A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

(Above: Richard Schwartz)
At 7:45 in the morning on Oct. 21, 1868, the entire East Bay was shaken by a powerful earthquake on the Hayward fault.
Many people were knocked down and couldn't stand again until the shaking stopped. Some grabbed onto trees to steady themselves, but the trees were swaying back and forth like giant pendulums. Those inside buildings were tossed around like beanbags.
Fissures in the ground opened and shut again, like a hungry mouth. Some people assumed it was the end of the world and sat down to await their doom.
The quake – which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates was between 6.8 and 7.0 on the Richter scale – opened a giant fissure running from somewhere south of Hayward all the way north to what is now Berkeley, ranging in width from six inches to six feet.
Not many people were killed, which is not surprising since not many people lived around here at the time – only 2,400 along the whole length of the fault, compared to more than 2.5 million today.
The most notable fatality was Joseph "JW" Josselyn, a promising young clerk in the Alameda County Courthouse in San Leandro – the county seat at the time - who was killed when he rushed outside and was struck by a falling cornice.
Luckier was the workman who was 140 feet in the air,  putting the final touches on the main spire at the California School for the Deaf – now known as the Clark Kerr Campus – in Berkeley when the quake struck.
"He held on for dear life while it rocked back and forth four feet in either direction," says Richard Schwartz, my favorite amateur historian, who uncovered all the stuff I've just told you.
Schwartz himself is almost as interesting as the stories he tells. A building contractor by trade, he happened to be visiting the Berkeley Historical Society one day in 1996 when he spotted a two-foot stack of old Berkeley Daily Gazette newspapers from 1900 to 1909.
The Historical Society was about to throw them out because they were moldy, and they didn't want to run the risk of the mold spreading to other collections.
"Hey, I'll take them," he said. And these newspapers became the source material for three fascinating books:  "Berkeley 1900: Daily Life at the Turn of the Century," "Earthquake Exodus 1906: Berkeley Responds to the San Francisco Refugees," and "Eccentrics, Heroes and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley."
Befitting his daytime job as a contractor, they are sold not only in local bookstores, but also in hardware stores.
Now he's on a new mission: To warn us that what happened before will happen again.
"The USGS says major destructive earthquakes happen along the Hayward Fault on the average of once every 138 years," he says. "That means we've been overdue since 2006. And we are woefully unprepared."
You can find out more at Spenger's Fish Grotto in Berkeley on Oct. 27, when Schwartz will give a lecture, replete with photos, sponsored by Builders' Booksource. Cost: $30, all of which will go to Spenger's for dinner. (Schwartz and Builders' Booksource are donating their time.)
But you must make your reservation no later than Oct. 21 by calling Builders Booksource at 510-845-6874.
"The whole idea is to show people all these photos and scare them into preparing," he says.

All Creatures Great And Small

Ten years ago the people of Berkeley approved a bond measure to fund a new city animal shelter to replace the old, well-loved but well-worn facility that was state-of-the-art when it was built in the 1950s but is sadly out of date now.
It's taken another decade of jumping though bureaucratic hoops, but the new shelter will finally open next month.
Unfortunately, bond measures pay only for the bricks and mortar, not for what goes on inside the building. And this bond measure was no exception.
Which means Berkeley Animal Care Services, the agency that runs the shelter, still has to find the rest of the money on its own. The most glaring need is for an on-site clinic to treat the animals in the shelter, including basics like vaccinations, spay/neuter surgeries and emergency medial care. Currently, the shelter is forced to outsource these functions to local veterinarians.
It's hard to imagine a more expensive, less efficient way of doing things. The cats and dogs have to be transported to and from the vet's office, which not only eats up staff time, it's the four-footed equivalent of sending people to the emergency room for routine medical needs.
Not to mention the war and tear on the poor animals themselves, who ought to be getting total rest.
 Currently, one out of every five pets in the shelter needs such medical care. And some require much more, such as Daphne, a pit bull puppy who was brought in a few months ago with her ears cut off and 38 pellets from a pellet gun under her skin.
Or Godiva, another pit bull who was brought in with a chain around her neck that became tighter and tighter as she grew up, to the point where her skin had literally grown over it, requiring surgery to cut it out. Her suffering must have been unimaginable.
Their treatment didn't come cheap, but that's what an animal shelter is there for, and why an in-house clinic is so crucial.
Currently, Berkeley Animal Care Services – which is responsible for taking care of all the lost, abused, stray or unwanted animals in Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont and Emeryville – provides a safe haven for more than 1,500 dogs and cats every year.
But BACS is much more than just another city shelter. In addition to its caring, committed and knowledgeable staff, more than 600 volunteers give more than 400 hours of their time every week to support programs such as pit bull placement, feral cat management and community services.
Last year, some of these volunteers formed a non-profit group called Friends of Berkeley Animal Care Services to support the shelter and raise the money to equip that on-site clinic.
Their first big fund-raiser will be a gala at the Brower Center on Oct. 18 called Power to the Paws, featuring gourmet food and wine (this is Berkeley, after all), live entertainment and an auction including tickets to Berkeley Rep and your own private concert by a trio of musicians from the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.
And if you can't attend but would still like to help, you can make a tax-deductible donation online at friendsofbacs.org or by sending a check to Friends of BACS, c/o DeAnna Dalton, 1244 Curtis Street, Berkeley CA 94706.
Tell 'em Daphne and Godiva sent you.