These are my novels on Lulu, please check them out.
Let me start with a little background to let you know my connection to the hard hit part of the city. I’m from the hill, so my mother’s home was not directly in the path of the destruction. However, during the time between my last great summer with the pool gang and marrying my first wife in April 1969, I spent a great deal of time in the Lee Park and Barney Street area. My girlfriend, and soon to be wife, lived on Lee Park Avenue. Her friends, who became my friends, lived in the blocks around that area and we got married in St. Aloysius Church.
Yesterday I described how Agnes set Wilkes-Barre up for the toughest days of its history. Today I will add what little I know about the actual event. I’m going to need help here. If you have memories of those days please share them here in the comments. That will put the entire story in one place.
My family and I were in Alexandria. We knew it was going to be bad for our hometown and we were already planning to return to be with family and friends and to help out in whatever way we could.
The rain totals were mounting, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen inches and more. The Susquehanna River was becoming in, my pool gang days, would have been called a blivit. As many of you know a blivit, crudely put, is ten pounds of sh** in a five pound bag. That aptly described the river at that time. Many brave souls went to the river to shore up the dyke. Some set up a second line of defense putting up barriers by the courthouse.
This picture is from an Accuweather page and it comes from “The Great Flood of 1972” by Paul Warnagris. As you can see the hard work and brave effort of the people was to no avail.
My brother, Tony, told me of the fight at the dyke. He was down there in the rain, and dark, hoisting sandbags. He said he remembered when the air raid sirens began to wale giving the signal that the dyke was collapsing. He said it was the eeriest feeling, in the dark and the rain with the sirens blaring out their warning.
The water rushed into the Wilkes-Barre and the towns of the Wyoming Valley with tremendous force. The power of the river shocked me as the morning light brought pictures of the flooding. The river drove the nine feet and more of water into homes, business, and anything else in its way.
This is an example of what the morning light brought. There are many many more pictures at the two web sites below.
This is where I need help. My father-in-law, at the time, was displaced. He lost much of what he had when the double-block that he lived in was flooded. I believe he got out ahead of the water but he never talked about it. He passed away about a year or so later so I never knew the details. I know a lot was lost. I hope people will tell their stories of these days.
I would like to thank my brother, Anthony Maida, Dyanne Dulmas, Frank Eyerman, Joan Helinski Shoemaker, Tish Price, and Ron Kane for filling in some details of those days. Tish wrote about manning the switchboard for civil defense and how it had to be moved from the courthouse to higher ground at a school district building. Joan said when the flood waters were rushing into the city, she was having her baby. Thank Goodness the hospital was on higher ground.
Dyanne pointed me back to my brother reminding me of just how involved he was with the effort at the dyke and the work that followed. Tony, Frank, and Ron put together a sad picture of maybe the only fatality directly related to the flood waters. Frank told of working on River Street on the dyke when the water came over. He said a young man was washed away and, in a sad and eerie twist, he ended up in the yard of his girlfriend. Tony added that the young man actually worked right in my old neighborhood at the gas station at Parrish and Hazel. Ron added that he believed the man graduated with the class of 1970 of Meyers High School, two years after I graduated.
When the water receded the Wyoming Valley was faced with the huge task of putting their world back together. There were terrible and some oddly funny images for people to witness like a washing machine hanging from the telephone wires, and the dreadful and heart breaking scene below.
This was a cemetery in Forty-Fort. Caskets were torn out of the ground and tossed all over the area. My heart went out to the people who had to recover friends and loved ones. I can’t imagine the pain some of them must have felt.
Please make this a real story and fill in the account of these days in the comments. Tomorrow I will talk about my experience coming back home just a few days after the flood. I will also talk about why the city was never the same to me again.