March, 1936 The Greatest Flood in History and She’s Out Taking Pictures

During March, 1936, in our home of New England, there was the largest flood there had ever been in this area.  And that record hasn’t been beaten since, lucky for us.

I found this article The Great New England Flood and it reports:

Nobody in New England had ever seen anything like it. Nobody ever would again.

During two rainy weeks, two consecutive downpours were among the largest and heaviest in U.S. history.

And then a third downpour prolonged the destruction and misery.

Rivers became raging torrents from the notches to the Long Island Sound. The Androscoggin rose to record levels in Auburn, Maine, the Merrimack in Lowell, Mass., the Pemigewasset in Plymouth, N.H., the Connecticut in Dalton, N.H., Montague, Mass., Hartford and Thompsonville, Conn.

The flood burst dams, wiped out roads, ruined businesses and washed away homes. As many as 200 people were killed and 14,000 left homeless.

Babu doesn’t really write about those scientific and statistical details but she does write:

Thursday, March 12th, 1936
It’s been raining all week so far.  If the river doesn’t stop rising conditions are going to become drastic.  Havoc has already been done in some places.  Some small bridges and dams were swept away and trolleys didn’t run for a while today.

She tells us that “our Davit Bridge,” in Chicopee is still standing, as of the 19th but that it looks like the West Springfield Bridge will fall.  Jaime’s house is flooded and so is the factory her father works at and he is out of work for a few days.  Shops in Springfield are pumping water out of their stores.  Her school is closed as well as there is no power in Springfield, or “Electric power” as she writes it.  There is a day they go into school even with the power off and it is such an interesting account.  I will share it with you in the excerpts.

I found this photo on the internet.  This is where Babu would have gone shopping or to school in Springfield.

Meanwhile, she gets film, loads up her camera, and takes Zosh with her.  They go “traipsing around” on several nights and take pictures.  Babu even notes the beauty as well as the excitement of this natural disaster.  It seems a cruel reaction, but if I’m honest, I felt this way when the tornadoes randomly struck here in ’09.  I felt badly for people, but my husband and I rushed into the fray and helped some guy look through his house – which was tossed around and strewn across his back yard, for his keys and wallet.  But we wanted to be there, it was exciting.  Also something important to note is most of the deaths didn’t happen in our area so the real tragedy of i was farther from her.  I think it’s both physiological and psychological.  There is adrenaline and probably a spike in other chemicals as we face death and destruction.  There is also the switch up from our daily routine and lets face it, boredom can be a killer of our souls.  Witnessing this, purposely being a witness to these kinds of things, is important.  These moment need witnesses and there is nothing wrong in telling these stories in exciting voices decades down the line to our grandchildren.  These moments, (cliche alert!!), remind us that life is short, and could be shorter.

I think the MOST important question to be asking yourself here is – where. are. those. pictures??  I’m on the hunt, but there is a life time, a long life time, to look through.  I’ll be sharing if I find them!!! (I hope I do, I hope I do!!)


GUESS WHAT?!?!  About 7 months later, I found the images.  I am updating this passage with the pictures Babu took of the historic flood of 1936:


Wow, how lucky to have such detailed notes of the back of the pictures.  It reads:

March, 1936 Spring flood

The setting sun on the Conn. River looking off the first bend of Chicopee Street.

flood2flood 2b

flood 3flood3b

flood 4flood 4 b

flood 5flood 5 b

These she didn’t write on the back of, but I think they speak for themselves.

flood 8flood 9flood 10


4 Comments Add yours

  1. What a treasure in those photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree!!


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