Ron Waters

My Mom and Dad were very hard workers. Both worked more than one job. And being African American in Alaska, there were only two places where the adults all hung out. The original place was called the Flats; there were two restaurant bars and a small store. They all got together on Fri, Sat and Sun after church. Sometimes they would take us kids to Big Lake. These men were all from Texas or back east and they were here to make money so they could move back to Los Angeles or somewhere where they could start a life. And in some cases they were going to stay and work on the Pipe line that was coming.

The second place was opened by one of the richest black guys we knew. He was a friend of my dads as my dad was a jack of all trades. And, he had done some construction work and painting for him. His name was Mr. Ford as I remember and he built what would be called a strip mall today. It had a soul food restaurant, barber shop, beauty salon, pool hall and a night club. As they say, the place was jumping. The Fords would invite me, my baby sister Debbie, Mom and Dad over for dinner. My mom and dad had many friends that I remember. They have almost all passed away. They were hard working and hard partying folks who loved each other and shared everything.

There are a million stories I could tell. My father was a jack of all trades, superintendent of the Presbyterian hospital, janitorial contracts with Elmendorf and Fort Richardson. On weekends he took on jobs like cleaning up factory buildings and stripping floors and such. That is where I came in. I did all the work. He would show me how and watch me do all of the work. I would get a pancake breakfast at the soul food restaurant or a Steak and Egg breakfast at one of the bars in the flats. We lived at 1427 Orca in a prefab home with a full basement.

My father and I made up the basement into a nightclub and on Fridays he would have his own parties with a blues band, gumbo or chili, poker and numbers in the back. I would serve drinks for tips. My Mom and Dad where known for their hospitality. I remember many visits from friends in need. That day was like any other day. This day was the day we would prep the yard to grow grass. In Alaska grass dies during winter, but my dad insisted on planting Grass every year. So, two of my friends and I were in the process of cleaning the yard of rocks and raking to get it ready for seeds. We finished about 5:30 and went inside to watch Fireball XL5.

We were all lying across my mom’s bed watching Fireball XL5 coming on when it hit. My friend Andre said, it is an earthquake. I had no clue what that meant. All I knew was the entire world was shaking violently. We fell to the floor and started towards the living room. My father was yelling for us to get under the kitchen table as he was holding my sister in the front door frame. After about two minutes of really violent shaking, it started to rock back and forth very hard. I couldn’t stay under the table. I had to see. You could see cars rolling in the street. The street opened up a couple of times. The telephone poles were swaying back and forth.

As scary as that sounds we seemed to get used to it and we just held on until it finally stopped. I remember the next events very well. The most important one was what my father said. He said I have to leave you guys and head to the hospital. It must be a mess over there. My sister and I were in shock. From time to time we had people stay with us until they could get back on their feet. My mom and dad were known for that. We had the prettiest nurse staying with us. I can’t remember her name. Her boyfriend was a black doctor in the strategic air command. I remember people used to say. Anyway, she said her boyfriend would be coming to see about her. He did and took her and my sister up to a SAC military site. My father told me to leave with Andre and my other friend Bruce. Someone would come for me.

We ran from my house looking at the devastation as we ran. We ran past Fairview Elementary and only chairs had fallen. We were hoping to be out of school for a while. No such luck, the school was good to go. We ran to Andre’s house where his mother was still freaking out. She was so worried about Andre and Bruce my other friend. There were like 20 people there and all of them with a scared look in their face. A bright orange light shot through the sky right after dark and some of them screamed. A few minutes later a long black Lincoln pulled up. A large man in a heavy overcoat came to the door and asked for me. I remembered him. He was the henchman of one of my father’s poker friends. He asked for me and never spoke another word. I got in the back of the Lincoln and he took me home. He drove me home which was like three blocks.

When I went in, my dad had come back and set-up a generator, but he had to leave right after that. My mom was sitting there with a small light, a bunch of bottles of booze and Nat king Cole playing on the turntable. She said, are you hungry? I said no mama. Right then my dad showed up and took me with him back to the hospital. The hospital had dropped four feet straight down. We had a makeshift flashing light atop the car. When we got to the edge of town they had military guards set-up and the waived him through. We went to the hospital. All of the patients were gone. Now, there were only soldiers sitting around.

I went down to the cafeteria as that was my favorite place when visiting my dad’s job. It was destroyed and there was no way I was getting anything to eat that night… After those events I remember, the neighborhood fathers guarding the water, military rations out of the can. Going on double shift with Denali and selling newspapers in downtown Anchorage. I was out of school at noon every day. I was able to save up live 3-5 dollars a day selling newspapers in downtown Anchorage as my friend and I were the first kids in downtown everyday with new papers. I owned the entire Mattel fanner 50 gun set. I’m writing because the girl who wrote when the Music Stopped was my neighbor. We lived at 1427 Orca and we all went to school together. Fairview Elementary was one block down the street.

I was 11 ½ as well. Her brother and I were best of friends. Finding her story was like being back there in 1964. My father worked 48 straight hours and was written up in a small article in the newspaper. He was being praised for getting to the hospital and helping to get all of the patients moved to the other nearby hospital We moved to Southern California after that ( right in the middle of the Watts Riots) and I have worked in Information Systems ever since. And of course Disaster Recovery has always been my favorite work.

I even worked as a project manager for an outsource firm which basically does Disaster Recovery as a method to transition entire Data Centers. I moved the Rockwell Space Division Data Center which houses the as built shuttle manual for each shuttle flight. When John Glenn came to Anchorage after his historic flight I was the kid who led the rest of the kids into the street to shake his hand.

Sandra Mitchell Adams – Fort Richardson

My dad was stationed at Fort Richardson. We lived across from ball fields and Boy Scout and Girl Scout huts. I remember the manmade ice skating rinks. I also remember every minute of the Alaska earthquake. It was supper time. My dad had the rank for that set of quarters. A lot of the people in that bldg. came to our basement for shelter. Food came out of cabinet, fish out of fish bowl. Streets with cracks. Tops of bldg’s downtown even with streets. I don’t know which was worse, the quake, or tremors after, for so long.

Tom Burt – Ft. Richardson

I was almost 6 years old. My Dad was in the Army, and we had just been stationed at Ft. Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. I had climbed a small lamp pole, and was sitting on top of it, when a man came home from work, parked his car, and went inside his building. I remember looking at his car jiggling, and thinking “he must have left it running”. About then the force knocked me off the pole, and I went running home. I must have fallen several times running home. The earth was moving so much, you just couldn’t keep your feet under you. Once home, things were falling off the walls, and I saw my Mom crying for the first time ever. That scared me to see her crying. That meant this was REALLY bad. I don’t remember how long it lasted.

But I remember the aftershocks and tremors that for days afterward would come unexpectedly and we would get scared thinking “here it comes again”. After the main event, I remember going to neighbors’ houses and comparing damage…some peoples refrigerators fell over. Think about the force required to do that! Our favorite street that we would sled down got a big crack in it, running across the street. I think it was maybe 5-6 inches wide. I don’t know how deep it went, but to us kids, it was a bottomless pit that went all the way to China. We just kept sledding right over top of it. The days and months that followed found me scared to get near the water, because I thought it was going to suck me in like all the houses and structures that destroyed near the coastline and harbors etc….. We lived there until 1967, when we transferred to Ft. Lewis Washington. I loved Alaska. It was like living in the frontier wilderness, but I will always remember that Good Friday i n1964.

Kenny Renew – South Mountain View

I was 13 years old on March 27, 1964 and lived in South Mountain View near the Park Place Bowling Lanes. That was my first earthquake and as the quake began, I expected it to last a few seconds. When the shaking reached a violent level I ran from the house and fell between our two family cars. The cars repeatedly crashed into each other as I lay between them. I was able to get back into the house without injury. It seemed that the shaking would never stop. We feared a gas leak in our home so we slept in a car the night of the 27th. My Father who was stationed on Fort Richardson was placed on duty in downtown Anchorage so my Mother took charge. To this day I still become a little nervous when I feel a structure sway or shake.

Kenny Renew
Huntsville, Alabama

Paul Heilman – Fort Richardson

When the earthquake of 1964 hit, I was 9 years old and lived on Fort Richardson Alaska. I was in my front yard making a snow fort. All the other kids went inside to eat dinner. When the earthquake started….I saw my snow fort crumble in front of me. I was about 40 yards from my front door and started to run home…I fell down at least 3 times because the ground was vibrating. When I got to my house, my mother and two older brothers were coming out. My mother grabbed me and lay on top of me while my brothers were bouncing around. When the earthquake stopped, we went into our house and saw all the furniture had shifted to one side of the house. Our goldfish were struggling on the floor.

Forty years later….I can clearly remember every detail of that day.

Timothy S. Osborn – Ft. Richardson

I was 4 years old living on Ft. Richardson at the time of the earthquake. Most people don’t think that a 4 year old child can remember particular events but I remember this one. My sisters and I along with two friends were watching Davey and Goliath on the TV when just as Davey and Goliath were entering a spooky building the TV lifted up off of the stand that it was on and crashed to the floor. As we just sat there on the couches and chairs, we watched the pictures on the walls dance back and forth. During all of this time all of the dishes in the cupboards flew out and fell to the floor. Upstairs, the toilet was sloshing around so much that all of the water spilled and continued to spill as the toilet kept filling itself up. I remember going down to the basement afterward and seeing the large crack in the concrete flooring. My older sister said that “That was the Easter Bunny stamping his foot telling us that he was coming.”

Fred Price – Fort Richardson

I was 12 years old and my sister was 7 on Good Friday in 1964. My dad was stationed at Fort Richardson. We lived right across from the little league fields on base. I remember that we were watching TV and all of a sudden everything in the house started to rattle and then the whole place started moving up and down. My mom freaked out but got us all outside and down on the ground. I could see the telephone poles rocking back and forth for what seemed forever then it stopped. After it was over we got up and went back into the house. There wasn’t a picture left on the walls nor a knick-knack left on anything, except for a lone ornamental egg that was on top of the TV. Figure that one out. Until that day I thought that the earth was solid ground and was unshakable. While the quake was happening, I thought the world was coming to an end. I hope never to have that feeling again.

Melody Gentry Barlow – Ft. Richardson

It seems incredible to find this information. I was just a baby, six months old when this happened, so of course I don’t remember anything. My dad was stationed at Ft. Richardson at the time of this earth quake, and he and my mom have recounted the events of that earthquake and the next few days and weeks so many times that I feel like I do remember. We lived on Hoyt Street -#610. My father had been stationed at Ft. Richardson, but his tour ended and he stayed on as a civil service employee. He and my mom talk about living in a log house on Hoyt Street and that being the only house that didn’t take any extensive damage. I guess the log structure could ‘give’ a little more than other building types. They talk about having to get typhoid shots, about the water lines being messed up so that the water coming into the house was the water that should have been going out. About a new apartment building down the street from them that collapsed completely.

Their son died in December of 1963, my mom talks about the biggest tragedy for her personally was that the graves shifted and she couldn’t find their baby’s marker at the cemetery any more. Thankfully, both my parents and I survived unharmed. We eventually moved back home to North Carolina, where we still live.

Pete J. Peter – Venetie

During the 1964 earthquake I was only (1) years old in the village of Venetie. My grandfathers told me they felt the quake even there. My late father; Noah Peter a SFC in the Alaska Army National Guard (30 years) with Alaskan native units were training in Anchorage-Ft. Richardson at the time and said it was horrible. They had to guard all the cash vaults in the banks which were torn open. He was eating in the cafeteria when his table just took off to the other side of the room. I too retired 23 years in the same battalion. He also said a nice old spiritual woman who helped with food later had her whole house intact while others around her tore apart.

Theresa McLean – Elmendorf

I too was in Alaska in 1964. We lived on base at Elmendorf, across from Aurora Elementary. We had just finished supper (we had fried eggs, fried bacon, grits). Normally my sisters would have been sitting on high chairs in front of the china cabinet for supper, but this night we had eaten early and Mom would feed them later. The ground tumbled and things began falling. Dad yelled for everyone to get outside. Dad and I ran to the playpen to get my sisters. As we passed the china cabinet, it turned over spilling broken china everywhere. When the shaking stopped, everything was turned over in our apartment. Bacon grease was all over the floor mixed with glass and other articles of food. There was no water or electricity and then all the men were called back to work. All the women in the complex gathered at our house and we bedded down to wait out the night.

My brother was delivering papers at the barracks on the 3rd floor when the shaking began. He said the men came running out, pushing him against the wall. He said they were trying to jump out the windows. He said he couldn’t move. He showed up at the house about 30 minutes later, completely frazzled. We had forgotten all about him during this ordeal.

All I remember after that was Mom trying to get out of Alaska after that.