In the Seattle Times, an anonymous Seattle man said: “I was in Swedish Hospital, visiting my wife. The quake seemed to be moving from north to south, because I could hear the north end of the building groaning and trembling before I could feel the shock myself. The next instant the floor began to shake and wobble and the chandeliers started to sway. I ran down the hall to my wife’s room, because I thought she’d be frightened to death. She was laughing fit to kill at her chandelier, which was doing a jig.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer covered the Valentine’s Day 1946 quake as well. It interviewed Mike Lynch, a downtown bail bondsman who said of the Smith Tower: “I think it swayed for about half a minute. I was afraid it might fall over.”
It also interviewed Mrs. Maria Frentz, a Smith Tower janitor who said she heard what sounded like “a terrific wind, and a noise like the whole tower was caving in. It was groaning and creaking. The elevator cables swung back and forth, hitting sides of the shafts.” The building “jerked so hard it threw me from side to side against the walls.”
In a sidebar story called “Everybody Gets a Lift Out of Quake,” the P-I interviewed a variety of people with quake stories. Walter Callahan, the King County jailer, said, “There was no panic, but a lot of excitement. When I got to the women’s wards the girls were gathered at the door, repeating the Lord’s prayer.”
Mrs. Jewell Mitchell, who was visiting her son, a convicted murder, in the county jail office, added: “I’ve been used to California where we expect earthquakes. But this came so suddenly. . . I didn’t think you had them in Washington.”
An M.W. Hamblem said: “I was standing on top of the ladder, putting on lath. Suddenly the ladder began to rock. I thought the children were shaking it. I looked down-then I realized what was happening and got down right now!”
Mrs. Florence Smith, a switchboard operator in the County-City Building downtown, said: “I grabbed for my shoe. I was undecided whether to run for the elevator or to tend the switchboard, which I thought was going to topple over on me, but I kept on plugging. When I felt the building swaying, I was reading The Gauntlet, by Thomas Street.” The P-I noted that “Mrs Smith said telephone service was cut off for several minutes following the tremor.”
Tom Connors, who was downtown, said: “It seemed as though Magnin’s and the Washington Athletic Club were leaning over looking down at me!”
There was a man named O. Clare Lloyd in Queen Anne whose hiccups stopped because of the earthquake.
Finally, a 13-year-old boy named LaVerne Lee said he was fixing his radio antenna, which was attached to a shed housing two plow horses, just before the quake. LaVerne said: “I thought I was getting dizzy. I fell off the shed-and landed on one of the horses. I guess he was asleep. Anyway, he started to run, with me on him. I couldn’t stop him. There was no bridle. He ran to a creek a block and a half away and dumped me in.”
By the way, to give a flavor of the times: on the same day as the earthquake, Howard Hughes flew the first non-stop commercial flight from Los Angeles to New York City, for Transcontinental Western Airlines (TWA), kicking off their daily cross-continent service; a naval officer testified that FDR was aware of an imminent Japanese attack on December 6, 1941; the Canadian army was planning to withdraw from Germany in April 1946; a Communist rally in Singapore to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Japan invading Singapore was violently broken up by the authorities; the U.S. asked China for information on reports that the occupying Soviet army was taking assets from Manchuria; the Soviets protested British and French occupation of Syria and Lebanon; and the Times visited the Kalakala ferry and took a look at the first-ever commercial radar system to be deployed anywhere in the world.
Since it’s of interest, here’s some excerpts: “The ferry Kalakala’s radar set can do just about anything but fry eggs or talk seagull talk. After ten days of tinkering by experts, the set wound up and began pitching strikes today, to the pop-eyed amazement of those in the pilot house. [Electrician C.H. Sterns said] ‘It really isn’t any more complicated than a radio. And it certainly is going to take any hit-and-miss element out of fog-running.'” You can read an article I wrote on HistoryLink about the Kalakala’s radar, and here’s a picture of the first part of the Times story: