Thursday, July 9, 2009

Earth Trembles, As Does Memory

This week we've been talking about the Doty Block, a building at the corner of Fair Oaks and Green Street in Old Town Pasadena. Yesterday, Margaret and Trish asked if the mural that once graced the north face of the building had at one time been only partially visible.

I'm coming up on my fourth year in Pasadena. A lot happened before my time. But Terry Griest, a San Francisco Bay Area graphic designer who grew up in Pasadena, experienced the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake while living on South Orange Grove Blvd. And she kept the clippings.

It was a pretty serious quake:
(All three clippings are from the 10/2/87 issue of the Star-News.)

It just so happens that Terry also studied the Doty Block as part of a photo essay for a class called "The City as an Art Resource," at Cal State Long Beach. She created the essay in the mid-1980's, when Old Town was in transition from "scary part of town that you didn't tell your mother you were visiting after dark" (her words, K!) to the shopping mecca it is now.
Terry didn't think this 1984 photo she took was any big deal, but to me it's amazing. I'd never before seen a photo of the mural in context. I'd never seen the garage next door, only an enticing glimpse of the brick work along the top, in a black & white photo (see yesterday's post). I just love it.

I also love this shot from 1887:
Terry says it's "a photocopy of a photocopy." But you can see the turret that was once on the southeast corner, and the bay windows that faced out on Fair Oaks. Sweet.

I blog about Pasadena because I enjoy it. If only I didn't have to make a living! But I can't always run out to the library or the Pasadena Museum of History every time I want to research a post. I'm limited to what I can find on the web, and believe it or not, the web is limited. It doesn't have every photo, and it doesn't have personal memories.

So it's incredibly rewarding when PDP visitors get involved. The posts from yesterday and the day before (and tomorrow) wouldn't have been possible at all without Loren Roberts of Hearken Creative. Additional links in the comments really rounded out the information. And Terry Griest's contributions today are really outstanding. This participation in the conversation about our home town is extremely gratifying, and I can't thank you all enough.

I've also received a few emails this week from people who voiced their feelings about the Old Town they remember from before the changes. I'm only beginning to understand what an upheaval that must have been. I only know Old Town as it is now and I love it, not because I'm a shopper (I'm not) but because I love well kept old buildings. But knowing me and my love for old things with a little bit of dirt on them, I think I would have loved Old Town just as much before.

Maybe even more.


Trish said...

oh yes, that yellow garage! I remember it now!

I was in the R building at PCC when the first quake hit in 1987. Taking a law exam...the prof insisted we get up from under the tables and keep taking the test or he'd FAIL us. He was nearly fired for endangering us all. The sound was incredible---I thought a truck had blown up on Colorado Blvd.

I think I remember why I didn't remember the details of the 1/2 quote. My brain was fried and I was scared out of my mind. One of the aftershocks was at 4 something Sunday morning.

In that we couldn't get ahold of my grandparents up in Linda Vista, after I was released from school and made it home to SoPas, I ended up venturing up to Linda Vista. Grammie was baking something, Grandaddy was grading papers. The pool was sloshing, plaster still falling from the ceiling---the quake, oh yes dear, it happened, life goes on!

At the time of the renovations of Old Town and the quake, the Mall was going well. Now, Old Town is booming and the Mall is, what? yeah.

thanks for the history and reminding me to remember those days.

Cafe Pasadena said...

Each time I recall the Whittier Narrows quake, I sadly think of the many old vintage homes destroyed surrounding Old Town Whittier.

Many indie bookstores & antique shops populated that area. But, with the lost of the old houses, a "coincidental" reduction in the number of these shops occurred in the years following.

Dina said...

It IS nice how your blog and your love of Pasadena draws others who feel moved to share. You are making community, Petrea.

Was this unusual, that an earthquake made such noise?

Laurie Allee said...

Amazing, Petrea. I moved out here just a few months after the Whittier Narrows quake.

eamon@ewmphotography said...

This is developing into quite a story. All very interesting and inspiring, you are helping me think of new ways of looking at my town. The comments you are getting are really helping build the narrative; it's nice to see you acknowledging this.

Shell Sherree said...

What a collection of photos and memories. I love that old garage that used to be next door.

Anonymous said...

How neat to see all of these photos together! I can see why people would feel such an affinity for this building and its history.

Petrea Burchard said...

Trish, I hope you're writing down all your stories. Otherwise Karin and I will have to collect all your comments in an anthology. You always have a good story!

Cafe, I wish I'd seen Whittier before the quake. It must have been beautiful.

Thanks, Dina. I don't know that I'm making community; I think I'm making a place to talk about it. I enjoy that. As for the sound of earthquakes, I can vouch for that. I was in North Hollywood for the 1994 Northridge quake. It's as those the earth itself is roaring.

Laurie, Terry told me Pasadena still shows scars from the Whittier quake. I'll bet South Pas does, too.

Thanks, Eamon. I started out with opinions. They change as I go along.

Me too, Shell. Old Town is full of this stuff. "Just a garage," but what a pretty old thing. It's gone, but many old buildings survive, now used for offices, shops and restaurants.

Well, Nikki, we've got more!

Jean Spitzer said...

This series on the Carver building, and the comments thereon, is fascinating. I, too, am new enough to the area that I don't know this local history, and I'm loving learning it.

Anonymous said...

Damn! Can't get enough of this.

Maria said...

earthquakes have alwayas been a part of my life. being a native southern californian i have never been lucky enough to escape them. my earliest memory is sylmar 1971 followed by whittier narrows, northridge to the most recent chino hills. and as luck would have it, i was in mexico city visiting my family during that 8.1 september '85 quake. ironically i was the "veteran" earthquake person and seemed to be very calm....until i found out the magnatude and then i freaked out. always scary and very noisy.

HearkenCreative said...

Nothing to add to the conversation today except that it's really exciting hearing everyone's stories; and reaping the benefit of having all these stories/memories/research collected here in one place is pretty cool too. Thanks Petrea.

Okay, story. My memory of the '87 quake was waking up to violent shaking in one of the dorms on the Occidental College campus, and a stoner from Massachusetts running out of his dorm room down the hall garbed only in tie-dyed boxers yelling "The world's ending! The world's ending!" That moment turned the whole morning into something of a comedy, despite all of the horrors and injuries and death that we saw later on teevee...

Susan C said...

Wow! Such fascinating stuff.

Thanks to Loren for getting the ball rolling and to Terry for sharing the photographs and memories.

John Sandel said...

I want to echo Eamon: you've pulled several disparate strands into a potent narrative & made excellent use of photos. Your blog is an example of the web's peculiarly communal value.

"We call them stories because that's where we store our wisdom."—Gary Snyder

Trish said...

Petrea---I have a lot of stories---have not written them all down--with blogs, I tend to react, not write proactively. Guess that'll give you and Karin and Laurie something to keep out of trouble with!

The sound of quakes are something you usually remember, along with the visual things. '87 Whittier was nothing different, but it was LOUD. I heard it before the lights started to sway.

Sucky thing was that later that day, I had to go back to PCC--they only closed campus until noon. I had a 1pm English exam. I nervously went in the C bldg. The prof left us with the exam and wandered off to talk to colleagues about the quake. We had a pretty sizable came back & found us huddled under our "student desks" still writing, wide eyed. He gave up on the exam and gave us all A's for just showing up.

Pasadena, Whittier and SoPas still have scars. All around SoPas chimneys were wobbled a bit down from the top-looked like someone had pulled out the bricks in one row, of the ones still standing. Alhambra was littered with plate glass damage. The Sunday morning aftershock destroyed all the plate glass that had been repaired and some new ones too. As I recall, some folks just put up plywood for a while, waiting for the shaking to stop breaking stuff.

Maria---humnn, a friend I used to work with was named Maria...the hurricane in 92, she was vacationing then. Iniki in HI? She was there too...I don't vacation with her anymore and I'm thinking I might avoid going with you too...nothing personal, mind you. ;-)

All good stuff Petrea---bringing out old memories and recollections. Am doing my best to pass along info to y'all that I know, passed on from my memories and those passed on to me.

Escapist said...

Congratulations for completing such a long year on blogger !!!!

This blog made me remember about the Earth Quake in URI ,Srinagar,kashmir..tat was the real disaster on earth,lot of people died,many of them became handicapped and no extends how many lost their homes....
I as an Engineer went for the work shop! And it was out of light to see everything shattered as if there was no living !!!!!!

Keep on writing more....Good luck.


Petrea Burchard said...

Fantastic stories. So, Maria, I take it it doesn't get easier with experience?

I never set out to make this a series. Ages ago, Loren invited me to visit his office and we finally managed it. I posted the photos, Loren and others sent in links, Terry sent her stuff and there you have it. A group effort and we have this place to post it. Gotta love the web.

Other buildings in the area are interesting, too, and I want to take more photos and do more research. My artist friend gave me some leads on a few of them and so did Loren. I will never run out of things to photograph in Pasadena. Ever.

Maria said...

trish- i don't blame you ;-)

petrea - absolutely not. i don't care if it is 4.0 or 8.1 my heart skips three beats every time.

on another note - i was in your town yesterday and spent the day with some amazing frenchmen, a dutchman and a spaniard. oh what a treat! you do live in a great town lucky gal.

Margaret said...

I remember all of this, well the 1987 and beyond part. I was always so puzzled and delighted by the remaining last line.

John Sandel said...

So a Frenchmen, a Dutchman and a Spaniard walk into a bar in Pasadena …

Punchline: "Herr Richter, I presume?"

Jenny said...

I love to see these old photos of my hometown.

pasadenapio said...

Research is a great adventure, isn't it?

I tried to find a better image of the "photocopy of a photocopy" but didn't see it in our historic photo database.

Susan Manning said...

Thanks, Petrea, and all of you, for keeping this nice apt in Pasadena on the PDP.

I was actually packing up my car and starting my drive across the country to live in SoCA when the 87 quake hit and the only things I really remember are thinking 'damn, I gotta get out there quick before it all falls into the ocean', and also seeing the newscaster scurry under his desk on some broadcast news program.

I didn't get to Pasadena until a new friend, now back in UK, asked me to get together in her neck of the woods and I fell in love with Pasadena, always looking for the Little Old Lady from there.. Loved the buildings and actually I'm glad I didn't see the old buildings of Whittier, I'd be sad to seem them gone.

I lived in Santa Monica for the 94 quake and experienced quite the noise and damage and must say it was the most interesting experience in my life...unforgettable. Good thing we have pictures and blogs to keep interesting little stories alive, like those of Trish's experiences at PCC. Life is nothing if not interesting...

Petrea Burchard said...

This is fun. I've got a couple more tomorrow, then I'll quit. I'll bet we could do this for practically every building in Old Town. I'm exhausted.

Ann, I believe Terry said she got that photo at the library. It would have been around 1984 when she got it. I'll have a look one of these days and see what they have.

Susan M, it's so interesting that you've been here for this discussion. It's been very circular, in a way, tying in the talk of the Doty Block and earthquakes. The first quake I ever experienced was while I was living in that building on Blix Street. You were there. Surely you were there.

Pasadena Native said...

I was in my second year at Cal State LA and had just driven by this building that morning. I was stuck in traffic on Fremont in Alhambra when the earthquake struck.
Thought my car was going to explode (sure it was car trouble)
I saw a man
on the
sidewalk who just started drilling into the cement. The man leapt back as if he'd damaged the earth. The telephone poles began to shake, the palm trees sway and the landscape literally rolled. My friend and I were terrified. But I tried to stay calm and work my way back home.

I was terrified of earthquakes for the next five years. It's been a while. I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Twenty three years later.

P.S. My best friend and I would walk to "old town" which REALLY was OLD town. All empty buildings, and a few scattered thrift stores. It was 1980 - 84.

Two teenage girls on a mission for fashion.

Think Madonna, Billy Idol, punk, new wave, and fun fun. We'd hunt out REAL vintage clothing from the 30's, 40's and 50's for great prices! The mall was just getting built...we could never have dreamed what old town became. Though we did see the possibilities with all the gorgeous architecture decorating the buildings. It was an outrage to see the disrepair.

Though...I still miss those vintage shops!!