I Remember…The Bellingham 1938 Hurricane

I remember when Bellingham…went through the 1938 hurricane.

George and Kathryn Whiting still live in the house where George was born in South Bellingham, Massachusetts. George recently spoke with me about the effects of the ’38 hurricane on his family’s chicken farm. MTH

Back then we didn’t have weather reports like we do now. We heard radio reports of a storm that was coming up the coast, but that’s all; we’d never heard of hurricanes.

My cousins, who were visiting, wanted to see the ocean when it was rough so my father drove them down to Narragansett Pier. When the surf became violent they left, and had to detour over downed trees and wires to get home.

When they got back, my uncle had to use the outhouse. He went in that direction, and my father headed to the chicken coops. We had a chicken farm, right here behind our house. My father found my older brother and me down in one of the buildings. The wind was so strong it kept lifting the sill off the foundation. We had sledge hammers, and kept pounding the sill back down.  My father said, “Get out of that building. This coop is going to go!” We ran out, and he had just let go of the door latch when the building let go and blew up into the air. We walked over the wreckage to get back to the house. When the roof of that chicken coop flew off, it slammed right against the outhouse. My poor uncle came out of there looking like a ghost.

At that time we were raising about 15,000 chickens for meat and eggs, and got about 300 dozen eggs a day. We lost hundreds, thousands of chickens in that storm.  Only one building and our house were still standing afterwards. Over the next few weeks my father and some fellows who worked here framed new buildings during the week. On Sundays neighbors, friends, maybe fifteen people came over to help get another chicken coop back up. We reused the wreckage from the old coops. I’d lay out the boards and drive the nails out. Then I’d straighten them and fill a whole bucket with the nails I salvaged. Any board that was good enough went back on a building.

My father had to go to other farms in the area to get eggs for our customers. We had to keep the business going, weighing and cleaning 300,000 eggs a day. We were without electricity for three weeks after that storm.  All the work that we’d automated to process the eggs had to be done by hand. Somehow, we built the business back up.

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! New England Regional Chair for the Association of Personal Historians, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com



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