SAN FRANCISCO -- Seventy-five years ago today the Great San Francisco earthquake devastated the city and officials and residents marking the anniversary are very conscious of the possibility of a repeat performance.
Scientists have been saying that sophisticated, computerized studies of past temblors show that there is a 50-50 chance a quake as big as the 1906 shaker could occur somewhere in California within a decade.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary a handful of survivors planned to gather at Lotta's Fountain in downtown San Francisco at 5:13 a.m. PST today for a brief ceremony.
It was exactly at that moment the quake hit, bringing down buildings, causing great casualties and starting fires that leveled block after block of homes and businesses.
The quake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale. It killed 600 people.
At a party for survivors this week Alvin Greenberg said for him the earthquake was 'fun.'
Greenberg was only 8 at the time. From a hilltop he and his playmates wagered on which tall building in the path of the fire would explode next and thought the trading of items obtained in the food lines to be a game.
John J. Conlon didn't see his father, a fire battalion chief, for several days. He enjoyed the excitement 'without comprehending the consequences.' In the following months his house was full with 35 relatives, and Conlon said, 'I was never happier.'
The oldest survivor is Myrtie Dickson, now 100, but in her house out in the sand dunes, made of three street cars, 'we weren't bothered at all.'
Survivors from the downtown area recalled buckled streets, collapsed buildings, people running around naked and, of course, the fire that burned for days.
Charles O'Day told of how his family lost their house but happened to have crates of dishes in the wreckage. In the following months, the dishes were sold piece by piece and produced $1,600 with which the family opened a restaurant.
Survivors said that at the time some people thought the city was being punished for its sins and others thought it was the end of the world.
But the mother of William Murray, who grew up to be a San Francisco fire chief, took a different view. She told her son, then 6, 'William, you are now a pioneer of the new San Francisco.'