Memories of the 1937 flood in Louisville, KY

Today’s blog written by Harold Levy, Volunteer Historian at JFCS

On the 17th of January, 1937 I celebrated my 14th birthday with my parents, older brother and younger sister.  We lived on 2nd Street and Gaulbert in the Wyoming Apartments in a six room apartment which was one of two on each of three floors.  My family lived on the 3rd floor; Joan (Shermer) Switow lived with her family on the 2nd floor; and Ferrell Salzman and his family lived on the 1st floor.

Only five days later the flood began on the night I was visiting a friend on 3rd and Lee but when the news showed the weather getting bad I tried to get home by going down Lee to 2nd.  The water had already encroached onto the sidewalk so I went back to 3rd Street to Gaulbert and was able to get back home.

The sewers backed up very quickly and by morning the front of our apartments looked like a river!  Between the twin apartment house next door to ours and ours there were a minimum of 22 children.  The heat was not working since all the furnaces were underwater.  Our family did have gas so my mother lit all the burners on the gas stove and we all slept on blankets on the floor near the stove in the kitchen.

One day Dr. Baer came by in a boat and gave all the children typhoid shots!  Bread and other rations were also brought in to us by boat.  A fond memory involves former catcher for the old Louisville Colonels, “Moose Ringhoffer” coming by in a boat and made our day by hollering at us!  Bobby Steinau had crystal radios which we listened to for news of the world outside our flooded neighborhood.

Once the water came down there were dead fish everywhere and the streets were a mess.  This calamitous episode was less so since we neighbors were in it together and helped each other.  If one experiences things such as this, please consider writing them down for your family and Louisville history.

Contact Kim Toebbe at JFCS to arrange the recording of your oral history at:  (502) 452-6341.


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