SENIOR POWER: Bells are Ringing…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:56:00 AM

In 1976 Margaret Elliot Murdock was interviewed about her father, printer Charles Albert Murdock (1841-1928), and early San Francisco and UC, B days for the Bancroft Library oral history program. From her responses, I have gleaned herstory. Part 1 (last week’s column) was mainly about her San Francisco childhood. Part 2 takes her to Berkeley and the University, and Part 3 (next week’s column) to the Sather Tower bells. 

Part 2  

I had gone to the normal school to earn money and taught about a year and a half before I came to college. I took the San Francisco Civil Service examinations as needed to be a permanent teacher there. After I graduated, I decided I preferred working on the campus. So I returned to the campus and have been here ever since, one way or another. 

Lucy Stebbins invited me to be in the Dean’s office. That was something that was kind of in the family tradition to be connected with the Stebbins family. I certainly enjoyed it. While I enjoyed teaching, I think I’ve been very lucky to be on the campus all these years. 

The dean of women’s office, in California Hall, handled for women: housing, and employment, and scholarships, and loans, and academic advice, and a little of everything that s now scattered all over the campus. There were just three people: Miss Stebbins, the Dean, and Mary Davidson, the Assistant Dean, and the office girl who handled the window and the correspondence, and a little of everything, so it was quite a responsibility. Next door were the dean of men’s office and across the hall, the registrar s office, and at the end of the hall was the president’s office and the comptroller’s office. Practically the whole university was handled from the second floor of California Hall.  

I stayed in Cal Hall for quite a while because I was moved into the president’s office as Assistant to the University Representative in Educational Relations, concerned with relations with junior colleges. That was centralized at that time in the president‘s office. Then we were moved over into the education department because we were mostly handling junior college staff to be sure that the University helped them get the best-trained people, whether they happened to be University of California graduates or not. So, that moved into a form of college placement office… from that I moved over into counseling and advising students, one thing sort of led to another. 

It was an interesting time to be in touch with the junior college movement and development. First of all from the job aspect and then later, the preparation for service in the California schools, because the state credentials seemed complicated to people who didn’t try to keep track of them. It was much easier to have the advice centralized so that people from other states who would ask about teaching in California, whether in elementary or college, or somewhere between, would come over to be told what the state requirements were. And the University students who wanted to go into teaching were sent over by their own departments. They knew what they wanted to major in but, for the getting ready for the certificate, the sequence of education courses, or the appropriate minors to go with their particular major was something else it was much easier for people to say, Go see Miss Murdock than to try to remember credential regulations. Or a student who had thought he wanted to go into medicine and weakened, needed to re-cycle his courses to be a science teacher with math on the side. 

I worked at the Women’s Faculty Club. I lived at the Women’s Faculty Club from [19]23 to 40 and was active on different boards and committees. So, I knew the Club, of course first through Miss Stebbins and Jessica Peixotto and the other founders. I was Miss Stebbins’ secretary when it was established. It gives me a real interest in the Women’s Faculty Club and pride in what the women have accomplished. Miss Patterson and Miss Hope Gladding both did a good deal in the early days on the furnishing and the general equipment of the Club. Many of those people collected oriental things that the Club naturally inherited. 

I think that while universities were never very cordial to women, the University of California reluctantly accepted a few more than others did, and they were fortunate in having some very fine people like Jessica Peixotto who certainly had plenty of brains established herself in the economics department and Miss Stebbins herself, and Dr. Agnes Fay Morgan and some of the other women who got the Club started were also people that the University had reason to be very proud of. 

The hospital services were much earlier than the Women’s Faculty Club. The Prytanean Society, back in the early 1900s, in fact, Dr. Mary Ritter and other women who were connected with student health. But I think Miss Stebbins and the dean of women’s office were concerned with women’s housing. There weren’t any dormitories at the time that I first worked in the dean of women’s office. It was something that was needed and they did a great deal for that. 

[The Prytanean Club invited Margaret to be an honorary member.] Yes, and that was, I guess, because I was working in the dean of women’s office and knew the people of that generation pretty well. It’s been a wonderful organization as far as service to the University goes.  

[In the summer of 1923, Margaret suddenly found herself a bell player of the Sather Tower] I never expected to find myself a bell player but I think that any of us who were on the campus in [19]17 and 18 were excited to be around when the tower was being built, when the bells were being installed, when we first heard them. So, before I took over from my friend, Edith Frisbee, I really had some interest but I never expected to be connected with them such a long time. I played more than three times a week. When I lived here at the Club, I’d chase over to play in the morning and right at noon. 

1923 was quite a year. I was living here at the Club and playing duets with my friend Edith Frisbee, who had been successful in a try-out for the bell ringer. So I didn’t try out; I just inherited her job and started in that summer.  

I was just finishing up her summer appointment under Dr. King but I think he found it handy to have a ringer who was living here, on the campus, and able to fill in for him on short notice if something happened in the morning he cut himself shaving, or his car wouldn’t start or … he’d ring here to the Club and I’d hurry up to the tower and do his morning assignment even if it wasn’t my regular day. That was the year that we played for President Harding, who died in San Francisco; we tolled the bell. That was the same year, of course, as the Berkeley fire for which we summoned the students…to get them to come and help. 

… a little later, in 1933 Harmon Gymnasium took fire. It was being torn down anyway. It was just a kind of a wreck. I was up in the tower and there were quite obviously some flames starting down there. So, Scotland’s Burning seemed an appropriate thing to play. A few years later Lindbergh flew west and President Campbell, being an astronomer and liking the skies, wanted people to be able to come and watch and see when he appeared. So I spent most of one Saturday morning up in the tower watching to see just when his plane appeared over Berkeley.  

It’s always been a kind of Box and Cox existence; if one’s there, the other isn’t. But Mr. King would make out the programs and I’d try to find in the miscellaneous music, just what he wanted me to play because it came out in the University Calendar. He loved to give me a hymn done by a composer [named] Redhead because I was a redhead and he thought that was very funny, to ask me to play some thing by a Redhead. 




On March 8, 2012, International Women’s Day, the President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser and the Secretary-General of the UN H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon jointly proposed the convening of a United Nations Fifth World Conference on Women in 2015, 20 years after the last women’s summit in Beijing. They hope that the international community in general would welcome this joint initiative and that the Member-States who have the final authority to convene the proposed conference would take the necessary steps during the on-going 66th session of the General Assembly. For entire Joint Statement: see 

Chicago Tribune’s John Hilkevitch reports that, in response to public outrage over "granny pat-downs," the Transportation Security Administration will ease screening procedures for airline passengers age 75+ at O'Hare International Airport. The new screening will also be tested at Denver, Orlando, and Portland International Airports. Individuals may still be required to remove their shoes and undergo a pat-down if anomalies are detected during security screening that cannot be resolved through other procedures. 

Prior to Super Tuesday, 15 national organizations representing the interests of senior citizens and individuals with disabilities and including the National Council on Aging (NCOA), invited presidential candidates to answer 5 questions about their views on long-term services and supports. The questionnaire was distributed to all major candidates for the Office of President of the United States, regardless of political party affiliation. Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum did not respond. Barack Obama and New Gingrich responded. See NCOA and candidates’ websites. 

This month, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders)'s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging released its first comprehensive guide for aging service professionals and agencies, offering a range of tools and tips on creating affirming services for LGBT older adults. Titled Inclusive Services for LGBT Older Adults: A Practical Guide to Creating Welcoming Agencies, this guide can help agencies foster a welcoming environment for many diverse populations, including LGBT older adults. Download a PDF of the guide, or request print copies.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR returns next week. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred.  


Sunday, March 18. 2 – 3:15 P.M. San Francisco Shakespeare presents Macbeth. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. The touring company presents a 55 minute production of the "Scottish play" with costumes, props, sets and recorded music. Stay for a Q&A session with the actors. 510-981-6100. 

Tuesday, March 20. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers general meeting. “Let's Talk about Taxes: Tax the 1%!” Location: Fireside Room, Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin St. (at Geary). 415-552-8800. 

Wednesday, March 21. 12:15 – 1 P.M. Noon concert, UC, B. Music Department. Hertz Concert Hall. UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, David Milnes, director. Weber: Bassoon Concerto, Drew Gascon, soloist. Debussy: Nocturnes. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, March 21. 7:00- 8:00 P.M. Albany branch library, 1247 Marin Av. Adult 

Evening Book Group: Pat Barker's Regeneration. When poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon writes a letter critical of England's efforts in World War I, he is sent to a mental hospital where Dr. W. H. R. Rivers tries to help patients express their war memories as a means of healing their "nerves." Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. 510- 526-3720. 

Friday, March 23. 12:15-1 P.M. Bustan Quartet. Free Noon Concert Series. Lecture/demonstration: Co-sponsored event: Highlights: Hertz Concert Hall. Visiting Israeli group demonstrates their work in crafting new means of musical expression from diverse resources. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.  

Saturday, March 24. Berkeley Public Library North Branch final open day for BranchVan Service at Live Oak Park. See April 7. 

Monday, March 26. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Book Club.  

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Current-March 30. “Berkeley Women Vote: Celebrating California Suffrage 1911-2011.” An Exhibit at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street. 510-848-0181. 

Tuesday, March 27. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St.,  

Tea and Cookies at the Library. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, March 28-April 1. ASA Aging in America Conference, Washington, DC. 15% off registration fees through March 21. Use discount code DCNCoa15 when you register. You also can save by signing up to volunteer at the conference. Go to NCOA website. 

Wednesday, March 28. 1:30 - 2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. 510- 526-3720. 

 Wednesday, March 28.  1:30 P.M.  Berkeley East Bay Gray Panthers.  North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner MLK.  Free.  510-548-9696. 
Wednesday, March 28. 2-3 P.M. Moraga Library. 1500 St. Mary’s Road. Join a Berkeley Rep Theatre-trained docent to talk about the latest production, John Logan's Tony Award-winning two-character bio-drama about abstract impressionist, Mark Rothko, that's been called a "master class of questions and answers." Free. 925-376-6852. 925- 254-2184 

Monday, April 2. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Saturday, April 7. 1 – 5 P.M. Berkeley Public Library North Branch, 1170 The Alameda. Grand Reopening Event. The final open day for BranchVan Service at Live Oak Park will be Saturday, March 24, 2012. Details at

Monday, April 9. 11:30 – 1:30 A.M. Older Adult Passover Seder. Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, Berkeley Branch 1414 Walnut Street. Kosher meal will include chicken and matzo ball soup, gefilte fish with horseradish sauce, fresh green salad w/ hard boiled eggs, roasted chicken, matzoh kugel, and wine. The Seder will be led by Ron Feldman. $10 JCC East Bay Member. $13 Non-Member. RSVP by March 29. Contact: Front DeskPhone: 510-848-0237. Email: 

Thursday, April 12. 7:00 P.M. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Folk singer Tim Holt performs and discusses our heritage of traditional songs and sea chanteys. Some favorites he will sing are "Shenandoah,? "The Erie Canal,? and Woody Guthrie?s "Talkin' Columbia" and "Roll On Columbia." Holt will include a song with his own original lyrics, "Sailing Down My Mountain Stream," adapted from a Pete Seeger song about cleaning up the Hudson River. His version focuses on a more recent effort to restore wild salmon to the upper reaches of the Sacramento River. Sponsored by the Friends of the El Cerrito Library. 510-526-7512. 

Saturday, April 14. Berkeley Public Library Claremont Branch’s final open day for BranchVan Service at St. John’s Presbyterian Church.  

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, an Associate with Legal Shield, will offer information and advice on how to prevent Identity theft and how to deal with it if it should happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. A DVD will be shown; Q&A will follow. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. 61 Arlington Av. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043.