Great Storms of the Jersey Shore

By Larry Savadove, Margaret Thomas Buchholz
and Scott Mazzella

Foreword by Senator Bill Bradley

240 pages, 274 illustrations, index, bibliography, 11" x 11" hardcover

ISBN 978-1-59322-123-2

Updated expanded edition- includes Superstorm Sandy

1944 Hurricane (continued)
It was quite an ordeal – Ellen and I were so very fatigued and still the breakers came. The water behind the breakers was up to Ellen’s neck and half of the time we couldn’t stand up, getting a footing was impossible – we just hung on and prayed for the waves to stop. The ocean and the bay were all one and the current was so very swift. As we hung there, we saw a beautiful home on the oceanfront go by us a piece at a time. The roof, windows, gable ends, water boilers, table, chairs and so on. We could see them riding the crest of the waves, and only a few yards to our right. It was certainly a miracle we weren’t struck by floating debris. I really believe that the height of the waves saved us. Articles floated over us as we went under the breakers. The next house, second from the ocean, turned part way around and shifted off its foundation. I really thought we were done for when I saw that whole house moving towards us.

I prayed for the wind to shift – it was coming off the ocean. Finally just before dark the wind changed and blew in from the bay. It helped ease the waves down and finally the weather cleared. We stayed hanging on to that bush until dark, While in the bushes I kept Ellen in front of me and as the breakers came and knocked her off her balance or footing she would come up against me. It was more strain on me, but I knew she would have to break my grip before she got away again and the four of us would be together. Due to the high water, the flats of the bay were entirely covered and the bay was only about 20 yards behind us. I knew if we got washed past the high growth we would be “goners” as I couldn’t keep all four of us afloat in the rough water of the bay. Ellen can’t swim a stroke you know.

At dusk it cleared – the stars came out and the wind blew strong and cold from the bay. The water still ran waist deep, but the breakers had stopped. We were so tired we could hardly stand up. I took the two children and Ellen hung on to my belt and we staggered to our car and rested in the back of it. The sand had built up a dune about two feet high – standing on that we were only in water between our knees and hips. We just leaned against the car, exhausted. I had seen Fan, my hound dog, stick her head out of the top window occasionally, but when I called her, she didn’t even whimper. I thought she had drowned. I didn’t want Ellen to know it at the time, so said nothing to her.

After a rest by our car, we staggered to a coupe near the edge of the road that had not overturned. A Mr. & Mrs. Brandon Wallace and their three small children were inside. We got in and Ellen held Ruth in her lap with Lee beside her on the seat in the rear of the coupe. The two other children sat with them and Mrs. Wallace held her one child in the front between her husband and myself. We couldn’t get the door closed on my side, so I just reached across my body and held on to the handle with my left hand. The door stayed open about eight or ten inches and the strain was terrible as the wind blew against it steadily. Several times it broke my grip and banged open. My entire right side was nearly frozen from the wind, but it kept most of the wind from the others. Boy! Would a “bottle” have gone good then??? The water was up to the seat of the car when we got in, and gradually it receded.

Occasionally, Mr. Wallace would flash his headlights on. After a long time another couple came up to the car. It was then about 11:30 p.m. We had got into the car about 9:00 p.m. Mr. Wallace and this other man went to Wallace’s bungalow to see if it was still there and if so, get food and dry clothes for the children. The only water now was puddles. It had stopped coming over the island. I stayed in the car with the three women and children. Mrs. Wallace told us that they had given up all hope several times – had kissed all around and just waited and prayed. The other woman and her husband had left their car before it was upset and had clung to the bushes in a thickly grown part of the brush. (We were in an open space – only one big clump.) The brush broke the force before it got to this other couple, but they still were in bad spot, too. We had seen this car upset and feared them lost.

About the time the two men returned, I saw lights on the road toward Surf City. I blinked our lights and the State Police walked over with some Coast Guardsmen. They took the Wallaces to the bungalow next to theirs as food and clothing were there. (Their bungalow was gone.) I wanted to get to the mainland and said so. The police loaned me a flashlight and I went over to our car. Boy, what a wreck and mess! Ellen had put some things in cartons and they were all open – suitcases had burst, clothes in the car and out. I called Fan and heard her whimper. I climbed in and she was as high as she could get on the piles of stuff in the back of the car. I handed her out and then squeezed her stomach in a likeness of artificial respiration. She must have vomited a bucketful. After a rubdown, she pepped up a bit.

She went over to the Wallaces’ car where Ellen and the children were. I picked up my gunning coat and filled the pockets with diapers and two formula bottles and a jar of nipples, etc. Poor Ruth hadn’t had a bottle since 2:30 and now it was midnight. I took my suitcase and one with the children’s clothes in it and we got in the State Police car. They drove us about a mile down the road to the Surf Villa, which had withstood the storm. When we went in, Mrs. McGrath, the owner, took us out in the kitchen where a big coal fire was burning. She took Ruth and Lee and bathed them in hot water. She hung their clothes to dry by the stove, tore up a tablecloth for diapers and really treated us fine.

I went out to the bar and got a beer glass half full of whiskey and a shot in a wine glass. I took it to the kitchen and made Lee drink the shot – I put my finger in the other glass two or three times and put it in Ruth’s mouth. I told Ellen to drink the balance, which she did. Mrs. McGrath gave us a room and Ellen and the children went to bed. Luckily the sea hadn’t got into the bottles of formula. Ruth took them and she and Lee slept. I went down in the bar and drank another full beer glass of whiskey like I would a glass of water. I was so cold I couldn’t stop shaking. After that I had a few more shots and talked with a fellow at the bar. I knew I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to disturb Ellen and the kids.

After awhile the fellow drove me back to our car. Fan was inside and growled until I spoke to her – I had forgotten to take her with us in the police car. Ellen had lost her pocket book with all our money and her jewelry in it. This fellow looked through the car, but things were so jumbled up and full of sand that we couldn’t find it. I had given Ellen all of my money except $7.00 when I went fishing in the bay. When she packed, she put her purse in a large bag she carried the bottles and diapers and nipples in. The bills I gave her, she put in alongside her purse, figuring on giving it to me somewhere along the road. We only found the two bottles out of the big bag. We then returned to the villa, had a few drinks, and went to bed. I didn’t sleep, but was glad to get my wet clothes off.

We arose about 6 a.m. when Ruth cried and we had nothing to give her. Mrs. McGrath gave us a quart of milk, so we sterilized a bottle and gave her straight milk. She didn’t keep it down though and cried constantly. After they had bathed Ruth & Lee the night before, the water went out and there was no water or electric. (The Electric was off when we got there, but the hot water seemed like an act of God. It failed as they finished bathing Lee.) We had no appetite that morning and no food if we had. About 10 a.m. a man drove us to a Coast Guard station below Beach Arlington [Ship Bottom]. You can’t imagine what a ride that was. Houses and boats and debris in all the strangest places – in the road – clothes on telephone wires, everything a perfect jumble – beautiful homes wrecked – small bungalows gone for whole blocks.

The Doctor at the Coast Guard station gave us Sulfa drug tablets – even Ruth. He said to get them home and to our doctor or hospital as both were running a high temperature. I said I didn’t know how to get home, so he gave me enough tablets to last 48 hours, wrote the name of the drug and instructions for each of us on the envelope.

We then went back to the Surf Villa. After awhile the Red Cross came in. They gave us strong black hot coffee and sandwiches. We couldn’t eat, but the coffee was super. Lee did eat part of a sandwich. The lady in charge asked if there was anything else they could do. I said, “Yes. Tell me how I can get home and get these children to a doctor.” I then told her what the Coast Guard doctor had said. She asked where we live and I told her Trenton. She said, “We will take you.” I nearly cried for joy! We piled into their station wagon – wet clothes, dog and all and away we went.

About two-thirds of the way home, we met Jack Hindley whom I had put in an emergency call for that a.m. I didn’t know whether he had received the call or not so I took the first opportunity to get home. We transferred to his car and let the Red Cross car go back.

We called the doctor when we got home about 3pm in the afternoon. He told us to continue with the tablets as that was the best that we could do. When he came [to the house]we were all fair – the drug had broken the fever. All the way home we perspired very freely and he said that the drug did it. That sure is wonderful medicine!

Ruth didn’t even get a cold. In fact, none of us did after all of that exposure. Needless to say, Ellen’s nerves are very bad, as are mine. The children are fine. The next morning my neighbor drove me down and we got the car. I had asked one of the State cops to have an army truck put it on its wheels and tow it near the road, which they did. We laid what was left of our things on the sand to dry and then went to see Aunt Helen’s bungalow. It had been washed about a block away and two-thirds of a block back from where it had been. It was pretty well wrecked with the front porch, the bathroom and the shower room gone. It was turned over on one side. I don’t think they will bother with it.

I don’t think there are 25 places out of 250 in seven blocks still standing from the ocean to the main road at Harvey Cedars. The old general store is still there though. Mr. Moore’s and the houses on either side are all jammed together. The rest on the street are gone except two near the main road.

We are so thankful we are all here. How bad it would be if we lost a child! The car was a complete loss - they wanted $900 to $1000 to recondition it. I didn’t want it, I think it’s “jinxed”. I was off sick until the seventh of Oct. – my nerves are bad and my back very bad. I think the cold air blowing on me in the Wallace’s car helped do that. Luckily, I was insured so I didn’t lose the car entirely.

Our clothes and linens are a mess (oil-tar-sand). We were three weeks getting straightened out. Two Sundays after we were home we drove down with Jack and his wife and the children. We dug behind the car and found a baby blanket, pipe stem and finally, Ellen’s purse with ration books, compact, broken glasses in their case, wrist watch and her $67 in it besides keys, license etc. We sure were lucky. It was 10 feet behind the car and about 20 inches under the sand. We stopped and had dinner at the Surf Villa and they were so glad to see us. I wanted to pay for our room etc., but they wouldn’t hear of it. The $225 I gave Ellen to mind is gone, but we don’t care. We feel we are so fortunate to be here.

I hope Ellen’s nerves get better, but I doubt if it will be for some time – am tired of writing and think I’ll soon go to bed.

Love, Bob

P.O. Box 100, West Creek New Jersey 08092
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