I was living on 17th Ave next to Live Oak Super at the time. Had a roommate I am still tight with now. It was a handy location for my job at West Marine, except by then we had done “The Big Move” to Watsonville. I had just gotten home from work. We were low on supplies. So I was literally already standing in our front doorway with my checkbook and my shopping list, as we were discussing ALL the stuff we needed, which at that time included booze and cigarettes (at the top of the priority list), I was young and knew everything by then haha.
As I found myself holding on to the door frame to avoid falling down, I watched the huge fish tank topple to the ground and “bounce” across the living room floor. And “smoke-like” stuff coming from the chimney. After the shaking stopped, I dashed to Live Oak Super for those mandatory supplies! Live Oak Super was owned by an Asian family of wonderful people back then. They didn’t speak any English, but had locked the doors and shook their heads, “no.” I could see the food was above ankle deep on the floor behind them, so I knew to leave without argument. Plus, I loved them there.
We sat up in the yard out back with no nothing (not even food, really). We ate some peanut butter and pulled the car into the back yard to play the radio for news. There was an eerie darkness soon in the horizon…
After talking and talking about how odd the quiet was, we went to our rooms for the night. Next day was a day off work, so I headed over to my Mom’s (where I now live) and saw she had friends and neighbors helping get her water heater put back, etc. then I headed over to Live Oak Super and explained somehow that I wanted to help the clean up. My roommate came with me. So they let us in and we proceeded to clear up the rotting frozen food and the broken glass and sauces.
Soon a line formed at the front of the store, full of locals needing supplies, with no idea if they had anything left. Since I spoke the same language as the people in line, I was assigned to take orders at the door (to avoid allowing people to climb atop of glass) and see what I could do with what we had left to sell. People wanted frozen dinners, TV guide magazine, all kinds of unnecessary and useless goods. So my job was evaluating them and helping each family decide what they truly needed. Powdered milk, canned goods that could be eaten safely, etc. This went on for 2 days before I had to return to work, and the store started to look like a store again, except no new deliveries yet. As I left that second evening, they thanked me and sent me home with some beer, cigarettes and some food. No charge. Very generous!
Now all these years later, I returned to this area and went to Live Oak Super, if only to see who remained of that family. They were long gone. I spoke with a cashier, who explained she and her husband had ALSO volunteered to help out at the store back then, and when the owners decided to retire and sell, they offered this couple the chance to buy the store. I have to say, the new family seems just as kind. They loved sharing their stories from that day/week/month/year.
It was a very rewarding experience to partake in such a thing. Going back to work was another story. I was head of the carpool that week to Watsonville. We were practically the only car on the buckled road (hwy 1). It was important to get our West Marine trucks on the roads to the stores, especially the Bay Area stores. Since we sold survival merchandise for boaters, batteries, etc, it was a panic situation… I had difficulty caring about work, sorry to say. But we got those trucks out as soon as we heard there were ways to actually GET to the stores. There were only 13 West Marine stores back then!
After 2 weeks without gas, I gave up trying to reach PG&E over the phone and made a big cardboard sign: WE NEED PG&E, and it worked. An employee of theirs saw the sign on his way home from a LONG SHIFT at work and checked our gas lines.
Very cool. Wish I knew his name… Good things happen when bad things happen sometimes. 🙂
By Laurie Otto
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