Note: The “shake” which Harry Rosemond refers to is the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the US, the result of which left 80% of San Francisco destroyed.
The Problems of the Prop Man
by C. W. Rohrhand
It is the soft word and the pass for two that turneth away wrath. No one knows better than Harry Rosemond, for more than once in his career has has met the irate one at the door and with a smile on his face begged him to “come in and enjoy it.”
“But we can’t always square things with a pass, or a season ticket, either. There’s a friend of mine lives out here near the theater who has some of the finest Bohemian glass in town. It is his hobby. Spends money galore all on Bohemian glass. Time of the shake the glassware was in a closet and was hardly touched. I borrowed two vases and a centerpiece for a set for an actress. She had finished the week before the shake, but I was so busy around the house I couldn’t find time to take the glass back. April 18—br-r-r-r-r! Got to the theater about 9 o’clock. Glass all right. Got busy helping people out of hotels and things. Orpheum stage filled with trunks. Fire can’t get across Market street. No. Fire got across about 10 o’clock Wednesday night. Worked like the devil getting trunks out. Morrisey had moved his stuff from the Palace hotel to the theater. Had to move it all out again. Thought of the glasses. Packed them carefully in a bag. Went out in the street. Squad of soldiers coming around the corner. ‘Everybody skip!’ ‘Can’t,’ I said. ‘Waiting for wagon for trunks.’ ‘Waitin’ for hell!’ says one, and he gave me a whack with the stock of his gun. The blamed fool smashed clean through the bag of glass. After we’d opened at the Chutes the man called for his glass. Nothing doing. Didn’t lose a piece at home. House saved. Man started to eat the Orpheum. I offered a pass. Nix. Season ticket. Nix. I said it was one of the accidents of the shake. He said I should have returned them when I had finished with them and not kept them laying in the property room. He was right, and he taught me the big, big lesson of returning things as soon as the act closed. Vanderslice used to loan me jewelry, and I was foolish enough once to borrow a diamond necklace. But no more of that for me. If any one wants diamonds they must furnish them, for if I find them on the property plot I’ll be ready with one large pot of paste and some pieces of glass. That’s all.”
Originally published in The San Francisco Call, March 22, 1908, page 4.