Family In The Flood

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

February 1955, Mailtand, NSW Australia. The Hunter river broke its banks and flooded the town. This was written, at the time, by my grandmother, Laurel York. I have copied it exactly as she had written. Some names I recognize and some I don't. I have no more details after she stopped writing. My Grandmother has now passed away but I grew up in the same flooded house mentioned.

1955 Flood
An Actual Account
By Mrs Laurel York of Lorn


Mrs Laurel York (Author),
Mr Arthur York (Husband),
Graham York (14yo son),
Jess Taylor (Neighbour),
Ken Smith,
Mrs Cox,
Wanda Taylor,
Ruth Davey,
Eva Davey,
Leslie Bowden,
Albert Vickery,
Walter Vickery,
Wal Wilson, 
Mrs Stein,
Garney Brown,
Ross McGill, 
Mrs Critchley,
Mrs Fletcher,
Mrs Jarman,
Allen Kirkwood,
Perc (Brother-In-Law),
Grace (Sister-In-Law),
Bob (Brother-In-Law),


Wednesday –

Raining heavy. Graham home.

Thursday - 

Still raining heavy. River rising very rapidly. Graham home much to my relief, rain tumbling down, river coming up much too fast, sandbagging has begun. Arthur had to stay at work (Mait. Mercury) to help move the reels of paper onto Toll’s lorries to take it up to the “Herald” at Newcastle, he didn’t get home ‘till quarter to nine (night) had a bit of tea 9.30pm off he goes with Ken Smith to help with the banks. (I have the flu, a good attack too). Graham laid on the bed but we were up and down, watching and waiting to hear any news. Graham’s wireless on our bedroom table was on from 6 o’clock in the morning until 3.30am the next morning, “Oh what a night”, had half an hour sleep, up again.

Friday -

Arth left again at quarter to four, went up to his father’s place to help them pack up, coming back, he walked in water up to his waist, water was coming over Oakhampton, thought he was never coming back home.
Graham fed the chooks, birds an “dear old cocky”.
I got us a plate of cornflakes each, we ate that. Raining again, made the beds. Warning over the wireless. Lorn people be ready to evacuate.
Graham gets ports for me. Arth still not home. Jess Taylor comes over “what do you think?” we decide to come to Bolwarra. Home goes Jess to pack a few things. Now 9.30 Friday morning. About 10.00 o’clock another urgent message, volunteers to go to The Esplanade, it’s coming over the bank. (Oh, we didn’t know whether we were Arthur or Martha), we will never forget it.

Ken Smith takes his truck to Bolwarra, brought his car back to Lorn, I have steak and kidney cooking, we were just about to have a little on some toast when there was a terrific explosion. The transformer on the electric light pole (4 doors from us) had exploded, off went the electricity. Another urgent announcement. All residents of Lorn to evacuate immediately. Then we moved fast. Packed up everything we could.
I felt sick as could be. Arth (home now) went to the bedroom window looked out, out popped Jess’s head from her door, “Let’s get going” says Jess.
It was now about quarter to one, believe me, we wasted no more time. I forgot to mention, Graham had caught all the birds from the aviary and the canaries, put them in a box. Taylors are at the front gate now, Jess beginning to panic, “Tell Laurel to hurry”.
Won’t be long came a voice from the hall which had been robbed of its carpet and put up the manhole. Well, I shut the ports and get the coats on and the rubber boots, out I go to the car, (Jess saying hurry, hurry).
Arthur and Graham get their bikes, Arth puts the birds on the handles and Graham with a box of millet and canary seed and poor old cocky’s feed. Snowy didn’t waste any time getting to Bolwarra (raining heavy now).

We get to Dad’s place, get the ports in the front room, now we wait for Graham and Arth to get here with the birds. They arrived, with wet coats and birds ok.
Arth goes back for ‘Joey”, he didn’t come back for about an hour, then arrived with ‘cocky’ perched up on his handles with a bag over the top of him to stop him from getting pneumonia. Thank goodness we were all together again. (Raining very heavily still).

We were on the verandah, when up to the gate drives Mrs. Cox, Judith, in the “De-Soto”, Colin in the Austin, Neville in the utility. “Can we put the cars in here?” says Neville. So, in comes the “De-soto” and the Austin. Mrs Cox says, “Mrs York would you look after Judith until we go back and pack up some things”. “OK say I. Back go in the ute. After half an hour, back comes Col in the big truck they use at the colliery and Nev in the ute. The truck was parked on opposite side of the road, back they go again to Mrs Cox. After 20 minute or so the phone rang, it was Mrs Cox, ringing to say, would I look after Judith. She didn’t know if they would be able to get back, as the water was up to the second step of the from verandah. (I still have Judith), well, they didn’t get back!  We rang Wanda (Taylor).

The bank broke at “Ekerts” and rushed across the road at the foot of the hill and through “Davies”. (Oh, what a mess). The rain eased. Out we go to see what we could see, what a sight, you would not believe it. Such a rush of water and a very swift current going about 50miles an hour. Up we went to Kensington Road (people from Lorn everywhere) we were just too late to see a house disappear at Oakhampton.

The river was like a raging sea, the waves were 6ft high. Next, we saw a haystack go sailing along with a pig on top. Spoke to Ruth Davey and she had seen a table with a lounge chair go down the raging stream just before the haystack. It’s now 4.30 and raining heavy again. Back home we come. Cars parked all the way along the roads with caravans and trailers attached to them. By this time, they had gone back to get Eva Davey out, who had refused to come out. Six women joined hands to help the men to carry her out, the current was so strong. (We should have had a few sultanas, this might have weakened the currants).

I’m going to have a bath in a dipper full of water. The water pipes are all busted, no water at all, only people who have tanks, no electricity, no gas, no phones. What a Mess.

I helped get some tea, got the beds ready. Up we go again to look at the water roaring like a mighty ocean. Oh, it was so awful at night, with no lights anywhere. Came home, we were all tired out, but you felt as though you couldn’t go to bed. Hear the clock strike 12 o’clock, slept till 3am then hear 4, 5, 6.

Saturday -

Got up to see what it was like. The water was higher, the houses were covered, only the roof top here and there. What a ghostly sight, with its raging torrent of water roaring along. Had a bit of breakfast, now Snowy (Taylor) suggests we go and have a look at Largs. We move the De-soto and the Austin to get the Ford-V8 out. Snowy, Jess, Warren, Leslie Bowden, Mother, Myself and my now “two” children Graham and Judith, pile into the car. Off we go up to 2NX (radio transmitter) here we stop and I went up and we sent a message to Arth’s father to tell him we were safe at Bolwarra. On we go to Largs.
The view from the hills was a sight we will never forget as long as we live. All you could see was chimneys and roof poking up out of a sea or murky water.
Here at Largs we learned of three houses that has been washed away. Came home just to late to see the helicopter rescue Albert and Walter Vickery, off the roof, where they had sat in pouring rain all night.

Had dinner, came out the front. Arth was tired, he had been out with Wal Wilson to get a load of wood for people in the school. Now he helped dad shut down the main water supply. It had to be cut off and they had been waiting for an opportunity to do it. Now was the time. They got it finished. Ethel came in, talked for a while. We had a look at the raging sea before night again. Another shower of rain. Got tea of bread and butter, baked beans and cheese. Got my two nips ready for bed, then we all tumbled in and had a fairly good night’s sleep.

Sunday –

I’m going to catch up on my budget today!

Awoke at quarter to six, got up at six. The water was a little calmer, gone down a little.
7.30 all up bar Jess. Got the breakfast. Jess, Snowy, Warren and Judy went up to Garney Brown’s place to see the helicopter pick up the parachutes, the planes had been dropping food parcel to us all day yesterday. Today we had planes over again. They had been flying right over dad’s house in between the two chimneys. All you could hear was zoom, look up and the hatch open. Out would come container and parachute. Today one dropped in MacArthur’s paddock in a big patch of mud. The container burst open and all the butter was squashed in the mud. Tins of salt, ham, carrots, beans, flour, tea, sugar, all in the mud. The people rushed like mad, grabbed what they could. The mud would wash off the tins but not the butter. No butter that day. Dry bread doesn’t hurt you but it’s much better with a scratch of grease. Now they have a depot at Browns. All food is dropped at Garney Brown’s property.

12.30pm. Knock at the door. Tony want’s Mrs John Critchley. Now having dinner of mashed potatoes, pumpkin, beans and a tin of salmon. Washed up, swept up, went out to watch the raging torrent again. We could not keep away from it.
Blackboard appears at the school. Notice on it say “Rations at 4 o’clock”, over goes dad, but he was too frightened to get anything much.
Had a lamp and a couple of torches, it’s very dismal. Wash the kids again, get ready for bed. Can’t seem to sleep much.
10.30pm Judith up to the toilet, back to bed. 4 o’clock get up again with Judith, back to bed, couldn’t go to sleep any more.

Monday –

Up at quarter to six and dressed. Got Judith’s clothes. Quarter to seven, start to get breakfast. Had a glass of Eno Fruit Saline. Jess still in bed. Breakfast ready, waiting for free milk. Twenty to eight milk arrives, Snowy mad toast, burnt and tough. Judy and I went down to the De-soto, switched on the wireless to hear the news. Jess up now, made the beds. Wahed and polished the hall. Jess watched me. Jess goes into the bathroom to have a bath in a dipper of water.
I put on the steak Ross McGill brought down from Paterson, did the potatoes, pumpkin and beans. Jess gets dressed. Snowy out collection census papers for Dungog police. Jess and Snowy get in the car, go to Largs for cigarettes for Jess.
11 o’clock I keep the fire going and put dinner on. Made a big batch od scones in the old fuel oven. Turned out OK.
12.15pm set the table for dinner. Arth goes up the hill to get Warren. I serve dinner, put Jess and Snowy’s in the oven, we start dinner. Taylor’s arrive home.

Had news of our house today. Have water in the house. Wash up time. I cleared out. I had just got dinner for nine. Had a wash, mother went to sleep, dad had gone down the hill to water. We went down also to watch the helicopter help fix the telephone wires. Men connecting wires to Dungog to give us electric light. Met Ethel Bowden and Mrs Stein. Today we can see sand banks everywhere. Davey’s house is nearly out of the water today. Walked up to Ekert’s to see the damage. Met Mrs Fletcher and Perc. Mrs Fletcher says to Jess “What are you all dressed up for, going to Sydney?”. Back home, Mrs Jarman was here. Went over to school to get some potatoes.
5 o’clock, get the tea, bread, butter, ham (tin that fell in the mud puddle). Jess made a cup of tea with hot water (not boiling). Planes over again, dropped 5 more parcels. Washed up. Graham and Judith played Dominos. I get water now, wash the kids, put them to bed.
9.00 o’clock our bed time.

Tuesday –

6.00 o’clock. Got up. Set the table. Made toast. Made the beds and cut up the steak for stew again. Jess and Warren wash up. I swept right through the house. Put the mats back. Sitting down for a while when who should appear but Col. He swam the break in the river. How pleased we were to see him, but alas, be brought us bad news about our place. The water was up to the window sill on our back verandah. It’s hard to take, Judy was thrilled to see him, tears trickled down her cheeks. We went back to the river with him. He swam safely back again. Judy cried. That was the end of me! I cried too.
Back home for dinner. Knock at the back door. Allen Kirkwood, would Snowy and Arth go to Patterson for fish. Jess says no, you are not going. It upset her badly, boo hoo! Calmed her down, now they have taken Blythways to Mindarribba to catch train to Dungog.
Played Ludo and Hopscotch with Judy. Going to have a bath in a dipper of water now. Got the tea. Sat on the front verandah.
8.00 o’clock gave Judy a bath all over in a dish. Retired at 10.30pm.

Laryngitis better today are 4 days of whispering. Most trying. Trying to keep my temper with people who are too lazy to turn around.

Wednesday –

Arose at 6am, got breakfast. Dad, Arth and Snowy got to see if water has evaporated enough to get over to our “home sweet home”. I cleaned up. Made gramma pies in the fuel stove. Jess cracking her neck to go over. (Though she might bet a beer if she got to the other side). Quarter to twelve, says she won’t wait for dinner, she will go now. She has only come home after being out all morning. Get going says I (nearly said good riddance).

Dad, Mother and Judy and myself had dinner. Quarter to two, Warren came home for dinner. Had my bath once more in the dipper water. Took Judy down to the boat. She was most disappointed she could not go over. Here’s hoping tomorrow. Bell rang at school, over we go. Two baskets of bananas (103). Dad and I have a box full. We are going 50-50 with these later.
Arth and Graham came back with plenty of mud. Our place, indescribable.
Jess didn’t come home. No one knows where she went. Snowy, disgusted!
Got tea once more. Hooray! Light have just come on, five to eight Wednesday night. Went to bed nine fifteen.

Thursday -

Arose at 5.30. Swept the house. Had breakfast. Washed up. Off we went. Got home. A sorry sight. Got to work. Got a lot of much and slush out. Still a lot to get rid of. Col came back to Cappers. Came over with us to get Judy’s clothes.

Mother had tea ready for us. Snowy and Jesse didn’t come home. Went to town with Gardners for a guzzle. Graham gone to bed. I still have a graveyard cough. Warren going to bed. So are we.

Friday –

Left home at 7.30am. Worked hard all day cleaning mud and slush from the house. Walked back home very tired.

Saturday –

Arose 5.30. Swept through the house for Mother. Got breakfast 6.30. Ready to leave 7.15. Started work quarter to eight. We work a twelve hour shift these days. Barry arrives 10.00 o’clock, brought water, scrubbing brooms and food. He worked like a Trojan.
Two o’clock Grace and Bob arrived. Was good to see them. All I did was wash my head and scour crockery till 4.30. Did some washing and had a cold shower.
Came home, grilled some steak. Washed up. 10pm bed time,

Sunday –

Rose at 5 o’clock. Cold and windy and raining again. Jess went out the back Sunday morning, frog jumped up her leg. Back to 19 Queen Street, got to work more and more. Barry arrived with Wanda. Brought some cooked lamb, tomatoes, bottle water and fruit. Staying home tonight, place liveable again. Rough and ready though, we still have plenty to do.

Arth going back to work in the morning.



Submitted: May 22, 2022

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