Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18, 1955, A Flood, and A New Baby Sister...

Another Excerpt From My Book:


I awoke to Uncle Bill’s voice calling us to get up and come out to the kitchen for some homegrown peaches and condensed milk sprinkled with sugar and served in pink depression ware bowls. Oh, how wonderful they tasted and how I loved those unique depression ware bowls!

The rain had finally stopped. The local radio station broadcast the horrifying news of the death and destruction that Hurricane Diane had brought to the Delaware River region. The headline of the local newspaper reported the death, destruction, and loss of electric power to the entire area.

Our own hometown received extensive damage from the flooding tributaries, and the bridge between our town in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that had spanned the Delaware River since 1895 was severely damaged by another bridge that was washed down from the Pocono Mountain area.

At the time of the flood we lived just four blocks uphill from Union Square, the New Jersey entrance to the bridge. The Lehigh River ran into the Delaware River on one side of the bridge and the Bushkill Creek emptied into the Delaware on the other side of the bridge this area was known as The Forks of the Delaware. All three of these tributaries backed up and the towns of Easton, PA and Phillipsburg, NJ were flooded with their overflow.

Aunt Ree packed a lunch in a picnic basket as Uncle Bill laid out blankets in the back of the panel truck. We all piled in and we took a ride to what was known as College Hill to the locals and was the Home of Lafayette College. Just like our mom, we were now on our way to experience awe and adventure with our great aunt and uncle.

We parked at the top of the very steep hill also known as Route 115 and had an excellent view of the debris floating down the river; trees, lawn furniture, dogs clinging to their houses and a chicken coop that had a live chicken standing on it’s roof. This was an awesome sight that had a definite lasting impression on all of our minds.

The flood of nineteen fifty-five was a catastrophic event to the entire Delaware Valley area. My maternal grandfather’s home was washed out and he lost most of his possessions. He moved into share our little four room house with our family of five and lived with us until nineteen eighty nine when he passed away.

He was a wonderful character and was known to all as “Pappy” an inscription that is on his tombstone. He told the best stories. One of the funniest of these stories was about one of his pairs of shoes. After Pappy went back to his flooded home he only found one of his shoes. To no avail He took the remaining shoe and went from shoe store to shoe store trying to buy a matching shoe.

After watching the imposing flooded banks of the Delaware River, we ate our picnic lunch on the tailgate of the truck. During the ride home everyone was busy talking about the flood. I was quiet as I was thinking of my mom, dad and new baby sister who were on the other side of that raging river. I wondered if they were safe. We wouldn’t know for days as neither Aunt Ree nor our parents had a telephone. A fact that is so hard to believe in our advanced world today where we have cellular phones and can communicate with our loved ones via the Internet.

Our family in nineteen fifty-five lived a very modest life style. We did not have a telephone, we had only one car, one television, and a wringer washing machine. The wet clothing was hung on a line to dry, and the dishes were washed and dried by hand. However, our mom didn’t work out of the home and was home waiting for our return from school each day to give us her attention and bake us cakes, pies, and cookies. Life was simple and easy going with fewer complications.

Upon arriving back at the farm Aunt Ree, Irene, and I went to the toy room to get our little tin berry picking pails. We each had one and would pick raspberries and strawberries each in their season that grew wild down the lane, which ran between the orchard and barn through several tree and rock, lined fields eventually coming to rest at the creek.

These pails were also used to pick cherries. Buddy would climb the tree and picked the plump ripe black cherries from the highest branches as we reaped those on the lower branches. Our fingers turned reddish purple as were our tongues. It would be quite an impossible feat for me to pick cherries without sampling a few.

In the fall when walnuts were ready for picking Buddy would climb the tree and shake it, making them fall to the ground on an outspread sheet as we gathered those that missed the sheet. They would be hung in burlap bags in the barn to dry and then shelled for Christmas cookies and cakes.

Today we would help Aunt Ree gather ripe tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and other ripe vegetables from their garden. They always planted a large vegetable garden. Aunt Ree would can the left over fruits and vegetables to be eaten during the winter months.
After our vegetable picking duties were over Uncle Bill assisted Buddy outside in tinkering with his go-cart project, and Irene and I returned to playing with the old toys from the toy room. Aunt Ree was in the kitchen baking as the scent of cherry cobbler wafted into the large room and surrounded us as we played.

From Chapter Three:

The storm that was raging around us was named Hurricane Diane. Ironic that the storm would have my name as I was a “mommy’s girl” and rarely stayed away from home, especially now being replaced with a new baby. Our Dad often joked about this fact to anyone who would listen, “Diane was so jealous when Ruth Ann was born that she whipped up the hurricane that hit the area!”

Little did I know then that Ruth Ann would become my best friend and such a blessing to all of us who love her dearly! 
Happy Birthday Ruth Ann!

Ruth Ann, Rod McKuen, Diane

Background song is People On Their Birthdays written and sung by Rod McKuen

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