“Those Timbers Were More Like Rubber Bands…”

My friend Mike Majoulet works in Wells Fargo Brand Management. He makes sure our communication looks right — that logos are where they belong, that signs in stores say the right thing and don’t get in your way, and that Historians don’t tell the story wrong just to get a laugh. Yes, Michael is the Chief!

He also has a good story about his experience in 1989, the day Loma Prieta struck. (CR)

Mike Majoulet (Click for larger image in a new window)“I was managing the Baker Hamilton Click here to learn about third-party website links building on October 17, 1989. The Baker Hamilton is a brick and timber warehouse at 7th and Townsend Streets, a part of San Francisco for over a century. The building was 290,000 square- feet and historic — which means unreinforced.

“The Baker Hamilton Click here to learn about third-party website links is a 4-story monolith of a building, built in 1904. The company was the largest hardware distributor west of the Mississippi probably up to the 1950s. The building rests on huge redwood tree piles driven about 75 feet into the ground. It survived the 1906 quake very well. My understanding is that hardware from Baker Hamilton was key to getting the City on its feet in 1906. In fact, Baker Hamilton distributed things like shovels, axes and housewares the day of the earthquake in ’06.

“At the time I managed the property, it was mixed use — storage in the basement, and furnishings retail on upper floors. I was at my desk when the quake hit. Remember, this is a brick and timber building and the timbers are 2 feet square on the top floor where I had my office. I was sitting there and I could not quite believe what I was seeing. Suddenly, those timbers were more like rubber bands, almost liquid in undulation!

“There was grinding, bumping, and thumping all around me as the quake’s waves passed through. Files flung open on one side of the room, and slammed shut on the opposite wall. Wild stuff! It felt like it would never stop, but as we all know, it did. I was sitting in disbelief as 90 years of dust was unleashed from the wood-slat ceiling above me. The room was golden from the sun hitting the dust particles.

“I suddenly remembered I was the building manager and had the responsibility of making sure all my tenants were OK — who cares about the building!

“With my heart in my throat I ventured into the building to see what happened. Luckily, there were no injuries, but there was furniture everywhere, as most tenants sold home furnishings. Some were much more concerned about their stock and not the possibility of another quake, so I ‘ordered’ everyone out. We didn’t have a major aftershock, but as we started looking around outside, we quickly saw the city was in bad shape. A block away, several people were crushed to death when that brick and timber building lost its walls. Cars on the sidewalk were now only two feet high, flattened under bricks.

“I managed to make my way home to Tiburon that night, driving under the freeway that ran along the Embarcadero — which was condemned the next day. I drove across to Van Ness Avenue Click here to learn about third-party website links, because you couldn’t continue along the Marina, which was all rubble Click here to learn about third-party website links and flamesClick here to learn about third-party website links I ended up in Pacific Heights on Divisadero Street Click here to learn about third-party website links: When I came over the crest of ‘Divis,’ heading down toward the bay, I saw the Marina Click here to learn about third-party website links on fire. Most, if not all, electricity was off, so the glow was heightened that evening.

“I was very nervous about what my home might look like, considering what I’d just experienced. But it was weird…I had 2 pendulum clocks in the house. The table clock in the living room had a pendulum that swung east/west and always ran. But it stopped that day at the exact time of earthquake. The second clock was on a small wall between bedrooms, and I never ran it because the ‘tick, tick, tick’ and my sleep didn’t get along. Its pendulum swung north/south. When I got home, that clock was running.

“I’d still take a quake over a tornado.”

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2 Responses to “Those Timbers Were More Like Rubber Bands…”

  1. Bridgette says:

    I have not experienced quakes as bad as this. But it scares me to death that it would happen to us especially now that I have a kid. I’m not sure how to explain it to him yet. Last year, it was in Haiti. Then recently, the biggest quake devastation is in New Zealand. I hope these disasters stops soon. HVAC Cost

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