Telegraph Avenue

Lee, a long-time Vendor on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA

The headshops and Indian clothing that used to characterize it are giving way to boutiques and gelato shops, but the sidewalks are still filled with street artists. Students and former students still ponder their goods.

Susan Dunlap, Not Exactly a Brahmin, 1985 (p46)

Telegraph Avenue is one of the landmarks that Susan Dunlap used to anchor her stories to a location. It is a unique and identifiable stretch of Berkeley. In 2020, the street artists are still there and a headshop still exists. Local eateries have been replaced by chains. Stores sell UC Berkeley t-shirts that used to be sold only on campus. Vintage and retro clothing stores have popped up, and the streets are still filled with students and tourists.

Lee, who is one of our favorite earring venders, came to San Francisco in 1969 from New York. She moved to the East Bay in 1971, and has been a vendor on Telegraph Avenue for many, many years, selling her creations of earrings, rings, necklaces, ear cuffs, and dream catchers. While we perused her earrings, she talked about the changes she had seen on Telegraph: more chains, the campus’s elimination of the food vendors, the high rise buildings coming in. She still felt though that Berkeley’s culture was still unique.

A tall thin man came by to talk to her; his surfer look weathered by life. A silver bracelet with a large pale chrystal wrapped around his wrist gleamed in the pale February light. They talked about his daughter, then he leaned in and touched her arm gently and she signed some sort of blessing towards him before he turned and left. I noticed him later, leaning against a store wall. She explained that she knew his late wife who had a booth next to hers. She and his wife used to watch over his daughter when she was a baby. Now that baby was an adult living with him. She shook her head in amazement.

Lee, like the street vendors in Dunlap’s mysteries, knew everyone on Telegraph Avenue.

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