1933. Long Beach. The house started to shake uncontrollably from side to side. Medicines spilled out of the bathroom cabinet; dishes tumbled from kitchen cupboards. My mother, sister and I managed to make our way to the frontyard. The earth kept up a constant quiver as we waited for our father. Where was he? Was he still alive? And then about 6:30 a city bus appeared, picking its way around debris in the street, depositing my father at his usual corner. I have never stopped reflecting on the perseverance of the driver who kept to his route and reunited my family in the dark.
On the morning of Nov. 6, 1961, I received an urgent phone call from my daughter, a student at UCLA, telling me that Bel-Air was on fire.
For 2 1/2 years, I had been trying desperately to sell a large home in Bel-Air without success. The man who sold the house to me had made structural changes without abiding by the building codes. Competent architects advised me to tear it down.
Finding that the cost of rebuilding was more than we could afford, we decided to sell it and never moved in.
Four hundred houses burned to the ground in that fire. Mine was untouched.
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