News Article - San Francisco 1906 Earthquake and Fire Oram Genealogy & Family History
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Joseph Garfield Heermance
December 2, 1881 - January 19, 1972

(An Unidentified 1906 Newspaper Clipping)

A Day's Relief Work

The Experience of a Single Trip to San Francisco and Return

On Saturday morning, April 21, I got up quite early and reported to the Oakland relief committee at the Chamber of Commerce to take up the day's work to relieve, if possible, the suffering of as many unfortunates as I could.

I left Oakland on the 8:30 boat for San Francisco with about 150 pounds of provisions on my wheel (bicycle). Arriving at the Ferry building I boarded a wagon bound for the Market Street cut to remove a load of furniture to Oakland. We proceeded along East Street intent on going up Howard Street, but when we got to Howard Street the federal authorities confiscated the wagon, for the steamer Roanoke had arrived with provisions which must be distributed among the sufferers, so I was forced to walk and push the wheel with its heavy burden.

I was bound for Seventeenth and Douglass Streets, which is beyond Castro. I went out Howard Street as far as Tenth. The only reason for knowing the corner was the remains of the old cable house of the Howard Street line. I went over Tenth till I got to Market; here the buildings of the Studebaker Wagon Company on one side and the Varney & Green Company on the other had fallen, making a pile of debris about four feet high, which was impassable with the load I had, so I was forced to unload and carry the wheel across, then go back and carry the three sacks of provisions, load up again and proceed. I now had a clear street ahead and arrived at Seventeenth and Castro at 11 a.m., after two hours of hard work climbing over broken wires and fallen walls.

On arriving at the top of the hill I found people who actually hadn't seen bread for two days, having in some cases been eating flour and water cooked in a frying pan. I distributed what I had, which consisted of twelve loaves of bread, some beans, rice, canned beef and butter.

Then I started back, but decided to proceed directly down Market Street. I passed hundreds of people who had homes still standing, but were cooking on stoves in the middle of the street, and in many cases a brick camp stove and also five-gallon oil cans were used.

At Montgomery and Post Streets I met the first guard who wanted me. He thrust a gun in my face and told me to halt. I was very prompt to obey, for I know what martial law is.

"Pile those bricks," came the command.

"But I have a pass, talk to me, will you?" came the quick response. I produced my pass and was promptly told it wasn't worth the paper it was written on, to which I remarked:

"You are certainly a man of fine judgment. Now, let's be reasonable. My pass is for relief work and I am carrying medical supplies and am sure you need medicine worse than you need those bricks piled, but if you prefer bricks to medicine I am at your service."

I was immediately allowed to pass, but hadn't gone half a block when I was commanded to halt again and go through the same performance again, and it was the same about every half block until I reached the ferry.

It was my last day's work, for I was about worn out from the strain and loss of sleep, but I did it gladly, for I had plenty and was willing to share with those who were more unfortunate. I was glad to get back to Oakland, and arriving at home I promptly proceeded to pack to leave, for it was 3 p.m. and I had about two hours and a half to catch a train and get away where I could not see the suffering and could get a much-needed rest. --J.H.
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