Another method of finding friends and relatives was by printing notices on vehicles. On the side curtains of a buggy being driven to Golden Gate Park was the following sign: “I am looking for I. E. Hall.”
That searchers for lost ones might have the least trouble, all the tents, here known as camps, were tagged with the names or numbers. For instance, one tent of bed quilts carried this sign: “No. 40 Bush Street camp.”
Most of the tents were merely named for the family name of the occupants, the former streets number usually being given. But these tent tags told a wonderful story of human nature. A small army tent bore the name, “Camp Thankful,” the one next to it was placarded “Camp Glory” and a few feet farther on an Irishman had posted the sign “Camp Hell.”
The cooking was all done on a dozen bricks for a stove, with such utensils as may usually be picked up in the ordinary residential alley. But in all of the camps the badge of the eternal feminine was to be found in the form of small pieces of broken mirrors, or hand mirrors fastened to trees or tent walls, in some cases the polished bottom of a tomato can serving the purposes of the feminine toilet.
One woman, in whose improvised tent screeched a parrot, sat ministering to the wounds of the other family pet, a badly singed cat. The number of canaries, parrots, dogs and cats was one of the amusing features of the disaster.
Among the interesting and thrilling incidents of the disaster is that connected with the telegraph service. For many hours virtually all the news from San Francisco came over the wires of the Postal Telegraph Company. The Postal has about fifteen wires running into San Francisco. They go under the bay in cables from Oakland, and thence run underground for several blocks down Market Street to the Postal building. About forty operators are employed to handle the business, but evidently there was only about one on duty when the earthquake began.
What became of him nobody knows. But he seems to have sent the first word of the disaster. It came over the Postal wires about nine o’clock, just when the day’s business had started in the East. It will long be preserved in the records of the company. This was the dispatch:
“There was an earthquake hit us at 5.13 this morning, wrecking several buildings and wrecking our offices. They are carting dead from the fallen buildings. Fire all over town. There is no water and we lost our power. I’m going to get out of office, as we have had a little shake every few minutes, and it’s me for the simple life.”
“R., San Francisco, 5.50 A. M.”
“Mr. R.” evidently got out, for there was nothing doing for a brief interval after that. The operator in the East pounded and pounded at his key, but San Francisco was silent. The Postal people were wondering if it was all the dream of some crazy operator or a calamity, when the wire woke up again. It was the superintendent of the San Francisco force this time.