Parkfield, Mmmmmm let’s see, what are we famous for?
Well we are the Earthquake Capital of the World, where Geologists from many different parts of these United States come to study all the little jerks and quivers that are always happening along The San Andres Fault but what I think most Geologists hope for is “to be hear when happens” so they can put on their resumé that “I experienced a big one.” I’ll start with the Shakers of the 20th Century that are worth talking about. They’re the ones that if there was a Richter Scale they probably would have measured from a low of 6 to almost 7. The 20th Century had barely got started when in 1901 the Cholame Valley with all its 900 souls that call Parkfield its capital got hit by an Earthquake that shook chimneys hard enough to remove them from many houses and to keep several Brick Masons busy for a month or two building new ones. 1922 with chimneys now made of sterner stuff and houses made of boards and nails that would just creak and groan when struck by an earthquake were struck by a quake that hit in the middle of the night. It was measured by one old time Cowboy, who remarked the next morning “I needed my spurs to keep from getting Bucked off my bed.” June 7, 1934 arrived and our community hall was all lit up with Colman gas lanterns, as electricity had not yet arrived in Parkfield. That wouldn’t happen till 1949. These lanterns put out lots of light needed for the annual end of school year play. The play was in progress and it was about 8 P.M. when the foreshock arrived. It sure got everyones attention and brought the program to a halt for several minutes. Then someone in the audience said, “The big one always comes first, let’s get on with the play.” The audience agreed with cheering and clapping so the actors took their places and on went the play. Somebody must have been looking at their watch because 17 minutes later the real one hit and the best guess was of a high 6 on The Richter scale. It tossed people and chairs around and broke the Mantels in the gas lights which turned out the lights. Well, no one was hurt and being a resilient lot it was decided in true Show business fashion that the show would go on! After putting new mantels in the lanterns the lights came on and the children finished the play and then took their bows and everybody agreed a school play to remember. June 27, 1966. Zee and I and our now 4 kids were enjoying our 5th year on the V6 ranch. It was evening time and I was talking on the telephone to a friend in Palo Alto California when it hit. I believe I said “oh sh*t we’re having a real Earthquake” and at about that moment our kitchen cabinet broke open and dishes flew everywhere. Nobody was hurt and our wood frame house went threw it unscathed but the aftershocks got kind of old and some what unnerving. They lasted for several weeks. This earthquake caught the attention of the U.S.Geological Survey and in 1967 they started to monitor the San Andreas Fault because there was enough history that maybe the wait time to experience an earthquake was thought to be reasonable. (1857,1881,1901,1922,1934,1966). There has been 1 quake in the 1990’s and 1 in 2006 that were a 6 or better and several others lacking enough strength to talk much about but enough to assure the world that Parkfield is indeed ” The Earthquake Capital of the World”.
(End of Part 1)