Lottas Number Dwindle to One

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A group of people gathered in San Francisco Sunday morning to  observe a moment of silence before wailing emergency sirens in honor of the 104th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
       
    Every April 18, hundreds of people meet at Lotta's fountain on  Market Street at 5:11 a.m. to drape a wreath on the fountain.

    They then go to 20th Street to repaint the fire hydrant that saved  the churches in the Mission District from the fires that ravaged the city for  three days after the temblor.

    The commemoration ends with a Bloody Mary breakfast and movie  screening at restaurant Lefty O'Doul's downtown.

    One of the last remaining earthquake survivors, 104-year-old  William Del Monte, was the only survivor to attend this year's event.

    "There's a certain sense of optimism that is in every (survivor)  that I've met," event organizer Lee Houskeeper said. "Sort of a 'We can do  anything' attitude. They rebuilt the city from ashes. They have an incredible  sense of humor."

    Houskeeper has kept track of earthquake survivors for the past 25  years and believes about eight are still alive.  One of the last survivors, 105-year-old Nancy Sage, died just this past week in Littleton, Colorado.

    He also oversees the current earthquake commemoration ceremony,  which was inspired by a now-defunct fraternal order called the South of  Market Boys. The South of Market Boys began placing wreaths at Lotta's  fountain in 1919.

    Lotta's fountain was a popular gathering place and outdoor concert  site in the early 20th century, Houskeeper said. After the earthquake, it  became a focal point of city.

    "People would say, 'Go check on mom and then meet me at Lotta's fountain,'" Houskeeper said. "Or they would put up notes there looking for  so-and-so."