The massive 9.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Prince William Sound, Alaska, on Good Friday, at 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, produced a succession of tidal waves. Within a few hours, the waves would devastate several Pacific coastal towns and result in 14 deaths.
Within seconds after the quake, a “train” of powerful waves would speed down the coast, dismantling homes, bridges, harbors, and roads. Approximately 100 million dollars in damages were caused by swells ranging from ten to over twenty feet high. In 1964, 100-million dollars was “a bit of change.”
Ten of the fourteen people killed by the waves died in Crescent City when a 21-foot wave flooded a large portion of the city.
Farther down the coast, wave heights at Humbolt Bay and Eureka reached 14 feet.
One person drown in the already unhealthy waters of the Cerritos Channel near Long Beach (… probably some lame Valley‘kook’).
The series of tidal waves that did reach the Los Angeles coast early the following morning barely made the news because they were largely confined to the area around a narrow ocean outlet known as Ballona Creek.
It would be quite possible for tidal waves to travel miles up Ballona Creek, where they could further damage the inland communities (inland communities are “earthquake bait.” They are the dusty old neighborhoods of LA (which mostly suck, as they have no waves and are full of greasy hodads).
Since a “tsunami” tends to be made up of several waves, the series might be called a train. Upon arrival, these waves, while ripping up the sea bed, may sound like a train approaching. A train can last for many hours. The interval between these waves can stretch as long as a half hour. The first wave to hit land is not always the largest wave. Frequently, the second or third wave will prove to be the most destructive.
It was a beautiful cool night with a big bright full moon; picture-perfect for watching the submarine races and the first grunion run of the season.
Barbi’s Playhouse, Playa Del Rey, California
“Good Friday,” 10 p.m., March 27, 1964
“It’s time for Barbi to go to sleep, son,” said FBI Special Agent Andre Molle (pronounced: MO-lay) “and it’s also time for you to get yourself home,”. He was speaking to his daughter’s new friend, Jay ‘Spaz’ Barnett. Agent Mollewas drinking and thinking, Hmmmm. I could use that punk’s skinny neck like a toothpick for my olive.
Spaz Barnett, or Jay, was a skinny 14-year-old. He was holding a heavy, full, dripping bucket of live fish over the Molle’s schmancy white rug.
Spaz had just walked into the family’s living room with their dark haired daughter, Barbi, when a loud announcement on the TV rattled their hormones, and caught their teenage “divided” attention.
They halted in their sandy tracks, when a deep authoritative voice from the TV blared out, “Tidal Wave!”
The second announcement came from Barbi’s well-marinated mom, who croaked, “Shid! Taig (take) that damn buggid (bucket) into the kishin! You’re dribbering all over the god’m carbit.”
The two teens, in their buzzing britches, didn’t hear Barbi’s lubricated mom. They’d only heard the words tidal wave coming from the television.
Barbi’s dad sat in his easy chair with his third martooni, cursing under his breath about runaway teenage hormones and how he could no longer catch any.
“Oh yes, about the fish.”
(3 hours earlier, 7 Ppm.
“Good Friday,” March 27, 1964)
For four consecutive evenings in the spring and summer months along the Southern California coast, beginning with full and new moons, the little Grunion fish come up onto the beaches to spawn. The bite-sized yummy silversides wiggle their way up onto the sand, and in scientific terms “make awesome whoopie” for a few hours. The female grunion arches her lithe body and digs a nest in the sand with her shapely tail, wherein she can deposit her eggs to be fertilized by the male grunion flopping nearby.
Afterward, Grunion pairs lay back and relax with a kelp cigarette. After a short rest, the seven-inch-long fish then find their scaly undies and flop their way back into the sea.
* * * *
Shortly after sundown on that Friday evening, the two 14-year-old secreters, Spaz and Barbi, walked down the hill to Gillis Beach, pail in hand, to enjoy the first grunion run of the 1964 spring season.
The two ADHD teens waited for an excruciating fifteen minutes, and the grunion still hadn’t turned up. Barbi wrote an adorable message in the wet sand, “Hurry up you fucking stupid tunas!” and returned to Spaz who was laying down on the towel. She smiled warmly at Spaz and they kissed, for the very first time, beneath the moon. Wow, thought the young boy. Barbi is, like my best bud. What should I do next? Spaz was not quite sure what to do with Barbi, whose body he had watched blossom over the summer, who until that afternoon, had been “more of a pal,” or “like a sister,” or “his best friend.” Within ten minutes, they were arching and flopping among the thousands of horny grunion on the beach, which soon led to tongue-trolling for tonsils.
Barbi was writhing and heaving on the beach towel beneath Spaz. Was she having a fit?
Spaz’s fourteen-year-old mind had not quite caught up to his more mature girlfriend. He hadn’t much experience with romance beyond dirty jokes and an awkward kiss with a mustached girl named Carol during a game of Spin the Bottle when he was thirteen. “Baseball! Baseball! Think about baseball!” his big brother had once told him.
But, suddenly, there were boobs and … and….
In a flurry of wild foul balls, the nookie rookie, Spaz —had struck out.
True to his name, Spaz had managed to fertilize a few hundred grunion eggs, in four separate nests—on that historic night—Friday, March 27, 1964.
Reports of “tiny mermaids and mermen spawning at Toes beach in 1967,” were filed away at a remote Air Force base, “Area 53” near Hamilton Beach, New York. These “reports” were initially ignored by the authorities. All eight of the unrelated witnesses were described as being “unable to even crawl at the time.”
The spent male grunion had stopped bragging amongst themselves for a moment to chuckle at Spaz’s clumsy, though gallant, attempt to free the highly combustible Barbi from her flammable cotton restraints — as a lifeguard jeep approached.
The two lovebirds did not hear the vintage World War II jeep stop two feet behind them, as they were deeply involved in choking on one another’s slimy tongues, and squishing the poor weakened fish beneath them.
Loud, teenage static played on Spaz’s fine new black Japanese transistor radio that was permanently stuck on KRLA. Disc jockey Dave Hull, The Hullabalooer, had just announced that the Beach Boys were still the most popular band in the world. Even more popular than the Beatles. Those pale limeys with their weird chords and stupid haircuts. No way, José!
Back at Barbi’s. “The News” 10 p.m., March 27, 1964
Barbi Molle’s home was about one half mile up the slope from the beach at Playa Del Rey, where in the spring and summer, the Submarine races were scheduled nearly every night.
The teens had walked up the hill with their pail of grunion.
Sandy, sore, and smiling, Spaz and Barbi strolled through the Molle’s kitchen, and into the newly carpeted, modern living room. Spaz still held the bucket full of the equally sandy, sore, smiling, and satiated live, nude grunion.
When they entered the room, the 10 o’clock news was on “Special Report.” KCOP Hal Fishface (Real name/Born: Halitozhisch Foqfaische in Czechoslovakia in 1912) was rattling on about an earthquake and the resulting 30-foot tidal waves headed for California’s West Coast—sometime after midnight. “When the Pacific….”
Target: Ballona Creek
The bridges spanning Ballona Creek would be the only man-made structures damaged by the waves that would hit LA on Saturday, March 28, 1964. Most of those bridges were already in various phases of construction and destruction, as the new 405 freeway was being built along the path of Ballona Creek. “The Creek” was an old river bed that ran nearly all the way into the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
Regardless of the terrible damage caused by the day’s earthquake on northern west coast seaside communities, this story about three 14-year-old “Daredevil Los Angeles teenagers” would steal the day’s headlines, and top the front page news.
Yes, it would be the incredible stupidity and amazing dumb luck of the three young surfers who would captivate the imagination of the world… on that following Saturday morning — so long, long ago.
T.V. or Not T.V.
The Alaskan Earthquake had released its offspring of destructive tidal waves. According to the ten o’clock news anchor, Hal Fishface, the killer waves were working their way down the coast.
Fishface had said that the tidal waves, or a series of tidal waves, had already done millions of dollars’ worth of damage in the Northwest and may have killed as many as a dozen coastal residents.
“Waves of undetermined height might slam our coastline as early as 4 a.m. Anyone who lives in low lying areas along all California beaches or who are at the tonight’s Submarine Races humping their brains out to the sounds of Wolfman Jack, should be vigilant, heed all warnings and be ready to evacuate if directed to do so by Fred the Lifeguard and Civil Defense, ” said the KCOP news celebrity.
Barbi’s father was repeatedly asking the oozing Zit or Spaz, or whatever the juvenile delinquent’s name was, to politely, “GO HOME!”
Spaz’s eyes and ears were glued to the television. If he rode “the Big One” into downtown, he’d be “hangin’ eleven in heaven” (i.e., He would be the bouncing beach bunny Barbi’s “Oh, my hero!” forever).
Barbi would be eternally stoked… fer sure. Dude.
Surfing down Ballona creek to Olveira Street? Whoa! Bitchin’!
Ballona Creek, with its potential for almost endless rides back and forth between the two jetties….
Spaz was relaxed and deep into his surf-trance, while the ‘awakened’ Barbi wolfed down the last slice of Andy’s pizza, while thinking about spawning, again, on the moonlit beach. When she looked at her dad, she noticed that he was staring at Spaz. Daddy didn’t look happy.
Barbi’s FBI dad, ignored in a house full of people, was thinking about trying out a new top-secret alternative to dangerous chemical defoliants. A gadget recently developed by the military in Vietnam called a “Weed Whacker.” Mr. Molle wanted to try the new gizmo out on his angelic daughter’s new hump buddy, Zit, Boil, or whatever its name was. The dumb-ass with the pail of filthy fish.
Say goodbye to your Oscar Meyer Wiener Whistle! thought the Special Agent.
(Next… Lifeguard Fred Colby and the Gremmies at D&W beach.)