Residents share secondhand memories of quake
by Sam Matthews
Apr 18, 2014 | 1275 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mickey and Doreen Wall look over clippings of Press articles telling of the long life of Doreen’s aunt, Gladys Schmolck, who survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
Mickey and Doreen Wall look over clippings of Press articles telling of the long life of Doreen’s aunt, Gladys Schmolck, who survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
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Mickey and Doreen Wall were among the 100 or so Tracyites who relived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire Saturday afternoon at the Tracy Transit Station.

But the Tracy couple had a special reason for being there to watch the documentary film, “The Damnedest Finest Ruins,” and hear from the film’s creator, James Dalessandro.

“My aunt was a survivor,” Doreen told me at the reception in the station’s main waiting room after the showing of the hourlong film was completed, “She also survived the Alaska ’quake of 1964 and the Loma Prieta of 1989.”

The Walls said “Aunt Gladys” — her full name was Gladys Schmolck — lived to be 107 years old. She spent her final eight years at Heritage Place on Grant Line Road and died in Tracy in 2010.

Although a survivor of the San Francisco earthquake and fire, Aunt Gladys was at home in Oakland on the morning of April 18, 1906.

“She was 2½ years old at the time, but she remembered being lifted out of her bed by her father and uncle to find a safer place in their home.” Doreen said. “The quake wasn’t as serious in Oakland, but it still caused some damage there.”

I can recall talking to several Tracyites about the quake, and like nearly all other survivors, both are now gone.

Leonie Sousa was a young girl living on the family’s dairy farm on the outskirts of San Francisco and could recall some of what happened that day. Although she felt the earth shaking that morning, their farm got through the quake with only moderate damage, she reported.

Some 20 years ago, Leonie, Dr. Tom O’Neil and I went to the annual gathering of survivors at Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street, and that was a special day for all three of us, especially Leonie.

The other Tracyite who told me about the 1906 earthquake and fire was Neil Fabian. He was the son of Philip Fabian, Tracy’s first merchant. The family was at home in the Western Addition of San Francisco on the morning of April 18, 1906.

Neil, who was 6 years old when the ground began to shake, told me the earthquake shook their home so much that he fell out of bed, but he was not injured.

As the fire raged on the other side of Van Ness Avenue from their home, Neil and several family members climbed into a wagon and headed south on the Peninsula along with countless other refugees. Neil finally made it to Tracy after more than three days of travel.

After growing up in the city, Neil made Tracy his home for the rest of his life while overseeing the family’s farmland on Fabian Tract north of town and being active in Masonic organizations.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

 
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