Tuesday 20 April 2010


Last Thursday I was feeling a bit lost. The excitement of the first ten days was starting to abate and there were clouds outside my window when I woke up in the morning. I started to feel sorry for myself, being far from home as I was; but, suddenly, all the reasons for staying here in Berkeley came rushing back to my mind. I started to revisit the comments on my postings and, sure enough, soon found an interesting task to carry out: to visit Lars’ old lodging on Spruce Street and report back to you, my faithful readers of the blog, about the journey, with pictures and all.

Now, Berkeley is a large community, but not so large that it cannot easily be traversed on foot. I gathered that a brisk walk to Spruce and back would take me about two hours and a half. But I decided to make a full day of it, detouring whenever the fancy stroke me, and lingering along the way, as soon as interesting people turned up for conversation, or anything else of interest arose.

Whilst I was walking along Stuart Street, the clouds started to part, letting the first sunrays shine through and causing me to immediately lose my mournful disposition. So I increased my stride and, soon, reached Telegraph Avenue, where the clouds caught up with me again. When passing by the venerable Bank of America building on Telegraph, I suddenly saw a scene, reminding me of the ’seventies adage ”Rich Man, Poor Man”. A representative of the ”Leisure class” had just risen from his resting bench to approach a fellow walker with his requests for sustenance. The ritual is well known to anyone having journeyed to the West Coast: “Brother, can you spare a dime?”. Well, at least this used to be the phrase back in the ‘seventies. Nowadays it goes “… can you spare a quarter”, with inflation having taken its toll.

This drew me suddenly back to my student days, for almost exactly the same scene had been documented by me in 1977. Since I keep the pictures in my slide trays in fond memory, I could conclude that the building was essentially unchanged, with one interesting exception: the bank’s logotype had been changed from being rather serene to being gaudy, by having a two colour symbol added to it. This was, no doubt, a sign of the times. The venerable institution is no more, we look upon the sad remains of boundless ambition, thwarted by cleansing within the recent crisis.

Before travelling to Berkeley for the first time, back in 1976, I wrote a letter to the bank’s Telegraph at Russell office, asking to open an account. I received a cordial reply to the positive in return, as well as all kind of helpful support upon our arrival and throughout our stay. In sentimental gratitude, I had kept my savings book during all the years since then, in case I would return some day and again would need to transfer some money prior to my voyage. Last December, I wrote a letter to this effect to the now Shattuck office. To my regret, and even after a second letter as reminder, no answer was received from the bank so, with sadness, I took my business elsewhere.

From the bank it is only a ten minutes’ walk to the Campus entrance, which soon was reached. When approaching Sather Gate, it emerged that yet another campus event was in the making. It was still early morning (in campus terms!), with not many people around, but stands were already being built up and flags unfurled. I approached a nice looking young student in traditional garbs and started to inquire about the event. She answered me first in French, as if by reflex, but soon caught herself at it and continued into English. Not to be bested I of course switched the other way and we had a long and cosy chat in the language of Racine. It turned out that she came from Vietnam and had studied first in Paris and now here in Berkeley, her subject being education. Generous grants from both France and the US had made this possible. It was heartening to see, how the former adversaries pay host to young Vietnamese and how the youngsters are able to surmount ancient hatreds and thrive in former enemy countries. But I see that I am deviating from the tale’s main thread. What event was being prepared on campus grounds? It was for the first time ever that the university and its students organised an “Open Campus Week”, where the general public could visit the campus and its buildings, and partake in numerous activities provided by the various student associations. Seems to me a suitable topic for a future blog posting ;-)

My spirits having lifted after the nice encounter with the Vietnamese student, some extra exercise seemed in order, and what better way to exercise than mounting the “Campanile”, the campus’ prominent clock tower, already exhibited in an earlier posting (“I have arrived”). Unfortunately, you cannot climb the stairs, so I was forced to take the elevator. The view from the top is marvellous, you see a major part of the Bay from there, provided favorable weather conditions. I shot a photo of Telegraph Avenue, more or less straight to the South, thinking of Peter, who had, in a comment to this blog, suggested that it be visited and documented. What you are seeing in the picture, Peter, is not Telegraph as you recall it; that part of the street is, unfortunately, hidden between the tall buildings on the lower right. Instead, the picture shows the street where it, after a sharp bend, broadens into an avenue that goes on for many miles into and through Oakland, the big city south of Berkeley.

A main item of interest on the picture is, however, the surprising amount of greenery, dominating the view and reaching almost to the high rises in downtown Oakland. Somehow resembling Brussels, it is caused by the pre-eminence of single homes along shaded avenues, each with its larger garden hidden from the street, which makes life so agreeable in these well-off parts of the Bay cities. The view does not show, and I would hesitate to document, the poorer residency regions, located in West Oakland and Berkeley, where industries thrive and housing is generally debilitated and burnished by un-shadowed sun. You wonder where Stuart Street might be located? Trace with your finger along Telegraph, until you see the first large building on the right hand side, about two third into the picture. Just one block before it, Stuart starts off towards the right. You can, of course, only see trees from the tower. The street is completely lost in the greenery.

Reluctantly withdrawing our glances from this beautiful vista and turning them upwards, we notice another one of the campus’ landmarks. More than 60 bells are tingling above your head. I am told that this is world record for a bell tower. For a future blog we will have to go back up there at noon to witness the carillon master at play. You didn’t know what “carillon” means? Don’t worry, me neither, not until having read a brochure about the Campanile. It means nothing else but “Glockenspiel”, the music being played by bells.

Underneath the Campanile lies a beautiful plaza with shaded benches, providing, due to its elevation, a wonderful vista of some of the campus’ most venerable buildings. Neither shade nor views appeared however to be of interest to a young student deeply involved, I hope, in learned manuscripts. It never ceases to surprise us seniors that youngsters, in particular girls, can manage to read books in the full glare of the sun, sometimes for hours, whilst maintaining a position that is hurting our knees just looking at it. This view, to be enjoyed all over UCB is, in my opinion, to be counted among the impressive landmarks on campus.

What would the girl have seen, if deigning to lift her eyes from the glaring pages and gather the surroundings for a spell? No other than the oldest building on campus, South Hall, built in the 1870’s (originally together with North Hall, which is long gone), shining in the morning sun with its prominent dark brown bricks and fanciful architecture. The university was founded just after the civil war period as an institute of high learning in the fields of agriculture mechanical arts and military tactics. Its first station was in Oakland. It was moved to Berkeley first in the early ‘seventies. If you look closely at the ornaments of South Hall (topic for another blog posting, I can assure you) you soon realize that they all represent species of edible plant, a reminder in bricks and mortar of the early beginnings.

Time to continue on our pilgrimage! After a brisk northward walk through the remaining part of the campus I eventually arrived at the North Gate, located more or less opposite Sather Gate on the south side. This was a first for me. Never, in my one year and a half at Berkeley had I ventured that far north on campus! This not only bears witness to the inherent laziness of youth, engaged in other, more demanding business than strolling through campus; it also shows that the UCB campus is of substantial size, maybe twice the size of the University of Stockholm campus and more interesting, in terms of architecture and landscaped parks, than the latter. In fact, it is considered to be one of the foremost landmarks in the Bay Area, whereas I could probably count on one hand people being as interested in the Stockholm campus. If one of them is reading this posting, please speak out! Let us discuss the various views on this and that.

Continuing on a northern trajectory, you wind up, crossing Hearst Avenue, at a lovely and inviting avenue called Euclid, after the great Greek mathematician; for those who have suppressed their schoolbook memories, suffice it to mention the squaring of a triangle’s sides to freshen up your knowledge base. The entrance to the street looked enticing indeed, with youthfully green sycamores spending welcome shade, palm trees throning on top of it all and shops galore to provide refreshments to a wary hiker. The choice was rashly made to continue the journey along this route, and to deviate in the direction for Spruce Street, supposed to lie in parallel to the left, first several blocks farther along Euclid.

Eventually, the avenue bordered on a hilly neighbourhood to the left and I thought it time for tracing my steps towards my final goal. As a sign and encouragement a vigorous jogger, not altogether young, crossed the street to proceed in the appropriate direction. However, it proved rather difficult to find the right way, since I was soon lost in a manifold of small crooked ways along several hills, that were pretty unfamiliar to me and, furthermore, completely unexpected, used as I was to the perfect checkerboard of streets and avenues to be found elsewhere in Berkeley. Would I ever find the right direction to Spruce Street in all this? To keep you in suspense, let me stop here and come back to you with the answer in a forthcoming sequel.


hierdaux13 said...

Merci Emil pour ces messages toujours passionnants et pour les photos de qualité qui les accompagnent. J'attends avec plaisir les récits et photos de la suite de votre périple américain !

Avec mes cordiales salutations

Photo Club CE

Unknown said...

Hallo Emil, selbst ein eifriger Leser deiner sensiblen Entdeckungsreise in die eigene Vergangenheit, habe ich meinen Sohn Christof auf deine Texte und Bilder aufmerksam gemacht, der zweieinhalb Jahre als Postgraduate in Berkeley verbracht hat. Er war beeindruckt von der Authentizität deiner Schilderungen und - genauso wie ich - von der professionellen Selbstverständlichkeit deiner Fotos. Ich wünsch dir noch eine Menge überwältigender Eindrücke im Laufe deiner Reise! Und dass du auch Zeit findest, sie uns mitzuteilen.

Markus Buechel said...

Lieber Emil,
vielen Dank für Deine schönen Bilder aus Californien.
Wir freuen uns an Deinem Abenteuer teilhaben zu dürfen und wünschen uns, Dich bald auch einmal wieder in unser exotisches Fuerstentum zu sehen.
Herzliche Gruesse Markus

Lars Werin said...

Emil, I now shiver with excitement when waiting for the result of your inspection of Spruce Street, where I stayed five to six thrilling weeks in the spring of 1982. In the meantime, just a couple of questions concerning two people: Balazs who made a comment on your blog, and Lorenzo whom you met in Washington. Is Balazs the nice guy who studied at our department, wrote an interesting paper on iron ore mining in Liberia, and was a very good tennis player, former member of the Hungarian Davis Cup team? And is Lorenzo the easy-going and charming man Lorenzo Brown who also studied at our department, and took one and a half Ph.D. course for me? If so, I send them my regards and hope they read this. Some other people went from Stockholm to Berkeley. First of all Bent Hansen, who held a professorship at our department two or three years but never showed up, and had been my boss at Konjunkturinstitutet in Stockholm. He became professor at Berkeley, and was chairperson at the Dept. of Economics for a number of years. I liked him very much, and he was a very good economist. He is dead now. Franz Ettlin left our department for Berkeley, but I didn’t have any contact with him when I was at Berkeley. I think he came from Switzerland. Maybe he is still around. Then there is Roland Artle from the Stockholm School of Economics, who became professor in Göteborg, then moved to Berkeley to occupy a chair in economics in the Business School. A very nice person who is still around, as far as I know. With all this, I don’t mean, of course!!!, that you should try to take any contacts, I just mention these people because they belong to the joint academic history of Stockholm and Berkeley.

Your long walks in the wonderful open areas outside Berkeley made me make a comment on the value of such things, and compared with “Nationalstadsparken” in Stockholm and some other places. I am very interested in such matters and therefore I tried to challenge our friend Richard on it as he is the Chairperson of that Park. Richard has now written a very nice and interesting comment, and asked us to suggest other examples. Here is what I think is the most perfect one of all: Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. A big chunk of unspoiled Scottish Highlands preserved close to the city center. Another very fine place is the hilly forest/park just East of the city center of Nanjing in China, including the Ming tombs in the middle. I hope they haven’t filled the area with skyscrapers since I was there, you never know with China.


Emil Ems said...

Dear Jacques,
It pleases me that the Commission Photoclub still watches out for me. Your comments on my photos are the more welcome, since coming from an expert! I would appreciate your passing on the blog address to other members of the Club, if you would find it to be of sufficient interest to them.

Dear Eugen,
This is a rare pleasure to hear such nice words from another old schoolmate from way back in Graz in the fifties and early sixties. I will certainly continue my exercises and hope that they will be as agreeable to you as the 12 blog postings already published.

Dear Markus,
In view of the ancient charms of the last sovereign remainder of the Holy Roman Empire, surpassing anything I could possibly experience here in this much younger continent, albeit not country, I am impressed that you show such interest in my small endeavors here. Thank you kindly for your invitation to revisit the charming Principality, I will be pleased to do so in the future; there is still the challenge of mounting the "Hoher Kasten" from the Rhine Valley side awaiting me.

Dear Lars,
I am very glad that you can benefit from my humble hiking tour re Spruce. The sequel will be next in line, I promise you, although there is still some basic research to carry out before I can put it on the blog.

Balazs is, unfortunately, not the person you had in mind. He is a good friend, a good deal younger than myself, from my time at the Commission in Brussels. In contrast, Lorenzo is precisely the nice guy you taught in Stockholm in the late seventies and he is as charming and friendly as ever. You can now see him in a picture that I managed to put into the posting that deals with him ("Meeting an old friend").

Bent Hansen I had the pleasure of meeting when I was in Berkeley for a short stay in 1981. I then told him that his presentation of ends vs means in his book on macro-economic theory was an enlightenment for me and he seemed pleased to hear that. God bless his soul!

It pleases me that you recall our good friend Franz Ettlin. In fact, I met him several times and in several countries after his sad "Goodbye" to Sweden. To my surprise I stumbled on him here in Berkeley, of all places, in the same year I visited Bent. He lived then with his sister in Walnut Creek. I had a charming luncheon with him and Laurence Klein, the co-ordinator, if I recall it right, of the global project, the Swedish part of which Franz was responsible for.

Next time I saw him was 10 years later at a meeting with Working Party #1 at the OECD in 1991 where I represented EFTA and he the Swiss National Bank. A year later we met in Zürich at a Conference and he again invited me to a luncheon at a fabulous place in the countryside. He was by then Scientific Adviser to the Bank. I googled him up today but could only find out that his latest publication, on the Swiss Economy in the 'nineties, was issued in 2001. As one of the authors, he was presented as "Scientific Adviser Emeritus" (Wissenschaftlicher Berater der Schweizerischen Nationalbank in Ruhestand"). I have contacted the Bank today to get his e-mail adress. I am sure he would be pleased to read about himself in these comments!

Harry Pottol said...

Dear Emil,

Oh, how your pilgrimage did resonate with me! In Berkeley, I grew up, became mobile on a bicycle, and learned to drive. I left before I was 30, and that is a long time to forget. But the shock! I was not aware of North Gate! I am closely connected with a young woman who is graduating, and who lived in an apartment in that block of Euclid, but I have not been there in recent years.

I went to the predecessor of Willard Middle School at Stuart and Tell-a-Giraffe. Google satellite shows the old buildings are gone.

The full address of the photo is 2038 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA. If you put that in Google Maps and ask for street view, you will see the brick wall on the right (complete with scar) and the utility pole. You can also find, on the street side of the sidewalk, the driveway used by the 1929 Ford (rear view) alongside of the wall. The house is replaced by a parking lot.

The picture shows my mother and grandmother. My brother and I are visible on the wooden scaffold on the left. We were painting the house. My dad built the wooden scaffold. The uprights were six meters.

The house on the left was demolished in 1940 and replaced by a Safeway store and parking lot, facing on Shattuck Avenue. My parents sold out in 1959 and Berkeley Toyota came in. Their showroom was built on Safeway's parking lot and their service facility went into the store building. The Google street view shows that they now use the building on the right for service.

Emil Ems said...

Dear Harry,
I was thrilled by this information. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of putting a picture into a comment. However, the second part of my pilgrimage will deal with the journey back to Stuart, and that part is not yet published. With your permission, I will put your photo into that posting and maybe complement it with a new picture of the site, as it looks now.

As an aside, the middle of Shattuck Avenue, a little further south from your place, experienced some excitement the other day. I won't disclose here what happened but you, as well as the other readers of this comment, will be able to read and see all about it in my second blog on the Spruce mission. Watch out for that sequel!
- Show quoted text -

Lorenzo Brown said...

Hej, emil,
It has been fun following your blog. I am not much of an international guy these days, but you are bringing it all back. To Lars Werin, thanks for the kind words. Perhaps I will see you someday soon because Emil planted a thought in my head—that I should come back to Stockholm for a visit. Meanwhile, I am having fun with life, and with these blog entries.
Lorenzo Brown

Emil Ems said...

Dear Lars,
Bättre sent än aldrig!
In my earlier response to you on this post I mentioned that I would try to get hold of Franz Ettlin's present whereabouts. I did not have any luck with my efforts, when staying in Berkeley. But fate moves in mysterious ways.

At a party with former EU employees recently I met a lady of our mature age that had worked as librarian, not only at the university in Stockholm, but also at the Zentralbibliotek in Zürich. She did not recall Franz' address but promised me to investigate. Yesterday I got an address from her, where a Franz Ettlin was listed in the village of Kerns in Kanton Uri, Switzerland. This turned out to be the wrong Franz.

Encouraged by her efforts, I contacted Franz' co-author of his 2001 paper, who is working at the Swiss Government and, voilà, a couple of hours ago I got Franz' good address and phone number. I will send it to you in a separate e-mail. I had him on the phone briefly and he is in good health and sends his regards to all his former colleagues, in particular you Lars and Per, whom I mentioned in our conversation.