At Jefferson Park were camped thousands of people of every class in life. On the western edge of this park is the old Scott house, where Mrs. McKinley lay sick for two weeks in 1901. Three times a day the people all gathered in line before the provision wagons for their little handouts. “Yesterday,” says an observer, “I saw, in order before the wagons, a Lascar sailor in his turban, about as low a Chinatown bum as I ever set eyes on, a woman of refined appearance, a barefooted child, two Chinamen, and a pretty girl. They were squeezed up together by the line, which extended for a quarter of a mile. It is civilization in the bare bones.
“The great and rich are on a level with the poor in the struggle for bare existence, and over them all is the perfect, unbroken discipline of the soldiery. They came into the city and took charge on an hour’s notice, they saved the city from itself in the three days of hell, and but for them the city, even with enough provisions to feed them in the stores and warehouses, must have gone hungry for lack of distributive organization.”
At one of the parks on Tuesday morning a handsomely dressed woman with two children at her skirts stood in a line of many hundreds where supplies were being given out. She took some uncooked bacon, and as she reached for it jewels sparkled on her fingers. One of the tots took a can of condensed milk, the other a bag of cakes.
“I have money,” she said, “’if I could get it and use it. I have property, if I could realize on it. I have friends, if I could get to them. Meantime I am going to cook this piece of bacon on bricks and be happy.”
She was only one of thousands like her.
In a walk through the city this note of cheerfulness of the people in the face of an almost incredible week of horror was to a correspondent the mitigating element to the awfulness of disaster.
In the streets of the residential district in the western addition, which the fire did not reach, women of the houses were cooking meals on the pavement. In most cases they had moved out the family ranges, and were preparing the food which they had secured from the Relief Committee.
Out on Broderick street, near the Panhandle, a piano sounded. It was nigh ten o’clock and the stars were shining after the rain. Fires gleamed up and down through the shrubbery and the refugees sat huddled together about the flames, with their blankets about their heads, Apache-like, in an effort to dry out after the wetting of the afternoon. The piano, dripping with moisture, stood on the curb, near the front of a cottage which had been wrecked by the earthquake.