Age: 88 years
Occupation: Office Personnel
Hometown: Pomeroy, Meigs County, Ohio
Interviewer: Sarah Grueser
What did the Red Cross do in Pomeroy during the flood of 1937?
SARAH: Whats your name?
CHRISTINA: Christina Grueser
SARAH: Your age?
CHRISTINA: 88 and one month
SARAH: Who were your parents and grandparents?
CHRISTINA: My grandparents were John and Mary Grueser, and my parents were Charles and Elizabeth Grueser.
SARAH: Were they from this area?
CHRISTINA: My father and mother were. My mother, as a child, lived in Pomeroy, but my father lived in this same area where I do now. I do not know about my grandfather but my grandmother came from Germany. Her childhood was spent in Germany.
SARAH: What did your parents do for a living?
CHRISTINA: My father was a farmer and my mother was a farmers wife and a mother of ten children.
SARAH: Do you remember your first job just starting out after school?
CHRISTINA: My first job? Yes. Well, the first thing I did was scarcely a job. I stayed with my brothers wife when she had her first no, her second baby. And took care of an older child. And I remember her going out into the garden and getting her curly hair full of burrs.
SARAH: What was it like growing up on a farm?
CHRISTINA: Oh, it was wonderful. It really was. Those very early days are so nice to look back to carefree, free as a bird. You got up in the morning and you went out and did whatever you wanted to do in the way of play. Thats when I was quite small. Later, there were chores that you more or less less usually wanted to do. But we had our own games and there were enough of us that we didnt lack playmates. Although the older members of the family were in no sense playmates. They were more like grown ups to the youngest of us. But, no. We didnt feel bored or anything. We liked our little games and pastimes.
SARAH: Where did you fit in? What sibling were you? Were you one of the older ones or younger?
CHRISTINA: I was next to the youngest.
SARAH: Where did you go to school?
CHRISTINA: I went to a little one-room school called Longhollow School. And it was a good long farmers mile from our house. Of course there were no school busses. And regardless of weather, we walked to school on some severely cold days. We were occasionally, when we were small, kept home. But what I remember is the roads were muddy then and I remember those spring muds. When you had to walk through the mud and in those days. Actually we didnt have the kind of warm clothing that kids have now nor the high boots. We had what we called overshoes which were just little foot coverings just for the lower part of your foot, nothing like boots. And we used to tie those on with shoelaces so the mud didnt pull them off when youd use them in the mud. Oh it was great. I hated those muddy days.
SARAH: What was the punishments like when you were in school? Like if you were bad and the teacher didnt like what you were doing. What would she do to punish you?
CHRISTINA: Oh the teacher? Well, I dont remember them doing anything more than sometimes they would make you stand in a corner with your back to the others. Or keep you in one of the recesses because we had a brief recess between school taking up in the morning and noon, and another one in the afternoon. And sometimes they would keep you in instead of letting you out for that recess. Or occasionally keep you a while after school. I dont remember anyone being physically punished. I dont think they are now, are they?
SARAH: Not any more than they used to be.
SARAH: As a child and teenager, what did you do for fun?
CHRISTINA: Well, I would say I spent more time reading than anything else. To me that was my favorite recreation, just reading. But we had our games as I said. I used to love to just roam over the hills and see everything and find everything there was to find. And observe the plants that grew here and there and where they grew and when they bloomed. To me that was very interesting. Never did I ever want to go anyplace. I really didnt. I didnt really even like company.
SARAH: Did you have chores you had to do?
CHRISTINA: Well, helped make garden, helped hoe the garden, helped harvest the garden and that wasnt so bad. And I used to cut grass a lot. Not with a power mower, but with one of those you push. And I never minded doing that. And our grass always looked pretty too because those make the prettiest grass there is. And used to milk the cows. And wean the calves when theyd take them away from the cows. Because our cows were all milk cows. And if we wanted to keep a calf in order to get milk, you removed the calf from the cow because it would take all the milk. And youd supplement a little of the milk and put water and calf feed in a bucket for the calf. And then we could milk the cow and get most of her milk. But oh, we used to hoe corn too sometimes.
And in those days the wheat was - my father always grew wheat, not many farmers do anymore in this area. But in those days they cut it with what was called a cradle which was a sort of scythe with teeth on it and it would take a whole load of that stuff and lay it in a row in the field. Then that was tied into bundles. And we kids used to carry those bundles so many in one spot and they were made into shocks. Now kids of today dont know anything about that but in those days youd see the wheat shocks out in the field. And when they were done right, the rain didnt soak them up. But I will remember carrying those bundles because we always went barefoot and I never had a shoe on my foot from early spring until frost. Except when I did have to go someplace. And those wheat stubbles really hurt your feet. I remember that. But we did it. It was part of the job.
SARAH: What did you do after high school? After you finished high school?
CHRISTINA: Well, those were the two, three years there that were the poorest years of my life in a sense. Because I didnt have any specific thing to be doing but when I was still in my teens, I left home. I moved away from home. So by that time I had enough to do. And I didnt feel that sense of not doing anything worthwhile that I did for a couple years after I quit school. I still had things I did. It wasnt didnt keep my busy enough.
SARAH: What grade were you in?
CHRISTINA: Well, I finished eighth grade. I will say this, at that time, after all of these little country schools. After the students in them reached eighth grade and finished eighth grade, there was a countywide examination. They all had to take it. Im going to brag on myself now. I had the top grade in the county.
SARAH: Were they hard, the tests that you had to take?
CHRISTINA: I dont remember that I thought it was particularly hard. I do remember that my teacher also went wherever. I dont even remember where we took this exam. Isnt that awful. But I dont. And I remember there was a break in the middle of it and she took us somewhere in Pomeroy for lunch that day. And I remember what I had to eat. But I dont remember too much about the examination. I remember when we got our diplomas. That was at the fairground. I remember what kind of dress I wore there. But no, I dont remember much about the examination. I still have some of my old report cards. Do you get report cards now? They would note your grade in each subject you had and the times the days you missed. Part of the time you might be tardy or anything like that. They also had a notation for your behavior on the report card. Do they have that still?
SARAH: They do for elementary. What was the grade you would consider bad?
CHRISTINA: I would say, Im not sure, but it must have been about 75. I dont know. Whats the lowest now?
SARAH: The lowest now is 64 and thats failing. I think it was higher then.
CHRISTINA: I think it was, but Im not positive.
SARAH: What kind of classes did you have to take?
CHRISTINA: And we had writing lessons. You dont now, do you?
SARAH: In grade school.
CHRISTINA: You see thats what mine would have been too. Well, we had reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, orthography, hygiene
SARAH: What is orthography?
CHRISTINA: Well, it has to do, oh, and we had English. We had eight or nine subjects. It goes along with English in a sense and teaches you to diagram sentences. We used to have to parse the sentences and all that sort of thing. But we had plenty of subjects but none of them were really hard. I didnt think so. I never worried about passing. I dont remember that I ever worried about passing. Not that I was ever that great a brain, it just didnt worry me. Does it worry you?
SARAH: A little bit.
CHRISTINA: And bear in mind, girls, all eight grades were in this one room. And the teacher took time for each grade everyday. How she did it, I still dont know, but in a sense when you were small you learned from hearing the older ones being, having that class. You really did. It was a benefit in that respect.
SARAH: How many kids were in your school?
CHRISTINA: Not very many. Not more that twenty at any time and sometimes not that many. But if the teacher had one in each grade, she still had to spend time with that grade.
SARAH: Do you remember what time you went to school and what time you got out?
CHRISTINA: Yes. School started at 9:00. You had to be there at nine. And was dismissed at four. That nine sounds late to me now, but kids then had chores they did before they went to school and they walked to school. So really, unless they got up extremely early and we did. I dare say I was up at 6:00 any morning. It was just, people didnt sleep late then. Never said, "Oh, vacations coming I can sleep as late as I want to." You got up. When the family got up, you got up. Furthermore, if you werent there at breakfast time, you didnt get any. Nobody said, "Ill fix you breakfast now." If you werent there for breakfast, that was it. And nobody said, if you didnt like something at the meal, nobody said, "Oh, honey, Ill fix you something else if you dont like that." You ate what was there or else you didnt eat. And to this day, I cant name you anything I dont like.
SARAH: How was life different then, than it is now?
CHRISTINA: Its like a different world, Sarah. Unless you have lived through it, you cannot imagine the changes that have taken place since I was a small child. I sometimes look back and I cant believe it. Its altogether different. In those days when I was small there was no automobiles. If we went anywhere, it was a horse and buggy. There were nothing but mud roads in the country and when I say mud, I mean up to the wagon wheels. And the other roads, there were some that you could travel when it was bad weather. But in the country no.
And in Pomeroy we still had, I believe now they would be called trams, in those days we called them streetcars. And they ran along the riverbank in Pomeroy. And several places they crossed over the road and went up and they nearly scared the horses to death when you drove a horse and buggy. Those horses were terrified when one of those things came along. Or when a few people began to have automobiles the horses were, oh, they were just terrified. And, lets see even those streets in town. Theyre full of so many potholes now. Theyre not much better than they were then but basically they are altogether different.
Well, some of the buildings that were there are still there and lately theyve rather painted them up. And made them look better but a lot of those old buildings, of course, were there a long time before I was. And sometimes you wonder how they stand that long but when you think about all these centuries-old buildings over in Europe, I guess theyll stand another few centuries if they keep taking care of them. And its the same way with any building.
SARAH: Do you remember when you got your first car?
CHRISTINA: Yes. It was an old Model T and we were all sort of scared of it. But we soon got accustomed to that, but in winter we couldnt use it. And when we first had it we had a garage down where the sawmill is. The sawmills still there and we had a garage down there that we kept the car in from when the weather got bad until spring. And if we went anywhere, we walked that far and then took the car.
SARAH: Did you have to have drivers licenses and stuff like that?
CHRISTINA: I dont know when that started. I really dont.
SARAH: What age was you when you started to drive?
CHRISTINA: Oh, probably not until I had a car of my own. And I was lets see now. That was about 1931. I must have been twenty-one when I started to drive. I had no driving lessons. First time I drove, when I stopped, I hit a post and it. Whats so funny?
SARAH: Our battery is low and it might run out.
CHRISTINA: Im talking too much and furthermore, we didnt have cars with power transmission and power steering. We had plain old clutches which I still have. And how are you getting along with yours, Sarah? I still maintain that you really cant drive unless you can drive a car with a standard transmission. I would be overruled on that much. But, and when I got my first car, I had no money, of course, and I had payments of twenty dollars a month. I dont know what the cost of the car was. And I was making five dollars a week. So you see I didnt spend much money. I never bought a five-cent candy bar.
But I lived with a family and kept house and took care of their kids and I had my meals and my bed. But I made five dollars a week. And when I say I didnt buy a candy bar, Ill also say this back in those days if you had a nickel and you bought a candy bar, nobody thought you were piggish if ate the whole candy bar. But in those days, those candy bars, a Milky Way or something like that or a Hershey bar, was a full four ounces of candy for a nickel. And now if you check, most of them are less than an ounce. And if you ate four now, somebody would say that you are a pig, but we ate one in those days. And enjoyed it. If we were lucky enough to have a nickel. And I think even the candy bars were better. And I have still a box that I have some old stuff in. Its not quite square, its a little more rectangular, but its at least that wide, and maybe a little longer. And that held twenty-four Milky Way bars back in those days. And now its a little bitty thing like so. Dont you wish you still got that for a nickel? And ice cream cones. That was another thing. We never, ever asked for anything. I dont ever remember asking for a thing. You would hope youd get this or that but you didnt ask for it. But when we would come home from church in the horse and buggy, there was a little place at the top of the hill above the traffic light where you leave the river. And an old lady had a little place there where she sold various things including ice cream cones. Youd just be almost holding your breath hoping that maybe youd stop and get an ice cream cone. Which sometimes we did. There again, those were a nickel, but you got more ice cream for a nickel then, I dare say, you pay a dollar for what you get now. What is an ice cream cone? I havent had one for so long. How much do they cost?
SARAH: A dollar thirty-five for a small cone.
CHRISTINA: Well, I wouldnt be afraid to wager that we got as much for a nickel as youd get for a dollar now. And everything was so different. I cant just tell you how it was different. People visited then, country people did, I mean you visited your neighbors. You asked what our amusements were when we got older. Well, we used to go to the neighbors and play cards, various different kind of games, and we popped corn. No, pizzas, but we popped corn and made popcorn balls. And we made those with sorghum molasses. We didnt waste any sugar. And we made our own sorghum molasses. I never cared all that much for it as molasses but some of the rest of the family used to like that sticky, runny stuff on their bread. Not me, it was too sticky. But I loved it on popcorn balls or something like that.
Then we used to make apple butter and wed have apple peelings when a whole neighborhood group would go together and peel those bushels and bushels of apples and cut them up. Then the day you made it. That was an all-day job. You stirred and you stirred and you stirred. You kept building the fire. The same way with the molasses. I dare say, you have no idea how we did that.
My father had a cane mill. To begin with, you had to plant sorghum cane. [Jump in taping] It freezes too much when the weathers cold. Youd dig down and bury it. And then when the weather was milder you could get down in there and get up some of your buried cabbage in the wintertime or turnips. And we had a cellar back in the hillside. Had a building over the top of it and a rock wall on either side of it. It was warm and nice in that cellar. Nothing froze in there. Kept our potatoes and a lot of vegetables and things, apples in the cellar. And in summer we kept anything we wanted to keep cool in there. Not that it was like a refrigerator. It wasnt, but it would keep cool. But just to tell you how much you would miss a refrigerator. It was difficult to keep a mornings milking of your cows until bedtime without it getting sour. Even in the cellar. You couldnt make Jello or anything like that in the summertime. It would never thicken even in the cellar. But the cellar was a big help.
You couldnt buy fresh meat unless you came home and cooked it. You could have it the length of time it took you to get home with the horse and buggy. But then you cooked it. So actually we didnt have a lot of fresh meat. And that is why farmers in those days used so much pork. They grew their own hogs. They butchered their own hogs and my dad could make the best sausage. I would give, I dont know how much a pound, for some really good sausage like my father made because you cant buy it now. And we smoked bacon and the hams and then they would keep. We had a certain place we hung them to keep. Put them on hooks and hung them up and they didnt spoil, no matter how hot the weather got. But in the winter when we would butcher a beef, we canned that. We cut it in pieces and canned it like you would vegetables in fruit jars. And still we used to fry that sausage. And I still dont know how that kept. We had those big old stone jars, you know. If you know what I mean by a stone jar. Anyhow youd fry the sausage; cook it. And pour some of the grease in a jar. Then you would put sausage in that grease and keep frying and filling. And that jar was full of sausage cakes and grease. You could set that away in a cool place and it wouldnt spoil. You would think it would, but it didnt. And we could have that quite well into the summer. Not all summer but we didnt have to eat it all right now. But there were all kind of ways to do things when you dont have the best ways.
But refrigeration is - now frozen vegetables, of course, are better than canned ones. And they keep well, canned ones will keep as long, because contrary to what they say, Ive read that you shouldnt keep your canned goods more than so many months. Thats a fallacy. You can keep them a couple of years and theyre still good. Same way with the freezer. They say dont freeze more than two or three months. But you can freeze it longer than that and its still good. But you dont want to keep it too long.
As I said, we visited and we did things together neighbors did even to the men and then when they threshed that wheat. Somebody came in with a threshing machine. He made a business of traveling around to all the farms. And they threshed the wheat. And if you were the lucky family that got those men when it was mealtime, why then you prepared a meal for a whole group of men. That was quite a day. And the neighbor women would go together and theyd cook up a awful mess of stuff. Those men would eat like hungry men do eat, you know. And we kids always had to wait until the threshers were through eating and sometimes the stuff they fixed for the threshers - there wouldnt be any left that we were looking forward to. But we liked to watch them do it.
And lets see they used to take the wheat, now this youll find hard to believe too I find it hard myself now that I look back take the wheat to a flour mill and have that wheat ground into flour. And that is the flour we used. And in our kitchen, we had a flour barrel, can you imagine, I remember just exactly where it sat. It had a wood lid over the top of it. And we kept the flour in that barrel and when my mother baked bread she got the flour out of that barrel and she had a big board she kneaded the dough on, on the kitchen table. And I remember, my mother set a sponge which nobody does now if they bake, but she did. Did you ever see bread sponge? I dont imagine you have. She had a jar she had it in. It had yeast in it. It was a foamy looking mess of stuff. But you had to keep it warm because cold will kill yeast no matter whether you make a sponge or just bake as people do now. Well, whether anybody else was warm or not, that sponge had to be. Because if it wasnt you didnt have any bread. She would wrap an old blanket all around that at bedtime and that sat right by the only warmth in the house. All wrapped up in a blanket. I will say the bread was really better in the summer than it was in the winter because our house was cold. If I had to live in a house like that, I dont think Id lived as long as I have. It was cold. I remember the kitchen, of course, was colder than the living room. The kitchen was long. And the stove was in one end and you had to have those old coal ranges hot in order to cook on them or use the oven. But it didnt penetrate to the table on the other end of the kitchen. Used to wear our coats when we ate breakfast and sit there and shiver, I remember. On cold days, that is. I remember on more times than one, grabbing something that I wanted to eat and taking it in to the living room where it was a little warmer.
SARAH: When you were a child, do you remember much from World War I?
CHRISTINA: Yes, I remember some of that. I remember that you could get no sugar except brown sugar. And I never have understood that quite. Exclusively we used brown sugar for quite a long time. Also you couldnt get flour. And I would say we ate tons of cornbread. And there again, that was - cornmeal was ground from our own corn. Ive often wondered how many worms were in it. But, yes, I remember that. And none of my brothers were old enough to be in the service. They were too young, but I had a cousin who was in the service. He lived in Pittsburgh. His mother was my aunt, my mothers sister. And she was one of these well, she was a pessimistic sort of person. One of those who always looks on the gloomiest side. And I remember when she would write to my mother and my mother would read these letters. And she was always worrying about my cousin George. But he got home safely. He was in the thick of the battle.
And my oldest brother was married at that time, the oldest in the family, and he was not in the war either because he had two small children. But there again, I remember that one, he and his wife and children, used to come. When he had his vacation, he lived in Akron, and worked at Firestone. And when he had his vacation, they would come down to our house for their vacation. And would you believe they came on the train. For the first times they came. And later when he got a car, they didnt do it in one day, they stayed overnight somewhere. Can you imagine that? And I was talking not long ago to one of the nieces that used to come, one of his children, and she well remembers coming down here and the things she did as a child. Course, shell be eighty years old in March. Her older sister died not too long ago and somebody said to me, "Oh, your niece died, somebody so young." I said, "Ya, and shes past eighty." We were kids when they were. We were older than them. We didnt altogether look forward to those kids in some ways. They messed up our playhouse. All that. They were linder [?], you know. There again I remember before they went to school, we used to take them to school with us. Can you imagine a teacher now letting you bring a little pre-school child all day at school with you? Rita couldnt have been more than four years old when I took her to school with me. She walked all that way along with me. Stayed there all day long. She remembers it too. She told me she did. That again is altogether different. Now what?
SARAH: How did the great Depression effect you?
CHRISTINA: Well, I well remember that also. There arent too many people who remember that. Anybody born since that, doesnt remember it. And those who were born long enough before it to be affected by it, are not too plentiful anymore. But that was a bad time of our country. It really was. Truly there was nothing. There was absolutely nothing and in addition to the economic depression over the whole country, that particular year there were no crops. The weather was against the whole country also. There were no corn crops, no hay crops, I remember it well. Every little thing that grew along the roadsides, my brothers would cut that and keep it. Just for something for the animals to eat. I wasnt at home then, I was working. I was making five dollars a week then.
And Ill truthfully say this, my family, those that were still at home, would have suffered more than they did, if my five dollars hadnt helped them out. Because there again I had my meals and my bed. And there were a few people who still had enough money that they could have somebody help them with their work. But the majority of people had absolutely nothing. I mean you just didnt spend a nickel. You didnt have it to spend. But everybody came through it. But you learned the value, not only of nickel, but a penny. I still know the value of it. I could stretch a nickel still. Of course, Ive never been so affluent that I didnt have to stretch my nickels either. But to me thered be no challenge to life if you had all the money that you could spend. What good would it do you? You wouldnt enjoy it. If you could have anything you want, you dont enjoy it when you get it. When you work for it, you enjoy it. You dont believe that? Thats true. What you work for you enjoy far more than what is either handed to you or given to you in any way. And to me anybody who doesnt like to work now, nobody wants to spend their whole life just slaving but anybody who doesnt like to work, doesnt like to live.
Working at something, is one of the pleasures of life. Even if it isnt something that isnt your favorite occupation, you do the best you can at it. And put your best efforts into it. And theres satisfaction. But just sit and do nothing. What satisfaction do you have? I know some people who seem to, but I doubt it.
SARAH: Do you remember the 37 flood?
CHRISTINA: Do I? I doubt very much if theres anybody around who knows more about it than I do. I was working at that time in the building that is next to the Farmers Bank in Pomeroy. That big brick building. That was a wholesale business and a residence combined. And the wholesale office was in the corner thats on Second Street and the other door toward the river was where you entered the residence part. And part of the downstairs was residence. It was a lovely, lovely entrance hall. And a beautiful staircase goes up in that house. In back of that was the dining room. In back of the dining room was the kitchen. Then upstairs were two huge living rooms and all those big bedrooms were at least fifteen by fifteen feet which is a little bit shorter than this room. I think this room is fifteen by eighteen but you dont see too many hedgers that size. It was a big old place and we had had floods before that and when the water started over the road, about where the Farmers Bank parking lot is now, about where their drive-in comes out.
When the water begins to go over the road there, it comes into the basement in that building. Of course, first it comes into the basement and thats a little higher than it looks because you would expect it to come in there sooner. And, of course, as it rises in the basement its rising outside too. And let me see now. We are high and dry in the residence in there when the basements full of water but were still high and dry when were surrounded by water and you can watch the water come up Butternut and down Butternut. And theres a dry place there at the end of Second Street. But it backs up back there in the back and we used to watch it meet there on Butternut and it would also start running into Second Street. But wed be surrounded by quite a bit of water and still be dry inside. We had no furnace of course. No gas, but we were dry. But then when it got on the first floor youd start taking up rugs and moving things up. And there were times when we listened to the forecast and wed prop up the furniture on bricks. If theyd say itll get so high and we knew it would be a matter of inches. And I remember one time when we just propped up the kitchen table and we used to sit at that table and eat whatever we were able to fix with boots on and our feet in the water. And of course, back of the offices we had all this merchandise we sold stacked to the ceiling in there. We had to move all that because if your bottom row got wet, the whole thing would and it would topple over and beside. There was only one time when we lost a few cases of stuff and I dare say we moved it out at least a dozen times. Had to back up the trucks and move that stuff and haul it off somewhere. And that one time we listened too long to the weather forecast and believed them. Stayed up all night and wed be waiting and watching and late or in the middle of that night, they said there was a change in the forecast and it would be a sunrise. Boy did we work hard to get that stuff out of there. But there was a little bit of it got wet. But thats the only time any inventory got wet.
But in 37 it kept going up and up. And there was a huge refrigerator in that kitchen downstairs. It wasnt a walk-in refrigerator but it was way high. I could just stand on my tiptoes and reach the top of it. And it must have been that wide. And it had, believe it or not, six doors on it. It was frustrating if you didnt teach yourself where you kept everything in it because youd open six doors before you found it. But it was heavy. It was enormous. That had to be moved. And at that time there was a heavy big old electric stove in there nothing like todays modern stoves. It was heavy. And in its day, it was the very best kind of stove, but the water kept getting so high and finally we figured wed have to move those things. And I remember the trucks backed up to the steps by the door and the water was going in the tailpipe of that truck when they put those heavy things on there. And it sputtered and we thought, well thats it. But it went out and they got it through town.
Well, we took the pictures off the wall. We moved everything. And it would go up one step after another and at that time, that particular year, there was so much demand for places to store stuff, that we moved most of the stuff not most but what we could we moved upstairs. We had cases of stuff stacked up to the ceiling upstairs. We had bags of potatoes. We had a farm then where Pat and Roy Holder [?] have their farm. And they had dug the potatoes and they were brought in there to the warehouse to be picked up that week. They also had chickens and had crates of eggs every week. And the eggs were brought in there to be picked up and we had, with everything else, we had those potatoes and those eggs. We moved those up stairs. We moved that was before automatic washers and before dryers we moved the old wringer washer upstairs. And we moved canned goods from the basement upstairs because we used to can stuff. Everything moveable we moved upstairs. The whole downstairs was empty. And of course we moved up with it.
Well, it kept coming and coming and coming and theres seven steps outside before you get in the building, and when you get in the building, there are twenty-one steps up to the upstairs. Also theres about eighteen steps to the attic too. Anyhow there was one step the water was just lapping when the water stopped coming up. And we were upstairs and we stayed in there all through that and it didnt go down in two or three days. That one lasted, oh we did that way at least two weeks. We had no heat except theres a little old fireplace in one of the rooms, one of the living rooms. And it hadnt been used for years. And the chimney hadnt been cleaned. Somebody brought us some not very good coal and that chimney smoked. And you could smell that coal smoke. Thats the only heat we had. And thats the only way we had to cook anything.
Well, we had no way to wash dishes. Somebody did bring us some water to drink. But its a wonder we all didnt die with typhoid because if your hands were dirty, you just went over there to the steps and washed your hands and that was it. Isnt that awful? And I remember we ate a lot of fried eggs. We could fry those. They tasted like coal smoke. We washed them in the same skillet day after day. We cooked them in the same skillet because we couldnt wash it. We had no way to wash dishes. We made coffee in the same coffeepot and it tasted like coal smoke. And we had canned salmon and a few things like that that we could eat. But actually, we had a very poor choice of anything to eat.
Even the Red Cross couldnt get their trucks in with supplies. You couldnt get a loaf of bread or anything like that. There just wasnt any for quite some time. And you cant visualize when I tell you how high it was in that building. On Second Street, I would say there, that water would have been twenty-five, thirty feet deep. And it went up Mulberry Avenue clear up you dont walk up and down Mulberry Avenue like I used to - but theres the steps there midway, sort of across from what was the Masonic Temple. The water was clear up to there on Mulberry. And the other direction it was clear up by the Sugar Run Mill and all out through there clear out to the cemetery. Or where you go to the cemetery. All of that was full of water. You cant visualize it unless you see it. Court Street, it was clear up the courthouse steps, you know. And thats a lot of water. You just cant imagine it without seeing it, you cant.
But its one of the things that Im glad I experienced. Youll find out when you get older, that anything that happens in your life that you consider at the time, a sort of adversity, is really a benefit to you. You gain something from it. You learn and well, it benefits you even though it seems like a hardship. And I would say that flood is one of them. I dont need to tell you that I was glad when it was over.
I do remember this. Of course, this doesnt even really mean anything to Sarah and of course it wouldnt to you other girls, but like me Sarah is a Catholic. And back in those days, Catholics never ate meat on Friday. It was just a thing you didnt do and it was one of the precepts of our church and you just didnt eat meat on Friday. It never occurred to you to complain about it. Theres plenty of other foods you can eat if you dont eat meat. But that held true in the 37 floods you know. And as I say, we were hungry. After a fashion we ate, but we were ready for food if you know what I mean. To get in and out I digress a little bit and go backwards here and then finish. If youve ever noticed when you drive along, and you wouldnt necessarily unless you looked up, there is a balcony porch on that building on the Butternut side. Have you ever noticed it? And it has a banister around it. Well, the water was up to that and they would row the boats up there and just swing a leg over that banister and walk in the house. Thats the way they got in.
And this particular day, here they came and the sister-in-law of Mrs. Weeds[?]. Am I talking too much? Had prepared a meal. I can see it still and it makes the saliva flow in my mouth. A big oval roaster. Down in it she had a big, brown roast, all covered with this rich brown gravy and nestled all around it were potatoes, and carrots, and onions. And it was Friday. Ill never forget that. If I ever did one thing in my life that was giving up: that was it. Needless to say everybody else enjoyed it which was fine. But Ill never forget that, ever. I can still see that roast. And afterward, I said to myself, well it was my punishment that it was brought in on Friday because I never liked that woman who fixed it. I dont know, somehow I just couldnt care for that woman. And I thought, well, I was punished for feeling that way because you should like everybody.
Oh,yes. I remember that 37 flood but when it went down that was by no means the end of it. You have to be with a flood as it goes down or its a hopeless cause to get things cleaned out. Youve got to be with it day and night, small ones or big ones, and wash it down as it goes out. But even then, long afterward, you have the dirt. And the rooms, the residence side of that building, had paper on the walls, wallpaper. And, of course, that went way up almost to the ceiling. And that stayed wet for weeks and weeks and months even and as late as June I think it was June papered, re-papered it because it was wet before that. And after we papered that, in August we had a rainy spell. And the wallpaper on the walls mildewed. So you can see how it held the moisture. And youd be cleaning in every little crack and some chunk of mud would come out of it or something where you didn't see it before. Its an awful mess to clean up. And there are hardwood floors in the downstairs of that building which was a blessing because the better the wood, the less it suffers. And we didnt have bulges in the floor but it will bulge if the floors are a soft wood. And upstairs we had one place on the floor that left a little spot in spite of all our efforts because one of those bags of potatoes sat there so long that a potato rotted in it and went through the bag and made a spot on the floor. I think I could find that spot still.
But, yes, it was an experience. And I have no regrets that I endured it but I wouldnt want to do it today. I dont know if I could make it or not, but I guess if I had to I could. But and of course it was always interesting to watch people rowing around on their boats. But that was dangerous too. That water was deep and they didnt wear lifebelts or anything. Especially if they went where the current was swift. On Second Street there wouldnt have been enough current to worry about but that was swift on Main Street. You could see all kind of things going down the river. Bump into the windows and break them and all that. It was interesting. And you learned things. But I remember I had bronchitis afterwards. I would say that was from all those wet walls maybe but and even our bedrooms when we went to bed at night in that cold, old house. I had the old washer right at the side of my bed. Your bedroom was full of stuff. You just had a little path to get to get to your bed. As for washing, you just didnt. One of the highlights of my life even if I didnt get to eat the roast was the first bath I had after the 37 flood. You really felt like you needed more than one. But there was just no way. It was cold. We had no water. We had no heat. You just didnt wash. So youll live through a lot of things if you have to do it. Dont think you cant.
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