How Quirky is Berkeley? Peace now!

Peace sign at Henry and Berryman Streets. Photo: John Storey.
Peace sign at 1301 Henry St., Berryman Street side of house. Photo: John Storey

As befits our city’s political past, Berkeley today is a bastion of peace iconography. The peace sign on the outside of the Hog Farm compound on Berryman shown above is only one of hundreds of signs, flags, and poles declaring our devotion to world peace. In fact, there is some irony in the ubiquitous peace iconography, for in the Vietnam war era there was a definite hierarchy of opposition to the war, ranging from the Peace Movement, to the Anti-War Movement, to the Anti-Imperialism Movement, to the outright calls for revolutionary change. As a whole, the radical politics of Berkeley in the Vietnam years were to the left of the kinder and gentler Peace Movement.

Be that as it may, peace symbols abound in Berkeley. The design that is seen above and that we consider the universal sign for peace was designed by Gerald Holtom for a 1958 nuclear disarmament march from London to Berkshire. It combines the semaphore signals for the letters “N” and “D,” which here stand for “nuclear disarmament.”

There are scores to be seen in Berkeley. We present a few here: 

1317 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: John Storey
1317 San Pablo Ave. Photo: John Storey
1200 Curtis Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell
1200 Curtis St. Photo: Tom Dalzell
1731 Parker Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
1731 Parker St. Photo: Tom Dalzell
1442 6th Street, back alley. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
1442 6th St., back alley. Photo: Tom Dalzell

From cinder block to wall — we have at least three peace walls in Berkeley. The main event of peace walls is the large wall in the Civic Center.


"Quirky Berkeley April 3, 2015"
Civic Center Peace Wall. Photo: John Storey

The wall was built in 1988. It is approximately 175 feet long, and more than 5,000 tiles, mostly made by Berkeley school children who are now approaching middle-age, are on display.

Civic Center Peace Wall. Photo: John Storey.
Civic Center Peace Wall. Photo: John Storey
Civic Center Peace Wall. Photo: John Storey.
Civic Center Peace Wall. Photo: John Storey
Civic Center Peace Wall. Photo: John Storey.
Civic Center Peace Wall. Photo: John Storey

There is a peace wall at Ashkenaz:

Peace Wall at Ashkenza, 1317 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: John Storey.
Peace Wall at Ashkenza, 1317 San Pablo Ave. Photo: John Storey

Space doesn’t permit photographs, but there is also the “Wall of World Peace” at 2516 Martin Luther King Jr. Way and a strong peace element in the postured fence surrounding 1034 Pardee St.

Moving from walls to flags, and starting with the classic hippie American flag meets peace movement:

"Quirky Berkeley-03/19/2015"
1232-1234 Channing Way. Photo: John Storey
1231 Curtis Street.  Photo: Tom Dalzell
1231 Curtis St. Photo: Tom Dalzell
111 El Camino Real. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
111 El Camino Real. Photo: Tom Dalzell

The rainbow peace flag is still there in Berkeley. It was first seen in a peace march in Italy in 1961, although earlier rainbow flags had been used in nuclear disarmament demonstrations, absent the “PACE”, Italian for “PEACE.”

101 Parkside Drive, Berkeley. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
101 Parkside Drive. Photo: Tom Dalzell
2027 Parker Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
2027 Parker St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

A third design is displayed in several Berkeley homes, the United Nations logo, a dove, and the word “peace” in many languages.

1237 Kains Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
1237 Kains St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

We have several dozen peace poles around the city. The official ones are designed and distributed by the World Peace Prayer Society, which estimates that worldwide there are 200,000 signs proclaiming “MayPeace Prevail on Earth” in multiple languages. There are a few in Berkeley. The most iconic peace pole is found, fittingly, in People’s Park. It was erected in Oct. 2003, donated by the Roots of Peace organization and sanctioned by the many entities with some claim to the turf and spirit of People’s Park. It is in the southeast corner of the park.

1320 Parker Street during 2013 Berkeley Path Wanderers Quirky Berkeley walk. Photo: John Storey.
1320 Parker St. during 2013 Berkeley Path Wanderers’ Quirky Berkeley walk. Photo: John Storey

Most peace poles have four sides, though some have eight, and are inscribed in different languages. The biggest bang-for-your-buck in terms of peace poles is in front of the International House at 2299 Piedmont Ave. — two poles, eight languages per pole.

Most, but not all of the official peace poles are white with black lettering.

2108 Eunice Street. Photo: John Storey.
2108 Eunice St. Photo: John Storey

Next door to this variation on an official pole is an unofficial peace pole (if there can be such thing):

"Quirky Berkeley-03/19/2015"
2112 Eunice St. Photo: John Storey

Throughout the city, we proclaim our support for peace in our windows.

11 Virginia Gardens. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
11 Virginia Gardens. Photo: Tom Dalzell
1208 Channing Way. Photo: Tom Dalzell.
1208 Channing Way. Photo: Tom Dalzell

The last stop of the Berkeley Peace Train is the intersection of Emerson and Adeline in South Berkeley, where you will find a color rendition of the black-and-white “Imagine” mosaic from Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York, based on a Greco-Roman design, a gift to New York from the City of Naples. The mosaic, which is near the Dakota Apartments where Lennon lived and died, celebrates his vision of world peace as heard in”Imagine.”

Emerson and Adeline Streets. Photo: John Storey.
Emerson and Adeline streets. Photo: John Storey

The Berkeley rendition honors Ignacio “Fito” Celedón who was murdered on that spot in September 2010. His fiancée, Amber Nelson, commissioned the painting and created a small beautiful planting along the sidewalk fence. What an amazing and personal plea for peace this is.

For a fuller treatment of peace iconography in Berkeley, see Tom Dalzell’s Peace posts at Quirky Berkeley.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.