Eatonville is no stranger to earthquakes. One that left lasting memories shook the place up on April 13, 1949. At 11:52 am the town started rocking and rolling.
Many recall the cement streets rolling like waves. Margit Thorvaldson says she was in the grocery store at the time and it took her a moment to realize what was happening. She remembers a woman more “earthquake savvy” than herself move to a doorway as items fell from the shelves.
School & Town Take hit
Although over a dozen chimneys fell, the Hotes building (100 S. Mashell) had damage and the wood reservoir feeding the Eatonville Lumber company engine had to be replaced. It was the high school, however, that got the worst of it.
Louie Mettler says he was eating in the cafeteria when it hit. “I remember they were serving peaches, because peaches were flying all over. We were jumping out the windows and hauling others out.”
The auditorium and cafeteria were out of the commission for the rest of the year and engineers from Tacoma came and attached steel rods and shored things up.
It could have been much worse. The Dispatch reported that the entire student body has been scheduled to be in the auditorium from 11 to 12. Luckily, the assembly had been let out a little early that day — minutes before the quake hit.
The Lighter Side
Roy Swanson, an eighth grader at the time, remembers he and Kenny Hamilton walking downtown and seeing all the smashed bottles at the liquor store. The manager later gave out corks to many of the regular customers.
And Mrs. Otto Haynes told the Dispatch that the quake fixed the clock in their car. No one had been able to fix it for two years and the experts in Seattle said it was beyond repair. “It started right after the quake and has run fine every since.”
This was hardly the last of it. Since then, we’ve weathered the following:
• a 3.6 tremor in 1979.
• a 4.1 earthquake in 1995, which caused little damage, but got the town council looking into an emergency plan
• a damaging 6.8 quake that lasted 40 seconds in February, 2001. Despite the fact that the quake happened 30 miles under ground, it still caused cracks in the gymnasium wall and tennis court. It was also reported that the water tower of Dow Ridge moved 4 inches off its cement resting pad. This time around though, the liquor store only lost two bottles.
(Much of the information comes from Timber Town and Later by Edith Erickson and the Dispatch.)