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The El Cerrito Historical Society believes that a remarkable number of noteworthy people have come from El Cerrito or have lived here at some time in their lives. A few were world famous, others were well-known in the area or were particularly noteworthy in their own field. This list is an attempt to compile those names now known to the Society. In the future the Society hopes to compile a list of those who were significant in the development and growth of El Cerrito. This is a work in progress, and your suggestions for additions, editing, or deletions are welcome.
Click Here to visit our extensive list.

Laurie Berkner the popular childrens recording artist was asked why she choose El Cerrito to be featured in her top selling single, Victor Vito.

" My father’s brother, my Uncle Klaus, was living in El Cerrito when I wrote that song. We used to go there for our family Christmas celebration (now we go to his home in Martinez) and I had a really warm feeling about the town. I wanted to choose a place for the song that rhymed with Burrito but was slightly more exotic sounding than Toledo. Because of Kaus, El Cerrito came to mind!
"CLICK HERE to hear song.


Featured Historical Narrative


Story by Mervin Belfils

John M. Balra was a respected citizen of the community. He was a native of Portugal and was born on March 13, 1869. He was the son of Joseph Balra, who was a farmer and stockman in the old country. John acquired his education in the old country but left his native land at the age of 17 and came to America.
He came to Contra Costa County and found employment in ranching. He rented a place and started a dairy in Alameda County. Later he took on more land and continued to operate the dairy and two ranches. After continuing successfully for a number of years in his businesses, Mr. Balra bought 25 acres in the Stege District. He later acquired more land until he now had 52 acres of the choicest dairy land in Contra Costa County adjoining the city of Berkeley. This property was just north of Fairmount Avenue and Sunset View Cemetery and east of what is now Ashbury Avenue. In the center of today's Ashbury Avenue the Key Route right-of-way ran from one end of town to the other. However, tracks were never installed and trains never ran on the right-of-way.

In connection with the operation of his own ranching, Mr. Balra rented two ranches on San Pablo Creek and one in Moraga Valley. He was recognized as one of the foremost men in the community. As a stockman, he reached a high rank in the business world. He was a stockholder in the Jersey Milk & Butter Company of Oakland, in the West Berkeley Bank, in the Portuguese and American Bank, and held stock in various other concern. He was a member of the B. P. O. E. and the Eagle Lodge of Berkeley. He was also a member of the Druids, U. P. E. C. and the I. D. E. S., a Portuguese lodge. He was known as a successful man in the business circle.

John was a dark complexioned, tall individual and walked very straight. To get to his ranch home, which was situated on a knoll just north of the cemetery, you would turn north at Fairmount Avenue at the cemetery gate and drive up an old dirt road to his two story home. Not far from his home were his milking sheds and a number of other building that were scattered about nearby.

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