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.”