University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown students in Dr. Paul Newman’s Introduction to Public History Course worked with JAHA Curator Kaytlin Sumner to transcribe a group of 1936 Flood Accounts from JAHA’s Collections. Below are the results of the project.
Now that the “Open for Business” sign is hung out in Johnstown it is high time that I give an account of myself. Of course, if in business under inumerable hardships.
Johnstown was all prepared for its Spring Festival. Stoves were loaded with Spring Merchandise and the town never looked better. On the morrow the Festival was to begin. St. Patrick’s Day 1936 will long be remembered by all of the citizens of this city.
About every day for 8 days it had been raining off and on but on Tues. morning it began to pour. I hated to go to school in the awful downpour. All morning I felt uneasy while watching the water pour off the Mt. side near our school bldg. Which is located near the Stoneycreek River in the downtown section.
At noon a number of us stood at the fire escape door of our balcony on the 4th floor watching the river. You could see it rising steadily. Finally it went over the banks and into the Sts. I was hoping that our Principal would send home over 13 or 14 hundred pupils. At last at 1:30 we were excused. I immediately got my wraps and made one dash for the street. I had to wade water almost to my waist – dirty ice cold water. When I got to Main Street, cars had stopped running so I walked home (2 miles) through all kinds of water and debris. I changed my clothes immediately, bathed and had a hot cup of tea. So far i’ve felt none the worse except for a little nervous reaction for a few days. Who wouldn’t though we’ve been through enough. All the way home I could see the lower streets continue to fill with water. Of course I was getting higher and higher. We are 168ft above the main port of the city here. The creek here over flowed and flowed down the street park 1 street away from us.
Dad had a hard time getting home. Several places bridges were washed away so that he was trapped. During the late afternoon our telephone service went out. Then we lost all connection with folks until next morning. Dad went to help some of our relatives but couldn’t get near their home. Men were operating boats up and down the streets to rescue people.
Our next utility to go was electricity. We used candles for the rest of the eve. When we went to bed I couldn’t sleep for thinking about people sitting in their homes in darkness watching the water creep up higher and higher.
The peak was reached at 2 A.M. From then on the water went down about as rapidly as it came, but what destruction it left in its path. The law laying sections certainly did have a mud bath – Mud! Mud! Everywhere Mud! Our town’s face should be lifted with this clay pack”
There were about as many different experiences as there are people in Johnstown. Some school children, teacher, clerks and office workers were marooned in various Bldgs. All nite. Whole families were separated while fleeing to higher ground.
Well, Wed. when everyone was breathing a sigh of relief and many people were looking at their flood vanished possessions, as out sight seeing the worst scare of all came over the radio came the word, that Quehoming Dam had burst. That dam is owned by Bethlehem Steel Co. Is is Somerset Co. It is 7 miles long. The whistle and bells sounded as in 1889 flood. Of course every one became alarmed. People certainly did scram out of town. Out in our section people bundled their youngsters into cars and trucks and drove away in a great hurry. Dad was helping some of the relatives in the flood [illegible] so I was here alone with Mother. Everyone was so worried about her. So a neighbor took her in his car to still higher ground I stayed home knowing that I could easily run to the Mt. back of our house if necessary. In a few hours we learned that it was only a false alarm. That was a terrible thing. Several people died of shock. People are still dieing with the flood as indirect cause.
The after day I went all through town. It made me feel heart sick. It seemed almost hopeless but every one has held his chin up and said – “Johnstown shall be a bigger and better city.” Really much has been done in the past week.
Our town is under martial control. Several thousand troops were here. There are still 1,000 here. The High School is the headquarters for the troops of 112th Infantry. State police are here too. Our Jr. High Bldg. is being used as a Hospital and other offices. The outlying schools did not lose a day. Some lost 3 days. 11 schools are still vacationing. My school and the High School will be the last to get started. It will mean going to school for us until about June 15 or 20. Our schools will be closing at different times. The State Supt. says all time must be made up in spite of the great emergency causing them to close.
We had relatives here with us for a week. Yesterday they left because their has was on. I helped them clean some. It is just about 100 times harder than a regular house cleaning.
At last we have a newspaper but we are still without telephone service in our community. The certainly do not appreciate our modern communication until they are taken away from us.
It was the 1st floors that were destroyed. About 40 churches and many stores, homes, and business offices were flooded.
Everywhere one looks can be seen ruined pianos. I didn’t know there were so many in Johnstown. Refrigerators and pianos floated in the streets. The town is full of debris – looks like a giant junk pile. With bridges down it is very hard to get from one part of the city to another.
We certainly appreciated all the nice letters we received and all your kind offers of help. So far we are all safe, and well. The health in general has been very good for which we are thankful. Indeed we have a great deal to be thankful for.
The newspapers have been giving you the facts and believe me they haven’t been exaggerated one bit.
People from outside have been very good in sending supplies of food and clothing. Coal was dumped on the Sts. during the cold period last week to relieve suffering. Refugees are seen everywhere. W.P.A. men are speeding the work of cleaning out the worse dirt.
Now we have to speak of the flood of 1889 and 1936 instead of the Johnstown Flood. I never dreamed that I would ever see anything like the one in 1889. This one is as bad except for the great loss of life in 1889.
I’ve written a general letter so that I might get it off to everyone as quickly as possible.
The flood came on St. Patricks [sic] Day March 17, 1936. At 130PM we were left out of school. I went home and told my mother that the river was over its banks. I went up to the Grade school and asked the principal if he was going to let school out. He said that their [sic] was no sense in leting [sic] school out. I then went down the river banks to see how much further the water was then when I came home from school I then went home and told my mother how high the water was. We waited until my dad came home, no sooner then [sic] we got down talkling [sic] the door opened and my dad came home and right afterwards the children came home from school. We then paked [sic] our clothes and left home we went up to South Fork. The same might [sic] their [sic] was a alarm [sic] that the dam broke we seen [sic] people coming up Frankstown road screaming and crying “runs the hills the dam broke”. The next morning
we went home the sun was shining and everything looked nice. I helped light the stove and run earrons [sic] about 4 hours later I seen WPA workers running then I heard whistles blowing and people were saying, “run for the hills the dam broke”, I ran for our house and took my little brother and my parents followed we went up over a hill and down in Oakland. We stayed in Oakland for 3 days. We turned on the radio and listened to the announents [sic] we heard that the Dam was safe so we went back home and stayed.
It started to rain on Saturday March 14 and kept on raining until the river got high. The rivers where getting higher every hour. But the rain didn’t stop but kept on raining on Tuesday. Everyone was scared on Tuesday but most everyone was expecting the streets to be covered with the water. Most of all the students were wishing that the water would get high so that the principal would let them out of school. On Tuesday, March 17, 1936 at approximately 1:30 oclock that water started to cover Market Street. Before the danger got worse, J.H.S. sent a warning that all the students were to be dismissed. Then everyone was glad. Most of the students did not get home, but got in some houses along the way and were stranded there all night. When I got home my pants were soaked clean to the knees. On Tuesday 17, The Conemaugh River went over its bank at 3:10 oclock. The water kept on raising on until midnight. I reached the stage where it was eight
Inches below the 1889 mark. I walked the streets on Tuesday up until 4:00 oclock Wednesday morning. I was on Franklin Street when the dam was supposed to be broke and did I run. From that time on I did not go to town. I do not want to see another flood.
On Tues. Mar. 17, 1936 Joseph Johns was led out early due to rapidly rising rivers. As I was going toward any home in Prospect, I had to wade through water about a foot high on the pavement. When I was safely on the other side of the Walnut St. bridge, I watched the river rise. At 1 o’clock I went home for supper and then after a complete change of clothes I went back to watch the river rise. While standing under the Prospect bridge, It was a new experience to me to see tree trunks, poles, countless oil barrels, and large cakes of ice hit the railroad bridge making a canon-like sound. I watched the river most of the night and once I seen a lantern on the other side of the Walnut St. bridge. In the morning the state police arrived and no one could get passed the bottom of the Prospect bridge. Some companions and I seeing we could not get into town to see what the waters did, We crossed over the cars loaded with steel to anchor the railroad bridge. This brought us out as the upper part of Washington [St]. The water was rapidly going back into the river. Soon we were able to walk around part of the town, Although we had to go through mud, which was very deep.
We walked around seeing many pitiful sights, and it was not nice to see the faces of men who had lost their belongings. I was watching the Franklin St. bridge where it rested in the middle of the river, and then I wandered down Vine St. and I was looking down the alley alongside the First Lutheran Church, when a man ran suddenly around the corner yelling “run for your life-the waters coming.” My heart skipped a few beats and I looked in each direction to see which way the water was coming. When I didn’t see any water I ran as fast as I could up the alley over wreckage, through water, mud and anything else that got in my way. I was tiring, so I slowed down so that I could run longer. There was confusion all around me, cars rushing past with horns blowing, men running, ladies screaming, and children crying all dashing madly for the hills. I stopped to pick up a girl who had fallen and then in front of me I seen a middle aged couple. The man was running and the lady was doing her best to keep up to him. The man would holler at her to run faster and she was saying that she couldn’t. I then arrived at the railroad bridge and I lost no time getting across an up the bluff to Prospect. It was a mad scene people climbing the bluff breathless and hopeless. I hope this is never repeated.
I got out of school and wanted to get home quick. I got over on the bridge and the water was high on the streets so I had to walk on the grass along the High School. The grass was slippy and I just about fell in. I walked up a piece (?) and met my mother. She made me go and get my sister out of school. I got my mother and she told me to help get my grandfather out he is 85 years old and is blind. I went down and helped them then went to my aunts and got some stuff out & when I was going out I had to go over other peoples houses to go home.
My Experience in the Johnstown Flood:
My experience on the day of the flood: When I left the school I started for home. I went through water to get home. I was all wet and caught a cold. After I changed cloth I went down the prospect bridge watching the water rise. As the water over flowed it was taking Cars with it. I watch the family store most of the time. The case they had outside turned over and broke its glass and the water rushed in taking out all their things. The water was getting stronger I saw many people crossing the track to get home. I watched the town most of the day. I took many people to stay at my house. The next day I went in town I got a pair of boots I went through water to get across the street. Toward evening someone said the dam broke. The people where running as fast as they could to get out of town. I helped many people up the hill some were soaked and wet, they didn’t have their shoes or stockings
Many were crying because they couldn’t find their families. The next day I got a pass from the Mayor And got myself a job. I worked hard and got paid well. I saw someone to bring something out of the window. A Cop caught him by the neck and their head to the ground Someone told me we were giving to have a flood on April 7 or 15, the next week was school and I caught sick. And stayed home the rest of the week. That was my experience in the flood.
We were left out of school early, I went to the office to wait for the office girl because my brother was to come down for us but he didn’t. The janitor said he’d take us home in his car. He took us home. When we (got?) don’t by the point the water start coming into the car. We thought we wouldn’t make it home but we did. When I got home my brother wasn’t home with the car my mother said he went for my father but didn’t come home. We went as far into town as we could get we looked for the car, but couldn’t see it. In the Morning we went down to the station and was looking at the town when who comes along but my brother. Boy was I glad we ask him where he was & where the car was. He said he was at a Booster’s club overnight & the car’s on Grant St. untouched by water. I went into town in the afternoon and saw a good pair of Hightop shoes. I was going to take them when the report came that “the dam broke”. Boy did I run, I beat it for the station and up over the hill and look back for another flood to come.
When school was dismissed I went directly home, but the water was already a few inches deep when I got there. When the water rose to a few feet we took our rugs up. Soon we had to go to the second floor. The water kept rising and about 11:00 oclock we moved to the third floor. The water rose until 2 oclock in the morning. Then it started going down. The next day at noon we went down to the first floor and saw a horrible sight. The mud was inches deep. All of the furniture was ruined. We started to clean up right away. About 2:30 that afternoon the false scare about the dam bursting reached us. I was separated from my father. I went to Westmont and he went to Prospect. I stayed with friends until Friday, when I came to down and found my father.
On Tuesday March 17, I was in gym class and the bell rang to go home. I live on Sherman St beside Mr C.O Bowman and of course as you discovered later that distance was practically inundated. I went directly home and put on my hip boots and started to go to the store. The water was rabidly raising and when I got back the water was about 1 ½ ft deep. My Dad and I stared carrying food and clothing and furniture. We saved all the books and valuable furniture except the piano and the big dining room table. When we finished Dad and I were wading in about 2 ½ ft of water in the house. We went upstairs. By that time I was tired and went to the front bedroom window to sit and look at the flood. The water was up over car tops then. A feremons boat come along and it was not making much progress. I looked down the steps and the water was over the first stare. I went to bed about 8 pm and slept till 10:30. The water was up four steps with 4 to go to the top. I then kept watch while my Dad rested. At 12:00 the water was nearly to the second floor.
At 12:30 it went down 2 inches. I woke my Dad and we went to the attic. I took my flashlight and went to the attic roof and tied a rope to the inside of the attic and a rope around my waist. I went on the roof and flash the light around. The water was nearly to the second floor of all the houses. The next morning I went downstairs and when I got there the piano was upside down and a big [illegible] hall tree was leaning over and a window was raised with a chair stuck through it keeping it up. All the wall paper and most of the plaster was down. The place was almost one entire wreck. Our boardwalk floated away but the junk cans stayed. The cellar looked like a cyclone and tornado was in it playing Tag around the furnace and jelly cupboard. It was turned over and all the glass was sunk but not broke. A load of ashes were scattered all around the cellar. Most of the large wreckage is now cleaned out.
I stayed home school on Tuesday afternoon, because the river was high. About two o’clock my brother came home from school. He was all wet. That night when the report came that the dam had broken. Our family was up on Bedford Street. As we were going, a woman told us that it was worse on Bedford Street, but we didn’t listen to her. We stayed on Bedford Street all night. The next day we went back home. We didn’t get any water in our house because we are up too high. On Wednesday afternoon when the second report came that the dam broke, we ran up the hill without any coat or anything on but our house clothes. We stayed there about two hours in a house up on the hill. Then we came back home. Then I got a cold & sore throat.
At about 4:00 PM on March 17, 1936 the streets were filled with water. The people started running to the hills. We went to a shack on a hill. There was a stove there & we had something to eat. Once in a while I’d see a log or a roof floating down the river. The water was rushing on the banks. A man whom we knew came & took us to a house higher up. While we were going to the house we had to walk through 6 in. to 1 ft. of water. We stood there over the night & went home the next morning. We started cleaning up. Our first floor had about 4 or 5 ft. of water in it. A rumor came out that the Quemahoning Dam had burst. We went to the hills and found refuge in a house. The next day we came back & started cleaning up again.
While some encountered thrilling experiences and while others stayed in strange places, I was situated at home, quietly watching the Stonycreek and Conemaugh come up at me.
With only mother in the house with me, we sat quietly through the night, waiting for we knew not what. And yet, as I measured the water coming up the staircase, I didn’t think of death or dying. I don’t know what I thought of, except for a while I devised a plan for getting out of the house. But the rest of the time, I only stared- I was numbed.
When the water was pretty well up in the first story, we instinctively began to think in terms of the third floor. Robot-like we took up mattresses, rugs, and bottom drawers from the second floor. And then we waited for the rivers to open new channels in our upstairs, but they didn’t. Instead, about half an hour after midnight, a thin, dark strip appeared on the wallpaper and we knew that the water had begun to recede.
We merely sighed and kept on watching- still expecting to have to go to the third floor. By our own carrying and lugging to the attic, we had made ourselves believe that the water would invade the second story. When the water started to go down, we hardly believed it- we still expected it to rise.
When a person is faced with fire he usually screams; when he’s faced with a gun he cries out; and he usually makes some sort of noise when he encounters violent death. But, when water swiftly, silently, the gently, creeps up at you, you merely face it in a drugged condition, in a stupor of fear, not only for your own well being, but for everything in general.
One of my experiences was while I was coming home from school on St. Patrick’s Day. The water had overflood the banks of the Stonycreek River and the water was running very fast by the Y.M.C.A. When I came by the water, I said to myself “That the water might come higher” so I knew that my mother would be very much worry, so I am through the water, which was up to my knees. When I went through I went straight home. I changed all my wet clothes and put dry ones on so that I would not get sick.
The day after the flood I went down town so that I might find some valuables. After wondering around I went near the new City Hall when all the sudden I saw boys running saying “The dam broke.” The town was in panic, people running here & there, running for the hill some hoping in cars and trucks. I started running from town sort of frightened thinking “Oh, oh, oh, I make it in this flood [illegible] than anything but I never ran faster in all my life and reached home. As Conemaugh flooded where people were gathering their clothing running up the hill, “[illegible] can say this.” The people were in an uproar.
When school left out, I went through water up to my knees to get through to try to get home. So when I got through the water I went up Market St. and out Washington St. and over the bridge to Iron St. and I stayed over there watching the river raising and flowing over then I went over to the Pennsylvania Railroad station and I met a man over there who, I asked if I could ride down home along with him, and he asked me where I lived, I told him and he said alright. So we got in the car and we did not know whether we could get through or not so we stopped, and asked some men if we could get through for their was water running all over the streets and roads, the man said that we could get through, as we got over the bridge at the Point Stadium the water was coming over the bridge, we kept on going, then we went up through Westmont and down through Morrellville and on the State Highway and from there we were safe and went straight home.
On Tuesday morning March the 17th I went to school and it was raining very hard and my friend told me that after school the water in the river will be high, but he got fooled it was not until 1:30 that the water started to go down Napoleon St till it reached Johnstown high. The pupils over high school were excused and went home. Then a notice came around and the teacher read it and we were excused. The water was about 15 ft high by Johnstown high school. By the Y.M.C.A the water started to go down the street. The water was just about up to our knees. We walked fast home till we come to the Woodville Bridge and saw how high the water was, it was up to the bridge. We left the bridge, I went to see the Bethlehem Steel bridge it was just about broke in half. The cars weren’t allowed to cross the bridge.
On Wednesday we took a walk toward town, and there was still some water on Center Street and Washington Street.
We saw the firemen rescuing people out of the place where they worked. On Thursday we took a walk down to Cambria City. The water still was going down the street. We saw many houses knocked over. Then we walked on till we came to Chestnut Street and the people were shouting the Dam broke run for the hills. We ran through deep mud and one of my friends fell into the mud. We reached the top of the hill and saw people going in cars and some running. I told my friends we should start for home and we ran on the backroad until we came to [illegible] hill and ran over it and we got home. I saw many people carrying big bundles up the hill. The people slept in our [illegible] home till 5:30 in the morning. They started to go back on the side the live on. It a couple of days it saved the dam is okay.
On Tuesday March the 17 Johnstown had a second flood. I came to school on Tuesday morning. That day about 1 o’clock the river was fifteen feet high and my mother wouldn’t let me come to school. About 1:15 the water was coming in our cellar and my Dad, brothers, and I carried some things from the cellar to the second floor. About the time my Dad told us to go over my Aunts and he and my other brothers would carry some things from the first floor. So we went over to my Aunts and waited for them but they did not come. Then my mother wanted to go back but would not let her. We stayed there until 4:30 then the water started to come in her house so we had to leave. We went out to a friend of my Aunts and stayed the night. The next day
we went back to get my Dad, Grandfather, and brother and they said the Dam had broken, so we ran for the hill. Then we all got together on the hill and stayed at a house for the night. The next day we went down to clean the mud out of the house “and it was mud.” That day my Aunt and Uncle came from Pittsburgh and took my Mother, sister and my other brother and I to their house. I hope that the water never comes as high as it did on March 17, 1936 as long as I live.
On the day of March 17, 1936 (My Birthday) The Conemaugh River Overflowed at 2:00 in the afternoon. All of our neighbors at at least 3’ of waters in their cellars and that was all coming up from the sewers in the cellars. I told my father that the water was half as in the sewer so he told me to clog it. So I got the cotton from an old automobile seat an pushed it into the sewer and put two cabbage rolles [sic] on top of it. “Green Parrot” company had 4 ½ ‘in the cellar. My mother and packing provisions for us. Because we had to go to the hills. Next day after the flood I came down to see the river and made a 4 ½ ‘drop. Then I went into the house looked it over. Nothing was damaged on the 2 floor but the cellar was completely ruined. On Monday I got 2 blisters a sore arm. From shoveling mud.
Expearinents In the flood:
The flood of Johnstown which was the second great one occured on St. Patricks Day, march 17, 1936. The rivers were rising rapidly when it was 15 ft deep at 12:30 o’clock at one thirty I was in the gym in Joseph Johns School when it was coming down the alley. They left us out and I ran the way home. When I got home I changed my jacket which was soaked with water and put on my hip boots. I went over to look at the river which I lived closed by and it had two feet to come over the banks from where I stood. It was worse than the Stoneycreek, because it was all waves and swift currants. At 3:30 we left the house and waded in water to our ankle. My dad was not home from work yet so I waited for him to tell him where my mother had gone. I seen him across the street and waded in waters up to my knees. I told them where she was and to come up. I waded across again and when to where she was. After supper she told me to come down and call them to come up so I went down and I waded the waters which was very swift.
I got across just to catch a tree I would have been a goner. I told them to come up and I started back the same way I came over. I went up to the house and stayed there that night.
I left school about 1:20 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon of March 17, 1936. I crossed the Napoleon street bridge, but onely [sic] to find that Napoleon and Somerset streets were flooded with about [2 ½] feet of water. No one was there to tell me where to go so I went back over the bridge and found that Market Street was flooding. I worked my way down to the corner of Vine and Market street [sic] and went up on the cornerhouse because it had a high porch. The water came higher and higher and then we were forced upstairs. The water came up about [12 feet or more] and we began to prepare to go up in the atic [sic] about [10 o’clock] a big American Stove Truck that had stalled in the center of the streets Vine and Market had caught a fire and the cab burned off of it. It was cold and wet and chille [sic] many others were two [sic]. We watch the water rise so as we watch the water subside. About [11:30] Wednesday March 18, 1936 I saw
the water gone down and I started home. I went over the Napoleon street bridge onely [sic] to find it flooded. I ran around [illegible deletion] about [1 ½ hrs] before I got to my house at 522 Somerset St. and then had to wade water half way up to my knees. I got home about [1 o’clock] and our place being hit very hard I began to work. Shortly afterwards they cry [deletion] cried run to the hills the Dam broke as the four of us ran to the hills to-gether [sic].
I live on Stonycreek Street, right across the street from the Stonycreek river. On Tuesday morning when I left home for school I noticed that the river was fairly low and that it had a good many feet to raise before it could get dangerous.
When I came home from school at noon it was within a yard of the top. At noon everyone was talking about the rising river. In the afternoon I came to school dressed in a large rain coat and rubber [illegible]. Everything at school passed alright until the notice came for everyone to be let out. By the time I got home the water was on Morell place and I had to wade across to get home but I did not get wet because of my rubber [illegible]. After crossing the street I went a half a black to my home.
My father was home and together we carried all the furniture from the downstairs to the second floor except for a dining room suit. We then went next door and helped them. We could not get to the incline so we went to hour second floor. Having first putting the fire out in the furnace so it could not do any damage. The people from next door came over to our second floor. In a short time water covered the first floor. The water rose to nine feet on our first floor.
During the period that the house was full of water we had bread buns and [illegible] together with some eggs which we cooked
On a small gas heater on the third floor. The light we had was light candles, gas lights in the hall and bathroom, two flashlights, a small [illegible] lamp and some lights which were ran from a short wave battery receiver. During the night we had a conversation with the neighbors and we reported to each other every 10 minutes. Around two oclock we noticed that the water had dropped some and was dropping fastly. In the morning we went downstairs and started to clean the mud out.
In the morning I looked around the town to see the damage done. It started to rain so I started home and the way I met my father and he told me to get ready to leave that that we were going away. A little later I heard people yelling that the dam had broke and they were running for the incline. I wasn’t allowed to go up on the incline so I went up the side of the hill. At the top of the hill I met the rest of my family and father was coming behind me. When we reached the top we went to my cousins who lived in Westmont to stay.
My experience of the Flood is very little because I live in the hill and I didn’t Get touch only what I Got on my way home from school that day. But Tuesday night went (when?) they said the damn broke I went farther up the hill & stayed theer (there?). (a) The next day in the afternoon The second alarm came that the damn broke we ran again to the hill. That night I didn’t sleep all night on Thursday the river had went down a lot I went to town with my friend we Got work we work 3 day for about 8$ well that about finishes My Experience of the flood
I got out of school about 1:30 oclock ran through the water and got a street car and rode home and when I got home I was wet I was I change my clothes and took a walk up the river to see how deep it was. I lead man [?] and [?] took a walk up Conemaugh to see the water up there then we went on the Franklin Conemaugh bridge and saw large waves of water, the banks was falling, telephone poles falling in the creek with the wires on. Engines falling box cars, [?]. Then we went to Franklin firehall and got a drink of water, and we went down the [?] of all down to the bridge Then we went home through Franklin & Conemaugh across the railroad & down by the river we went by a little shack and stood there for a little time then we heard a police hallowed at everyone as they go up the hills. So I went home my mother and my sisters went up the hill. I stood there till my brothers came from work then I went up & stood
There over nights I came home in the morning about 5:30 oclock.
As we were going to school the cop stoped us and told us to go home. We though we would go and see how high the water was. The water was 14 ft. and the streets were filling up with water. We had a hard time getting home, and are feet were wet, After we change stocking, we went to see how deep the water was in the cellar, it was about 2 ft. deep. We had to get my grandmother 78 years old in a car and get her to safety. By that time the water was out side the house, it was about 3-6 inches deep. We had to walk the fence. We went to Roxbury for the night. We came home the next day. We got in our house and the piano was up side down. After while we started for some ladies house when the yelled the dam broke. We ran for the hill. We went to some ladies house and stayed there all night. My sister said they were in a three story house & the draged a man across the street, when it was about 14 ft. deep & They carried a lady across the house roof to get her to safety. When they were taking the piano apart, some of the boards fell on me. But I did not get hurt.
On the day of March 17th 1936 at which time we were dismissed from school at 1:15 P.M. on account of the river rising. We did not expect the river to over flow its banks.
Right after it begin and dismissed from school I walked to my Aunts Shop to tell them that the river was rising and that they should come home as soon as possible, for the river was flooding some parts of town. Then I left them and went home and on my way I mist(?) a boy friend of mine and ask him where he was going. He said to his grandfather’s place to help him find a girl. So I went with him to help to find her. We look for girl a while but we could not find her. Then I said that we better be on our way home for the river was getting higher every minute. After getting on, it was 2: oclock P.M. and the water had risen about two feet, my Aunt & Uncle came home and they said that they had waded in water up to their knees. Then about 2:30 oclock P.M. we saw people going to safety but we thought, that this was only high water. So we did not leave our home, we stayed and made supper which we had about 4:00 oclock P.M. but at that time our basement had filled up with water and we sat down to eat supper the water came in so fast that before we started to eat it was ankle deep. Then we moved up stairs and before eating we moved the furniture, some fit up stairs. We couldn’t move all because the water was coming into the rooms to rapidly. About 5:00 oclock PM the water came up to the sec. stair step at 6:00 oclock PM the fourth step. 4:00 oclock sixth step 8 oclock 8 step. 9:00 oclock 10 step. 12:00 oclock midnite it came up to the landing in the hallway at 12:30 oclock the water dropped about 1 inch. This one inch drop relieved our minds of been swept away.
My Experience in the St. Patrick Day Flood:
I was in my Mechanical drawing class and a notice came around to dismiss the children at the ringing of a double bell. As the bell sounded I went to my home soon and got ready to go home. I went out the door of lower end and proceeded to go home. I stopped at the Y.M.C.A. and watched the people crossing the corner of Market and Vine St. I left the Y.M.C.A. and went down Market St. to the Post Office and proceeded to go to the Public Safety Building and crossed the Bethlehem Steel bridge in back of the Penn traffic Co. I reached the Pennsylvania station where I proceeded to go to my house which was not yet hit by water. I left my house and went to the station where I met my mother who was crying because she had not word from us it was beginning to get dark and my mother and father went to the Washington were they stayed for a few days.
The rivers of Johnstown were raising every minute. At 12 o’clock everyone was talking about the Stoney Creek river. I went out to see it and it was nearly over the banks. When we went in school everyone looked scared. Some of the pupils wanted to go home. The teachers said that they will pass a notice to let us no we [know when] to go home. So has the third bell rang to change class a girl came in with a notice everyone was glad when the teacher read the notice. When the bell rang me and a boy started home. We ran through water up to our ankles. When we reach the Y.M.C.A. the water had much power we got through safely. At home the water was rushing into our cellars we stayed home and waited tell it would get higher. A man came over our house and said we would have to get out. We stayed there one night without sleeping. The next day we went home and tried to clean up place. The same day the people said the dam broke run for the hill. We ran up the hill and stayed there for about 3 days we were treated very good. I also think that the city of Johnstown worked together very good.
On my way home from school on Tuesday afternoon (March 17,1936) I had to wade in water up to my knees on Vine St. There was an ice wagon comeing [sic] and I got on it and rode to Franklin St. Then I got off and started to run. On Baulmer St. it was high too the street cars were stopped by the mud in the tracks. When I got home I changed clothes and watched the water coming up on Pine St. It came up to the porch roof that night they took people out of their houses in boats. Then there came the alarm to run for the hills that the dam had busted. We ran up Dale hill and stayed, with some people we knew, till morning about 3 o’clock and went home on Wood St the water never did reach our home. On Wednesday morning I watched the water going down on Wednesday afternoon I went in town with my brother-in-law to help him with his truck. He works for Associated Gas & Electric Co. and my brother and I was [sic] going to pull his truck out but when we were about ready to hook up the second alarm came we got on the truck and went up Main St. and on up Frankstown Road to Daisytown. Before we were half
way up the hill we had a load of people in the truck. People were running in the streets jumping on cars crying and everything. We came down some small road to Dale and got home. I stayed home till I knew it was safe. I walked down and saw what damage there was and there surely was enough.
By Richard Moore
On March 17 school was dismissed at 1:30 P.M. due to the high water in the city two rivers which caused the water to gush out of the sewers on to the street. I had to wade through water near the Y.M.C.A. on my way home and as I crossed the bridge flow in Woodvale & the water was very close. Inside an hour the river began to over flow its banks and people living near the river began to leave their homes. We moved all our furniture to the second floor and then the family went over to my uncles home on Woodvale Ave. high on the hillside above the water.
The water rose gradually until we had 18 inches of water in our yard and four ½ ft. in our cellar. We spent the night in my uncle’s home and the next day we returned home.
My first task was to shovel the mud out of the cellar. When I was through I went to town to see the damage done there. While there the “dam broke” scare occurred and all the people began to run for the hills. I never ran so fast in all my life as I did that day to get on the Hill. When I returned home I had a narrow escape from a beating for going to town. But I arrived home safe.
The day of the flood in the morning when I went to school the water was about nine ft high when I came out of school was water about a foot from the bridge. I went home to eat dinner & I came out at twelve-thirty & the water was about a half foot from the bridge. So I went home to help my mother to get her things up from the cellar & then I helped some other people. Well that took me about a half [illegible deletion] hour I went over to look to see high [deletion] how high the water was again this time it was [illegible deletion] touthing [sic] the bridge. The water was rising six inches in a half an hour. Well I knew some old lady she couldn’t walk so I went over there & stayed there till the water was up to my knees, well I knew if it got that high it would get higher so my brother stayed with her till I got someone. So some man got an ice wagon and till he got that, it was up to the [illegible deletion] horses hips. Well we got her out all right so that night my brother & I sleep at some lady’s house for the night. Then all at once some one [sic] gave the warning that the dam busted and every body [sic] [illegible] to the hills. Well every body was [illegible] until the warning cam [sic] around [illegible] it was only a roamer [sic] so the that in my
The day after the flood I was surprised to see that the town was completely ruined. I saw cars upside down up against telephone poles and some up to the door of stores. Some stores had two-feet of mud in it. Every thing in the stores was ruined. I went up main St. and I saw them take a dead body out of the Mission Inn. About ten minutes later the shout came that the dam broke. I headed for Prospect, all the people were excited. Some looking for their brothers or sisters, but afterward every one got home safe. That was the most exciting thing I saw.
March 17, 1936. This date shall be remembered by all of the people in Johnstown for many a year. My experiences of the flood of the above date weren’t many, but wading waist deep in that water is an experience I shall never forget. I was across the street from my house and standing on the coping with the water up-around my ankles. I stepped down and the water was about 3 to 4 inches above my knees. I got back on the coping and waded ankle deep in water for a block, crossed the street, and went up an alley to my friends house, jumped the fence and waded down another alley with water up to my waist. It was a hard job wading through that water and I had butter in one hand and cheese in the other so that made it all the more harder. We left our house when the water reached the first floor and a few houses later it was 8 inch from the second floor. That night we stayed at a friends house,
On the hill and the next day I put on my boots and hiked to [illegible] where my aunt lives. She came in town as far as she could with the automobile, which, by the way, was as far as Mercy Hospital. I hiked into town and got my mother & brother and showed them where the auto was. My father was helping some men in a boat and he said he would come out later. We stayed in Ferndale till the waters receded, then came home. I shoveled mud for 3 days and we still have plenty to go.
I stayed home from school on March 17, 1936 to watched the river raised. It started to come in South street on to Kennedy ave. and then we left home. I did not sleep all night. On March 18, 1936 I started to go home walked through the water and got home. I was working at home when they said the Dam broke. I ran up the hill, that night I sleep in a gas station up on the hill. I stay up on the for 1 day they when down and some people said that the dam did not break. I stay up at my ants for 1 week till we got our house clean out. I watch the men clean out the street, the yards around where I lived. When I got home the day after the Flood our dog was up stairs, and our bird was dead in its cage.
This flood was very destructive to many business men and also to private owners. The business men will rebuild shortly, because they want to get back into business. To rebuilt they must hire men. When the business buildings are completely rebuilt. The private home owners will rebuilt with the money they earned working for the business men. If they don’t have enough money, then it is the duty of the government to rebuilt the homes for them. When Johnstown is rebuilt it will be a beautiful city. While rebuilting men must be hired to help to rebuilt and also in the mills to make steel for the new buildings. In this manner Johnstown will lose the lose the depression that has been here for over six years. Although the properity damage was estimated at about $30,000,000 it did not concern me. What I was interested in was the lives taken, because properity can be fixed put dead people can’t be brought back to life. This flood took between 8 and 10 lives. This may seem a large number but compare it with 2,300 of 1889 and it will seem small. I think that in the future this flood will do more good than it did harm.
As I left school I went down Market St. up Vine St. and then I went out John St. to the Point I waited at the Point about 30 mins. trying to get a ride to Seward. I then started to go up Main St but the water was too deep I then turned around and went back to the Point and then got on the railroad track and then walk out of town. I walk up to the road that leads to Seward and waited for about 5 mins and got a ride to Seward. When I got there the people asked me about Johnstown I then took a walk down to the river and on my down some people told me about the men in the Power Plant and that they could not get out.
I was walking down Locust St on Wednesday the day following the flood. I stopped at the post office and watched some men try to move an automobile that was overturned. As I was standing there I heard the cry “Dam’s broke.” People came from all directions and ran toward Prospect and Frankestown Rd. I immediately set out for home but I was stopped by one of the state police as I tried to turn up Railroad St. He told me to head for Prospect St turned up Clinton St and then went down Washington St. I had to climb over both cars in back of the Penn Traffic Co. Women and children workers screaming while men tried to help them cross the tracks and cars. There were a few men who seemed to be even more excited than the women. They went pushing through the crowd not stopping to help children who were lost from their parents. When I finally arrived on the top of the hill my shoes and rubbers were full of mud. I stood there for a while and watched the people going up the Marketown Road.
After a short while the town was deserted. No one was could be seen on the streets that were once so busy with people and traffic. It put fear into lot of people when they thought would happen if the water did come. Soon a cold rain came which made it much worse. At the top of the bridge some man opened his garage to allow the people to stay in. Everywhere would looked you could see people who were discussing how the town would be destroyed. The Frankestown Road and Dairy Town was blocked with people and cars. I wanted to get home so I went up a street and found the path which led down into Woodvale. I came down the side of the hill and crossed the Woodvale bridge and was soon home.
I watched the river rising on Tuesday after I ate my lunch and then went to school. The children in school were very excited. The river was overflowing at some points so they let us out of school after the first period. I went home and watched the water rising rapidly. The water cover the street on the other side of the railroad, but their [sic] wasn’t much water were [sic] we live. The people where we live were moving out, but we stayed in our house and slept very good that night. I went to town to see what happened after the flood. On Wednesday I walked around town in deep water & mud to see what damage that flood don. I also watched men on boats taking people out of buildings yet surround with water. We did not have our house flooded so I did not have any work cleaning up. While I was going to my friend’s house I heard a fire engine and saw people running. I thought there was a fire, but after heard people shouting the “Dam Broke”, so I went up the hill. I stayed up the hill for a while and did not see the water coming so I went home. In the other days of my vacation I watched men working and cleaning up the city.
Tuesday, March 17 in the afternoon I went home for lunch and found our cellar was filled with water. We did not take it serious, we thought a pipe had busted and had caused the cellar to be filled with water. About an hour later we saw people leaving their homes with suitcases, bundles to higher places. We decided to leave too. Some went one way some the other our family was all scattered. We stayed in Woodvale Avenue that night at a friend’s house. Early next morning my father and I came down to clean up. In the afternoon were heard we heard people yelling that this dam has bursted and to run for the hills in about 5 minutes there was not a soul in Woodvale, all had left for higher and safer places. That night we slept in Prospect Ave came down Someday to lite the furnace but the wood and paper was all wet, so we were without fire. A national guard came to our house to see if we had anything to eat and we told him no, he quickly returned with a basket full. My father wanted to pay for it but the guard refused it. The water
was 3 ½ in the first floor. We had about 350 damages Friday we slept home and that was the first good night’s rest I had since Monday. Sunday passed like Saturday in hard work. “We had enough Flood for good many years to Come”
On St. Patricks Day on March 17, 1936, Johnstown experienced the second Johnstown Flood. On St. Patricks day we were in school. All the pupils of Joseph Johns Jr High School were excited because of the rivers and so was I. We were left out of school about 1:30 P.M. We had to wade in the water up to our knees to get home. A rumor was just out that the dam had broken. The people ran to the hills for safety. I was in town when a girl came from the hill and said, “Run for the hills the dam bursted.” I ran to Westmont and was scared. There were three other boys with me. One boy left us and I was worried about him. When I got home I changed cloths because I was all wet. I hope we nevere have another flood in Johnstown.
On Tuesday afternoon on Mar. 17, 1936 all the pupils were told to go straight home. I left the school and started over market street, when I got to vine street I had to go through water up above my knees. But I managed to get through. I got home about 2:30 Pm after I got dry I came back to town to help my uncle to get some cattle out of CA Youngs Cattlepen and take them to the hill. This was about 7:30 that night When we were trying to open the door we heard a funny noise. The noise sounded as if houses were falling together. We tried to get to the car up on coal street but it was to late then. I think the water had then risen about three to four feet more. So we went into the slotter house and sat looking out the window. about 10:00 the water became a lot higher & we thought if we would not get the cattle up higher they might drown. We decided to run them up the shoot for the night, if we could. We finally got them up and closed the gate. We were awful scared. We could hear people hollering it came to my mind that there was a dog on the first floor. I went down stairs to get him but I could not reach him because the water would had went over-top of me. We did not get much sleep. About 1:30 the water began to go down. About 6:30 the water was low enough for us to go home. So the cattle were saved after all.
We live on Grant St just about where they water was, so we were just lucky to not get any of the water. As the water rose more people came to our house until we had a house full.
We ate a small supper with the lights off and on. Two men were trapped in their house while they were carrying furniture in their house. They were about to swim to our house but then they saw some lady and her husband trying to get out of their house, but couldn’t just then a miracle happened around the corner of a large building came a boat that had floated away from the dock. They put the lady in the boat and the one man waded up to his neck from porch to porch pulling the boat behind him. When the miners took her out of the boat she was shaking like a leaf, but she got over that after the got her husband to land. Her husband was being near to be rescued when the boat sank. He saved himself by grabbing a porch post & standing there for a while or till they pulled the boat back up. The last man was taken into the house. He was the man who swan the distance pulling the boat, he was shaking so much he couldn’t even see straight. Every saved from that block when the five boat came down. Mr. & Mrs. Warren who live quite a piece from our house slide off the roof into the boat, but the boat couldn’t hold them all so it sank. They saved themselves by climbing into a tree and waiting for the other boat. By that time,
The water was near our bottom porch, so I was told to run to Westmont to get my Uncle Henry to bring cars down to take the people to Westmont. First, I couldn’t find my rubbers or hat so I went without them. I took a shortcut through the hill and by the time I got to Westmont I was wet to the skin. They got most of the people up, but my mother had to stay at home take care of the people which were sent to our house. The next morning I went down to our house [illegible] everybody at our house.
It happened that I ate my lunch in Town Tuesday about 1:20 P.M. we were dismissed from school and I did not know of the danger of the flood I tried to get to the Franklin St. bridge but I turned back on Vine St. looked like a deep river. I crossed the napoleon street bridge but could not go to Haynes street as there was water on the street I was very fortunate to get to Haynes street as I went on the running board of the last truck to cross the bridge. I quickly went home and changed clothes and soon was leaving our house with our family. We stayed at our friend’s house, which was up the hill, that night but did not sleep a wink. We were all very glad to see it stop raining. Every 20
minutes we would look at the water. The next day I was up [illegible] about when the false report of the dam came out. I quickly climbed the hill to Westmont and lost my parents but went to our friends [sic] house and found them there. There is to [sic] much to write but I hope there is no more floods.
On St. Patrick’s day March 17, 1936 we were left out of about 1:15 P.M. As soon as I got out of school I ran over to Sacks store where my mother was working. At first she thought I didn’t go to school. But then I told her the rivers were overflowing and the lower part of town was flooded. I then told her to come home as soon as she could because the town was flooded and the water was seven foot deep in Sacks store cellar. I ran home as fast as I could and my father was there. He asked me if my mother was home yet. I said “No”. My dad said, You stay here and I’ll go down & get mother. But I wanted to go and so I did. When we got there it was about 3 inches on the first floor of Sacks store. Mr. Sacks asked my father to help him put the things on the higher shelves so they wouldn’t get wet. I waited in the truck watching the water I noticed that it was coming over the tires of the truck. As I stood there, (page break) I stood there for another hour. It was about up to the hub cap on the wheel. Just then the water was going higher and higher. Then my father came carrying my mother. I went to the country that knight and when I got home again the told me how high the water was.
On March 17, 1936 shortly after the first period the alarm was given that Stony Creek was flooding its banks. We pupils were dismissed from Joseph Johns Junior High School. I and two other boys who live in Seward went down behind the school house a few blocks. We were going to go down by the Point Statium [sic] to hitch-hike home. The water was already preety [sic] deep, so we turned back to go up to Westmont, but we couldn’t get up there either. So we came back to the school house. WE tried to get a phone call home for some one [sic] to come get us but the water was already too deep and the couldn’t get through. So we spent the night in the schoolhouse. Next day the water went down and some men from Seward went through Morrelville up to Westmont and left their car up there. They then came down and got us. We walked up to Westmont and got in the car and rode home.
On Tuesday, March 17, 1936, was one of the most exciting days of my life. It was a St. Patrick’s that I will never forget. It was in the morning about eight O’clock when on my way to school when I first noticed that the Stoneycreek river was unusually high. At noon time the water started to overflow on the streets near the river and the Sanitary Dairy was flooded in the basement. I thought the water would go down so I continued on my way to school for the last half of the school day. When I had been in my fourth period class for a short time, my attention was called to the furniture floating down the river by Miss Sepe. Soon a notice came around for us to go home because of the high water. After we were excused, I tried to reach my home, 22 Valley Pike, by going over the Napoleon Street bridge. Some officers stopped me and said I could not get over because of the water being two high. The water at the time was going over the bridge. I then started down market
Street and the water rose over my ankles and in some places the water was over my knees. I got a ride from Market street to Adams Street on a Truck and then tried to get home by way of Dale, but I found that Hornar Street was flooded. I crossed the Hones Street Bridge and waded up Franklin Street to the eighth ward transfer and then I soon reached my home. I reached home about four O’clock. I then helped in my home saving what we could by taking it upstairs and the new left the house before the water was two high. We went to some friends house which was higher up then we were and stayed for a couple of days untill we could get into our house. On Tuesday night I stayed up watching the water raise and listening to the people calling for help but we could not save them because of the swift current. After the water went down to its normal height, I spent the next 2 weeks cleaning up the damage it had done to our home.
On the second Johnstown flood which occurred March 17, 1936 I went and helped to clean out the basement of Joseph Johns Junior High School. The water mark was 5” from the top. There was mud all over the hall and rooms. We started to clean out the rooms with shovels and throwed [sic] the mud out into the hall after the mud was cleaned out of the rooms the W.P.A. men started to wheel the mud out with wheelbarrows and a few of us where pushing the mud into the Gym while others where [sic] pushing the mud into the Gym while others where shoveling it out of the Gym and into the alley. After the first floor was cleaned out whe went to school. On the day of the flood we where [sic] left out of school at 1:25 P.M. and the water was nehigh [sic] by the Y.M.C.A.. I went home and changed clothes and then went by the hill and watched the river overflow. That night I went out to see how everything was the water was to high for me by Cavallo’s wholesale so I went back home. The next morning I went down by Glossei’s at 7:00 O’clock and was looking around and about 8:30 I saw the Franklin street bridge go into the river.
I went downtown and saw mud on the sidewalks. Cars were upside down in the parks. The statues in the park was upside downtown. There was a dummy in the street cars. Most of the street cars windows were broke. There was a house on top of the Haynes street bridge. Which was a part of the lumber house out in the ward. Hellsterns Meat Market’s window was completely busted. The bridges were destroyed and the homes destroyed. Some of the Johnstown New’s Company books, Magazines destroyed. There is a car in the river downtown by the river by the high school. Most of the bridges were destroyed. There was a great damaged by the flood. It was reported that the dam broke on Tuesday night. Most of the ladies were shouting and babies crying. Some of our main districts were destroyed. There is a great need for help in Johnstown.