Shake, Rattle and Roll
1952 340 Central looking east
Do you remember the earthquake? For most in Fillmore that question would seem to refer to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake which devastated our downtown area, leaving vacant lots seen even today. But that was by no means the only quake to cause damage to our town.
July 12, 1952, at 4:52 am, the Tehachapi Quake hit in a series of waves which lasted in diminishing strength for nearly 45 minutes. The damage here in Fillmore was noticeable but relatively light. There was firewall damage on roof at 340-340 1/2 Central Avenue (formerly Ragtyme Station). Ballard Furniture at 348 Central Ave. was also damaged.
1952 Train coming through Fillmore
The train line through Fillmore suddenly became important once more after the Tehachapi quake. Train tunnels were caved in, the Ridge Route was blocked by a king-sized landslide. Trains were diverted through Fillmore for a time while the tracks were repaired.
Martha's Dress Shop, 1971
Fifty years ago, on February 9, 1971, a strong earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter Scale occurred in the Sylmar area of the San Fernando Valley. The shocks caused the upstairs wall of the Briggs Hardware Building (first known as Chili Franklin’s Pool Hall and Dance Hall when it was built in 1910) at 340 Central, to ripple and a large 70-foot chunk of bricks fell onto the roof of Martha’s, a dress shop just north at 344 Central (now Genesis Hair). An eye-witness later said when the brick mass hit Martha’s, the impact collapsed the roof and blew out the front windows.
Cleaning up exterior damage, Martha's, 1971
The store at 344 Central had to be rebuilt. The second story of 340 Central was so badly damaged it was removed. The second story had been a dance hall. The floor was left intact and is believed to still be there to this very day as part of a double ceiling.
As expected, all the grocery stores in town had major clean up to do after the 1971 quake. Aisles had to be cleaned as jars were thrown from shelves and damaged canned and boxed goods had to be disposed of. Enterprising high school students picked up some spare pocket money helping the store owners.
The Fillmore Hotel on Main St. and the Fillmore Citrus Association Packing House at A and Sespe had cracks in walls, but nothing major. Although the Fillmore Hotel survived the 1971 quake, in the 1994 quake it was destroyed.
Fillmore Hotel, January, 1994
Luckily, and perhaps surprisingly, none of the school buildings suffered and damage from the 1971 quake. Several had already been taken out of service as class rooms under the Field Act which had been passed in 1933 after the Long Beach Earthquake, mandating that school buildings must be earthquake-resistant. Even these were not significantly damaged.
Neither of these earthquakes were as devastating to our community as the 1994 Northridge Quake, but it’s good to remember that the 1994 quake was not an anomaly. We live in earthquake country and we are sure to have another one. The question is just when.