My grandmother took these, back in 1936 in Haverhill Massachusetts:
From Merrimack Street, looking toward Washington Sq (the Merrimack River would be off to the left).
Looking at the post office (which still stands) in Washington Sq. The Merrimack flows from right to left, behind the PO. Bradford can just be glimpsed on the far bank in the background.
btw, for Judy people: yes, Haverhill is the place where Louis B. Mayer got his start in movies, by first managing and then owning a "moving picture palace" where he had a fondness for showing "the Passion Play." His former theater is not far from where this photo was taken. There is very little that remains of his handiwork in the area and little or no awareness or interest in him (which is as it should be imo).
Ironically, Haverhill is also the real-life inspiration for Riverdale of the Archie-comics universe.
Thanks to the floodwall that existed as a result of the 1936 flood, the flooding this time wasn't as vast. The wall was topped by as much as 8 feet or so, and the raw sewage was certainly a huge problem, but the situation would have been much much worse if the wall had not been there or if the rushing waters destroyed it.
To get an idea of just how "rushing" the current was (not to mention the singularly disturbing shade of brown the river was thanks, one must assume, to the sewage), load these (both around 8 meg):
Still pictures of Haverhill taken Monday May 15th, late afternoon:
I took this photo from the top of a steepish hill. At this point the "in flood" level was several feet & rising very quickly -- it rose about 5 inches just while I was standing there taking pictures (which caused me to re-think my priorities somewhat & get out of there). There is actually a road between the lamp posts and the fencing. The fencing tops the floodwall along this part of the wall. The main bridge in Haverhill is visible in the background & is now limited in truck & heavy-weight traffic. All the bridges along the Merrimack took terrible beatings from the current.
The dock at the River Rest Park (a name drowning in irony, as it were) was washed away and the steps leading to it completely submerged.
The police slightly underestimated where the gawkers could stand, but most of us made adjustments on our own.
The fire dept had finished pumping out the basement around 2pm, but by 5:30 or so, nine inches of water rested in the basement and it was rising very quickly indeed. So they had to come back and pump it out again Monday evening. And again, first thing Tuesday morning, and again, Tuesday late afternoon, each time with the water reaching the 9 inch mark. The water continued to rise for days after the rain itself had let up (the heavy rain had stopped by Monday late afternoon, though there were periods of rain for several days after the main storm had passed). Tuesday night when the boys left, they just left their equipment behind, since they figured they'd be pumping away again come Wednesday morning anyway. My own sump pump had been running non-stop since Sunday morning, but still wan't managing to keep up with the flow coming in, which averaged about an inch or so an hour, depending on climatic conditions. The ground was so saturated that there were hilltop homes with flooded basements (which made me feel a bit better, though I hated to keep on bothering the fire dept, who remained friendly & helpful through it all -- so helpful in fact that Wednesday afternoon they gave me the ultimate gift: ...
... now I realize this gift can be interpreted in two distinctly different ways: either they were fond of me & eager to help, or they were sick to death of me & reckoned that with the boots & therefore with access to my sump pump without exposing my skin to that toxic stew in the cellar, I would no longer bother them twice a day, poor duckies; you'll have to decide for yourselves which theory might be the right one.)
Unfortunately the smallest size they had was 8 1/2 so they're a trifle large, but firemen's boots are an absolutely fabulous addition to anyone's shoe closet. Even if the cat was ticked off by the presence of such tail-endangering things:
She'll adjust eventually, I'm sure of it.
(if you've come this far, you might as well travel on to page 3: the Aftermath)