Readers remember Hurricane Carla, Part 3

Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

Agnes Munsch Valigura's house floated away during Hurricane Carla and landed in a mott of trees.  This photo shows where the house ended up after the storm.

Agnes Munsch Valigura's house floated away during Hurricane Carla and landed in a mott of trees. This photo shows where the house ended up after the storm.

Editor's note: We asked our readers to share their Hurricane Carla memories. We heard from many people. Today is the last of three days of memories. For more, go online to and click on this link or read Friday's and Saturday's Advocate.

Living in church

In September 1961, I had just celebrated my 13th birthday and had begun my eighth-grade year at Patti Welder Junior High. Our family had moved from Diebal Addition at Bloomington to Matchett Manor on the hill at Crescent Valley in February 1961. We lived in a tile brick, L-shaped, flat-roofed house on the corner of Matchett Road and Dernall Drive.

My dad, Reymond Wise, was an operator at Union Carbide. With news of an approaching storm, preparations were made to shut down Carbide. With Daddy at the plant, Mom and I were left to secure things at home. We had aluminum window frames on the tile brick home, so boarding up was difficult. Daddy had some wide black tape from the plant that we used to make X's on the windows.

After the winds began and got stronger, we watched large limbs break off the Chinese tallow trees in the yard. I would drag and tie them with rope to the clothesline poles or boat trailer to keep them from blowing into the windows. As conditions worsened and Carla drew nearer, several families decided to wait out the storm at our nearby home church, Crescent Valley Baptist Church.

Daddy was able to get home from Carbide. We ended up with a group of 25 or so folks, including my grandparents, the Rev. and Mrs. E.E. Smith, Daddy, Momma (Loretta), my sisters, Nancy (9), Cindy (1-year-old), and me.

Things were hopping at the church as phone cords, etc., were pulled out to tie the front doors to the back pews to secure them and other preparations were made to weather the worsening storm. I remember a propane stove, which I think was provided by Leroy Bragg, being used for cooking.

The cars in the parking lot of the church were doing a long lasting "wave" as the winds increased.

We slept on the church pews that night and even had a worship time led by Granddaddy.

As the storm subsided, a scouting crew, including Daddy, went up on the hill to assess the damages. They returned and said the Wise house was the worst hit by the hurricane. The roof, including ceiling and attic, had blown off the double garage, breezeway, kitchen and den of our house. We found things from our attic as far away as a couple of blocks from our house.

The wonderful people at the church offered for our family to temporarily move into the old church parsonage beside the church and used for extra classrooms, until our house could be repaired.

Not one window of our house was broken by Carla, but while we were at the church, a neighbor boy broke 13 windows with rocks.

Dwayne Wise, Victoria

Scarier than the storm

I only have a couple of memories of Carla. I was 5 at the time, living with my grandparents in Iago. I remember we were put up in the boiler room at Boling High School. Riding out the storm there was scarier than the hurricane.

My other memory was my Mamma bugging my grandpa to go with us. He was sitting on the pot, pants around his ankles and his cocker spaniel at his side. "Me and Bubbles are staying here," he said. They did.

I get my love of animals from my grandpa.

Debi Felder, Boling

Hill family hurricane

This is a story about Hurricane Carla that the Hill family, my Grandma Nancy, Dad, Tater, Mom, Lovie, Sis. Terry, Sis. Nancy, Brother Martin and I survived three blocks from San Antonio Bay on Houston Street in Seadrift.

Had to hold onto your newspaper, the wind was blowing about 150 mph and you could see the trees bending over. The roof was leaking and glass was breaking in one of the bedrooms.

I was a young lad of 10, sitting in Mom and Dad's laps wondering what was going on. The lightning, rain, power down and winds howling was really scary.

Jerry Hill, Inez

Feeding evacuees

I will never forget the day Hurricane Carla hit Port Lavaca. The Calhoun High School gymnasium and cafeteria were designated as the shelter for those in need. My mother, Ruby Treybig, was the Calhoun High School cafeteria manager at that time. She and her helpers were preparing meals for those in the shelter.

I came home from college (Texas A&I, Kingsville) to help my mother and father in whatever way I could. At that time, we had a Nash Rambler and it was parked near the back porch of the cafeteria. The big mistake I made was leaving all the windows rolled up in our car and during the worst part of the storm all of the glass in the car imploded.

I had forgotten that a huge vacuum forms under these circumstances. Needless to say the car was practically ruined and smelled for months while drying out and having the windows replaced.

I remember parts of roofs blowing by the cafeteria and watching people actually crawl to keep from being blown down while coming from the gymnasium to the cafeteria for their meals.

The noise was horrendous and those of us in the cafeteria actually witnessed one of the corners of the roof literally rise up a foot or so and then slam back down. We thought that the entire building was going to cave in.

We had a weather radio and were listening to the Victoria Weather Station when all of a sudden their power went off. As best I remember, we heard them saying that gusts of up to 190 mph were taking place. My father, Lester Treybig, was a night watchman for Bauer Dredging Company and he was on one of the push boats/barges that was used on the Mississippi River and was being converted to dredges for Bill Bauer's Dredging Company. This huge barge was washed up almost level to Commerce Street, the street that borders the waterfront in Port Lavaca. My dad got really scared and ran and waded about four or five blocks to Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church where he stayed with the priests until it blew over.

One can be assured that many prayers were being said and my father, as well as my mother and I, were really worried for our lives. When the hurricane subsided, we started driving around Port Lavaca and I remember seeing shrimp boats washed up on the highway near the harbor. Also, one of the smaller shrimp boats was blown approximately a half a mile or more inland and ended up in a field behind where a friend of mine lived in the McPherson Subdivision.

One can say that if you missed being in Hurricane Carla, you should consider yourself lucky. It had to be the scariest happening in my life and I will be 72 in September.

Wilbert L. Treybig, Victoria

Scared of storms

Our family lived at 1708 E. Locust in Victoria when Hurricane Carla came through.

My Dad always made a concerted effort to raise his children to not be afraid of storms. I remember being in my brother's room at the north side of the house watching in amazement the lightning shows in the sky as northers would blow in while Dad was explaining the weather to us. Being 10 years old, I didn't notice Mom wasn't in the room with us. Later in life I asked her, "Why are you so scared of storms?" She answered that she had always been (which was news to me).

With Hurricane Carla coming our way, my grandparents came to ride out the storm with us. We had an inside hallway - wide and long - where Mom and my grandparents hid from the hurricane. I would rather watch the storm with my Dad from inside the living room. He was daring enough to stand on the front porch until Mom found him and made him come inside. I remember the still of the eye as Dad and I went outside to check the boards on the windows. I don't think Mom knew we were outside.

My Dad was very protective of the trees he had planted - so when the beautiful tree in the front yard had been twisted from the wind - he saved it. The tree always had a unique look to its limbs.

We were fortunate not to have any major damage to our house, but my aunt and uncle who lived in Palacios lost everything. Our family of six drove to Palacios so Mom could help her sister. In a child's eyes to see the boats sitting in pastures and hearing Dad explain to us how high the water from the bay had been during the hurricane was unbelievable. Dad instilled no fear into his children; we played away from the crying and all the mud that had destroyed everything in my aunt's house.

Now that I'm older - Hurricane Claudette is all the hurricane strength that I want to experience. But I still marvel at the beautiful distant lightning shows without fear.

In memory of my Dad, Coleman L. Clement

Rosemary Clement Cathlings, Victoria

Little black spot

My husband who worked for the railroad got sent to Alice as Carla still didn't know where she was going.

My 6-year-old daughter and I were here alone. I had never been in a hurricane before, so I didn't know what to do.

All I could get on TV was a little black spot showing where Carla might land and then no TV at all.

As the wind got stronger and stronger, we were getting a little scared. Then about midnight that night, our neighbors, who had a brick house, came over and got us. We stayed there until it was over.

We looked over the damage, which wasn't too bad. We lost part of our roof and water came in all the light fixtures so water got everywhere. At that time insurance companies paid really well. My husband came home three days later.

Imogene Kupfernagel, Victoria

Built like a bank vault

My family lived at 102 E. Magruder Drive, Victoria. I had just started fourth grade at Nazareth Academy. My most vivid memory is the long time that the hurricane spent approaching our area and how I could look to the west and see little puff clouds, like a long train, being drawn from north to south.

Our house was built like a bank vault and sustained no damage whatsoever. We were REA customers and never even lost power.

I was stunned when we drove through town and saw the damage that other houses sustained.

Frank W. Wearden, Victoria

Living as pioneers

Clarence, Jan, Susie the dog, and I left the coast on Sept. 10 and went to my parents' home in Lampasas County. As we listened to the radio we knew Port O'Connor was badly damaged, but we were still not really prepared for what we saw when we returned. Our house was standing, broken windows, water marks on the wall showed 6 feet of water and silt on the floor. The patio door and the back door had been knocked off. The refrigerator was in the backyard and the deep freezer was about a block down the street.

The Red Cross moved into the school. The Salvation Army set up to supply a hot lunch each day - best food I've ever eaten.

Superintendent Vaughn Huffstutler told school personnel to help the Red Cross and our salary continued. I remember a statement he made: "We must get the school and churches in operation as soon as possible; people who have suffered the loss of this community need them."

We lived as pioneers until Christmas, our cleaning and repairs went slow. We bought a gasoline engine to pump water. We got the old iron wash-pot from Clarence's parents' home in Victoria County, built a fire around it and we had hot water.

Billy Zwerschke loaned us a butane two-burner camp-stove that we put in the garage for cooking. After dark, two floundering lanterns supplied our light. The upstairs had broken windows and some roof damage, but we were able to sleep there.

Naomi Albrecht, Port O'Connor

Sleeping upstairs

Seeing your home after being told by three brothers who rode out the storm in it that it had floated and settled in a mott of trees is a heartbreaking memory.

It was not damaged except for broken windows and 3 feet of water inside. We could use the upstairs for sleeping. We had a two-story building behind the house that wasn't damaged to live in. We finally found a moving company that put it back right where it was.

Agnes Munsch Valigura, Port O'Connor

True bundle of joy

I will never forget Hurricane Carla because ... I was nine months pregnant with our third child. I had to go 32 miles to Beeville to the doctor and hospital to deliver. My mother wanted my husband and I to go stay in a motel in case the time came during the storm. We decided to ride out the storm at home in Karnes City. Our beautiful daughter arrived on Oct. 2, 1961, three weeks late, weighing in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces. We did not name her Carla, but Lisa Ann - a true bundle of joy.

Georgia Linhart, Karnes City

Working in the dark

I was working as a nurse at Memorial Hospital, now known as Christus Spohn Memorials in Corpus Christi. We had broken power lines and no lights for eight days. We worked 18 and 16 hours until the next shift was able to get to work. Thank God for the Salvation Army providing us with food at my house.

Frances Mays, Victoria

McClung's Grocery

I was a child with my parents, B.I. and Ernie McClung, on Courthouse Street in Cuero when Carla hit South Texas. My parents owned McClung's Grocery. My dad never came home early from work, but right before Carla hit he came home early to nail boards on the windows with my mom. When they ran out of boards they nailed the picnic table benches and picnic table to three more windows.

The storm blew for several days and we were without power. When the power returned, my dad waded into town with his pants rolled up - the streets were still flooded - to the grocery store to give away batteries and bottled water for anyone who needed it.

When the eye of Carla came over Cuero, strange birds were dropping from the sky. We found out later these were tropical birds who got caught in the eye days earlier.

I traveled with my dad and aunt and uncle, Carrie and Erwin Seidel, to Port Alto to see their bay house. The Port Lavaca Causeway had been demolished so we had to get there the long way ... there was no house, only the plumbing in the ground remained. A cast iron bench was recovered, but that was all that was recovered.

Irene Hahn, Cuero

Shelter volunteer

I was 6 years old, and growing up in San Antonio, when Carla hit the coast, moving into South Central Texas. I remember lots of rain, but the most compelling reason for remembering Hurricane Carla was seeing the coastal refugees who came to San Antonio to escape the fury of Carla. My parents had volunteered to help at our church, Faith Lutheran, where many refugees were being housed. We drove to church in a torrential rainstorm. As we walked into the Parish Hall, there were cots everywhere and so many people crying. I felt so helpless.

Janie Hill, Cuero

Valuable lifetime lesson

My family (parents-James and Dorothy Bradley; brother-Bobby Bradley and myself - Debby Bradley Hill) lived at Port Alto. My dad worked for the Superior Oil Company. I was just starting third grade and my brother first grade at Point Comfort Elementary. We had only attended school a couple of days, long enough to check out textbooks and then return them the next day.

My family packed up, as much as possible, and went to stay with friends in Ganado for the weekend.

After the hurricane, our house was only one of 12 structures still remaining at Port Alto. The water had actually washed out all of the interior and only the outside stucco structure remained.

We moved back to the house in Port Alto after it was repaired by my parents. Everything was muddy and there was stuff spread everywhere all over the beach and land. I remember one Hispanic family who lived not far from us, had moved to the attic of their house during the hurricane. I believe they all died.

Our church family at First Baptist Church Ganado and others in Ganado were very gracious to us during that time. It was then that I learned a very valuable lifetime lesson - earthly things are temporary but heavenly things are eternal.

Debby Hill, Port Alto

Apartment living

Hurricane Carla hit Port O'Connor, Sept. 11, 1961. My Dad and brothers built our bayhouse in the 1950s. My dad was heartbroken over the devastation from the storm. Many families had their homes destroyed.

My Dad owned an apartment building in Victoria. He offered some of the families housing until their homes could be restored. This year is the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Carla. She will never be forgotten.

Therese Bomersbach, Victoria

Breathing in the storm

In early 1961, my husband was transferred with Southern Minerals Corp. to the Point Comfort area. We were newlyweds, expecting our first child. We lived at the company camp north of Point Comfort.

Our daughter was born on Aug. 21 and three weeks later, Carla came calling.

Having been raised on the coast, we knew the preparation we needed to take. As the storm intensified, we decided to evacuate on Saturday night before the storm was to hit on Monday.

The new causeway between Port Lavaca and Point Comfort was opened to the evacuees. We went to Kingsville to await the storm.

The day after Carla hit, my husband returned to survey the damage, both to our home and to the oil facilities over which he was the engineer. On crossing the causeway, only the eastbound lane was open.

Ten of the 60-foot sections had been washed on the median.

There were three boats washed up in the harbor at Port Lavaca.

We experienced 100 mph winds in Kingsville, and we were told the wind was up to 200 mph when the eye arrived. Fortunately, our home only had minimal damage - water blew in, causing our wood floors to buckle, and we lost several big trees. The frame houses seemed to "breathe" when the storm hit. The devastation was heartbreaking. We were thankful that more people did not lose their lives.

Today, the two towns have grown and prospered. Those of us who lived there during Carla will always remember that day in hot September.

Norma Gayle, Concan

Destruction in Shiner

We were able to track Carla's whole path by TV radar. This huge hurricane came from the Caribbean, went to Florida, then turned and came down the Gulf Coast. It was close enough to the coast to wreak havoc all the way from Florida to Texas.

It finally turned inland near Port O'Connor. The outer limits of the cloud covered half of the Gulf.

Electricity was left on in Shiner during the storm, and I spent time watching progress on TV. The weather radar map came on for a minute every five minutes. When the eye reached Inez, I knew we were in for it. The wind was about 50 mph at that time. People in Shiner estimate that the wind was greater than 100 mph.

I spent time on the back screen porch marveling how much the live oak trees could bend over, and then come back up after the gust.

The eye passed three miles west of Shiner. A farmer told how suddenly it calmed. He went outside smoked a cigarette, and watched seagulls circling around inside the eye. Suddenly he heard the roar, saw the wind blowing debris, and he ran inside.

In Shiner, the wind slowed down to perhaps half speed for a few minutes then resumed.

I went to the Wire Works and found John Galovic, our maintenance supervisor, filling sand bags to line doors to prevent water coming in. I saw two roof sheets bent in the center, blowing up with the gusts, and then flopping down. John G. and I took a ladder and four sand bags to that roof. When the gust turned loose and the sheet fell straight, we each threw a sandbag on top. This held the sheets down and saved flooding the building when heavy rains came.

Damage in Shiner was slight. No buildings were seriously damaged. The awning on the front of the Shiner Gazette was blown down. The sheet metal flat roof on the old City Hall was rolled up. Perhaps 100 shingles were taken off the roof of the Lutheran Church. The Methodist Church building was under construction and the framing was up. The studs and door frames were laid on the ground.

The most dangerous thing that happened was three trees were blown down across town, and they took electric lines with them. The high wind whipped these wires around arcing, flashing and burning the ground.

The pecan crop was large, and the green pecans covered the ground and streets. When cars ran over the green pecans, they left a black polka dot on the streets.

When Hurricane Carla started coming our way, the city council put out a call for volunteer workers to go out as soon as it was safe. I went to the meeting at city hall and was appointed to form a crew of 10 in my neighborhood.

My crew met and we had several chain saws, hand bow saws, axes, ropes, tow chains, and tow vehicles. We had instructions to clear the streets for fire trucks, rescue vehicles and electric service vehicles, and to rescue people.

The Winkenwerders volunteered to use their heavy equipment to help clear streets.

Fortunately, these rescue crews had nothing to do. Almost everybody in town picked up small limbs and trash around their property.

Don Kasper, Shiner



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