Over on Video meliora, our Columbus friend discovers on books.google.com an old tome chronicling the full extent of the terrible 1913 Flood. Which was indeed widespread and terrible, even more than I had ever heard. (For example, I didn’t realize it hit Delaware, Ohio — I’ve never seen these pictures before.) This was worsened by Omaha having had a big tornado as part of the same Easter Sunday weather system. It must have been some kind of super storm system, like the one that produced the April 1974 tornadoes.
In Cincinnati and many other cities, the 1913 Flood is a thing fairly well known and remembered.
But in Dayton, it is one of the Great Myths, without which the town cannot be understood. (Not only was there a really horrible flood of very low-lying land, but also a gas explosion and huge fire. And everybody knew people who were only saved by their attics or roofs.)
Here are the Great Myths, in case you’re interested:
1. In the beginning, Tecumseh was born just outside Oldtown. He went on to kick butt. His brother was nuts and hated dogs, and William Henry Harrison kicked his butt. But Tecumseh was an enlightened guy who saved the butts of Americans at Raisin River, and we’re sad that he died. Although not sad that he didn’t take over the US. Tecumseh probably cursed the US presidents in years ending in 0, or at least it’s entertaining to think so.
2. A bunch of Anglos from New Jersey moved here and named the place Dayton. The most important guy was Newcom, who founded the tavern.
3. And God said, “Let there be canals.” And it was very good.
4. And God said, “Let there be airplanes.” And it was all Wright.
5. It rained for forty days and forty nights. And lo, God spoke to John Patterson, the guy who founded NCR, and told him to walk down to the edge of the river and look at the water. And Patterson did look, and then he did tell his factory workers to quit making cash registers and start building boats. And lo, he did have a plan for a boat, too. And lo, the waters came rushing down to drown Dayton, but John Patterson did organize and save everybody’s butts.
6. And the people said, “Remember the promises made in the attic.” And they raised money privately instead of raising taxes. And they built levees all over and five huge dams, because paranoia is good.
7. Then came World War II, and Dayton did kick butt all over. For we had Wright Field and GM and NCR and all the rest. And lo, we did kick Alan Turing’s butt with our decoding computer, which was all a big secret at the time but now is more evidence of our coolness.
8. The Soviets made Dayton a first strike target, thanks to Wright-Patt and the Miamisburg Mound nukes. Even after the SAC bombers moved away, we were still really important and sure to die. And there were tons of Soviet spies in town. Everybody else was jealous of these amenities.
9. A mighty tornado bore down upon Xenia, but lo, the new cool weather radar gadget had just been installed shortly before at WHIO. And so Gil Whitney the weatherman did warn the people to get down in their basements, and only a few people died horrible deaths even though most of Xenia got flattened. For the rest of his life, Gil Whitney could do no wrong and was a sort of weather saint. And the people of Xenia swore a mighty oath to be prepared for all disasters, and to help anyone else needing it. And they have kept those oaths to this very day.
10. We won the Cold War and then got a treaty signed for Bosnia. Okay, other people helped.
Btw, the book does include a couple of Dayton 1913 stories that I’d never heard before.
Rescuers went through the parish of Emmanuel Church in Dayton, distributing ham sandwiches and other food to the famished flood victims.
“We will not eat ham sandwiches,” said some of them. “This is Friday.”
Father Sieber held aloft a sandwich and said, “It is all right to eat this,” and suited the action to the word. He invoked a rule of the church which permits the suspension of certain religious obligations in time of stress…
Sister Helen of the Notre Dame convent of North Dayton saved 70 persons from the flood by throwing a rope from a window and then pulling refugees in off debris and out of the water. All the sisters in the convent were saved. The nuns prayed aloud while the water was creeping higher and higher on the walls of the convent.
This almost certainly refers to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who used to be over in Our Lady of the Rosary parish or somewhere close to there.