Like most of Southern California, the flat San Joaquin Valley city of Bakersfield (pop. 35,000) had been trembling with minor settling shocks ever since the earthquake of July 21, which centered in the nearby Tehachapi Mountains (TIME, July 28). One afternoon last week, while the air was hot and still, Bakersfield heard the familiar, low-pitched rumble, this time louder than ever. Floors, sidewalks, streets and front yards gave an extra hard jolt and a twist. In the downtown areas, timbers and masonry crashed down and plate-glass windows shattered.

Earthquake-wise Bakersfield reacted without...

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