A Port In A Storm

A Note to My Readers:  Organizing old photos….what a daunting task…when I came across these black and white photos taken by my brother Dave in Auburn, New York on October 22, 1954 one week after we had been in the direct path of Hurricane Hazel. The monster storm had made landfall in the Carolinas on Friday the 15th and moved up to New York State and hit Auburn during the afternoon, hammering us all through the night with winds up to 90 MPH.

Perrine Street

Perrine Street. Auburn, NY. October 22, 1954

Saturday was normally grocery shopping day and my family..with everyone else in the Northeast…had spent Friday night hunkered down listening to the world outside come apart. As soon as the adults thought it was safe, Dad made his way on foot to the auto parts business on East Genesee Street where he worked and Mom walked to the Mohican with my eighteen year old brother, my baby sister and me and we joined the other ladies and their children in line to get groceries. There was no electricity, but then there were no automatic open doors or cash registers that required electricity.  It was dim inside, but Mom knew the store from her years of shopping the aisles. She could have shopped it in complete darkness, I think. The Mohican ran out of change at one point so they could not provide change to their customers. My mother signed a piece of paper for our groceries. I was handed a black and white cookie for being patient and we went home. The next week when my mother went back for more groceries, she settled from the previous week’s shopping. All on trust.

I was seven years old at the time and there was no school that week. Auburn was a city of massive trees…oaks and elms.

North and Seymour Streets.  October 22, 1954

North and Seymour Streets. Auburn, NY. October 22, 1954

So many had fallen that it was weeks before you didn’t hear chainsaws or smell freshly cut wood. I remember walking to church the following Sunday and being lifted over fallen trees so we could get through. Men from the church had formed a line and the ladies and children were lifted over the debris. It was warm in the church, but we kept on our coats which I thought was quite wonderful. Even the grown ups were fidgety in church that day. I missed the sounds of the organ…it was an echoing creature in the big old church building on Exchange Street, but the congregation was in a grateful frame of spirit and the singing was full of energy.  The strains of the choir singing  “Onward Christian Soldiers” moved us to the pews of the old brick church.  

This was the Methodist church where as a historian and genealogical researcher  I would  learn  that from the early 1870’s my paternal great great grandparents, Daniel J. Jennings and Harriet James worshiped with their children.  Their daughter, Miss Lillian W. Jennings would marry fellow Methodist,  Henry A. Martin on July 16, 1884 in a ceremony conducted by the Reverend L. C. Queal and leave Auburn within days to live in Brooklyn, New York.   Henry’s parents, Albert S. Martin and Harriett Frear and their family were all in the member role in 1875 with the Jennings.

Jennings, Daniel M 33 Seymour St.

Jennings, Harriett M 33 Seymour St.

Jennings, Hattie S 33 Seymour St. Jennings,

Lillie S 33 Seymour St. Married Martin.

Martin, Albert S. M 13 1/2 Clark St., 60 Seward Ave.

Martin, Harriet C. S 13 1/2 Clark St. 60 Seward Ave

Martin, Harriet M. M 13 1/2 Clark St. 60 Seward Ave.

Martin, Walton S. S 13 1/2 Clark St. Rem. by C. Mar. 24, 1878

Martin, William A. S 60 Seward Ave

First United Methodist Church Membership List Summary “Circa 1872- 1885” from the records archived at the Cayuga County Historian’s Office in Auburn, NY.

I sat next to Mrs. Glen Mosher that day. She ran the Sunday School and conducted the children’s choir…and wore fur coats…and sang like an angel.  My mother was in the big kitchen with the other ladies of the church assembling lunch for the congregation.  Big tables had been set up in the large hall with white tablecloths where plates of sandwiches and pickles and salad were served. After everyone cleaned up the church…the children, too…the men reformed the line and we made our way home. I thought that was the best Sunday church I ever went to.

WIKI – The hurricane made landfall in the Carolinas, and destroyed most waterfront dwellings near its point of impact. On its way to Canada, it affected several more states, including Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, bringing gusts near 160 km/h (100 mph) and causing $308 million (1954 USD) in damage.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

3 thoughts on “A Port In A Storm

  1. I, too, was seven years old when Hazel hit the North Jersey shore at the Red Bank area. I watched an 80′ cedar tree in the side yard bend over and touch the ground, but by miracle alone, held. Our house shuddered in the wind and we had to rely on the old kerosene lamp from the basement. All of our power lines had come down, so we used the lamp to ‘signal’ from our upstairs window to other neighbors to make sure everyone on our street was ok after the winds subsided. I still remember my Grandmother sighing with relief when each one responded to her ‘wave’. BYW- my Grandmother’s name was Hazel, so it made the hurricane even more memorable for us.

  2. I’m a few years younger and was living in Port Byron at the time. I don’t remember the storm, but my mother still tells me how it destroyed my swing set.

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