COG 77th Edition Disasters – 1932 Lighting Creek

COG disaster 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.

N Canadian overflowsbanks

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. ”

Map of the area affected by the flood.

Map of the area affected by the flood.

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!

Listen to Your Inner Grandmother

“Listen to your inner grandmother. She’s got a little more wisdom than your inner child.” Loretta LaRoche, in Life is Not a Stress Rehearsal.

I often read things that impress me or move me or encourage me  (for a moment), but way too often I move on to the next thing and that moment is lost. I read this some months back and started to blog about it, stopped right after the first sentence, but saved it as a draft. The good news about that is, it stayed on my blog posting page to keep reminding me of its wisdom. Today seems a good day to reflect on it again.

I never had the benefit of grandparents: my maternal grandfather died in 1915 (my mother was 19 months old); my maternal grandmother died in 1922 (my mother was not quite 8); my paternal grandmother died in 1938 (my dad was an adult but it was still before I was born); my paternal grandfather died in 1941 (although I had been born, I was too young to know him).

I suppose most people who don’t get to experience grandparents at least have the benefit of the trickle down effect of whatever training their parents received in their childhood but, though both my parents were decent, loving people,  daddy left home by the time he was 16 because he apparently didn’t like or respect his father very much. He apparently loved his mother a great deal (according to his sister, it was reciprocal), but he felt a strong need to get away from the negative aspects of his home. He never spoke of his parents and rarely spoke of his siblings either.If there were aspects of wisdom passed down from his parents/grandparents, I was unaware of what they might be. I imagine most people would have assumed daddy lived out of his inner child, and they may well have been right.

Although mother provided an incredibly supportive environment for my early years, she seemed to sometimes operate at the emotional threshold of time of her mother’s death (approximately 8 years old) – in other words, she sometimes lived out of her inner child rather than her inner grandmother because she never had one of those either (maternal grandmother left and apparently died in the late 1800s; maternal grandfather died in 1912; paternal grandmother died in 1896 and paternal grandfather died in 1916 – six years before she moved to Virginia where he was from). Most of the trickle-down effect I received came from the movies my mother loved so much – love was idealized, people burst into song frequently and danced on the streets, cleaned house in high heels, makeup and, sometimes, with white gloves on, and generally things worked out nicely by the end of 90 minutes.

So, the question blares at me: How do I develop an inner grandmother on my own? I certainly don’t have all the answers but I can suggest seeking out (and listening to) wise people, reading a lot, reflecting on and setting goals from the wisest things I cull from each day’s experiences (that includes chance comments, news reports, movies, books, sermons, relationships with friends and acquaintances or teachers, preachers, writers, etc.)

I would suppose I’m fortunate because most of those come pretty naturally to me. A man I dated many years ago (about 25) said to me, “You were born wise.” I laughed because no one had ever said such a thing to me before and because I know I live a lot out of my inner child – and that’s not all bad (the inner child allows us to enjoy the moment and look forward to the future in the face of ‘real’ life). Additionally, I know none of us are actually born wise – we have to work at assimilating and applying each day’s wisdom until we do amass a little bit of that inner grandmother to guide us.

Bottom line is: cultivate, develop and listen to your inner grandmother, but by all means, take time to enjoy your inner child as well.