Dick Hafner: From Sproul Hall to vineyards

unnamedDick and Mary Hafner (center) with the Hafner Vineyard family and crew.

By Sanam Patel, Development Staff

Driving  a vintage flatbed truck between rows of grape vines, Dick Hafner ’50 might seem a world away from Sproul Hall, where he served as a university spokesperson from 1961-86, but his  Healdsburg ranch, grape cultivation and wine making are as much a part of the California story as Cal.

Hafner was one of the thousands of World War II veterans pursue a college degree after the war. Cal’s academic program was tough, and he described how he was lucky to earn a “Gentleman’s C.”

“That’s a phrase from out of the past,” he said. “A Gentleman’s C meant that they were people who just got C’s because they were busy being gentlemen — carrying on and having fun. They weren’t serious scholars, and they spent a lot of time pursuing social pursuits.”

When he was at the Daily Cal, Hafner worked his way up through multiple positions from freshman editor, to senior night editor, and eventually the editor in chief. “The Daily Cal  introduced me to the university and the ideas of the university at an intimate level. The other thing it did was that it really gave me a lot of my early journalism training.”

He met and married Mary Hagar, the daughter of Gerald and Ella Barrows Hagar. Her family resided in Berkeley for well over a century and was closely involved with the University. Mary died in 2017.

Hafner, 92, worked at the Oakland Tribune, the Hayward Daily Review and as a freelance reporter in Southeast Asia.

In 1961, he returned to the university as a public affairs officer. His relationships with the media, including the Daily Cal, were legendary. “Sometimes it was negatively, and many times positively,” he said. “We had battles over the editorials and their viewpoints. Occasionally, we had battles over news stories that we felt were inaccurate, as we were representing the administration.”

Political rallies were almost unheard of when Hafner was a student in comparison to the crowds they draw today. In 1949, his senior year, the Board of Regents ordered a loyalty oath from the faculty in response to perceived Communist threats. The loyalty oath essentially made faculty swear their allegiance to the state constitution and deny any support for organizations that wanted to subvert the U.S. government and its democratic structure. Rather than physically participating in these protests, Hafner reported on this issue and wrote anti-oath editorials. He particularly recalls the day the Board of Regents decided to not take action against those who refused to sign the oath. On this day, he recalled Regent Lawrence Mario Giannini standing up and banging of the table and saying to the Regents, “Gentlemen, the flags will fly in Moscow!”

“That was wonderful,” said Hafner. “Mr. Giannini was afraid the Communists would take over.” Giannini was the son of Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini.

Hafner reminisced about the memory of UC President Bob Sproul introducing the new football coach as an “SOB” which he then clarified to be “son of a bishop” to a crowded Greek Theater.

He also spoke with excitement about the card stunts organized by the Rally Committee in the football stadium. “Some of them got pretty complex,” he said, “They went to where they could have people change cards, which made horses gallop and ducks swim and things like that. It was pretty snazzy.”

Hafner also recalled the day President John F. Kennedy spoke at Charter Day.  “It filled most of the stadium except for a number of sections that the FBI closed off to prevent snipers.”

Hafner’s 51-year-old winery has become a California institution, with his sons, daughter-in-law and granddaughter actively involved.

He’s an Old Blue, but he keeps his distance. “I’m busy raising wine grapes in Sonoma County,” he said, “The vineyard is a long way from Sproul Plaza.”

From the Archives: Summer of Love

Country Joe and the Fish was formed in Berkeley in 1965. The psychedelic folk rock band debuted its first album on May 11, 1967. Its anti-war lyrics and free love rhythm made the record  soundtrack for what would later be named the Summer of Love. In a three-part series published in May 1967, The Daily Californian interviewed the band members and other members of the Berkeley community and discussed Berkeley’s hippie movement and its effects on the past, present and future social structure of society.

“There definitely is a new social movement — based on humanism,” said Country Joe and the Fish drummer Gary Hirsh in a 1967 interview with the Daily Cal. “The ideas, though have been around for a long time.” 

Barry “The Fish” Melton added, “Cal’s had hippies for years. They just weren’t called that.” Melton now plays in a band called The Irish Newsboys, which is made up primarily of journalists, including Daily Cal alum Steve Rubenstein.

“There definitely is a new social movement — based on humanism” – Gary Hirsh

While the summer of ’67 is usually remembered as all-loving and peaceful, the Daily Cal archives revealed a different perspective. The three-part Berkeley hippie movement series, written by staff writer Carol Matzkin, discussed the world hippies had created for themselves and what different members of the UC Berkeley community felt about it.

1967, The Daily Californian

“I don’t see that the hippies add anything to the campus community,” said special assistant to the dean of students and campus policeman James Sicheneder. Matzkin reported that Sicheneder was frequently called upon to ask hippies to leave the campus. Behind the world of “love and flowers” for the hippies stood acid and pot. Arrests for marijuana in Berkeley increased by 104 percent for adults between 1960 and 1966. In 1966, 474 people were reported to be arrested on narcotics charges. Berkeley police and campus representatives didn’t see the Summer of Love as the feel-good time it’s described to be.

A Bank of America branch manager and a menswear shop owner also were not feeling the love. The branch manager commented, “Although the hippies haven’t hurt us personally, the publicity of the hippy movement has had a little bit of an adverse effect on the area of the city as a whole.” The shop owner added, “(The hippies) harm the Avenue more than anything. We used to be jammed, but people from the area would rather not come.”

Matzkin noted, however, that while some shops were unhappy that hippies were scaring away prospective customers from outside the community, others were unhappy with the tourists that converged on Telegraph Avenue each weekend.

Although each business embraced the movement differently, they all agreed that television had been a major cause of the movement. The article explains that the movement had taken beatnik dissatisfaction and made it into a movement. “When you see a film of Vietnam, it is real — it affects you directly,” a Telegraph Avenue sandal maker said. “A newspaper just could never get anyone emotionally involved the way television can.” Matzkin noted that mass media brought to youth an increased awareness of world problems such as the constant threat of atomic war.

“The hippies have found a chance to study their lives, past and present, from a vantage point it would be hard to get any place else,” an article in a 1967 Alumni Association magazine said. “They are really lonely people. People think it’s a wild, libertine existence. But what the public sees is really the pleasures of the poor — drinking, sex and folk songs.”

Matzkin said “straight society” was not pleased with the hippie image. The Daily Cal’s three-part series revealed that citizens in 1967 disapproved of the events around them that are celebrated today, and that the movement had two sides — dismissed by some as hedonism, a cesspool of acid and pot and proponent of crime.

One of UC Berkeley’s own students, Owsley Stanley, however, was among the first to mass-produce more than a million doses of LSD after poring over journals and chemistry books over three weeks in Doe Library. He made LSD for stars of the San Francisco music scene, such as the Grateful Dead — and while the Summer of Love was much more than the euphoric powers of LSD, it definitely contributed to changing people’s sensibilities and planting ideas of larger themes such as peace, feminism and environmental movements.

Matzkin interviewed assistant professor of sociology Benjamin Zablocki, who spoke in support of the hippie movement and predicted, “In five years it will be the dominant teen-age sub culture.” He talked about the power of drugs and how “the myth of LSD, more than the drug itself has injected a factor of hope into the movement.” This reflected the optimism and sentiment that anything was possible, which drove thousands of people to converge at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco to drop out of mainstream lifestyle and embrace the counterculture that was taking over while the rest of the country watched it unfold.

Zablocki also predicted that the use of drugs could result in the hippie movement moving in one of two ways: to either youth fascism or a new type of society. He gave the movement five years to show the direction that it would be going.

The professor described Telegraph Avenue as a street of drifters where students mingle with university drop-outs and teenage girls who wanted to be hippies.

A sandal shop owner noted, “People feel the unique world they’ve created on Telegraph Avenue will not be left behind as hippies grow older.” Even today, Telegraph Avenue retains a glimmer of its previous vibe. Music stores with their discount CDs and records, tattoo and piercing parlors and smoke shops shadow the few chain stores closer to campus as 50 years later, Berkeley remembers the Summer of Love.

Dr. Carol Orsborn is now editor-in-chief of Fierce with Age, the Digest of Boomer Wisdom, Inspiration & Spirituality. She is a veteran journalist and author having begun her career as a columnist writing about the Boomer generation for the Chicago Daily News and San Francisco Chronicle. She now blogs regularly for Huffington Post, NPR’s Next Avenue and others.

2017 Alumna of the Year: Ellen Nakashima

News editors make the argument every semester at info sessions: apply to the Daily Californian, even if you’re a rising senior. One semester could make an impact for years to come.

Case in point: Ellen Nakashima, a 20-year veteran reporter at the Washington Post, didn’t join the Daily Cal until the summer after she’d graduated in 1984. Nevertheless, it was here that she got her first taste of journalism, where she said “the bug bit,” launching a reporting career that would span the globe.

After breaking huge scandals that have shaken the White House to its core, she’s been named as the paper’s 2017 alumna of the year by the Daily Californian Education Foundation.

Faced with a slow summer in 1984, Nakashima joined as a staff writer and later served a brief stint editing the paper’s international page. She remembers fondly what quickly became a news-packed year.
Berkeley was as much in the center of the national discussion then as it was today. The community was alive with anti-apartheid boycotts, and everyone from students to professors to politicians was taking part. Nakashima’s beat made her a frequent attendee at Zoning Adjustments Board and Planning Commission meetings, regarded today as a rite of passage for new reporters. She recalls that year’s city council race, like this past year’s, was particularly exciting.
It was also a year, with Walter Mondale challenging President Ronald Reagan, and choosing Geraldine Ferraro as the first female running mate of a major party ticket. One of Nakashima’s favorite moments was being present at the World Affairs Council covering the event where the historic announcement was made.
“It was exhilarating,” she said. “All of that in one short year that I was actually at the Daily Cal.”
Nakashima decided next to take a break from journalism, the idea being to travel Europe or Costa Rica. Coasting on the dollar’s favorable exchange, she hitchhiked across Europe. When she lost her return ticket home, she decided to stay.
“I was having such a great time in Italy,” she said. “It was so beautiful, why don’t I stay here for awhile and maybe earn some money for a return ticket home? And instead I fell in love,” she said.
Five years and a master’s degree in journalism later, she returned to the U.S. with the aim of someday going back abroad as an international correspondent. As she built up a portfolio reporting metro from Boston and Hartford, she took Arabic lessons angling for a position in Cairo.
Instead, she was offered a position in the Post’s Southeast Asia bureau in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was 2002, in a critical moment for the rise of Islamic extremists groups in the region following the September 11 attacks and the start of the Iraq War. Her husband, Alan Sipress, a former correspondent in the Middle East whom she met through the Post, joined her in Jakarta.
“We had never thought about [going there], but we thought about it and said, ‘Hmm this could be interesting,’ ” Nakashima recalled.
It was an eventful four-year tour, during which Nakashima would frequently fly to the southern Philippines or Thailand to cover stories. At the same time, bird flu and fears of a SARS pandemic tore through the region. Then in 2004, Indonesia was hit with one of the deadliest recorded natural disasters, the Indian Ocean Earthquake.
“There was bird flu, SARs, the tsunami,” Nakashima remembered. “Wars, pestilence, and terrorism.
After her tour ended, Nakashima returned to the Post to report on privacy and technology, helping bring government programs of widespread surveillance into the mainstream. She currently resides in Washington D.C. with her Sipress,  the Post’s National News Editor, and their daughter.
She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2014 for reporting on widespread federal government surveillance programs and policy changes resulting from leaks by Edward Snowden. The relentless pace of news and the political climate, particularly under the Trump administration, has made journalism increasingly a team effort, Nakashima said. In the past year, often with colleagues Craig Miller and Adam Entous, she broke the story of the Russian government hack of the Democratic National Committee. She brought to light information on exchanges between officials of Russia and the Trump administration, including those that led to the forced resignation of Mike Flynn.
Nakashima said the Post’s edge over other news outlets comes from the strength of the relationships they’ve built over the years with senior sources. But with the increased use of anonymous sources comes a painstaking effort to ensure their accuracy. If one reporting team member picks up a tip, for instance, colleagues cast a wide net to double and triple check.
“You don’t want to risk getting something wrong, which would enable critics, the president, to say ‘You see, this is fake news,’ ” Nakashima said.  “You don’t want to fuel that type of criticism so we’re under intense pressure to corroborate information.”
In her contact with the White House while reporting on national security,  Nakashima noticed a definite change in the tone of interactions with the Trump White House, which is “so chaotic right now” with a number of competing factions and power centers.
Nevertheless, she’s optimistic about where journalism is headed compared to five or six years ago, buoyed by talented young reporters and, at the Post, the “shot of energy” from new owner Jeff Bezos.
“If you put all the stories together, it’s a pretty impressive body of investigative work of journalism,” Nakashima said, referring to the current news landscape. “We’re also doing the investigation at the same time as in fact the Hill is and the special counsel is, and I haven’t seen anything like that before.”
Nakashima will be honored at a reception in Berkeley on Oct. 14, and will be the keynote speaker at a Daily Californian alumni event Oct. 20 in Washington, D.C.

From the Archives: Journalists in Love

By Mahira Dayal, Development Staff

For some of us, The Daily Californian is a go-to source for independent reporting on anything Berkeley-related. For others, however, the Daily Cal is synonymous with love. For this special newsletter, we spoke to couples who met and fell in love while working at the Daily Cal.

In December, Sarita Henderson Smedberg, the first female editor in chief of the Daily Cal (summer of 1940), died at the age of 99. She had met her husband, Renwick Smedberg,when they both worked at the Daily Cal. The two were married for 75 years before Renwick died earlier in 2017 at 100 years old.

“She loved to tell the stories of her past. And, you know, she did a wonderful job of that,” said Laurel Smedberg Ludden, their youngest daughter. “So we enjoyed hearing all the stories of the people in her past, and it was a long past, so there was a lot for her to tell us about.”

This news inspired us to talk to other Daily Cal couples:

Don Lattin (‘76 reporter, night editor, editorial page editor and city editor) and Laura Thomas (‘74 reporter, assistant managing editor and staff representative)

How did you meet?

In the fall of 1973, Laura was just back from her junior year abroad in Italy. I was a sophomore. I was the night editor at the paper, responsible for getting the headlines written and working with the back shop to paste up the pages. (This was back in the typewriter days. The production was photo offset.)

We worked together and then were in a “lovers” relationship (we didn’t use the word “dating” anymore as that had become old-fashioned) for about six months before I took off for my junior year abroad in England in the fall of ’74. I got back from Europe about a year later. Meanwhile, Laura graduated and got her first job on the Davis Enterprise as the “society editor,” which seemed like a funny assignment for Laura the radical feminist.

What happened after?

We stayed in touch as friends, and both wound up marrying someone else for about 15 years. Laura had two daughters from that marriage. We both got divorced in the mid- to late-1990s, and revived our relationship when we both wound up working at the corner of Fifth and Mission streets in San Francisco — Laura as a copy editor at the San Francisco Examiner and me as the religion writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.

We got married in 2003, which proves that:
1) Old flames never die.
2) We have trouble meeting new people.
3) A combination of the two.

Did you have double bylines? What are the best/worst assignments you did together? 

Not at the Daily Cal. But we did have a blast working together for the Chronicle in Rome in 2005 when I was there covering the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of the new pontiff. Laura is fluent in Italian, and I was semi-fluent in the workings of the mysterious Vatican, so we were quite a team.

We didn’t really work on a story together, but we did have a somewhat infamous experience with the Patty Hearst kidnapping saga.

On the evening of Feb. 4, 1974, we were working at the paper and heard that there was some unusual police activity over on Benvenue Avenue near College Avenue. I sent a reporter over there, who came back and told me that it was just a “domestic dispute.” The cops and the Hearst family were trying to keep a lid on the story, which was not in the morning papers, supposedly to protect Patty, but the result was that that afternoon the Examiner broke the story. We wouldn’t have honored that agreement and could have been the ones to break the story.

The next morning, Laura was one of the first people in the newsroom when the AP wire machine rang five bells, indicating that a major story was about to come over the wire. So Laura and Dave Flores, the managing editor, were standing over the machine as it typed out “U-R-G-E-N-T … B-E-R-K-E-L-E-Y …”

We were standing there and saw the story come about Patricia Hearst, a sophomore at Cal being kidnapped from her apartment the night before. We were stunned and said, “Oh, shit.” We didn’t know that she was a student on campus, but we knew we missed a huge story.

How did the Daily Cal impact your relationship and marriage?

We caught the tail end of the whole ‘60s counterculture scene at Berkeley, which was really from 1964 to 1975, so that is part of our shared history. It also gives us something to argue about. It was the Daily Cal that launched both of our lifelong newspaper careers. Having just seen the movie, “The Post,” we were reminded about how lucky we are to have started out in the eraofWatergate, when journalists were heroes and newspapers were seen as beacons of truth — even when they weren’t.

Valerie Woolard (‘11 reporter, ASUC beat reporter, assistant university news editor, assistant development editor, opinion editor, blog editor) and Raj Srinivasan (‘11 arts reporter, assistant arts editor, arts editor, editor in chief)

How did you meet? 

We met when we were in high school, but we started dating in college and joined the Daily Cal at the same time shortly thereafter. I was a news reporter and Raj was an arts reporter. We got married in August 2016.

Did you have double bylines? What are the best/worst assignments you did together? 

I don’t think we ever had a double byline, but I went to lots of concerts and shows with Raj that he wrote about. I don’t think he ever got any fringe benefits from my news reporting. I was the ASUC reporter one semester, and he would stay in the office late into the night waiting for ASUC meetings to wrap up (which they sometimes didn’t until the next morning).

After finishing our work at the paper in the evenings, we liked to go to Nation’s Giant Hamburgers on University Avenue and order breakfast food (twoegger, eggs scrambled, no meat and toast for me).

I saw a lot of good theater as Raj’s plus-one. We also walked through some questionable neighborhoods late at night to get to concerts. We also had great times just hanging out at the office.

What happened next?

After UC Berkeley, I got a job in the Silicon Valley, and Raj went to law school at UC Davis. We saw each other most weekends, but then Raj transferred to the University of Chicago. After a year, I started graduate school in Chicago too, and we moved in together. From there, we moved to Los Angeles and then to Washington, DC.

How did the Daily Cal impact your relationship and marriage? 

We have a lot of fond memories of the Daily Cal and a lot of mutual friends that we met at the Daily Cal. Working there definitely made us closer.

Ellen (‘67 reporter) and David Newman (‘67 reporter, night editor, assistant city editor, editorial page editor and managing editor)

How did you meet? 

David was amazed that the newspaper showed up every day and wondered who could possibly be behind it. A friend, Jim Branson, was at the Daily Cal, so David joined in his second semester of sophomore year. Ellen transferred in from UCLA, and they met somewhere across the city desk.

“David was sort of snarky,” Ellen said. “All newspapers used to be snarky, and there was a tremendous amount of guy stuff going on — it was like a fraternity with words.” David’s first thought about Ellen, on the other hand, was that she was smart, a good writer and cute. They went to the movies for their first date.

Memories from the Daily Cal?

The cumulative experience, day after day, was crafting a product that was well-respected and well-known throughout the campus community.

Ellen had a car, and so she would drive down to the printer with the guys. “They were like, ‘No, turn left, turn right, turn left!’ ” she said. “I didn’t grow up with brothers, so I wasn’t used to their teasing.” Later on, someone accused David of favoritism editing her pieces, and she ended up taking a job filing and doing administrative work instead of writing, which she remembers as a terrible decision but the only feasible one at the time.

David got to edit work by Jann Wenner, the co-founderand publisher of Rolling Stone. He wrote at the Daily Cal under a pseudonym that initialled “LSD,” about the drug and music scene, which he moved right over to the Rolling Stone.

Even though the Daily Cal wasn’t independent at the time, normal reporting was thorough and unrestrained. They were not prevented from honestly reporting university matters, and they only remember being called out for specific — usually sexual — things and vocabulary.

Did you have double bylines? What are the best/worst assignments you did together? 

There were no double bylines, because David was an editor. There were some interesting things that happened on campus at the time. A faculty member’s wife wrote a letter to the editor about students hitting on the faculty member. It became a big story, and there were dozens of responses to the letter. There was also lots of Free Speech Movement coverage. There was no violence until after they graduated, but there were frequent demonstrations on campus.

What happened after?

David recently retired after 43 years as an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission. His work there included both consumer protection and antitrust investigations and cases. He appeared in court on a number of occasions.

Ellen went to journalism school and studied documentary film production. She did public relations work for the San Francisco Zoo, Jewish Family and Children’s Services and the San Francisco Design Center. She also does communications work for their synagogue, Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. Ellen recently launched her travel and photography blog Hidden-inSite.

How did the Daily Cal impact you? 

Ellen and David do partnerships well — something they credit to the Daily Cal — which came in really handy later when David became president of their synagogue. They started a communications program through it and worked well editing it together.

They also do fun things related to journalism. The Daily Cal impacted them “in weird ways.” They once made a mock newspaper as a present for Ellen’s dad’s 80th birthday, in which they all wrote stories about him, and made a movie. They still have the mock newspaper.

“What I learned from the Daily Cal is all I ever really learned in college,” said David. “I learned to investigate, find out what facts really are and do something which is convincing but not strident. Law isn’t very different.”

“The Daily Cal and journalistic training is extremely important; it’s as important as training a doctor. Even though it might not feel that way, the world needs really good, honest journalists. Desperately,” said Ellen. David added: “One of the most critical issues, especially in American politics is that people don’t know how to tell whether something is true or not. Truth tests are different for different professions and journalism has a discipline for knowing whether something is true or not, and how to ask the right questions to know whether something is true.”

Alumni Spotlight: Libby Rainey

Libby Rainey, ’16, a Daily Cal reporter and editor, decided to focus her thesis on the Berkeley roots of Joan Didion’s career. Prior to becoming a renowned journalist and author, Didion was a special issue editor at The Daily Californian and worked for the Occident. Rainey, whose parents Alison Bell and Jim Rainey met at the Daily Cal, is doing graduate work in England. Here is an excerpt from Rainey’s thesis, “The Education of Joan Didion: Her Uncollected Works and What They Tell Us (2016).”

(Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Rainey ’16)

Joan Didion arrived at UC Berkeley in the spring of 1953, where she joined an influx of students, both female and male, contributing to the massive and rapid growth of the campus. Berkeley’s enrollment had more than doubled in the late 1940s, and was still on the rise. Administrators implemented rapid construction projects to accommodate for this growth – expanding the campus south and into Telegraph Avenue in order to make more room. Indeed, Dwinelle Hall, a massive building with a maze-like layout, opened just before Didion began her college career.

The campus appeared bustling and traditional to a young Didion, who had just missed a loyalty oath scandal that led 31 faculty members and dozens of employees to their dismissal. Perhaps due to this deliberate silencing of insubordinate voices, Didion remembers most Berkeley students as politically quiet. Two decades after her college years, she reflected:

“We were all very personal then, sometimes relentlessly so, and, at that point where we either act or do not act, most of us are still. I suppose I am talking about just that: the ambiguity of belonging to a generation distrustful of political highs, the historical irrelevancy of growing up convinced that the heart of darkness lay not in some error of social organization but in man’s own blood.”

The civil stillness on campus lent itself remarkably to school spirit and a lively student life. Didion’s peers confined their engagement for the most part to the campus, which was populated by some 11,000 undergraduates. Student organizations were bustling and collegiate fun was serious business; sophomores were intent on hazing the freshmen, and fraternity and sorority life dominated the social scene.

(Joan Didion, middle row, far right, poses for her Tri Delt yearbook photo)

Outnumbered two to one by male undergraduates at Berkeley, Didion did what was only natural for a girl from upper class Sacramento with no housing plans to do: when she arrived at Berkeley she rushed a sorority. At the time, the university offered no high-rise dormitories, so the fraternities and sororities offered prime real estate for new students looking for a place to live. Of the 22 organizations available to her, she joined Delta Delta Delta, and soon moved in with the 62 other girls who lived at the house on 2300 Warring Street. She is barely recognizable in her sophomore yearbook photo, her short hair curling to nestle around her ears and a strand of pearls framing her crewneck sweater. She’s practically indistinguishable from her newfound sorority sisters, excepting the fact that her smile seems more reserved, her lips closed.

For the many Berkeley women who joined sororities, daily life entailed a flurry of dates and socials and football games — prerequisites to impending domestic life. Similarly, The Daily Californian’s regular “Woman’s Page” announced recent engagements and offered tips on dress design. Peggy LaViolette, a good friend and classmate of Didion’s, remembers spending many weekends at weddings. In those days, she said, everyone was looking for a “steady” — after four dates, it could be guaranteed that most people assumed a couple was dating seriously. “For a great majority of women, some married while they were in college and most married immediately following,” LaViolette said.

As a young woman of the 50s, Didion engaged in this world of courtship as much as the next girl, for a time. She had a “steady” — a boyfriend named Bob, whom she dated before and after a stint as a guest editor at Mademoiselle in the summer of 1955. Far from smitten, she considered him “boring.”

Didion began to detach from this narrative even as she was living it. She became more involved with her own writing and student publications, including The Daily Californian and the literary magazine, The Occident, her participation in the sorority waned. By her sophomore year, she moved out of the sorority house and into an apartment at 2520 Ridge Road. In her junior and senior years, she was not among the women photographed for the yearbook’s pages featuring the Tri Delts.

But despite Didion’s hesitance about sorority life and her seemingly deliberate separation from her domestic peers, it was her attention to the world of collegiate women — their styles and desires — that catapulted her writing career at Berkeley. She began working in her very first semester for The Daily Californian, where she co-edited a special spring fashion issue alongside Peggy LaViolette. Immersed in a world of impending weddings and social events dominated by courtship and custom, perhaps Didion found fashion writing to be her most immediately available creative outlet — a space where she could observe the feminine world around her from both inside and out. The spring 1953 fashion issue – her first writerly project at Berkeley – is a portrait of the complex female life Didion strove not only to describe, but also
to influence.

The 12-page edition’s front page displays a woman’s silhouette standing on top of the world. The figure’s heels touch delicately as she poses, holding an umbrella lightly in her gloved hands. Hoop earrings adorn her ears and her tiny waist is cinched. Her eyeless face looks straight at the reader from under a large hat. Beneath this image, cursive text declares: “It’s a Woman’s World.” The cover declares ownership of the world and its vast offerings, and yet the female figure standing on top of the globe is not the untethered woman, but rather a fashionable and controlled one. Her posed body suggests a woman’s power comes from appearance — the silhouette’s face is nothing but a shadow, a blank canvas dressed up by accessories. As it claims female autonomy, the cover also restricts it – the woman’s world, the illustration suggests, is a domain of fashion and appearances rather than interiority. In kind, the contents of the issue expand on how to perfect that appearance.

“We had great fun with it,” said La Violette of the issue, which came out May 13, 1953, at the end of Didion’s freshman year. “We did some fashion shoots, we did some promotion stuff, we both wrote captions.” Many of the articles within the edition are exactly what one might expect of an early-’50s fashion supplement: they delve into fashion trends and share tips in a conversational, woman-to-woman tone. “Slim figure will be required for this season’s styles,” one caption advises. Another observes that “Accessories, separates (help) vary costume.” Oversized ads for Roos Bros. feature smiling women in umbrella skirts.

Yet one article, buried at the very end of the supplement, points toward a different version of the “woman’s world” on Cal’s campus. The unattributed article, titled “Women students hold top posts in ASUC, greater than total enrollment justifies,” chronicles the many women in leadership positions across the campus. Specifically, it mentions  in the Associated Students of the University of California, the Women’s Athletic Association, Mortar Board, the Daily Californian, and the Blue and Gold yearbook, and even goes so far as to suggest that “The truth of the matter is that women are almost running this school. … Whether because they are better suited to it, or because they have more interest, is an unanswerable question.”

As a sub-headline in this story, “More Women Rulers,” suggests, the article provides a notable contrast to the hyper-domestic world that the rest of the fashion issue evokes. It suggests a certain tension in the internal lives of UC Berkeley’s women, who were exercising leadership and initiative on the campus but simultaneously expected to enter an outside world where they would be taking a backseat to their husbands. The fashion issue suggests that despite these successes, the women of UC Berkeley would be concentrating on perfecting their appearances to be more desirable under the male gaze and more suitable for their future husbands.

Still, Didion became one of these “women rulers” herself within the Berkeley publishing scene, again editing a spring fashion issue alongside LaViolette in 1954, this time writing stories as well. The 1954 special issue — themed “Campus Fashion is High Fashion” —  is littered with posed photos, ads and fashion advice much like the year prior. An advertisement for “JayVee sun ‘n fun wear!” accompanies sketches of women in sundresses, swimsuits, pajamas and coats. “Tan creates problems,” one article reads forebodingly. In the lower lefthand corner of the seventh page, a small square advertisement announces: “Diamonds: Engagement and Wedding Rings, Liberal Discounts to Students, Faculty, Employees”

Didion authored the lead article, a gloss of the campus’s Women’s Day, which coincided with the release date of the fashion issue, May 19. She writes with a brisk sense of authority and just a hint of irony, opening the piece, “Today is Women’s Day — the one day of the year on the University campus dedicated entirely to women, by women, for women.” She reviews the campus plans for the day ahead, including an orchid sale and fashion show. She writes that “anyone” can visit the Stephens Union for coffee and doughnuts before correcting herself: “Any woman, that is. All men must be accompanied by something female.” The piece is breezy and informative, but the phrase “something female” suggests a hint of subversion beneath Didion’s review of the day’s events. Her chiding humor insinuates that women’s day, with its fashion-focus and flowers and all, may truly be a commodification of women rather than a celebration.

The femininity Didion chronicles and the femininity the fashion issue presents are a superficial female world rather than one populated by ideas. A sly sense of irony is also on display in Didion’s second article for the issue, which discusses summer conferences for young writers across the country. “Summer is the time when writers and publishers confer. Apparently under some mystic compulsion, potential Katherine Anne Porters and Henry Luces rise from typewriters all over America at the sound of the first Midwestern locust,” she writes before summarizing some 40 different conferences. She concludes by encouraging her readers to apply: “Information on any or all of these special conferences may be obtained by writing the sponsoring college or university.” The article is, in some sense, nothing special — just a straightforward account of opportunities outside of Berkeley. But it stands out among the headlines that surround it — “Summer look for 1954 is sweater look,” “Mules, pancakes; New trends in shoes” — and offers up a hope that the women of Berkeley might apply to continue their professional progress elsewhere.

Though Didion didn’t attend these summer sessions herself, she was intent on furthering her own writing career beyond the small reach of Berkeley’s student publications. She was a “campus correspondent” for the Sacramento Union. Aiming for publication in the most prestigious magazines of the time, she sent pieces to Harper’s Magazine and The Atlantic, and then pinned up her rejection letters in her room at home in Sacramento when they came. She also continued to pursue a path in which she had already found success: fashion writing. In the fall of her sophomore year, she was one of 14 University of California female students appointed to Mademoiselle magazine’s college board. In the position, she kept the magazine updated on campus happenings and served as an ambassador of sorts for the fashion publication.

In her junior year, she applied for one of 20 summer guest editorship spots with the magazine. The application was poised as a competition: girls from around the country submitted writing assignments to the magazine in the hopes of scoring a position working with the magazine’s editors for a month to produce an August college issue. Didion applied to help oversee Mademoiselle’s fiction section. Her dear friend Peggy La Violette also applied, but for a marketing position. At the end of a lengthy application process, both girls were awarded positions — the first time in the contest’s history that two women from the same college were chosen. In May of 1955, Didion and La Violette caught the same flight to New York City, with stops in Dallas and Washington, D.C. along the way. Didion was terrified of flying — she shivered in her seat before they took off for the long journey east.

JFK Speaks at Charter Day

On March 23, 1962 –  55 years ago today –  Former president John F. Kennedy was the speaker at a packed Charter Day ceremony at Memorial Stadium.

“The New Frontier owes as much to Berkeley as it does to Harvard University,” Kennedy told the astoundingly large crowd of 88,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Kennedy spoke at the 94th Charter Day celebration, an event commemorating the university’s founding in 1868. He wasn’t the first president to speak at UC Berkeley, but he was the last sitting commander in chief.  His appearance drew unequaled throngs, barely 14 months into his presidency. That gorgeous spring afternoon was also the apex of Charter Day, which, like many campus traditions, began to fade in the 1960s.

Regardless of what was to come, The Daily Californian knew it was covering history.


Three staff members –  Jon Carroll, Tom Pittman and Len Goodwin –  were instrumental in that coverage. Here are their stories.

Carroll, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist for 33 years, was a general assignment reporter for the Daily Cal. Unlike the many security changes after Kennedy’s assassination, Carroll and many other students were steps away from the president.

“It happened in the football stadium, so it felt like a football game. There were streams of people walking all across campus and up Durant (Avenue),” Carroll recalls. “I was close to the podium, and had a nice view of Kennedy looking up. He just had that natural chemistry that some politicians have.”

While Carroll was inside the stadium, beat reporter Len Goodwin was covering the “successful” demonstrations that were happening outside. “The protesters were well received by the campus because there was a general understanding that everyone had a right to do what they were doing and that it was part of the process,” Goodwin explained. While the president was praising California and its many achievements, about 600 students were picketing at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue.

“Some reporters were tasked with interviewing the president, but I got the assignment of covering the protests because I had a fair amount of contacts on both sides,” Goodwin said. Goodwin’s article featured comments from Helen Sobell, the wife of a scientist accused of espionage, and several other groups that expressed the president’s faults.

Back inside the stadium, head photographer Tom Pittman was there to capture the event on a classic Speed Graphic 4×5 camera.

Wearing his Daily Cal press pass and standing next to veteran White House reporters, Pittman was only a few feet away from the stage when then UC president Clark Kerr awarded the president an honorary juris doctorate. “I had a region on the grass at the front of the chairs I was allowed to walk around in. I did that, and shot several pictures of various views,’’ Pittman said.

“There was an electric excitement on campus, a gay, light hearted feeling of expectation and joy.” Carroll wrote in the March 24 paper. “Even the vigilers, sitting quietly on Sproul Hall steps seemed to get the picture”

Of course, March 1962 was a far different era in politics, culture and just about everything else.

“The issues at the time were not that big. It just felt like, ‘Let’s get together and give him a nice welcome,’ ” Carroll said.

Goodwin concurred.

“It was damn near admiration, everyone loved him,” Goodwin said. He did note that although Kennedy won the 1960 election, he could tell “that this was the beginning of politicization on campus and across the community. (Student political groups) were only minor characters.”

That changed quickly.


Click below to view President John F. Kennedy speak at the 1962 Charter Day Ceremonies.


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