If we are talking about bears, I guess that we have to expect the obligatory references to “The Bare Necessities” in Jungle Book, or for the more sophisticated “Teddy Bear Picnic” (and what better version could we hope for than the 1934 recording by Henry Hall and His Orchestra?). Okay. Obligatory references are done.
Obvious: we live in Berkeley.
Obviously: the University is a big part of our city and our life. And the logo is everywhere. With its bear.
Bears are so beloved at Cal that Cal’s Visitor Services office has developed a bear tour for special occasions. There are at least 27 bear images on and near campus. There was no master plan for all this bear sculpture, just spontaneous bear-gifting. The bears on campus include:
* The “Great Bear Bell” in the tower of the Campanile. Weighing 5.5 tons, it features artist Ruth Asawa’s bas-relief carvings of young bears. The bell tolls the hour and faces the constellation Ursa Major, or “Greater Bear,” that is The Big Dipper.
* Two small stone bears, their heads bowed in grief, carved on the back of a bench near the bell tower. The bench is a memorial to the UC Berkeley alumni and others who fought in World War I.
* “Les Bears,” a bronze sculpture by Dan Ostermiller of two cheerful bears. They sit back-to-back near the top of the main courtyard of the Haas School of Business.
* A set of 12 small bronze bears on the handles of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and a wooden carving of bears on the exterior wall of the nearby Bear’s Lair food court.
* A bear mural at Edwards Stadium, painted in 1933 by Dale Bogasky and measuring approximately five by seven feet.
* A topiary bear outside the north entrance to Alumni House.
* Bronze Russian black bear sculptures on the terrace between the Bechtel Engineering Center and O’Brien Hall. They were created originally by beaux-arts sculptor Edmund Schultz Beckum about 1915, commissioned by a Russian insurance company and installed first at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Connecticut. When the headquarters were demolished, a UC Berkeley alumnus acquired the bears and donated them to the campus in 1987.
* A 10-foot-tall bear sculpture on a stone and concrete pedestal northwest of Memorial Stadium.
And then a mile-plus north let’s find our way to Marin Circle.
The original bear fountain was built in 1911 and then leveled or rubbled by a runaway truck coming down Marin Street in 1958. The Daily Gazette of October 18, 1957, reported on the crash:
This is what the circle looked like in 1978, without the bears:
A neighborhood group, the Friends of the Fountain and Walk, raised the money to rebuild the fountain based on the original bear-centric design. It was dedicated in 1996. Julia and I and a few others were there at the dedication. Here we were:
It has cheered me every time I drive through the circle for 17 years. Cute little bears!
And then – carved bears:
The mother of all Berkeley bear carvings? Got to be 116 Southampton:
Yes, I agree, carved bears could be called kitschy. I judge less harshly. Carved tree trunks are not an art form that one expects in oh-so-hip Berkeley. And so, obviously, they are quirky.
Wood carved bears are not the only bears in Berkeley:
I still have lots of street-walking to do. I suspect that there are more bears. I will add them if there are. For now, though, end of bears.