Tag Archive | earthquakes

1971 a rocking time, today is the anniversary of the Sylmar Quake

Today is a big anniversary for me, it’s the anniversary of the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. My first big one.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_San_Fernando_earthquake, I am amused by the fact that whoever wrote the page describes LA as having districts. LA has regions and no districts. Obviously written by a non-native Angeleno.

I was in 11th grade and it was right around finals time and it hit at exactly 6 am. My cat had just stood on the end of the bed and was yelling her head off when it hit. I was sharing a room with my 6 year old sister in those days and we had the kind of bookshelves on the wall that are boards hung on metal slats fixed the wall. I remember all my books and there were a lot of them on 5 long shelves started flying around the room and at my bed. I remember my overhead light had blown the night before but was going on and off during the quake.

Mom used to have earthquake drills when we were kids so we knew what to do. Some of us remembered and some of us didn’t. All I could think of was grabbing Alison because she was sound asleep. So I propped her standing in the doorway and held on. She stayed asleep until it was over, the kid could sleep through anything up until that day.

Dad, meanwhile was grabbing my mom because she was still really asleep and thought she was in the Long Beach earthquake that happened when she was a child. Dad saw what he thought was the wall coming at them but was really the huge mirror that they had hung on the wall over the lowboy dresser. It was about 6 ft long and 3 feet tall and framed in heavy wood. Dad said it came straight off the wall at them and turned 90 degrees and fell and hit the throw rug and slid under the bed. Scared Dad to death because that mirror was hung on 1000 lb wire in case of earthquake because Grandpa was an architect and civil engineer and insisted on it. Did I mention that that was when we found out the house was on a fault?

While this was happening our chimney was going down with a big thump on the neighbor’s porte cochere.

My brother had decided to try sleeping naked that night for the first time. He had a downstairs bedroom and evidently ran out the front door starkers in front of the neighbors and gave them quite the show before remembering he wasn’t wearing anything. I didn’t know that had happened until a neighbor told mom. Meanwhile, these were the days before plastic bottles and glass bottles had come raining out of the bathroom cabinets and down in the kitchen crashing onto the tiles. My dad went running into the bathroom at the same time my mom was yelling for him to put his shoes on. Too late, he ended up bandaged for awhile. For some reason, my parents, being my parents, it never occurred to them that he might need to go to the hospital for some stiches.

We could track the fault by whose chimney had fallen off during the quake and the house down the street that had a chimney at either end only lost the one on the south end so I guess that was the end with the fault under it. They all came down again in the Northridge quake many years later.

We had just gotten our first colour TV and for some reason the electricity came back on quickly so we were able to watch it in living colour and see the dam that almost broke among other things. It was only the second year my school had been open since they had finally built it to earthquake code but the next day it was apparent that still wasn’t enough because all the asbestos tile had come down along with the razor sharp metal that hung them. They hadn’t rebuilt the auditorium and it was from the late 1920s and I still remember watching the chandeliers sway during aftershocks and wondering if the glass was going to come down. The condemned it the next day until it could be brought up to code. That meant our spring musical got moved outside that year. I was taking Latin and Caesar lost his head in a fall that day. So he wasn’t stabbed in the rounda (old Latin joke) but was beheaded in the quake.

I remember driving down Brand Blvd and the buildings looked like dollhouses you could reach in and rearrange the upstairs apartments above the stores. The facades had all fallen off. I had friends that had been driving to Bible study at the Presbyterian church that said Glenoaks St looked like someone waving a ribbon up and down and how loud it had been. One of my friends was already at the church waiting for someone to come with the key when it started and the church started to come down around them. They had to be rescued because the bricks fell so high around the car, that they couldn’t get out but they still swear not one brick hit the car. They just fell around them.

For some reason all the moms from my Presbyterian churche’s Bible study decided we had to go and get out of their hair, so we went as usual to Bill’s house but not much Bible Study was going on because the 5 or 6 of us there couldn’t stop talking about the quake. Poor Bill, he was only a year older than us and it now a minister in the Valley so I guess we didn’t scar him for life. (We were considered snobs because so many of us didn’t go to Glendale’s two Presbyterian church but went to Hollywood Pres instead)

I still remember all the cracked roads and buildings and picking up a lot of glass and wiping all the stuff that had been in the bottles up. As I recall the refrigerator had come open too and all the eggs had been flung to freedom. Gross to clean up.

So do you have an earthquake kit in your car and extra stuff in your house like water?