Wednesday, June 30, 2010

[californiadisasters] 1925 (Santa Barbara) Earthquake - Day 2

Tuesday, June 30, 1925 - Day Two
updated: Jun 29, 2010, 10:00 AM

by Neal Graffy XNGH

(cut from my forthcoming publication " The Great Santa Barbara Earthquake - The Disaster that Built a City")

Tuesday, June 30, 1925 - Day 2

Santa Barbara had long been called "that sleepy little town," but in the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 30th, it was anything but sleepy. Nearly 150 men were at work digging through the wreckage of the San Marcos Building and Arlington Hotel. Men patrolled the downtown streets in three hour shifts, the Red Cross Canteens throughout the city were in constant motion preparing sandwiches, rolls and coffee. If the noise from the heavy machinery at work at the San Marcos hadn't kept the rest of the city up, strong aftershocks at 1:20 AM (lasting nearly 20 seconds), 4:45 and 5:55 got hearts pumping and the populace on their toes.

Then there were the late night "visitors."

Though Santa Barbara mayor, Charles M. Andrea had stated in his radio broadcast on Monday afternoon "No call is sent out for help…" it apparently fell on deaf ears. Everyone it seemed was headed to Santa Barbara to help.

They came by land…around 9:30 Monday evening 123 Los Angeles uniformed policemen plus a few plainclothesmen arrived. At 2:30 Tuesday morning fire trucks from Los Angeles pulled in.

They came by train…and were sent back. "Chief Surgeon E. G. Goodrich of the Los Angeles Receiving Hospital and chief of the medical staff of the Southern Pacific arrived on the first relief train with intentions of establishing medical quarters. However, Santa Barbarans had already taken care of their emergency." (The Illustrated Daily News).

And they came by sea…President Calvin Coolidge was in Vermont at the bedside of his dying father when word of the Santa Barbara disaster reached him from the news wires. He sent an immediate telegram to acting Secretary of War Dwight Davis: "You and Secretary of the Navy [Curtis D. Wilbur] give all possible aid to Santa Barbara." And they did.

The battleship U.S.S. Arkansas (above) arrived at 3:45 AM, followed 15 minutes later by the Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa. They would later be joined by the destroyer McCawley, an "Eagle" boat (sort of like a WWII PT boat), several "fleet tugs," and the Coast Guard cutter Vaughn.

In reality, help was needed. Santa Barbara had been running on pure adrenalin for nearly 24 hours. The Arkansas sent one hundred and eighty sailors ashore for patrol duty and in addition, twenty-four medical men from the ship's hospital were taken to Cottage Hospital to assist there and to relieve the nurses that had been on duty since the quake struck.

Most importantly, the Arkansas landed a radio and receiving set. The radio was taken "under guard from the local naval reserve unit" to de la Guerra Plaza and reservist Archie E. Banks (Bank's Stationary) was put in command of the new communications station. (I do love the "under guard" bit, who the heck would be stealing a radio at 4 o'clock in the morning as it is being carried up the street?)

Above, a scene from Tuesday morning as a sailor from the Arkansas stands guard with two local loafers in front of the First National Bank at 901 State (State and Canon Perdido). The tower above the sailor's head is the Upper Clock Building at State and Carrillo. Built in 1875 by Mortimer Cook (coincidentally he started the first bank in SB which became the First National), the landmark building was torn down due to quake damage. Just to its right is the E. F. Rogers building which was renovated and stands today as the Apple Store (formerly Pier One).

Noting that Santa Barbara was now well-patrolled and anticipating the arrival of other naval vessels, the Arkansas recalled most of its sailors and left at 9:00 AM.

At the Arlington Hotel all of the guests and staff had been accounted for except for two guests who had been in the collapsed tower suites. Though it hardly seemed likely anyone could have survived, hopes were bolstered by the news of Mrs. Vilamore's safe recovery at the San Marcos Building. However, there would be no rejoicing at the Arlington. Bertram Hancock's body was found at 2:20 that morning and Mrs. Edith Perkins was found equally deceased two hours later. The death toll now stood at 9.

A few hours later a policeman walking past the Brown Mug Café (430 State) saw a boot sticking out of the rubble and pulled on it, thinking it was some of the clothing scattered from one of the rooms of the (formerly) Grand Hotel above the café. The removal of the boot disclosed a foot which was found to be connected to a leg which in turn led to the body of Ralph Litchfield, victim number 10.

Meanwhile it was almost beginning to be a normal business day. The Daily News building was declared safe and it was back in operation printing a full edition. The competing Morning Press at 813 State had been hit pretty hard, but they rushed their copy to Ventura where the Tuesday paper was printed by the Ventura Free Press.

Banks were open, but not where you'd expect. Within 24 hours the banking community had pretty much abandoned State Street and a new financial district had been created in de la Guerra Plaza operating out of canvas tents rather than marble temples.

Above, a group of sailors marches past the Pacific-Southwest Bank which defying the compass direction of their name was located at the southeast corner of State and Canon Perdido streets. It doesn't look like there is any damage, but the bank had moved out. Barely visible is a sign at the corner advising customers they are open for "Business as usual at the Plaza."

Their new bank. The sign on the table at directs patrons to the "Savings Department." The sign at right, framed by the policeman's arm, reads "Paying Teller."

Location, location, location. The plaza!? Why would you want to go to the noisy, chaotic and crowed plaza? We've now moved to the upscale front lawn of the Lobero Theater (right down the street).

"Doing Business as usual" at the Lobero. You have to admire the fact that they've built a wood-framed, canvas-lined bank and then put an iron grating across the teller's window. Presentation is everything.

The County Jail was located behind the courthouse. There were twenty prisoners inside when the rear wall collapsed and the second-story floor dropped at an angle to the ground floor supposedly dropping out the prisoners as if they were on a slide. Various reports have claimed that the inmates took advantage of nature's jailbreak and fled. However, all inmates were accounted for and dealt with. Four were taken to the jail at City Hall. Two federal prisoners along with one man charged with a felony were transferred to the Ventura county jail. The remaining thirteen were released and told to put themselves to good use and return later. They did.

Wheels were turning fast at City Hall. City Manager Herbert Nunn had assembled an Emergency Engineering Committee to be composed of two groups. One had ten members from Santa Barbara County and the second had seven members which were sent by the mayor of Los Angeles. They would begin the inspection of every building in the business district and also review homes as needed.

To keep out the curious, roadblocks had been set up outside of Ventura and below San Luis Obispo. Only residents, officials and the press were let through. When business leader Charley Pressley found out there were several hundred cars with some 1,000 people at the Ventura line trying to get up to view the town he appealed to the authorities to "open State St to traffic and allow visitors in to stimulate the economy." Among those who had not been held back were California Governor Friend W. Richardson and his wife who arrived around noon and took in the sights first hand.

The American Window Cleaning Co. truck in front of 917 State Street. Max Friedman had just pulled up and was getting ready to wash the windows at The Paris Store. A few seconds later, no windows and no truck. But Max looked at the bright side. He wasn't in the truck or on the sidewalk.

It had been one hell of a day, but Santa Barbarans were pulling together and the attitude was positive. As the mayor had said, "We will rebuild bigger and better than before."

Tomorrow - The events of Day 3, July 1st, 1925. The Marines land, diamonds are discovered, and a new look is found for Santa Barbara.

Neal Graffy is a Santa Barbara historian, his book "Street Names of Santa Barbara" is available at Chaucers, Vices and Spices, Santa Barbara Arts and Tecolote Books as well as online at


Check out
Read our blog at
Visit me on Facebook at


Be sure to check out our Links Section at
Please join our Discussion Group at for topical but extended discussions started here or for less topical but nonetheless relevant messages.

Your email settings: Individual Email|Traditional
Change settings via the Web (Yahoo! ID required)
Change settings via email: Switch delivery to Daily Digest | Switch to Fully Featured
Visit Your Group | Yahoo! Groups Terms of Use | Unsubscribe


No comments:

Post a Comment