Daily Archives: January 6, 2005

A Deluge of Flood Thoughts

The terrible tsunami and all the snowmelt flooding in the Miami Valley have inevitably reminded people around here of the terrible 1913 Flood. Obviously, the scope was not at all the same (although both Dayton and Cincinnati suffered terribly, and most of the Midwest was hit hard). OTOH, the tsunami survivors didn’t have to face cold rain, gas explosions, or raging infernos doing their best to destroy all that was left.

But Dayton does have a powerful lesson for everyone about what to do after a disaster: “Remember the Promises Made in the Attic”. It is vitally important that people affected by the tsunami should band together and insist that something be done. I know these people are very poor in many cases, but there ought to be some sort of simple precautions and preparedness that can help against storm damage and even the odd tsunami. Naturally there will be lots of political infighting and outright corruption; but something must be done. In Dayton, it was the donations of local people and local corporations that did the job. There was no sense waiting on the state or the federal government to keep Dayton safe. So they raised the money themselves, even before everything was rebuilt. Here are some old political cartoons documenting what happened.

Finally, I am very pleased to note that my disreputable relative the madam made an appearance in Noah Adams’ Wright Brothers book, The Flyers. Scroll down to “Lib Hedges”. I didn’t know she was buried in Woodlawn, so I called my mom, only to be informed that she’d already known that. Apparently my grandfather may have occasionally visited her grave on the sly, just as he’d visited her office without previously informing his parents of his intention when he was a kid.

(I’ve probably told this story before, but…my grandfather was a great exploiter of the various family feuds among the elder generation of Hales and Heyers. He visited everybody who wasn’t talking to each other, and generally collected goodies. So naturally, when he found out he had a relative who was a rich madam, he made it his business to find out where her real estate/legitimate business office was. From then on, he and his cousin, or another little friend, would drop by every so often and chat with his seriously disowned great-aunt. She would give them money to go to the movie house, which was just down the street…and which belonged to her. If this whole story doesn’t give you a deep understanding of my mother’s side of the family, I don’t know what will.)

So I fully intend to visit my great-aunt’s grave when the weather’s good. She didn’t live the easiest life, and she apparently got all reclusive after losing most of her money in the stock market crash and Depression. (Though not all of it, apparently. Most of that half million was probably not liquid assets, though; it was her real estate holdings.) There’s no denying that she got her money by exploiting other people, though. Though she supposedly treated her girls well, she was still selling their bodies. Though prostitution was legal in Ohio back then, it was still wrong.

All the same, she did give a lot to charity. Famous Daytonians talks about her notable contributions to the YMCA and YWCA. And the most famous (and Hale-like) story about her tells how she not only donated a thousand dollars to flood relief, but told the collectors to tell every businessman how much she’d given. A very nice bit of psychology, that — both shame and genteel blackmail in one. The woman deserves at least a few flowers.

(BTW, the Look Homeward, Angel story is a bunch of bushwah. Wolfe’s dad carved an angel in their hometown which is a much more likely candidate.)

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