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Billie Jean Walk

By ADAM RANEY Special to the Planet (10-24-03)

As Casen Maloy leisurely walks down Billie Jean Walk she is following a timetable controlled by a bus.

Maloy, a first year undergraduate at UC Berkeley, has lived on Hilldale Avenue since April, but only recently discovered the picturesque steps that connect Hilldale to Euclid Avenue.

Maloy, 19, with red hair and sunglasses, looked as if she was on her way to the beach. Instead, she was headed for the corner of Euclid and Marin where she had a date with the 65 University-bound bus.

She was taking part in a ritual that, although it isn’t as old as the hills, dates back to the development of Berkeley.

Electric trolleys ran on major streets from the late Nineteenth Century until the 1940s. Residents of the hills could walk down the paths to streets such as Euclid and Spruce to meet a trolley, much in the same way as Casen Maloy walks to the bus.

From Euclid, Billie Jean Walk begins with a steep set of steps that lead up to a sloping path. The path rises lazily upwards for about 15 yards before connecting with another steep stairway that leads up to Hilldale.

The walkway is covered by branches of bottlebrush trees and green bushes. The canopy provides good cover for those making the inclined walk up to Hilldale on a warm afternoon. A view from the top of the path provides a spectacular vista of the San Francisco Bay. Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge sparkle from the vantage point on a sunny day.

Seven decades before Maloy moved to Berkeley, Billie Jean Walk was named after one of its own. Billie Jean Harris, the adopted daughter of local haberdasher Joe Harris and his wife Pearl, was born on January 26, 1931. In a San Francisco Examiner article published later that year, Harris expressed his joy of being a proud parent by working to have the path named in honor of his daughter.

Billie Jean D’Anna née Harris, now resides in San Bruno. On occasions she has been seen in Berkeley having her picture taken by the path sign. “I always have to remind people that it’s not named for Billie Jean King!” said Mrs. D’Anna during a phone interview.

As Maloy walks by the ivy and blackberry vines that border the path, she is unaware of the history that surrounds her. It is just a pleasant part of her commute to class. Maloy, reared in San Francisco and Marin, says, “It makes getting up and down the hill easier.”


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Last updated: 29 January, 2012