31 July 2012

Guest Post: Melody on Telegraph Avenue, Part II

I'd like to thank Melody from Fingers & Prose, for submitting this guest post about the real Telegraph Avenue. If you don't already know her wonderful and varied book blog, I'd encourage you to take a look!  I meant to run this last week, but I am afraid I forgot.  But it was a fortunate mistake, in that it's really more appropriate to run this week, which is the wrap-up discussion for Michael Chabon's forthcoming novel, Telegraph Avenue, in which that eponymous street ends the book at center stage, perhaps the most important and consistent character in the book. 

A Brief History of Telegraph Avenue (courtesy of a jaunt through Wikipedia)
The Fox Theatre is located on the southern
end of Telegraph Avenue (photo credit)

The actual naming and forming of Telegraph Avenue goes back quite far (for California.)  In 1859, a telegraph line was constructed in Oakland that followed the route of the present day Telegraph Avenue.  The streets which ran alongside it were renamed The Telegraph Road.  Ten years later, Oakland's first horsecar line was built along this road, and it eventually extended to the UC campus in Berkeley.  In time, the horsecar line became an electric streetcar line; the ease of transportation stimulated growth and development along the avenue. 

Over the next century [roughly], the neighborhoods along Telegraph began to develop and grow.  When the Sather Gate was completed in 1913, Telegraph Avenue and Allston Way became a spot for student rallies. It took on added significance as a 'Hyde Park' in the mid-1930s.

Further additions to the university campus and transportation infrastructure brought Telegraph Avenue through into the 1960s, when the Berkeley end became the site of many protests and riots.  This tumult caused the area to be known as a symbol of the counterculture of the time.

The large student (and otherwise transient) population has been joined more recently by large Korean, Ethiopian, and Eritrean populations, stimulating the eclectic assortment of restaurants and other businesses.
Rally to oppose military conscription: Berkeley, September 1940
A website devoted to the area says "Telegraph is renown for its cultural diversity."  Not only is the area packed with unique and ethnic restaurants, but the streets are lined with art murals and craft vendors.  From book and record shops to tattoo parlors and smoke shops, there are plenty of interesting things to spice up the more common mix of stores.

There are many sites devoted to different aspects of Telegraph Avenue, showing that it truly is an area that has made an impact on many people. (I enjoyed looking at the photography of Joe Samberg--including the b&w photo below--some of the subjects are controversial, but there were others that provided an interesting look at the political rallies and confrontations of days past.)  It is quite apparent why this area would stimulate an author's imagination.  Learning about the area has been fascinating; actually living there must add a whole other [living, breathing] dimension.
courtesy of Joe Samberg Photography


  1. I wonder if we all have these kinds of streets in our neighborhood? For us, it's University Avenue. It's under major reconstruction at the moment to put in the light rail tracks. People are up in arms about this because these diverse businesses are struggling to stay in business through the lengthy construction process. I cross my fingers that when the light rail is in, it will become even a better street to submerse oneself in the diversity of my town.

  2. Holy buckets, Batman! I'm going to show this to my Dave the minute he gets home! He will be the man to chauffer me and my pint-sized pooch to Telegraph Ave. on Monday, so I'm rarin' to stoke his curiosity. Expect photos; my new dog CJ is quite the photogenic gal (and small but mighty); I will attempt to provide an appropriate human foil for her boundless moxxy and to offer some shots that will tweak the imaginations of the read-along bloggers.
    And I will stop by to say thanks to Melody too - I've long been an admirer of her blog.

  3. Hello There,
    I just wanted to see if you were currently interested in additional guest bloggers for your blog site.
    I see that you've accepted some guest posters in the past - are there any specific guidelines you need me to follow while making submissions?
    If you're open to submissions, whom would I need to send them to?
    I'm eager to send some contributions to your blog and think that I can cover some interesting topics.
    Thanks for your time,


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