1937 Flood Stories

Catherine Warer, interviewed by neighbor Georgia M. Denk- 2400 Block of Slevin Avenue

On Sunday, the police came to the house and made us leave. They took us to the tobacco factory at 24th and Main Street. People with dogs had to go to the fifth floor.

There was no heat, no place to wash up, and no way to flush the toilets. The smell got really bad. We slept on the floor and there were people everywhere. We had brought blankets, so we did have something to lie on and cover up with.

They brought food in skiffs, prepackaged, and coffee in washtubs. Sometimes Father Arnold from St. Cecelia’s would come to visit, and Father Hermes from St. Anthony’s (Church) took in people.

Sanitary conditions at the factory got so bad they started moving people out to the country in cattle cars, I think.

Mama was worried they’d ship us out, so Friday we left and came home the back way.

Mrs. F.L. (Theresa Cissell) Spalding, Rudd Avenue, Age 11

The firemen came knocking on our door in the middle of the night telling us we had to get out right away. My father worked for the W.T. Adams Broom Co. He borrowed a truck from them the next day and managed to get most of our possessions out of the house and took them to a house on Maple Street. Before we could get to this house the water starting coming up there and eventually got to the ceiling. We lost everything except for the clothes on our backs.

They took my mother to the old St. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital at 11th and Hill Streets, where she gave birth to my youngest brother on January 26, 1937.

St Cecilia

St Cecilia is located at 25th and Slevin Streets. During the 1937 flood the basement and the parish hall had about 2 1/2 feet of water standing in it. they were able to take in and care for 300 refugees. They gave Typhoid shots and medical care to many.

Jim Fulks Sr.

Jim Fulks Sr. decided to stay at this house at 1111 S. 28th Street. This remained above the flood crest. A neighbor, whose first name was Bob, was salvaging things from the water that flowed down the street, pulling out tanks of chemicals and oil drums. One day he showed Fulks his salvaged treasures, all the while looking at the dirty water for more.

Suddenly the neighbor stopped talking, Fulks turned and the two men stared into the water.

There among the boards and car tops was something that terrified them. Fulks remembered “the nude body of a woman floating face down in the slow-moving flood.”

They ran to the neighbor’s skiff and pushed it into the water. “I took the oars and started rowing toward the corpse while Bob reached out from the bow, seeking to get a handful of the woman’s hair. When he finally succeeded I quickly turned the skiff toward the shore and rowed with all my might.”

His heard was pounding, he felt weak and nauseated, and his arms numb from rowing. the boat nudged the ground and Fulks jumped out, grabbed the woman’s feet and pulled her ashore. Suddenly Bob was at his side. They turned the corpse over and looked into the staring eyes.

They two men looked at each other and began to laugh. “Our corpse,” said Fulks “was mannequin from the window of the nearby clothing store.”

Fontaine Ferry Amusement Park

Fifty people marooned in the Fontaine Ferry Park dance hall spent the flood playing the piano music while the kids scampered around the dance floor. A house brought from far upriver had come to rest against the roller coaster.

St. Ann’s Convent

The convent was located on Portland Avenue. It was used to house the Sisters of the Charity of Nazareth who taught in the Portland area. most had already left going to St. Joseph Infirmary or to the Motherhouse but eight nuns remained until forced to evacuate.

A boat made a dangerous journey up Bank Street rescued them. After the nuns were on the boat they continued down Bank Street and turning into 19th Street where the boat struck a light post and in half. Sisters and oarmens both went into the ice-cold water which was up to 10 feet deep.

They were rescued shortly and taken to the Convent of the Good Shepherd at 8th and Madison.

Not one of the Sisters became ill from the icy waters.

Kroger Store

The flood was over! As manager of the Kroger Store at 34th and Broadway, (which) had been covered with water, Jim Fulks was shocked to see that every shelf in the store had been overturned, and thousands of cans were in a jumble on the floor without a label on a single one. He had received instructions to load all the cans on trucks so they could be sent to a store in Jeffersonville. Ind.

When he arrived there he was told to sort all the label-missing cans by six. They would be offered to the customers at three for 25 cents and three for 10 cents. He suggested to his manager that he could open a can and if they found a real bargain they could buy them for themselves.

When he opened up one of the cans he asked his manager if he liked corned beef hash. He told him to put 48 cans aside for him and his family.

Six months later he was stocking shelves at another store when he saw the code on the can he had in his hand. It was the same as what was on the corned beef hash cans he gave to his manager. You can imagine how he felt when he realized he was holding a can of Dog Food.

(Research from the Courier Journal and other sources)
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