Friday, March 27, 2015

The Day the Earth Moved, March 27, 1964

I was five now and I knew that meant that I would be starting school soon. I had heard lots of talk about it and was very excited to begin. By this time we had moved onto Elmendorf AFB, on Apricot Street, and registration took place two weeks before school was actually going to start. My mother took me with her to registration and I thought I was going to get to start that day. Needless to say, I was so mad when I found out that I would have to wait two more weeks, that I threw a little temper tantrum in the parking lot.  My poor mother and the things I put her through!

The type of house we lived in is in the background, and
our car is behind us.
I can still vividly remember that first day when I did start kindergarten. Even though I was excited to go, I was too young at the time to realize just how hard it would be on my mom, to send her first born off to school.  She walked me down to the bus stop and waited until the bus picked me up and cried as she watched it drive away. It was a milestone in her little girl’s life. Things would never be the same.

Elmendorf was building a new elementary school just as I started kindergarten. Unfortunately, it was not done in time to begin the school year. So, the base scrambled to find places to put the students until it was completed. My class ended up in an old office building. We continued at that location through the end of December. I can remember dancing around a Christmas tree there, singing Old Tannenbaum! When the new-year started we were able to move into our brand new school. I loved that classroom. We had our own little cubbies and a cloak room. It was a great school…Mt. Iliamna Elementary. We moved right after my kindergarten year, so I only went to the new school for those five short months. Little did I know that in later years, I would once again have some classes in the same school. I am not sure it is even being used as a school today, but it is still there.

As I write this, I realize that today marks the 51st Anniversary of the catastrophic Alaskan earthquake.  We were there on that Good Friday, March 27, 1964, and experienced an event that would be forever engraved on our minds. The quake was measured as a 9.2 on the Richter scale. I remember my brother and I were in the living room with my dad, and we were watching the Mickey Mouse Club on TV. My mother was cooking dinner. As the rumbling began at 5:36 p.m., I had no idea what was happening. I remember watching my mother trying to maneuver her way to the picture mirror that was over our brand new stereo, to keep it from crashing down.

In the meantime, whatever she was cooking on the stove was a giant concern too, and my father went in to turn off the burners. Things were crashing out of the cabinets and the noise was deafening and unforgettable. The shaking was so hard; it sloshed the water right out of the toilet. We had some breakage but my family was not hurt. The quake shook for four minutes.  Over 125 people died and many people lost their homes. Some homes were totally swallowed up by the large crevasses that opened up.  Downtown Anchorage was decimated.  Streets sank, buildings tilted, businesses were torn apart. There was a brand new JC Penney building that had multiple stories and it was totally destroyed.  There were clothes hanging out the sides and large sheets of the siding came down on top of cars sitting on the streets.

Fourth Avenue in Downtown Anchorage
Tidal waves (Tsunamis) destroyed a lot of coastal towns. There has never been another earthquake, in North America, as powerful as the one we experienced that Good Friday. For days there were lots of tremors.  With each one, we would all panic that it was starting all over again. Thank goodness we did not experience another one while we were there.

There were lots more memories from our first time in Alaska. Some right off the top of my head are: Standing in a long line for the polio vaccine; skating in what seemed like nighttime but it was just the darkness of winter; running out in the middle of the night to see the aurora borealis or northern lights; my parents helping to start a new church; bugging the Romper Room lady that went to our church and trying to get her to look through her magic mirror and see me at home and say my name; and watching television, the night John F. Kennedy was assassinated, just to name a few.

Today's Terri's Tidbit:  If you would like to see a video about the 1964 earthquake, that explains why it happened and shows pictures of the event, click here to watch, "1964 Quake: The Great Alaska Earthquake", courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.   The USGS website home page has lots of interesting info, too, and can be found here.

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