Earthquake…………………#13 (the 50’s)

The Hayward and the San Andreas Faults

The Willson’s neighborhood experiencing a change,  with several new houses under construction up the hill on Shone Avenue,  and a more formidable commercial building down the hill, replacing the diminutive wooden structured grocery store on Mountain Boulevard.  The store operated by two  elderly ladies, whose appearance and personalities seemed  homogeneous with their surroundings.  Their modest enterprise,  not only a small grocery store, but endeavored as rural post office annex.  On several occasions Mike’s Mother would dispatch him the four blocks down Shone Ave to this oasis of a small store for a forgotten grocery or postal money orders to pay various household expenses.   Mike hated to see it go as he would always remember it as the store he bought his first Pepsi after hearing the jingle on the radio, “Pepsi Cola hits the spot / twelve full ounces, that’s a lot / twice as much for a nickel, too / Pepsi cola is the drink for you!”  whereas Coke came in 7 ounce and  several others in 10 ounce bottles.   With the advent of the Koplos Brothers Market, it being a new large all-inclusive grocery store, with a butcher and meat counter, fresh vegetables, fruit and  full service liquor department,  a premonition of  change having come to this sequestered area of Oakland.

The new store was a blessing to the neighborhood, the Koplos brothers, Jim and John, soon becoming like family to the community, it wasn’t unusual for their elderly father Ted to make deliveries.  Mike having gotten to know Jim who managed the liquor store aspect of the enterprise,  one Saturday afternoon,  he  happened to wander in the rear delivery area of the store,  discovering Jim sorting the empty returned for deposit beverage bottles into their designated cartons.  The Cola and Beer companies requiring a 2 cent deposit on the 12 ounce or less size bottles,  and a 5 cent deposit on the quart size for their product,  it was up to the store to sort the bottles by distributorship for pickup.  Mike seizing the moment, asking Jim if he might need someone to sort bottle on the  weekends,  as weekends was the time most people redeemed their accumulated bottles.  John hesitating, giving him the once over, Mike could tell John was mulling over what he had said,  and may have been somewhat concerned about Mike’s age, but finally agreeing to give him a try.  The ten year old starting his first paying job at a dollar per hour.

It began with the sound of the piano in the living room,  but only no one was playing,  it wasn’t exactly musical notes,  but an eerie sound that reverberated.  Glancing up,  Mike noticing the ceiling light fixture,  a chandelier fasten with a chain,  beginning to swing slowly at first, increasing its motion, performing an unheeded dance.   Then  came an unforgettable sound, at first a murmur then an echoing rumble, the sound of the house’s wooden studs and joist moaning in protest.  Mike raising off the divan, opening the front door looking outside, hoping,  just maybe he would see some movement of the ground,  but just as suddenly as it  begun,  the quake ended with a deafening silence.  Mother earth having presented another earthquake performance.

Living in the Bay Area, with three parallel faults line, the Calaveras, Hayward and the mighty  San Andreas, Mike’s family having experienced quakes before,  but not the sharpened jolt presented by this one.    Observing the reaction of his family, his sister Kay went into in her usual panic mode trying to hide, searching for  a safe haven, which she was prone to  after an earthquake.    His Younger sister, Nancy, showing no outward reaction and his Mom  already in a discussion with his Dad about the patched cracks in the living room wall plaster  once again returning.  The young man’s thoughts immediately registering a possible monetary opportunity called cop-los Market.  Briefly mentioning to his parents what he was up to, hurrying outside, mounting his bike, sailing down Shone Ave to Mountain Blvd.   Disembarking he approached the store,  finding the owners,  Jim and John Koplos  surveying the situation.  Groceries and sundry items having tumbled from the shelves into the aisles, but the biggest damage was the array of broken bottles, especially the wine and hard liquor bottles in the liquor department.  Looking about, it was evident from appearances the store had not  receive any structural damage, just a good shaking and displacement of its contents.

Mike couldn’t help but notice that John and Jim were disquieted with what they saw, having a major cleanup project ahead of them.  Young Mike was determined to proceed with his strategy, approaching the two owners,  volunteering to assist in the cleanup.    At first,  the two brothers seemed reluctant, especially considering broken glass spewed about,  and possibly Mike’s age.   That seemed to change  when  they apparently realized the aspect and perplexity of the situation,  giving Mike the go ahead to get started.  He was soon joined by two other store employee, apparently called by the brothers.  The project initiated, the crew spending the better part of the late evening expediting the cleanup, and replacing merchandise to its rightful place.

The most memorable aspect of the garnering operation was the odor that permeated the store.  Countless bottles of various  alcoholic beverage having been dislodge from their abode and sent crashing to the floor, discharging their content as well as a very identifiable aroma.  Returning home, he felt rewarded for his endeavor,  not only richer monetarily but richer for the memorable experience and a sense of accomplishment.


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