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Lawrence County Floods, Illinois: An Interview with Benny Cochran

As told by Student Curator, Lawrenceville High School
Lawrenceville, Illinois

Story Narrative:

Historic rural flooding shown in a vintage black-and-white photo.

Students at Lawrenceville High School interview businessman Benny Cochran talks about floods in Lawrence County in 1943. He talks about flooding on Route 50 and how it impacted locals in different ways, including how high the water could get.


Speaker 1 (00:05): So, how did flooding affect your daily life? If at all?

Benny Cochran (00:10): The water?

Speaker 1 (00:11): Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Benny Cochran (00:13): It didn't affect me as much as it affected the people that live there in those areas. But, well, yeah, to some degree because we couldn't go make the usual visits we would make with our clients. And that was the main thing, I guess that affected us.

Speaker 1 (00:35): How extreme was the flooding?

Benny Cochran (00:38): How extreme was the flood?

Speaker 1 (00:40): Yeah.

Benny Cochran (00:42): Well, I always go by what I was just telling him about going down Route 50 in our boat. You could almost reach out and stand up in the boat and reach the top of the telephone pole, where the T was. And the water very deep. But those were the days when George [inaudible 00:01:00] was going and the guys that went back and forth to the airport, they had their big boats that they could put several men in at a time to bring them in town like on Saturday night or take them back or something to hospital if they had to go. They had their own watercraft, but the people that lived in just had to go a different direction to get to Vincennes. I think early on probably Route 50 got where you could get over there. It was the first way to get East out of here. But as the water got... Yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:40): When I was younger, my dad would tell me stories of how, when it flooded on that road, his brother and him would go out and ice skate. Was it really that bad at times? To where everything would just freeze over?

Benny Cochran (01:58): Yes, it did, but I don't remember much about the freezing, but I do vaguely remember it happening. I wasn't around it at that time.

Speaker 1 (02:09): And did you hear anything about property damage or?

Benny Cochran (02:14): Well, there were, I'm sure there were a lot of people if they had flood insurance on their homes, of course they were lucky, but my guess would be that a very small percentage of people ever bought flood insurance. They didn't think they would ever need it.

Speaker 1 (02:28): Yeah.

Benny Cochran (02:30): And it was kind of a new thing on the markets, especially in this area where we're not used to floods like that. But there probably were just a few people that may be benefited by flood insurance. But I would say very few.

Speaker 1 (02:48): Did the flooding change any of the landscape like a before and after?

Benny Cochran (02:54): I can't address that, but I don't know. I really don't know for sure, but I'd say very little. Very little.

Asset ID: 8605
Themes: Water, waterways, floods, history
Date recorded: 2016
Length of recording: 3:05 m
Related traveling exhibition: Water/Ways
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Lawrence County Historical Society in Lawrence, Illinois
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