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Montecito mudslide of 1969 brought out incredible generosity

Oakland man shares his childhood memories

Incredible acts of generosity following the Montecito mudslide of 1969

MONTECITO, Calif. - Many people may not know that a heavy rain tore through Montecito in January of 1969.

The Coyote fire-scarred hills above Feather Hill Road turned Romero Creek into a watery bowling alley, taking aim at Chris Fenwick's family home. 

"The way the community stepped up to help us," Fenwick recalled during a Skype interview with NewsChannel 3 Wednesday. "My dad was 42-years-old. He had seven boys. The whole community realized, 'Oh, you're that guy!'"

Mud filled the entire house from the kitchen cabinets to the backyard pool.

Fenwick was 6-year-old. He and his brothers were parceled out to live with friends. He remembered how a neighbor with Hollywood ties -- Virginia Martini -- drove by the house and handed his father a set of keys.

"He says, 'What's this?' And she goes, 'Well, my husband and I are trying to sell a house down by Montecito Village. Why don't you stay there until you're done.'"
A free home until the Fenwicks were able to rebuild and move back. 

"He goes, 'I couldn't possibly do that," Fenwick said. "She said, 'You couldn't possibly not, Tom. Keep your family together.'"

Decades earlier, Virginia Martini went by another name for a short time: Mrs. Cary Grant.

Chris recalled another famous name helping out, perhaps not quite as glamorous.

"Sears!" Fenwick said. "The technicians from Sears, Maytag."

Fenwick said two guys in a Sears Roebuck van loaded up all of the Fenwick's mud-damaged appliances.

"They took the washer, the dryer, the refrigerator, dishwasher ... all the Maytag appliances and they  brought them back a couple months later. Brand new!" 

The Fenwick family rebuilt their house and moved back into their home that summer. 

Fenwick now lives in Oakland and said to this day, he is weary of living anywhere near creeks. He said the same goes for his mom.

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