Oshkosh Stories and Snapshots: Tornado

Contributed by: Steve

We moved into our house on South Lark Street in January of 1974. Just four months later in April, this area was hit by a tornado. Although we had a lot of damage, we were able to live in the house. We got a large tarp to throw over the roof and we boarded up broken windows. The southeast corner of the garage suffered severe damage, the patio door and the surrounding area was blown away and there was damage to siding, windows and roofing. We never did find the patio door and that baby was heavy. The damage amounted to between 25% and 30% of the total cost of building the house. There was no one home at the time of the storm. I was on my Sunday afternoon walk and the rest of the family was in Appleton attending a drum and bugle corps rehearsal. I was at a tavern on Rosalia Street when someone came in and told us a tornado hit town. We turned on a radio and I kept hearing about Copp's Department Store and the university. Drawing a line between the two put our house right in line. A gentleman gave me a ride home and as soon as we hit Witzel Avenue, I knew I was in trouble. The first thing I tried to do was call Appleton. The phone was dead. A bunch of us were trying to clean up the place when all of a sudden, the telephone rang. It was my uncle wanting to know if I was hit and could he be of any help. It took a bit but then I realized my phone was working. The reason may be because all my wires are underground. The reason the phone didn't work before was that the lines were jammed. I called Appleton right away and was told the family was on the way home. The word got around that I had a working telephone and, apparently, the only one in the area. We soon had a house full of strangers, most of them I never saw before or since. They all wanted to call relatives, friends, or their insurance agent.

What a party we had. I ran out of all liquid refreshments in short order and some people were going home to bring more. They were also bringing cookies and other snacks. We had no electricity so a lady who lived in the apartments across the street was making coffee on her gas stove and it was gone just as fast as she could bring it over. About midnight, a cop came to the door and told me I was to report to work immediately. I was put in charge of the clean up and would not see my bed for two days. Most storm damage was picked up in two weeks but some was still being collected two months later. What an experience this was. As many snap shots as we have taken over the years, we do not have single one of the damage. I think we were just too busy to think of it.

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