Anne B. Royster

My family and I were living on Cherry Hill on Elemendorf. It was Good Friday and we were getting ready to go to the base officer’s club for dinner. I was in the basement of the base housing getting socks out of the dryer. My oldest brother (about 16 or 18) was down the street visiting friends. My parents, other brother and younger sister were upstairs on the main floor.

I heard this loud roar and my father yelling for us to get out of the house. I was running up the steps which was a real chore since cans were flying off the shelf at the top of the steps (our pantry) and each step was in a different place than the one before, i.e., step up and then down….once I finally reached the top, I ran out behind my mother who was carrying my sister. Dad stayed in the house and the rest of us stayed on the ground in the parking lot. We were behind parked vehicles and every vehicle was moving in a different direction than the one beside it. Eventually we saw my oldest brother trying to run home. He was staggering like he’d been drinking but it was the movement of the earth. He finally reached us and Dad had us get into the family car where we stayed for quite a while. When we finally got to go back into the house, it was a wreck. Not structurally but the contents. It was as if someone took a huge mixing spoon and just had at it.

My parents had had a party not too many days before the earthquake and there was cocktail sauce all over the floor, there was pepto-bismol from the cabinet, mercurochrome and all of this along with the rest of the contents of the refrigerator and cabinets was being mixed together by the freestanding dishwasher. It was a mess. My father used snow and the snow shovel to help clean it up. My mother had just received a brand new set of china for Christmas and the only thing left was a cup and saucer. The rest was on the floor, broken from the china cabinet, though it still stood where it had been.

Everything was going to be ok until my brother went upstairs and flushed the toilet – thereafter we had to melt snow in order to flush!

There were a lot of aftershocks. Some seemed just as hard as the original. My dad tied a pencil to a string and hung it from the ceiling and told us if it writes our name on the ceiling, then it’s time to get out.

I remember he was called back to duty and told us to stay in the house and not to let anyone in because people were starting to loot for fuel and money, etc. We are a family that always had firearms and so my mother and older brother were knowledgeable in using them. We didn’t have but one problem with someone coming close to the house. My mother encouraged them to move away.

After a few days, we ventured into Anchorage and saw all the damage. I was about 9 years old (10 in July) and remember almost all of what happened and what we saw but didn’t realize the enormity of it all.

One story I remember is my mother worked for the Girl Scout Council in Anchorage. Her boss lived across from those apartments that were totally destroyed. She had two huge dressers sitting side by side on linoleum tile floors. When they got back to the house, the dressers were where they had always been, but the design on the floor that the dressers caused by the movements, made an interesting track. People came out and actually took pictures of the floor to try to trace the movement. I have pictures somewhere I will try to recover. They are in slide format.

Anyway – that’s pretty much my recollections of the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. We moved to Virginia in 1965. Where my father retired from Langley AFB.

Anne B. Royster

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