Wednesday, December 13, 2006


IN 1955, MY FRIEND KEN OLSEN AND I were watching a movie at the Rio Movie Theater in Santa Cruz. It was during our Christmas break from College. All of sudden we hear heavy rains hitting the roof of the theater. The noise was so great that it almost drowned out the sound of the movie. The name of the movie; "Rains of Ranchipur". Later that night Ken and I found ourselves helping the Red Cross, warning people living along the San Lorenzo River to evacuate. Many older residents refused to leave their homes, only to be rescued later as the River flooded over its banks.

The aricle below is submitted by Robert Lemmon Jr. .He is requesting information regarding the major disasters occuring this Century in Santa Cruz County:

Of the three major natural disasters to occur in the 20th Century in Santa Cruz, those of us who graduated from SCHS in the 1950s likely remember the last two, the 1955 Flood and the Loma Prieta Quake in 1989. But for many of those who left the area permanently after graduation and didn't return, they best remember the 1955 Flood -- unless they didn't return to Santa Cruz for Christmas that year. My 1957 SCHS Faculty & Staff web site, which currently covers the genealogy of the families of those who taught and worked at SCHS from 1952-57, contains a section on the 1955 Flood. You'll find links there to some articles on the flood as well as the 50th Anniversary piece done by the Sentinel last December. Here's a link..... But of main interest may be the recollections of former SCHS students of the flood. Since most of the comments are from the classes of '54 and '57, I'd like to solicit other recollections from those in your class -- or any other class, for that matter. Also, someone might describe what happened "up the coast," for the Big Flood, as the California Dept of Water Power termed it in a book still in the SC Library, affected almost all coastal streams, not just the San Lorenzo.-- If, after reading the recollections on the web site, you would like to describe what you remember, you can send me e-mail to me at the address on the web site. Or, send it to Ivan, who'll likely forward it on. Will consider most for inclusion in future updates of the web site. (Am hoping to post the next update by the end of Jan 07.)

La Nostra Costa Book Signing Event (hopefully not a disaster ), at the Capitola Cafe Books Store on 41st Avenue on January 17, 2oo7. Telephone 831-462-4415, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


gino "d'baffi' campioni said...

Here are a few other disastri that happened in Santa Cruz:

My first inkling of this one was around 1952 I think. I rode my bicycle to West Cliff Drive, followed by "Prince", the Dogliotti's faithful dog, part Fox Terrier and part Beagle. A very simpatico canino. We stopped near Lighthouse Point and looked over the ocean.

There, stretching for miles, was a band of silver, about 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep. Anchovies! I had never seen anything like that before. The local fishermen netted many pounds of them to sell.

The next day I heard that all those tons of fish, driven by a "Red Tide" had funneled into the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor and died.

This caused much damage to boat bottoms and to the styrene floats in use there. City crews were required to use pumps to suck out many dump truck loads of fish and take them to the dump. This took days. The smell was apparent even from our house and stayed for a couple of years or more.

Another was probably around 1959 or so. I worked for Paul Pay then, and he took me fishing on the bay in a small aluminum boat. The entire area around Santa Cruz beach, especially around the whistling buoy was full of large black birds. Sooty Shearwaters, they were, on a migration from Australia. We caught no fish that day.

That night, after the fog set in, someone in a motor boat went roaring through that area with a powerful searchlight on, and flushed all those birds, who headed for any light they could see. They went crashing into street lamps, windows, neon signs, and anything that gave light. Most of them died on impact. One woman heard a bang on her front door, and on opening it, was hit by a big bird.

The city was littered by Shearwater corpses. Again, Truckloads of dead birds had to be removed by city crews and taken to the disposal.

The famous Alfred Hitchcock, who lived on Mount Hermon Road, heard about this and came to town to see the disaster. This was presumably part of his inspiration to produce his famous movie, "The Birds".

Mr. Hitchcock was a customer of Costella & Caiocca. He would visit the hardware store and just look around. When asked if he would like some help, he replied, "No thank you. I am just looking at hardware. I love hardware."

I only saw him once when he drove his 3 color 57 Chevrolet past the post office and down Front St. Though he was so short that he peered under the steering wheel, there was no mistaking that familiar face.

He once hired our crew to air condition his house in Mount Hermon. Art Hutcheon, our refrigeration expert and others set up one to his specifications. It had to be able to cool his large house to 60 degrees when it was 95 degrees outdoors. This they did, but then he complained about the noise it made. Afterward the unit was moved about 40 feet away from the house and cool air was piped in underground. This satisfied him.

hank bradley said...

I recall one hell of a forest fire in 1948 in the Bonny Doon - Felton area that got many local folks involved in battling it. Most likely the Morellis and Locatellis and others in the logging business at the time would have some pertinent recollections. I was too young to be involved, but was greatly impressed - well, frightened - by the pall of smoke that we could see for a couple of weeks from our end of La Slida.

Can't add much to the 1955 flood history either. Of course all the local creeks overflowed. Swanton got it very bad, some houses were damaged, and one woman died when a logjam burst and the water demolished her house with her in it.


jerry mungai said...

I remember the 1955 flood well. Dad (Dino Mungai) died in October
and I worked at Morris Abrams during Christmas break.
My Mom (Edith Mungai) was still trying to cope with recent death
preceded by a long illness. I went to work in a
pouring rain, but had to leave later in the day as the
flood waters kept rising making it increasingly
difficult to drive a car home. I recall going in
after the flood to help with the cleanup. There were
cashmere sweaters floating around; and silt resting on
the seat of the chairs in the shoe department. And
what a stench. I also recall going by Cirone's shoe
repair shop on Pacific Avenue, after the flood and I
will never forget how he looked. He was suffering
from cancer; and there he sat in his water-logged
place of business. My recall is that he died not long
after the flood.

LNC: Thanks Jerry. You certainly put a personal face on the Flood of 1955. As I recall, your Dad was only 48 years old when he passed away. Much too young even for those days. ivnO

jim ceragioli said...

Boy do I ever remember that day and night as well as the next weeks of cleanup. As Jerraldo stated, it started raining early in the day (or it had been raining for a couple of days, I do not remember which). My mother and I were working at Ferrari's florist shop along with the regular staff of Hazel, Tony and Dave and Hazel's friend Margaret. We were getting things ready for the Christmas deliveries the next day. Rudy, my brother, was in San Francisco getting more flowers and stuff and would be returning on the 24th in the morning. What with all of the rain, the radio was on and there were periodic news spots. First, they said that there would be minor flooding near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Then, it was updated to say that the lower end of Pacific and Front would experience minor flooding. As time wore on, the flooding was to be up further on Pacific. When they said that it would be as high up as Prolo Chevrolet, we started moving things off the floor in ernest. Then, Dave said that I should move all of the cars to higher ground and so I took all of the keys and moved the cars up to near the High School on Walnut. When I got back from doing that, I had to start moving things from the floor level to the loft and attic area as they passed things up from the floor. Soon, the water was coming in the back door and at one point, my Mother said "Hey, the refrigerator is listing" and someone ran over and opened the door and started to pass out the roses stored in there. Soon the lights went out and we had to call it quits. Well, we formed a chain and walked out the front door leaving it open as was the back door and headed up to the cars. The water was above our knees and we walked up Walnut Ave and finally got to the cars which were all safe. The next day, when we headed back down to the store, we noticed that there was a man hole cover in the middle of the intersection that was not on the hole and the hole was wide open. We had walked right past that and could have stepped in and had a major problem. Mom and Dad set up our garage and that is where the Christmas items were prepared for that year and the next weeks were spent shoveling the mud out of ever nook and cranny in that store. A real mess to handle.

Oh, my brother came into town and could not believe the site and headed to our house where Dave was and Dave was very happy to see him with fresh merchandise. Rudy said that the wind in San Francisco was so violent that it blew the window open on his room at the Pickwic Hotel on 5th and Mission.

It is still very vivid moment and chapter in my life.

LCN: Wow!!! Those are some memories Jim. Learned the other night that Dave Ferrari passed away. He certainly was a "Amico della Costa". I remember the first time I saw him play his accordion. It was on the stage in the auditorium at Santa Cruz High
School circa 1953. He and his music certainly will be missed. ivn0

Len Klempnauer said...

After leaving the Del Mar Theater that night, my girlfriend, Barbara Morton
(SCHS Class of 1955), and I drove to the San Lorenzo River between Canfield
Avenue and Bixby Street and walked along the riverbank. It was about 9 o’clock, as I recall, and the river was only a foot or so from overflowing. We drove
over the Riverside Avenue Bridge, and she took me home. (I was going to college and couldn’t afford a car; she was working and had one.) I lived on the West Side, and she had to drive across the Water Street Bridge or the
Soquel Avenue Bridge to get to her home on the East Side.
I didn’t learn about the flood until 8 the next morning, when I went to work at my parents’ restaurant — the Cross Roads Drive-In at the foot of West
Cliff Drive adjacent to the railroad depot. (The water had come up to the
front door but never entered the building.) I couldn’t get through to Barbara on the telephone to find out whether she had made it home safely.
Later I found out she did, thank God.
Bob Branstetter, an '54 classmate of mine who lived a few houses away, and I went to Mission Hill Jr. High, where the Red Cross had established a shelter in the auditorium, to offer our help the next night. But there were
plenty of volunteers by then, and our services weren’t needed.
Len Klempnauer, SCHS Class of 1954

Tom Hauso said...

I lived in scotts valley in 1955 0n the day of the flood we went to the post office to mail some last minute packages we parked on water street & my mother went in to mail the packages & my father went across the street to have a beer. when my father came back to the car he told my mother to come to the bar to see the hand carved wooden backbar they had there. My mother thought it was beautiful. We then went over the water street bridge to the Sprous Reitz store on the east side. When we arrived the people in store were talking about the flood downtown someone said the water was 2' over the parking meters where we were parked. When we returned to Scotts Valley mount hermon road had about a foot of water on it.
In the weeks following the flood many stores in the buildngs between pacific ave. & front street hired men to clean up the mess in their basements. A friend of my father got a job working there. He was a real practical joker & when he was cleaning up under the tea cup restaurant he convinced a coworker that Chinese people didn't trust banks and hid their money in their basements & made a deal with him to share any money they found with each other. One morning before work he hid a large bag of old brass streetcar tokens he had where his buddy was working & left & came back in time to go to work. when his buddy started working he found the bag & thought they were gold coins & started yelling I'm rich & grabbed the bag & ran out to his car & left without sharing with anyone & called his boss & quit his job before he realized they were fake.
my father worked at the plaza bakery where front street & pacific ave.come together by water street. There is a statue on the point where they meet the water was moving so fast that it split into two streams at the statue and didn't come back together until after the bakery the owner was working that night & when he left he put two 50# bags of flour in front of each door to the bakery & no water got into the bakery all he lost to the flood was 4 bags of flour.
Tom Hauso class of 1960