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Speeches. And Herb!
April 25, 2007 12:00 AM   Subscribe

104 year-old Herb Hamerol was the lone survivor on hand at this year's 101st memorial for the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. To some people he's a celebrity. Truth is, to attend the memorial he took the day off from his long-held job as a stock clerk at Andronico's supermarket. Yes, read that paragraph again.
posted by miss lynnster (33 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw one place where it said "Hamerol" & that's what I typed it from... but after reviewing the other links I think his name is spelled "Hamrol." Oh well.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:04 AM on April 25, 2007


wow. respect.
posted by Baud at 12:07 AM on April 25, 2007


Nice post, miss lynnster. It's so very poignant when these kind of annual remembrance ceremonies grow older and older, and fewer and fewer of the folks who were there show up. Time passes.

Some lines from a favorite antiwar song convey the feeling well:

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But year after year, their numbers get fewer
Someday no one will march there at all


(the whole song here).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:52 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


These living residents were also there.

after reviewing the other links I think his name is spelled "Hamrol."
He dropped the e when this Web 2.0 stuff started.

posted by pracowity at 12:56 AM on April 25, 2007


If I'm still capable of physical labor after I crack 100, I'll be an outlaw instead. Because why not?
posted by mullingitover at 12:56 AM on April 25, 2007


He doesn't look a day over 90. Seriously, somehow I think once you get past 100 you start getting younger for a while. I don't know if I can make it that long, but gosh I hope I look that good if I do.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:32 AM on April 25, 2007


Oh, and how come you say "lone survivor" and MSN says "handful"?
posted by Deathalicious at 1:33 AM on April 25, 2007


Oh, and how come you say "lone survivor" and MSN says "handful"?
I think the MSN video is from last year when there were indeed a handful of survivors on hand for the ceremonies. They refer to him as being 103.
posted by chillmost at 1:58 AM on April 25, 2007


My grandfather was there. He died about 13 years ago. I don't think he ever went to any such gathering. The only people who would know are also dead (my mother went with him, she's dead too).
posted by Goofyy at 2:20 AM on April 25, 2007


Damn, what's in the SF water? The centenarians in that video look great!
posted by madamjujujive at 2:57 AM on April 25, 2007


madamjujujive, you ain't kiddin'! My grandfather is in his early eighties, and he looks about on par with these folks to me. Incredible that they're old enough to be parents to him. Wow. Thanks, miss lynnster!
posted by cgc373 at 3:39 AM on April 25, 2007


Some lines from a favorite antiwar song convey the feeling well:

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But year after year, their numbers get fewer
Someday no one will march there at all

(the whole song here).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:52 AM on April 25



flapjax at midnite, how appropriate that you post those lyrics on ANZAC Day.


I'm constantly amazed at the vitality and energy of many people in their later years. My grandmother led an active and independent life until the age of 90, hosting parties and housing and feeding various grandchildren (including myself) as they went to college, and even continued to drive until she was 88. She finally passed away in March, at the age of 92. She wanted very much to go - she's been missing my grandfather since his passing in 1988.

But at her a clinic checkup a few years back, she was told by the nurse that she was in absolutely perfect health. She asked him, "So how long would you expect me to live?" To which the nurse replied, "Forever!"

She despaired over that pronouncement.
posted by po at 4:12 AM on April 25, 2007


Best quote from the SF Gate story:

"Hamrol said regular work is one of the secrets of his long life. He still is employed at Andronico's supermarket in Sunset District two days a week.

"The retirement benefits are good there,' he said. "

At 104 he's holdiing this job for the retirement benefits! :)

And.. I will now officially stop complaining about being old!
posted by HuronBob at 4:18 AM on April 25, 2007


The photos on that first link remind me of why I've never lived in SF... even though I'm pretty sure it's the best city in North America.

The ground shakes. Often.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:20 AM on April 25, 2007


I've been in SF four times now and I've never felt a single tremor. I feel ripped off.
posted by octothorpe at 4:41 AM on April 25, 2007


The photos on that first link remind me of why I've never lived in SF... even though I'm pretty sure it's the best city in North America.

The ground shakes. Often.


My thoughts exactly.

It must have been horrific to see a city almost destroyed because of an earthquake.

Delightful post misslynnster. Wonderful Herb Hamrol is living to such an old age and survived such a catastrophic event. I've only experienced a few minor earthquakes in North India but whoa were they scary. It was beyond comprehension that the solid Earth could wiggle like a bowl of jello! The solidity of the Earth is one of those life metaphors and when it wiggles, life is different after that.
posted by nickyskye at 4:47 AM on April 25, 2007


Gorgeous post, miss lynnster.

There are some 80something people in my family who have entered a sort of physical stasis - and most of them are, quite rightly, delightfully vain about it.

On the other hand I recently edited a scholarly book about the genetics of aging - and the professor who wrote it kept being sent photos by proudly aged folk posing in swimsuits - and who claimed they had the secret of youth (usually through diet).

They looked - to the last man and woman - not a day younger than their birth certificates stated. He always kindly wrote back saying that, of course, a youthful state of mind was the real key!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:08 AM on April 25, 2007


Keep in mind earthquakes are (1) infrequent, (2) short-lived, and (3) cause very few deaths (in the US, anyway). Earthquakes are the least-bad natural disaster. Only two earthquakes have killed more than 100 people in California (ever). Nine other quakes have killed more than 10. Of those 11 quakes, only four occured in the last 50 years.
Source: Deaths from Earthquakes in the United States (USGS).
posted by ryanrs at 5:15 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Survivor: San Fransisco Earthquake sounds pretty harsh if the prize didn't even let him retire!
posted by srboisvert at 5:21 AM on April 25, 2007


We feel tremors here in Tokyo, of course, with some frequency. I'd say it averages out to 1.5 a onth or so? Anyway, my heart races every time.

On the other hand, the chances that I'll be shot, or even mugged, are practically nil. So it's a tradeoff!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:24 AM on April 25, 2007


Back in the 70s I worked in San Francisco with a then-104-year old guy who was still working as a waiter. He was also running a couple of miles a day in Golden Gate Park. It must be something in the water. Or the fog. His name was Larry, can't remember last name. He died at about 106.
posted by beagle at 5:42 AM on April 25, 2007


Hey flapjax my interweb acquaintance (LJ 'celeb' throwingstardna) once went on a tour of Japan with a punk band... and he said they used to leave a table full of money, t-shirts and CDs unattended on the street all the time. No one ever touched anything. The mind boggles; is theft really such a cultural no-no there?
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:15 AM on April 25, 2007


ryanrs - thanks for the data and the link. Earthquakes are more scary than they are deadly, and I'd hate to be like one of those irrational people who is afraid to fly.

So let me amend. *ahem* I can't afford to live in SF.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:18 AM on April 25, 2007


and he said they used to leave a table full of money, t-shirts and CDs unattended on the street all the time. No one ever touched anything.

Yep! Hard as it is to imagine, what he told you is true. And I think this has got to be just about the only country in the world you could really say that about. As to why... I dunno, "cultural no-no" doesn't quite explain it in the right way... Perhaps what can explain it (and this might sound odd and unbelievable) is that people are by and large uninterested in other people's stuff: that is, from the standpoint of stealing it. I honestly believe that it just doesn't occur to people to take things that don't belong to them. Especially, though, in settings like the one you've described, a musical milieu wherein there is some sense of community. Some of the kids at, say, a punk show might lift a magazine or a candy bar from out of a convenience store, but would never think of stealing the band's CDs, T-shirts, money, whatever.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:27 AM on April 25, 2007


chillmost nailed it, deathalicious. I was worried that would confuse people, that video was from last year but it showed him at his job so I included it. Last year there were 10 survivors on hand but this year he was the only one who wasn't sick or dead.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:24 AM on April 25, 2007


FWIW, I went through many many more earthquakes in my time in LA than since I've been to SF. But you're right, you probably can't afford to live here. I'm expecting for it to catch up with me & to find myself a homeless baglady eventually. A homeless baglady with easy access to good sourdough bread and gourmet wine.

Flapjax, I was surprised to find that in Egypt people don't really steal stuff either. When I was there, my Egyptian companions & I stopped at a gas station and everyone started to walk into the adjoining restaurant to get some food. They left the doors of the car open with wallets on the seat and everything. I stayed in the car even though I was hungry because I felt like someone needed to watch everybody's stuff. They came back out and asked why I was still in the car so I told them. They laughed at me and told me to join them, that nobody was going to steal anything. I gave them all a "WTF? You've got to be kidding me" look & said, "Your wallet is on the seat. Money is sticking out of it." and they laughed at me again and pointed me to the restaurant.

Sure enough, when we returned to the car everything was there as it had been left. In Los Angeles, there would've been nothing left. In the wrong neighborhood there probably wouldn't have been rims on the tires.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:41 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


The secret is our fresh sourdough bread and world-famous seafood offerings. Also picking up an "Alcatraz Swim Team" Sweatshirt or getting photographed on the Golden Gate Bridge has been known to extend your life by 6-12 years*.
*some bullshit may vary.

No seriously, it's right here in the pamphlet I got from the Chamber of Commerce.

As for the earthquakes...meh.. been here all my life... hardly noticed a thing. Thought the Loma Prieta quake was a big truck going by. Mistook the carnage for a Critical Mass ride.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:54 AM on April 25, 2007


"The secret is our fresh sourdough bread and world-famous seafood offerings. Also picking up an "Alcatraz Swim Team" Sweatshirt or getting photographed on the Golden Gate Bridge has been known to extend your life by 6-12 years*." posted by MiltonRandKalman

Yeah right.

In reality...fighting through the heavy swarms around the Fisherman's Wharf area to even reach "the" sourdough bread place, staring in dismay at a tiny blob of something fried 'n crab flavored for $10.99 on a bendy paper plate, finding the Alcatraz tour all sold out - and then you face a two hour wait for a cable car ride...

*some snark may vary.

(Nah - loved every minute, really!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:05 PM on April 25, 2007


Don't ever go to Fisherman's Wharf. Ever, Ever. All the good whores and whiskey are in the Mission District.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:26 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not to mention the best mariachis, tattoo parlors, and heroin dealers. YMMV.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:38 PM on April 25, 2007


"Don't ever go to Fisherman's Wharf. Ever, Ever."

Well, I sure know that now, Milton!!!

(And managed other stuff too - like the Glide Memorial Church on a Sunday - just knock out fun, even for atheists...totally adored your city. You are very, very, very lucky.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:44 PM on April 25, 2007


Here's a similar story from my own neck of the woods: Whidbey Island man gets driver's license for 101st birthday
posted by maxwelton at 1:02 PM on April 25, 2007


Loma Prieta felt a lot worse than a big truck going by to me. I was on Fulton and Stanyan in a 2nd floor flat. Our back stairs fell down, our TV fell off the stand and windows broke. then it was so quiet. then there were sirens for hours and hours ... what a weird day.

**reminder to self: get boxes of wine for the earthquake kit**
posted by culberjo at 5:01 PM on April 25, 2007


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