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Readers remember Hurricane Carla, Part 1

By Victoria Advocate
Sept. 8, 2011 at 4:08 a.m.

A boat in Port Lavaca that washed ashore during Hurricane Carla.

Editor's note: We asked our readers to share their Hurricane Carla memories. We heard from many people. We will share your stories during the next three days.

Drive-through service

It was truly a day to remember. Carla circled around the Gulf before coming ashore, whipping Port O'Connor.

There were no bad effects until the broad eye passed. On the way back, Carla took the front of my drug store out.

I drove to the store during the eye and everything was fine. I went back home, proud that I escaped damage.

The police called to tell me about the damage.

Rex Easley Sr., Victoria

Mom's hurricane diary

I found these notes with some papers of my mother's, Lydia Boethel's, after she died on Nov. 20, 2004. She was 96 years old and had a good life. The notes were dated Sept. 11, 1961. It was her memory of Hurricane Carla. She lived in Hallettsville and my husband and I spent the night at her house since we lived in Port Lavaca. - Nina Schulte

Carla was one of the worst storms I ever lived through. It started blowing Saturday, Sept. 9, then Sunday it was a little worse. Monday all day was pretty bad. Sunday night about 2 a.m. we nailed the windows shut; then Monday night it got stronger about 11 p.m. until about 1. Nina and Art were here during the night and it was a good thing that we stayed home as the two front doors came open and I would have lost everything if Art had not nailed the door shut. Nina and I wanted to leave and go somewhere, but Art said we should stay, for which I am so thankful. Daniel and family went to Otto and Vicky's Sunday until Tuesday.

Monday at 9 o'clock Grandma Spies went to Mrs. Lester Spies and stayed the night there. She slept all night.

Nina and Art left the next morning at 6:30 to go back to Port Lavaca and Daniel and family left at 9 a.m. I felt so sorry for them when they left as I sure thought that they had lost everything. But they were lucky.

Lydia Boethel, Hallettsville

Protected by the nets

I recall my parents telling me how we had moved from Goliad after the storm in 1945 to the J.C. Barbers farm in Tivoli because all their corn crop was flattened. With Carla, we spent the night and day at the Tivoli Elementary School and it was scary. It rained a lot and the wind was real strong. We all did a lot of praying out loud together. I'm grateful for the mosquito nets that were donated after the storm. Mother always kept us covered with the nets for protection from the mosquitoes at night.

Maria Elena Comacho, Port Lavaca

A secure place to stay

There was mounting excitement as we teens anticipated her approach. We were silly and did not realize the destruction it would cause. Before it arrived, we all went to the movies.

Later, my mother opened up our home to neighbors from across the street that needed a more secure place to be.

During the storm, a home where my mother worked had its roof lifted up, letting the rain pour in and then the roof settled back in place. Amazing.

Afterwards as we walked the neighborhood, we fully realized why everyone was fearful. Limbs and trash were everywhere.

Ingrid Williams, Victoria

Hand in hand

I remember my mother and I walking down the road in Hallettsville, holding hands. I think we, along with others were on our way to the school for shelter from Carla. The wind was so high that it lifted me up, but Momma held on to me. It was frightening.

Sonora Clay, Yoakum

Keeping the fire away

My husband, James Densman, was manager of Wood-Hi Cooperative Cotton Gin. When we heard that Carla was coming our way, we began ginning around the clock. The farmers were operating the picking machines at the same rate and together we vowed to save all of the cotton possible. We had to burn the burrs in a pit and when the wind grew stronger it picked the fire up and onto the roofs of the office and our house. Family, friends and farmers fought the fire while the work crew kept ginning. When evacuation orders came and rain began, we left for Waco.

Denzil Densmen, Inez

'We were lucky'

On Saturday, Sept. 9, 1961, we were almost certain Hurricane Carla was going to hit Victoria. We decided that if she did hit we would stay at our home at 605 W. Krause and weather her out. We spent the day preparing for the hurricane by cleaning up the yard of all lawn furniture, lowering the television antenna, boarding our windows and preparing our emergency equipment, such as first aid kits, food that did not need refrigeration, kerosene lamps, battery radios, extra water cans, ropes, blankets and mattresses where we could get to them in a hurry in case our roof should blow off. Reg then went to Hopkins school to help with the refugee evacuation shelter until 2 a.m. Sunday. We stayed up most of the night to keep posted on the direction of the hurricane. Sunday afternoon, Reg finally persuaded Mother and Dad to come in and stay with us. Alma Lee and C.B. Suggs also stayed here as our windows were all boarded up to protect us from flying glass. Here we rode out Hurricane Carla in all of its fury. There was no damage to our home or trees. We were lucky. Many others weren't.

Pat and Elton Franke, Victoria

A stormy delivery

September 1961 - I was 13 - Mother was pregnant and due to deliver Sept. 10. Because of the impending storm, mother's doctor decided to induce Saturday, Sept. 9. We slept on the floor in Mother's room. I made sandwiches for patients and other refugees while my daddy helped with maintenance. At one point he went out into the storm blowing at 100 mph to repair the generator, while I watched out the window-fearing he would not come back. During the night, a window in my mother's room broke and sent glass flying all over the room. Luckily, mother woke daddy in time to pull her bed from danger. When asked why we didn't name my sister Carla, I remember my daddy saying "we didn't want a little girl that destructive."

Leafy and Dwayne Wilkinson, Victoria

Not a laughing matter

When Hurricane Carla struck the Texas Gulf Coast, I was 9 years old. I had never been through a hurricane before so I was really excited. During a lull in the storm, we stood on the front porch and watched as Mr. Fred, our neighbor from across the street, continually pointed at our house and laughed incessantly.

We eventually figured out that he was laughing because our roof was being ripped off shingle by shingle. While Mr. Fred was laughing at our misfortune, what he didn't realize was his shingles were flying off at the same rate as ours.

Jodi Hubbell, Victoria

Safety with Grandpa

As I sat on my bedroom floor playing with my few toys, and imagining all kinds of wonderful new toys, I heard a knock at our front door. It was my Grandpa, in his old 1950 black Chevrolet. He said, "Y'all get your stuff together, y'all are coming with me." He was talking to my Mom, Dad, sister and I. I thought we were off to some great adventure. We piled into the old car and went to Grandma and Grandpa's house. I see now, we were on an adventure that would go down in history. All of our uncles, aunts, and cousins gathered there also. Grandpa had just built that house, so he thought it to be the strongest to keep his family safe. Now I wonder, "How did we all fit into that house?" We kids slept on the floor and some of the grownups got the beds. If you got up, you stumbled over the person lying next to you. All I remember is the terrible hard rain beating against the house and the wind howling around us.

Rain came through the front door somehow and got the carpet wet. All in all, to a 6-year-old, it was fun and scary at the same time. Grandpa didn't own a camera, so there were no pictures of this packed house.

Next day, we looked out. I think I peeked out very carefully, only to find all the windows blown out of the elementary school across the street. When Grandpa thought it was safe, he drove us home. I remember looking in shock at all the trees blown down and roofs torn off houses. When we reached our house, it was OK, but the TV antenna had blown down. Dang it, we had just got the television about six months ago. Oh well, we were all OK. Mom took some pictures of the damage on our street with her old camera. Unfortunately, the pictures were ruined in the flood of 1981, as our house sat on the banks of the Lavaca River, about a block from the courthouse square. I look back now and realize how much family means, and how I miss driving with Grandpa in that old car.

Nancy Kaye Bentley, Hallettsville

Finding peace in Hope

I was 11 and living in Houston when Hurricane Carla hit. No electricity, water or phone. My older cousin and I played canasta by oil lamp. After the hurricane passed, we headed to the community of Hope, to check on my grandparents. A downed tree caused us to walk about a mile in footdeep water across the pasture. We found my grandfather on a ladder throwing bricks off the roof. The chimney had fallen on the house. My grandmother was sitting in her chair with her feet up, watching everything on TV. The eye of the storm had passed directly over their house, but they were fine.

Kathy Vesely Kern, Yoakum

'I'll Fly Away'

When Hurricane Carla was at its fiercest, an elderly lady called Radio Station KNAL with a request: "Mr. Martin," she said, "I think it would be fitting for the station to play a hymn."

Charlie Lewis, who for years kept our early morning listeners laughing and dancing around the breakfast table, was broadcasting from his remote studio in his home.

I relayed the request to Charlie, who said, "I'll take care of it."

The hymn Charlie played was: "I'll Fly Away."

Robert C. Martin, Victoria

From Carla to measles

I was 29, active duty Navy, with a wife, baby, and two preschoolers. I was on leave in Yoakum after three years in Japan, going to a new assignment at the Reserve Training Center in Saginaw, Mich.

Carla's projected path traced our planned driving route exactly, all the way, and she waited to come in until she knew she would make us late reporting for duty.

We followed her north before the winds died down completely. The baby had contracted measles, but we had to go. When we arrived in Saginaw, I went househunting alone - the two older children had measles by then.

Lt. Cmdr. Lawrence Brzozowski, USN Ret., Victoria

Katy bar the door

I was living on Hill Road with my parents when Carla hit.

The 150 mph winds blew open the 14-by-12 foot doors on our pole barn located about 400 yards toward Business 59.

With the doors swinging outward we had to do something before anymore damage was done.

When the calm eye came over us my brother and I ran down to the barn and cut two holes in the framework and chained the doors to a one-ton truck rear bumper. We got back just before the wind came from the other direction.

David Brown, Victoria

Floating houses

As we drove away from our new house Sept. 10, 1961, thoughts of the damage Hurricane Carla could do was foremost on our minds.

What we found on returning home is hard to describe. You had to be there to see the devastation to Palacios.

As we entered the city limits, debris floating in the ditch on the east side of the highway was recognized as belonging to our boys - handmade items by their two grandfathers that had been in the garage. We felt a tug in our hearts as we knew to expect the worst.

Our house and three others was blocking state Highway 35. It was very heartbreaking.

Joanne Glenn, Palacios

Starting again

We had a thriving business, Jack's Marine Service, which sold gasoline, diesel (at 9 cents a gallon and made money), butane, worked on engines and did whatever it took to make a living. Carla ended all that when she wiped out our business, home and livelihood. But it forced us to take another look at our lives. We moved into Port Lavaca to run three successful businesses while I had my job at Alcoa. Carla cleansed and turned a sleepy fishing town where shrimpers were barely hanging on into a weekend retreat for the wealthy. Good or bad?

Joyce Scheafer, Port Lavaca

Hurricane and a movie

It was eight days before my sixth birthday.

Having fled to my sister's because it was the only one on the block with a basement.

My 9-month-old niece's playpen sat on bricks, as did the rest of the furniture. As rain blew in under the window sills of the stucco house, flooding reached inside and the basement too.

My father who worked as an electrician (City of Yoakum Utilities) had been gone for two days, busy trying to keep the power on to as many places as possible.

We sat watching "The Song of Bernadette" on an old black and white TV as the storm was passing over. Something very comforting now, looking back.

Memories that will never leave of a storm named Carla that brought fear and amazement in a small girl.

Carolyn Mueller Brown,Mission Valley

Fear and amazement

I was seven months pregnant with my twin boys. We left Seadrift to find that every motel and hotel that we stopped at was booked. We finally were put in contact with a compassionate lady who had a rooming house in Floresville. She saw my condition and graciously gave us a room. I can relate to Mary when they told her there was not room in the inn.

I'll never forget Carla. The year of the big storm and the year my boys were born.

Mauriece Coward McCown,Victoria

End of shrimping

I remember well about Carla. We were living on Bay Front in a big home in Seadrift. No one could believe Carla was coming in so bad. My husband, Lonnie, boarded up and took the swing off of the front porch. He had been through lots of storms growing up in Seadrift with six brothers. We left and headed for Cuero but early the next morning everyone headed out again as Carla was heading our way. We couldn't find a room until we got to Fort Worth. Soon as we could, we came home from afar. We could tell Seadrift was hit bad. We saw our brother-in-law shoveling mud out of his windows.

We had just bought a shrimp boat. Charles Chatham was running it for us as Lonnie had a job with a company. We got to our home and looked. It had no lights and the yard was bad but our house survived with minor flooding. A tidal wave came in sideways and hit five houses down from us. We got things cleaned up the best we could. We lost our shrimp boat. It was miles away, upside down and torn up. I hope we never have another storm like Carla. My son was in high school and we had one adopted daughter. My mother, one brother and his wife and son had to stay at our house as theirs was tore up. I was pregnant with our daughter, Susie. I remember it well.

Mabel Gaines, Victoria

Cows and barges

When I got through burying cows, I was hired to help put a barge back in the canal. We built a big levee around the barge, pumped the makeshift pond full of water and then broke the levee. The barge flowed forward. The barge was about 100 yards from the canal. We had to built the levee twice and break it twice to move it back to the canal. The barge was seaworthy once it got back into the canal. We couldn't see any other way to move that barge - a crane wouldn't have even come close to being strong enough to do it.

I was working for Heldt Brothers Trucks. They had two dozers to clean up cows and barges.

I was 25 at the time and living in Victoria when the storm hit. We played cards and didn't even leave town.

Calvin Braddock, Victoria

Pillow protection

I was only 2 at the time. We lived in El Campo. The only thing I can remember from the event was my mom and I getting into the bathtub and putting pillows over our heads to protect us from a possible tornado.

Sam Patterson, Victoria

Nurses, games, candles

Patricia, our four children and I lived at 1807 Locust St. and we had visitors from North Texas. The two ladies in the group of four were nurses. They were going to return to Dallas and points north on Sunday but old Carla just kept fooling around in the Gulf and since none of them had ever been in a hurricane they decided to call in that they could not travel.

We thought that we had stocked up enough on beer and other necessities but Carla kept puttering around and the supplies were running dangerously low.

The garage had a number of cabinets with wooden doors. We took those off and nailed them over the windows on the northeast and north sides of the house.

Sunday night we were bored so we played Monopoly. You got a swig of beer each time it was your turn to throw the dice.

Carla finally visited in the early morning hours of Monday. We had telephone service all during the storm but no electricity from late Saturday until some time after the storm ended. We had plenty of candles.

We had a small hand-size radio, which we turned to KRLD in Dallas.

Kemper Williams Jr., Victoria

Traveling house

When Hurricane Carla hit, we lived in East Bernard. My husband worked for Tennessee Gas. His parents lived in Palacios. They came to stay with us because they were worried about us and it was too dangerous to stay in Palacios. My husband had to work all through Carla. He had to gauge tanks and tie ropes around himself because the wind was so strong. His father stayed busy going to check on him and then back to check on us. My four children and I had laid down in a bed in the back room. When the eye passed over and the wind started coming from the other direction, our bed started going across the room. Then the children and I went to the front of the house and snuggled on the couch.

We all went to Palacios as soon as we could; my in-law's house was in the middle of state Highway 35. It was picked up off its foundation and was lifted over the lines because it was too big to go under them. Everything was all over the place, wrapped around barbed wire fences and blown everywhere. Nothing could be saved except some dishes that were in a rack. They were never moved. I know it's hard to believe, but the picture of it was in the Victoria Advocate, as I recall.

Marilyn LeWirs, Yoakum

Fishing cabin

End of theWe lived in Victoria and had bought a piece of land on Alamo Beach. My husband, Gene Morris, and a friend, were converting the top story of an old house they bought to make a "fishing cabin." They'd already bought the bathroom fixtures but had not yet installed them, therefore we used the bathtub to stash our fishing gear, lanterns, gigs, etc., between use. When we came back after the storm, everything was gone. Not a board of the building nor any of our supplies were left, but the bathtub sat on the ground about a third filled with water. All of our fishing supplies, even our gasoline-powered lanterns and the mantels in the lanterns, were still intact. When we pumped the lanterns up the mantels lit as if nothing had happened. Miracles never cease on Alamo Beach.

Gene, my husband, collected enough lumber along the rice canals to build us a cabin with three bedrooms, a kitchen, washroom and living room, which is still my home. I love living here. Now I have very good neighbors all around me. I still live adjoining the "boat slip" that former County Commissioner Frank Wetig had dug.

Stella Morris, Port Lavaca

Navigating the river

I was paged out of a classroom at Brazosport High School to the office and a phone call. On the phone was my past Sea Scout master and great friend who asked me if I could help him take his yacht up the Bernard River to get away from the approaching storm. To make a very long story short I ended up on a 54-foot boat by myself and the next 48 hours I pretty much became a man. I clocked wind gust at over 200 mph, I saw cows, horses, cars, houses, boats, stacks of cross ties and anything else that floats come down that raging river and bounce off the boat. I kicked snakes off the decks for a day and two nights as the lines had to be loosened every 30 minutes because the river rose over 17 feet. I had to move the boat in the middle of the storm, which turned out to be a blessing because the boat sank but was salvageable because it was in shallower water and that's probably the reason I'm here today.

There's no way to get that down to 100 words. I've always thought I could write a pretty good book about the adventure.

Ralph Harden, Victoria

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