Letter #21: The Flood of 1940

I'm continuing my series of scanning, transcribing, and annotating my grandfather's love letters to my grandmother leading up to their marriage in June 1940. The letters are chronologically organized and preserved, using the methods I discuss in detail in my book, Creating Family Archives: How to Preserve Your Papers and Photographs

In the 21st letter of the Grandpa's Love Letters series, Grandpa buries the headline! The first part of the letter discusses work: working through the weekend to get caught up, dining with his supervisor (which he had written about before), and a friend moving to Scranton. 

The second part was about the historic flood of April 1940 in Pennsylvania, which caused damage, death, and explosions. As you may remember, I had written previously about the Valentine's Day blizzard. Nineteen forty must have been quite the year for weather!

A New York Times article from April 1, 1940. reports:

A huge gasoline explosion and fire gave the Wilkes-Barre area an arresting spectacle today, the third day of the battle to hold in check the floodwaters of the raging Susquehanna....
This break [of a dike] caused the flooding of the area in which, several hours later, the tanks of the American Oil Company exploded and burned....
The explosion let off with a roar that was heard up and down the valley. There arose a burst of flame at least a hundred feet high, and in its wake came a rush of black smoke, which was visible as far as twenty miles away. 

A section of the levee broke, buildings and homes were destroyed, and about 25,000 people were left homeless. Here's a video I found with pictures from the local newspaper: 

The last paragraphs of his letter discusses the flood and its impact on Scranton. 



Scranton Pa

April 4, 1940

Dear Ann

It looks very much as though I will have to work this week-end. I do not think I will catch up with my work by Friday night. 

We three just came from Mr. Kretch's where we enjoyed a meal and a few games of pinochle. It was Fred's first visit and he got the same impression about Mr. Kretch and his family that Otto and I did on our first visit. 

Yesterday Ray Bonte started moving in his furniture from Paterson. He has rooms across the street from where we board. When he comes back from home this week-end he is going to bring his family with him. 

Last Monday on our way back we ran into a detour because the Delaware River had overflowed its banks and covered a section of the highway. By the time we got to the shop it was 9.15 but we didn't mind it because the detour was through a nice section of the countryside. 

Everyone around here is talking about floods or the danger of floods. The lower section of Scranton was flooded but that is no where's [sic] near where we are staying. At Wilkes Barre where the low-lands are, they are going through fire and water as giant tanks of gasoline have been swept away and exploded. In closing, I remain as ever your sweetheart "Newt"


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