Widespread earthquake damage

April 25th, 1954

____________________________________________________________________________ 1954

____________________________________________________________________________ April:

1954.04.25
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————       [2] 37:121 – North America – United States of America – California – Santa Clara County
GilroyGilroy Advocate

APRIL 25, 1954 EARTHQUAKE
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Note:  The population of Gilroy, California in 1950 was 4,951 people.

Gilroy Advocate – Eighty-Seventh Year, No. 165 – April 26, 1954

Widespread earthquake damage
Plaster falls, windows break, in Sunday’s 1:33 p.m., 20 minute ‘quake

Widespread minor damage was reported from a rolling, 20-minute earthquake and a single aftershock that shook up a large area of Northern California.

The quake, at 1:33 p.m. PDT yesterday, centered in the GilroyHollisterWatsonville area.

Gilroy’s Damage
In Gilroy, bottles tumbled from store shelves, cracks appeared in downtown store walls and in residential area homes, several windows were broken and many others cracked.  A few chimneys in the residential area were reported damaged.

A check of downtown stores, groceries and city offices reveals extentive damage from the sharp earthquake.

An estimated $1000 damage in broken liquor and wine merchandize was reported this morning by McGuerns Grocery owner.

Blackburn’s Grocery reports $60 to $70 damage from broken bottles of liquors, while “only a few broken bottles” are reported by Mrs. Roger Stapleton, Gilroy Liquor Store, although she said, “my husband had the daylights shaken out of him and was dazed for a time after the ‘quake.”

Safeway Stores reports the most extensive grocery store damage, with an estimated $100 to $150 merchandise loss through broken bottles.  Richard Brooks, store manager, said the aisles were covered with merchandise fallen from the shelves and cases.  Brooks said the store was back to normal this morning, and that two men had cleaned up the mess in a couple of hours.

Fook Low, manager of the Victory Market, said the store sustained a loss of about $50 to $75 through breakage.  Town and Country Market manager, Alec Telfer, said his store lost only about $35 worth of merchandise.

Norman Goodrich, Sparkle Market, said his loss was very small – “about $15 worth of damage in breakage, and some $3 worth of cleanup work.  Bettancourt’s Market spokesman said the store lost about $100 in broken bottles.  No estimate was available from Purity Stores, but it was believed that the damage was not over $100.

City Hall Damaged
City Hall employees waded through fallen plaster and viewed huge cracks in the old building erected in 1905, just a year before the “big ‘quake” of 1906.  Judge Leon Thomas’ court was the hardest hit, with plaster lying all around the floor and hanging by a thread from great, spreading cracks from the walls and ceiling.

Nearly all second-floors in downtown buildings were damaged through cracks in walls, fallen plaster and rubble.

Crossbeams temporarily erected while remodeling goes on at Hall’s clothing store, were knocked out of plumb and work is going forward today to brace the front of the building.

Hotel Milias‘ rooms were damaged through cracks and falling plaster, and the elevator was reported damaged, but operating.

A movie was in progress at the time of the ‘quake, and the manager reports that the force of the earthquake broke the film.  He said the audience was quiet and the lights were turned on immediately while the break in the film was repaired.

Broken Window
Johnson’s Drug Store window was cracked, while a broken window was reported at the Toggery.  Pieces of plaster were thrown across the room at the E.E. Eustice Insurance Co. and several cracks in the wall appeared.

While little or no damage is reported from the various elementary schools in Gilroy, the high school reports minor damage from fallen plaster.

Residents report broken bric a brak, dishes and light pieces of furniture.  Cracks appeared in the walls and ceilings of homes, many of them new ones.

American Trust Buildings, Montogemery Ward and J.C. Penny Co. were among the hardest hit of the downtown buildings, all reporting extensive damage from cracks and falling plaster and cracked windows.

An insurance man said today that there is little earthquake insurance on homes or buildings here to cover the cost of repairs.

Watsonville Hard Hit
It cracked windows, plaster and walls, buckled floors, shattered chinmneys, broke pipes, tumbled merchandise from the shelves of stores and snapped a flagpole atop a Watsonville building.

“it shook the teeth out of everything,” said Police Sgt. J. S. Brandon of Watsonville.  “It sure caused a lot of excitement around here.”

Only One Injury
Only one injury was reported.  A 16-year-old girl was hurt slightly when a crowd of 500 persons attending a dog show in Watsonville panicked and rushed for the outdoors.

Seismologists said the tremblor registered 5 on a scale of 10.  The ‘quake came 48 years and one week to the day after the famed San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which measured 8.5.

The aftershocks followed at 2:25 p.m.  W. C. Marion, University of California seismologist, said an earthquake of such magnitude “continues to give surface waves for some time.”

Buildings Damaged
The ‘quake was also felt north of San Francisco at San Quentin Prison, where authorities said convicts remained calm, and to the east in the populous OaklandBerkeley area.

But it appeared to be most severely felt in the Watsonville area.

There a rope barricade was placed around a four-story building housing the Bank of America, where a crack opened in the granite facade.  The inside walls were laced with plaster cracks.  Five stores reported damage of $800 each.  A water main sprang a leak.  Power was off in neighboring communities.  Scores of chimneys toppled.

Mr. and Mrs. Paul Fiorovich said the jolt knocked them off their feet and moved every piece of furniture in their new ranch-type home six to eight inches.

Mirrors, pictures and everything on their walls were shaken off.  Plumbing fixtures were yanked from the walls.  They estimated it would cost $25,000 “to get our house in shape again.”

The ‘quake left a 50-foot crack in the Chittenden Pass highway nine miles east of Watsonville.  The ground was raised three inches on each side of the crack.  The highway was open to slow traffic.

San Francisco and Oakland police reported floods of calls, but damage was confined to cracked and broken plaster and swaying lights.

[Post originally written on March 8, 2011 @ 8:00 P.M. Mountain Time] updated: 2011.03.09