kitchen, warehouse and office facilities had to be built. In addition to that, the housing was to accomodate as high a number of students as possible without disaster to human comfort and privacy. It would require originality and skill. In addition, there were University rules to consider; the U.S.C.A. wanted the U.C. to approve the new unit. The task wasn’t made any easier by the decision to make the new building co-educational. Palmer recalled the difficulty of the trying to satisfy the University requirements:
With the guidelines the university had at that point regarding the separation of sexes, the lock-out provision and that kind of thing, they simply were never able to reconcile those clauses with what we wanted to do... They wanted two or three locked doors between the women’s wing and the dining room and all kinds of supervisory policies which we simply weren’t able to fulfill.
The negotiations with the university, primarily through Mrs. Ruth Donelly, head of the U.C. Housing Service, went on for some time before the actual construction. Even as the plans were being haggled over, other events centered on that undeveloped property on Ridge Road.
The Congressional action began first. Indeed, attempts by Harry Kingman and other co-op allies to change the National Housing Act, thus making student co-ops eligible for federal funds under the College Housing Program, had not ceased since the partial victory in 1959. The co-signature of the University was still required for a federal loan and U.C. still took the dubious and a no doubt convenient perspective that, as a public institution, it was prohibited by law from aiding a “private source” with University credit. That the three University dorm complexes had just opened may have had something to do with it. Solution to the Housing Bill problem had to wait until after Ridge Project was constructed. If the University did not co-sign a loan, and federal funds were not available, then a campaign to gain construction costs from private sources was necessary.
The Berkeley co-ops had an advantage over many student groups in a fundraising campaign because its alumni had gone on to excel in many fields, some of which were still related to co-operatives or education. Since the late 1940s, an alumni association had led an on-and-off existence. In 1962, it was revived by Dan Eisenstein who plundered the newer graduates. Hal Norton, himself a veteran of the early days of the organization, kicked off the campaign by calling a meeting of various “old-timers” at the office of the Mutual Service Life Insurance in Berkeley, the co-op insurance company whose west coast office was led by Larry Collins. Collins was at that meeting, along with Bill Davis, Bruck Black, a one-time Oxford manager, George Yasakoshi, head of the Berkeley Consumer’s Co-op who had come to that job from the assistant manager’s post at the U.S.C.A. , and, in addition to some others, Ted Johnston, now a high-ranking administrator in the state-wide university system.
“Hal began to talk to us about the hopes and plans of the student co-op,” Johnston recalls, “to build a new facility that would enable the student co-ops to replace the central kitchen that was just not big enough to do the job. There was need of additional housing because of our awareness at that point that the university was going to take the Cloyne property away from us.” This awareness was based on U.C.’s announced expansion policies which included the Cloyne block. Years later, Cloyne would figure prominently in the co-op’s attempts to finance its southside apartment complex. The “old-timers” were by-and-large enthralled by the challenge of funding such a project, just as many of them had been caught up by the challenge of controlling their own living group thirty years before.
We organized what started out to be an Alumni Committee. Bill Davis was intimately involved in it. We began to organize committees. We had, in our hands at that point, an analysis done by the university which said that if we could raise something in the vicinity of $100,000 for a new building, we’d be doing very well. We began to organize Alumni Committees in communities where there were concentrations of alumni--Oakland, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Sacramento, Los Angeles.
Johnston had not shot rats in the Barrington kitchen and fretted over fires in the building’s east alley for nothing. He discovered not only that he cared enough about the U.S.C.A. to contribute his own time to its campaign, but also that he enjoyed campaign work. “I decided that I would devote a year or two to full-time effort at this thing.”
Richard Mollard was the chairman of the campaign at its outset. He was previously the sufferage bishop to the Diocese of Bishop James Pike in San Francisco, and later the Bishop of San Diego. He had two prongs in his attack: one which would concentrate on private citizens, the alumni, faculty, present U.S.C.A. members and members of the community; the other, which was expected to bring the mass of the funds, would approach philanthropic organizations for grants.
Dick Palmer was by no means an “old-timer” of the U.S.C.A. in ‘64. Yet, he was deeply involved in the project construction plans and was therefore very interested in the campaign. He explained the process:
It’s a pyramiding operation when you raise money. First thing you do is get in touch with people, in this case alumni and friends, whom you already know and who would invest some time and money in helping to raise funds. We organized the alumni and a lot of the alumni were able to give us leads to people that they knew who were on the boards of [philanthropic] foundations or who knew somebody who was.
Bill Davis was a tremendous help in this because he’d been raising funds for years for Stiles Hall and knew a lot of the people involved in foundation grants in the Bay Area. He was, in fact, the influential party in getting us ... the initial grant, the ice-breaker, from the Levi-Strauss Foundation, $15,000. That really got things moving. Nobody wants to give any money until somebody else already has. It was on the strength of that grant that we were able to get others.
Davis also earned credit from the fund chairman by gaining the co-op its largest grant: $260,000 from the Cowell Foundation. Along with Davis, Dick Mollard and Hal Norton paid a personal visit to Max Valund of the foundation and two other trustees. Ted Johnston concentrated his year of efforts on gaining gifts from old alumni:
I would go to L.A., for example, and call up a guy I hadn’t thought about or seen for twenty years, and I’d say, “Hi, Joe, this is Ted Johnston. I’m working for the student co-op. We’re building a new building. I’d like to talk to you about it. We’re going to have a meeting on this date and would you come?” I was just amazed at how many guys would come.
Dick Palmer had done a lot of photographic work. He’d taken pictures of all the old houses and of what the central office looked like at that point, and the campus. I’d get a group of maybe twenty-five old members together in a room in someone’s house somewhere. I’d just begin to show them pictures and talk about the plan and you could hardly keep the guys from giving money to us.
They turned out to be two kinds of people: the guys who were on house council and on intramural teams from the houses, and guys who weren’t social at all. It was really so heartwarming to go talk with these guys and find out how warmly they felt about the student co-op, how much they felt it helped them get through a really difficult time in their lives.
Amounts of contributions varied from five dollars to one incredible gift of $3,000 from one ex-member. Alumni, of course, were not the only ones approached.
A number of ex-co-opers are in academia, probably thirty or forty guys on the Berkeley campus are ex-student co-opers. That’s another aspect of the fundraising thing. A student committee got together and decided that they would do two things: solicit each other for funds and solicit the faculty at Berkeley. This was done on the basis of volunteer members of the student co-op who went in teams of two to visit faculty members...telling them what the student co-op was about and asking them if they would consider helping. Again, they shot for a $300 level of contribution. It was a very heartwarming thing. Ed Strong, then the chancellor of the Berkeley campus, gave. He contributed very heavily.
Better than $30,000 was raised from the UC faculty, and UC students contributed about the same. More than 60 philanthropic foundations were approached and 15 eventually gave the U.S.C.A. grants. Hal Norton’s two decades of “wooing” the Berkeley business community through responsible practices justified itself. It could have been that other foundations would have come through, had not the history of the students’ place in University life swung abruptly into public mind, a place it would remain for the rest of the 1960s.
It all had to do with solicitation of student, on the U.C. campus for off-campus activities. That was the official, administration perspective of things. From the viewpoint of a large and influential slug of the student population, however, the issue was one of the freedom of speech on campus. The movement that exploded onto Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza in late September of 1964 eventually took that issue as its name, the Free Speech Movement, or the F.S.M.
The arrest of a non-student by campus cops on a charge of soliciting for a political cause was the catalyst. The police car seeking to take the activist and the arresting officers from Sproul Plaza found itself hemmed in by a mass of students. They held the car there for several days and nights, and struck the campus in the name of free speech. 1,000 students took over Sproul Hall, the Berkeley administration building. Baffled, Chancellor Strong fell back on what would become the U.C.’s administration’s answer to student challenges for the next six years. Strong called in the cops.
A force composed of University, Berkeley and Alameda County police roared onto Sproul Hall. Among the 800 students who refused the opportunity to leave and were arrested was Barrington’s Phil Cawthorne. Along with several other active co-op members, he had come down to Sproul on one of its nights of occupation and had gained entrance by scaling a rope hung down from Sproul’s second floor. A fellow Barringtonian, waiting to follow him up the rope, was nabbed by the police that then surrounded the building.
The next day, Alameda County deputies, just beginning to ear the reputation which would culminate in the murder of James Rector and the infamous “Night at Santa Rita” five years later, entered Sproul Hall and bundled everyone off for the county prison farm, Santa Rita. They hauled Cawthorne bodily into the Sproul elevator with several other students. At that time, he had no idea of who they were. “Sausalito Police Department,” he was told when he asked. “Come on man; don’t be naive.”
Naïvete on matters of student-police relations would not last long in Berkeley in the 1960’s. Cawthorne’s case did not come up for trial until the following winter, the early months of 1965. But F.S.M. lit the faces of the U.S.C.A. campaign members like a bomb. While student frustrations and sensibilities were served and gratified by the Free Speech Movement, the U.S.C.A. campaign considered it a potential disaster. F.S.M. interupted the co-op at the height of its efforts to contact and persuade philanthropic foundations, some of whom were conservative and whose attitude leaned feircely towards hostility after the change in overt student attitudes.
That hostility seemed silly when seen in the hindsight of the 1970’s, after far more extensive and violent demonstrations would occur on campus. Hal Norton was, at that time, arranging a loan with the Mutual Service Life Insurance Company.
[They were] a very, very conservative insurance company--small, made up of farmers in Kansas City. A man from the company flew out and talked to us about the orgainization and the future of the organization...one of his concerns was whether or not the University of California was going to survive as an entity in Berkeley...whether there would be a decentralization. The people would stay away, the students wouldn’t come, the parents wouldn’t send the students...all of that. They were committed to [supporting the project] but they could have pulled out, and we’d have had to go to law to enforce the law...I don’t think we could have. The best we could have done was secure damages.
Ted Johnston, as a University official, was the natural candidate to soothe panicky foundation members aghast over the F.S.M. “I had occasion,” he recalls, “to have to provide one foundation with a count [of co-op members involved in the sit-in], and so I knew at that point, or at least thought I knew, how many co-opers were involved. The eventual grant that we got from that foundation was substantially reduced from what we expected it to be.” Johnston found that U.S.C.A. students did not participate in F.S.M., a dubious discovery considering Phil Cawthorne’s situation at Santa Rita and the traditional sense of involvement co-op members always felt in campus situations. Of course, the organization took no official position on the issue--forbade to do so by Rochdale Principle. The pressure to do so was high, but Board members such as Bill Davis successfully objected because of the co-op rules.
On November 20th, the U.C. Regents voted to allow political recruiting on campus, a virtual capitulation to student demands. Student activism had just begun. Phil Cawthorne took the fall of ‘64, F.S.M. and Stanford skirmishes to the contrary, in stride. But months of court appearances in the next academic season took his time and motivation. Phil left the University in June of ‘67 and although he remained an off-and-on Berkeley and co-op resident, he never returned to academia.
F.S.M. was absorbed by the U.S.C.A. without scarcely a hesitated stride. But, as Phil Cawthorne said years later, it and the atmosphere of mistrust, panic and hostility took its toll on a newly awakened student body. Ted Johnston’s list-matching demanded by a conservative foundation may have discovered how many co-op members saw the inside of Santa Rita after the ‘64 sit-ins, but it could never gauge the disillusionment and politicalization of their ideas, their consciousnesses as students and as people. There were new ways of thinking of themselves, or at least questions fatal to the old ways.
When we came in we knew we were bright. We were engineers, physicists...we had no political ideas. We were serious about being the new Edward Tellers, the new Albert Einsteins...but it was not to be.
At the time of F.S.M., the preliminary architectural drawings for the U.S.C.A.’s new unit had been in existence for a full year. In his June 1964 report, Norton compared the square footage of the five sites, buildings on Le Conte, Le Roy, and Ridge Road, with the available space next to Ridge House. The report listed reasons for and against the proposal. There were a number of immediate factors in favor of accepting it, namely the elimination of the need for a large organizational debt. However, there were still a number of potential problems, most notably the lack of central kitchen facilities in the G.T.U. sites. But other events intervened in the meantime.
Almost simultaneous with the G.T.U. proposal was a more palatable offer from the University itself, for it not only offered increased dormitory facilities but a large kitchen and dining room from which the whole U.S.C.A. system could be fed. The University proposal dealt with the Smyth-Fernwald dormitory colony which operated on a nine-acre plot at the highest, eastern-most extremity of Dwight Way, above Piedmont, above Waring, steep on the slopes of the Berkeley Hills. The complex contained several buildings built as post-war housing in the ‘40s. It held almost 475 students and had become a liability to the University. Its distance from campus and the uphill slog required to reach it were petty inconveniences compared to the maintenance problems which had been allowed to develop in the twenty years of its existence. Through the office of one of its vice chancellors, U.C. proposed to Norton that the U.S.C.A. take over the operation of Smyth-Fernwald and run the dorm complex. This seemed anachronistic next to the three high-rise units, as a co-op. The operating costs for the complex were made available to Norton, who had the U.S.C.A. auditor, Russel Tausig, lend his aid in the analysis of those costs.
The University was serious about the release of Smyth-Fernwald and the co-op decided that serious consideration of their offer was in order, especially in the light of the effectively simultaneaous approach from the Graduate Theological Union. If the U.S.C.A. saw fit to accept the G.T.U. offer, then taking over the dorms could only be to the organization’s advantage. As said before, the parcels of land offered in exchange for the Ridge Property held no adequate space for a central kitchen. As a dorm unit, Smyth-Fernwald boasted a large kitchen, a dining room building and a separate building with office space. Norton estimated that the dining room could hold better than 1,000 customers and, more importantly, the Smyth-Fernwald kitchen could be adapted to serve as the U.S.C.A. kitchen with little trouble. It was certainly superior to the present C.K. at Oxford.
At the June 16 meeting of the Summer Executive Committee, a group with full Board powers, Norton was authorized to “carry on preliminary negotiations with the University regarding this suggestion.” The purpose of these negotiations was to determine the approach the U.S.C.A. should take in wording its proposal for the site to the University. In those meetings, a number of specifics on rent, period of lease, expansion and so forth, were discussed. The proposal was then submitted to the University on the first of August in 1964.
In the meantime, the Executive Committee had decided to postpone the construction of the Ridge project for one year, a delay which would not only allow the U.S.C.A. to save money by renting the dorms and selling the Ridge property to the G.T.U., but would allow modifications to the project if other needs came to be. Because of the delay, a planned rate increase was halved for the coming year.
Dick Palmer had the duty of “Acting U.S.C.A. President” that summer and was also put in charge of evaluating the Smyth-Fernwald idea for U.S.C.A. use. He visited the complex, made diagrams of its buildings and eventually published his report in a dittographed pamphlet called Smyth-Fernwald: Some Proposals for U.S.C.A. Development. A thorough, careful and imaginative survey, Proposals delineated the co-op philosophy of allowing creative use of rooms and student self-government and examined each dorm building and the external space. Ideas for the improvement as well as plans for better office and kitchen service was included. The report enthusiastically documented the possibilities to the neglected set of bureaucrat bungled buildings.
In September, just as F.S.M. was getting underway, the Smyth-Fernwald idea fell in upon itself. A story in the Co-op Highlights, successor to the U.S.C.A. News, found its way to the offices of The Daily Californian. A front page story that appeared on September 24th, “Co-op Plans for Smyth-Fernwald?” generously quoted Palmer’s report on the complex. Students in the complex revolted against the idea almost immedietely. The Word, a Highlights-like newsletter published at Smyth-Fernwald, editorialized against the change. In addition to a valid complaint that the University had not informed the dorm members of its offer to the U.S.C.A., its editor, Jerry Osborne, also griped about the “extremely dumpy appearance and poor food service” in the co-ops themselves. The Daily Cal story of October 12th quoted various negative reactions and generalized them as “Smyth-Fernwald residents did not like the idea of having to work, or felt that the complex would deteriorate under the co-op system.” A petition circulated by Osborne at the unit gained 71.5% opposition to the co-op takeover out of 95% of the residents signing it. Or so it was claimed, since Osborne would not allow the Daily Cal to see the petition.
The next day, the A.S.U.C. Senate met to hear a motion against the sale of Smyth-Fernwald. It was brought up by Mike Adams and Sherri Cummings, representatives of the men’s and women’s residence halls, and claimed to present “strong arguments for not affecting the sale of ... Smyth-Fernwald” to the U.S.C.A. Dick Palmer attended the meeting and demolished the dorm representative claims and indicated several inaccuracies in the motion, notably the term “sale” and the statement that the U.S.C.A. “has indicated their plan to build a new co-operative, should they not be able to purchase [sic] Smythe-Fernwald,” a gross mis-statement of the Ridge project situation. So irresponsible was the dorms’ motion, in fact, that the October 15 Daily Cal carried a lead editorial in which the errors were enumerated and the Senate chided for hearing such sloppy, ill-considered words.
A week later, the whole issue was killed for good when Clark Kerr, now president of the entire U.C. system, rejected the co-op proposal as “not feasible in its present form.” The same day, the Daily Cal carried a story praising the U.S.C.A. by W. Byron Rumford, a state assemblyman and author of the then controversial Fair Housing Bill in California. Save the anger over the Smyth-Fernwald hassle, the U.S.C.A. could now turn to the construction of the new Ridge Project.
The final plans for the Ridge Project were approved soon after the Smyth-Fernwald brouhaha ended. Dick Palmer worked in close conjunction with the architects and contractors. There were no major problems in the construction of the new unit, although minor finish work such as handrails for the stairways were not completed when the first members moved in that fall. It was a unique building, not only because it was the first in Berkeley designed specifically for co-op use, but because it incorporated parking, storage, kitchen, office, living and recreational facilities into one, relatively small package. An article by one-time Cloyne-man Walt Crawford called “Coed Co-op,” which appeared in the California Engineer, detailed its features. It contained six levels: a garage, a new central kitchen and central warehouse, a central office and project lounge and three floors of living space divided into men’s and women’s wings. Each wing had a rooftop lounge. The rooms were divided into singles for students with the longest residence in the co-ops, doubles, and triples. It was not the first time in the recent history of the co-ops that more than two persons had to share a room.
It was a unique structure in many ways, but the most attention was paid to the co-op philosophy behind the building. Crawford’s article, distributed to alumni as part of a final burst to the fund drive, expressed it thusly:
The one abiding principle in the whole architectural design of Ridge Project has been to build a unit reflecting individuality and freedom, the antithesis of many dormitories. The disadvantages of other dorms, uniformity, regimentation of activities and general impersonality of buildings, have been avoided. The Ridge Project actively promotes diversity, freedom and variety of activities, and a small-scale residential environment.
The whole thing was coated in stucco and dedicated in October of 1965. Everyone who had contributed to the construction of the building, soon to be officially dubbed Ridge Project, was invited to the new site. All in all about 300 people came to stand in Ridge Road which had been blocked off by the city for the dedication and short ceremony. Roger Heyns, the new Berkeley chancellor, and Hal Norton gave short speeches. A bottle of champagne was bashed against the stucco and the company retired to a buffet luncheon. It was a moment of both relief and tension for the U.S.C.A. There was relief because, at last, a decent kitchen facility had been built and the dietician, Mrs. Alice Ramos, and chef, Andres Castro, could move from the Oxford anachronism into what was called one of the best kitchens around.
“Where for years the co-op kitchen had been the bane of the city health department,” said Bill Davis, “as soon as the new project was built and the new kitchen finished, the co-op became Exhibit A. The city would bring people from all over to see this fine example of a first class kitchen...one of the finest kitchens in the Bay Area.” It was four times as large as the old Oxford kitchen, infinitely cleaner and had much more convenience for the cooks and kitchen help. It could feed, if need be, 2,000 people. The warehouse was large and again, much more convenient for its student manager and workers. The central office contained two individual offices for the General Manager and Book-keeper, unparalleled luxury after the old carriage house. Hal Norton moved into his office to see Ridge Project occupied. On October 1st, he moved out. He had resigned from the managership the previous summer.
Norton had been in the organization for thirty years and had managed it for 25. He had built its business aspect to respectability, it had never defaulted on a debt, and thereby enabled the U.S.C.A. to gain the support of the Berkeley business community in the performance of its work. Even after hostility grew between the businessmen and the students in the city, the U.S.C.A. was trusted as an organization by both its creditors and its members. He had carried the co-op through every type of times: depression, when the students had no money; war, when the university had no students; prosperity, when the students could afford luxuries; academic turmoil, when an organization of students had to survive in an environment with which its members were suddenly at odds. Hal’s resignation was sudden, catching the U.S.C.A. almost completely by surprise, but was understood. Hal’s law degree had opened avenues he was now free to take. The U.S.C.A. was faced with a problem it had not encountered since before most of its members had been born, the selection of a new manager.
The Board of Directors did the proper Board thing and appointed a committee to select Hal’s successor, as Hal had no recommendations. Bill Davis chaired the group and was composed of Tom Surh, then the U.S.C.A. President, and two alumni, Art Walenta of Barrington and Dan Eisenstein, among others. At the time Eisenstein got into the act, the committee had received several applications and split into subcommittees to interview the applicants. Among those they interviewed was Dick Palmer, who initially had not tried for the job because he felt he did not have the qualifications. The Committee thought otherwise. Eisenstein recalls the considerations:
We had a meeting at which we reviewed the applications and qualifications of all the applicants and decided that Palmer probably was the best choice. Among other things, all of us were impressed with his personal commitment to the co-op, to the co-op as an idea being different from other housing groups; and with his imagination, the fact that he was not just a guy who could make figures come out of a calculator, but had really interesting ideas about the whole purpose behind group living, and the kind of thing you could do with a group living situaton. The fact that he was an architect, the fact that he had worked with Hal and the whole central-office, the fact that he had some familiarity with what was going on in there, because it was a rather involved system...
Palmer was obviously the best choice available in terms of involvement with the co-op. Where he was questionable was the part of the U.S.C.A. that Hal Norton had devoted so much effort to developing, the business end. The committee had another interview with Palmer and decided to hire him. Apparently the announcement had formalities. “I think someone just came up and told me that I’d gotten the job,” Dick recalls. “Wasn’t anything very formal about it.” The co-op Board approved the committee’s recommendation.
Dick was general-manager-elect two months before the departure of Norton and the opening of Ridge Project, but a number of activities involved with the building kept them from conferring on the job. Palmer had received his degree in January of 1966 in architecture and worked from that time until the house opened on its lounge furniture which he had designed as his senior thesis. The U.S.C.A. had voted to use Dick’s design in the new unit, and had hired him to oversee its construction--necessary owing to the uniqueness of the design. “The job,” said Palmer, “turned out to be fairly complicated because we had the various parts manufactured by a number of different companies, who brought them all to the site. All the final finishing and assembly was done by a student crew. I wound up dealing with fourteen or fifteen different suppliers for the angle brackets and the screws and the fasteners and the panels and all of that kind of stuff.” The furniture work was made more difficult due to a botched job by U.S. Plywood, who were six weeks late delivering the necessary panels. “So we put together a crew of students who were essentially unskilled and assembled and finished all that furniture in six weeks.”
At this time Dick was also linking the U.S.C.A. with Ratcliff, Slama and Cadwalader, a then-called architectural firm. The summer of ‘66 was all work and turmoil, even without the sudden, unexpected, transition of of the U.S.C.A. management. In the beginning of October, at the opening of the Ridge Project, Hal Norton retired and took off for an extended vacation in Europe. The 30-year-old Palmer moved into the manager’s position.
Dick’s first months on the job did not flow gently to success. “I had tremendous problems with the job. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing at the time. Between August and October, Hal and I were so damn busy getting the building done and the furniture done, we really had little time to talk to each other about the overall job of management. When I sat down in this chair on October 1st, I really didn’t know what was going on.” Fortunately, some veteran staff members stayed on long enough after Norton left to give Palmer invaluable aid. Most helpful was office secretary Diana Woo who had been with U.S.C.A. central operations for several years and who knew the office work intimately.
Even with the success of the new project, the U.S.C.A. soon found itself facing expansion decisions. Real estate markets in college towns, especially changeable environments like Berkeley, fluctuate. As the 1960’s entered its latter half, a number of “distressed group living properties” went up for sale. Most of these properties belonged to bankupt sorority and fraternity chapters. The first house to become available to the Palmer-led U.S.C.A. was familiar to the organization. It belonged not to a fraternity but rather to an ethnic group on campus. Twenty years after losing the name of Lexington Hall, the Japanese Students Club again came to the attention of the U.S.C.A.
Responsible for the reacquisition of the J.S.C. were two old co-opers, George Yasakoshi and Ted Johnston. Johnston recalls the circumstances of the second leasing:
Somewhere along the way in our effort to solicit funds for the Ridge Project, George and I began to talk about the J.S.C. At the time there was very little interest on the part of Japanese students in living separately and by themselves. The house was in bad repair, and George and I decided that it might be well if the student co-op could again assume the use of the house. We discussed without any serious negotiation the idea that in some way the title to the house might pass to the student co-op for some kind of reduced consideration, which would be scholarships for Japanese students or some such kind of thing.
But then I think, with the emergence of strong ethnic identity movements, the Japanese Alumni Association finally decided that they could not afford to give the house away. So they put a price on it and it was finally accepted...
The co-op took over the J.S.C. once more, on a one-year lease renewable for two more years. They filled the hall with men on the co-op waiting list, and for the first year or so, Euclid Hall, as it was named, worked well under the able management of a student named Gideon Anders. After that first year strange things happened at Euclid Hall.
It was a strange era, the late ’60s, and a strange manager, later to be known only as Howie, took over the managership of Euclid. Dick Palmer called Howie an “anarchist.” Certainly the anarchist emotion was lively in Berkeley at that time, and the clientele in Euclid was most definitely a group “up” with the times. Howie, a large fellow always seen in a long black raincoat, ran the house with a similarly-minded workshift manager supplementing and abetting his influence.
The house became a haven for an anarchist sentiment totally divorced from politics on any but the U.S.C.A. level. For Palmer, the membership became a huge problem, because not only did the managers foment an attitude of distrust (Palmer called it paranoia) towards the Central Office, they also encouraged a policy of rather a bizarre self-expression. Paint was liberally applied to all surfaces in the house, which the co-op then only leased. Every window in the upper floor was painted black. A rising sun emblem was painted on the living room ceiling, much to the unsettlement of the alumni of the Japanese Students Association. To higher splendors of art, the liberated denizens of Euclid vaunted. A chair was launched, for no special reason, through a dining room wall, and windows began to lose their glass.
The J.S.C. alumni who owned the hall were basically a conservative, idle class group. The mess Howie and his boys were making out of their hall deeply offended them and in addition, an offer from the ever-present G.T.U. on the property came their way. They notified Palmer that the offer would probably be accepted, just before the third year of the U.S.C.A. lease ran out.
We were faced with the alternatives of buying the building, overbidding G.T.U. or losing it as housing as soon as the lease ran out. The Board discussed this and decided that Euclid was indeed a good unit for us and we would make an offer for it. Fortunately, our offer was slightly better than G.T.U.’s. Plus, in spite of what was happening with the building, the Japanese-American Alumni Association was sympathetic to the U.S.C.A. as an organization.... George Yasakoshi, who was on their board, was very persuasive in convincing them that they should sell the property to us under terms that we could handle.
Buying Euclid saved face and housing space for the U.S.C.A., but Palmer felt that the situation there was intolerable. Along with George Proper, a recent U.C. graduate and ex-Barrington manager working part-time for C.O., he decided that evicting Howie and all the other Euclidians from the house and beginning anew would be the best solution. Rather than let Howie tell his version of the story without argument, Palmer and Proper asked that a house meeting be called at which the problems could be hashed out and the members’ ideas heard.
Proper was scared as he and the general manager walked the block between Ridge Project and the beleaguered co-op house. George had truly come up from the ranks, in the classic co-op manner. He had been athletics manager, kitchen manager and a two-semester house manager in Barrington, the first ever. He had overseen the 1967 change from all-male to co-ed (a “special study” had called for the change) and, since the University had abandoned its Approved Housing program, the U.S.C.A. had done so. He had also ran the U.S.C.A. one summer. Palmer, impressed with George’s performance in all his jobs, elevated Proper steadily up the managerial stoop. George had had no direct contact with the rebellious Euclid membership and was understandably nervous. It didn’t help the situation when, as the two C.O. representatives walked down the sidewalk towards the Euclid front door, a house member appeared at an upstairs window smashing the glass from the panels with a broomstick. Inside, newly-painted signs on the walls screamed “OFF PALMER and KILL PROPER” and a gory confrontation was promised.
And gory it was--full of loud voices. But there was a revelation for both the general membership and Dick Palmer, who faced each other for the first time without Howie between them. The decision to empty the house was abandoned, as was the general hostility towards C.O. “For a lot of them,” says Palmer, “it was the first time they’d ever dealt directly with George or I, instead of hearing what the managers told them.” Dick later advised the Board that vandalism was the product of only a few Euclidians--that the mass of members had labored under a Howie-built misconception. For the Board, which had once sat through meeting surrounded by angry Euclidians, this was good news. The house was indeed changed at the end of the year as coeds were brought and most of the old members were distributed throughout the other houses. Euclid settled into ordinary co-ophood; renovated and repainted, except for the rising sun on the living room ceiling which the membership wanted kept. The hall was without its old managers. They had absconded in the middle of the previous term.
The general disaster which befell fraternities and sororities in the late ‘60s had a peripheral effect that brought Euclid permanantly into the U.S.C.A. The organization benefitted directly on several occasions in that time. The first of these was the Alpha Zeta Delta sorority house next to Sherman Hall on Prospect. Like many other Greek establishments, this house had undergone major remodeling expansions in the ‘50s and early ‘60s while the Greek system boomed. A huge mortgage had accrued and with the change in student attitudes, especially those of incoming pledges, financial obligation could not be met.
A “FOR SALE” sign glimpsed on the Alpha Zeta Delta lawn and inquiries were made. Negotiations through a realtor set the extremely reasonable price of $75,000 for the excellent building and property. The land alone was appraised at $72,000, and the sale, while a god-send to the co-op, was a disaster to the sorority, which sold immediately to make necessary funds. It was indeed a good buy. “A fine house, beautiful house, well-maintained,” were Palmer’s words. “We had some remodelling to do, to bring it up to code. Had a new heating system and everything, well-maintained. Just really a nice place.” The sorority was so desperate it even agreed to take a $60,000 mortgage on the house, a crowning excellence on the deal for the co-op. The house opened late in 1969 and was named Davis House, in honor of the man who had given aid at the birth of the co-op and throughout its history. Bill Davis had resigned from the co-op Board in 1968, though he would continue at Stiles Hall for three more years. When he heard of the honor, he said, “I was very pleased, of course. I felt a little embarassed in a way because of the other guys, other people who had a big hand in the organization and deserved that kind of recognition more than I, especially a fella like Hal Norton.”
A dedication for Davis House was held, attended by a number of co-op pioneers like Larry Collins and Doug Cruikshank, as well as Chancellor Heyns. Davis, of course, was also there, awed by the honor:
I’ll always remember that when I was supposed to be downstairs getting ready to make my little acceptance speech I was out wandering around inspecting the house. I had my two daughters with me, and it was kind of a nice thing for me to have my two kids there to see this honor that was being bestowed upon me. We were walking through the house when everybody was gathering in the hallway there for the ceremonies. Finally I got traced down by somebody and brought down just in time to make my speech. My daughters and I missed all the nice things that people said about me.
Davis House was, by almost any standard, the finest house of the co-ops. Assignments to live there became the reward for the longest residencies. It prepared its own meals, had a fine view of San Francisco Bay and featured fine wood paneling. It was, like Ridge Project, a departure in tone from the “grubby” co-op image. Like Project, it drew the “elite” of the co-op system, those members who had lived in the organization for the most time. This exodus from the other houses caused a temporary power and experience vacuum to develop, which itself caused a redistribution of responsibility to other, newer co-op members.
Already, under Dick Palmer’s co-op leadership, the organization had gained three units. More would soon follow. A pair of apartment houses near Kidd Hall on Le Conte Avenue had been purchased earlier, and U.S.C.A. members of long-standing had taken these. They were the first bona fide apartments to operate under the co-op aegis. In the late ‘60s, another apartment proposal, representing the most extensive and largest project ever undertaken by a private Berkeley-based firm, came to the attention of the co-op Board.
The 264-member apartment complex on the south side of the Berkeley campus evolved for the U.S.C.A. over a period of several years and as the result of a much different proposal. That proposal came from a strange source, even compared to the Smyth-Fernwald conflict of a very few years before. An officer of the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley’s student quasi-government, approached the U.S.C.A. through Gideon Anders, then involved in A.S.U.C. affairs. The idea was that the A.S.U.C. and U.S.C.A. together would attempt to acquire land given over to the Bay Area Rapid Transit project on Hearst Avenue in Berkeley and build apartments for U.C. students on that property.
“As soon as we got into it,” Dick Palmer related, “we found that the land was not going to be available for a couple of years, if at all, and there didn’t seem much point in collaborating with the A.S.U.C. because of their clouded legal situation with the Regents.” The idea of student-run apartments for students struck the proper co-op chord, however, and the U.S.C.A. began examining other possibilities. “It occured to us,” said Palmer, “that the University had some grading sites available. We went to talk to R.A. Williams, the Dean of Students, about the possibility of some kind of joint effort with the University on those sites.” Preliminary plans for one such site, the lot above Cloyne Court on Ridge Road, had already been prepared, so it was removed from consideration. As the original Barrington had at one time occupied the space, the co-op missed a sentimental chance.
A plot of ground was found, however, between Haste and Dwight Way one block west of Telegraph and a half block east of Barrington Hall. 350 feet by 140 feet, the site was available without any further condemnation of private property. The buildings on the site, the old McKinley High School, the brown-shingle structure then housing the Berkeley Free Clinic, and a number of temporary buildings, had already been condemned by the city to make way for University expansion.
Federal loan funds had been made available to co-ops some years before, though not in time for the Ridge Project. The U.S.C.A.’s bookkeepers moved swiftly to determine the amount of the loan required from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, thus setting a limit for the size of any U.S.C.A. apartment house project on that site.
Students in the U.S.C.A. played the major role in determining the type of housing. Jay Goldsmith of Cloyne Court chaired a committee created from all the co-op houses and gathered their ideas. Consultations with architects proceeded simultaneously with Goldsmith’s efforts.
When we had a program prepared, we went to talk to the campus architect, Louis deMonte, who gave us his blessing. The program we’d worked up derived partly from the University’s own ideas about housing and partly from our own ideas, and so it was not incompatible with what he’d envisioned doing with that site.
When we had his blessing we did a rough schematic proposal and went to the Chancellor’s Committee on Campus Development and presented the scheme to them. Most of them were receptive to the idea... there were a few who were not, mostly in the business part of the administration. The Chancellor himself, though, was firmly in favor of it... I’m glad to say he supported us all through that. He was of course critical in getting this project together.
The basic program presented by the U.S.C.A., aided by Ratcliff, Slama and Cadwalader, involved five, three-story apartment buildings surrounding a central courtyard, cafeteria and dining room. (Each apartment would have a fully-equipped kitchen, of course.) In addition, there would be basement parking and laundry facilities. Some studio apartments would be available. Each student would have a single room, even if they lived in a four, three or two-man apartment.
After obtaining Heyns’ support, the U.S.C.A. sent a letter to the U.C. Regents outlining the proposal and asking along with the Berkeley administration that the co-op be allowed to lease the property. These efforts culminated in a letter sent by the Regents to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which became part of the U.S.C.A.’s application to H.U.D. for loan funds. This application included schematic drawings and what Dick Palmer called, “a fairly elaborate justification for the project.” The Regents stated in their letter that in the event that H.U.D. gave the loan to the co-op, the University would lease the Haste-Dwight Way property to the U.S.C.A. for what they called a “nominal fee.” The nature of that “nominal fee” would prove to be a potentially fatal problem in the near future.
Two or three months passed, during which time D.H.U.D. examined the project, evaluated it, and decided on its answer. On August 15, 1969, Dick Palmer was able to send co-op founder Harry Kingman a letter saying that “we have received a reservation of funds,” meaning that although D.H.U.D. was not committed to the project, it had still budgeted the money, “in the amount of $2,018,000 for our housing project.” The amount would just about cover the projected building cost plus supplementary expenses such as architects’ fees, “We still have some obstacles to overcome in negotiating the lease with the University,” the letter went on, “but are optimistic that the project will go through.”
Those obstacles were passed off easily in Palmer’s “thank you” note to Kingman, but they soon exploded to incandescence and the co-op’s optimism about the project began to suffer an occasional lapse. Background on the D.H.U.D. loan and that “nominal fee” is needed. Back at the time of the Ridge Project campaign, the U.S.C.A. had applied for D.H.U.D. funds through the College Housing Loan Program. Cosignature by UC was then required, a situation the lobbying efforts of Harry Kingman and others had changed since then. The University had refused to cosign the Ridge loan and the co-ops had had to rely on the campaign. However, the 1964 endeavors had familiarized the local Housing & Urban Developement office with the workings of the U.S.C.A. and convinced them that the co-op was a responsible group. “So when we went to them” with the apartment project, Palmer recalls, “it wasn’t all that new to them. They knew who we were, and what we were doing. We got a friendly reception from the regional director...and his support, I’m sure, in getting the project approved.” First to get federal money under the amended loan program, somewhat to the disgruntlement of symbol-minded Berkeley co-opers, was the Ann Arbor, Michigan co-op, which got their loan a year before Berkeley.
In any event, with the loan approved, the co-op could begin negotiations with the U.C. Regents on a lease for the Haste-Dwight Way lot, at which time the true nature of that aformentioned “nominal fee”, and the traditional schism between the U.S.C.A. and University of California business interests reared its atrocious image into the light. “The treasurer of the University,” according to Palmer, “took what we considered to be a completely opposite position to what we understood the university had.
”A little more background: Cloyne Court had been on the University’s Master Plan (for expansion) for many years. That entire block has been an area of proposed expansion. We valued that property...we let them know in advance that we weren’t going to give up that property easily. The University did not want to go through a condemnation suit to acquire that property, so they saw the apartment proposal as an opportunity to acquire that property without any pain. The U.C. treasurer took the position that, sure, they would rent us the apartment site for a dollar a year; we would have to give them Cloyne Court for free for that.”
The co-op roared that this transfer hardly qualified as “a nominal fee,” seeing as Cloyne was valued at half a million dollars. “As far as we were concerned,” said Palmer, “that was a breach of faith. We had made an application in good conscience based on an understanding and he was violating that understanding.” Palmer and a co-op lawyer had several fruitless meetings with the “intransigent” treasurer, after which an end run around his opposition was begun. Palmer alerted administration members considered favorable to the co-op in an effort to mobilize their support; alumni were also apprised of the situation. A series of letters “on a moral plane” went to the Regents; Dick said that either they’d reneged on a promise, or the treasurer was acting against their intentions.
A heart attack removed the co-op’s most formidable administration ally, Chancellor Heyns, from the scene for three full months, during which time the co-op bided its time. They felt that without his presence any attempt to get the issue before the Regents was hopeless. Once Heyns was back in operation, Palmer made his move, and the property lease came before the U.C. Finance Committee, which met in San Francisco. Dick requested that he be allowed to speak at that time, and waited outside the meeting room an entire afternoon before he was told that the committee hadn’t time to hear him.
The meeting had gone the co-op’s way even without Dick’s presence, however. Despite the long-followed practice of following the suggestion of the U.C. treasurer, the Finance Committee had overuled his position and decided to accept a compromise proposal. This proposal had been advanced by Palmer in one of the three letters he had sent the Regents on the lease controversy. U.C. would buy Cloyne Court for its market value of $460,000, lease it back to the co-op for ten years, defer the purchase by taking over Cloyne’s current mortgage of $140,000 and settle the deal with $320,000 when the U.S.C.A. surrendered the property. The U.S.C.A. sacrificed the difference between $320,000 at the time of purchase and the purchasing worth of the same amount ten years later, a form of lease payment. That lease was to run 40 years.
”It was,” says Palmer, “what we thought was a very reasonable deal. It relieved the University of having to come up with a lot of cash; it guaranteed them ownership of the property eventually without having to condemn it; it gave us the fair market value for it; it gave us the apartments site. I guess they thought it was reasonable too, because they accepted it over the dead body of their treasurer.”
The second half of the loan application was then prepared and went through with surprising alacrity. The co-op had contacted the Free Clinic and offered its aid in finding it a new home. The Clinic had sublet McKinley High School’s old shop building from the Berkeley school district, which had a three-year lease on the property... as the school district’s lease ran out, so did the Clinic’s time in their current headquarters. Another location was eventually found, but while they were still in the old shop building, and just before the U.S.C.A. began to collect bids from contractors on the construction of the apartment complex, President Richard Nixon ordered American troops into Cambodia. It was the beginning of May, 1970.
Student demonstrations had boiled over Berkeley throughout the ’68-’69 school year, but ’69-’70 had, until April, been relatively calm. Three days of pitched rock-and-gas battles between students and sundry local police forces over R.O.T.C. classes on campus had relieved the natural springtime tensions of the Berkeley campus. The Cambodia invasion provoked a different reaction, coupled with the murders of Krause, Miller, Scheier and Schroder at Kent State. Berkeley had seen violent street battles before--just a year before James Rector had been killed by Alameda County deputies in the People’s Park battle, and members of the San Francisco Tac Squad had chased Barrington residents down their own hallways. Street and campus action exploded again on May 5th, 1970. A squad of Berkeley policemen beat and kicked a phocomelus street kid--born with stubby fingers for arms and stubby feet for legs--on the steps of the Free Clinic, then raided the Clinic itself, smashing the equipment inside. U.C. students and faculty shut the campus down for the remainder of the quarter, and applied whatever resources they could muster to changing America’s mind about the Vietnam war. Co-op members, dorm residents, even Greeks, took part.
The basic effect of the spring, ’70 confrontations on the U.S.C.A., however, was a loss of seven out of ten contractors from the bidding on the apartment complex. This was, of course, a financial blow to the co-op; competition in bids among reputable companies was severely restricted. There had been ten. The U.S.C.A. had to settle for three.
The lowest bid came from a minority contractor who couldn’t raise the bond for the project, as the company had never constructed a building close to the size of the U.S.C.A. apartments, and had neither the resources nor the experience to handle such a large endeavor. After a month of trying to get the low-bidder qualified, the U.S.C.A. gave up and awarded the contract to Williams & Burroughs, the next lowest bidder.
After that final hassle, the large apartment complex rose swiftly. A sign-raising ceremony on the site, adorned with string outlines of the five buildings, blueprints, and a visit by Berkeley congressman Ronald Dellums, brought a group of old and new co-op members together. A multi-colored sign on which the word “student” was most prominent--an emphasis designed to prevent vandalism by nearby Telegraph Avenue street people--was hauled up by a number of Goldsmith’s committeemen and Board members. Dellums and the U.S.C.A. President, Carleton Mac Donald, gave short speeches. At the close of the ceremony the Congressman offered Carleton, renowned throughout the co-op system as something of a square, a soul slap, a minor but ingratiating symbol of revolutionary solidarity. MacDonald took Dellums’ hand and calmly, solemnly, shook it with a brief, firm motion. It was the fall of 1970. The ’60s had ended. The fall of ’70 and the winter and spring quarters of 1971 would clip the ends of overt activism by Berkeley students. The attitudes of students again began to change.
In the winter, a Barrington member who brought street people and some connected problems of rip-offs and heroin peddling into the house was thrown out of the co-op by Mark Gary, who succeeded MacDonald as co-op President. Barringtonians, with many street friends, were of many minds about the ouster. Heroin, of course, was detested, as of course were the thefts and accostments of female members. They were much in favor of stopping the practice of putting up anybody who wandered into the house, but throwing out the member who invited them struck them badly. Nevertheless, it happened, and the practice of excluding specific people from the house, and a general closure of the hall to outside people, resulted from this move. Students began to draw into themselves as the ’70-’71 school year ended...and the co-op found itself faced with alienation and a loss in confidence in the organization by its members.
The size of the co-op, over 1000 members, had much to do with this situation. And so in 1970, a decentralization program was implemented to deal with it. Basically, the program was designed to return a major share of the responsibility for running house activities to the individual houses--a return to “old style co-operativism.” Expenses in the fields of food supplies, crockery, repairs, laundry, linen and managers’ salaries were removed from central level responsibility and given back to the houses themselves to determine and control. Effects of the experiment, implemented in the Fall of ‘70, could not be determined for several years.
1971 was a busy year for the organization, even as it was a year of change for its members. The winter quarter saw the purchase of the Zeta Tau Alpha house on Warring Street. An old sorority, Z.T.A. had been on sale at steadily decreasing prices for two years before the U.S.C.A. picked it up for $115,000. Discussion on the use of the handsome building, located near Davis and Sherman, focused on use of the co-op philosophy. Predictably, no real agreement on the nature of that philosophy was settled. The newest co-op house opened in the fall, named Andres Castro Arms, after the co-op’s cook of twenty-five years.
May saw Berkeley host what Mark Gary called “The Great Toad Lane Revival” a “convention” of representatives from a number of co-ops across the nation. Workshops in co-op problems, talks by members of various cooperative organizations, informal meetings with members, a tour of the under-construction Rochdale and a small street riot were featured for the twenty or thirty attendees, who came mostly from western states. Board member John Mausser attended a similar conference, designed for the exchange of ideas, that fall in Toronto, a trip about which some controversy came up. a number of involved members, a minority in a minority, protested that Mausser’s plane fare could be better applied to immediate concerns of the houses. The Board took the long-range view and decided to finance the trip for Mausser, who later became co-op President.
The year climaxed on October 9th, with the ceremonial opening of the apartment complex, which had risen with little trouble. Weather problems in the summer had hampered construction, and hassles with wiring and the installation of carpets had caused some inconvenience. There was some question at the decision to allow Rochdale members-- restricted to upper division students--to paint their rooms only with permission of the governing council. But the October 9th ceremony saw the opening of a completed, functioning unit--co-op apartment houses built from scratch and specifically for co-op living.
It was quite a ways from that fourteen-man meeting in Harry Kingman’s house, though both Harry and Ruth Kingman and several of that first fourteen attended the ceremony. Alumni covering practically all of the thirty-eight years of co-op existence were invited to the opening, held in the center court of the complex which had been named Rochdale Village, after the English town where “co-operativism” had been created. Hal Norton; Doug Cruikshank; Larry Collins; Bill Davis, whose Stiles Hall co-hosted the ceremony; Dan Eisenstein; David Bortin, whose daughter Millie had rented an apartment there... Warren Widener, the new Mayor of Berkeley whose election had signalled a new sort of student activism in the community, attended and spoke. He had special reason to attend the event. For two years in the late ’50s he had lived in Barrington Hall. The contributors to Ridge Project were invited, and many attended. Also there was Albert Bowker, the new U.C. Chancellor. It was Bowker’s first encounter with an organized student group, and President Dave Grossberg was the first elected student leader he met.
The co-op’s climatic project opened. And the Board turned to a house on Le Conte, just up for sale, which many believed suitable for married students’ housing... It was something that hadn’t been done before, but some felt that it might be worth doing...
And so on...
The student co-op in Berkeley will be forty years old in 1973. Financially, in the 1970s as always, the U.S.C.A. is on “very thin ice” by any conventional methods of analysis. “That’s a very crude rule of thumb which doesn’t apply to all kinds of organizations,” Dick Palmer protests. “Within our own frame of reference we’re in pretty good shape. We have the pattern of a rapidly growing organization, which means we have a very large debt, we’re short of cash and always have been. On the other hand, when you examine a corporation you don’t just look at its balance sheet, you also look at its potential. And if you look for instance at the avuncular waiting lists and our position in the market place and our rates compared with the rest of the housing market you can see that we’re in an extremely advantageous position.” The co-op has no problem filling its houses.
But filling them co-operatively is more difficult, as it always has been. Poorer students than the norm rarely attend state universities since the advent of community colleges. A richer segment of the economy lives in the co-ops in the ’70s, expecting more amenities, a problem for the still-cut-budget U.S.C.A. Palmer sees the problem of the co-op spirit as far more than the provision of expected luxuries:
We’ve failed very badly in member education and member involvement. Most of the people come to the co-op because it’s cheap; most people who come here don’t know what a co-op is, and don’t really care a lot, as long as it’s cheap. That’s the only way they can get through school, in some cases. The hope is that after they get here they will learn about the co-op ideology and what it can do for them, and of course we hope they will get turned on to it. Obviously not everybody will.
They aren’t going to get turned onto it unless they understand it, and have a chance to use it. That’s where we’ve failed. We really don’t tell them what it is they’re involved in; we don’t show them how it works. We leave it up to the older members to teach them if anybody does. With the increasing mobility of the campus we have fewer old members than we used to have... Our race memory is declining.
I think there’s a great deal to be done if the Board will simply recognize that it needs to be done. You can never make a 200-member 40-year-old organization act like a 14-member brand-new organization. That time is gone, and it will never be revived until this whole structure is gone and replaced by something new. I’m not sure that is neccessary. It depends on how you define your goals.
If your goal is to involve everybody in the origins of a creative organization, starting everything from scratch, we clearly can’t provide it. If you’re talking about providing low-cost housing and an introduction to a different life style from the competitive, capitalist form, then I think we have a hell of a lot to offer even though we’re large, and old.
Palmer sees a professionalization of member education--along the lines of CCB’s large-budgetted educational activities--as a possible avenue towards a solution of that problem. The U.S.C.A. has done a lot. Its new members should know that.
“I think the co-ops have been a very profound influence on this community,” Bill Davis, forty years a Berkeleyan, says. “This organization has affected the whole climate of this campus with respect to intergroup relations, but it also had an effect on the co-op movement in the city of Berkeley...it has affected the climate of this whole community. The student co-ops are still playing a part in creating that climate. It has gotten pretty subtle... Never has been a very direct effect. But it’s there.”
Hal Norton visits Europe often, on vacation, from the job he took after leaving the co-op, director of the Alameda County Bar Association. He sees many old co-op members in Europe. Many are now business associates. They are everywhere, and if the response to the Ridge Project is an indication, they feel they owe the co-op a lot. The attraction of the organization, of the idea, interests the man who ran the one and interpreted the other for a quarter of a century.
I suppose there’s always things like doing things for yourself, that’s one thing. We weren’t so hidebound, so rigid...at least in the early days we were a new force, a new look, a new viewpoint, a new idea...and then we managed to roll with all the punches, and I think to a large extent we managed to keep current. Didn’t we? Without being absolutely self-defeating, like the anarchist, who wants to tear his own building down, we did manage to stay current, and we managed to keep the interest of the people.
We were the first to recognize that there’s no reason why the student shouldn’t have a voice in government. I think it’s fair to say that we were in the vanguard for that.
The Berkeley students’ co-op? “It’s VITAL,” he says, meaning that it lives, is alive. “There’s been an inflow of new ideas, new students...we always seem to get some darn good ones, that come through and helps pull the thing together...”
- ... basis.”1.1
- The Pageant of Life #7, Tuesday Sept. 20, 1938, Station K.F.R.C.
- ... week.4.1
- A time when frats sometimes forced prospective members to prove themselves worthy of the Greek name through such idiot stunts.
- ... water-fighting.4.2
- The incident of the weightlifter’s window described earlier dates from this newfound frolic.
- ... Roy.4.3
- It was about 6:30 in the evening.