My mother had no possessions (that I knew of ) that belonged to her mother or father; both parents had died before she was seven and she and all the younger siblings were transported from Oilton, Oklahoma to Galax, Virginia to live with relatives. When my daughter and I started looking into genealogy and asking questions about family possessions that might be existent, we were told that most of what existed had been in the possession of my aunt, Bernita Lineberry Curtess, who was already a young married woman with an infant when her mother died. Unfortunately, Bernita was killed in a car wreck in 1967, so we couldn’t ask her where they were.
I called my cousin, Bobbie Louise Curtess Saunders, to ask about them and she said most of what her mother had was destroyed in a flood a long time ago. Bernita and her husband, Edson, their two children and my mother and possibly her three brothers Johnnie, Joe and George, (Bernita went to Virginia in 1929 to bring her siblings back to Oklahoma – Leonard remained in Galax) moved from Wewoka, Oklahoma sometime after 1929 and lived in a home near SW 23 and Robinson.
Lightning Creek in South Oklahoma City had a long history of flooding in the early years of Oklahoma City. There was a major flood in October 1923 but Bernita was apparently living in Wewoka at that time. The next major flood took place June 4, 1932 and it was apparently much more devastating than the earlier flood. Although I can’t be sure this is the flood that ruined my grandmother’s possessions, it’s a pretty good guess since Bernita wasn’t in Oklahoma City until after 1929 and by sometime in the mid-1930s she had moved a little further south to SW 36th and Harvey.
The above photo is from the front page of the June 5, 1932 Daily Oklahoman and shows some of the water all over the south and west parts of Oklahoma City. Although the Oklahoman archive’s copy of this day’s paper has a piece torn out of the top of the paper and the headline cannot be completely read, what is visible of the caption above the headline on page 1 says, “Relief for 3,200 Homeless … as Property Damage is Estimated at $1,500,000. The larger type-faced headline says, “SEVEN MISSING IN FLOOD ARE SOUGHT” and continues with the column headline with, ‘FIVE KNOWN DEAD; 656 HOMES WITHIN AREA ARE WRECKED.”The article lead adds to the toll by telling that 21 were in the hospital and nine others had been treated at hospitals and released.
As the article continues onto page 2, the impact of that flood becomes more clear: “Oklahoma City’s 3,000 homeless flood refugees will be established in army tents Saturday to prevent an epidemic through crowding hundreds of them into downtown buildings . . .” The article continues, “In the Lightning Creek area, where the property damage was estimated at $250,000 by Capitol Hill civic officials, 31 medium priced homes were completely destroyed. A survey showed more than 125 additional homes had been badly damaged by water. . . Heavy rains preceding the overflow started here shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and by 2 a.m. Friday Lightning Creek was a raging torrent and the Canadian was at flood stage. “
The map above shows the proximity of SW 23 and Robinson to both the Canadian and Lighting Creek.
When you read of the deaths and injuries requiring hospitalization and homes completely destroyed or seriously damaged by flood waters, the fact that possessions of my grandmother were ruined by the water is of little consequence. Yes, we would love to have access to them – photographs, letters, postcards, the family Bible; those are all treasures. But really, for my mother and her brothers and sister whose father, then mother, infant step-brother and oldest brother had all died and who had been shipped off to live separately in whatever home was able to keep them, they obviously knew deep within their souls that what is important is never possessions, but is the relationships you have with people you love for as long as you have them with you.
The key take away principle is: Cherish who you have, not what you have!