by Melissa Geissinger
The Annual 1906 Earthquake Commemoration
Every year in the early morning hours of April 18th, a group of people gather at Lotta's Fountain in San Francisco to commemorate the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and fires. It's not a large group - sometimes it seems like the press outnumber the attendees. Folks, many who have links to survivors of the quake, some dressed in period clothing, gather to remember the event and the devastating impact it had on the city. There is always a call to be prepared. The next "big one" could always be just around the corner.
The Ceremony's Tentative Schedule
The short ceremony always has the same schedule. It goes as follows:
4:45 a.m.: Master of Ceremonies Welcome Remarks
5:00 a.m.: Mayor, Fire Chief, Police Chief introduced. Mayor hangs wreath on Lotta's Fountain.
5:11 a.m.: Moment of silence and announce countdown (start countdown just before 5:12)
5:12 a.m.: Sirens
5:14 a.m.: Sing "San Francisco"
5:15 a.m.: Announcement/invitation to paint the Golden Hydrant at 20th and Church streets, which saved the Mission
5:30-6:30 a.m.: Help respray the Golden Hydrant at 20th and Church (event sponsored by the San Francisco History Association).
The Unofficial Anthem of Survivors
I remember being caught off guard the first time I attended the ceremony by the song "San Francisco". I had heard it before, but I didn't know all the words! The sing-along is not just a tradition, it's a meaningful anthem of the survivors of the quake. In my opinion, it's an important tradition that we carry on.
Here are the lyrics so you're not left out when you attend!
Title song from the film "San Francisco" (1936)
(Bronislau Kaper / Walter Jurmann / Gus Kahn)
Jeanette MacDonald (Film Soundtrack) - 1936
Bunny Berigan & The Rhythm Makers - 1936
Tommy Dorsey & His Orch. - 1936
Judy Garland - 1961
Also recorded by: Vikki Carr; Nancy Sinatra; The Mantovani Orch.;
Mocedades; Don Thompson; San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.
It only takes a tiny corner of
This great big world to make the place we love;
My home upon the hill, I find I love you still,
I've been away, but now I'm back to tell you...
San Francisco, open your golden gate
You let no stranger wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin' one
Saying I'll wander no more
Other places only make me love you best
Tell me you're the heart of all the golden west
San Francisco, welcome me home again
I'm coming home to go roaming no more