Recently Bob Moser recorded his memories of his older brother, Bill Moser, during the time of the 1937 Flood in Bullitt County; and of what it was like putting things back to normal after the flood. We have transcribed his account below.
by Robert Louis Moser
The rain had come down for days without interruption. My Father and Mother were concerned about the rising water. We lived in a small town in Kentucky, near Long Lick creek and not far from the Salt River. The ground was soaked with water and all the additional rain water had to run off. The creek was already out of it banks and had been running strong. Now it was starting to back up, because the Salt River was backed up from the Ohio River.
Dad and Bill went over to the barn and got some new barn boards and knocked together a row boat or skiff. The boat was placed in the ditch in the front yard, for the boards to get water logged and seal up the seans. The boat had a front, middle, and rear seats. Oar locks for rowing and nothing else.
Dad was working the 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. shift at the Strawberry Yards of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. He rode the train to work and back, and was at work the night my Mother awoke early in the morning. About 2:00 A.M. she woke Bill up telling him she heard people crying for help.
Bill bailed the water out of the boat and rowed down toward the creek, where he heard the Tom Hoagland family crying for help. He rowed to their home and got then off the roof of their house. He took them to high ground near the Wathen House. Next He went to the McCallister place where he got three people out of the upstairs window. He rowed them to the same place, on the driveway to the Wathen house. Other people were now aware of the situation, they were there to help, driving these refuges out of the rain to the Wathen house. The next trip he got the, two Mooney "Girls" from their house; they were very large and insisted an having a big comforter wrapped around them. They both sat on the rear seat and the boat was about to dip water. Every time they shifted around the boat dipped water, and Bill had to stop rowing and bail out the water.
Bill was tired, wet and angry the third tine he had to stop to bail out the boat. He took one of the oars, turned it around and said, "The next time one of you moves and makes the boat dip water, I WILL TAKE THIS OAR AND KNOCK YOU OUT OF MY BOAT, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!"
He told us later he didn't think they breathed after that. He was out all that morning rowing people out of the water. Mon was also up and trying to get every thing she could up stairs out of the reach of flood waters. She got my other brother and myself up and we started carrying every thing we could up stairs. The water was all around the house, by this time. Bill had gone down in the basement, before he left in the boat to disconnect the electricity.
We could hear the empty fruit jars bumping against the floor because the basement was full of water. My brother and I made trip after trip up the stairs with drawers and anything my Mother thought should go up. Then we took the bed room furniture apart and carried it up piece at a time. My wife and I still have that bedroom suite in our home and it still looks pretty good.
Dad had always rode the train to and from work; since no trains could run through the water he could not get home. He got on the work train they sent out to consider raising the track enough to run trains. When the train arrived at the waters edge Dad got off.
Dad could not get home because of the water. He borrowed a mule from a neighbor and rode around the hill tops and came in the back way. When he got to the Wathen house he found his eldest son wet, tired, hungry, but proud of the people he saved that morning.
They came to our house and ferried us out of harm's way one or two at a time just like every one else that day.
We went to the Cruise home, up near Chapeze and stayed with them for several days. This is the house that my Grandfather Thomas John Trunnell was raised in. Grandpaw was blind at the time from just having cataract surgery. He could not believe the water was up to the big tree in their side yard. They helped him walk out to the tree, reach down and feel the water, only then did he agree to leave the house and go to his old home place.
We stayed in the Cruse home until the food was getting scarce and Dad was worried about his family. There was Dad, Mom, Bill (17) Beverly (11) Bob (8) Elizabeth (18 Mo.) and Spot the dog all eating off our neighbors. After we had eaten every thing the Cruise family had saved for the winter the men went to the Distillery and got Yellow corn meal mash. We had fried mush for lunch and boiled mush for dinner.
Bev and I played out in the yard most of the time, I don't remember much of the inside of the house, but in the back there was a row of cabins and out houses. The geese ate a lot of the slop (left over from making whiskey) and they all died. We went inside and told someone they were dead. They said pile then up and the men will do something with them when they get back. We put then in a pile and went about something else. We heard Geese honking and looked they had came back to life! They were just passed out from all the liquor in the slop, but some of them died from being piled up.
What I do recall from the house is, it seemed to be tall and dark inside. But it was raining all the time and I was 8 years old. The stair case was wide and long from the hall. The basement was small and stone lined, and we stayed out in one of the cabins most of the time.
Dad was worried about all the people at the Cruise house and the shortage of food. He went to the Section Foreman's house at Clearmont and said, "We are taking your Motor car and trailer to Bardstown and if you want it back you should go with us." He did not want to go on this trip but Dad gave him no choice.
They brought the motorcar and trailer to Chapeze and we all got aboard: 3 men, 1 woman, 2 boys, 1 baby girl, and 1 dog, with all our clothes and other belongings. The men had rowed the boat back to the house several times and gone in the back upstairs window and gotten clothes and other things. The men that worked out in the rain and cold drank a lot of whiskey to keep on going and stay warn. My Dad used this as an excuse about my oldest brother's drinking later in life. Bill died fighting in Belgium in 1944 so His drinking was never a problem.
My Grandfather Moser met us at the Depot in Bardstown and took us to Danville to stay with Aunt Oca and Uncle Morris Marcum where their was plenty of room and food. We visited around with different family members until the water went down.
After The flood, we came back to a house covered in mud; slick, slimy, light brown mud. From six inches below the ceiling of the down stairs to the basement it was just the same everywhere, slick, slimy mud. The upstairs was the only part of the house that was livable; three bedrooms, one big storage room and the hall. Grandmother and Grandfather Trunnell and I slept in the front bedroom. Mom, Dad and Betty has one other. Bill, Beverly and Uncle John Daniels shared the other.
Uncle John (Grandmother Trunnell's brother) came to help us clean up the houses. There was someone else that came from Kansas I think to help for a while. I think it was Uncle Arch Daniels that went to California in 1924 with the three cousins that had just graduated from Georgetown College. That could be how Uncle John got here from Kansas.
No part of the Trunnell house was livable, until is was washed down with a powerful fire hose (Gas engine power) that knocked all the plaster off the walls. The inside had to be completely redone before they moved back in.
Strange things that happened: Mom kept a large open top crock pot, half full of milk to clabber for cottage cheese, sitting on the kitchen counter. When we came home it had floated into the bath room, came down on the curve of the bathtub without a drop of water getting in. The milk by this time was completely rotten.
Mom had just put a 24 lb. bag of self rising flour in the kitchen cabinet flour bin. The water came in, and the flour did what self rising flour is supposed to do. It rose and rose and rose until it covered half of the kitchen. Beautiful brown foamy, dirty, brown bicuit dough.
Furniture fell apart, where it was glued together; wall paper fell off the walls; all the doors were swelled up until they were stuck to the floor, if open, and the door casing if shut. Nothing worked like it was supposed too. Shovel up a scoop of mud off the floor, run fingers through it for silver ware, and pitch it out the window. The floors were like a big washboards where the wood swelled up; windows all stuck in place.
The Red Cross came in to protect us. They punched a hole in EVERY can of food in the general store, threw it in a wagon and hauled it off to the dump. We said that is good food we can eat it, They said label washed off and mud is on outside, you cannot eat it. Dad said, My hams are covered with mud, we will scrub it off cut off the outside part and eat the good inside part." We did and it tasted good.
My oldest brother Bill's job was to get the 1934 Chevy running that had set in the garage with water over the roof for more that 4 weeks. My only memory of the car being fixed was he put some of the parts in the oven of the wood cook stove and baked them until the mud would fall off. He got it running just in time for us to drive it to Stanford, Kentucky, to my Uncle Ira's funeral. Uncle Ira was a huge man, 300 lbs or more. Dad said he never had all he could eat. The car ran okay, but when the sun was hot on the roof, water dropped out of the head liner.
The car looked like it had hair growing on it. There was Bran cow feed and motor oil in the garage and they both floated then settled down all over the car. Two-tone car, black with brown over tones. The inside bath room did not work because the 32 volt electricity was off, and the outside toilet floated away, but there was a Railroad toilet laying in the front yard. We shoved it to the back yard and set it up it worked just fine. We had quickly learned to make do with what ever you had.
The Red Cross came by with big gasoline powered pumps and pumped out everyone's water wells. I guess they tested the water I don't know we just drank the water and did not get sick. Our house was the first one to get back to where we could live in it. It seemed like forever before the basement was dry enough and they could get the generator running to charge the batteries and have the lights and water pump operational.
The cows and the chickens all died one way or another. Our cow tried to swim to high ground and got a leg caught in the submerged fence and drowned. Hard times and make do with what you got was the order of every day. Uncle John and Bill pried up the hard wood floors, sanded, planed refinished, and reset them until they looked new. What a great day when the bed room suite we carried upstairs, piece at a time, came back down to the right bedroom.
When school finally started we went to school 6 days a week for weeks at the time, to make up all the weeks we had lost during the flood. Before the marathon school year was over I was so fed up with school I never liked school again. Bill never went back to school, so he never got to finish High School He went to work at one of the distilleries and was married before he was 19 years old.
Dad continued working for the railroad and when a job came open at E'town he bid it in. He drove back and forth for several months and in 1939 we left the valley forever. Dad rented a house in E'town and we moved. The house at Bardstown Jct. was rented out and later sold. Dad was right; never live where you might have a flood.
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